Rye #5 – Thin Rye Crisps

If you have ever gone to IKEA you most probably will have seen the massive, round rye crisps – with a hole in the middle. Essentially, that is what this recipe will make you – but slightly thinner (as this makes a more crisp, crisp!) and I make mine smaller so they are snack size for the children after school.

Why the hole in the middle? In older days when these were made, they were hung on poles to dry by the fire. Cute right?

The recipe is an adaptation of several recipes and my own experimentation! I have added bits from one, bits from another, therefore mentioned must be the recipes of London’s Nordic Bakery, Nigel Slater and Annie Rigg. You can, of course, just buy them at the supermarket but what would be the fun in that? These come out all different shapes and sizes, uneven and individual! Cute as a gift, maybe with a jar of homemade hummus?

As always, full of rye, seeds, quinoa – all great for you! Don’t consider this a diet snack because it actually is not meant to be! It is just a light and crunchy bread that tastes great! How to eat this? With dips – hummus, pesto, olive tapenade or with salmon and cream cheese, mackerel pate, cottage cheese, brie and peppers, as a side to any salad, in the children’s lunch box with a bit of butter on….so many ways! Hope you enjoy!

Thin Rye Crisps

100ml luke warm water
100ml luke warm milk
100g butter (can be substituted with a few tbsp olive oil or omitted)
10g fresh yeast
400g rye flour
100g plain flour
4 tsp small seeds – caraway, sesame, poppy or even sunflower seeds
1 tsp quinoa
1 tsp salt
Optional sea salt for sprinkling
 
  • Gently heat milk and water in a pan until finger warm (if you decide not to add butter, add a bit more water or the olive oil at this stage)
  • Put the yeast in a large bowl and pour the luke warm liquids over the top – whisk the liquids until you have dissolved the yeast
  • Measure out your flour, seeds, quinoa and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and combine until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the luke warm liquids to the mixture – combine to form a ball –
  • If you find your dough to be quite sticky this is also OK – it might be a bit tricky for yo to roll out the crisps later but once baked the taste will be fine. If you do not want it sticky, add a bit more flour
  • Leave in a warm place to rise for an hour – it will probably only puff up slightly but this is fine
  • Pre-heat oven to 210C
  • Once risen, on a slightly floured surface, roll out your dough – thin but not so it falls apart! Probably 2-3mm
  • If you want round crisps, roll little dough balls and use a rolling pin to shape – make a hole in the middle
  • If you want rectangular ones – cut them to that shape. Use cookie cutters to make hearts or other shapes too…cute for different occasions
  • Place the crisps on lined baking trays and punch holes in them with a fork or a grating board – works a treat! You may even be in the possession of a proper, Swedish thin crisp rolling pin…use it if you are!
  • Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt – if you like!
  • Place in the warm oven and bake for between 10-15 minutes – watch them carefully as they are not nice if burned but not crisp if undercooked. Dark brown is good.
  • Let cool completely on a wire rack and store in air tight container.

Dough BallRectangular

For round thin crisps

After school snack or in the lunch box!

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Rye #2 – Muffins with Rye,Raspberry,Strawberry and Quinoa

Eat and be very, very, berry healthy! Literally!

I discussed the benefits of rye in my blog a few days ago – if you missed it read it here – and this recipe is a fabulous example of a treat that is a deceptive bomb of healthiness! My children, and us adults, love them and I make them for after school snacks or as pudding when they have play dates.

Raspberries actually deserve a blog of their own but for now I will just mention a few of their benefits:

  • help to sustain energy levels
  • promote more youthful-looking skin
  • promote weight loss – this because raspberries have a low glycemic load which stabilises blood sugar thus keeping those bursts of “cravings” at bay! I am sure we could all benefit from a few handfuls of them after December’s food mania!
  • rich in vitamin C
  • fat, cholesterol and sodium free
  • high dietary fibre content
  • contain more antioxidants than any other fruit – thus helping to combat the free radicals created in our bodies by our consumption of:
    • Fried food
    • Excess consumption of alcohol
    • Irradiated foods
    • Air pollution
    • Smoking
    • Ultraviolet radiation from the sun
    • Excessive exercise

A few became many – sorry – but I was amazed at how good raspberries actually are for you! So go ahead, make these very easy and quick muffins and enjoy a treat that for once is really good for you and your children as well as gorgeous to look at not to mention smell – mind, body and soul fulfilled! 🙂

Rye, Raspberry and Strawberry Muffins – adapted from an Easy Living Magazine recipe

Makes about 8 large muffins

75g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
150g rye flour
100g plain flour
2 tbsp quinoa
50g chilled butter
175ml milk
1 large egg
100g raspberries
75g strawberries – halved
 
  • Heat oven to 200C
  • Place sugar and baking powder in a bowl
  • Sieve in the two kinds of flour – tip the grains left in the sieve into the mixture – don’t want to lose the goodness there!
  • Grate the butter – this is always really funny – strange feeling! Combine into the flour mixture using a fork – children happily do this bit

  • Add the quinoa – can be omitted but gives a nice crunch and is so so good for you!
  • Beat the egg and milk together in a separate bowl
  • Add egg/milk to the flour mixture and gently combine – do not overstir as this will make low, hard muffins. The mixture should be lumpy – far from smooth
  • Add the berries and gently fold them into the mixture
  • Spoon the mixture into muffin cases and cook for about 25 minutes – or until risen and golden brown!
  • Let cool on a wire rack before enjoying – they are also good day 2 but probably won’t last!

Enjoy, once again, the feeling of being the best mum or dad in the world when you hand your children these!

Read more on raspberries and berries in general here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry

http://superberries.co.uk/berries/

Sleep your way to happiness!!

How many times have you tried to lose a few pounds? How often do you find yourself yelling too much at your children? How often are you lacking motivation to exercise or cook healthily? Final question – do you sleep less than 7 hours a night?

The days I go to bed too late or have my deep sleep broken by someone needing a wee, talking in their sleep or waking inhumanely early, I am much more irritable, prone to be more short-tempered, and definitely have a higher tendency to feel stressed. I eat a lot more sweet and unhealthy foods and am much less fun, definitely in the eyes of my children! Like when they fill the sink with water until it runs onto the floor and through the ceiling into the room below…yeah…when I have too little sleep, that is not a good scenario to find myself in (or for my children to have created!!).

The link between sleep and mood, appetite and weight is not only easy to experience first hand  but also well documented. Over the past few weeks I have, due to feeling tired and de-motivated, been reading up on it and it has made me realise that it is very simple to hit these low energy phases but likewise, very easy to turn the energy levels back around.

Most of the research I have read centres around sleep and weight loss, with one study showing that “…men ate significantly more (an average of 560 excess calories in their daily diet) during the days after they were sleep-deprived, compared to what they ate after having a good night’s sleep” (everydayhealth.com article). For those not used to working with calories, 560 excess ones equate to roughly ½ a kg a week in weight! Amazing how sleep alone can affect our appetite this much.

Less sleep equates to less energy and lower motivational levels throughout the day – you will find it harder to get out there and exercise as well as harder to cook and prepare healthy meals. Instead, and you are probably nodding now, you will grab for food that gives you an instant kick – starchy carbohydrates and sugars – and a vicious circle is created. This is because your appetite controlling hormones have been thrown with sleep deprivation leading to elevated levels of ghrelin, which is appetite-stimulating, as well as reduced levels of leptin, which is an appetite-suppressing hormone (everydayhealth.com). So how do you turn it around!? A few tips – and they work!

  • Sleep is the linking factor so start by going to bed at a decent time, and do it regularly. Creating a good routine will make it easier for you to stick to bedtimes. Count back at least 7 hours from when you have to get up…the hours before midnight are the ones you want to catch – especially if you have children that wake before 6am!
  • Eat a healthy breakfast! This is critical to starting your day with energy and giving your body fuel to tackle all that will come its way. Have a read of my blog RISE AND SHINE for more information on why breakfast is important.
  • Snack between meals. By this I do not mean stuff yourself! Have a handful of nuts (almonds or walnuts) with a piece of dark chocolate or a carrot with some olives, some tomatoes and feta cheese, edamame beans, hummus and veggies….Having a healthy snack will keep your blood sugar levels afloat during the day and thus keep your mood steady! Less shouting at the children, less sweets and starchy carbs being eaten!
  • Exercise! At least 30 minutes, five times a week. Getting out into the fresh air will not only clear your mind and help keep you in shape but it WILL give you energy! It also helps keep your appetite balanced…So important! Read EXERCISE blog for more!
  • Eat healthily! Every magazine you read bangs on about 5 a day. I won’t! I don’t care how many a day you have – it’s not about getting the five in there but about enjoying a balanced diet every day of your life. It is a mind-set to be honest. You need to just go for it. DO IT. Decide that you will throw away the processed white stuff in your cupboards, your biscuits, the chocolates…get rid of it. If it is there so is the temptation to have it. Do not worry so much about the fat content (there are actually many many fatty foods that are good for you, in moderation), look more at the sugar and carbohydrates. This is what gets you lazy and tired…and overweight! Fill your bowls with fruit and vegetables and always have lots of nuts and seeds to hand. Salads are great and believe me there are so many gorgeous ones – it does not have to be boring!!!
  • Cut back on alcohol and caffeine – at least in the afternoon and evening.  If you are struggling to get to bed early, or with waking in the night, don’t assume that a few glasses of wine or a beer will make you sleep better! It may get you falling asleep but once the alcohol wears off you will wake and probably find it hard to fall asleep again. Caffeine will prevent you from falling asleep – usually it takes 4-5 hours to get it out of your system. It would be very hard for me to live without my morning coffee but that is all I have. Not more than 3 cups of tea or coffee a day someone once told me – if you have more broken sleep is the result!

With the darkness and cold moving in on us it is so important to create energy in our every day. I like to feel alive! I like to wake and jump out of bed and look forward to the day ahead. I like to laugh with my children, not shout at them. I love the feeling of returning from a run, buzzing….I love good food – and I do not feel I am missing out on that by eating healthily. I just follow the 80/20 rule…eat really healthily 80% of the time and sneak in some naughtiness once in a while! Finally, I love to sleep! After a full day with exercise, the children and fresh air, there is nothing better than getting under the covers and letting the body have a well-deserved break!

These same rules apply to children by the way…are you helping yours to be happier?

Give it a go and let me know if you are feeling more energised!

(Some good articles I read on the importance of sleep)

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/sleep-more-weigh-less

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/seep-weight-loss-and-appe_b_566378.html

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/weight-loss/the-relationship-between-getting-enough-sleep-and-weight-loss.html

http://www.tree.com/health/sleep-disorders-effects-weight-gain.aspx

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/mood

Chick Pea Heaven – Hummus

Another favourite in our household is hummus…or should I write houmous, hommos, humos, hoummos?!?! Never quite understood which is the correct one….doesn’t matter…it tastes great!

It is barely made before it is snatched – usually when the children come home from school – and gobbled up with crudites…(silly fancy word for raw vegetables!)

I used to buy it until my mum visited and insisted on making it at home. I thought she was mad, well she is a bit, but then she got cracking and it was to die for. I still buy it, but sometimes, as a treat, I make it. It is very satisfying seeing the children tucking away at something I know is full of goodness and knowing exactly what they are eating – plus no hidden ingredients!

What better food than the chickpea? Full of iron, folic acid and protein as well as being high in dietary fiber and low in fat, it truly is a natural source of health. I am only beginning to experiment but am finding there are so many ways to cook them – falafel being another favourite!!!

The measurement lovers in this world will have to bear with me on this one as it sort of is a splash here and a splash there..and then a lot of tasting and seasoning as you go. I like my hummus quite strong, garlicy, and spiced, others prefer it plain and less salty. Taste as you go – maybe with a glass of white wine in your hand – quite a nice way to spend a morning or afternoon!

1 tin of cooked chickpeas
Preserve half of the liquid from the can
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp cumin
3 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sea salt
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
 

  • Put the chick peas in a food processor (or large pestle and mortar)
  • Add about 1/3 of the liquid from the tin (not too much as hummus should never be runny – it is easier to add liquid later than try to take it away….), the cumin, the garlic and 1 tsp salt
  • Pour in half the lemon juice and 2 tsp sesame oil
  • Combine, pulse, stir….how does it look? Feel? Put a spoon into it and have a taste. What is missing? Is it too dry?
  • This is where you have to be the judge of what is good! I would add more salt and sesame oil, and then the olive oil to make it nice and smooth.

You might like it more coarse, less salty… play!

When I am not letting children attack it I add paprika and chilli – just a bit – and usually, for presentation purposes, sprinkle with paprika and a few chick peas as well as drizzle some olive oil over the top…I serve it either with raw veggies or bread sticks – or both!

 

Scones? Yes please!

At half term we spent a gorgeous week in Appledore, a tiny little fisherman’s village in North Devon (have a look: Appledore Cottages), and most days we ate scones….not just scones though, stunning homemade scones with clotted cream (lots) and jam (lots) and even butter….(also lots!). OK, we did do many other things, crab fishing, fishing, walks on the beach, sites etc, but the scones stand out in my mind. I LOVE a good scone….Some say plain, boring…but no no….I say scones all the way!

Being in baking and snack mode this week, as well as having some buttermilk in the fridge, I thought I would make some. I am always hunting for good after school treats for the children (wanting to avoid abuse :-)) – scones are a great one! Very easy, super quick and the smell that fills the kitchen…heavenly!

To make things complicated, however, my husband criticized the first batch I made….said the flavour was lovely but the consistency “bready”… I am a tad of a perfectionist and it really bothered me…so I researched a bit and tried making them in a different way! Much better, or different is a better word….smiles all around…BUT we now have scones all over the kitchen – come over and have one if you like!!!!

I will put both recipes up – the first one makes a less crumbly, less sweet scone while the second is more of a sweet, soft treat!

It was a bit dark and sad outside today so a candle made it lovely and cosy inside! Important to set a nice scene when you are in the kitchen!

The first recipe – inspired by Anne Willan’s Look and Cook book – goes like this!

250g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
60g unsalted butter
175ml buttermilk
 
  • Heat your oven to 220C and line a baking tray with parchment paper
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. I used to skip this step and just chuck everything in but actually, apart from making the flour look soft and beautiful, almost snow like, it makes it more airy and therefore helps create a lighter scone.

 

Pretty right?

  • Add the butter and with your fingers, or those of your children, rub the mixture together quickly until it forms crumb like consistency. Think airy and light when you are doing this and do move rather quickly so that you do not melt the butter with the warmth from your hands.
  • Pour the buttermilk into the centre of the bowl – you will of course (!) have made a pretty hole in the flour…

  • Using a fork, toss the flour mixture with the buttermilk and stir until just holding together. Do NOT over stir – why? This will make chewy, hard scones…
  • Knead quickly on lightly floured surface, literally a few seconds, do not make it smooth. Then pat the dough into a round shape, about 2cm thick.
  • Cut out round shapes with a cookie cutter or glass

  • Place the scones on your parchment and bake them in the warm oven for about 15 minutes (or until light brown)

  • Sink your teeth into those!!!!! OR, what I did, butter and jam them, wrap them up and delight your children! (and enjoy a rare, quiet, proud “Mum is great” moment)

The second recipe is by Rachel Allen and is slightly sweeter and more light – not much – but enough to be different!

500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting   
1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 heaped tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
125g chilled unsalted butter   
25g caster sugar
1 egg,  beaten   
275ml buttermilk, plus extra for the egg wash   
1 tbsp caster sugar
 
  • The procedure is similar to that above. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt into a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix.
  • Save 1/3 of the beaten egg and pour the rest into the buttermilk.
  • Add the liquids to the flour and stir with a fork – quickly – follow kneading and patting procedure as above, and you should see this on parchment.

  • Lightly brush the scones with the remaining egg, to which you can add a bit of buttermilk. This creates a nice, golden colour.
  • Into the oven – 12-15 minutes – until brown/golden. Below is the result! YUMMY!

Both recipes are great..my preference is probably the Sarah Allen’s though…just a bit more traditional scone…

A slight niggle remains….someone suggested that a real scone, a proper one, contains lard….Hhmmmm….I just cannot quite get myself to try it. Watch this space though, maybe I will be brave enough one day!

 

Posh Bread Sticks!

When I go to pick up my children from school I am never greeted with a loving hug and how lovely to see you attitude…oh no…I get: “What snack did you bring?”, usually followed by some sort of attempt to rummage through my bags without getting caught (not successful by the way!). If I forget to bring one, I’ll tell you, it gets pretty ugly…Tantrums, tears, abuse, blame…the guilt…only a parent knows the feeling!

In search of new snacks (you do get desperate to please sometimes as a Mum) I tried making these bread sticks the other day (grissini for the posh) – with left over pizza dough! It worked a treat. I have since made them again and refined the recipe a bit – mostly to try new flavours!

As you read the recipe do not get freaked out by the words “fresh yeast” and “baking” used in the same sentence! You can do it! It really is easy and fun…and appart from that gorgeous snap and crunch when you eat them the children absolutely jumped for joy when I brought them to the playground as an after school snack….

150 g plain flour
150g rye flour
About 200ml luke warm water (maybe a little less so go easy with the pouring!)
10g fresh yeast (or one sachet of dried yeast)
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (plus some for topping)
1 tbsp good olive oil (plus some for brushing with)
Handful grated parmesan cheese (can be omitted)
 
  • Put the flour, parmesan and salt in a large bowl or a food processor. Either stir by hand or pulse machine to combine.
  • Mix water, yeast and olive oil in a separate cup and stir until the yeast is dissolved.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the flour in a steady stream while you are stirring – or while your food processor is running. Keep a bit of the water mix back to ensure you do not add too much and make the dough too sticky. If it does go too sticky…yes…it happens…just add a bit more flour. No tears or stress please…not the end of the world! 🙂
  • Process until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Drizzle a little olive oil into a bowl and place the dough in it – swirl the bowl around to cover the dough with the olive oil. It will look something like this!

  • Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in volume. An hour should be enough but no harm will be done if you leave it for 2!
  • Preheat the oven to 190C and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Dust your work surface with flour and, using small bits of dough at a time (keep the dough you are not yet using covered in the bowl), roll rectangle shapes – dimensions are not critical – but for those that love exact directions probably about 30cm by 20cm….
  • Cut the rectangle shaped dough into strips  (again, not critical that they are identical but does make the baking in the oven bit easier if they are similar in size). A sharp knife worked for me. You will now have something that looks like this in front of you!

  • Take a strip – it will feel really cool and quite elastic in your hands – and let it grow longer in your hands. Fold it over itself – so it is not so long and to make it stronger (halve it and double up I guess you could say – did that just confuse you even more?) and then roll it into a snake shape – my little ones really enjoyed this bit….
  • Lay the strips on your baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt (or your choice of topping – hey – go pink and sparkly if you want!). They will all look different but taste equally great – that’s individuality for you!

  • Place your bread sticks in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them and take them out as they get brown and look crunchy! If they cook too little they will be slightly chewy rather than crisp….just bear that in mind!
  • Once done cool on a wire rack and enjoy the taste!!!

You can flavour them as you like! My favourite combination is sea salt and rosemary – (if doing this omit the parmesan so your flavours don’t crash!) Sugar and cinnamon also works (again, no parmesan for that one!).

Look how pretty – it made me so happy making, looking and eating them! Give it a go!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Once you have scooped out all the flesh from your pumpkin – do not discard the seeds! They make a super tasty and healthy snack!

  • Scoop out the seeds once you are carving your pumpkin and save them
  • Wash them in a bowl and remove any flesh – guess who will love this job!!?? Little ones…Big bowl and a little water…they will be at it for a while!
  • If you have no patience for the children doing it then fill a bowl of water and dump the seeds and left over flesh into it. Stir it for a few minutes and you will find that the seeds automatically come to the surface – simply scoop them out!
  • Lay them on a tea towel over night to dry
  • When dry, place them in a bowl and toss them in any (or all) of the below:
    • olive oil
    • soya sauce
    • garlic powder
    • chilli
  • Place them on a baking sheet on a tray and bake them at 120C for about 30 minutes tossing every 15-20 minutes to ensure they don’t burn
  • Once done, let them cool completely!
  • They are lovely and crisp and a great source of protein!
  • Will keep in the fridge for months – but probably won’t last a day!!!