“Cooking On A Shoe String” Food Parcel Challenge in partnership with Zest Health For Life, Hammersons and Leeds East Food Bank.

Just before Christmas I was contacted by  Hammerson, the developers behind the new Victoria Gate retail development currently being built in the centre of Leeds. They are working in partnership with Zest Health For Life and the Leeds East Food Bank on a project which will make a huge difference to thousands of struggling families in Leeds. Zest Health For Life is a non- profit making organisation which helps disadvantaged people in the Leeds area by giving them chance to take part in activities to improve people’s social, mental, physical and emotional well being.

Over the past three or so years there has been an increasing need for food banks as families struggle to get by due to many circumstances.  As a result there are more and more food banks which are providing a lifeline for disadvantaged families.  There was also a need for providng people with help in giving ideas for nutritious, yet cheap mealthat would also be tempting to eat.  So Victoria Gate has linked up and created a fantastic cookbook which is given out at the food bank.

To find out more about Hammerson’s partnership with Zest Health For Life and the cookbook, read about it here:

The book “Simple Cooking On A Shoe String” is an ideal starter book to give beginners a start in cooking healthy meals that won’t cook the earth.  In the ingredients list against every recipe the foods that are usually put in the food parcels are highlighted in bold type. These are usually tinned or packet foods.

I was asked if I would like to take part in a Charitable Food Blogger Challenge by either using inspiration from my own recipes or recipes from the recipe book.  I agreed and was sent a food parcel full of ingredients to take up the challenge.

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These were the contents of my food parcel for my challenge: porridge oats, ground mixed spice, eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder, granulated sugar, four bananas, and some wholemeal self raising flour.

I was impressed with the ingredients I got in the food parcel.  I knew that I could bake quite a few things with the ingredients provided, they would stretch quite far and that by including oats, wholemeal flour and bananas the bakes would be healthier than, say a cupcake with buttercream. Not only were there ingredients containing the slow release carbs, such as the oats, they were also cheap ones.  I did have to add my own butter but I used Sainsbury’s own value brand of unsalted butter which at the time of writing was 95p for a 250g packet.  I also used golden syrup in one of the recipes and this is also a cheap standby to have in your storecupboard.

First of all  I chose to bake the Spicy Banana Bread in the Cooking On A Shoestring recipe book.  According to the ingredients list you might get sugar and oats in a parcel from the food bank but the other ingredients are cheap to buy and with the exception of the bananas will keep so you could make it again and again.  The recipe introduction says “bananas are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fibre.  You can use overripe bananas for this recipe so that they don’t go to waste.  You could also use less sugar as the mixed spice already gives this recipe a delicious flavour.The bread could be eaten as a snack or at breakfast time”

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Three ripe mashed bananas were mixed with two beaten eggs and some mixed spice. Then flour, sugar, oats and vanilla essence were added to the mixture and baked in a loaf tin.
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The loaf made about 10 generous slices and tasted fab with or without butter spread on it.
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The banana kept the cake naturally sweet and moist.
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Cut up into slices, this banana bread would make a perfect lunchbox treat, or a quick breakfast on the run. It would also freeze well so you could bake in bulk if you have an abundance of bananas.

The banana loaf was simple to bake in a 24cm size loaf tin and was easily stored in an airtight tin.  It cut beautifully up into slices and tasted delicious with or without butter spread on it. My husband actually said he preferred it to other banana loaves he had tasted as it wasn’t too overpoweringly sweet.

With the remaining ingredients I had a brainstorming session and thought about what I’ve baked in the past using oats as a main ingredient and came across a wonderful recipe in another of my favourite cookbooks, one which I’ve bought for my children The Hungry Student Easy Baking by Charlotte Pike.  In this book there is a recipe for banana and chocolate chip cookies. As I had quite a bit of sugar left and one banana left in the box I thought I would adapt the recipe to suit what was in the box.  So instead of the chocolate chips in the original recipe I used 100g of oats and instead of the plain flour and bicarbonate of soda I used the wholemeal flour given to me in the food parcel.

The result was 18 deliciously chewy and moreish cookies whiche went down extremely well with the whole family.  I had to add 90g of my own butter but I didn’t need anything else to make them special.

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These oaty banana cookies may LOOK boring but they certainly didn’t TASTE boring. I had to hide them from my 14 year old son!
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I also added in a spoonful of the ground mixed spice given to me in the parcel along with the flour. It gave the cookies a lift and made them taste gorgeous.

After the cookies I realised I still had enough ingredients left to bake some flapjacks.   I combined 175g butter with 175g of the sugar in the parcel and to this I also added my own golden syrup of  about 150g.  Otherwise the flapjack wouldn’t have stuck together.  When this had melted in a large pan I then added 500g porridge oats and some ground mixed spice.  I reckon one or two of the bananas in the parcel might have worked here so long as it had been mashed in.

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Flapjack which got a bit burned at the edges!

106 Unfortunately my daughter turned the oven temperature up to well over 200oC after I had asked her to turn it up. I was refering to some music playing in the kitchen, but she thought I meant the oven! I realised when I thought I could smell burning only 10 minutes after putting the flapjacks in the oven.  So down went the temperature but they weren’t my usual chewy offerings.  Anyhow I did find one of them was delicious with a cup of coffee at breakfast the next day!

After all this I still had a tiny bit of sugar and oats, some baking powder, some of the vanilla essence, some mixed spice and some of the flour left!  It just goes to show that you can create some delicious things with store cupboard ingredients and that they don’t have to cost the earth either.  I thought I could use the remaining ingredients to make pancakes  and one member of my family could have porridge for breakfast.

You can find out about the work of Zest Health For Life at the link to their website here:

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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