So I was recently approached by Schwartz to review their ingredient ChatBot. The idea is you type in your ingredients and it generates recipes for you based on what you have in the fridge. I work a lot and sometimes am too exhausted to think about what I want for dinner and was up for giving it a go. At least I’ll learn some new recipes right?
I have to say; I was quite sceptical at first. I have previously used ingredient search websites and they have often given me extremely complicated recipes containing a number of ingredients I don’t have in the cupboard. However, I went into the trial with an open mind and as soon as I typed my first ingredients into the ChatBot on Facebook, I quickly had more faith in the tool; the responses were extremely quick. Here’s my week cooking with the ChatBot…
Monday: So the ingredients I typed in for my first evening cooking with the Schwartz ChatBot were salmon, broccoli, pepper and courgette. I entered the paprika for the spice and it generated over 400 recipes for me! The function to flick through them within Facebook was really effective and I selected the third recipe in the list – salmon skewers with spicy tomato sauce. The ChatBot offered the option to send it to my email, which worked really well and meant I could bookmark the recipe in my emails for later in the evening when I was ready to cook. Recipe I used is here.
The first thing that struck me was that there were obviously other ingredients needed in the recipe aside from those entered. Luckily on the way back from work I went via the supermarket, so could scoop up the extra bits I needed. The recipe was extremely simple and easy to prepare – but did also rely on you having a food processor to make the sauce, which could be problematic. This particular recipe also skipped a fairly important step regarding how you actually cook the skewers (bake/fry/BBQ). As someone who regularly cooks, I made the call to pop them in the oven for 16 minutes and they came out beautifully succulent and tasty. However, if you didn’t have basic culinary knowledge, that would have thrown you a little.

Schwartz Recipe 1.2

The finished product!

I served the salmon skewers with the spicy sauce and they were delicious. I had never created or consumed salmon on skewers before and I really liked the olive oil and parsley coating.  Although I definitely wouldn’t have the tomato sauce again – it came out really warm and liquidy.  However, I did eat the leftover salmon skewers on a bed of spinach for lunch the next day and the salmon was still really tasty cold. The whole process, including prep, took me around 30 minutes. I would definitely cook this again and adapt the recipe for future consumption.
 Wednesday: On this occasion I didn’t have time to go to the supermarket to pick up anything extra for the recipe, so I was purely relying on the recipe and what I had in the cupboards! The ingredients I entered were sausage, peppers, tomatoes and paprika for the spice. Again, it gave me over 100 recipes and this time I had to flick through a few more, to ensure I had the majority of the ingredients. I chose Chorizo and Tomato pasta, after scanning the recipe and my cupboards. I replaced the chorizo with the sausages and luckily, I had the tomato sauce ingredients to hand too. See the recipe I used here.
The recipe was very simple and clear. I added a little garlic to the homemade tomato pasta sauce and I cooked up gluten free pasta to accompany it. Dinner was ready in less than 15 minutes and was very tasty. To be honest, this is the kind of simple dinner I have quite regularly, so I didn’t feel any new dinner inspiration.

Schwartz Recipe 2

Simple sausage pasta with tomato sauce and peppers

Friday: I was particularly tired after this day at work, so I was really looking for something tasty, comforting and quick! I really adore prawns but often cook them in the same way. So to stimulate some new recipe ideas, I kept it simple for the ChatBot and entered prawns, chilli and tomatoes. It gave me over 300 recipes and I went for the third – Thai Prawn Curry. The recipe is here.
I did go to the supermarket to pick up extra ingredients – mainly the Schwartz 7 Thai Spice for the dish. This recipe was extremely simple and took about twenty minutes altogether. I served with fresh lime wedges and coriander on a bed of coconut rice, and thoroughly enjoyed the dish. I put the curry I didn’t eat in the freezer, meaning I now have a delicious meal to defrost when I’m short on time. This was a delicious and quick thai curry – but obviously didn’t beat a recipe created with fresh paste.
Essentially, The Bot is perfect for people on the go and needing recipe inspiration. Sometimes I stare blankly at my fridge ingredients, willing them to do something interesting and different with minimal effort from me when I’m exhausted. The Bot did take all thinking out of the equation, but does require a cupboard full of basic ingredients and some culinary experience.

Schwartz Recipe 3.3

Thai red prawn curry

If you want to check it out, visit Schwartz FB page and type in your ingredients in a Facebook message. The rest is easy!

*This is not a sponsored post. It was a genuine culinary experiment!*

BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

bryonyhopkins

This blog post has been in the pipeline for a few weeks now. Well, since my gastro consultant told me for the first time in my entire life that I’m in ‘clinical remission’ from my Crohns Disease. Big announcement. Big two words – two words I wasn’t expecting to hear, AT ALL! (See below for what remission means)
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be in remission and how my body feels and I think it’s important I share this. Let’s rewind quickly first though… why was being told I’m in ‘clinical remission’ such a big deal – yet such a surprise at the same time? I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease at the age of four – which now at the age of 25, is a staggering 21 years ago.

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Loving the liquid diet life back in April 2016…

I recently candidly told my story for the first time for World IBD Day, which was featured in the Huffington Post. You can see the article here.So 21 years of fighting, dealing with medication, being cut open time and time again… until spring 2016 when I found myself in the middle of ANOTHER FLARE. All I could think was geez, not this s**t again.I was told outright I needed to go on high dose steroids to get things under control and I just couldn’t do it. I made the decision to go on a four-week liquid diet – which turned out to be a massive turning point in my entire Crohns journey. You can read about my liquid diet journey here.
So fast forward a year, and I’m sitting opposite my consultant who has seen me through thick and thin since I was 17. He’s a straight talking man, but a man I know has a lot of time for me (it’s a personal challenge every single appointment to make him crack a smile! I succeed every time, obvs). We run through the usual things and out of nowhere, he says ‘well, it looks like to me you’re in clinical remission’. There was a long pause, until I said, ‘well, nobody has ever said that to me before!’ Cue the smile from Doc and he said I’m by far the healthiest he’s ever seen me. He let me go after agreeing to reduce my adlimumab injections to every fortnight and told me to enjoy the summer.
I walked out the hospital in a complete state of disbelief. CLINICAL REMISSION – WHAT THE F**K? How did that happen? How did I not even see that coming? I still suffer stomach pain, bloating and fatigue. Whilst I’m not passing blood, I still have to manage my lifestyle to contain my symptoms. I evaluated the past year since the liquid diet and it finally dawned on me. This remission isn’t a result of adlimumab , a drug I have taken for over 7 years now. This remission was a result of me changing my diet and lifestyle. As I travelled back into London from my specialist hospital in Oxford I thought – I BLOODY DID THIS. And how have I gone 21 years without anyone telling me to evaluate my diet and lifestyle sooner?!? I felt weirdly elated yet frustrated that I could have done something a lot sooner if I had known what impact a year of change would make.
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I continue to feel extremely lucky that I’ve reached this point in my life, but I still won’t be lured into feeling secure. I have had a few people say to me now ‘oh you’re in remission? Well brilliant, you’re alright forever now then!’ Well no, that’s not quite how it works. As we all know, IBD (I’m talking Crohns & Colitis here) is a chronic condition and can rear its ugly head at any time. A fact that I’ve been conditioned to never forget (although I wish I could!) Additionally, being in ‘remission’ doesn’t mean I no longer feel pain, bloating and extreme fatigue. I still have to very carefully manage my life and diet. Eating one thing that disagrees with me, being too exhausted or stressed can quickly send me in a little downward spiral. Self-management and self-care doesn’t stop at the phrase ‘clinical remission’… the journey never ends!
Having said that, the biggest lesson I have learnt is that the medical professionals don’t always know EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the incredible support from my Gastro team at the John Radcliffe in Oxford, but it was my decision to do the liquid diet and make a lifestyle overhaul. That being said, it’s not always easy and there may be a lot of trial and error. What I’m saying is try different things, do your research and know that you can make a difference to your illness.
And for me – I’m going to live life the fullest and continue sharing the journey with you!

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Sunning in Marbella with my favourite people and smiling because I can!

**So what is ‘remission’? Achieving remission means stopping symptoms as well as inflammation. Another way to think of remission is as a span of time when your disease becomes inactive or quiet.**
As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
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BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

bryonyhopkins