Posts tagged ‘recipes’

food bank protein bars: sweet and savoury recipes

I have been feeling very upset about the huge rise in people needing to use foodbanks in Britain. There is so much being kept out of the regular news –  [  ‘This article was written by Steven Preece and first published by the Welfare News Service on 26/12/13 and has been reproduced here with permission’] WNS are great and keep reporting what the papers barely touch, including that within 6 weeks of having their benefits stopped, so many disabled people are killing themselves, well over a thousand in 2013, as the bedroom tax has made a bad situation worse.

The more upset I get, the more pain I feel, that’s the way fibromyalgia works sadly, so please understand I am not glossing over this situation when I say I am choosing to make myself feel better by doing what I can: finding a candle to light in the darkness.

I have made a test batch of high protein, delicious protein bars (taste like ordinary flapjack/yummy cake) but will release energy in stages – sugar rush, then fruit, nuts and oats…to get a child through to their free lunch or an adult from one shift to the next.

They’re also great for us pain and fatigue peeps! I’ve been having one 80g slice for breakfast and it keeps me full for at least 4 hours. Of course I’m not doing heavy labouring, but even so, pretty good… It’s like having a small bowl of VERY rich muesli 😉

I’ve also made a savoury version, more like a scone, but again with a much higher protein count, with grated cheese or finely chopped nuts. I’ll add some more photos when the chili nuts come next week and I make the next batch.

Now I’m on disability benefits so can’t afford to spend a lot on ingredients, so how can I use my catering skills not just to adapt a recipe, but to exploit my knowledge of how nonsensical best before dates often are, and use completely safe, but supposedly out of date ingredients from my online bargain store?

I’ve marked AF next to an ingredient if I got it cheaper than normal, and my costings are based on being able to get similar bargains fairly regularly.

My Approved Foods challenge: vegan suet is 5 bags @ 180g for £1!

Savoury Scones

DSC_009012oz S R flour       6oz/18og suet AF

2oz/50g sunflower seeds AF

6oz grated cheese or 150g FINELY chopped chili or dry roasted peanuts AF

black pepper, mustard to taste eg 1/2 to 1 TEAspoon

sea salt (if no salt with the nuts) AF

10fl oz/ half pint of cold water


Mix the dry ingredients, including the suet, with your well washed hands or a fork. Add most of the water and stir gently with a dinner/table knife. The aim is to make a soft dough, that holds its shape but is NOT sticky, so if necessary add the last bit of water very slowly. One fist of dough makes 2 scones. If you look at the photo, you can see I haven’t needed to use any flour to make the dough workable.

Shape into 12 large rounds (like scones!) or make oblongs and space well apart on greased baking trays, dab tops with a drip of water (or milk or egg)


Bake for 30 min at gas 5/ 200 c / in a warm – hot oven until crisp and golden brown. If necessary turn upside down after  20 mins (my oven’s fan is very iffy!)

If you make a cup soup or hot marmite, you can balance the scone over it or dunk  to warm the scone, so someone in fuel poverty can get a hearty snack with one mug of hot water 🙂



I also made a carrot and cumin soup, very simple, just well fried onions and 2 green peppers, add 1 litre of boiling water with 2 veggie stock cubes or 1 TABLEspoon of Marmite/Vecon, then 1 kg of half price carrots, topped, tailed and cut into chunks. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. I whizz my soup with a blender stick, but you can chop the carrots smaller and skip that! This made 6 medium to large bowls, so multiply out as necessary 😉

I added black pepper, sea salt, mustard and 1 TEAspoon of cumin seeds for flavour (and cumin is good for boosting immune system) but you could use any herbs you like 😉

if you’re worried your child might not like it, well, Emilia’s Finn liked both

DSC_0055-001soup and scone 🙂

There were smiles from another visitor too, who took home two scones for another day 😉 I suggested toasting or warming them, as we had them warm from the oven, which made them extra yummy 😉 You can even fry them, like a stovey/ hash brown.


Easy Flapjack

flapjack can be shaped to ‘breakfast bars’ and make a very nutritious snack/ meal if you use lots of nuts and dried fruits (rich in minerals as well as sweet!) Mountaineers use Trail mix, so think how much energy dried fruit, nuts and seeds have in 🙂

375 g/ 120z vegan margarine gently melted on a low heat with

250g/ 8oz brown sugar and 100g golden syrup

until they bubble

I added:

125g/40z  deluxe fruit and nuts, (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds finely chopped in a whizzer) AF

[but 100g salted peanuts, 1 TABLEspoon each of peanut butter and lemonjuice is a great variation and cheaper] AF

then 500g/ 1lb oats/oatmeal/ flapjack kits AF

stir until stiff, being careful to not let the ground nuts burn onto the pan base!

Turn out into a large foil case or 2 swiss roll tins and press down well with the back of the wooden spoon.

Bake at 200 c/ gas 5 for 10 mins, then turn tin/s round and bake for another 10 -15 mins until it is dark golden brown.

Leave to cool in the trays! When completely cool turn onto a chopping board and cut into bars, 5 cm/2″ wide. If they are crumbly, cut them into 8cm squares instead and add more golden syrup or less raisins etc next time.

I once baked and sold 800 flapjack slices as a fundraiser on a stall at North Shields Fish Quay Festival! Oh my! Today my hand is really cramped after making one foil tray!

But they taste very good, Elizabeth enjoyed her slice and said what a difference the ground nuts make 😉 and I have had plenty for visitors over New Year as well as my breakfasts 🙂

I am going to keep one of each for as long as it takes to go mouldy so I can put a use-by date on for the food bank. To be honest I’ve never seen mouldy flapjack, too much sugar and fat, it’s a descendant of pemmican and other foods stored by encasing in fat with sugar. The scones I think will be fine for a week, they have sea salt in, but they will get drier – one good reason to use suet rather than margarine, suet pastries are moister, not just because they’re often steamed, but the way the fat is isolated within the flour.. read some Heston Blumenthal for the science 😉

Altogether, I’m very pleased with my experiment, and the tasters agree, challenge MET! There was no indication that discount ingredients had been used, but the batches costed out at roughly half to a third price because margarine is so dear now (particularly vegan) and dried fruit and nuts and even oats are a lot dearer (agrochemicals as well as delivery costs go up when oil prices rise…)

Savoury Scones – 12 large scones £1.60/ 13.3p, say 15p each inc gas and they have protein in and are MUCH more satisfying than a bread roll

Flapjack – 14 large bars (80 – 100g, over twice the size of an ordinary breakfast bar)

£3.20/ 23p, say 25p each once wrapped and labelled, at cheaper than the price of a 40g bar…with protein in…

For £5 I can give 26 high protein meal replacements, well worth it?

And because they look and taste like a treat, I hope people will use and enjoy them, and feel a little more cared for, instead of being kicked when they are down 😉


mocktails and smoothies

I was lucky at the Saturday market at Sneinton and got 3 honeydew melons for £1! Also 2 punnets of plums for £1.20 and a generous chunk of fresh ginger for 60p, so this week’s easy peasy but fresh and healthy hit has been smoothies with fruit tea to dilute them : Todd Niehaus, the chiropractor I see is very knowledgeable about nutrition and always advises watering down fruit juice for the sake of your blood sugar and kidneys. You couldn’t EAT 18 oranges in a row, so why think you can drink a  litre of juice without  giving yourself gripe? I used to dilute with fizzy water, but don’t feel comfortable supporting the bottled water industry any more. Cooled fruit tea is a good alternative, and can add flavour and health enhancers to the drink, but if you are pregnant, please check before using any tea that is good for menstrual cramps, it may bring on a miscarriage. Most flavours are ok in moderation for everyone else, but check online if you have allergies or IBS, and this much fruit might upset diabetics too. I like to make a big batch and freeze little juice bottles as single portions for a super-tired day ( I slept from Saturday night to Wednesday afternoon this week – fibro what?)


How my friends have laughed at the mountain of 10p mandarin oranges in juice I snapped up from Approved Foods –  but they’re very handy now ;)and all those organic and herbal teas you can see worked out at less than 50p each from there too!

1 Make a pot of tea, sweet (eg  elderflower, fennel, camomile) if the fruit is sharp, strong and tangy if the fruit is bland (mint, ginger, cranberry, rosehip, hibiscus, aronia/chokecherry) or an infusion of your own garden herbs – elderflower, limeflower, mint, borage, camomile, fennel, feverfew, etc and let it steep and cool

2 Softest fruit first is easiest on the stick blender, so I scooped out the super juicy flesh of a large melon, poured 3 little cans of mandarin oranges in JUICE on top (you could use 2 or 3 roughly chopped Spanish or South African oranges, according to taste) and added finely chopped fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons to a 2 litre/4 pint  jug is plenty for most people, particularly if you are going to freeze it. Whizz well, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing’s lurking, plums really hide well 😉

STA451163 Blender safety: check the jug is sturdy enough to take the weight of the stick blender if you have to stop suddenly, and if the end is detachable, do NOT fill the jug to that line, stop a couple of inches/5cm below or your smoothie will be very dear when all the fuses go…

4 Pour out  half a glass and add the cooled tea/ice cubes/mineral water/old fashioned sugar free lemonade for a refreshing and healthy drink. I use an old water filter jug so that it sits easily in the fridge door, but for entertaining in-laws etc, pour into a glass jug for the table, ready mixed, or on a tray of mixers.

5 Lollies: save little yoghurt tubs and old lolly sticks or buy new lolly sticks at Lakeland etc, half fill the tubs with mixed smoothies and stand a stick up in it – if you’re a perfectionist, use a pipecleaner/chenille craft wire to keep it straight 😉

6 Freeze tubs of fruit mix for another day and have mocktail parties to invent the best recipes, freeze it mixed with readymade custard and cream to make summer desserts… nom,nom..


Tangy mixtures:

peach/nectarine/mandarin/strawberry with rosehip/hibiscus or cranberry and echinacea tea

pear, ginger and orange

plum and orange

orange, grated carrot, apple and ginger

Sweet mixtures:

pineapple and lemon

plum and apple with elderberry and blackberry

pear, apple and elderberry

blackberry, apple and fennel/liquorice (boil a 2 inches/5cm  of liquorice root or 4″/10cm chopped fennel stalks for 20/10mins and add infusion to fruit to blend)

Mocktails are really good to have at lunchtime bbqs  and picnics, and if you’re travelling or at the allotment, you can freeze the smoothie mix in little bottles (leave room so the bottle doesn’t burst when it’s frozen!!) and it’s still cool but thawed by the time you eat, super refreshing!

If you’re watching the pennies, even with bought ingredients a big jug can cost as little as £1, serve 7 pints and be a talking point if you take it to a bring and share. If you use your own allotment or foraged soft fruit, fresh or frozen, it could be even less 🙂

Potluck life, potluck supper

don't walk on the grass!

For anyone who’s not sure what they’re looking at, this is grass being protected in a heavy use play area by rubber grid matting…supportive structures can go wrong, supportive/ creative/ positive thinking/ problem solving is always available…

My freezer just went wrong again, so the creative energy that should be playing with my new tripod (oh yessy!) and recording new pages…is being channeled into making a giant pot of stew…to which I will add red wine vinegar, to be sure it keeps ok over the next few days…It’s not what I want to do tonight, but at least that’s meals sorted for a few days…energy spoons stolen here, will be replaced as I don’t have to cook later in the week 😉

Potluck Hotpot

lots of veg!

today’s vegbox: 3 leeks, carrots, broccoli

freezer salvage (don’t worry I am a veggie so there is no chance of cross contamination from meat, and I have done the swap dance so every 12 hours stuff has been rotated to the fridge freezer for a boost of cold) peppers, peas, stirfry mix

sauce: approved foods delivery to the rescue… a posh version of cream of mushroom soup, to which I will add 1/2 litre of boiling water with black pepper, nutmeg, paprika, mustard, dried garlic and at least 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

it could have been tinned tomatoes, the organic tomato puree I had from approved foods, marigold bouillon powder or gravy…but today it snowed, so rich and creamy seems right…

Served with organic potatoes from the veg box or noodles from the approved foods mountain or toast or naan bread …pot luck, depending who comes for tea 😉

making happiness

Happiness is something that is beyond manufacture and marketing (yes, I know they try, but the fact they have to try so hard shows how impossible it is…)

Anyway, I have been feeling very contented as the stress drained out of me during my halcyon break


and today, as I went back into the world, I realised how unusual that is at this time of year. I went to see the lovely chiropractor and he hurt me in new places 😉 because I hadn’t hurt my neck/collarbone the usual way, he was working further out, yelp I yelped as  he sent air pellets into my shoulders a good five inches below the usual…even the big neck crunch (where he helps me do a Linda Blair head spin) was smaller…he was very pleased and as he explained how my rotator cuff (?) was less agitated, I thought, oh! I stopped ‘spinning out!’ 🙂

So how do I maintain that?

Coming home to this helped:


– messy play allowed here 🙂

and as I had friends coming round who have not had a halcyon break, I set to and made cookies, as a way to sweeten things for them…because life is so much about taking turns…

I think it’s Anne Morrow Lindbergh who says that on a day she couldn’t write, she made cookies and was just as happy…I wouldn’t go that far, but I know when I bake for friends, it’s an effort, so it is to say thank you or well done or things will get better…and there is a happiness in having enough to share, being the giver, when often I need help…so that abundance is as happy-making as creativity…

Vegan Chocolate and Brazil Nut Brownies:

STA43929 easy peasy to make!

8oz/200g fairtrade brown sugar

8oz/200g vegan margarine/shortening

4oz/100g vegan dark chocolate, even better if it is Green and Blacks but Lidl do a lovely fairtrade dark choc

4oz/100g chopped brazil nuts

12-16oz/300-400g self raising flour

a bowl of oats

melt the margarine and brown sugar over a low flame, till the sugar is dissolved and beginning to bubble

turn off the heat, add the chocolate and nuts, stir in well

add the flour, half, then half again…depending on the water content of the margarine you use, you may need extra flour, so add slowly, stir well and if it seems very moist, add that extra 4oz/100g

now, I was out of oats, but nicest is if you put a tablespoon of mix in a bowl of porridge oats and (with very clean hands!) roll it into a ball and place on a greased baking sheet

bake for 8-10mins at 180c/gas 4 till it dimples if you press a spoon back on it

makes 30-36 depending how big you like your cookies – but they are VERY RICH so small is better 🙂

in the photo, the ones on the right have white chocolate drops added for the non-vegans (who have a sweeter tooth!)

variations, instead of chocolate and brazil nuts use:

– molasses and ginger or mixed spice, use molasses for a stronger flavour than brown sugar

-vanilla or almond essence and 4oz glace cherries

-cinnamon and raisin

-xmas! raisins, mixed peel and marzipan, mmmmm!

One friend left in a cab, with a bag of just cooled cookies to share with her parents, some are waiting for the next visitor and some will go in the freezer…

You can’t give happiness, but you can give symbols of your care and concern…words are good, but simple handmade invitations to take time out and remember how rich friendship is, given year round can really help…