Tuesday, 22 November 2011

RIP Microwave Meal; all aboard the 'Lunch Pot' bandwagon...

Packed lunches. Erh. What a chore!

Even for someone who loves eating as much as yours truly, the thought of assembling sandwiches, chopping fruit, and rifling through Tupperware after a gruelling day at the office, fills me with unquantifiable dread.

In light of this irrational loathing, I’m always looking for an out. But despite the abundance of aisles devoted to microwave meals, pre-packed sarnies, or ironically coined ‘pasta salads,’ most foods of convenience within our supermarkets, are also foods of additives, fats and incredulous calorie counts.

As a result of this realisation, an insalubrious obsession with the ‘micro-lunch’ has worked its way onto my radar, and scouring supermarket shelves for healthy, expedient yet stimulating luncheons, a standing item on my weekly agenda.

In light of this irrational hobby, I have been privy to observing a number of emerging trends in the ready-meal market; (sweet Jesus, what’s happened to me!?) and interestingly (or not) I have noted a sudden insurgence of microwave meals masquerading behind a much less stigmatic title.

Ladies and Gentleman, may I introduce to you - the ‘Lunch Pot;’ a vegetable-centric one-pot meal, purporting to provide healthy, fresh and nutritious food of convenience, in a handy little tub.

No typical meat and two veg variations here, no school dinner-esk trays dividing potato gloop from gelatinous stew in sight. Just well-presented and eye-catchingly colourful chillies, curries, and casseroles - free from soggy cardboard sleeves and ‘piercable’ film lids.

But where an earth did the Lunch Pot come from, and who’s driving this long awaited bandwagon?

Oh who cares… let’s see how the main contenders fair…. It’s scoffing time!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

No-Nonsense Nutrition and Gimmick Free Grazing at Healthy Supplies...

A few weeks ago I blogged about Graze; an online pay-as-you-go snackery, purporting to provide healthy eating by post. 

Much to the dismay of some readers (I didn’t actually think I had any!) my review was if anything, a little derogatory.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘gimmick factor,’ akin to the Graze experience; the cutesy packaging, and the rating based selection process, I was shocked to learn that my ‘nutritious’ yet petit nibble box was in fact laden with more calories than your average Burger King Combo.

Yes, yes... I know it’s not the same... the saturated fats in a Whopper meal are certainly incomparable to a punnet of fennel seeds, but still, hardly what you’d expect from a supplier of self proclaimed health foods is it?

In light of this shocking discovery, I began pondering as to whether Graze had missed a trick, and to whether there were more calorie friendly ways of obtaining similar products, through the convenience of mail order.

After a quick ‘Google’ session, (one of my favourite past-times) I hit on a website for the rather aptly named ‘Healthy Supplies,’ an online health food store ran with a passion for non-nonsense, tasty yet affordable and healthy snacks.
Being a cheeky as well as greedy bovine, I dropped them an email asking if they were willing to take part in a little comparative study.
To my surprise, within hours of my forthright proposition, the lovely Brendan Fernandes, one half of the founding couple, enthusiastically sent his reply.
Like me, Brendan appreciated the ‘gimmick factor’ behind Graze, but was sceptical about their credibility as providers of genuinely healthy food.
As a result, (and of course uninfluenced by my shamefully angling email) he offered to send me a few of his favourite nibbles which he felt not only rivalled Graze on the taste test, but also outshone them in terms of nutrition, quantity and price.

Needless to say, I all but bit his hand off, and relished the opportunity to pit Graze and its trendy yet compelling marketing, against a more down to earth, and grassroots competitor.

So, in the words of John Anderson, ‘Contenders... Ready!?’

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Vegetable Cupcakes; a mis-cabbage of justice?

Last week I learned of a Ms Harry Eastwood; a healthy living advocate and cake fanatic, committed to a new-fangled merriment between baking and vegetables. Needless to say I was intrigued, if not somewhat sceptical.

With no mention of utterly butterly, xylitol or the dreaded one cal cooking sprays, ‘Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache’ (Eastwood’s latest cookery book) proposes imaginative cooking methods and substitutions, in order to produce great-tasting and healthier cakes with completely natural ingredients.

How is this possible you may ask? Well simple; by ‘borrowing’ structures from vegetables of course.
Nope. Not a typo… that’s really how she does it. By categorising vegetables in terms of textures, flavour and water content, Eastwood has cleverly (and rather scientifically) made her replacements by removing offending staples, and matching recipes to veggies, deemed to offer similar qualities.

So, to the all important question… does it work?
Can courgettes and aubergines really form part of a baker’s repertoire, or has Eastwood lost the (vegetable) plot?

As the old adage goes, the proof is in the pudding, and since this weekend my schedule is pathetically vacant, I thought I’d road test some of Harry’s veggie delights.

With cake decorating kit at the ready, (yes even skinny girls bake) and with butters and self raising flours firmly out of view, The Scoffing Cow turned her manicured hoofs to Cupcakes.

Scoffettes, for your viewing pleasure, I proudly present to you (my attempt at recreating) four alternative cupcakes recipes, courtesy of ‘Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache.’

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Restaurant Review: Ping Pong Dim Sum.
"Chinese Jim... But Not As We Know It"

Last weekend, an uncharacteristically romantic Mr Cow, treated me to a surprise break in our nation’s capital. Not one to waste an opportunity to Scoff, I insisted that whilst there, we donned our critical caps and resumed the hunt for the ultimate in ‘dining out, without filling out.’

Although Nottingham holds the crown as the UK’s most restaurant dense city, it hardly sits on a par with London in terms of health fads and cosmopolitanisms.
Having heard so much in recent weeks about the Chinese low-fat delicacy, Dim Sum, I decided that this was the ideal opportunity to give it the 'Scoffing Cow' treatment.

Despite originating in China, the term ‘Dim Sum’ is actually Cantonese, and used to refer to any Chinese dish which is served in small and individual portions.
Like Tapas and Meze, the Dim Sum label is used rather loosely. Nonetheless, from a healthy eating perspective, it is the frequency of steaming and griddling in its preparation, which has served to propel it as a favourite amongst dieters.

As an avid advocate of the Spanish and Greek counterparts, I was giddy to see what all the fuss was about, and after a quick Google, set my targets on the London Dim Sum chain, 'Ping Pong'.

Not only did this place specialise in the very food I was hankering after; it also advertised a dedicated ‘Healthy Fix’ Menu.  Bingo. (Or is that Ping Pong?)

Once again baffling my loyal companion with a promise of Chinese food and plentiful ball sports (!), we trotted off to Soho in order to see what all the fuss was about.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Graze.com: Does Nature Deliver?
The Scoffing Cow Investigates

Traffic. Urgh. Don’t these people know what they’re standing in the way of?

It’s Monday morning and as per usual, I’m surrounded by exhaust fumes, becoming increasingly more agitated during the laborious journey to work, after two glorious days of freedom.

This morning however, I’m even more frustrated; the much anticipated free nibble box (courtesy of Graze) is due to land on my desk this very day, and if Royal Mail have upheld their end of the bargain, is already sat patiently awaiting my arrival.

As I push open the office door, and chunter the obligatory ‘mornings’ to my more punctual colleagues, I spy the little brown box nestled amongst my in-tray.
Quietly ‘eeeping’ to myself, I quickly discard my handbag, throw aside my coat, and rip open the parcel.

Well, Nature Delivered sure looks delightful. Four fist sized little punnets of yummy looking treats, sit quaintly inside a colourfully decorated box. A personalised insert provides corresponding key nutritionals, as well as use-by dates, and the main ingredients.

The first thing that strikes me, aside from the aesthetically pleasing presentation, is the apparent lack of variety within my box. Despite the website boasting deli topped focaccia breads, marinated olives, and tasty flapjacks, I don’t seem to have any of these.

Hiding my disappointment, and consoling myself in the knowledge that flapjacks and focaccia are for the main, pretty naughty nibbles, I tear open the first punnet, switch on my computer (having realised that I am actually supposed to be work) and delve straight in.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Mail Order Health Food, Whatever Next!

It would certainly be a rather sweeping generalisation, to assume that all ‘foodies’ are frivolous; nonetheless the world of gastronomy does not come cheap, and those who wish to embroil themselves in its delights, are often prepared to pay the price.

But alas, not this Cow; you see in my opinion, half the satisfaction of discovering new and innovative gourmet experiences balances on the bargain.
And for the Scoffing Cow, there is no better bargain, than one that is completely and utterly, categorically free.

So when I stumbled across a ‘no strings’ trial at the newly established online snackery, Graze.com, I couldn’t resist; and before I knew it, had provided my details, created an unimaginative user ID, and was eagerly perusing their selection of delights.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Restaurant Review: Pizza Express
The Leggera Pizza… Holeyer Than Thou???

Few words strike fear into the hearts of calorie counters and weight watchers as comparably as the word ‘Pizza.’

With gargantuan amounts of melted mozzarella, fat laden meats, and bursting stuffed crusts, this iconic Italian staple is certainly no friend to those looking to shed a few pounds.

Of course over the years, the much loved pizza pie has been subjected to many a healthy living makeover. The more adventurous amongst us, will perhaps advocate tortilla based incarnations, topping deficit veggie delights, or even cheese free alternatives (which I personally feel should be criminalised.)

But whilst these innovations are all well and good in the comforts of the homestead, out and about in the real world, you’re as likely to find a pizzeria serving pitta bases, as you are flying pigs.

In light of this reality, the Scoffing Cow was shocked to learn in recent weeks, that a renowned restaurant chain specialising in Pizza had taken significant steps to appeal to the diet conscious proprietor. Indeed, the Pizza Express franchise, had not only become one of the country’s first few restaurants to publicize their nutritional values, but had also admirably launched a Weight Watchers endorsed range of pizzas; the Leggera. Better yet, there was no mention of eradicating the cheese!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Recipe of the Moment:
Apple & Cinnamon Sugar Snap Porridge

For those of you who follow the musings of the Scoffing Cow on a regular basis, you may have realised by now, that I undeniably hold a particular penchant for porridge (and alliteration too it would seem.)

Yes indeed, I am a porridge whore. And sadly, would be content beginning each and every day with a steaming great big bowl of oats for all of eternity.

But alas, that doesn’t mean that I’m averse to variation, and in fact, often treat porridge creation as if I were preparing an a la carte meal.
You see, a sprinkling of sugar or a dollop of jam will get you so far, but really, with such a versatile substance, porridge can be so much more.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to get all ‘Heston’ on you; snails and camel ears have no place in my breakfast routine, but you’d be surprised how sexy porridge can actually be, with just a few little tweaks here and there.

So why not get a little creative…

Grated nutmeg and a swirl of honey; maple syrup with ground ginger; apple sauce with powdered cinnamon; the possibilities are unashamedly endless. And provided we maintain a little self control when adding any of the above accoutrement, you're porridge will remain a healthy and nutritious breakfast, with significantly more pizazz.

Still not convinced? Well let me see if I can change your mind with the Scoffing Cow's very own recipe, for Sugar Snap Porridge.
This recipe works with about any flavour or spice creation you can fathom, and adds an indulgent and sophisticated addition to even the most simple concotions. (Okay perhaps not sophisticated, it is still porridge for gods sake.)

Try it, and let me know what you think....
Unless you don't like it of course... in which case, ignorance is bliss.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Perfect Porridge Pilgrimage;
The Scoffing Cow takes to the streets.

In my last blog, I rather virtuously pledged to scour the globe (well… Nottingham at least) for eateries offering a healthy, nutritional and hearty start to the day, in the form of the latest brekky on the block, porridge

Although my follow up is slightly tardy… (turns out that porridge hunting is not a valid excuse for arriving at work an hour late) I can finally bring to you…reader… the fruits of my labour.

Rated, slated, and berated; Pret A Manger, Starbucks, McDonalds and Le Pain Quotidien square up in the battle of the breakfasts.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Breakfast on the Hoof

Bacon, eggs, sausage and fried bread; four of the most renowned and revered components of the traditional English breakfast. With derivatives boasting black pudding, baked beans, potatoes and tomato, it’s pretty clear that that the concept of eating breakfast like a king, was devised by an Englishman.

The notoriety of the ‘Full English’ is undisputedly epic.

One need only take a stroll down the local high street, past any early doors pub, cafĂ©, or suitably coined ‘Greasy Spoon,’ to fully fathom the extent of its popularity.
And despite an ever increasing awareness regarding the intake of saturated fats and cholesterol heavy foods, business in the cooked breakfast trade is positively booming.

But what about us weight watchers? What about those who wish to shy away from the institution of the ‘fry-up,’ and preserve the sanctity of their coronary arteries for at least one more day?