Roasted pumpkin seeds

Sometimes we all need a little treat.

I don’t tend to buy crisps, crackers or olives  to nibble at with a glass of wine unless we have guests. I don’t know why… maybe I think we don’t deserve it or maybe it is that we are fat enough and having extras isn’t a necessity. Perhaps I think it is a needless extravagance?

But you know what? We do deserve to have something every now and again. After all, the person I like best in the world would be sharing them with me and I’m happy enough to put stuff out for people I don’t love half as much.

So, what follows is the ideal compromise. It’s healthy, it’s tasty and it doesn’t cost very much at all.

I’d bought a small pumpkin to make some Puy Lentil and Pumpkin Soup and I’d had to scoop out all of those plump seeds. What better than to use something that others might just throw out?

They are all embedded in the fibrous middle but they are easy enough to remove if you gouge at it all with a spoon.

If you put them in a colander and run water over them it’s quite easy to pull the orange fibres off, leaving just the seeds behind. They will feel very slippery so give them a good rub in fresh water.

Once they are clean, spread them, out on a board and leave them to dry off.

This time I wanted plain and simple butter and salt roasted pumpkin seeds (I often make them and flavour them with things like chilli powder or spices ) but there’s something rather delicious about the plainness of the roasted seeds… plain, certainly but tasting deliciously of butter and salt!

Get a flat baking tray and put a knob of butter and some salt on it (I always use a silicone sheet because it is so easy to clean and doesn’t tear if you scrape at it. If you haven’t got any, it doesn’t matter – use tin foil or be prepared to clean the baking tray)

Put the tray in a pre heated oven at 200 degrees C/390 degrees F and get the butter melted and hot.

Toss the pumpkin seeds in the melted and salted butter and put them back in the oven for ten minutes or so.

After ten minutes, give them a shake… they should be browning nicely.

Put them back in if they need a few minutes more – this will depend on how much moisture was left in the seeds.

Once they have cooled… put them in a bowl and share with your best friend.

A glass or two of wine makes this the perfect pre-dinner snack – healthy, tasty and all it took was a knob of butter, ten minutes and some otherwise thrown away seeds!

Superfood salad

Right then. Celebrations  are over and spring is on the way. 

I have a new job and a new bounce to my step. Everything is looking bright and cheerful and I am filled with optimism. Not only about having a real job but I am optimistic about starting a diet. Well, when I say starting… I seem to remember saying I was starting one some months ago but the horribly cold weather and gloom got in the way.

The brighter days and increasing warmth make me feel lively and less in need of solid, warming foods. Lovely though that Toffee Apple Crumble was, it seems my tastebuds are shouting out for brighter, fresher things too.

One of the things the Bear and I like to eat when we start to feel like this is Superfood Salad.  Lovely chopped salad with fresh, raw vegetables and quinoa with a lovely savoury, light dressing.

It makes a delicious meal by itself, or perhaps served  as a side salad alongside salmon or chicken. 

The basis for the salad is quinoa (and if the spelling confuses you, it is pronounced “keenwa” ) It was important to the Incans of South America (who called it the Mother of all Grains”) but nowadays, according to Wikipedia,

” In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%), making it a healthy choice for vegetarians and vegans. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source.[4] It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.[4]

I don’t suppose you can say fairer than that, can you? And if you add a good selection of fresh, crisp and crunchy vegetables, well, you have Superfood salad.

So, first of all, get your quinoa.  About a half a cup full would make enough, when cooked, to make a decent sized salad for maybe four people. Or, if you are us, it makes enough for supper with two portions left to take to work for lunch the next day.

Give it a rinse and then put it in a pan to boil. It will take maybe ten minutes.

You will know when it is ready, because it goes from looking like little grains into grains with little sprouts appearing

See what I mean?

I often put a sprinkle of stock powder into the water to give the quinoa a bit of a hint of taste… you could try that.

Next, start on the vegetables.

The Bear won’t eat anything “stringy” (he thinks celery will strangle him) so I peel the outside with the potato peeler to get the worst of the strings off.

Once the celery has been transformed from a Bear-strangling-vegetable into a crisp and juicy stick of fresh greenness, I chop it into cubes.

And do the same with baby courgettes

And after scooping out the wet, seedy middle of a cucumber, I chop that into bits, too.

Get carrots, baby corn, spring onions, red pepper and baby plum tomatoes and do exactly the same to them.

A ripe avocado makes a good addition as well.

Now it really is a case of just putting it together – I put a handful or so of sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a bowl, then having rinsed in cold water and drained the cooked quinoa

I add that to the bowl and stir it round

Then add the chopped vegetables, stirring them into the quinoa and seeds

A good handful of chopped nuts  gives the salad an extra crunchy dimension

I make a light dressing with some walnut oil, some balsamic vinegar and some lemon juice and pour that over the salad.

And that’s it!

Look at it, isn’t it pretty? Fresh and crispy and delicious?

By itself it is gorgeous but I want to add a little extra to make it the perfect spring meal….

I have a lovely crisp pear and some organic feta cheese that, if I cut up, will go perfectly.

All that needs is the juice of half a lemon pouring over it to stop the pear turning brown and you have a sharp, sweet and salty extra to add to the salad.

So…. all you have to do is get some quinoa, a selection of vegetables that you like and with the aid of a sharp knife you can make yourself a really tasty salad that will not only brighten up your day by the sheer colourful crunchiness of it but it will also do you the world of good.

Spring is here – let’s eat something light and bright and good for us!

Bear Bars

The Bear travels a lot and often has to get up early (really early, like 3 am) to get a flight somewhere. He needs his breakfast, but with the best will in the world, it takes a bit of stamina to have porridge before dawn… or to transport porridge to eat later while he waits in an airport.

We tried buying those cereal bars, thinking they would do the trick – packed full of nuts and seeds and fruit…. and, as I realised when I looked at the labels, packed full of unwanted sugars and fats.  Surely it couldn’t be that difficult to make them? OK, so they wouldn’t be wrapped as nicely but that’s why we buy cling film!

I worked at trying to make something tasty and healthy and I did sort out a recipe, writing down the quantities and being oh-so-specific… and then I changed it. It’s going to be much easier to show you by taking photographs of each step.

If you want to do what I am doing…  get the ingredients below. If you don’t like a particular ingredient in the second section get another. The important thing is that the consistency must be right before you put it in the oven, though I have to say this is a pretty good mixture….

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2 large eggs,  wholemeal self raising flour, porridge oats, golden granulated sugar, and then, what amounts to a smash and grab on the dried fruits and nuts shelves……




sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped mixed nuts, pistachio nuts,  sultanas (I’ll use two kinds – green and golden –  but that is because I have them and I like them), dried cranberries, goji berries, dessicated coconut, raw coconut, if I have any I will put in dried blueberries and cherries… and then, what might seem to be an odd choice, a jar of Bramley apple sauce. You can buy it in supermarkets.

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I know… I always make everything as much as possible from scratch. The thing is, these Bear Bars are incredibly quick to knock together and I always have the dried ingredients and I always have eggs.. the thing that might not be around is apple. I can square this with my conscience by knowing if I have a jar of it in the larder, the Bear is never more than an hour away from a healthy snack.

I will do this in a glass bowl so it is easier to see what I am doing. I tried to measure it out once but what a palaver it is…. I have always made this by eye and I think that is the way to do it, so watch, copy and make!

Get a your ingredients together. Get a large bowl and a spoon.

You’ll need what I would call flapjack tins… either line them with greaseproof paper or put a silicone sheet in.

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A couple of handfuls of porridge oats… and a shake over of wholemeal self raising flour( I suppose the amount would be a scoop… maybe half a cup?)  …add a pinch of salt to round out the flavour (even when making sweet things, a touch of salt just brings the flavours together. Look at the back of breakfast cereal packets – they have huge amounts of salt in them! At least here you are sticking to a minimal amount)

***If you want to make these gluten free, do as I have done for my coeliac friends and replace the flour with ground almonds and some gluten free white bread flour with some baking powder… it still tastes marvellous. In fact people don’t notice any major difference…. because this isn’t a specific quantity/ingredient recipe any minor differences would be attributed to that***

Right now you start adding the goodies! A handful or so of  sultanas… two handfuls if you are using different kinds.

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A good handful of unsalted pistachio nuts, what a beautiful colour they are and they taste so lovely…. and then a bigger handful of chopped mixed nuts (they are cheaper so that’s why I use more of them)

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Sunflower and pumpkin seeds next….

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Goji berries (because the health food store, Julian Graves were selling them and I thought I’d try them. They are incredible antioxidants, apparently… but they are also nice to eat and so pretty in the bar! (Part of the enjoyment of these bars is that when you slice them you see the incredibly beautiful mix of colours of the seeds and berries and fruits) 

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Dessicated coconut next – this keeps  moisture in the bars and adds a lovely sweetness. I’d give it a good two scoops or so…. or shake it so it makes a good layer, like this….

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Raw flaked coconut is gorgeous so if you can get some add that too






Bear Bars and Rabbit ragu and tagliatelle 021If you have other fruits, add them now – dried and sweetened cranberries are gorgeous…. as are blueberries and dried cherries….






 Now, if you look at the bowl you will see all the lovely layers of fruits and nuts………  that’s why I haven’t said quantities……  I just shake things in to make thin layers…..

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Add a scoop or so of sugar.. you don’t need much because you have added all that fruit. Sometimes I don’t bother. Now stir everything together. The flour and the porridge oats will coat the fruit and help it all mix together before you add the wet ingredients. You want all the fruits and nuts and seeds to be evenly spread throughout.

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Now, roughly whisk 2 large eggs together and pour into the mix….

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Add the jar of apple sauce and then start to stir

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You will end up with a rather solid mix but it will be wet and spreadable. If you want, give the mix a taste… is it sweet enough for you? You can add more sugar, especially if you have children who like things sweeter. I might add some agave nectar if I think it needs extra sweeteners as it is healthier alternative to sugar.

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Put the oven on to heat at 160 degrees C

Now, start to get that thick, yet spreadable mix, into the lined flapjack tins…..

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Spread it smooth so it cooks evenly

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And into the oven for maybe half an hour or so. This does depend on the amount of sugar you have in there as that will brown more quickly, so keep your eyes on it.

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When it is a good golden colour all over and feels springy to the touch, get it out and leave it to cool.






Then cut it into slices … you can freeze them (but make sure you wrap them separately so they are easy to separate)  and then you will have a ready supply of healthy bars to give to the ones you love.

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That’s better for you than one of those bought cereal bars, isn’t it?

And just perfect for when your sister in law visits and you can give her some with her coffee!

Roasted pumpkin seeds

As it is getting towards Halloween you see pumpkins everywhere, in every farm shop and greengrocer.

I thought that I would make pumpkin soup this week and then the Bear had the brilliant idea of also making our own roasted pumpkin seeds to have as a snack. They are full of fibre, high in protein and anti oxidants so they are, actually, a health food… despite tasting absolutely delicious.

First of all, get your pumpkin!                               Beans and belly pork 036

Cut it open ……

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 and start scooping out those seeds! They are your bonus – you’re making soup with the flesh and what you would have discarded you are now going to make into tasty little bites. Put the oven on to preheat at about 150 degrees

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 You need to scrape the fibres off

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And then give them a good rinse under the tap because they are very slippery and the gloopy bits rinse away easily enough

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Put them on a clean tea towel and rub them dry… well, you won’t be able to do that but you can get a lot of moisture off them

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You need to think about how you want to flavour the seeds – I fancied spicy ones and looked to see what was in the cupboards that I could use. I regularly make chilli oil by popping chillies into a bottle and topping it up with grapeseed or sunflower oil. It’s not particularly hot but it just adds a hint of heat. Worcestershire sauce would be nice too and I also found some Jerk Seasoning which I thought would just fit the bill as a flavouring dust to help crisp things up

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The oven should now be hot, so get a baking tray and put one of those silicon sheets on…. or cover it with tin foil, sprinkle that with the oil, pour on the pumpkin seeds, add a teaspoon or so of Worcestshire Sauce,  salt and then shake that Jerk Seasoning over the whole lot.

Roasted pumpkin seeds 020 Into the oven with it and that’s where it will stay for the next 15 – 30 minutes.

You need to keep checking though and stirring them round because they can burn easily but you’ll see them turn a lovely toasty colour. Put them onto some kitchen towel to absorb any extra oil

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Let them cool  and then serve those crunchy morsels up. If you served them with a glass of wine, I reckon you’d be hitting every health button there was!

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There you have it – tasty snacks from the stuff you would otherwise throw away. I think we deserve medals for being so creative and cost concious. Cheers!