Category Archives: Friday Product Reviews

CarolCooks2…Friday Food Reviews…Nakd Bars…

Welcome to Friday Food Reviews, where I will cover a different food or product each week and look at… what are they?  where do they grow, what can we substitute them for in a recipe, and are they safe to eat, store, use, cook, or anything connected to that food. or product..all the why’s and the wherefores…it will, of course, be mainly my own opinion or a known fact…good or bad…there may even be a tried and tested recipe…or three…

I have never really been a fan of cereal bars or muesli come to that I have always found them dry, tasteless even with a dusty taste if that makes sense plus with little flavour…

Many eat them as a go-to breakfast choice without a thought for the fat and sugar they contain…cereal bars have become a staple for many as they juggle with their busy lives…often containing the ingredients we know are healthy for us like oats, nuts and fruit…but what binds them together its the hidden sugars and saturated fat of course but with clever marketing, we are led to believe that they are healthy…

One of the biggest things to look out for is the sugar content…that “light” cereal bar that screams at us using all the right words…can be a real shocker if we look at the ingredients…especially now when that word “salted and caramel ” has been sneaked in…just saying it assaults our senses and tastebuds…mine too I’m a sucker for most things which promise salted caramel in the same sentence…

After the promise of salted caramel, I know many of you don’t want to hear that” Weetabix” the cereal that my father ate every single morning apart from Sunday for his breakfast…has the fewest calories and overall is one of the healthiest cereal bars on the market…

Then along came “Nakd” pronounce it how you will… my son laughs at my pronunciation …these little bars of which most are cold pressed are “cheerfully vegan”… let’s get this straight I am not and never will be vegan …I believe we need a healthy balanced diet and going back to our inception our bodies were designed to eat meat…

BUT…there always is one of them…lol..I also believe we should eat a diet free from chemicals and preservatives…which means that the word vegan means nothing to me…it doesn’t deter me from eating something…I am ingredient led when I look at food and that’s it…That’s me!

Sometimes added sugar has its place as does salt …here comes the BUT again…lol…BUT not in excess, the world’s tastebuds have been manipulated and many are addicted to sugar and salt hence the rising figures of both adult and child obesity, bad teeth in children and other lifestyle diseases…

Don’t believe me just ask Mr Google it’s in “Plain Sight” and still we buy and consume too much…processed food…

Anyway, as I have been about my travels I have been persuaded to try one of these bars and I must say after reading all the packaging twice even thrice I got quite excited that it is readable script(not so small) that I and most of my friends have no chance of deciphering the ingredients…even with our reading glasses on…FACT.

These are the best-processed bars I have tasted…I like that most are cold pressed and just 3 to 5 ingredients…not something I would eat all the time but handy and easy to carry on my journeys around the Uk…I also like that the ingredients are clearly stated in big letters it’s a young company so I have high hopes for them…

Thank you for joining me today as always I look forward to your comments…see you tomorrow for Saturday Snippets… Tomorrows one-word prompt though is a ” Secret”…

CarolCooks2…Friday Food Review…Saffron…

Welcome to Friday Food Reviews where I will be covering a different food or product each week and looking at… what are they?  where do they grow, what can we substitute them for in a recipe, are they safe to eat, how to store them, how to use them, cook them, anything connected to that food. or product..all the why’s and the wherefores…it will, of course, be mainly my own opinion or a known fact…good or bad…there may even be a tried and tested recipe…or three…

This week it’s…Saffron…

Vegetable Gold…

Saffron is known as vegetable gold it comes from a purple crocus flower Crocus sativus…an orange-coloured condiment consisting of its dried stigmas used to colour and flavour foods.

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. Saffron has long been the world’s most costly spice by weight.

A beautiful spice used to colour a paella…derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food.

Kashmiri saffron is well known for its exotic aroma and as a flavour in culinary preparation. Kashmiri saffron has a deep dark maroonish-purple hue. While Persian saffron has about 70% of total world production,  quality Kashmiri saffron is the best and finest.

However, the flowers must be harvested by hand, before or immediately after sunrise so that they are not damaged by direct heat from the sun. The flowers are very delicate, and many growers believe mechanical plucking damages the saffron crocus flowers. Each flower produces only 3 stigmas…It takes about 13,125 threads to weigh one ounce.  .hence the high cost of $1,149 per pound.

Saffron Substitutes…

Turmeric…at $2.05 per oz turmeric is a savvy swap for saffron at almost 100% savings…It is easy to grow and you can just pull what you like away from the rhizome or buy powdered turmeric.

Turmeric as a substitute for Saffron… provides yellow colour to your dish when cooked that is similar to Saffron however turmeric has ts own flavour and may not be a suitable flavour profile for some dishes.

For colour and a little flavour, per 10-15 threads needed you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon turmeric then add 1/2 teaspoon paprika for a little flavour.

Marigold…Marigold blossoms can also be used as a saffron substitute.‭ ‬They are able to effectively approximate the colour of saffron and add no awkward taste to the recipe.‭ ‬

The blossoms can be diced and added,‭ ‬or dried and then crushed into powder.

Annatto …Annatto seeds can be used as a substitute in Spanish cooking.‭ ‬The seeds can be added to hot oil and cooked briefly, which will give the oil a bright red colour and impart a subtle pepper flavour.‭ ‬

The seeds are harvested from the flowers of the achiote trees of Central and South America.

Sweet paprika …Paprika is a common substitute for saffron.‭ ‬It can easily reproduce the colour that saffron creates and does not have a harsh flavour that could affect the recipe.‭ ‬This spice is created by grinding down peppers that have been dried.‭

Cooks should avoid using smoked paprika when substituting for saffron because the flavour can be very strong.‭

Safflower …

Safflower, often referred to as the Mexican saffron, is gotten from a herbaceous plant with an orange-flowered thistle-like characteristic.

This plant is cultivated for its culinary value, the seeds are used to make safflower oil used in cooking, and the leaves are also edible. The leaves are yellow or orange-like, and it has a herbal, floral, and chocolaty flavour and aroma.

Made from Scratch…Paella!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Aribo Rice
  • 1 Litre of chicken stock with a few strands of saffron added.
  • 2 Chicken Breasts cubed.
  • A piece of Chorizo about 150 gm sliced and quartered.
  • I onion.
  • 3 cloves garlic.
  • 1 chilli.
  • I red Pepper.
  • Half Kilo of Prawns.
  • 1 kilo of Mussels.
  • 5 baby squid.
  • Half Lemon.

Let’s Cook!

Cook Chorizo in tbsp Olive Oil until lightly browned add chopped onion and cook for 2 mins. Put in a dish and leave on one side.

Lightly Brown Chicken in remaining oil and put on one side.

Cook cubed red pepper, chilli, garlic until softened. and put in a dish on one side.

Add rice to the pan and stir to cover with remaining oil( can add peas at this point) and add the chicken stock with the saffron strands and cook on rolling simmer 5-10mins or until the rice has nearly absorbed all liquid. Add chicken and either continue to cook on the hob or put in the oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes. Check and top up with water or stock if required if rice is too dry.

Add the Chorizo and Pepper mix cook for further 10 mins checking and stirring or topping up stock if required. Add Prawns and cook for further 10 mins. Add Mussels and cook another 8-10 mins until open. Add squid for the last 3 mins of cooking.

Squeeze over lemon and garnish with lemon slices or quarters and if you have parsley in the fridge add some chopped as a garnish. If the rice still has not been absorbed by the stock I cook of on top of the stove until absorbed.

Then serve…….. this is very much a recipe where the amount of stock depends on rice absorption and also what meat or fish you have. If I have some to use or in the freezer then I might add or use chicken thighs instead of breast. The mussels we brought yesterday were quite big so we steamed them before adding to Paella or if I have just shelled Mussels I stir them through the Paella.

Really anything goes it’s just you and your imagination, as you make more you will learn how to adjust to your own taste and once the initial prep is done it is quite easy to make…enjoy experimenting. It can also be cooked on a BBQ and then you get that lovely crust the Spanish call socarrat, on the bottom of the pan…lovely.

Although there really is no substitute for the beautiful Saffron the alternatives above depending on your recipe are good if not perfect substitutes for saffron however for paella I always use saffron but for other dishes I have used alternatives like turmeric, sweet paprika and Annatto seeds…

Thank you for reading this post I hope you have found it informative...if you have any recipes where you cannot get an ingredient and wish to know what you can use as a  substitute then please let me know and I will do the research for you…as always I look forward to your comments…Have a fabulous weekend xx

 

CarolCooks2…Friday Product Review…Slow Cookers…

Welcome to Friday Food Reviews where I will be covering a different food or product each week and looking at… what are they?  where do they grow, what can we substitute them for in a recipe, are they safe to eat, how to store them, how to use them, cook them, anything connected to that food. or product..all the why’s and the wherefores…it will, of course, be mainly my own opinion or a known fact…good or bad…there may even be a tried and tested recipe…or three…

This week it’s…Slow Cookers…

Slow cookers are healthy as they rely on low heat to prepare food, which reduces the chances of nutrient destruction, unlike other cooking styles.

How much electricity does one use? Depending on their size, slow cooker wattage runs from as little as 50 watts to over 300 watts. That’s not a lot of power, and even when you consider that you leave one cooking 3 quarts of food for 8 hours a day, a 200-watt slow cooker will use only 1.6 kWh.

Let’s address the elephant in the room...lead leaching...

Due to the popular use of crock pots and slow cookers since the 1970s… There is an increasing worry about potential lead poisoning… While slow cookers and crock pots of any age can cause worry, the older the cooker is the more lead-leaching potential it has.

Microscopic cracks and general wear-and-tear of the inner ceramic pots are where the concerns come from… Home cooks using old, but still, operable slow cookers should be checking for even the minutest of cracks…, slow cookers from the 1990s might want to be replaced for a safer more modern unit.

Excessive lead exposure can cause attention disorders, physical development issues, pregnancy complications, and pain issues, among a host of other problems.

There are many ways lead has traditionally gotten into the body, through home renovations, drinking water, soil particles, and occupational hazards. Although we cannot control exposure in all instances, it is important when we do have control—as with cooking materials—that we make a proactive and healthy choice.

Cooking in a pot with a ceramic glaze at a higher temperature setting is generally much safer because the glaze stays sealed, the temperature is higher, and the time period of cooking is generally one hour or less. This is opposed to ceramic glazed slow cookers that often have contact with foods for six to eight hours at a lower temperature.

The more modern ones use other materials rather than ceramics with glazes…other options are a clay pot …clay pots have been around for thousands of years…plus some foods are far better cooked in a clay pot…particularly dishes made with tomatoes or peppers, or have added spices like paprika or sumac,, the clay pot will bring out the sweetness and enhance the flavour.

Cooking with a slow cooker…ideal here where it’s hot and humid as it doesn’t heat my kitchen…

It’s ideal for cooking Hot Cereals: I  used to love to make breakfast overnight for the morning when my children were young… You can make oat bran, oatmeal, and corn porridge let the slow cooker do the work and not a burnt bottom in sight…Those of you who know me and follow this blog know how very good I am at burning saucepans -sigh-

Porridge, eggs, mango chutney…I am an expert…lol…my other half is also very good at cleaning burnt saucepans…

Now let’s look at what you can cook…

Roast Chicken…

All you need to do is sit your chicken on a bed of vegetables and add some stock then cook as per the times for your particular slow cooker …I cook mine on slow for about 4 -5 hrs and then crisp the skin under the grill/broiler…the veggies and that lovely juice I sometimes use to make gravy or keep it as a base for soup…nothing gets wasted.

 

You can do a pot roast in the same way…the beauty is it cooks while you are shopping, writing, taking the kids to football or tennis…and nothing gets burnt or dried out…

 

Stuffed Bell peppers…

  • 6 large bell peppers 
  • 1lb ground beef (at least 80% lean)
  • 1cup finely chopped onions
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2cups cooked white rice
  • 1can (15 oz) organic tomato sauce
  • Fresh or dried basil
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese or any melting cheese…like mozzarella or Jack.

Let’s Cook!

Spray a 6-quart oval slow cooker with cooking spray. Trim tops off bell peppers; remove ribs
and seeds. Set aside…
In 12-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat, cook beef, onions, salt and pepper and basil for
8 to 10  minutes, stirring frequently, until beef is cooked through and onion softens.
Add garlic; cook 15 seconds. Drain.
Stir rice and 1/2 cup of tomato sauce into beef mixture in the pan; mix to combine. Stir in 1 cup
of the cheese. Stuff peppers with beef mixture; arrange in the slow cooker. Pour remaining
tomato sauce over the peppers. I like to top mine with the lid of the pepper I think they look
more attractive on the plate when serving…
Cover cook on Low heat setting 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours or until peppers are soft. Top the peppers
with the remaining 1 cup cheese.
Cover cook 3 to 8 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Use a slotted spoon to lift peppers
from slow cooker.
Cooks tip: When buying your peppers choose ones that have a flat bottom or trim the
points off and add the offcuts to your beef mix…this makes them stand
a little more upright rather than falling over…
I love my slow cooker and use it a lot however once this one reaches the end of its life I will be
investing in an Instant pot or maybe I won’t for that as the Instant pot is also a pressure cooker.
Thank you for joining me today as always I look forward to your comments…do you use a
slow cooker and if so what is your favourite slow cooker recipe?
See you tomorrow for Saturday Snippets xx