Category Archives: Growing Fruit & Veggies

Crunchy Nut Apple Crumble (Vegan / Dairy-free) for Suma Blogger’s Network

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This year we had a bumper crop of fruit on our apple tree. Thanks to the late September sunshine, within the space of two weeks the apples transformed from green and small to red and huge! We must have picked at least a hundred apples so far. And with this amazing bounty, we’ve been able to indulge in lots of delicious apple treats.

Orchard Apples

For this month’s Suma entry, I thought I’d share one of our all-time favourite Autumnal desserts – Apple Crumble I’ve lost count of the number of crumbles I’ve made this past month, but it could be getting on for ten!

Crunchy Nut Apple Crumble

As well as oats and wholegrain flour, I love to add some pecans and almonds into the crumble, which gives it a delicious crunch. Traditionally, this dessert has a fair amount of cane sugar and dairy butter in it. However, instead of cane sugar, I prefer to use coconut sugar and maple syrup as they add a delicious, caramel-like sweetness and beautiful golden hue to the crumble.

Crunchy Nut Apple Crumble

Instead of dairy butter, I use coconut butter (the aroma-free kind) or a non dairy spread. Through Suma, I discovered the Tiana Organic Coconut Cooking Butter and I’m loving it! It’s really versatile and you can use it for all kinds of cooking and baking. I made some scrumptious pasties with it last week. Unfortunately they were devoured before I could take any pics, so I’ll re-create them soon and post the recipe.

Crunchy Nut Apple Crumble

BTW, those lidded Pyrex glass dishes are really handy for cooking, storing and transporting the crumbles. I took a couple with me to Essex recently to share with our relatives. Stored in a thermal bag, six hours after I’d baked them they were still warm!

Crunchy Nut Apple Crumble

Products used in this recipe (UK stockists)
Pyrex Rectangular Lidded Dish, available from Amazon (currently discounted to £3.50)
Magimix Food Processor
Tiana Coconut Cooking Butter, available from Suma, health food shops and online
Biona Organic Coconut Sugar, available from Suma, health food shops and online
Suma Organic Sultanas, available direct from Suma, via Amazon, and independent health food shops (love that they come in recyclable packaging!)
Clarks Original Maple Syrup, available from Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons

Apple Crumble & Oatly Cream

What’s your favourite fruit crumble? For me, it’s a close call between apple and plum 🙂

Have you made any crumbles this Autumn/Fall? If you’ve posted any recipes, please do share below xx

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Filed under Baking & Desserts, Desserts, Growing Fruit & Veggies

Our Wildlife Garden & Summer Fruits Energy Shake (‘Breakfast in a Glass’)

What a glorious summer we’ve had this year! After a spell of wet, overcast summers, it was such a refreshing change to have blue skies and sunshine for pretty much the whole of July and August.  I absolutely loved it and took every opportunity I could to be outside, making the most of it

The plants and insects clearly loved the weather too!  This year, I decided to let the failed ‘veggie’ patch grow wild and turn it into a little haven for wildlife.

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 1 500

The whole summer it’s been a hive of activity, filled with all manner of bee, butterfly and beetle. We’ve also had baby toads and slow worms living in there too!

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 3 500

Does anyone know the name of the yellow plant below? I think it’s beautiful and it doesn’t get munched at all. As soon as I know its name, I’ll add it to my list of slug and snail resistant plants 🙂

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 4 500

We’ve also had success growing raspberries in the patch 🙂 A generous friend gave me six plants earlier this summer, and by late August they were already producing fruit. This raspberry is golden yellow in colour, which seems to make it less appealing to the birds. While the leaves of the plant have been munched, the fruits haven’t been touched at all!

Raspberries September 2013

Normally at this time of year, I would be out on my bike foraging for blackberries, but this year there was no need. By leaving the garden wild, we ended up with our own bumper crop!

Blackberries 4

In the mornings, I’ve been enjoying energy shakes for breakfast, made with a cup of freshly picked blackberries. By adding in some oats, ground almonds and chia seeds, the shake becomes a very satisfying ‘breakfast in a glass’. The additions make the shake so filling that I don’t get hungry all morning!

Blackberries 3

This shake also makes a fantastic post-exercise recovery drink and after-school ‘snack’ to revive energy levels.  I find they’re especially useful as a filling, energy booster on weekday nights when Lil’ L has after-school activities and dinner is going to be served late.

Blackberry Shake 1 500 copy

These smoothies have been a great way to encourage Lil’ L to eat berries. He still won’t go anywhere near whole berries (it’s a ‘texture thing’) but he’ll happily gulp them down in a shake. When he was little, I used to blend the berries and milk first, then strain it to make it completely smooth before blending in the remaining ingredients. These days, he’s happy to drink the smoothies straight up, pips and all!

Here’s how we make them:

And to make to even more scrumptious, I like to top off my shake with some ground cacao nibs 🙂

Berry Shake with Cacao Nibs 1 500 copy

The Good Stuff ♥
Blackberries – Fantastic immunity boosters, packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C. Also a great source of dietary fibre, vitamin K, and manganese
Fortified soya milk & yoghurt – Good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B12 and D, yoghurt cultures
Oats – Provides slow-release energy

Almonds – Provides protein. Rich source of antioxidant Vitamin E, riboflavin, manganese and magnesium

Chia seeds – Good source of protein and dietary fibre. Rich in calcium, manganese, phosphorous and omega 3 fat
Cacao Nibs – Packed with nutrients, including lots of antioxidants. Check out my raw chocolate post to find out more.

Products used in this recipe
Alpro soya milk and plain soya yoghurt (available in all major UK supermarkets)
Mornflake Superfast Oats (available from Tesco and Asda)
Chia seeds (available from health food stores and online. I purchased mine from Earthfare)
Duronic 1200 1.8 litre Jug Blender, available from Amazon

Cacao nibs – available from health food stores and online. I use the Elements for Life Cacao Nib Grinder

 

Have you had any success growing fruits or veggies this year? Do you ever go foraging?

 

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Filed under Breakfast & Elevenses, Drinks, Growing Fruit & Veggies, Healthy Snacking, Nutrition, The Garden

WIAW – I’ll bring the Humous (fat free) & Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt (dairy free) with recipes :)

It’s Wednesday!

It’s WIAW party time!

Hi everyone! I hope you’re having a great week so far!

Before I show you some yummy eats from yesterday, I’d like to begin by saying a huge THANK YOU to all my wonderful subscribers, readers, FB friends and Twitter followers. You guys are giving me so much support right now and I really appreciate it! I love reading all your comments too, so do keep them coming 🙂


Spooky Snacks and Healthy Halloween Treats

For anyone that’s unfamiliar with WIAW, let me briefly explain what it is. ‘What I Ate Wednesday’ is a virtual foodie party hosted by the lovely Jenn over at Peas and Crayons. Once a week, we record a day’s worth of eats, blog about it, then share our links on Jenn’s site. WIAW not only helps us to keep track of our own eating habits, but we also get oodles of inspiration from all the photos and recipes that are linked up each Wednesday. Literally hundreds of foodie bloggers now join in every week. It’s immense!

So here’s my entry for this week’s WIAW…

Breakfast
Apple Cinnamon pancakes left over from Sunday, which we warmed up in the microwave then topped with chopped pecans, walnuts, ground linseed and a drizzled of agave syrup. Totally delish! The recipe can be found here.

Lunch
For lunch, I devoured this plate of vine ripened tomatoes, red pepper, courgette (zucchini) and carrot, along with a large portion of home-made humous … hummus … houmous? I have no idea which way to spell it these days!

Houmous is one of Lil’ L’s all-time favourite foods. However, since the shop-bought stuff has such a short use-by date (and with our new year’s resolution of zero food waste) I now always make my own. It’s so easy and quick. It literally takes a couple of minutes. If I ever have any spare or left over, I freeze it. See, no waste 😉

Every individual has their own preference when it comes to the flavour and consistency of humous. For Lil’ L, it mustn’t be ‘too oily’, ‘too garlicky’ or ‘too lemony’. For him, the best hummus ever is served at the Adventure Cafe in Bath.  For months, I’ve been playing around with the quantities, trying to get it ‘just right’. In the summer holidays, after yet another attempt, he dipped his cucumber stick into the humous, then uttered the words that I’ve been longing to hear…. “this is as good as the Adventure Cafe humous”. Yay!!! Success at last!

And do you know what else I love about this humous? It doesn’t contain oil, which means it has far less calories in it. More importantly, this means that I can devour huge quantities and not feel guilty about it. Happy days! 🙂

Here’s the recipe…

For Lil’ L’s and M’s packed lunch today, they took the Mexican black bean soup and corn bread left over from last night’s dinner. This was totally lush too! Recipe coming soon!

After School Snack
Lil’ L and I had a large chocolate banana energy smoothie. Recipe here!

I’m seriously addicted to these, as is Rachel!

Dinner
Since the weather’s still mild here, I’m not ready for stews yet. However, it is the perfect time of year for crumbles. I adore both savoury and sweet crumbles. For dinner, I made what I’m currently calling ‘Veggie Patch Crumble’ because it included veggies that I imagine I would be pulling up from the allotment right now… if I had one 😉  It included parsnip, carrot, cabbage, sweet potato, garlic and onions.

I’ll write up the recipe and post it on Friday. Lil’ L absolutely loves it and devoured a whole plate full. Hopefully the yummy crumble topping and sweet flavoured veggies will entice other children to love it too 🙂

Dessert
Due to the crazy weather we’ve experienced this year, most of my attempts at veggie and fruit growing have been a disaster…

Last year we had a gazillion plums.

Plumdiddlyumptious 2011

This year, we didn’t have a single plum on the tree.

Last year we had box loads of huge cooking apples.

Apples galore in 2011

This year, we have apples but they are tiny and pretty sad looking. We had only 3 apples on the eating apple tree 🙁

Remember the cob nuts from last year?


We haven’t managed to collect any this year. There may have been a few on the trees but the squirrels have had them (and fair play to them!)

On the plus side though, our two little strawberry plants have been amazing! We’ve had more strawberries this year than ever before. The plants are still producing fruit, though I doubt whether they’ll ripen up now.

Strawberries 2012

Luckily, I had a batch of strawberries in the freezer, which I used yesterday to make some instant frozen strawberry yoghurt. This has been one of our favourite summer desserts and now that I’ve got the food processor, it’s been a breeze to make. You simply throw the frozen strawberries and yoghurt into the processor and press the button. A couple of minutes later, you have soft whip.

It was too dark last night to take a photo, so here’s one from last time we made it.

We drizzled on some home-made strawberry sauce and, last night, we also sprinkled some home-made granola on top. It was totally scrumptious!

I was wondering whether this was a summer only dessert, but two new frozen yoghurt eateries have just opened in Bath, so I’m guessing not. I must check out whether they do a dairy-free version. If not, I’m happy to carry on making my own. It’s so simple. Here’s the recipe:

So that’s me done for another WIAW! Time to head over to Jenn’s and get inspired!

Enjoy the rest of your week everyone xx

Have you had any success growing fruit & veg this year? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

What have been your greatest successes? Have you been left with any surplus? If so, you know where I am 😉

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Filed under Baking & Desserts, Breakfast & Elevenses, Dinners, Growing Fruit & Veggies

Sunshine, Veggies & Sport Relief!

Hi everyone!  I hope you’re having a great week so far! 🙂

What glorious weather we’re having here in the UK!  What with the clocks going forward on Sunday, the lighter evenings and warm sunshine, it feels like we’ve entered Summer rather than Spring.

The magnolia tree by our front door is now in full bloom.

I love the blossom on these trees. Yet another beautiful sight of Spring!

We spent the whole weekend outside, enjoying the good weather.  On Saturday, we went to the market town of Devizes in Wiltshire and had a lovely lunch sitting outside the Little House of Coffee, in the Market Place.  The town was buzzing with activity and had such a great vibe.  The people here are so friendly!

[Source]

We then popped to see friends in the village of Seend Cleeve and had a great time catching up with them whilst sunning ourselves in their garden.  Is this seriously March?  If feels more like July!

On Sunday morning, M, Lil’ L and I took part in the Sport Relief Mile in Victoria Park Bath.  It’s the first charity running event that we’ve completed as a family and it was so much fun! 

We’ve raised about £100, which we’ll be sending off to join the other £54 million + that has been raised so far for this very worthwhile cause. 

Huge respect for John Bishop who cycled, ran and rowed over 295 miles from Paris to London in five days to raise money for Sport Relief.  Talk about guts and determination.  So far he’s raised over £3.4 million.  What a guy!  And he’s vegetarian!  Ha ha, had to get that one in there 😉  You can read about John’s “Week of Hell” here.  After seeing what John went through, never again will I complain if I get a stitch when I’m out on one of my little 4 mile runs!

Sunday afternoon we did some work in the garden, and I started to have a think about what to plant this year.  We’ve always struggled to grow veggies because of the billions of slugs, snails and other little critters that live here.  Rather than making the same mistakes over again, I thought it would be a good idea to start with a review of how our veggie growing attempts have gone this past year. 

To be honest, it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped… 

I’ll start with the disasters…

1. Tomatoes
We grew about 12 plants (10 from seed). We grew them in pots, grobags and some directly in the ground.  It looked promising, and we actually had little green tomatoes growing on the plants.

Then disaster struck.  We had so much rain last August that all the plants got blight and went black & mouldy. 
Yield: zero edible tomatoes 🙁

2. Courgette (zucchini)
I grew one courgette plant in a pot.  It started to get eaten by slugs, snails and wood lice, so I ended up bringing it into the back porch every night.  It then got covered in black fly.

But then a ladybird took up residence on the plant and the black fly were gone.  The plant produced the most beautiful flowers and 3 lovely little courgettes started to appear on the plant.

As soon as we got back from our holiday in August, I rushed into the garden to see how my ‘pet’ courgette was doing… only to discover that the plant was covered in earwigs happily munching away on my little veggies 🙁
Yield: half a courgette

3.  Butternut squashes
I grew the squashes from seed and planted them out in the raised beds that M had spent hours making for me.  I covered the plants with bell cloches to protect them while they were small.

As soon as the bell cloches were removed…. the slugs descended!  Night after night, come rain or shine, I went to the veggie patch and removed the slugs.  In one night, I picked up 40!  There were 2 toads resident on the veggie patch and even they couldn’t keep up with the sheer volume of slugs.

The gravel round the raised beds didn’t deter the slugs (instead it just attracted cat poo 🙁 ).  We put copper tape round the top of the wooden border, and that didn’t work either.  I tried putting strong smelling plants (like rosemary) round the edge, again no luck.

Yield: zero squashes.  Most of the flowers got eaten before the squashes had a chance to grow.  About 5 little squashes did appear… but they got eaten too!

4. Sweetcorn
We grew the sweetcorn from seed and had 5 plants that were strong enough to plant out.  As soon as the sweetcorns started to appear, most of them got eaten by slugs/snails and earwigs.

Yield: 4 very small sweetcorns.  They were delicious, but took us about 2 minutes to eat.

5. Gooseberries
We bought two gooseberry bushes.  They were covered in spikes so I didn’t imagine that they would be eaten.  Wrong!  Even though we kept them in pots, every single green shoot on the plants got eaten by slugs/snails!

Let’s move onto the successes now…

6. Flat leaf parsley
Last summer I sprinkled some parsley seeds into a pot… and they grew beautifully!  The plant is still going strong now 🙂  Slugs and snails don’t go near it.  It requires very little care; just the occasional watering. I did bring it into the back porch over the winter, but it’s back outside now. 

Yield: Since last summer, I’ve been using this parsley in my cooking and for garnishes.  As soon as you cut it, it seems to shoot up again.  Such a great plant!

7. Basil
Last Spring I sprinkled basil seeds into old yoghurts pots and was amazed how quickly they started to grow.  I transferred the plants into larger pots and put them on the dining room window sill.  They were really easy to look after, looked beautiful, and smelt wonderful as you brushed past them.

Yield: I had so much fresh basil that I made my own home-made pesto throughout the Spring and early Summer. We also used the basil in pasta dishes and for tomato & basil salads. 

Before we went on holiday in August, I froze a huge bag of basil leaves, and it was a good job that I did.  The plants had to be left in the garden whilst we were away and, on our return, we found them totally munched and covered in white fly 🙁

8. Rosemary
The rosemary bush has been at our house longer than us!  Slugs/snails leave it alone.  It survives all weather conditions.  The perfect low maintenance plant! 

Yield:  A never ending supply of fresh rosemary which I use in cooking and bread making.

9. Lemon Balm
I planted this in the raised bed in the orchard and the slugs/snails leave it alone.  I haven’t used it in my cooking yet, but I’ll be looking out for some recipes shortly.

10. Kale
We filled Lil’ L’s old sand pit with compost, placed it up on our summer house deck and attempted to grow some kale in it.  Shortly after it started growing, a large batch of caterpillars arrived and ate most of the leaves.  About half of the plants survived… and they’re still going strong now.

Yield: We’ve got about 3 scarlet kale plants that are still producing lots of leaves.  

11. Apples
We had a huge bounty of apples last Autumn.  Literally hundreds 🙂

 Even the tiny apple tree in our rockery grew lots of lovely eating apples 🙂

For months, we didn’t have to buy a single apple from the supermarket.  We enjoyed lots of apple compotes, apple crumbles, and apple pancakes.

In an attempt to overwinter the apples, M made this ventilated storage system which we filled with the best apples.

Until a couple of weeks ago, I was still using surplus apples that we’ d stacked in an old cardboard box.  You can imagine how delighted I was when I went to select one of our ‘finest’ apples from the storage system… only to find that the whole lot had been eaten by mice!  You gotta laugh!

12. Plums
Last Autumn we had the best crop of plums that we’ve ever had.  Literally hundreds!  The boughs were so laden with fruit that some of them unfortunately snapped.

I made sure that we didn’t waste a single plum.  I stewed big batches of them and put them in the freezer.  Plum compote is one of my most favourite desserts ever!  We finished our last batch of frozen plums only a few days ago.

Veggie growing plans 2012
Isn’t it just typical that the most success we had last year was with the plants that pretty much look after themselves… the apple and plum trees and the parsley!

This year, I’m not going to bother growing any veggies other than the kale.  I think the kale has got potential to work, but I  must remember to cover it with netting to try and prevent the caterpillars arriving.

I’d love to buy another fruit tree.  Perhaps a greengage? 

But mainly, I’m going to focus on herbs.  I’ll definitely be growing more parsley and basil.  I also bought these three little herbs from a charity sale in Lacock – thyme, sage and chocolate peppermint.

The chocolate peppermint smells wonderful!  I’m already looking forward to a cup of fresh chocolate mint tea! Yum!

Are you planning to grow any veggies, fruits, or herbs this year?  If so, I’d love to hear your plans.  Can you recommend any easy, low maintentance veggies that I should try? (preferably slug proof 😉 )

 

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Filed under Fund-Raising, Growing Fruit & Veggies

Big Budget Challenge – Weeks V & VI

I’m now into my sixth week of the Big Budget Challenge, hosted by the lovely Laura @ KeepingHealthyGettingStylish.  I’m still really enjoying this challenge, largely due to the fact that I’m finding ways to make lots of savings without feeling that I’m depriving the family or compromising on the quality of the goods I’m buying.  That’s the way to do it! 😉

Here’s a rundown of my money saving attempts over the past two weeks:

1. Avoid waste.  Still haven’t thrown away any food!  In the past, I would often end up throwing away half-used pots of hummus that were hiding at the back of the fridge.  Since taking on the B.B.C. challenge, I’ve made sure that I make regular checks of what’s in the fridge and use up everything before it starts to grow fur. 

Last week, I found myself with a large bag of organic carrots that would soon be past their best, so I decided to make some carrot and coriander soup.  I asked M to stop at the supermarket on the way home from work and buy some speciality bread to make the meal a touch more special.  By the time he arrived there, all the freshly made bread was being sold off at a fraction of the original price so he picked up some fantastic bargains, including some carrot and pumpkin seed bread for 50p a loaf!

The soup was so delicious… really creamy, yet I didn’t put any milk or cream in it!  If anyone’s interested in the recipe, I can post it.

2. Shop around for the cheapest deals. I did another large online grocery shop last week and used www.mysupermarket.co.uk again.  So simple and quick to use (took me less than 20 mins).  Again, the website confirmed that Tesco was the cheapest supermarket for my grocery basket (£127 at Tesco vs £145 at Sainsbury; £147 at Asda; £168 at Waitrose).  I saved £15.85 by multi-buying (2-4-1s, etc) and a further £16.40 by using the website’s ‘Swap & Save’ function.

This week’s top bargains from Tesco:
– 750g Natco Cashew Nuts for £5.00 (compared to £1.99 for 200g in the Tesco own label range)
400g Natco Jeera Ground cumin for £1.99 (compared to 85p for 43g in the Tesco own label range).

3. Make use of home-grown foods.  Still using tons of home-grown apples, stewing them, making puddings, and puree for apple pancakes. 

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes are so delish!

 4. Go foraging! I didn’t go far this week… just into the garden.  With the crazy weather we’re currently experiencing, lots of plants that we normally see in Spring have started shooting up now… including the stinging nettles.  For years I’ve been saying that I’m going to try cooking the nettles and, last Tuesday, I finally got round to doing it!  The Nettle Bhajee (which featured in yesterday’s post) was really tasty and I’ll definitely make it again 🙂

5. Make use of vouchers and deals. This week, I did an online shop at Goodness Direct to stock up on nuts and seeds, as well as buy some delicious healthy organic treats.  There are a few codes available on the web that give you £10 off your order with Goodness Direct, including the one on the right-hand side of Laura’s website. You also get free delivery when you spend over £35. 

It felt like Christmas had come early when the box arrived on the door step!  Here’s what I got…

I bulk-purchased some of the foods that we consume a lot, and this saved me a small fortune.  My top two bulk purchases were 3kg of brown linseed for £5.07 (this will keep us going for the next year!) and 500g pitted dates for £1.55 (I bought 2 bags).  These prices are way cheaper than anything I’ve ever found in the supermarkets or local health food stores.

Another tip… if you buy broken Brazil nuts, they are much cheaper than whole Brazil nuts.  For ages, I’ve been buying whole Brazil nuts then spend ages chopping them up!  At Goodness Direct, 250g of broken Brazil nuts are £1.99 compared to £3.33 for the whole nuts!

So, with all these savings on bulk purchases, free delivery, £10 off, I felt I deserved a few delicious organic treats (even if I am in the midst of the Big Budget Challenge 😉 )  At the moment, I am absolutely loving Meridian’s organic wild blueberry and cherry & berry spreads, and their Green Pesto (in the ‘Free From’ range).  Regardless of the fact that it’s vegan, I think this is the best pesto out there!  Not only does it taste great, but it’s also got an amazing texture (little bit crunchy, just how I like it 🙂 )

I’m definitely going to explore bulk purchasing more.  Do you bulk buy any grocery items?  If so, what’s your top bulk purchase items and where do you buy them?

 

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Filed under Being Frugal, Breakfast & Elevenses, Dinners, Growing Fruit & Veggies