Sunflower is a plant that brings back some earliest memories; it has become a symbol of childhood for me. We always had sunflowers in our garden as long as I can remember and I would watch them grow from the ground to this tall plant much taller than me at the time, watch the yellow flower becoming huge and growing seeds in the centre. It was amazing and always made me a bit impatient to wait until autumn when sunflower has grown enough to be ready to eat. When the right time came we would cut one sunflower head and divide it between us, pull our seed by seed using our fingers and crack the shell with our teeth and eat the seed from the centre. It was some kind of ritual in our neighborhood and a very social event. We would take our sunflower with us and simply go for a long walk until we finished eating and then head back home.
We often had fun on our walks talking and laughing that nobody really wanted to go back, so we would prolong sunflower eating just so we did not have to go home yet. It was a sort of time measuring device for us.
Although we grew so many sunflowers we never cooked with them, we would just eat them either fresh or dry up the seeds for winter. It was our healthy snack, the one we definitely enjoyed mostly.
Historically sunflower seed is not completely unknown, quite the contrary some archeologist claim that it may have been cultivated before corn 3000 BC by Native American Indians. The tribes have found many uses of sunflower. They would ground it for cakes and breads; some would mix it with other vegetables like squash, beans or corn. The seed was cracked and eaten as a snack and also squeezed to make oil that would be later used for bread making.
They also found some medicinal uses of sunflower plant; some parts were used to make snake bite medicine and other ointments. The plant was used to colour the textiles, for body painting and other decorations. Also the oil was used on hair and skin. They knew so many uses of sunflower plant.
Sunflower seeds have become more popular not only as a snack but also in baking. People with allergies and on low carbohydrates diet really appreciate it creating some amazing recipes. Luckily we have the internet now and websites where people can share their ideas and we can enjoy cooking with that delicious seed.
Nowadays we mostly use the seed and there are three main types of sunflower seed: linoleic - which is the most common one, sunflower oil seeds and high oleic. We mostly use sunflower oil seed for making oils and linoleic type for snacks, making cakes and breads.
On my travels I discovered that the seed is consumed differently depending on the country. It has become very popular to roast the whole seed in the shell with salt in Balkan countries for instance and you can buy it cheap anywhere on the street. People buy a small paper cone cups or a large bag to go and they crack the shell and eat the salty seed. It has been a bit of a challenge when I tried it first time as roasted shell becomes very hard and you need to find the way to crack it between your teeth and get the seed out to eat it, but it’s worth the effort.
Another idea involves sprouting sunflower seeds and using them for salads. I found it very surprising how good it tastes, it has sweet, nutty flavor, very distinct, nothing like other greens I tried before. When I got it first time on my plate it drew my attention and I was wondering what it was so I picked it up and discovered little sunflower seed at the end of it. I was glad to make that discovery and it made my day so I decided to use it in my salads since then.
I became curious about sunflower so I have read some articles and researched a bit how to cook with it and I have made some healthy replacements in my diet and cooking. I replaced traditional flours with sunflower flour, I just grind sunflower seeds when I need them to make something and I really enjoy it. I am sure that people who are on gluten free diet can appreciate it very much as having less options isn’t always easy. I created sunflower base for my cheesecakes and shared it with you on the website….
I also enjoy making sunflower seeds snack by roasting them in the oven and putting some favourite spices. It is a new version of popcorn for me.
Apart from being gluten free it is a very nutritious seed to include in the diet. Just few examples of what it contains:
- Especially high in vitamin E and selenium, which are valuable antioxidants protecting the body.
- Vitamin B1, B3 and B6
- Folate etc.
Sprouting sunflower seed increases the plant compounds and helps absorption so it is worth preparing your own seeds and sprouting them for health benefits but also for enjoyment as they are delicious.
I am very happy that I discovered so many more uses of sunflower seeds and that I can share that with you as it is an amazing plant to get to know and start using if you are not already doing it.
Published on: 2019-10-17
THE TALE OF CHILLI CON CARNE
I first tried chilli con carne when I was in the Lake District on a short break. We went out in a little family-run cafe and ordered jacket potato with chilli con carne topping. The fist mouth full and I was amazed by the flavour of chilli and cumin seeds. I remember thinking that it was an Indian meal.
Naturally, when I try something new I want to know more. So I dag a little bit deeper and discovered that it was a meal that originates from northern Mexico and South Texas.
The history is unknown so is the authentic recipe. The legend says, that the first recipe was written down as early as the 17th century by a Spanish nun Sister Mary who was mysteriously known to Indians as “La Dama de Azul” commonly called “the lady in blue”. Even though she physically never left Spain, her body would go into trances for many days and travel to an unknown land to preach Christianity to Indians. King Phillip IV of Spain was convinced that she was “the lady in blue” of Indian legends. Apparently, Sister Mary wrote down the recipe during one of her trances. Her version contained venison or antelope meat, some onions, tomatoes and chilli peppers. There are no written records of it anywhere but it is good to keep an open mind after all even facts about the recipe origins are not so clear.
Another story says that the dish was invented by prisoners in Texas. They made some kind of stew from the cheapest ingredients they had available to them under difficult circumstances, so just with a little bit of beef and chillies boiled in water for a very long time until it’s edible. It became so popular in Texas prisons that the inmates used to rate jails on quality of their chillies they served to them.
When translated from Spanish Chilli con carne means meat with chilli. In early days, before use of fridges and freezers, it was sold in bricks after pressing out all the moisture. Later on, the dish evolved, new spices were added such as cumin and new versions of dishes were developed such as Cincinnati Chili, Springfield Style Chili or Chase’s Chill but the best known is, of course, the Texas chilli. The state of Texas in 1972 proclaimed chilli con carne for state food and San Antonio in 80s has established a tribute to chilli as a state dish and started celebrating “Return of the Chilli Queens Festival” every year in May.
The history that surrounds this dish is mysterious and intriguing; the same can be said for the dish itself. My first attempt to make chilli went better than I thought it will. I made a big dish that lasted us a few days and I was amazed by how nourishing it was.
We prepared for you our favourite <a href="http://www.apple-green.com/recipes-view.php?id=114" style="color:#029934;" target="_blank">chilli con carne recipe.</a>
Let us know what is your favourite chilli con carne variation?
Published on: 2019-08-08
COMPLICATED COOKWARE PART 1
For the next few weeks, I will be posting more info on the most common and popular pots and pans materials and try to give the pros and cons to make it easier for you to make your choice. This week we will focus on iron cast and stainless steel. Maybe you will find something you didn’t know about?
IRON CAST vs STAINLESS STEEL
Nowadays we have such a versatile choice of cookware that if we don’t inform ourselves properly we might end up transforming our beautiful and tasty meals into poisonous one just with simply wrong choices. We can also damage our brand new cookware when we have no knowledge of how to look after it properly.
How do we make our decision when it comes to buying a cooking pot or a frying pan? We consider one or more of the following:
- <span style="font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;">budget</span> – it is important to know how much we spend or what is our price range.
- <span style="font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;">cookware size</span> – how many people we are cooking for will depend on making that choice.
- <span style="font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;">safety</span> – some materials can be toxic when others are much safer or completely safe to use.
- <span style="font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;">ease of use</span> – some materials are easier to clean and non-stick while cooking when others require more time to clean and season.
- <span style="font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;">durability</span> – again it depends on the equipment, some might be cheaper but get damaged quicker and others can be very durable, even hard to destroy!
It is probably most old fashioned of all materials but practically indestructible when taken care of properly. Cast iron comes as a bare one or enamelled. The second one has one great advantage that it does not need seasoning like the first one.
• Its versatile use, you can put it in the oven, use it on the campfire or on the stove at home.
• It delivers great flavours and keeps the temperature for quite a long time.
• It is very durable it can last through a lifetime if you look after it properly.
• It offers some health benefits as it allows some amount of dietary iron to leach into food.
• It’s non-toxic, which is the most important fact.
• It can be quite a time consuming to take care of it and remember that you cannot use washing up liquid on it or any abrasive materials to clean it.
• You need to apply a coat of oil after every cleaning to replenish the seasoning.
• You need to season it every so often in order to keep its non-stick qualities.
• It can rust.
• It is quite heavy compared to some pots and pans.
• It is important to know that cast iron is not good for preparing any dishes containing tomatoes because of its acidity that interacts with pH of the pan and destroys the flavour.
Stainless steel is a material made of different elements. Steel itself is not resistant enough to make good cookware from it, it can rust and corrode easily, that is why chromium is added to it to make it stronger. The higher amount of chromium the better corrosion resistance of stainless steel. Also, nickel is added to make it more resistant to rust and corrosion particularly when it comes to acidic materials. It also gives that nice shine to the metal.
Stainless steel gets its name from the fact that it does not stain or rust like steel. It actually contains only about 10% of steel and the rest are chromium, nickel, nitrogen or titanium etc. But there are so many versions of stainless steel made with different percentage of the elements mentioned above and the quality of them depends on it.
• It’s durable, it’s probably the most durable cookware it does not scratch easily, and you can wash it with washing up liquid without any damage and use a sponge to clean it.
• It’s easy to maintain, easy to wash and dry and if it loses its shine you can easily restore it with vinegar.
• It’s non-reactive to food, especially to acidic food.
• It’s versatile; you can fry in it, steam, poach, and boil anything you want really.
• It’s a good value for money. Stainless steel is very affordable when you take into consideration its durability, it can last for many, many years.
• It’s a safe cookware option.
• It does not distribute heat that well as some cookware materials like aluminium or copper.
• It sticks so it takes some experience to learn how to cook in it and adjust the heat accordingly.
• It’s harder to clean than some other cookware.
• Some types of stainless steel are not suitable for induction hobs if they contain nickel so if you have induction hob you need to choose magnetic stainless steel cookware.
So just to summarize both cast iron and stainless steel are great choices. There are some small differences which can be quite important to some people. For instance, cast iron can be a little bit more time consuming to season it regularly unless you have purchased the enamelled version than that problem is eliminated straight away. Another difference is reactivity and it that instance again cast iron is reactive to acidic food so you cannot use it for frying tomatoes as the meal will change the taste. But on the other hand cast iron is perfect for frying omelettes where stainless steel struggles to perform without sticking.
Published on: 2019-07-25
INTRIGUING WORLD OF HONEY
Delicious, sweet honey has been made by little, busy bees for thousands of years. Its importance dates back as early as 7000 BC, there are some cave paintings discovered in Spain that show the earliest records of beekeeping.
In ancient Egypt, honey was used as a sweetener and as a gift to Gods. In ancient Greece, honey was not only an important food but also a medicine. Romans also valued honey in cooking as well as a gift to the Gods, therefore beekeeping during Roman Empire thrived.
Later on, when Christianity was well-established there was a high demand for honey and beeswax in order to make church candles. It all continued in Europe until the Renaissance when sugar slowly took over and by the 17th century was regularly used as a sweetener and that meant reduced honey usage dramatically.
The bees, on the other hand, continued to play an important symbolic role as they were considered to have special powers by pharaohs in ancient Egypt, often found on hieroglyphs symbolizing royalty. Very frequently used as an emblem in Greek mythology, on coins in a Greek city in the third century BC or by Napoleon who carried a flag representing bees but also had his robe embroidered with bees.
Nowadays we enjoy honey made from different plants and are overwhelmed with the choices and because of that sometimes we do not know what to choose. It is good to know some basic information about honey in order to benefit from its special properties. People who like to eat honey are very often driven by the flavour as a first thing to consider when choosing it. But is the flavour the only thing we should look at?
I have made my own research on honey a while ago and came to some own conclusions on how to choose honey, where to buy it, what to pay attention to and what is less important.
RAW HONEY VS REGULAR HONEY
I’m sure that everybody came across so many types of honey and tried lots of them but never even considered that some honey might be less nutrient than others. It turns out that raw honey and regular honey have many differences.
Raw honey is first of all not as widely available as the other, its less commercialized so the best place to look for it is probably online or the bee farm. Raw honey is pure and unprocessed; it comes straight from the beehive. It only goes through a gentle filtration process that involves straining it through the cloth to remove dead bees and beeswax. After filtration, it goes straight into a jar to be sold as raw. That process preserves all natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients and other nutritional elements present in honey.
Raw honey facts:
- It’s rich in antioxidants.
- It’s rich in B vitam.ins and contains A, C, D and E vitamins.
- It contains prebiotics that protects your gut and helps good bacteria thrive.
- It contains bee pollen that normally would be destroyed in processed honey. Bee pollen contains many nutrients necessary for the human body. It’s a source of proteins, vitamins, minerals, beneficial fatty acids etc. It also contains lots of antioxidants.
- It contains propolis made of organic compounds that are extremely rich in phenolic compounds, many vitamins and minerals.
- It protects the digestive system and does not ferment in the stomach, unlike other sugars.
- Raw honey is alkaline therefore it helps the body to maintain a neutral alkaline balance.
- It is known to help melatonin production to improve sleep.
- It has antibacterial properties that help in wound healing.
- It tastes better than regular honey.
But as everything else raw honey should be consumed in moderation.
Regular honey is made from raw honey; the difference is that it has been pasteurized and that means heated at high temperature to kill yeast and prevent fermentation. It also prevents it from granulating and that is supposed to make it look better for customers who are choosing an appealing product. Commercial honey is smoother and has a more regular colour. It is widely available everywhere in shops and costs a bit less than raw honey.
Regular honey facts:
- It is processed; high temperature is applied to it to pasteurize it.
- It might contain hidden sugars and sweeteners.
- It has a similar amount of antioxidants as raw honey.
- It has fewer enzymes than raw honey.
- Some vitamins are destroyed during pasteurization.
- It is suitable for people who have pollen allergy as it doesn’t contain any pollen.
- It is a good sugar substitute.
HONEY COLOUR AND FLAVOUR
There are so many different flavours and colours of honey, some experts mention over 300 types. They all depend on nectar source where honey bees were collecting it. Honey colour ranges from very light to dark brown and the general rule for flavour is that light-coloured honey has a milder taste and darker has a stronger taste, but of course there are some exceptions.
Examples of light-coloured honey:
- Orange blossom
Considering that there are so many flavours means that everybody should be able to choose their favourite one from the range available. If you are going to buy honey and get all the benefits from it you should probably choose raw honey. It has not been processed, you get it in its most natural form and that means you get all the nutrients from it. This is the only way to know that you bought healthy honey that you can enjoy. While it can cost a bit more and it might be more difficult to get it, it’s totally worth the effort. So enjoy and stay healthy!
Published on: 2019-07-18
FOOD HABITS IN TIME
It is very interesting to look back and realize how our needs have changed when it comes to food consumption and preparation. It seems that very gradually we have shifted our way of thinking and taste preferences throughout history. But the big question is: “What has changed?” The answer depends on how far we want to journey back in time and of course on the part of the world.
I will just mention very briefly that in Europe during Middle Ages breakfast was not something that people would practise and it was not because they were poor and could not afford it but even monarchs just simply did not eat breakfast. They would typically have only two meals a day. The first meal would be around 11 am and the second one about five hours later. Eating breakfast was considered medicinal therefore only ill people and children would typically have it.
The rise of a working class around the 16th century has slowly changed the habits and breakfast was introduced for those working long hours. Nowadays we continue to eat breakfast in the morning and it has become a part of our daily routine.<br><br>
The real change did not come until the19th and 20th centuries. That period of time has revolutionized the food industry and changed our habits so cooking has slowly been replaced with convenient options. I will list some of the diverse ideas that were introduced back then and implemented into our lives as innocent discoveries.
- Fish and chips – appeared as early as the 19th century and the first fish and chips shop was open in 1860 in Oldham!
- Vending machine restaurant – the first one opened in 1896 in Berlin and then in 1902 in New York which started the fast food industry in the US.
- First hamburger chain – first restaurant serving hamburgers was open in 1916 selling large numbers of cheap hamburgers was soon franchised in 1921.
- McDonald’s – opened in 1948 by McDonald brothers, now holds around 31000 restaurants in 21 countries around the world.
- Crisps – invented accidentally in a restaurant in 1853 and manufactured in 1895. It is a bit of a funny story about how they were invented. George Crum was a restaurant owner and served French fries to a customer, who complained they were too thick. He made them again, but a lot thinner but the customer was still not happy. To annoy the fussy diner Crum made them very thin and crunchy, but the effect was quite opposite – the customer loved them.
- Carbonated soft drink – invented in 1767
- Cola flavoured drink – 1881 and then 1885 “Dr.Pepper” and just a year later “Coca-cola”.
Nowadays having a pack of crisps, biscuits, chocolate bar, a variety of burgers and fizzy drinks is the cheapest and easiest option for many leading busy lives. Junk food is everywhere and many people might not even be aware of what they are consuming at all. I think that all of us tried most of the foods listed, not to mention pizza, kebabs, sandwiches etc. They might even seem like good food, because what else can you grab on the go when you are hungry?
The way people shop today is very different too and it is nothing to do with what they want to buy, but with what is being sold to them. Looking around the supermarket there are not many fresh, unprocessed products that we can buy. Instead, we have canned food, frozen microwave meals, endless shelves of sweet and savoury snacks, fizzy drinks, puffy bread and pastries empty in calories and full of additives to preserve it for longer.
What happens when we eat that way?
• we are constantly hungry eating food that has no nourishment but is high in calories
• we end up eating more often than three times a day
• we choose processed food that is very unhealthy due to a busy lifestyle or inability to cook<br>
• we waste time and money and do not benefit from it
• we have weight problems or are already obese
• we have health problems like diabetes, anaemia, a variety of food allergies etc.
So what is the solution when we are surrounded by junk food and we think we have no time or skill to prepare meals at home?
Firstly we think that everybody can cook. Cooking that we survived through generations is not high-end restaurant cooking that we think of when we say “I will never be able to cook that good”. Well, you do not have to be that good. You have to be enthusiastic, open to new challenges and make the first step. Nowadays we have all these cooking utensils, we have internet, YouTube channels… We have endless resources that people didn’t have 50 years ago but they still managed. If they could cook we can too.
Secondly, start small. If you never cooked before and you do not have much time, start from one meal a week. Surprise yourselves with a delicious <a href="http://www.apple-green.com/recipes-view.php?id=110" style="color:#029934;" target="_blank">omelette</a> for breakfast. You deserve it.
After all, it is all about changing habits!
Published on: 2019-07-01
Avocado is a very interesting fruit, often confused for a vegetable. Its versatility makes it great in sweet and savoury dishes.
Hass avocado is probably the most popular variety, but different types are also available and they come in different shapes, sizes, textures and colours. They are cultivated in many different countries, some species are particularly sensitive to frost and wind, therefore, countries like Spain, Morocco, Peru, Chile, Indonesia, Australia, Mexico etc. make the perfect climate for cultivation.
The fruit has become increasingly popular and because of its health benefits consumed by almost everybody. It is broadly used in vegetarian and vegan cuisine as a very nourishing meat replacement. Some of the benefits include:
• This “superfood” is rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, phosphorus and zinc.<br>
• It has high levels of vitamins: A, K, C, E, B6, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin (vitamins B1, B2, B3)
• It is a healthy source of monosaturated fatty acids
• It is rich in dietary fibre and just one serving provides about 40% of the daily requirement
• Some researches claim that consuming avocado on a regular basis can improve heart health, digestion, liver health, vision and aid in weight management.
• It also has great benefits for dry skin and damaged hair. It can be used fresh as a mask to nourish damaged hair or skin and also there are many avocado-based products available on the market.
When buying avocados always pay attention to select the fresh ones, without any black spots and not too ripe. If you buy ripe avocados that are ready to eat it is best to store them in the fridge, unripe avocados can be kept outside of the fridge in room temperature.
The fruit is easy to prepare and usually eaten raw therefore it can be easily incorporated in the daily diet and does not take much time to prepare it. Some examples include:
• <span style="font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;">Guacamole:</span> that Mexican dip has become very popular in recent years and even has its own celebration: National Guacamole Day, 16th of September.
• <span style="font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;">Fruit:</span> ripe avocados can be consumed directly, sliced or spread on a piece of bread with salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil, can be added on sandwiches as a great, healthy replacement of mayonnaise
• <span style="font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;">Smoothie:</span> avocados go perfectly with fruits such as bananas, pineapple and berries and with green, leafy vegetables such as kale making it a great snack or even meal substitute.
• <span style="font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;">Salads:</span> the fruit goes great with tomatoes, cucumber, onion, feta cheese, chicken etc. so any salad can be created to suit everybody.
• <span style="font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;">Avocado oil:</span> perfect with salads, can be used for baking by vegans as a fat replacement and also make avocado oil mayonnaise.
• <a href="http://www.apple-green.com/recipes-view.php?id=98" style="color:#029934; font-style:oblique; font-weight:600;" target="_blank">Chocolate spread:</a> a very healthy, sugar-free and easy to make. It is perfect on bread, toast, pancakes or waffles.
It is really important to know how you can use the fruit so you can appreciate it for its numerous benefits. On our website, you will find some delicious and easy to prepare recipes with a step by step guidance.
I remember when I came across avocado for the first time I did not know what to do with it. At the time it was not as popular as now and I hardly had access to the internet. I thought it was a vegetable and being so very curious how it tastes I made sure to fry it for a very long time. When I finally tasted it the bitterness put me off it for a very long time and I even thought that it was inedible. It is a funny story now when I love eating avocado so much and can prepare so many different dishes from it. That brings me just to one conclusion that maybe there are still people who either never tried it or some who made some culinary mistakes like me and ended up with bitter disappointment. Follow our simple recipes and enjoy!
Published on: 2019-07-01