Tag Archives: simple

Oatbran fruit muffins – low cholesterol


I’ll share what we’ve been up to someday soon, but for now let’s feed our bellies with goodness!

As I’ve already mentioned, my hereditary cholesterol is causing me issues and it’s likely to be be even worse after this next baby, so when baking I am trying to use only cholesterol-friendly ingredients.


This has been easier said than done and to be honest I am resenting it! However, my guardian angel Smitten Kitchen, recently posted a recipe that was screaming to be adapted for me. So that’s exactly what I did!

Fat free greek yoghurt has replaced buttermilk, and cholesterol lowering oatbran and spelt flour are also used.


These are absolutely suitable for breakfast, or snack time, and especially child-friendly given the minimal amount of sugar used.

They aren’t beautiful, but then very little of what I bake is (it’s not my highest priority), but they are wholesome and it makes me feel like I’m still allowed cake. Almost.


Oatbran and fruit muffins
makes approximately 10 using small cases


300ml fat free yoghurt, thinned with 15ml milk
1 large egg
80 ml oil (such as vegetable, safflower, sunflower or olive oil)
50 grams lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or zest of citrus fruit of your choice
90 grams oat bran
125 grams spelt flour (can substitute plain flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
several teaspoons sugar – for topping the muffins
3/4 to 1 cup chopped mixed fruit (just about anything but citrus or pineapple will work, I used 10 strawberries but have previously used frozen raspberries and blueberries successfully)


Heat oven to 200 degrees C and line tray with muffin cases.

Whisk yoghurt, milk, egg, oil, brown sugar and any vanilla or citrus zest you’d like to use in a small bowl. Whisk oatbran, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir wet mixture into dry until just combined.

Spoon 1 tablespoons of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Add about 1 teaspoons fruit to each (dividing it evenly). Spoon remaining batter (about 1 tablespoon each) over fruit and sprinkle tops of muffins with about 1 teaspoon each.

Bake muffins for 16 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out almost clean. Do not overbake. Let muffins cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from tin.

The muffins keep for 3 days at room temperature, longer in the freezer.




Mackerel, Lemon and Dill Potato Salad


Now that I am working again, albeit part-time, I need to get my act together and organise our meals more efficiently.

To give us a little bit of credit, we do plan the meals we are going to eat during the week, but I never know what I’m going to make each day. This can result in a last-minute-hungry-toddler-hungry-parents panic (omelette!).


This is my current favourite one dish meal (that can be stretched to two meals) and is even better the following day for lunch at work, with some lettuce and cucumber mingled in, or some sliced avocado.


I’m not sure why this happens, but we always seem to have a huge bundle of potatoes leftover from the veg box, so this recipe is killing two birds with one stone (or as my Norwegian sister-in-law will tell you, “Two flies, one smack” ;) ).

Mackerel, lemon and dill potato salad
serves 3 (and a toddler) generously


750g salad potatoes – boiled until tender, then diced
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tin (125g) skinned and boned (msc, please) mackerel in olive oil (reserve a little oil for the dressing)
handful of dill, chopped well
salt and pepper to taste
optional extras: avocado, cucumber, green peppers, asparagus


In a large bowl or dish, combine the mayonnaise, Greek yoghurt, lemon juice and zest, garlic and mackerel (with a little of the olive oil).

Add the dill and potatoes and gently stir to coat generously.

Taste and season accordingly.





Favourite posts this week

:: Delicious, seasonal recipes from Mr Ottolenghi. Have you been watching his TV show?

:: Really useful post on kitchen substitutions.

:: I like to take my time cooking too, but do appreciate the odd quick meal, still home-made of course. What do you think?

:: Shake loves Pecan Pie but I’m yet to make him one. This may change that, but maple syrup is expensive…

:: Love the look of this Winter pavlova.

:: What do you want to learn? Watch this video on how to learn anything

:: Gorgeous photos of mushrooms.

:: Perfect chocolate cake? I personally love Nigella’s, but might check out this version.

:: Another amazing recipe (Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette) from The Smitten Kitchen cookbook – I.Need.That.Book.

:: Excellent suggestions for how to have a thrifty Christmas.

:: Moving and thought-provoking post on poverty, written far better than I could hope to.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy weekend.



In review: A month drinking only water

When we decided to take on this little challenge for ourselves, I thought it would be hard for about a week, and then my body would clear out the caffeine from the system, and by the end of the month I’d wonder what all the fuss was about at the start.

But it didn’t go like that at all.

It wasn’t just the breaking of habit that was hard, but the breaking of social conventions. And although I often find this kind of challenge to ‘normal’ interesting, I didn’t enjoy this as much. Though I’m still happy we did it.

I spent most of the month mumbling “need coffee, need coffee, need coffee” on a regular basis. Particularly when I was trying to get my head around some of this stuff for work. Occasionally I was looking for a glass of wine or whiskey in the evening, but it was coffee that I really struggled without.

The caffeine withdrawal was to be expected. A few headaches and aches, but I can deal with that. What I really missed were the social aspects of drinking tea and coffee. When someone offers you a hot drink, it sends the wrong signal if you just ask for a glass of water. Drinking a cup of coffee at the end of a meal is a way of saying, “let’s talk longer, I’m in no rush”.

Though we lack the real ceremony of tea these days, the time taken to boil the kettle, make drinks to everyone’s taste, allow time to cool and then to savor, still offer the space in which interesting things are said. Come to think of it, I once started a business/social-enterprise over a cup of tea, and I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened over a glass of water. Most of the conversations that have best changed my life were over a cup of tea or coffee. Sure, there were enjoyable conversations when drinking alcohol too, but the plans that turned to action were always the ones involving caffeine. Our marriage even, if we trace it back to the start of our relationship, began while drinking tea. Cup after cup of tea. There were conversations that lasted whole days and stretched on into the early hours of the morning. I wouldn’t want to be without those.

So in review…

My sleeping has definitely been worse since I’ve been drinking caffeine again, and I’m drinking a fraction of the water I was drinking before, which I need to work on. But I’m happy to have these drinks back in my life. I’ve learnt more about their real value by testing my own limits, and one day I may repeat the experiment if I find myself taking them for granted.

Money bits…

Between us we drink about 8 Euros of coffee a week

Alcohol is sporadic, but it works out about 25 Euros a month

So let’s call it 60 Euros saved.

WaterAid donations work in £GBP so I’ve given a nice round £50.

A month of only water

Water dropsThis challenge to drink only water for a whole month is proving to be really, really hard. So this quote found on Explore is a welcome motivator…

[T]he real value of a real education [has] almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

‘This is water.’

‘This is water.’

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime.

Couiza Bio Festival

Festival entrance

Last weekend we visited the (14th!) annual Bio (Organic) festival in Couiza.

We weren’t looking for anything in particular, but were hopeful to see like-minded people and enjoy the surroundings with baby.

Alongside the produce market (fruits, vegetables, honey, bread, cheese, wine, herbs, seeds…) were craftspeople (selling clothes, handmade leather shoes, wicker baskets, tools, pottery, children’s toys), demonstrators, films, lectures and a whole area dedicated to green building/construction.

Bio market

The location was beautiful – stalls set alongside the river Aude – and the weather just perfect.

I especially enjoyed a stall where a lady had recycled children’s clothes into handbags – very creative! The place was full of families who would have probably been interested in the section for clothes swaps. Had we known this was here we would have brought the many clothes baby has now grown out of!

We didn’t stay for too long but I am already looking forward to the next festival when my french will hopefully be considerably better. One of the talks was about the role of the midwife in France – in the UK I was told to have a home birth next time so it would have been useful to listen to that lecture!

Market stalls



Tartine Bread: simplified recipe notes

Worth the effort. This sourdough is made from the Tartine Bread recipe.

This isn’t much use on it’s own, but I’ve seen a few people find this site when looking for Tartine Bread so I thought I’d share my notes for any one else baking from the same recipe.

I mentioned in the past that the book is pretty confusing to follow (though well worth the effort), so I ended up writing these notes out on a piece of paper that I keep in the front of the book.

If you haven’t already read the book, do that first as this is deliberately in note form. And for those of you who’ve read it, I hope this helps.


- 1 tablespoon of starter
- 200g 50/50 white/wholemeal flour
- 200g water

1) Mix
2) Cover
3) Wait 12 hrs


- 1000g flour (900g white, 100g wholemeal)
- 700g water, plus 50-80g (work up to 80 for increased hydration %)
- 200g leaven
- 20g salt

1) 700g water in bowl, add leaven and stir
2) Add 1000g flour, mix and leave for 25-40 mins
3) Add salt plus 50g-80g of additional water, mix by hand and transfer to glass bowl
4) BULK RISE (3-4 hrs at average temperature. Adjust time and taste by managing temperature)
5) During bulk rise, turn every 30 mins for first 2 hrs
6) BENCH REST dough onto work surface, flour, cut, flip, fold and rest for 20-30 mins
7) SHAPE and place in rice flour dusted baskets
8) PROOF (3-4 hrs at average temperature. Adjust time and taste by managing temperature)
9) Pre-heat combo-oven/tagine at 500F/260C
10) Dust base of loaf, flip into base of combo-oven
11) Cover, reduce to 230C and bake for 20 mins
12) Uncover and bake for 20-25 mins


Shake out.

A supermarket without ready meals

Grand Frais supermarket

In our recent exploration we found this supermarket Grand Frais that has a lot going for it. Unlike every other big supermarket I’ve visited in my life, it doesn’t have shelves and shelves of ready meals. I’d estimate that 95% of the contents of this store are simple unadulterated ingredients, ready for use in cooking rather than re-heating.

The fruit and vegetable displays are given most of the space (really, most of the shop), and unlike the usual aisles dividing up a supermarket into many corridors, this is a bright and open space where it’s a pleasure to look for food.

Even though I like to shop as small and local as I possibly can, it’s great to see a business who focus on quality food competing at this supermarket scale. We will definitely be shopping here again.

I didn’t make you truffles…

Not truffles

I am one of those people who gets grumpy if I don’t have a snack around.

It doesn’t have to be naughty, there are no chocolate bars or crisps around here, but sometimes I need something to perk me up.

When looking around one of our new supermarkets, we found “date pâté ” on sale (and ridiculously cheap too). Having used many dates that needed pitting for Shake’s birthday cake recently I could see the benefit of buying them already blended and in bulk.

I’ve seen so many recipes online where dates are used to sweeten treats and decided to just make something up that sounded good to me and wouldn’t take long to make (i.e. during nap time!).

Oh, just in case you wondered about the title, my step-father thought these were truffles and was pretty disappointed that they weren’t (until he tried them!).

Raw treat sweets – makes about 20

I haven’t been more specific with the name above as you can really change them up depending on what you have at home and what you like!


4 heaped tablespoons date pâté (or 2 cups pitted dates)
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon cacao powder
2 tablespoons rolled oats


Put all ingredients in hand blender or food processor and blitz until smooth and combined.

Taking teapoon-sized amounts, roll into truffle shapes.

Enjoy with a cup of coffee (optional) :)

Store somewhere cool and dry.

Other flavour suggestions: cacao nibs, cinnamon, vanilla, dried apricots, dried figs, walnuts…