Tag Archives: organic

Homemade Nutella 😊

It was Shrove Tuesday this week, which in England coincides with pancake day.

In France, we are very lucky the events are different (not that anyone ever need any excuse to eat pancakes), we have pancake day early February, “la fete de la Chandeleur”, and then Shrove Tuesday, or “Mardi-Gras”, which marks the beginning of lent (just before the “Mercredi des Cendres”) the last day of indulgence allowed before the fasting period starts. In France we also celebrate Mardi-Gras with a carnival.

One thing that goes without saying with pancake is Nutella. Other chocolate spreads are available, they taste slightly different, but they all have tons of undesirable ingredients in them. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff!

But how, being sugar-free, could I still indulge myself and maintain the “tradition” without offending my ethics and keeping true to my resolutions…?


I had to make my own of course!

There are various ready-made hazelnut/chocolate spreads available in shops that are free from whatever you want, but it just doesn’t have the same charm, does it? 🙂

The internet really is wonderful, I came across this blog “sugarfreemom” written by a lady who went down the sugar-free road 10 years ago! For those who thought this not possible, she is the living proof you can actually survive without sugar!

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract
  • a few drops of liquid hazelnut stevia
  1. In a dry skillet, toast your hazelnuts until fragrant, about 4-5 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Place on a clean kitchen towel and allow to cool.
  3. Once cool rub towel over them to loosen and remove as much of their skins as possible.
  4. Place in a food processor or high powdered blender and process until fine crumbs.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  6. Taste and adjust salt and stevia if needed.
  7. Makes 12 ounces

I used organic hazelnuts, organic coconut oil, fairtrade chocolate powder, Himalayan salt (controversial, but I have some in the cupboard, so needs using), I used organic honey instead of stevia, again because I have honey in the cupboard, and I used vanilla extract instead of hazelnut stevia, for the same reason.

The smell of toasted hazelnuts really is something else! And the taste of the finished product is practically spot on!

It took me a little while to get the taste correct, so I would suggest being careful with the “sugar” and also the coconut oil, as the latter will determine the thickness of the texture. I started with 1/4 cup of oil but had to add probably another 1/4 cup as the mixture was too dry. Honey is actually tricky to use in baking, I think you could overdo it, so start with a little and keep tasting and adjusting. I actually had to add more honey (I probably used two tablespoons all together), but better that than the opposite. I think I put too much chocolate, the after taste is quite chocolaty but not unpleasant.

What amazes me is that you get hints of taste, like the “real” stuff, but the after notes are so much better! They leave you wanting for more! But be mindful, it is actually quite filling and satisfying. Whereas before I could demolish half a jar of Nutella in less time it took me to actually eat it, I was quite satisfied here with only just one slice of toast!

There you go, that’s what real flavours and good ingredients do to you, a genuine feeling of satisfaction, not a trick to the brain to make you stuff your face!

In case you need more excuses to give this a go, hazelnuts are a source of vitamin E to protect cells from oxidative stress, and phytochemicals said to support brain health and improve circulation. More details hereCoconut oil is high in natural saturated fats. Saturated fats not only increase the healthy cholesterol (known as HDL) in your body, but also help to convert the LDL “bad” cholesterol into good cholesterols. By Increasing the HDL’s in the body, it helps promote heart health, and lower the risk of heart disease. It is also good for a huge number of other reasons, some of which are highlighted here. The cocoa powder is full of powerful antioxidants and has an antidepressant effect. You can read more here.





Not bad for a morning’s work!

Spring onions, potatoes, the last of the lettuce (hallelujah!) and a show-winner of a courgette.

Probably another courgette to pick in a day or two (and more to follow), some of the peas are nearly ready too 🙂

I’ll plant another row of potatoes before the end of the week, and hopefully another one in 2-3 weeks time, weather dependent.

The parsnips are doing well, and the only spinach plant left still manages a few leaves.

Huge improvement on last year’s crop, fairly happy with that, can’t wait for dinner!


Surplus rocket and what on earth to do with it

So if, like me, you were pretty keen on starting your vegetable garden, but sensibly only planted the stuff that you’d eat, and were likely to buy the most at a supermarket, then you’d have gone for the fairly safe, easy, good-chance-of-success peas, courgettes, spuds, spinach, broccoli, onions… and salad, of course.

We all know that salad grows quickly, and unlike parsnips for example or onions, which once they’re out of the ground, they’re out of the ground and you have to store/prepare them, with lettuce you are guaranteed a continuously fresh supply throughout the whole summer. And let’s face it, you don’t really eat that many potatoes and parsnips in summer do you? Nothing better than a good homegrown garden salad. Refreshing, healthy, low calorie, versatile… And so good in sandwiches, yes it is!

What most people don’t realise (because you have to see it to believe it) is in which quantity the stuff grows. The incredible volume of leaves that those little plants can produce. In such a short amount of time. And because you want variety, just one type of lettuce would be boring, you tend to plant several kinds of lettuce, like six different varieties for example. And you are aware that you don’t necessarily have green fingers, so you want to maximise your chances. And so you sow the entirety of the seeds that the little bag you got from the garden centre holds. The whole several hundreds of them. “Well with a bit luck, we might have a plant or two”.

Two weeks later, you can hardly see the rest of your garden. Hopefully your lettuce bed is a bed of its own, otherwise I suggest you invest in a machete if you want to check how your runner beans are doing. And if you don’t have runner beans, I would invest in a machete nonetheless. You’ve made a few tasty dinners with your homegrown rabbit food, but everytime you cut some out, more comes. Much, much more. To the point when another couple of weeks later, your machete is blunt, you’ve had salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day, your neighbours are hiding from you, in case you want to give them yet some more “organic produce from your garden that you grew yourself”, and you are still not making a dent into this dense forest. You are seriously considering (re-)inroducing rabbits (or, worse, slugs!) in your garden.

And then, when all hope is gone, and you’ve practically turned green, the plants flower, the leaves become uneatable, and the plant slowly… well dies.


In hindsight (wonderful thing we all know), two or three rows with two to three different varieties each would have been more than enough for just the two of us. As it turns out, the horse doesn’t particularly like lettuce…

Lettuce is very satisfying to grow as a first-time veggie grower, but it is also its downside. You cannot really keep it that long, can’t freeze it… We were lucky in a way that three varieties came out first, with the spinach (also great raw in salads), we managed to get through two of them, froze the spinach. What we were left with whilst the other three were growing, was the rocket. Huge quantities of. Not my favourite but still not worth wasting.

So I searched the forums, and this lady had a great idea, make pesto with it. Eureka! Easy to make, great to store, and ideal for a quick satisfying pasta-pesto.

All you need is garlic, oil, pine nuts, parmesan and some seasoning if you like. And the green stuff (rocket in this instance, could be any kind of lettuce I guess, wild garlic, herbs…) Oh and a blender (solar powered 😀 ).

Mix it all in, give it a whiz, et voila. I then scooped the mixture into a couple of small muffin baking trays (size which I’d say makes a portion for two people), and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, I put all the individual portions into a freezer bag. Use it as and when needed.

Quick, easy, healthy, versatile… All that a salad should be… 😀

Brox x

Homegrown… can food get any better?

We all agree there is nothing like sleeping in your own bed, well there is also nothing like eating your very own homegrown, handpicked food.

So last night we had barbecued marinated wild rabbit (recipe here, no picture sorry, too busy eating! this marinade really is yummy) with our homegrown garden salads (the rabbits had some too) and this morning breakfast with cereals and fresh garden berries (raspberries, red and white gooseberries). Delish!

And none of it is grown using any pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers… just a good dose of rain and sunshine, some elbow grease, and a real strong will to eat and live healthier.

I mean, can it really get any better…?



DIY kitchen compost bin

This is more a “this is what you can do” as opposed to a tutorial. And also, although firstly described as an alternative to an outdoor compost for those who do not have a garden, due to its size I find it better suited as a transitional container that you keep in one place until full, and empty on the compost heap every so often; if I lived in a flat and intended to compost, I would look t build something a bit more appropriate in a wooden crate of plastic box.

DIY Kitchen Compost Bin - Tools
What you need

The list is fairly simple:

  • an empty tub of your favourite freeze dried coffee (if you work in an office they are bound to have one there)
  • glue
  • scissors
  • newspapers
  • screwdriver

All I did was lining the outside, underneath and inside (sides only) with newspapers (use glue). Inside on the bottom I left some loose bits of newspapers, so they can be changed every so often (if they soak up any liquids). I then “drill” a few holes in the lid (simply by driving the screwdriver in).

Note that I use a degradable plastic compost bag in my bin. If you don’t I would probably put more newspapers at the bottom inside and maybe use a carbon filter that you can stick on the inside of the lid if you are worried about smell.

I find this bin fit neatly in my cupboard under the sink, there is a top shelf in there, and this happens to go right where the sink is 🙂

Take care


We made hay!

If you were there, you would probably be as impressed as I am. A bit of background about haymaking…

First of all, I am no farmer’s wife, girlfriend, daughter or sister, but I have a few farmer friends and neighbours. After lots of Googling and advice taking, we more or less came up to the following conclusions.

In order to make hay first you need some sunshine, so the fresh grass can dry correctly… which is a rarity in this part of the world and this time of year. Moreover, you need at least a good ten consecutive days of sunshine. If you live in the UK, you’ll know as well as me what a crap summer we’ve had, hence why this haymaking business happened in September and not in July.

In our naivety, we did not apply any fertiliser (understand dung), which turned out to be in our favour. You see, the more and the longer you let the grass grow, the stalkier it gets, as all the energy and the goodness in the grass is then used to produce flowers and seeds. So you would want to cut your grass before it reaches that stage, so it keeps most of its nutritious contents.

LAYP Good hay (left) Stalky hay (right)
Good hay (left) Stalky hay (right)


If we had applied fertilisers, this would have accelerated the growth of the grass and would have resulted in very below average hay if cut that late in the season.

Ideally, you would want a good two or three days of dry weather before you can cut your grass, so there is not too much water in the grass itself, but also in the ground (if you cut it 24 hours only after the last rain, the roots will still be absorbing the water that’s in the ground). Then you need to make sure you have at least four or five days of dry weather (and ideally very sunny and a bit windy) after you cut your grass, so it can dry. You’re looking to achieve a moisture content of below 20%, so it doesn’t rot in storage (and you also avoid dangerous rises in temperature when stacked, which can cause fires). In July, due to the longer daylight hours, the grass will probably dry quicker. The problem in September is not only reduced daylight hours, but also the dew in the morning, which is present until at least mid to late morning. So the grass may require an extra day or two to achieve the same level of dryness.

LAYP Turning hay using a tether
Turning hay

In any case, you have to turn the hay at least once if not twice a day during the drying process, to make sure as much of the cut grass as possible is exposed to the sun. If those days are windy, even better!

Look out for the next rainy day, and make sure your hay will be baled in taken in before that, otherwise all your hard work will be wasted.

So we watched and watched the weather in August, but it was never dry more than four days in a row. And then the opportunity came early September. Taking the few points above into consideration, it was now or never. So we cut the grass last Sunday, turned it everyday day and watched it gradually turn into this lovely pastely green colour. By Thursday morning we had hay. Although it could have done with an extra day drying, rain was forecasted for Friday evening, and so we couldn’t wait any longer. In all fairness, if it hadn’t dried by now, an extra day wouldn’t have made a lot of difference…

We baled it Friday afternoon (not lunchtime as originally scheduled, the baler having given us a fair amount of grief…), as the skies turned a very dark grey… we’d only baled a few when it started to rain… Our hearts sank, there was no way we would be quick enough, it was all wasted!! Luckily the spell was short-lived and did not go past the drizzle stage. Phew! We resumed work at pace and got the last bale in by 7pm, just as the real rain drops started to fall. Victory!

LAYP small hay bales
Small hay bales

All in all, there are about 250 bales, which for a field between 2 and 3 acres in size, isn’t bad… No pesticides, no fertilisers, completely organic. No money exchanging either as we did most of the work ourselves, and “hired” the machinery by trading favours. It is a lot of hard (hard) work and takes a lot of time, and all things considered, we would have probably been better of buying it…

But that’s not exactly the point though, is it… 😉

“Make hay while the sun shines” Never up until now realised how true this is.

And God bless the neighbours.

Brox      x

Hay Making

The old saying goes “Need to make hay when the sun shines” and that’s exactly what we are doing!

Finally after a very uncertain month of August, with no more than four consecutive days of dry weather, an indian summer seems to be settling in, last opportunity for us to make hay.

Completely organic, no pesticides, no fertilizers, let’s hope a week of looking after it will make some decent forage for the winter.


Hmm… Strawberries!

So after the rather cold month of May, and June as well actually, although it really has started to warm up the last couple of weeks, time to start eating the produce of the garden!

And the first ones to come out were the strawberries (can’t complain). Completely organic, no fertilizers, no pesticides or other chemicals (the slugs can vouch for that), they taste so good!

The crows think the same  too, and it is very much first arrived first served. Haven’t had time to put the owl out yet. In fact I haven’t really kept on the top of my gardening duties, and it looks a bit of a mess (hence the lack of pictures).

But the spinach have come out, the potatoes have grown as well (above ground anyway), I have a couple of courgette plants, and I can see a few carrot and parnsip tops. Oh the peas! They look lush actually. Maize unfortunately…

I enjoy my new hobby so much, I’d recommend it to anyone. Even if you don’t have the space, I’ll add the link to a few articles about growing in pots, vertical gardens…

And before we go… 🙂

Did you know…
…strawberries are not actually fruits as their seeds are on the outside. Strawberry plants are runners, and are not produced by seeds. They have an average of 200 seeds per fruit and are actually a member of the rose (rosaceae) family.

Nutritional highlights

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K as well as providing a good dose of fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium. They also contain significant amounts of phytonutrients and flavanoids which makes strawberries bright red. They have been used throughout history in a medicinal context to help with digestive ailments, teeth whitening and skin irritations. Their fibre and fructose content may help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing digestion and the fibre is thought to have a satiating effect. Leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea.

The vibrant red colour of strawberries is due to large amounts of anthocyanidin, which also means they contain powerful antioxidants and are thought to protect against inflammation, cancer and heart disease.

Can’t get enough…!