therealjlow bakes | Golden Bites.

Golden Meringue bites.

I’ll be honest these started out as meringue kisses. The only problem? They need a piping bag and no cutting the corner off of a fold over sandwich bag is going to cut it. However these (which only need a spoon and spatular – and a little bit of creativity) look almost better. Like little chunks of gold.

My original ideas were to match the colour choices in our dining room and living room, copper/gold accents with the delicious, bitesize easyness of a sugary snack. Not to mention these look even more perfect stacked in a tall kilner jar on your table!

So what do you need? Uber simple all you need is,

3 large egg whites

175 grams of caster (or fine) sugar

and decoration of your choice! (I choose metallic dark gold food colouring and edible gold glitter) 

Method

1st – Separate your egg whites. If you are a nervous egg breaker do this into a separate bowl and empty the good whites into your mixing bowl after. Whilst warming the oven at 140degrees.

2nd – I’ll give you my grandparents Low trick to the perfect Meringue – whisk your egg whites (preferably with an electric whisk – no one needs a sore arm ok?) until stiff peeks. This means that when you gently pull the whisks free the egg sticks up (sort of like a wave) and the crest doesn’t fall over and failing that, (my grandfather was a daredevil I tell you) carefully tip your bowl. If you can hold it upside down and your mixture doesn’t fall out? You’ve got it. Perfect.

3rd – Fold or whisk in your sugar in small portions at a time. I’ve done both and both methods work perfectly! If you whisk it in however don’t whisk your egg whites as stiffly.

4th – Using a spatular or spoon, spoon your mixture on a tray lined with baking paper in whichever look you want. A piping bag means they can look uniformed when cooked and actually “kisses” will need this method instead of my slapdash one!

5th – decorate! My favourite part. I have used the end of a spoon covered in food colouring and I have also used toothpicks to draw colour through the mixture! Because these are actually also put in the killner in terms of colour (ombre) I have also steadily folded in the food colouring, making the mixture darker as I go as well. Finally sprinkle your edible gold dust across the top for that little bit of glitter!

6th – Cook! These little blighters might take seconds to make but they take far longer to bake! Between 30-40 minutes, keep an eye on them so they don’t burn and to tell when they are done, take them from the oven. Pick them up, if they come away easily and the bottoms don’t break off and you can tap them easily without disaster than voila! they are done! lay them to cool on a cooling rack until fully cold.

therealjlow cooks | Autumnal (fall) Granola.

Autumnal Granola

I love a good bit of Granola it feels both like a naughty treat whilst at the same time being somewhat healthy, the perfect snack if I must say. However I didn’t want to just make your usual granola, oh no I wanted to make it fall appropriate. You see as I stopped at our local super market I had looked down at my trolly which was full of autumnal fruits and asked myself, what will go well with cooked fruits?

Well of course the answer was autumnal granola!

This is uber simple to replicate, hard to mess up and even better it is completely customisable and takes seconds to make!

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250G) Large rolled porridge Oats
  • Sultanas
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Dried sweetened cranberries
  • Pine Nuts
  • Goji Berries
  • Desiccated Coconut
  • Linseed mix
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tspn of Golden Syrup
  • Honey
  • Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 1 tspn Vanilla Extract

Directions:

Pre heat your oven to 150 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

On a low heat place 1 tspn of Coconut Oil in a medium sized pan and melt until clear and runny. Fold in 1 Cup (250g) of rolled porridge oats until covered as well as your other dry ingredients excluding the cinnamon and desiccated coconut, combine and add 1 tablespoon of honey mixing thoroughly take the pan off of the heat and add your vanilla Extract. As the mixture cools add your golden Syrup and desiccated coconut along with a liberal (as strong as you would like) dashing of ground cinnamon.

Now spread the mixture onto your baking tray making sure not to compact the mixture (as this could potentially create flapjacks instead) and place into the pre heated oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until the sides begin to golden. Once your happy take the tray from the oven and shake up the granola (I did mine with a spatula but anything will do!) This separation makes sure you have individual pieces rather than a flapjack! Then place them back in the oven to golden the otherside.

After roughly another 10 minutes you’re done! Allow to cool and then pour into your chosen dish! I’m a big fan of a kilner jar but that’s just me!

p.s stay tuned for how you can use this Granola seasonly with mulled wine fruit & figs oh and of course a little bit of ice cream . . .

therealjlow cooks | Joshes easy Stroganoff dinner

As the nights draw in and there is a nip in the air your cooking automatically adjusts. We become less keen on the same old summer salads and instead look to baked apples. We scurry through our cupboards for cinnamon and flour and when it comes to dinner we want rich gravies and Stroganoff is one of those simple first of the season dishes.

Something I didn’t know was that this dish is ridiculously simple, something I did know is that Josh makes it perfectly. This is not overdone, its not a showstopper but its relatively easy and perfect for after work.

What you will need,

  • frying beef steak
  • soured cream
  • 1 large Onion
  • mushrooms

therealjlow cooks | Caramelised onion, Goats Cheese and Fig tarts

Cook: Caramalised Onion, fig and Goats cheese tarts

Many, many moons ago I worked at a wedding in Surbiton and they served similar tarts to these. Fast-forward four or so years and finally I have recreated these for myself and Josh.

With Autumn fully upon us (apparently we have some arctic storm approaching us?) we of course had to indulge in a little festive cooking and the call on this day was figs!

Now you must bear with me and my kitchen. We have never had the most beautiful kitchen but let me just tell you, our new one? It walked straight out of the seventies and that is not pretty so here goes.

You will need . . .

  • Goats cheese (as much or as little as you want – we used the whole pack – I live with a serious cheese addict – he even stole pieces whilst I wasn’t looking!)
  • 1 Onion per 2 tartlets (we tried to do all four with 1 and it fell short – we used pre packaged caramalised onion chutney to fill the void, yummy but not as good!)
  • 1 pack of puff pastry (I also made these the first week we moved into our doer upper – I have zero time for pastry making!)
  • Butter (I used salted but either is fine)
  • Honey (runny is best!)
  • Figs (we used three – but a pack of four (as we had) would be even better!)
  • Red wine (an additional option for drinking)

First things first you will need to make sure your pastry is at room temperature. Even refrigerated it can be too cold which when you roll it out can potentially crack. Something you don’t want! So unroll your pastry and gently use your rolling pin to make it stretch out that little bit further!

With your new, flatter pastry divide the piece into four. As a messy, fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl I haven’t minded odd shapes and uneven squares (however you can always make these perfect). I’m also the girl who always failed home economics because my counters were messy so be prepared . . .

Having divided the pastry into four pieces, now is the time to fold the corners in order to keep the filling in. I achieved this by once again roughly folding up the sides and then placing them on a baking tray. I choose to pre cook my pastry. To do this its best to place baking beads within the centre of your pastry (to minimize it rising where you don’t want it) however because we hadn’t kept ours because of the move I ended up re flattening the insides once baked. Bake this until cooked through but don’t worry about a golden sheen however you can have already baked this with an egg wash (I forgot entirely, doh.) Bake these pastry tarts for roughly 7 minutes.

Whilst cooking we need to assemble the filling. That means cutting the goats cheese into equal slithers, cutting figs into sections and frying off 1 onion per tart in a mix of butter and honey to achieve a tasty and caramelised look and taste.

Once baked, it is as simple as assembling your tarts. You can organise this in anyway you like including mixing your goats cheese with honey and smoothing this across the pastry base. I, however choose to place slices of goats cheese first before layering five to six fig slices per slice and topping off with our onion and a generous drizzle of honey.

Your final bake (or grill) can take up to ten minutes. The key is to keep an eye on your tarts, your pastry is already pretty much cooked so what you need to look for is your goats cheese melting to your ideal without the pastry burning around it (same with your figs.)

I didn’t worry about this too much since I know Josh adores goats cheese in any form (in fact he stole a lot before the process even began!) Also note that these taste great warm from the oven to cold the next day! We had ours for lunch on the Monday, cold and they were perfect! So good for easy and yet fancy work day lunches!

Naughty Treats the Healthy Way

Homemade Nutella from Delicious Ella

Naughty treats the healthy way.

When me and Josh decided to try overhauling our appalling post university diets I knew one thing was for certain, if that food wasn’t fun and exciting? Well it just wasn’t going to get eaten and further than that it wouldn’t make our new way of eating, sustainable.

The Delicious Ella Cookbook UK/US

Bow to your cravings

Part of our health shift was that we didn’t want this to be a diet in anyway. This is our long term plan for life and because of this you have to think about how you will give yourself a small break occasionally and you’ll also have to work at making it interesting!

This week it was about working out how to snack, healthier. I am a natural grazer and with a sweet tooth to boot I needed to find a new outlet for these cravings especially while we cut down our sugar significantly!

Josh hard at work we and Ella suggest a food processor! Really, it’s worth it! (do as I say not as I do, right?)

Guidelines

Unfortunately we have guidelines to what we can eat, happily. As a confirmed IBS sufferer and Josh having some symptoms of the same thing there are certain foods I decided to stop eating full time and others which I would minimise because of their adverse effects.

Problem food:

Cow’s Milk, Soy Milk & Cream Milk has never been my favourite thing but more recently my reaction to Cows milk has been gradually becoming more severe. It does not however affect me as much in small doses and being used within other products but I am however trying to reduce all. I am hoping that it may give my body a bit of recovery time which has worked in the past to allow me the odd indulgence without undesirable after effects.Lactose free milk: Soy is also not a good option for me personally however I have found this Lactose free Milk to be a good friend.
Traditional Oils, predominately Olive Olive Oil and I are no longer friends. The fancier the restaurant and the worse you’ll find yourself when it comes to oil use! To reduce this we now only use % fat spray oil and Coconut oil.
Spreads and minimise butter use I’m not a fan of spreads, mainly because I heard as a child that margarine is one step away from being a plastic and that’s always made me question what goes into spread. On that note as well a good friend from work also told me that a nutritionist had told her to never buy low fat anything so here’s to everything in moderation!
Chilli and Spicy foods Oh Spicy food, nice until you’re not. I feel like this fun extra is now thrown in all foods in the UK and quite frankly I’m happy to see it go and try to get some real flavours again which don’t burn in the process.
Uncooked, Carrots, Tomatoes, Apples, Celery, Certain vegetables and fruits have problematic skins which cause to issues for those of us with sensitive stomachs. If you cook them however they seem to be ok so although carrot sticks and humus are out of the picture it’s not a going to limit your five a day!
Alcohol accept: Vodka, Gin, White Rum and Red Wine Clear spirits and I have an understanding but anything with colour is not so good. On that same note I have now found that red wine has the least effects than its white and rose counterparts but for all intents and purposes I am primarily, T-total.
Caffeine Decaf appears to be ok but again in moderation. I have also found that Nespresso is the only caffeinated coffee which doesn’t make me feel terrible! This is likely because its the only brand other than grinding your own beans which doesn’t add unnecessary sugars and syrups!
Take Aways: Including Pizza Hut and Dominos etc, Curry Pizza: In the UK it’s becoming increasingly hard to find food that isn’t laden in spices, chillies and oil. It’s gotten to the point where we are either limited to ‘safe’ restaurants or I have to suffer through margarita pizza again when all I really want is some chicken, creme fresh and spinach! Order from home Pizzas are also off the menu since they are often overly fattening and use large quantities of unnecessary oils (plain Pizza Hut pizza’s I can just about do but dominos etc are a no go! Curry: To minimise spice and milk/cream use I am working on a safe list for those days when all you want is a curry!Chinese: Again with the oil! It’s a tricky business that’s for sure! This is all about choosing the healthier options presented or ones that include your ‘safe’ food. Chow Mein is especially good.
Pre bought sauces: This is not a case of all sauces but there are a lot on the market which use high quantities of fat and more importantly for me milk and oil so it will really be a case of reading packaging thoroughly.
Soft Cheeses (bar blue because I love it too much) Includes everything from brie to soft cheddar. I seem to not be effected by light mozzarella and goats cheese however.
Red Meats Primarily Beef with emphasis on Mince. (we are currently trying out a Quorn substitute – great texture but about zero taste!)
Other Meats Turkey Mince, sausages, spanish meats and others which are high in fat. Most of these can be had occasionally and within moderation.
Fresh Fruit in moderation.  Again with the skins! Nectarines and apples primarily.

I feel like there are things I have missed here but the point is some food just isn’t going to like you no matter what you try. Part of this kick is about repairing our insides from all the being young damage that’s gone on over the years.

How does your tolerance affect your food?

The big one is milk. Straight up milk causes me the most problems but I never want to be complacent. I’m going to struggle to say no to Chocolate full time so instead everything is being reduced. Therefore this weekend we decided to switch up our normal naughty treats and try reducing our fat so say hello to frozen yoghurt and homemade nutella!

Now before you go anywhere near Ben and Jerry’s or out for Pink Berry, not all frozen yoghurt is created equally! In fact many of your favourite go to frozen yoghurts contain just as much sugar and even more additives than normal, good old fashioned Ice cream so beware of store bought Froyo! This Huffington Post article is a great starting point for getting a little more clued up!

However luckily with anything you love when you make it from scratch you can better control your portions and what goes into your treat! We actually used this recipe but we made the main focus on banana rather than using large quantities of Greek Yoghurt and we also swapped out regular milk for lactose free.

Blending up those semi frozen bananas!

Oh Peanut butter you little beaut! We love you! also when it comes to this don’t worry about ‘reduced fat’ I learnt the hard way with this and at work I now have one thats got sugar syrup in it? Gross! For this recipe do substitute! You don’t need all the sugar or regular milk/yoghurt! We used lactofree milk and next time I’ll use probiotic yoghurt! 

Small alterations make big differences

Expensive? yes but it makes all the difference, you need less it makes your house smell like coconut and even better? you can’t taste it! Its perfect!

Making small changes in everyday life makes massive, long term changes. From switching beef mince to Quorn we can now eat non spicy chilli (I know, I know what strangeness is this). While having lactose free milk means I can enjoy milkshakes, drink caffeine free coffee and bulk up smoothies! It’s all about finding a way around your problems and if I can do it, if Ella from Delicious Ella can do it than so can you! It can be a learning curve but it’s all the more exciting trying out so many new things and after all, a tidy, normal kitchen isn’t half as fun . . .

References and Resources

Great food resources for getting back to basics include,

Delicious Ella blog/ book,

Paleo god, Marks Daily Apple (Blog),

While for inspiring food on the go and gorgeous photography I love The Lovely Stars for every day inspiration.

In Text

The Sad, Sad truth about Frozen Yoghurt on Huffington Post

Nutrition Facts Frozen Yoghurt vs Ice Cream

Shutterbean: Peanut butter and banana Froyo

Which is healthier Greek or normal Yoghurt?

Everyday healthy

Whole Heartedly Healthy

Hip and Healthy

Scarf: FatFace (in store sale), Tunic: Long Tall Sally, Sweater: Dorothy Perkins (2006!) Stacking Rings: Accessorize Z Collection – keep an eye out for a little post on this collection! I am absolutely in love!

Thick, goey goodness! More Nutty than chocolatey but all worth it for knowing whats gone into your snack! We are planning on adding this to our healthier froyo!

Chocolate treats and tricks

Chocolate covered Katy

Desserts with Benefits

Valentines Day.

Valentines day never has to be a big deal. You are either excited for Saturday or dreading its arrival and although either opinion is fine I figured it would be nice to do a small feature on making a fun, valentines meal with minimal fuss.

For our family, Valentines day is more than just cupid in fact its my Sister in Law to be’s Birthday so although we exchange cards, valentines day is always more about celebrating Boo’s birthday and really shouldn’t valentines day be more about celebrating the people you love than a romantic relationships? After all what are anniversaries for?

Over the years I have made many versions of this meal for Josh but at the very heart of it its really a one pot wonder. You start by frying your sausages in a large sauce pan with your onions and then add you other ingredients as you go along. We have made this with regular sausages as above (these have Bramley apple pieces in them as well!) but we have also made them with Chorizo and sweet potato.

For this one above I made it really simple, sausages, apple pieces, leeks and red onion. Everything is cooked in one pot bar the sticky gravy and mashed potatoes which makes it even better!

1 – Fry your sausages and onions together in a large saucepan with a small nob of butter.

2 – Adding liquid stock begin adding your additional ingredients (apple and leeks) once the sausages are lightly browned and your onions soft.

3 – Stew all your ingredients until the leeks turn soft and your sausages are fully cooked.

Then for the rest of your meal you will need to boil your potatoes and begin your sticky gravy once your main pot is gently simmering. I am a small cheat so I used this recipe from Jamie Oliver but its again as simple as frying onions, adding stock and some plain flour.

Now here comes the valentines part have you ever fancied mash potato in a love heart shape? Lets not kid ourselves most of us have made mash potato shapes as children so this is just as fun! and all you need is a cookie cutter!

1 – place your cookie cutter on your chosen plate and dollop a cookie cutter sized lump of mash potato.

2 – smooth the mash potato into the cutters shape with a spatular and then simply, lift!

Voila!

Cheats and tips to make your food look better?

If you boil your green vegetables separately immediately wash them in cold water once cooked. This stops the cooking process and keeps their colour somewhat more fresh.

Jay cloths! Those blue cloths you use for cleaning? They work great when fresh to mop up any spillage  on plates so your design looks neater.

Using a thick gravy or jus? Using a spoon put a dollop on the plate and the drag the back of the spoon through it to create an artful sweep on the side of your plate.

Finally we also made brownies. We followed this recipe  but remember this day doesn’t have to mean that you have to make everything yourself. Brownies from a packet are just as tasty than entirely homemade ones and are a hell of a lot easier! Here are some photos from our brownie journey!

Our favourite Joseph and Joseph measuring cups!

I’d like to show you more but lets be honest bowl licking may have happened and then trying to eat warm brownies straight from the tray happened so we may have gotten a little distracted . . .

In Which I realise you can’t escape fate. Or family. Well, unless you run really fast, but even then . . .

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I am obsessed. I realised it when I stopped looking at clothing and paid more attention to the fact that we had an entirely too large collection of clear pint glasses. I then decided I needed more coloured glass and that I should probably replace those chipped plates we bought me for uni four years ago.

You know what I’ve realised? I am my mothers daughter.

I kept thinking as a child that I could escape it, but to be honest its just highly unlikely that I will. I am part her after all – who was I kidding to think that I could escape a family that have been in house furnishings for 80 something years that I somehow wouldn’t love furniture and everything else home related? It just wasn’t going to happen.

So recently you may ask I have become pretty single minded after all there is an amazing range of chopping boards we love, glasses from habitat to buy a lamp from asda whose shade I have make over plans for, New bed covers, the cutest kettle in kitchen aid cream that would match its blue counter part toaster we haven’t bought yet . . . the list goes on.

I blame Uni – why? well I have got to be honest I got used to the moving every year. I loved having an entirely new space each year. it was great to make your life over and now for the first time in a long time we are actually staying in one place and me? I’m thinking about painting. Walls, furniture (joshes pine bed has sanding, sealing and painting in its future – it just doesn’t know it yet . . .) and so many other things if i listed them we’d be here for days!

Really though I’d like a house I could paint. I’ve got colours on the brain and a future study to create so whose going to foot the bill? Anyone?