When we measure ingredients, it’s important that for some dishes, the measures are precise. For us in the UK, it’s fairly simple. We use scales for pretty much everything. I don’t think I even own anything that measures in cups, apart from an old glass jug that has liquid cups on the side.
Saying that, I don’t feel measuring in cups is at all accurate, but I know it’s how most ingredients are laid out in the recipes we use from America.
It’s fairly frustrating for us this side of the pond, as dry ingredients can be both flour and sugar, and their weights are very different. Which is why I really struggle with the inaccurate cup method of measuring for baking especially. I would like to try a few American recipes, but I’m not at all confident, so I try to convert them to more familiar grams and ounces.
Using conversion charts can also be quite tricky. They don’t explain the difference in volume of sugar and flour, so we can get really mixed up.
I’ve made a free kitchen conversion chart for you, to help with the difficulties in interpreting recipes from metric to imperial, US to UK.
ml = millilitre l = litre g = grams kg = kilogram C = Celsuis
tsp = teaspoon tbsp = tablespoon oz = ounce lb = pound fl.oz = fluid ounce F = Fahrenheit
Kitchen Scales (Affiliate Links are included in this paragraph, both in images and text links)
If you want to buy a kitchen scale to help with measurements, there are loads to choose from. Here’s an image of my favourite Salter scales on Amazon.
Kitchen scales aren’t all equal. Some of more traditional size are dependent on the old UK imperial system, which is rarely used in Europe now. They are more imprecise and won’t allow for liquid volume weights.
If we don’t have scales that help with liquid volume, buying a good quality jug, that has several liquid volumes marked, can be very helpful.
Liquid versus Dry Ingredients
When we measure liquid ingredients, they are measured by volume, or in other words, by the space they take up for measuring. They are heavier and fluid ingredients.
Dry ingredients tend to be dry, and are measured more by weight than liquid volume. While a good set of scales can measure both dry and liquid, a heavier ingredient will like water, will take up less space than a dry ingredient like flour. For baking, it is especially important that weights and measures are accurate. Just a few mls too much of fluid can ruin a great pastry, and a few extra grammes of flour can totally throw a light cake into an unappetising mess.
While in the US, many ingredients are weighed out by using cups or jugs, neither measurement is totally accurate. Measurements by kitchen scales are more accurate, and are easier to manage.
The biggest problem we have when cooking in an air fryer, is knowing how to convert traditional recipes to fit with the tiny oven style cooking of air frying. Our air fryers are essentially just mini ovens on steroids, with faster cooking times and the ability to churn out delicious meals at a lower cost than a traditional oven.
Fast forward to the air fryer explosion, and the biggest problem we all have, is the conversions. To help with that, I’ve added an easy air fryer conversion chart for better results. It’s free for anyone for anyone to use. Feel free to save the chart and download it to your hearts content.
This link will take you straight to the Air Fryer Conversion Chart for the UK.
When I stood watching a female friend pick up a bottle of milk and pour it out, saying it was past its’ best, despite not even smelling it. I sneakily took a look at the use by date by offering to pop the bottle in the recycling. It still had three days to go. I couldn’t resist. She poured out about 2 pints of milk for absolutely no reason. I asked why she’d poured it out as the milk was fine. Her response was that it only had a few days left and she didn’t want to take the chance.
Now for most of us, that kind of wastage is simply ridiculous. It’s throwing good money away to replace food that isn’t even at the use by date. I’m not a pensioner, but even I grew up with no dates on food, meaning we had to choose the time food was no longer safe to eat or drink. I’m actually amazed our species has lasted so long, as we’re just so absolutely BAD at judging safety of food, because we really have never had to work it out for ourselves.
For cooked food, my grandmother used to work on the association of three’s. Three hours to the fridge/freezer, and three days to the bin. There were no dates on sliced meat from the local shop, but it never lasted long enough to worry about turning. For milk, she would have kept it until it began to turn, but given that milk rarely ever lasted that long, it isn’t something we had to worry about.
Then it came to my kids. My eldest and youngest, both started refusing to eat crisps or biscuits that were past their best before date. I grew up learning to ignore best before dates as they are really just best quality guarantee dates for longer lasting products. I have no idea where they got that idea from, and I do my best to help them stop this ridiculousness. My teens will often refuse to eat perfectly good food that is close to or past a best before date. They clearly struggle with best before and use by, even with my constant nagging.
The problem is that younger people in my circles, are too used to an abundance of food. Before the rise of the super supermarket chains on mostly every corner, food was simpler, and we bought less. There were also far fewer choices and we ate far more healthily as families where we could afford it. As a general rule, my parent and grandparents brought home enough for each day. A pint of milk on the doorstep daily, with eggs and cream once a week. We tend to go further to shop nowadays and buy food that is aimed at lasting longer by the manufacturers and processors.
To make food last longer, they add all sorts of preservatives and additives, which reduces the quality of our food. I’m not convinced longevity is improved in most cases as almost everything, including bread, now seems to come previously frozen and defrosted before hitting the shelves. When I see best before dates, I can see my grandmother in my mind, saying best before dates is a way to persuade people to spend more of their money on new food. She knew what she was talking about, and as she owned and ran a grocery shop for many years, she was quite shrewd.
Food is different now. We’re faced with best before, use by and sell by dates on almost everything we buy.
Throwing away a fortune of perfectly good food, seems to be a problem with understanding and knowledge, and don’t forget that profit making industry.
Best Before Dates
For customers. This is simply a guide on when food should be eaten for the best quality, which the manufacturer will class as the date they will no longer guarantee freshness, scent, consistency etc. Things like sweeties and crisps, biscuits, packets, jars and tins of food, all fall into this category.
Some products will have a best before date before opening, which then it moves to a use by date of a few days kept in a fridge. Things like sauces, mayonnaise, long life milk and orange juices etc, fall into this subset of best before.
For customers. Again, a use by date isn’t always a date where food will be guaranteed to make us sick. It is, however, an indication of best quality, and helps shoppers to know when a food should be eaten by. As this is most often attached to foods with shorter shelf life, such as fresh bakery, dairy, meats, poultry etc, the quality can go down fast after the use by date. Manufacturers build in a buffer level, but the use by date is an indication of when safety of the product may begin to reduce.
For retailers. This date lets shopkeepers and staff know when to remove the product from sale. The product will not be dangerous at this point, and there are still a few days to the use by date, but this allows a manufacturer to control how long their products with very short shelf life are displayed to customers.
Before I start, I’ll just say I did not receive any reward for posting this. When it’s coming up to Christmas time, lots of us often look for inspiration and something different from the regular Martini, Manhattan, Mojito or many more of the oldies.
I’d received a press release from Aloha 65, and learned that it was created by a British barman, at his Florida beach bar, and created to lure in surfers looking to wind down after riding the waves. It started off as homemade gifts, but became a crowd pleaser, a unique sundowner to put a smile on the faces of tired paddleboarders. Some quick facts below and a couple of recipes shared by Aloha 65.
What’s in it?
Beautifully and naturally crafted, Aloha 65 is vegan and made only from fresh ingredients and has no added colourants. It’s an all-natural, 27% ABV spirit drink made from just six botanicals including pineapple, ginger, and a kick of scotch bonnet chilli. Aloha 65’s ‘Sun on a Beach’ hot sauce is made from the same ingredients (minus the alcohol, of course), and their spicy pineapple ‘detonators’ use just two of Spirit of Aloha 65’s main ingredients, pineapple and chilli, and well… boom!
The Alohan spirit
‘Aloha’ isn’t just a friendly greeting, it’s a way of life. It puts a smile on your face. Alohans, as we like to call them, live each moment to the full and always bring their A-Game, but with respect for others and their environment. Aloha 65 is a proud supporter of Ocean Generation.
Aloha 65 Holiday Cocktail
Originally sent to me as a Halloween Cocktail, the styling and imagery just bring Christmas to my mind, so I'm sharing it as a Christmas Recipe.
One of my all time favourites is an avocado. I’m always surprised by friends who never actually eat one, and have no idea what it is or what it can be cooked in. That’s slightly depressing for me, as it’s something I’ve eaten for so many years, it’s become a staple ingredient in my home.
As avocados come from evergreen tropical trees, the word avocado refers to both the tree and the fruit we eat. There are literally hundreds of varieties, but what we eat, is the extremely nutritionally laden fruit, which can be referred to as both a fruit and a seed of the avocado tree.
I think the confusion around using avocado is that it’s called a fruit, but it isn’t a sweet fruit. With a creamy texture, they have a high fat content rather than a high water content, and are more buttery flavoured than sugary.
Looking at the nutrition list, we can see that although carbs are sitting at 8.5, a whopping 7g are from fibre, which makes this a very nutritionally beneficial fruit for diabetics.
2 – Low Glycemic Index – Helps Slow Digestion
As mentioned in point 1, the high fibre content for the carb count, means that this is a very good carbohydrate indeed for those who are trying to keep their blood sugar down. With a Glycemic Index of 0 or no record, this is a fruit that has no impact on blood sugar levels.
In fact, adding avocado to bread or other carbs, with avocado having no GI, with such high fibre and healthy fats, the meal will be digested more slowly and keep you feeling full for longer than other toppings or creamy additions to other carbs.
3 – Fat Content is Healthier Than Many Other Low GI Foods
A whopping 14.7g in 100g are fat, however the majority of the fat in an avocado is actually the healthier version of fat, called monounsaturated, which can help in lowering bad cholesterol levels. There is a link in the reading list below that gives you more information about what monounsaturated fat is and why it is the good fat. The short version is due to monounsatured fat coming mostly from plant sources.
4 – Fibre Content is Good
With around 7g of fibre in half an avocado, there are all sorts of gut health benefits to eating avocados. Eating an avocado in a day, is a very large 14g of fibre, which is going to help keep constipation at bay, and as a result, would help reduce the risk of IBS and piles.
5 – Vitamin E Matters for Eyes
Nutritionally, we tend to ignore the importance of vitamin E. With that 2.1mg of Vitamin E in half an avocado, it’s a rich source of vitamin E. Alongsice carotenes, it’s thought to help keep eyes in good condition and healthy.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E is important for skin, hair and nails, as well as the eyes. It can also help reduce the speed or onset of macular degeneration, which is serious and progressing, and something my father suffered from. It’s 100% sure that he would never have known how avocado might have been able to help him slow the speed of his sight loss. I can also see how it would have helped my mother, as she had cataracts, another condition that vitamin E can help reduce the progression of.
6 – Linked Health Issues
Metabolic syndrome is a fairly new term, but it is a range of issues which can all be helped by the same management techiques, for example, better diet and exercise. Symptoms include high blood sugar, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, being overweight, high cholesterol etc.
Eating avocado as part of a management system which looks at keeping the syndrome at bay, or controlling symptoms via eating better and moving more, and avocados can play a big part. With the high fat content, avocado can help reduce hunger pangs and keep us full for longer, while working in tandem with a lifestyle that can help to lower weight as part of a weight management programme, reduce cholesterol levels and keep type 2 diabetes from causing negative effects.
7 – Avocado Eaters are said to be More Healthy
Generally speaking, those who eat avocados, tend to be people who are food and health conscious. While there is also the debate about financial constraints, this isn’t the article to go there. This is simply about benefits of avocados for those who eat or would like to eat them.
Those who eat avocados are usually those who exercise and experiment with their food, but this is not always the case. There’s always room to add healthy food to our weekly shop if we can afford them, and being a little adventurous and trying new things can be good for us.
8 – Easy to Add to Food
It’s easy to add avocados to meals and pop into recipes of all kinds, as well as being ideal to use as hidden veg in kids soups and sandwiches.
Smushed avocado for using on toast, in dips like guacamole, and as filler for sandwiches.
Add in cubes to salads, soups and stews.
Slice in layers, and pop a poached egg on top.
9 – Improve Dental Health
Avocados are said to help with dental health. As that low GI food, it isn’t adding syrupy sugar to your mouth as you eat, and the flavonoids can help keep bacterial and fungal grown in our mouths from becoming a problem and leading to bad breath.
10 – Aids Wound Healing
While avocados aren’t a miracle food, they really one one that is helpful for us all to live well as part of our diet. Looking at the points above, and taking them as a whole, wound healing is helpful and understandable, when we consider the benefits that can help with prevention of bacterial and fungal overgrowth, so in the same way, avocados can help with wound healing through keeping the metabolic system functioning well.
Personally, I wouldn’t eat avocado on toast or smushed in general, but I do use it in soups, puddings and make dips with cream for raw vegetables. Saying that, growing up, it was never an ingredient that my mother would have put into her shopping basket. I think lack of internet in those days also made a difference in what things we choose to try. In my grandmothers day, avocado was probably never, ever an item in any shop she ever visited.
Yes, avocados are high in fat, but it’s the healthier monounsaturated fat, while they also contain loads of beneficial vitamins and minerals, keeping blood sugar levels steady and cholesterol levels low. Lots of good reasons to incorporate avocado to your weekly food shop.
Celebrity chef James Strawbridge has created the following recipe for the UK’s fairest food delivery service 44 Foods.
Brie & Fig Parcels by James Strawbridge
Ethical, sustainable, and selling high quality British produce only, 44 Foods boasts a range of more than 20 cheeses from across the UK – which are delicious either on their own, in recipes, or paired with their stunning new range of British wines.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Cut the filo into 10cm squares and use them to line a greased muffin case. Overlap the square sheets by rotating every 45˚ to form a flower shaped parcel. Brush melted butter between each layer and repeat.
Once the filo pastry has all been used, fill the tart cases with a slice of ripe fig and a few pieces of diced brie sprinkled with chopped thyme. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cheese melts and the filo is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and whilst still warm drizzle with honey and sprinkle each parcel with a pinch of smoked sea salt.
Serve warm with a chilled glass of Sharpham rosé to accompany.
That lucious, lovely, silky, creamy smooth taste……..
Chocolate and I would be joined at the hip if I weren’t diabetic. Not just any chocolate though, as I’m not a true chocolate connoiseur. I like milky chocolate, creamy chocolate, the not bitter milk chocolate that takes my breath away and stings my tongue. Dark chocolate makes me thirsty. I can’t find any way around it, but chocolate is versatile enough to be on my shopping list, even with the diabetes. I just eat it in moderation.
A few chocolate facts
People mistakenly associate chocolate with diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure in all quantiites. For sue, eating a couple of hundred grams of chocolate a day equals a recipe for unhealthy living, but that’s not how most of us eat chocolate.
Chocolate, via cocoa, does actually contain some beneficial to health ingredients, which in some studies, have even suggested chocolate in moderate quantities can help reduce cholesterol.
Chocolate is high in calories, no matter which version is eaten. White chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, they’re all very high.
Some studies claim that hot chocolate or low levels of chocolate consumption via drinking hot chocolate, can even help with dementia and cognitive function, but there is much research required to confirm or build on that.
In the UK, researchers found riders used less oxygen cycling in trials after eating dark chocolate, which cycling weekly reported on in 2015, and regains covering in the news now and then.
Light and Dark Chocolate – What’s the Difference?
Dark chocolate is often portrayed as being the more ‘healthy,’ option. To be fair, I don’t think there’s terribly much in it if someone were to binge on chocolate.
As a rule, they are both in the region of around 550 calories per 100g. That’s a significant amount of sugar, fat and energy in such a small amount of food.
I’ve picked my favourite chocolate, Cadburys Dairy Milk, to do this comparison, although the internet keeps trying to persuade me that dark chocolate is better for me, I can’t help what I like to eat.
MILK SOLIDS 20% MINIMUM, ACTUAL 23%. COCOA SOLIDS 20% MINIMUM. CONTAINS VEGETABLE FATS IN ADDITION TO COCOA BUTTER.
COCOA SOLIDS 36% MINIMUM. CONTAINS VEGETABLE FATS IN ADDITION TO COCOA BUTTER.
Summary for Chocolate
As chocolate has such high calories, it’s always going to a food where moderation is the only sensible way to consume it, whether enjoy it or not. Some studies are suggesting chocolate has high levels of antioxidants and is helpful for health, but like all other food, moderation is sensible with a varied diet.
As a diabetic, I’ve heard the term “diabetes on a plate,’ to describe different foods, which is a pretty ignorant way to look at any food. For insulin dependent diabetics, sugar is what can save their lives if they go into a hypo, and for the non insulin dependent diabetic, one square of my favourite chocolate is always going to help alleviate a chocolate craving, whereas any amount of squares of a substitute or so called diabetic friendly chocolate, are still going to leave me disappointed and wanting the real thing.
As with everything, the other junk saying is ‘nobody ever got fat eating apples.’ Seriously, that just shows me someone is ignorant. It’s a load of old cobblers. Calories is he energy out v energy in argument, and yes, there are better calories than others, depending on the food eaten, however, if your body only uses 1300 calories a day to live, and you eat 1400 calories a day of apples, yes, you’ll gain weight eating apples. That might mean 25-30 apples a day, but yes, it’s very possible to get fat eating apples.
In the end, no harm has come to anyone from eating a few squares of chocolate. A few squares, not a few bars, or a few hundred grams a day. There’s a difference. For me, bring on the chocolate. I even cook with my choice of milk chocolate. Cooking chocolate is always disappointing and has no taste for me. I’ll always go for the real thing or do without as a flavouring. I’m always happy as I don’t really like eating cake, so give me a square of chocolate any time. My blood sugar is perfectly fine.
I’ve written nothing really to do with Covid-19. I think Coronavirus is in the news enough, without bloggers jumping on the weekly covid update posts, but it’s also not something we tend to be able to ignore either. For myself and my family, a lazy spell in the first lockdown, has moved towards a more proactive time for us in the Scottish Mum house.
I’d got lazy with cooking, so have gone back to basics this time around, with the sole intention of improving my own heart health. I had stopped running when I fell and twisted both ankles in the first lockdown, and having to learn to run again wasn’t the easiest of things to do with two weak ankles. I’m getting there, and I’m up to 30 minutes of uninterrupted slow running, but it’s been tough going.
Eating better again, is helping. Here’s a short snapshot of ingredients I use frequently for heart health, with their main nutritional content.
When it comes to health, we tend to overlook peppers quite frequently. I have to admit to always having some in the freezer, waiting for when I need them. I remove the seeds, chop and then freeze, which works great for us, but isn’t the best option for everyone. Peppers do add a little splash of colour, and realistically, my choice of peppers would always be sweet ones, but it’s been an acquired taste for me. I don’t use them often enough to buy and always have some fresh, so freezer options for me are the best choices.
Why Eat Peppers?
Put simply, peppers add lovely tones of colour and are full to bursting with healthy nutrients. I don’t include chilli’s in my pepper cupboard, as I class those more as spices, and adding extreme heat to food, just isn’t my choice. Some of you might be surprised to find that peppers are actually a fruit, in the same way that a tomato is, but with a definite slight kick to them. We tend to eat bell peppers here in the UK, and we’re most used to seeing them in shades of red, yellow, green and orange. As they aren’t spicy, they do well in most dishes, but the green it a little too spicy for me, although my kids happily eat them.
Nutritional Content of Bell Peppers
Each pepper, average:
Saturated Fat: 0.36g
Unsaturated Fat: 0.084g
Peppers on average, also contain vitamins and minerals, such as:
As if that isn’t enough, they also contain Phytonutrients that help alleviate stress.
Carotenoids such as lycopene and lutein
Polyphenols such as luteolin
The Vitamin C Boosting Ingredient
Bell peppers are high in Vitamin C, which helps the body to regulate its own immune system, to remain healthy. There is about double the amount of Vitamin C in a red pepper, than there is in a medium sized orange, which I find surprising, and an easy way to get this nutrient into savoury meals. This is a major boost, given that a lack of Vitamin C can lead to increased risk of colds and infections.
How to cook and eat Bell Peppers
As they’re so versatile, they really can go in almost anything savoury. I add to burgers, mince, soups, stews / casseroles and stirfries, as well as padding out fishcakes, pasta dishes, pies, bubble n squeak, topping pizzas, roasting them whole with a filling and much more. Some people even eat them raw in a salad, or use cut them into strips for dipping, but for me, that’s a step too far with a pepper.
Put your mince into a bowl, and then pour in the chopped vegetables.
Add in the salt and pepper.
I use my hands for best effect with this, as I find that a wooden spoon takes too long, and just doesn't allow the peppers and onion to be fully mixed with the mince. It takes a couple of minutes to thoroughly mix the food together until it is in a loosely bound state.
I use a cheap burger press I bought from Lakeland that makes burgers around 180g each, but before that, I used to make mine by hand, simply taking a dollop of the mixture and shaping it into a patty with my hands.
For smaller burgers, you could easily get around 10 from this mix, but I made 5 larger burgers.
Everyone had different requirements for how they like their burgers cooked, ie red in the middle, fully cooked, or almost burned black. I like mine well done, so gauge your own timings for cooking in a moderate oven for as long as you need to.
Roasted Stuffed Peppers – Onion, Mushroom and Cheddar Cheese, Served with Quails Eggs and Salad
Put your oven on to pre-heat at approximately 180 C.
Slice the top of your peppers and put it to one side. I had to take slivers off the bottom of mine to make them stand up, otherwise they just toppled over. If you buy your peppers loose, you can look for the perfect peppers to do this with. Hollow out the peppers and remove the seeds.
Fill the peppers with grated cheese, pop the lids back on and place them on a baking tray. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top, and drizzle olive oil over the top of the peppers.
Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the peppers are soft.
Lightly fry the mushrooms and onions in a frying pan and put the Quails eggs on to boil. 4 minutes in boiling water only.
When the peppers are cooked, place them on a bed of lettuce or salad leaves. Take off the top and fill with the onions and mushrooms, add sliced quails eggs and serve.
2 - 3Chillies or PeppersChoose brightly coloured options and chop finely
Simply boil potatoes in a pan for 15 - 20 minutes until soft.
Drain potatoes and begin to mash. After a minute, add the butter and mash a few more times. Then add the milk to finish mashing your potatoes into a thick creamy consistency. I add my milk a tablespoon at a time, just in case. Too much milk will also spoil the consistency of the potatoes.
Serve and top with chopped chillies or peppers (or both)
Sweet potatoes are amazing, as well as being low Glycemic Index and great for me as a diabetic. With several sweet potatoes in the fridge, it seemed sensible to use some up. We need to add a fair bit of flavour to sweet potatoes as using them in this quantity can make for a very sweet soup indeed. Most of my sweet potato recipes for soup, tend to have some tomatoes in it for some acidic balance, but for once, sweet was the way to go.
This was my third attempt. The first one was tasteless and the second I overseasoned.
I haven’t shared too many recipes lately, so that needs remedied, especially as carrots are so easily come by and so versatile in any form of carrot soup. I have loads of soups on standby, but not always with great images due to the pandemic and timeframes workwise too.
We’ve used turmeric a lot, as my youngest son has taken a shine to it as a favourite ingredient. I’m always happy to oblige when it comes to soups, so incorporated it within this recipe for using up leftovers or just as a base soup. It’s a very simple one and perfect for cold winter days.
Add your rapeseed oil to the pan or the soupmaker and saute with the leek, until the leek is soft.
Add the remaining ingredients, stirring well. The soup looks fairly unappetising at this point. Don’t let it put you off. See the thumbnail image above.
Choose your cooking setting. I chose smooth for my version, as I wanted a creamy, luxurious soup, rather than a meal in a bowl type soup.
When fully cooked, pour in the cream slowly then stir before eating. If you plan to freeze, do so before adding dairy, as soup with cream in it does not defrost well.
Video of finished soup is a little pathetic, but hey ho, I seriously need to do better with videos.
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