Saturday, 24 January 2015

Dairy Free Garlic Naan Bread's - Breadmaker Recipe

I know the photo doesn't look very pretty, put I'm rather chuffed with my very first homemade naan bread and the fact that they're dairy free iced the cake. In our house Friday night is always curry night and one of the things we like to have with our curry is naan bread. When I checked the usual ones we buy, I noticed that they all contained dairy in one form or other, be it ghee, yogurt or milk.

So it was obvious that we needed to find a dairy free alternative or we had to give up a part of our curry night. I checked the local supermarkets and some of them stocked 'Free From' Garlic and Coriander naan breads, but there ingredients read like a chemistry lesson, take this one from Tesco: -
"Water, Tapioca Starch, Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Rapeseed Oil, Yeast, Psyllium Husk Powder, Dextrose, Stabiliser (Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose), Dried Egg White, Raising Agents (Disodium Diphosphate, Potassium Carbonate), Humectant (Vegetable Glycerine), Garlic Powder (1%), Coriander Leaf, Salt, Preservative (Calcium Propionate), Emulsifiers (Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids, Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids, Calcium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate, Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate), Sugar"
Some of the ingredients worried me, something that's been happening a lot since I started looking at what we are actually eating on food packaging! So I decided that the only way to do this, was to make my own. The obvious choice was garlic naan, I'm not a fan of coriander, but if you are you can add some fresh or dried coriander to the recipe.


2 Tsp Allison Easy Bake Yeast
150ml Warm Water
90ml Almond Milk
2 Tsp Sugar
2 Tsp Garlic Granules
1/2 Tsp Onion Powder
2 Tsp Black Onion Seed (aka Kalonji & Nigella Seed)
1 Tsp Salt
460g Strong White Bread Flour
3 Tbsp Sunflower Oil + Extra for Frying the naan

Method - I'd like to say I did this the old fashioned way, mixing and kneading dough like a trooper, but I didn't I cheated although I did end up kneading the dough! I used my breadmaker, putting all the wet ingredients in first, followed by the dry ingredients, selected the pizza dough option which takes 50 minutes to mix and prove and went off to watch TV.

The 50 mins elapsed and my naan bread dough looked nothing like pizza dough, it had only risen up the bread pan by about 1/5 usually its almost to the top, within seconds I slapped my head. I went through the procedure and list of ingredients I added in my head, and realised I'd forgotten to add the yeast, doh! Or no DOUGH as a friend pointed out!

Unperturbed I tipped the naan dough out on to a floured work surface, sprinkled the yeast on and kneaded the yeast in to the dough. I then placed it in a lightly oiled plastic bag and went off to sort out some other things and left the yeast do its thing, 30 minutes later and the dough looked more like it should hurrah! After the dough had risen, I separated it into pieces about the size of a tennis ball, if you want smaller naan's think golf balls, I then rolled them into a rough naan shape.

To cook the naan's, preheat a frying pan so its nice and hot and add a little sunflower oil to it and then place your naan into the pan and 'fry' it for 2-3 minutes then, brush the 'uncooked' side with a little sunflower oil and flip it over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Once cooked, brush one side with a little melted dairy free margarine and place in the oven on a low light to keep your naan breads warm.

My mind is already racing with variations for this recipe, and next time I'll try making a version of peshwari (one of my favourite naan flavours) by adding some dessicated coconut, sultanas and ground almonds. I'd most likely reduce the flour content to 400g and add 20g each of coconut, sultanas and ground almonds and see how it goes. Chilli and Mint would also be nice, a finely chopped red chilli and a tablespoon or two of fresh chopped mint mixed in to the dough... I'll also remember to put the yeast in at the correct time lol!

The beauty of this recipe is you can split the dough into small portions and freeze it for another time. Or you can turn all the dough in to cooked naan breads and once they cool, you can store them in zip lock freezer bag, taking them out of the freezer to defrost a couple of hours before you want to serve them and warming them through for 10 minutes on a low oven heat just before serving. Hubby and I were really impressed with the way the naan's came out they were fluffy inside with the classic naan texture and a little crisp, but not too much, on the outside, they made were a perfect accompaniment to our chicken balti :)

N.B. If you're not a fan of garlic, you can make plain naan's, just add 2 1/2 extra teaspoons of flour and omit the onion powder and garlic granules.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Ditching Dairy - Remember Check EVERYTHING!

I'm really annoyed with myself, rule one of ditching dairy school is to check EVERYTHING before it passes your lips, don't make assumptions and check everything! The past few days we've cleared the fridge, cupboards (bar the baking cupboard that's tonight's job) and have switched to dairy free spread, a mix of almond, soya, oat and coconut milk and made sure we checked the back of packets with a magnifying glass, literally!

A couple of hours ago hubby sent me an email with the photo above, he drinks black coffee at work and uses sweetener, we go for Stevia based sweeteners, I don't have sweetened coffee, haven't for over 30 years now, sweet coffee makes me heave, but I do add sweetener to tea and herb teas. The sweeteners are kept on top of the coffee jar and to be honest it didn't occur to me that they may contain something that we can't have :( Lesson learnt!

In a pack of Aldi Stevia Sweeteners the first ingredient in the list is LACTOSE :oO I was mortified, hubby said he started to cough not long after drinking his lactose laced sweetened brew, he'd had no dairy for 24 hours up until that point. That may be a coincidence, but one of the reasons for trying dairy free for him is he's had a cough and throat irritation since he was a child and the doctors say there is nothing wrong with him. We've discovered it could be caused by dairy... The avoidance of all dairy and the reduction/loss of the cough will prove it once and for all I guess.

Appalled by the fact that  our sweetener contained lactose I embarked on a journey to find a lactose free sweetener in tablet form. I came up empty, unless you count Splenda and with its sucralose content, which I'm reluctant to consume for a variety of reasons, if not for the fact that the FDA in America has ruled that the chemical compound sucralose although not in itself toxic, it is an unnatural product that is a highly-processed chemical artificial sweetener, that can be said for most artificial sweeteners, but Splenda uses chlorine to make the sucralose that gives it its intense sweetness. It's also just been downgraded in the USA from "safe" to "caution" after an Italian animal study linked sucralose to a higher risk of developing leukemia. So Splenda isn't the sweetener choice for me.

I did a little research this morning and found a list of what are considered to be safe 'sugars' : - Dextrose, glucose, glucose syrup, lactose which is a no, no for me, maltose, maltodextrin and maltodextrose. Interestingly they cite honey, golden syrup, sucrose, maple syrup and other sweeteners I'd class as 'natural sugars' as being unsafe! An area for further research methinks! I looked around and found astonishingly that every tablet sweetener contained lactose or a milk derived sugar and an assortment of other ingredients from anti-caking agents to things that began to sound like I needed to go back to school to take chemistry!

I was on the verge of giving up when my gut told me to look at alternative forms of sweetner and I began to investigate granule sweeteners and low and behold I discovered that Tesco make a lactose free granular sweetener which contains just 2 ingredients Maltodextrin one of the 'good' sugars' and 2% Steviol Glycoside, so its got the good stuff in, although some people will argue it isn't that good being a sugar substitute. But for us, for now we've found a solution to lactose containing sweeteners and that makes me happy. For those interested its sold in Tesco in a jar as Tesco Stevia Sweetener, sadly they they don't do a tablet version. A valuable lesson was learnt, nothing should escape the dairy free check and I'll be more careful and observant in the future and will remember to check EVERYTHING!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Ditching Dairy - It Can Be In ANYTHING!

I posted yesterday about our endeavour to drop dairy and wheat from our diet but we've had a change of plan. After chatting to my hubby last night we've decided that first we want to eliminate dairy from our diets to see what results we get, as both he and I have issues that could be caused by dairy or wheat (gluten), the only way to find out is to remove one potential cause. If it doesn't change then remove the other potential cause. Our logic is if we remove both at the same time, we won't know if its one, the other, or both causing the problem.

Long term we want to ditch dairy for the health reasons, let the little calves keep their mums milk, so no matter whether the outcome is dairy isn't the culprit for us, its going for ethical reasons amongst others. Sadly however we've discovered that no matter what we do, currently at least, we can't give up dairy completely. Hubby and I both have thyroid problems, and in the ingredients lactose - a milk sugar - is the first on the list :( Never in a million years would I have thought it would be in a medication I have to take everyday of my life! It was only by embarking on a "check everything" plan of attack that I discovered it. I'm not sure if the same applies to USA levothyroxine but it certainly does in the UK, more information can be found here at Thyroid UK. There are apparently lactose free thyroid hormones available but we'd need to have some proof of lactose intolerance to give the GP to try and get him to prescribe them. :(

The ditching dairy plan turned in to a rather depressing event last night, we decided to go through the cupboards and look for dairy products and foods that don't contain dairy, but we found hidden dairy in so many things we wouldn't have believed! Actually last night was an eye opener by way of a chemistry lesson. As we went through the cupboards we were amazed at how many foods contained some chemical we didn't know and when we looked them up, we were appalled!

For example I was fond of Knorr Chicken Noodle Soup, I've eaten it since I was a child, but when I looked at the packet... 

"Pasta (65%) (Durum Wheat Semolina, Wheat Semolina), Potato Starch, Salt, Lower Sodium Natural Mineral Salt*, Flavourings (contains Celery), Yeast Extract, Chicken (3.3%), Toasted Onion Powder (1.7%), Vegetable Fat, Sugar, Chicken Fat (1%), Spices (Celery Seed, Turmeric, Pepper), Parsley, Antioxidants (Alpha-Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate), *Contains naturally occurring Potassium"

Apart from a couple of chemicals all seemed okay until you get to the allergens section on the packet and it says: -
  • Contains traces of milk and egg
  • Contains: Eggs, Milk
Grrrrr! Although it didn't divulge where the milk and egg was! So as we're trying to eliminate dairy, Knorr chicken noodle soup had to go, which left me with a problem at lunchtime today, its cold and I wanted chicken noodle soup for lunch! If packet soup was out, then I'd have to find my own version and I did that rather well I think. My homemade Chicken Noodle Soup had chicken stock, granted made from Organic Kallo Chicken Stock cubes, which is cheating I know but it was an exercise is speed cooking, I didn't have time to make stock from scratch.

So to break it down, my soup had tiny Pasta shapes, Chicken Stock, Dried Mixed Vegetables, Finely sliced Chicken Breast, then good shakes of mild chilli powder, ground ginger, garlic granules, ground coriander, ground cumin and a little malvern sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper. I put it all in the pan with some water, brought it to the boil and left it to simmer whilst I did 2 minutes on the cross trainer, and the result was a very tasty soup, which may even be better than Knorr! Enough for tomorrow's lunch as well! I served it with Organic Chia Seed & Oat Crispbreads spread with dairy free sunflower spread and a sliced apple.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Going Wheat & Dairy Free

Over the past 12 months, I seem to have had one health issue after another, nothing serious just minor problems like sinus infections, menopause related issues, sleep problems, and achy joints to list put a few. Chatting (okay I was having a moan) to a herbalist friend who has a sound knowledge of nutrition, made me realise that many of my problems could be coming from the food I eat.

Her solution to my problems involves ditching dairy and gluten containing foods for 2-4 weeks to see if it makes a difference. My first reaction was "OMG No way!", giving up bread, ice cream, cheese, pizza, chocolate and all the other things I love, my body would not be impressed. But then I got to thinking maybe its not impressed eating all this stuff and the constant health issues are its way of protesting at the daily diet?

Dairy free I think I can manage easily, I've discovered that chocolate coconut milk is really rather nice in coffee, almond milk is an acceptable substitute in tea and for cooking, I don't eat that much cheese, so I can do without that short term, if it turns out I am intolerant to dairy, then I'll have to try to find a substitute for cheese. I rather like vanilla soya yogurt for my cereal and smoothies, although from what I'm discovering soya can become a problem as well. But as it isn't forming a large part of my dairy free regime I think it will be okay :) I've discovered that 70% cocoa chocolate contains no dairy so although I'm not a fan of dark chocolate, I can learn to live with it, if it means that chocolate won't be off the menu.

Avoiding gluten is going to be tough for me, a lot of the things I make and bake have some form of gluten in, it was an eye opener in the supermarket last night reading labels and seeing that wheat and barley and a variety of other gluten containing products were in things like sweet and sour sauce, baked beans and even quorn mince contains barley extract! I bought River Cottage Light & Easy by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall last week, and he offers some dietary changes that seem easy. By light he's referring to light on gluten and dairy, not light in calories, so it isn't a diet book, its a means of retraining your culinary skills to work with products you've not used before like rice and chestnut flour and dairy free milks. My herbalist friend believes that "if you eat 'real food' you can have as much as you want", a theory I'm out to test.

As of today, I'm embarking on a gluten free, dairy free regime with the exception of oats, my main aim is to avoid wheat, barley and rye based gluten. If after 4 weeks I still have a problem then I'll cut out oats, but first I need to find a substitute for porridge and something to put in cereal bars. I did once try quinoa porridge but it was not something I enjoyed, what I don't want to do is remove all the nice things like pizza and replace them with a form of pizza that is acceptable but not enjoyable.

I've stocked up on pasta made with corn, rice noodles, buckwheat flour and noodles, rice flour and some gluten free bread flour and also dairy free milks, tonight we're going through the cupboards to do a label check on staples and anything not suitable is being put to one side until after the 4 weeks. If there is no health change then I can go back to them, but I have a feeling that won't be happening.
So the next 4 weeks will see me attempt to create bread without wheat flour, feed us without the use of dairy and work with a set of ingredients which are alien to me.

The plan is to also consume more veg, an area I regularly fail at, less sugar, less stodge and also get more exercise, we recently invested in a cross trainer and I'm slowly making progress. I'm so out of condition and unhealthy that going from a 1.5 minute session to a 2 minute session was something to punch the air and feel happy about. It's a little and often thing and the goal is to build up to 3 x 15 minute sessions per day, so far I've gone from 3 x 1.5 minute sessions (4.5 minutes) to 3 x 2 minute sessions (6 minutes).

We'll see how it goes, here I'll post recipes, observations and changes, the object is to become healthier, lose weight and make my body able to live to a ripe old age, my hubby has a constant chestiness which he hasn't been able to shake, lets see how it goes...

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Cards For Herbaholic's

One of my greatest passions in life is the love of herbs and their uses, I was bitten by the herbal bug in my 20's and over 30 years on I am still fascinated by them and love using them in a myriad of ways, so much so that I'm lovingly referred to, by myself and my friends as a herbaholic, guilty as charged!

I have a fair few friends who share my herbal passion and I'd love to be able to send them herb themed cards and gifts. So imagine my delight when I came across a CD full of floral images with a whole section on herbs! By chance I found a double CD set of designs by Jane Shasky called 'From The Heart of The Garden' and the herbal designs are enchanting, as well as toppers and sentiments there are ideas for complete stationary sets, bookmarks and decoupage projects. I've already printed out two of the notelet cards from two of the stationary sets, as you can see in the photo above. My plan is to make some pretty herb decorated boxes and make sets of notelet cards that will be herbally scented for presents for some of my herby friends for Xmas 2016.

Back in November I found a set of three herb die cuts by Spellbinder going cheap on Amazon, and I'm looking forward to playing with them over the next few weeks. The die-cuts aren't very big, the 'pots' stand just 3.5cm high, so with the herbs in they're be approximately 9cm in height, but I think they'll look pretty on some of the backing papers from the 'Herb Garden' set from my CD. I also plan this year to press herbs like lavender from the garden and use them to decorate cards and bookmarks.

Above are three examples of cards made using the 'From the Heart of the Garden' CD, also embellishments that I'd cut out using my die cutters. The background paper on the borage happy birthday card is a scan of one of the borage pages from Gerard's Herbal, not an actual page, I'm not that daft lol! I think it worked really well and I'm already planning a series of cards using pages from old herbals as backgrounds. I'm also going to use some old botanical prints and some herbal photos that I've taken myself. I'm looking forward to the next batch of cards which I've already begun to cut bits out for and work on the designs, combining herbs with card making is like getting a double dose of stress reducing goodness. Now where did I put the sticky foam pads....

Monday, 12 January 2015

New Year, New Card Ideas

I'm one of those lucky people who get their birthday's not long after Christmas, when I was younger I hated the joint christmas and birthday present fob off, but as I've aged I've become more birthday savvy. Mostly because my birthday occurs during the month when they have sales, I didn't appreciate this fact when I was younger! The items in the photo above I got with birthday money, along with some marvellous post Xmas bargains, like A4 Xmas embossing folders for £5 when a few weeks before they'd been £19.99! I also picked up Xmas sentiments, ribbons and backing papers for a song, so next years Xmas stash is already shaping up nicely :)

I saw the new 'Little Meow' card making papers, decoupage etc and fell in love, I'm a cat fan as are a fair few of my friends, in fact I'm reliably informed that I'm on my way to becoming a crazy cat lady lol! So with my birthday money I treated myself to some of the items for Papermania's 'Little Meow' range and also the XCuts 'Mixed Cats' Die Cut set and both have been put to good use and photos will follow soon. One thing I have noticed about my stash, is I have lots of Xmas themed embossing folders and die-cuts, but not many that are suitable for making birthday cards and cards for other occasions. That I'm working on and will continue to do throughout the year. I've picked up some toppers from Foil Play in their Xmas sale which saved me a pretty penny, and I got some lovely cat toppers as well as some to add to the Xmas stash.

I met the challenge I set myself of making cards for all my friends and family and they went down very well, the last two I made were for my Dad and sister, these ones were larger 8 x 8 cards, the green one has a Bebunni topper I printed out from a CD, the red card is a sticker from a Me To You Glittet Sticker sheet, everything else bar the holly leaves was in my craft stash just waiting to be used. Suffice to say I think the card-making the bug is here to stay and I've decided I won't ever be making mass produced shop cards again! Instead all the cards I send will be made by me, tailored to suit the person I'm sending to and the occasion. I've already made a birthday card for a friend and a surprise card for another friend, I'll post photos once they've received them as they may see them before the special days and that will spoil the surprise.

I'm getting a little bolder with my creations, even though my cards are still pretty basic, but I want to explore some new techniques. I got bought a couple of sets of 'Spectrum Noir' alcohol markers for Christmas, so rubber stamping and colouring will be experimented with, my rubber stamping attempts so far have not been very good, all smudges and blurs. I read that the type of ink you use for the designs matters, so further investigation is required. I'd like to make more use of my printer to create toppers, sentiments and backing papers, and play with textures a lot more. Plus I want to make cards for my herb loving friends, there aren't that many ready made toppers or rubber stamps featuring herbs in the UK, so being able to create my own is a must. I already have some ideas and will be putting them in to practice very soon. Watch this space!