Product Review – Hearty Chilli Con Carne

I am the Chilli Con Carne Queen. Officially. I’m not a big meat eater in general ( serve me roast lamb and I’ll probably never accept a dinner invitation from you again) but I adore a good chilli. It’s my go-to dish when I feel like I need to up my iron intake and recoup. And I’m great at making it. I have about 5 different versions up my sleeve – American style, Mexican style, with kidney beans, with chickpeas, with turkey sausage….you get the idea.

I usually keep a stock in the freezer for whenever a chilli-craving strikes. Last night, however,  I opened the freezer to find….Nothing. Nada. Just a few sad looking frozen peas. It was too late and I was too hungry to start making one from scratch, so I nipped to the supermarket to see what I could find, and what should catch my eye but this bad boy:

I’m often sceptical about ready-made meals (especially ones which come in a packet and require no fridge) but a quick look at the ingredients satisfied me. It only has natural ingredients (I recognised and could pronounce all the ingredients listed) and uses prime, Cumbrian beef. Most importantly, it could be heated up in the pan in a few minutes. I was hungry, so I decided to take a risk. And I was so glad I did. It was hearty, meaty, spicy and just what I needed. It wasn’t quiet tomatoey enough, so I bulked it up with some chopped, tinned tomatoes. I also stirred in some organic nutritional yeast flakes to enhance the flavour and add some healthy Vitamin B. I served it with grilled courgettes and brown rice and a large glass of red wine. Overall rating? 4/5 stars.

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Valentine’s day – it’s all about the chocolate

Now that Valentines Day is over, I feel that I’m no longer at risk of being a kill-joy if I confess that I don’t really like Valentines day that much. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe its because it’s over-commercialised, or maybe it’s because it can all get a bit cheesy, or maybe its because it depersonalises romance…..Then again, maybe it’s because I spent it alone for the last, oh, 4 years. Whatever the reason, I’m just not the biggest fan. This year, however, I actually had to acknowledge it happening after years of ignoring it, because my my (very new) boyfriend made it quite clear he was not going to allow us to skip it!

Our dinner together did little to altar my jaded view of the day. We went to a local restaurant that’s typically quiet, atmospheric with decent, reasonably priced pub grub. But last night it was unrecognisable: full to the brim with couples seemly competing over who could look the most loved-up, decorated in tasteless love hearts,  and boasting a ‘special Valentines menu’ which was basically their usual menu but with less choice and higher prices. To add insult to injury the food was mediocre. In an attempt to eat healthily I chose a dish which was described on the menu as ‘chicken skewers with salad and pitta’ – an even mix of veggies, protein and carbs. When it came, however, the ‘salad’ turned out to be composed almost entirely of feta cheese and raw onions! Not ideal from a health or smelly-breath perspective!

When we got home, however, my boyfriend presented me with my present and I remembered that there is one very good reason to celebrate Valentine’s day…….

Chocolate!

Their pink wrapping may make these truffles sickly sweet to look at, but they tasted divine. I gave my boyfriend one and ate the rest myself!  A few more Valentine’s day treats like these and I might just be converted…..

Ottolenghi’s oven-baked ratatouille

I’ll admit, I’m usually one for quick and easy dishes. (And we’re talking genuinely quick here –  I have yet to open Jamie’s 30 minute meals because 30 mins just seems too darn long most of the time!) However, last night I was feeling extravagent, so I did what I always do in that mood – I turned to Yotam Ottolenghi.

For those of you who don’t know, Yotan Ottolenghi is an extraordinarily talented chef and baker whose Mediterranian-come-Middle Eastern-come-nouveau vegetarian-come-yummy recipes have been taking London by storm. His restaurant in Islington is almost certainly where I’d pick for my last meal. Plus, he’s kinda cute:

Am I right?

The only downside  is that his recipes do tend to be incredibly time consuming and use lots of ingredients, most of which you’re unlikely to have in your store cupboard. But they are decidedly worth the effort, as I was reminded when I decided to cook ‘Tamara’s Ratatouille’ – a delicious blend of butternut squash, tomatoes, aubergines, green beans, peppers and chillis, with a whole load of herbs and spices to add flavour. (You can see a full version of the recipe on this great little teaser website or just buy his new book, ‘Plenty’, from amazon.)

 You begin by cooking all the veggies together on the hob for 30 mins before transferring it to the oven to bake for 30 mins.I must say, I’ve never thought of cooking ratatouille in the oven, but it really works. It gets rid of all the wateryness and really brings it all together in a rich stew.

Here’s what mine looked like before I popped it in the oven:

And here’s what it looked like after:

You see the difference?

I served mine with a side of butternut squash with a parmasan-herb crust and tzatziki.

I reckon the whole process took at least 1 hour and a half, not including shopping. But when they coined the phrase ‘good things come to those who wait’, I’m pretty sure they had this ratatouille in mind.

Brighten Up and Eat Coconut Milk

I am getting seriously excited about springs colourblocking trend.

Check out Gucci’s acid brights:

Wouldn’t you love to strut into the office in that come April?

I’m also loving Michael Kors’ more relaxed take on the trend:

I always find that fantasising about my spring wardrobe helps me get through the dull, grey monotony that is London in February.

I also find that exotic tastes and smells help keep me up-beat and focused on spring. Like this Red Thai Chicken pot from Waitrose, that I had for dinner last night:

The combination of coconut milk and chilli made think of beaches in Thailand. It also had a great balance of veggies, protein from the chicken, and healthy fats from the coconut milk. Coconut milk is a relatively new player in the health food market but has been a staple in alternative medicine for years because it’s packed full of lauric acid, which is thought to help support the immune system and fight infections. (One of the reasons why breast milk is thought to be so good for babies, is because of the lauric acid content!) I also always find coconut milk helps settle an upset stomach and combat nausea. 

A lot of people worry about the calorie content in coconut milk, but this Waitrose soup- amounting to just 312 calories – proves that you can have a little of it without having to worry about getting fat! 312 calories isn’t quite enough to satisfy me, so I ate it with a side salted edamame beans (which also upped the protein content of my meal) and finished off with a low-fat rice pudding.

Comfort Food

I got home from the gym this evening feeling exhausted and blah. It was cold and grey today, my workout was lacklustre, my flatmates were out for the eve (meaning I’d have to watch Glee alone – don’t you hate that?), and, on top of it all, I’d had the most painful brazilian wax of my life on my lunch break and was still smarting from the pain.I was in serious need of some comfort food.

 I decided to create something entirely new out of a mixture of my favourite things.  I cooked up some quinoa, broccoli and sweetcorn in a pan, and wacked some butternut squash and a Thai crabcake in the oven. Then, as I’m a huge fan of one bowl meals, I threw all the veggies and the quinoa into a wok with a little sesame seed oil and some soya sauce.

I topped the mixture with the crabcake, which I then smashed up and mixed in. I’m christening it: Comforting Crabcake-Quinoa Mush. It looked weird but it was yummy!

 

For me, one of the great thing about being home alone for an evening, is that you can cook up something weird and wonderful without having to put up with anyone else’s odd looks!

I ate it while watching Grey’s Anatomy and topped off my meal with 2 slices of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. By the time I’d finished I was in a much better mood!

What weird looking meals do you cook when you need comforting?

Not Baking

As it’s Sunday and I had time on my hands, I decided to bake this afternoon. When I want to relax, baking is always a good place to start. But after scouring some of my favourate healthy eating blogs for inspiration, I changed my mind when I stumbled upon a delicious-looking recipe for no-bake peanutbutter cakes on Oh She Glows. They looked too nutritious and delicious to resist!

I had to make a few amendments to the recipe – most importantly switching peanut butter for Green and Blacks Organic Hazlenut Chocolate Spread.

 In my view, a cake just isn’t a cake unless its chocolately!

I made a few other changes too, such as adding flax seeds for a kick of Omega 3 and some raisins (cause I love ’em!). I also upped the amount of spread and maple syrup (I guess I like things sweeter than Ange!). 

Here’s my ammended version of Angela’s recipe. (If you want the original, you can see it here: http://ohsheglows.com/2010/07/20/sunset-beach/)

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 3/4 cup oats (Ange uses 1/4 cup crispy rice cereal, and just 1/2 cup oats, but I’d run out!)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  •  2 tbsp dark chocolate chips (Ange uses cacao nibs, which are more bitter but crunchier)
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tbsp raisins or saltanas
  • 1-2 tbsp flax seeds

Directions

  • Mash banana in a bowl.
  • Stir in cocoa powder, hazlenut spread, and maple syrup and stir until fully mixed. (I ate a fair amount of the mixture at this point!)
  •   Stir in the oats, chocolate, flax and raisins.

  • Spoon into a cake tray. You should be able to get about 4 cakes out of this.

  • Freeze in the freezer for about  an hour. 

Voila!

I’d recommend taking them out of the freezer about 20 mins before you plan to eat them, so they’re gooey and not too cold. They were de.lic.ious.  I ate one after a light workout, around 5pm, and it really re-energised me kept me full-up until dinner. I’ll certainly be putting this one in my recipe book!

Hello!

Hello! Welcome to Oat Couture – my healthy living blog, with a little fashion on the side. In this blog, I’ll be documenting my efforts to live the healthiest life I can. There’ll be recipe suggestions, workout tips, reports on the latest health/diet research, product reviews and more! There’ll also be notes on the latest fashion trends, reviews of the hottest high-street collections, and pics of my latest fashion buys.

Why have I decided to serve up my healthy living suggestions with a side of fashion? Well, firstly because it allows me to harp on about two subjects I love to talk about – Clothes and Food! And secondly because I want to show that fashion and healthy eating aren’t incompatible. The Size 0 trend and the commonplace belief that all high-fashion clothes are designed for anorexic giraffes, have contributed to the idea that you can’t be fashionable and live a healthy lifestyle at the same time. To be a true fashionista you have to be a chain-smoking, rice-cake-eater, right? Not in my opinion. And hopefully not in your opinion either, once you’ve read my blog for a bit ;).