Recipes, Reviews

Cirkle recipe kit review

Last month Cirkle kindly sent me a 3 recipe kits to try. If you haven’t heard of this company, they are a grocery home delivery service providing organic and artisan products. As well as that, they offer a free recycling service, aiming to ‘make it easy to eat well and do good’, a philosophy I can wholeheartedly agree with.

They have a wide range of products available; from fruit and vegetables to meat and dairy, lentils and pasta to baby food! Plus, they have a flexible, well-organised delivery service that enables you to find a day and time that will suit you.

With the recipe kits, you can choose to purchase each individually, or opt for a set of 3 predetermined recipes in their recipe package. Each recipe comes for either 2, 4 or 6 people and the prices (for 2 people) range from €6.24 to €20.07 per recipe. The package, to include 3 recipe kits, are priced as follows: €39.99 (2 people), €69.99 (4 people) or €99.98 (6 people).

I was very excited to get stuck in…

Warm mackerel and beetroot salad. (€15.73 for 2 people)

FullSizeRender2Firstly, the picture doesn’t do this food justice, the colour on this fruit and veg is simply amazing. But, I must admit, at first I wasn’t sure about this recipe. I’ve actually not cooked fresh beetroot before (I was put off from my mum always trying to get me to try the pickled stuff) and…warm lettuce?! But actually, this ended up being my favourite recipe of the lot. The smell as it was cooking was terrific, so mouthwatering, and the combination of colours looked appealing. FullSizeRender1
On tasting, the different textures from the raw onion, soft potato and crunchy lettuce was fantastic (you let the warm stuff cool slightly so the lettuce doesn’t wilt). The comfort of the warm beetroot was complimented by the subtle flavour of the celery and the stronger smoked mackerel. It was, quite simply, yum. And I will definitely be cooking this again.
FullSizeRenderIn terms of balance, there was plenty of veg *thumbs up*, and the meal contained a protein and potatoes as a starchy carb source – great! Also, mackerel is an oily fish, so good for poly-unsaturated fats and omega-3.
My only consideration was that I personally didn’t feel that the bread was necessary, I felt that the potato was sufficient. Especially given that this actually did us 4 meals – we both had it for lunch the following day – bargain!

Roast pork with pears and parsnips. (€20.07 for 2 people)

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This is a dish that sounded right up my street. Cooked using minimal equipment, and it contains some of my favourite vegetables and flavours. This recipe was very easy to put together, and the quality of the meat (sourced from Jack O’Shea) was obvious even before cooking.
Again, the combination of flavours worked really well. I love pear and parsnip and it was perfect with the pork, making a change from the usual apple. 20150925_222143We used all of the ingredients except half the cabbage, and there was still veg left in our pot for an extra 2 meals….I could get used to this!
I found this meal really satisfying, however, although you would be getting some carbohydrates from the vegetables, it does lack a source of starchy carbohydrate. It might also be worth tweaking the recipe slightly if you’re watching the amount of saturated fat in your diet, as cooking it all together means that the veg soaks up a lot of fat from the pork. All in all though? Another tasty recipe and I was loving all these leftovers!

Quick fresh tomato ragù with thyme. (€11.24 for 2 people)

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This dish is one of our favourites at home, and I usually don’t follow a particular recipe, so I was intrigued to try this one.
Call me lazy, but I tend to use tinned tomatoes with a handful of fresh in my ragù, so it made a nice change, and I did notice the taste difference. As with the pork, the meat was of excellent quality and really added to the dish. This is also the best wholegrain pasta 20150928_202954I have ever tasted!
With this recipe, the portion sizes were just right for 2 people (although we did have some Parmesan leftover!) Wholegrain pasta is great for slow release energy and fills you up, and the minced beef is a good source of iron. I personally would add a bit more veg in there; to include some mushrooms, courgette, aubergine or bell pepper would boost the vitamin and fibre content.
This recipe is definitely a good one for after a busy day, as it’s quick to prepare, filling and a true home comfort.

Overall, I was really impressed with the quality of the ingredients, and the recipes all tasted really good. Cirkle offer loose products as well, and you can purchase fruit or vegetable boxes, but I think that the recipe kits are definitely worth a go if you find yourself lacking inspiration in the kitchen. Given the quality and quantity you get, I think that they work out really good value too! I will definitely be using them again in the future, and look forward to trying some more of their recipe kits.

If you are one of my clients and want to give Cirkle a try…ask me about how you can get a free small fruit box in your order!

(Please note: I received this recipe kit for free, but all my opinions are 100% honest and I was not reimbursed for this review. Please see my disclaimer for more information.)

Healthy Living

Is planning the key to eating healthily?

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“Planning is the key to success”

People associate planning with success in many aspects of life, and it is often something that is also associated with food too.

There’s no doubt that planning can help make eating healthily easier when work gets busy or when you get tired, and I strongly believe that some degree of thinking ahead is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. However, the extent of planning needed can vary, and you need to find something that works for you. The idea would be that, to whatever extent you choose to plan, it eventually becomes normal and you’re able to incorporate it into your routine without even thinking of it as planning!

Planning is something I talk through with my patients, and below I’ve included some ideas I commonly suggest. These suggestions range from more drastic to small changes that could help make healthy eating easier for you. Try applying some of these to your life, depending on what you have time for.

  • Ensure your cupboards, fridge and freezer are stocked with basics to make a healthy meal. I suggest that people at least have the following, these are food items that have a relatively long shelf life and can be used to make a balanced meal:
    • Starchy carbohydrates: oats, pasta & rice
    • Proteins: eggs, beans, lentils, tinned tuna/salmon, maybe some yoghurt
    • Fruit & vegetables: tinned tomatoes, dried fruit, frozen vegetables of choice, onions, garlic, salad items
    • Spices & herbs
  • Make in bulk. Whenever you’re making a meal, make extra and freeze it.
  • Take the time at a weekend to design a menu plan for the week. You can choose whether to detail every meal, or just write down evening meals if you find this is when you struggle most.
  • Spend an afternoon at the weekend preparing all meals for the following week
  • If you prefer to buy fresh vegetables, but hate the time it takes to prepare them, try chopping in bulk and freezing. This will save you the prep time next time.
  • Have a ‘go-to’ list of meals that are quick to prepare and that can be made from ingredients you usually have in your cupboards. Examples might include:
    • Vegetable omelette with some rice
    • Tuna & sweetcorn pasta salad
    • Rice with kidney beans in tomato sauce

So is planning essential to have a healthy diet?
…I’m not saying that everyone should sit down on a Sunday, plan every meal for the following week and then spend hours preparing it all (although that may work for some)! However, having in enough ingredients to make a healthy meal is a big helping hand when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, and even that requires a little planning!

Healthy Living

5 ways to encourage kids to eat their vegetables

I meet so many parents who are concerned about their child’s lack of like for vegetables. First of all, rest assured that you are not alone. Secondly, don’t panic! Research suggests that it can take up to 15 exposures to a new food before a child will eat it. Meanwhile, there are lots of things you can do to help try and encourage your child that broccoli is not the devil.

1. Introduce fruits & vegetables early

It is well documented that the more familiar a child is with a certain food, the more likely they are to eat it. Weaning is prime time for a child to get used to different tastes and textures. Unfortunately, parents can sometimes become too worried about ‘how much’ their child is eating rather than appreciating that one of the main aims of weaning is to introduce the child to a wide range of tastes and textures. This can lead to parents just providing foods they know the child will eat, hence decreasing the number of exposures to foods they don’t. In short, always include ‘disliked’ vegetables on the plate, even if your child doesn’t eat them!
Parents can try ‘tricks’ like combining an already liked vegetable on a plate with a new one. Research shows that children are more likely to eat more of the new vegetable if it were presented with a familiar one as oppose to on its own. Vegetables also make great finger foods (not just for weaning!) and children are often more likely to be excepting of something when they can touch, taste, smell and play with it themselves first. 

2. Involve your children

Make your job easier in more than one way by getting your kids to help you prepare meals! When kids can see what is going into food, and when they’ve played a part in making it, it suddenly becomes fun and engaging and can lead to them wanting to try what they’ve made.
To what extent you involve them can vary depending on what you have time to do and how old they are. You could build a veggie patch together in the garden (or if you have little space, try growing herbs), take them to the market/shop to choose what vegetables they’d like for dinner and what fruit they’d like in the fruit bowl. Or even just let them put their food on their plate or sprinkle extra vegetables onto their pizza. 

3. Lead by example

There is a lot of research indicating that children pick up their eating habits from their parents. This stretches from types of foods eaten to the environment in which it becomes normal to eat. If you yourself are a fussy eater, then it’s likely that your child will pick up your habits. Try not to show your dislike for something. Always have vegetables on your plate. If you don’t eat them, your child doesn’t see why they have to either!
Try and have fruit and vegetable snacks within easy reach. If your child sees you munching on an apple, this becomes the norm rather than munching on a packet of crisps or biscuits. Soon they’ll be asking you for a piece!

4. Try presenting fruits & vegetables in a different way

So I mentioned how combining new veggies with those already liked can help. Well how about combining veggies with foods already liked in general? Adding fruits or vegetables to favourites like pizza, omelettes or breakfast cereals can help encourage your child to try them. Try to involve your child in this though, as changing something too much without them knowing could put them off the food they did like!
Slicing or shaping them in certain ways may help too. Making a face from them on a plate, aubergine cut with a heart cutter; you could even let them chose a cutter!
Try different cooking methods, consistencies and flavours. Give something raw that you’d normally cook, or cook something you’d normally give raw. Won’t eat a whole apple? Try slices, stewing it with a little cinnamon or grating it onto their breakfast porridge. Serve things like carrot, cucumber and pepper slices with hummus or another dip for a way to change things up a bit. Don’t like cauliflower? Try cauliflower cheese. (Cauliflower also blends easily and works as a great thickener for soups.) There is mixed evidence about ‘hiding’ vegetables in your child’s food, but methods such as blending/mashing to disguise vegetables normal appearance may be a good way of getting them used to the taste initially. There’s also lots of recipes available online that ‘hide’ vegetables by presenting them in a totally different form, things like; smoothies, frozen lollies made from fresh fruit and even cake recipes!
Serving fruits and vegetables in an atypical way with a new spice or flavour could lead you to a breakthrough!

5. Don’t fight over it

There are also a couple of things you should try to avoid doing to get your child to eat fruits and vegetables. Although it can get very frustrating, forcing your child to eat certain foods or finish their plate is not going to help the situation. Some research suggests that it can even put a child off that food for life!
Bargaining can also lead to a developed habit where your child won’t do anything unless they get a reward for it! Ideally, try to let your child decide when they’ve had enough, show a neutral reaction, remove the plate and just try again another day. This technique can also help them develop healthy habits in later life of stopping when they feel full.

More information & references:
NHS (UK) 5-a-day: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/5ADAY/Pages/Family.aspx
NHS (UK) How to involve your child in being healthy: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/childhealth6-15/Pages/Get-children-involved-inbeing-healthy.aspx
Borah-Giddens, J., & Falciglia, G. A. (1993). A meta-analysis of the relationship in food preferences between parents and children. Journal of Nutrition Education.
Cooke, L. (2007). The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
Lerner, C., & Parlakian, R.  (2007).  Healthy from the start:  How feeding nurtures your young child’s body, heart, and mind.
Olsen, A. et al. (2012). Children’s liking and intake of vegetables: A school-based intervention study. Food Quality and Preference.
Olsen, A. et al. (2012). Serving styles of raw snack vegetables. What do children want? Appetite.
Wardle, J. et al. (2003). Modifying children’s food preferences: the effects of exposure and reward on acceptance of an unfamiliar vegetable. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Wardle, J. et al (2003). Increasing children’s acceptance of vegetables; a randomized trial of parent-led exposure. Appetite.

Healthy Living

Healthy Eating – on a budget

Yes…fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive, especially if you’re worried that half of it will go to waste. BUT there’s so many ways you can use up fruit and vegetables, team that with a few tricks when shopping and I promise you, you can serve up a lovely nutritious meal!

It takes a little bit of thought and planning so I’ve put together my top 12 tips to help you save money.

1. Use frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables.

Both tend to be cheaper than buying fresh, and they keep much longer. They’re still just as good for you nutritionally, just opt for fruit in natural juice as opposed to syrup and select tinned vegetables in water without too much added salt.

2. Buy in bulk.

Dried goods like pasta, rice and noodles keep for ages and the large packs are often significantly cheaper than the smaller ones. For example, I did a quick price comparison…for a 500g bag of pasta you pay £1.90 (2.40€) per kilo, for a 3kg bag it works out at £1 (1.26€) per kilo. That’s almost half price!

…that leads nicely onto my next tip

3. Check the price per kilo.

Most shop item labels now will state the price per kilo in addition to the item price. This is a handy, easy way to check if you’re getting best value for money. Once you become used to checking this, it becomes second nature and addictive. You’ll be in store for some surprises!

4. Go for store brands.

When you buy branded goods, you’re paying a premium for the brand and fancy packaging. There are lots of foods that taste very similar whether it’s branded or stores own. Having said that, there are a couple of foods where I’ll always buy the branded version as the store versions just aren’t as good. However, that’s personal preference and it’s something you can trial with your everyday items! You could end up saving yourself a small fortune!

5. Make use of offers.

Whether it’s buy one get one free, 20% extra free, or reduced because it’s going out of date, take advantage! Most stores will reduce items in the evenings, so time it well to get the best deals. Things like fish, meat and even fruits and veggies freeze well, split them into portions though, otherwise they may be stuck in a clump when you come to use them. Chopping up the vegetables will also save you time later on, plus frozen fruit tastes great in smoothies. Just make sure you have plenty of room in the freezer!

6. Bulk out with pulses.

If you don’t often cook with lentils and other pulses, I strongly recommend that you try them. The term ‘pulse’, used interchangeably with ‘legume’, encompasses all types of beans, peas and lentils.  They’re a great source of protein, fibre, iron and other vitamins and minerals. You can buy them canned or dried and they make a great addition to soups, curries or casseroles. Just ensure you cook them as per the instructions.

7. Use up fruit and veg that’s passed its best.

I HATE throwing out food, so we don’t, hardly anything goes to waste here…Over-ripe bananas? Healthy banana bread. Bruised and browning apples? Stew them. Veg on its way out? Chuck it in a soup. If you’ve bought excess fruit and veg, freeze it (see point 5). Honestly, almost anything goes! Don’t just watch your fresh stuff go mouldy…use it! (I’m a big fan of soups, so watch out for my recipes as the autumnal weather strikes!)

8. Get a loyalty card.

Yes, I know this sounds obvious and one would think that most people do this now, but it’s so simple yet easily forgotten. Most stores offer vouchers linked with the amount you spend and send a monthly magazine containing details of offers.

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9. Eat in-season.

It’s cheaper to buy fruit and veg that is in season so store promotions will often reflect this. You’ll also notice that if Spain has a great summer for tomato production, the price of tomatoes comes down. It’s just something to watch out for. If you’re not sure what’s in season when, check out this great chart by eatseasonably.

10. Support local farmers.

I’m spoiled for choice here in Brussels with food markets on pretty much every corner. I don’t just love them because of the bargains though, it’s the whole atmosphere. Prices are often set per kg and generally are cheaper than supermarkets, plus, if you’re buying lots and visit them regularly, they’ll often throw in a free broccoli or squash – you’d never get that in a supermarket!

11. Grow your own!

If you have a garden and the space, one step up from going to the markets would be to invest in your own little veg patch. Not only can it save you money but it’s also a lovely way to spend time with your children and reap the rewards of your hard work.

12. Planning.

I said at the start of this list that it can take a little bit of planning, so if you really want to make every penny (or cent) go as far as it can, then you’re going to need to have a meal plan. It’s a good idea to think about recipes that use similar ingredients or how leftovers from one meal can be used in the next. For example, the fresh ingredients for a spaghetti bolognaise aren’t all that different from a chilli, and that left over curry would taste great on a jacket potato.
It’s also worth thinking about how you can get the most of out the meat you buy. When we buy a whole chicken we cut off the breasts and legs, freeze them and then use the carcass for a tasty soup. That’s at least 3 meals from one bird (usually more as I bulk out with pulses and veggies!)

So there’s my top tips, let me know if you put them into action next time you’re shopping! Are there any more you use?