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Smoothie Sachets

healthy smoothies for kids

With schools closed again, and home schooling back on the agenda, I wanted to recommend one of my favourite products for kids at Little Hadham Stores - Alex's Smoothie Sachets. I mean, they are not only for kids, but I buy in bulk and put them in jars on my children's "snack shelf", so they can help themselves.

If you have a smoothie maker, they are an easy way to get extra goodness into you and your children. Each packet will make either one really big smoothie (a pint glass) or two regular sized smoothies. All you need to add is a banana (we sometimes also add a handful of frozen fruit) and 
milk, or your favourite dairy free alternative.

I love them as a quick breakfast, that the kids are happy to sort out by themselves, as elevenses or an afternoon snack. Una and Louis enjoy the process of making them.  And although we do do dairy, I've discovered I prefer them with the Minor Figures Oat Milk that I stock at LHStores, something about the slight sweetness of the oat milk I think. 

Alex's passion for healthy eating and organic food extends over two decades. From her Masters degree, where she studied organic farm families, to growing her own food, to spending most of her formative years on a farm. She has brought organic and locally grown food to people’s plates for a long time.

Alex has created smoothie recipes that are tasty, packed with whole foods (nuts, seeds) and have no gimmicks or fillers. She offers probiotics as an option with all of the smoothie sachets, for an extra boost to your gut health (another passion of ours).  


While we are not qualified to make any health claims about the smoothies, all the 
ingredients are good for you, certified organic, full of protein and a host of other macro and micro nutrients. Nutritional information is readily available online, so feel free to google them for a more well rounded picture of what you are drinking. The five flavours are:-

The Coffee One: cocoa, cashews NUTS, golden linseed, coffee

The Spiced One: cinnamon, turmeric, golden linseed, pumpkin seeds

The Peanut Butter One: peanut butter powder (NUTS), Golden linseed, cinnamon, sunflower seeds, oats

The Green One: Greens plus superfood powder, oats, chia seeds, sunflower seeds (This one is a powerhouse so you might want to add a teaspoon of honey)

The Energy One: “the perfect energiser” a naturally caffeinated Yerba Mate superfood powder (34 nutrient dense berries, herbs and greens), oats, chia seeds, sunflower seeds

healthy smoothies for lockdown lunches

The idea for Alex's smoothie sachets came to her through her friend Laura who had injured her leg and was gifted smoothie mixes from another friend, Lucy, to support her healing. Laura knows Alex's passion for great food, supporting people’s healthy eating journeys, and from there the spark was ignited. 

Alex says; "Another blessing from this journey has been my kids‘ love of my smoothies. I believe in kids eating good whole foods, but I am not opposed to hiding good ingredients from them until they are big enough to accept these, sometimes, less palatable tastes (ie greens plus powder, one of the nutritional powerhouses in my smoothies)." 


The smoothie sachets are available to order from LHSTORES and we can also mail these out to you - Royal Mail, 1st class - if you are too far away to pick up.  Alex says: "I hope you find these sachets an easy and tasty way to boost your health and your snacking pleasure."

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Welcome 2021...


Like most of us I welcomed in the new year with particular enthusiasm.  I mean, what is there to say about the s*#t storm that was 2020.  So instead here are three, slightly disperate, things that make me hopeful for 2021:




I am not going to add to the many trillions of words already used to write about the chaos of last year, I don't think I have anything unique to say.  But I wanted to share a link to this article from the NY Times on Dr Ugur Sahin and Dr Özlem Türeci, the couple who founded BioNTech.  This is not a comment on the vaccine but on the scientists, about whom there is much that gives me hope.


christmas cake

I made my first Christmas Cake for at least 15 years this Christmas.  I bulk bought the organic ingredients from my wholesaler and split it with a group of friends and customers that were baking their own cakes too.  I will be more organised and hopefully there will be an even bigger group of us to share the cost and minimise the packaging this year.  I love this post from my old homeopath Caroline Gaskin where she explains why Christmas cake for brekkie is a GOOD THING!


Credit...


It may not seem likely that a book on fungi would be the best book I've read all year (I'm counting 2020 as the year not 2021!) but Entangled Life - How Fungi Make Our World, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures.* is just brilliant.  On almost every page there is something that I did not know and have to read out aloud to my family.  It's eloquently written, stunningly informative and it is truly making me think differently about everything from gardening, to evolution, to what it is to be an individual, and I am only on the Chapter 4. 

* This is an affiliate link to the Bookshop.org, an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops, details of which are below.



Bookshop.org believe that bookshops are essential to a healthy culture. They’re where authors can connect with readers, where we discover new writers, where children get hooked on the thrill of reading that can last a lifetime. They’re also anchors for our high streets and communities.

As more and more people buy their books online, they wanted to create an easy, convenient way for you to get your books and support bookshops at the same time.

If you want to find a specific local bookshop to support, find them on their map and they’ll receive the full profit from your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookshops.

They also support anyone who advocates for books through an affiliate programme, which pays a 10% commission on every sale, and gives a matching 10% to independent bookshops. If you are an author, a website or magazine, have a bookclub, an organisation that wants to recommend books, or even just a book-lover with an Instagram feed, you can sign up to be an affiliate, start your own shop, and be rewarded for your advocacy of books. Bookshop.org wants to give back to everyone who promotes books, authors, and independent bookshops!

By design, they give away over 75% of our profit margin to stores, publications, authors and others who make up the thriving, inspirational culture around books!

They hope that Bookshop.org can help strengthen the fragile ecosystem and margins around bookselling and keep local bookshops an integral part of our culture and communities.

Bookshop is a B-Corp - a corporation dedicated to the public good.

Spanish Summer with Brindisa

With the Covid pandemic meaning that many of us are staying home instead of going to Europe for our hols, I thought it would be nice to bring some Spanish summer sunshine by way of the food that we eat.  I wanted to highlight Spanish flavours and products at LHStores so I am bringing some lovely products in from the Spanish wholesaler, Brindisa. Founded in 1988 by Monika Linton, Brindisa provide hundreds of different Spanish products to many of the country’s finest restaurants, delis and food halls. And were one of the first retail outlets in Borough Market, Southwark, now regarded as being among the finest food markets in Britain.


To help get the most out of these lovely products I thought I'd share 2 quick and easy recipes, let me know if you like them and if you would like more.

Summer Salad with Butter Beans

Ingredients:
300g butterbeans
400g tomatoes
small cucumber or courgette - w
hichever cucurbits is going crazy in your garden at the moment!
onion - red is a good choice
fresh coriander - or if you have marjoram in your garden use that.
lemon juice
olive oil
salt
  • Soak the butterbeans overnight. (You could use a mixture of butter beans and haricot beans.)  Bring to the boil and simmer in salted water for about 30mins or until soft. Strain, let them stand in cold water so they stop cooking then strain again and let them sit drying in the colander.
  • Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into half-moons. You can cook the courgette if you prefer to use this and allow it to cool. slice the onion thinly, wash and chop the herbs.
  • Combine the ingredients and dress with lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
  • This salad is hearty enough on it's own but you can add the Ortiz sardines or tuna on the side, or serve with cooked or cured chorizo from our Spanish Summer range add Preserved Lemons for an extra zing.


Patatas Bravas

Ingredients:
onion
mixture of rapeseed & olive oil
potatoes
red pepper - optional.
Salsa Brava - available from our Spanish Summer Range.
  • Slice the onion finely and sautée in a mixture of rapeseed and olive oil in an oven proof pan, slowly allowing the onions to soften and start to caramelise. If you are using red peppers sautée them too.
  • Scrub the potatoes and dice. Place them in a saucepan of cold water and bring them to the boil. Drain and add them to the onions in the oven proof pan. Put the whole lot in the oven for about 30mins until the potatoes are just starting to crisp.
  • Add the Salsa Brava and return to the oven for 5 mins.
  • Serve straight from the pan with bread (our tordu is fantastic for wiping up the sauce) the tinned sardines or chorizo are wonderful on the side. Or add a Spanish cheese like Manchego and create your own tapas night.

A well stocked Larder



kilner jars dried goods

Establishing LHStores dried goods section for customers to "Weigh & Take Away" in their own containers meant I had to really think about what a well stocked larder looked like. 



My dried goods are all stored in 3L Kilner jars with clip top lids.  Set up took a while, washing, drying and filling each jar, but they look beautiful, I can see what I have at a glance and they keep the food fresh and safe from cross contamination.

In order to cook good, wholesome, food for your family every day, you need a well-stocked larder full of good-quality essentials.  So, I made a list, there have been several iterations, a fair bit of asking friends and family what they'd call “essentials", and I thought after that much work I should share it.

Dried goods
Dried Goods:
Rice
  • I choose organic basmati, brown wholegrain rice, full of fibre and slow-release energy,  and organic white basmati, for when brown just seems wrong, (in a jambalaya for example), an organic arborio rice (for risotto) and an organic red and black rice for salads, or to mixing with the other rices for colour and interest.
Lentils
  • Organic puy lentils and orange lentils. Great with slow fried onion as a substantial side dish, as a Dahl or thrown into soups and stews.
Quinoa
  • Great source of protein, a base for salad, a side dish, or thrown into soups and stews.
Corn Couscous or Polenta
  • Ours is a rougher grain than the classic polenta, but is just as good boiled in salted water.  As it thickens, and just before you take it off the heat, stir in cheese (a soft blue cheese is especially luxurious) for a simple, hearty Italian supper.  Tastes good with ratatouille too.
Wholegrain Couscous
  • Full of protein couscous is a beautiful accompaniment to a tagine, or stew, and makes the perfect base for a salad.  Add cinnamon, Z’atar, chopped dried apricots, preserved lemon & almonds for a North African flavour.
Chickpeas
  • Yes it’s good to soak them, but don’t let that put you off using this wonderfully versatile pulse in your stews, salads and in that tagine you are making.
Buckwheat - Unroasted
  • A new one for me, and not easy to find this organic.  Use it as you would cous cous,  for slightly denser, nuttier flavour.  Great in salads and with roasted veggies.
Beans
  • Kidney beans are obviously great in a chilli, refried beans or in rice with a curried goat or chicken. I love these and although, again, they should be soaked, it doesn't take as long as you might think to cook them.  I also like to have berlotti, butter and canalleni beans in my larder. 
Porridge oats
  • Perfect for a filling breakfast, porridge in the winter, granola, muesli or bircher in the summer. We sell a granola kit with our oats, seeds, nuts and dried fruit measured out for you.
Pasta
  • I’ve simply not found organic, or the quality I want for my “Weigh & Take Away” service.  So, I am selling it bagged from Bio Idea; penne, macaronni, spaghetti & wholemeal tagliteli.
Grains (bulgur wheat, pearl barley, split peas)
  • Great and relatively cheap bulkers for stews and soups. Cook a larger batch than you need and turn into delicious salads, warm or cooled.
Nuts and seeds*
  • So far I have gone for pumpkin and sunflower seeds and an Omega Seeds Mix.  Almonds and cashews are the only nuts I have, but I am thinking I need to add hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts. Great for snacking or toasting and sprinkling over salads, soups and stews, or onto yoghurt. Or mixing with some of our other dried goods to make your own museli.
Dried Fruit
  • I have organic dried apricots, raisins, cranberries and mango.  Great for snacking or that personalised museli I keep talking about.

Tins & Packets:
Whole & finely chopped tomatoes and passata
  • Essential for sauces, soups, stews, casseroles - we all agreed on the use of ESSENTIAL for this one!
Coconut milk, oil & water
  • Coconut water for our smoothies, and in the summer as a refreshing addition to juice it quenches your thirst like nothing else. Add coconut milk and oil to soups and curries for a mellow, creamy flavour - in my house these are essentials.
Good-quality tinned fish; tuna, sardines, anchovies
  • Great for simple pasta dishes, pizza, on toast for supper and as fishcakes. And anchovies are the perfect salty seasoning for sauces and stews. _ I hope to have 
Tea & Coffee
  • Good quality loose leaf tea is not always easy to find and coffee beans store better and a fresh ground coffee is worth the extra expense for your favourite cuppa.
Good-quality stock
  • The flavour base to loads of different dishes.
Plain flour, self-raising flour (wholemeal or white), bread flour
  • For thickening sauces, coating meat, fish and veggies for frying, and baking
Jars & Bottles:
Rapeseed oil
  • Good flavourless oil, with a high burn temperature for everyday cooking. Ours is grown and bottled locally in Sawbridgeworth and we will refill your empty bottle at a discount.
Olive oil
  • We have a lovely organic Italian oil from Suma.
Mustard
  • Add a bit of a kick to stews, sauces and marinades, or use as a condiment.
  • Tip: a tablespoon of grainy mustard and a tablespoon of honey make a great coating when roasting sausages.
Soy sauce
  • Seasoning for Asian dishes, marinades and sauces.
Vinegars (red wine, cider, balsamic)  
  • Lots of dishes benefit from a little vinegar – think dressings, marinades, sauces and stews.
Olives 
  • Again a bit of debate about these as an essential, but in our house they are.  A great snack, with cheese, on pizza, in pasta dishes add to salads.  Sometimes we just eat them out of the jar.  
Honey
  • Our honey is from local bee keepers in Wareside. Add a touch of sweetness to your life knowing that you are supporting local bee keepers.
Good-to-haves (extras but not essentials)
  • Capers
  • Tomato purée
  • Dried yeast
  • Cocoa powder
  • Sugar (golden and brown)
  • Maple syrup
  • Baking powder
  • Your favourite condiments (ketchup, brown sauce, mayonnaise, Tabasco – I have to admit we love em all)

And then of course there are your herbs & spices.  We have bundles of fresh garden herbs available in the Summer and have just started to stock dried herbs and spices.  But it's a whole new list, and so far it's as follows (please feel free to let me know if I've missed something)

Herbs & spices
Oregano
Smoked paprika
Chilli
Cinnamon
Cumin
Coriander
Curry powder
Five-spice
Sea salt
Black peppercorns
Tumeric
Garam Masala
Ground Ginger
Fennel Seeds
Z'atar spice mix
Sumac

So, what have I missed?  LHSTORES can provide you with most of these items for your larder, where we can't, you know that it is on my list to source and find the best quality version I can.


*Our dried nuts are kept completely separate from our other dried goods to prevent cross contamination.  As is our Omega seed mix, that includes sesame seeds.  I will be weighing all items in the shop to prevent cross contamination, that could have consequences for allergy sufferers.

Wet (Green) Garlic


wet green garlic








Old gardening wisdom says that you should plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest it on the longest. So, I have an abundance of wet garlic to sell in STORES at the moment. Wet, or green, garlic is freshly harvested garlic that hasn't been hung up to dry. It's milder in taste and less pungent in odour than the usual kind and so can be sliced straight into salads.

To be honest, I'm a bit of a garlic fanatic and will eat it raw anyway. I love to crush garlic into my vinaigrette and slaver my greens in it.


In the garden my garlic and onion bed this year makes me really happy.  Not only have I got good sized onions and loads of garlic, but I've allowed the poppies to grow as weeds between the alliums and it looks gorgeous.

For thousands of years diverse cultures have believed garlic to have beneficial medicinal properties, modern science seems to be confirming this. Scientist believe that most of garlic's health benefits are caused by the sulphur compounds formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed or chewed. The best known of these is allicin, however this is an unstable compound only briefly present in fresh garlic after it has been cut.

wet green garlic


Six Health Benefits of Garlic.

1.  Low in calories and rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, selenium and decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B1

2.  Garlic has long been believed to help prevent and fight the common cold and flu.  Trials using garlic supplements suggest garlic boosts the function of the immune system and seem to support this.

3.  High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure for those with known hypertension. In some instances supplements may be as effective as regular medications.

4.  Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and so it is believed has beneficial effects on Alzheimers, dementia and other chronic diseases.

5.  It appears garlic may have some benefits for bone health by increasing estrogen levels in females.

6.  Garlic supplements appear to reduce total and LDL cholesterol in those have high cholesterol. HDL cholesterol and triglycerides do not seem to be affected.


The Perfect Granola

Granola recipe

We don't really do cereal in our house*.  I like breakfast to have more protein and less sugar and additives than your typical store bought cereal contains.  We have hens so lots of our breakfast are using fresh eggs, otherwise our typical brekkie is porridge, with all kinds of stuff mixed in, added as toppings or even on the side.  The present favourite involves bananas, brown sugar and cocoa nibs.  However, everyone needs a break now and then at which point we like to repurpose our oats into muesli and, the kids favourite, granola.

I always thought of granola as fancy American muesli, until my son Louis got really into it and I bought the stuff a couple of times from the supermarket.  Only to realise that what it is is, EXPENSIVE posh museli.  And I am sick to death of buying a box only to get it home and find it's only half full and barely enough for one breakfast.  So, I started making it myself, which is really not so onerous and at least that way we get to have exactly what we like in it.

I've tried a fair few recipes and now have a pretty clear idea of the "dried stuff to sticky stuff ratio", - I think this is the key to good granola.  Well that and salt!  So, take a look at the recipe below, but explore using your own favourite seeds, nuts, grains and dried fruits and let me know how you do. 

how to make granola

Ingredients:
(makes 1 large Kilner jar)

40g coconut oil
150g Maple syrup - approx (120ml) or use honey, golden syrup, agave etc
a good pinch of sea salt

340g Grain - at least half is usually oats, but use the grain, or grains, of your choice, buckwheat, spelt, barley or rye flakes for example
200g mixed nuts, roughly chopped
50 - 100g mixed seeds, I use pumpkin, linseeds and sunflower seeds regularly in mine

1 large egg white, beaten

80-100g mixed chopped dried apricots, dates or dried fruit of your choice

Heat your oven to about 120 degrees and line a baking sheet with grease proof paper.
I've deliberately separated out the ingredients above as I think you need these basic proportions, but you can substitute whatever grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruit you prefer. 
how to make granola
The coconut oil, maple syrup and salt is the "sticky stuff" I was on about.  Combine them in a saucepan over a low heat, then remove from the heat and allow them to cool down while you put the dry ingredients, except the dried fruit, in a large bowl.
The 200 - 300g of nuts and seeds are entirely your own choice.  I like almonds and cashews, and use pumpkin seeds, linseeds and sunflower seeds regularly in mine.
Whip your egg white in a separate bowl until frothy.  The egg is supposed to make the mixture more crunchy, and I also like the addition of a bit more protein.
Then pour your cooled coconut oil, maple syrup mixture into the bowl of dried ingredients, mix well.  Add the egg white and mix well again.
Pour this mixture onto the baking sheet and press down a little, bake it for approximately 30 - 35 minutes, taking it out at least once to give it a bit of a stir, to make sure it is baked evenly.  Break up the mixture as much, or as little, as is your preference.  Don't over bake it; if your oven runs a little on the hot side, use a lower temperature and cook for longer.
While it's baking chop up the dried fruit - I use dried apricots, dates, figs and cranberries.  The reason you don't add this to the ingredients you are baking is that a bit of the fruit always seems to catch and burn.  There's nothing worse than a little burnt, sour bit of fruit in your granola.  It didn't occur to me until quite recently that the way round this is just don't add it until the end.
So after 30 minutes take your golden granola out of the oven, leave it to cool and then mix in the dried fruit.  Eat straight away and/ or store in an airtight tin or Kilner jar to get the most out of your efforts.  Not that mine has ever had to last fo r longer than a week; it gets poured over yoghurt and scoffed within a day or two.

granola recipe

*The one concession is to the Doves Farm Gluten Free Chocolate Stars.

Meet the Makers - Part One



At Little Hadham Stores I work with some wonderful suppliers.  I simply refer to them by their first names in the order email that goes out every week.  So, as we have many new customers I thought I should take the time to introduce them. 



Paola makes our Italian meals and is an amazing cook.  I do not know how she puts exactly the same ingredients into her sugo (passata) as me and yet hers tastes so much more complex.  I love Italian food; I lived in Bologna for 6 months, travelled throughout the country and have close friends that I have visited regularly in Florence, Venice and Sardinia.  Paola's food is still some of the best I have ever tasted.  And my children are massive fans of her cooking, I quote; "...anything Paola makes will be perfect" (Louis, aged 11) 


Paola grew up cooking with her Nonna (grandma), mother & aunts.  She loves the very simple thing of ingredients turning into something that is delicious. Very interested in regional Italian cooking, Paola has travelled extensively in Italy, trying all the regional foods, Emilia Romangna is one of her favourites.  Poala's Nonna was from Venafro a beautiful little town in between Rome & Naples.  On her paternal side she is Pugliese.  She hopes to gather her knowledge and pass it on to her customers with her cooking.  She is increasingly becoming more adventurous in her handmade pastas stuffed or otherwise! 



Fiona I secretly think is a magician. For me it all started with her soda bread, but Fiona's cooking is an adventure with seasonal, foraged and forgotten ingredients.  My weakness is the food of my childhood, I love sweet potatoes and coconut and Fiona can make them into muffins and macaroons to die for.  I had the absolute pleasure of going on my first fermentation course with Fiona and I love her kimchi and krauts. In fact if you tell me Fiona has made it I will eat it.


Her ingredients are always certified organic and she sources what is available in the UK & locally as a rule. The traceability of ingredients is hugely important to Fiona.



Fiona also forages in Bishop’s Stortford in order to appreciate nature’s pantry and the changing seasons. This also adds flavour & important nutrients to her selection of products so they can be at their best.
slow food uk
https://www.slowfood.org.uk/

Fiona is a member of the slow food movement, & believes in the sustainable food system and local food economy which they support; she wears her snail with pride.


Part of Fiona's interest in slow food is the cultivation of wild bacteria, to transform raw ingredients into products far more complex, flavourful and digestible to us, which give us the all important healthy gut we need right now to boost our immune system.
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