Baked Apple Crumble

After a few grown-up type blog posts, I thought I’d share a fun recipe to lighten the mood a little.

I had this idea when I looked at what needed using up in the fridge. It’s one of those things that makes you wonder why you never thought of it before.

Very simple recipe for a lovely warming pud. And it’s healthy, too!

Baked Apples

(6 portions)

6 eating apples
Bag of frozen blueberries (or other soft fruit)
3 dessert spoons sugar or runny honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ bag ready-made crumble topping

Turn on oven at 180C/350F/Gas 4

Gently heat the blueberries in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water.

Wash apples, core them and slit the skin around the equator (the fattest part). Place them upright in an ovenproof dish.

Pour blueberries onto apples, making sure each apple has some berries in the chimney left by the core. The rest will flow into the dish between the apples, leaving them sticky.

Drizzle honey or pour sugar into the chimneys.

Sprinkle dish with cinnamon and then the ½ packet of crumble mix.

Place it in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

Serve hot or cold, with custard, cream or ice-cream.

You can vary this dish by using different soft fruit – it could be frozen, fresh or leftovers. The apples can be past their best, too. You could make your own favourite crumble topping (oats are good) or experiment with different spices. Even add a (very little) booze to the fruit if you wanted to.

Enjoy your pud – and remember to post pictures of your own variations.

Balancing a Diet

Hardly a day goes by without some new edict from an expert telling us what we should be eating or drinking. The advice is usually confusing, often contradictory and, frankly, requires more effort than I’m inclined to make over every meal.

Hubby and I eat a varied diet, heavy on tasty veg and fruits, with one portion of protein each day, including oily fish most weeks. That used to be enough – but expert opinions are going further. It seems that we’re meant to reflect the appropriate proportions of different foodgroups on every plateful. So I’m only allowed to eat a snack if I check that it’s properly balanced between protein, carbs, sugar, fat and micronutrients.

Come ON!

Did our remote ancestors hesitate during a mammoth hunt to wonder if they’d had enough greens that day?

We’ve become obsessed with tick lists and numbers. Every meal has to tick every box and have exactly the right number of Calories and grams of fat. We have several different labelling systems for our food and unregulated claims splashed across the packaging in big, bright letters.

At the same time, manufacturers and retailers are doing their best to make it too complicated for us to work out just how little nutrition we get from their food. They’re determines to hide the outrageous sugar content of their foods by highlighting the “low-fat” message. We crave fatty food and sweetness – it’s part of our DNA. The two factors are intrinsically linked – if you reduce one, you have to increase the other to compensate. We are also programmed to seek out saltiness – our bodies need salt to function, but too much is dangerous.

Processed foods are made attractive to us by playing on this trinity of basic desires. Unfortunately, competition has driven manufacturers to add more and more of each one. Just look at the ingredients list for things you would never expect to see – sugar in savoury sauces, salt added to sweet treats. This is how the Western diet has got so bad – we don’t realise what is being smuggled into our bodies by food we assume is good for us.

And as a result, we see diet fad after diet fad, exercise craze after exercise craze being advertised, endorsed by celebrities and people making money from our credulousness.

A healthy diet is not rocket science. If you strip away all the advertising, hype and deliberate complicating by food manufacturers, we can all improve our diets by following a few simple rules:

* Eat fruit and veg. Recommendation is five potions a day – just aim to eat one more than you do now. A portion is the size of your fist. Tinned is fine – but check the sauce / syrups they’re packaged in.

* Reduce fat. Avoid fried food and cut the fat off meat before you eat it.

* Ask your doctor’s advice on your weight and activity levels. Most of us need to shed a few pounds and exercise more, some are the opposite. Listen to your doctor and make small adjustments to your lifestyle.

* Pay attention to your food – enjoy it, savour it. Avoid snacking while you work or watch telly, etc.

* Be honest – with yourself if not your doctor. There are Calories in drinks, sauces and dressings – don’t assume these are too small to count.

* Don’t make excuses – make yourself a promise.

* Cook at home. It’s easier than you think and you can be sure what’s in it that way!

* Don’t let anyone make money out of your wish to be slimmer or fitter.

It’s hard to make big changes in your life, so just do it for one day a week. Cook a meal from scratch on a Sunday, dig out your exercise video for each Wednesday evening – whatever. If it makes you feel good, extend to another day. My chronic condition makes it very hard for me to exercise and my body doesn’t absorb nutrients properly, but that doesn’t stop me balancing a diet and keeping as fit as I can. Give it a try – what have you got to lose?