CHOCOLATE WITH ALL THE GOODNESS BUT NOT THE CALORIES…

I am a chocoholic and proud to be one. From an early age when away at school all my chocolate in my tuck box would be eaten first then I would do a never-ending amount of jobs for senior girls in order to get some more. I really should have opened a chocolate shop before now. I’ve even been on a chocolate diet ! and ‘no’it did not work but it was rather enjoyable.

However, we all know it’s not good for our waist line nor our teeth but over the years it does get some good press as being good for your heart in the right format and the amount you eat. Chocolate is made from cocoa, which contains polyphenols, which may work as antioxidants that lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and reduce blood pressure. Some experts suggest that eating some chocolate every day can decrease your risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Cocoa contains epicatechins and catechins, which are similar to the polyphenols found in green tea; and quercetin, which is found in fruits and vegetables. Dark chocolate has more antioxidants than milk chocolate because certain processing methods remove the polyphenols, which have a bitter flavor.

Dr. Arebi on Net Doctor wrote “Fermentation in the bean and subsequent extraction generates cocoa butter and releases a variety of vitamins and minerals such as potassium and anti-oxidants,” she explains.

“Cocoa beans also contain dopamine, phenylethylamine and serotonin, chemicals with powerful antidepressant properties that also promote wellbeing. In addition, theobromine is another component of the cocoa bean and has caffeine like properties.”

And she says that many more healthy chemicals are released when chocolate is fermented in our intestines by our gut bacteria, citing research that showed the antioxidants released are similar to those found in green tea.

So, where can we buy chocolate that is that bit healthier but tastes as good as ordinary chocolate? Well there are many companies out there with healthier chocolate treats for us in fact far to many for me to write about in one post so instead I am going to write a regular post on it with all the information I have found about each company.

To start off this regular slot my first post is all about a company called The Skinny Food Company, The Skinny Food Co. was founded in May 2018. James Whiting and Wayne Starky (Directors) have previous experience in the food and beverage/health and wellness market and have discovered the need for great, tasty, and healthy products. It is promoted by diabetic family members who avoid so many favorite foods. This brand was born with the release of zero-calorie syrups, healthy, almost zero table sauces, and shortly thereafter.

Some of the products which I cannot wait to try are-

The Chocolate Flavoured Zero Calories Syrup at £3.99

The Prodigy Chunky Chocolate Low Sugar Vegan Chocolate Bars at £1.99

The Skinny High Protein Milk Chocolate Crispies at £1.25

The Double Chocolate 3 calories a cup drink at £2.49

The 92% less sugar Chocolate Spread at £3.99

I don’t need to go any further as I am sure your mouth will be watering by now but I promise I will follow up after I have tried some of these and another post on chocolate for fewer calories.

TIPS ON SERVING AN ELEGANT AFTERNOON TEA…

A traditional afternoon tea has been something enjoyed by countless people over the last two centuries. It was created by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who used to enjoy an afternoon snack in her bedroom, to see her through from lunch until dinner. Eventually, she decided to invite some friends to dine with her, and so the afternoon tea was invented. 

The idea soon spread, and within no time all of England was enjoying afternoon tea (not to be confused with high tea, which is something entirely different). 

Although this mealtime did fall out of favour, particularly because of the ravages of the First and Second World Wars, there has lately been something of a resurgence, and many people are discovering just how enjoyable afternoon tea really is. 

Even if you can’t go out and enjoy an afternoon tea somewhere special, you can make an excellent version at home if you plan in advance and think things through carefully. Read on for some tips on how to do it and treat yourself when you really need to.

What Type Of Afternoon Tea?…

There are several different types of afternoon tea, so before you can buy the ingredients you’re going to need, you should decide which one to enjoy. The different types include: 

  • Cream tea: if you are eating scones with clotted cream and jam (and no other food or cakes), your afternoon tea becomes a cream tea instead. 
  • Light tea: a light tea consists of a cream tea with added pastries, cakes, biscuits, and even individual fruit tarts. 
  • Afternoon tea: the full afternoon tea is the same as a light tea, only there are also savoury sandwiches to add to the mix. Although these can contain anything, salmon and cucumber, beef and horseradish, and egg mayonnaise are particularly popular. These sandwiches will be cut into fingers and there will be no crusts. 
  • Champagne tea: as above, but with a glass of champagne or sparkling wine to make the occasion a real celebration. 

Although in the past, a pot of freshly brewed tea might have made the entire treat a complete one, today that isn’t necessarily the case. Enjoying a fresh coffee made from Horsham Coffee Roaster is perfectly acceptable if that’s your preference. 

Serving Your Tea…

Although no one is going to complain if you serve your afternoon tea on a selection of small plates laid out on a coffee table (for example), there is a traditional method, and it’s what really makes this meal stand out and become recognisable, so it’s worth investigating and going the full way if you can. 

In the traditional method of serving afternoon tea, you will have a teapot (or coffee pot) brewing your favourite hot beverage (in other words you wouldn’t use a tea bag or instant coffee, at least not if you’re going by the book). But it’s how the food is served that is really important; you’ll need a tiered set of serving plates, ideally in a floral pattern (rose chintz is particularly attractive). These plates will be stacked one on top of the other, and at the bottom you’ll have sandwiches, above that will be scones, and then above that it will be all the other pastries and cakes (you may need two layers for this option). 

Work from the bottom up when eating and you’ll get the best flavours in the right order.

3 GREAT EASY RECIPE COOKERY BOOKS…

Even though life has been strange over the last twelve months many of us have changed the way we eat and cook. I started doing a bit of batch cooking to help my daughter with her young baby and I also started being a bit more adventurous with my baking. And, finally something I am going to be writing about lots on this blog is how I buy more food from local sources to enjoy from the fields to the plate.

My first book of choice is called The Batch Lady : Shop Once, Cook Once, Eat All Week by Suzanne Mulholland.

This book was a present from my daughter and I cannot wait to try some of her batch recipes. It has over 80 simple, freeze levels store cupboard recipes. The Batch Lady has been transforming how thousands of people cook and eat through her revolutionary online channel. Now she shares her secrets with you.

With over 80 delicious, home-cooked recipes that are quick to make, create and store, Suzanne’s brilliant recipe combinations and time-saving tips will transform your kitchen, and will buy you back extra hours in your week. This is the only guide you will ever need to save you money, time, and headspace, and change your life for good.

Fast Cakes :Easy Bakes in Minutes by Mary Berry

Of course, I had to add a Mary Berry baking book and this one is absolutely brilliant. Over two afternoons before Christmas I baked a fruit cake for my husband, a chocolate cake for my daughter and family and 3 dozen mince pies for the whole family. This book is laid out so well you can bake in minutes just like it says. It’s all about being organised which is something The Batch Lady talks about in her book above.

Mary has incorporated her ‘all-in-one’ method of preparation into as many recipes as possible, so her recipes are faster to make than ever. Nearly 100 of the bakes take only 10 minutes to make and Mary has included small bake variations for fruit cakes, which traditionally take a long time in the oven, so you can make one even when you are pushed for time. It has over 150 easy recipes to make with confidence.

Simple Good For You by Amelia Freer

This book contains over 100 quick and easy recipes bursting with greatness. She gives advice to stabilising your blood sugars which includes not avoiding meals and checking labels on some supposedly healthy snacks which are actually packed with sugar. If you check the line ‘carbohydrates’ of which sugars per 100g. They say less than 5g per 100g is considered low sugar protocol.

The author is a No. 1 Sunday Times bestselling author and renowned nutritional therapist, who A-listers turn to when they want to look and feel great. In this beautiful cookbook, discover 100 quick and easy recipes for varied and tempting dishes that are, quite simply, good for you.

STUNNING FLOWERING TEA GIFTS FOR CHRISTMAS…

Flowering tea also known as blooming tea, consists of flowering bulbs with leaves tied around the flowers, which are made by binding tea leaves and flowers together into a bulb.

Each exotic bulb once it’s steeped blossoms spectacularly in hot water and produces a wonderful drink full of antioxidants, as well as looking and smelling great.

This tea is the ultimate of self-indulgence as the flower emerges as the centerpiece that not only can be enjoyed for its taste but admired as an art form. It is a treat for anyone with a bit of magic thrown in.

It is very fragrant, pleasant on the palate, and stunning to look at, flowering teas recall their natural spring blooming, and, just as in nature, there is a wide selection of flowers and colours to enjoy.

As you pour hot filtered water, the magic does not happen immediately. The little bulb carefully unwraps itself – not revealing too much at first. It builds the suspension until, in one sudden and exciting move, it lets go of the flower inside which travels upwards in your teapot like a soaring bird.

The Exotic Teapot sells hand tied blooming tea flowers. Fresh flowers like jasmine, Chrysanthemum and tender mao feng green tea buds are skillfully woven together into a ball shaped bloom by experienced Chinese tea masters. And as only the finest quality Spring Harvest green teas are selected to create their flowering teas, they truly taste as good as they look. Each blooming tea ball can be re-steeped with hot water at least three times and makes up to to 2 litres of tea. 

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They have some great gift ideas which can be sent direct to the recipient with a message so would make a great Christmas gift. Their Flowering Tea Triple Selection Box is three of their finest blooms and packaged for you in an attractive windowed gift box. The selection box includes a tin each of our excellent Jasmine Bow (5 blooms), Mango Splashj (5 blooms) and Peachy Rose (5 blooms) flowering teas, at £20

Another lovely gift is the Glass Infuser Mug (350ml) which will let you enjoy a flowering or loose leaf tea anywhere you please. Great for the office or traveling, this high quality mug has a removable glass infuser and lid that also serves as a coaster drip tray. Maximum mug capacity is 350ml. Normal usage capacity is 300ml. They only use the finest quality, borosilicate glass to create our glassware so each one is fully heat resistant and even dishwasher safe. A perfect gift for £14