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October – Squash and Pumpkins

Uncategorized Oct 15, 2014

With Halloween around the corner, and the leaves on the trees most definitely turning a delicious shade of amber, October has got to be all about squash and pumpkins.

Whether you buy your pumpkin once a year, scoop out the insides, and carve a scary face into it, or you’re a devoted squash-lover, these hearty root vegetables are an essential addition to your veggie repertoire.

I was first introduced to the butternut squash many  years ago by Jamie Oliver (not in person, obviously), when my staple dinner party dish was his Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto from one of his very first cookbooks. To this day, it’s still one of my favourite comfort meals, though a little on the stodgy side!

Squash and pumpkins are such versatile vegetables and their sweetness makes them an ideal first food for babies. Pureed butternut squash was a firm favourite with my two when they were weaning.  Here are few other ideas of ways to include these...

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Lunchbox-friendly, nut-free, gluten-free granola bars

Tasty, filling gluten-free granola bars for snacks and lunchboxes

If you are the mother of a boy, you will be used to hearing the phrase ‘I’m hungry’. Seriously, I must hear it at least 100 times a day. I simply cannot get enough food into my six-year old son. My daughter eats like a fairy, but that boy is an eating machine.

Snacks can be particularly challenging because children tend to beg you for every type of food you don’t want them to have. I’m prepared to allow a little junk as long as it’s in combination with something healthy and, ideally, protein-rich. Whilst it’s the sugar and the carbs that they are craving, it’s so important that they also eat some protein at snack time. 

In addition to being essential for growth and development, protein will help to balance their blood sugar levels and help with further sugar cravings later on.

Snacks in our house have got to be gluten-free, and if they’re going in a ...

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Spectacular Salads

I do love a salad. And I don’t mean a hamster’s plate of food. Oh no. You’ll never catch me nibbling on a lettuce leaf the size of a postage stamp and a bit of curly cucumber. Salads for me are about fitting as many different ingredients, colours and nutrients as I can into one bowl, coating them in a zingy dressing and making an infinite number of mini-meals with each forkful.

They key to making a sumptuous salad that can be assembled in minutes (I don’t have time to stand there slicing, chopping and grating!) is to have a good selection of both fresh and store-cupboard ingredients, and leftovers. Here are my super secret mix ‘n match salad-making tips (obviously they are not a secret anymore):

1) With my weekly shop I always, ALWAYS, make sure I buy a bag of mixed leaves – I like to vary my selection, this week it’s rocket, spinach & watercress, last week it was just rocket, – some cherry tomatoes, avocados and limes (for...

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Simple Supper – Baked Turkey Meatballs

These delicious little turkey meatballs are so easy to throw together. They spend most of their time in the oven leaving you free to spend some quality time playing with your darling children/folding a load of laundry/emptying the dishwasher/painting your toenails* (*delete as appropriate).

It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut of cooking the same old family suppers. Therefore, I am always on the lookout for new recipes and flavours that can break the monotony of the weekly repertoire.

Turkey is not an ingredient that I use an awful lot of at home. I’m not usually a fan of the dry, roasted, Christmas kind but it’s a great alternative to chicken. These turkey meatballs are just so tasty, I’ll definitely be cooking with it more often. Turkey is a very rich source of protein which helps to stabilise post-meal insulin levels. It is also high in B vitamins, needed for energy production, amongst many other functions.

Another nutritional benefit of turkey...

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How to make healthy packed lunches

In a matter of days the kids will be back at school and for some of us that means getting back into a routine of thinking up and preparing healthy packed lunches for them. Sadly, for many children, ‘healthy’ does not come into the equation because recent figures suggest that only 1.1% of packed lunches meet the nutritional standards for school meals*. This is highly worrying because, in my opinion, even some school dinners miss the mark. 

What is wrong with the average packed lunch?

Crisps, chocolate, sugary drinks, cereal bars (very high in sugar), processed snack foods and white bread all feature heavily in a large proportion of packed lunches these days providing children with very little in the way of the essential nutrients required for energy, concentration, growth and overall health. Not only that, but foods such as these are contributing to the increase in childhood obesity and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Up until fairly recently my son...

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Gluten-free Granola

I’ve been making my own gluten-free granola for quite some time now. First of all, most of the shop-bought gluten-free granola options were so sugary that they did not pass the test for a healthy breakfast; and secondly, they are usually very expensive. So I set out to create my own and had been using the same formula week in, week out, until I got a little bored of it and stopped making it altogether.

Then one of my little ones asked me if we could make some granola so naturally I obliged and checked the cupboard for ingredients. Result! Thankfully my cupboards are usually well stocked with oats (gluten-free, of course) and a selection of nuts and seeds but – disaster – no honey or maple syrup. Or so I thought! It turns out this (slightly sticky) half bottle of Meridian Date Syrup was the secret ingredient I’d been looking for to magic my granola into something quite scrumptious indeed. Not too sweet, but wonderfully gooey and intensely moreish. 

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Clams

Uncategorized Aug 04, 2014

August: Clams. Ok, so I realise this is a bit of a weird food to have as my Food of the Month, but I have just returned from a week in Portugal where I ate my weight in them, so please indulge me. If you are going on holiday this summer, somewhere near the Mediterranean sea, then you just have to get stuck into a gorgeous plate of my favourite shellfish. 

Clams, or ‘almejas’ in Spanish, which is how I more commonly know them, having spent every summer of my childhood in Andalucia, are shells with a small meaty flesh inside that you tip into your mouth. They are much smaller than mussels or oysters and not as fishy. The best bit about them though is how they are cooked when you eat them at one of the many wonderful seafood restaurants in the Med. Absolutely smothered in white wine and garlic. So if you are on a date, or hoping to get lucky, you might need to steer clear, because you do stink a bit after eating them!

We don’t get nearly enough fresh...

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Easy Summer Holiday Supper

With the summer holidays now upon us, you might not have time to do as much food shopping as usual. This easy summer holiday supper is made entirely from frozen vegetables and store-cupboard ingredients!

Keeping your freezer well-stocked with things like vegetables, fish and prawns means you can always put together a healthy meal with little preparation when you’ve not managed to do a fresh food shop.

Having a good variety of other non-perishable ingredients like tinned beans, herbs and spices, brown rice, quinoa and noodles means you can create different flavoured suppers at the drop of a hat.

I’m usually quite good at having plenty of fresh food to hand, but last week I found myself with…shock, horror…nothing for supper! Thankfully I had half a bag of frozen butternut squash and half of bag of frozen cauliflower lurking in the freezer and so I whipped up this delicious veggie curry using those two ingredients as my inspiration. As luck would have it, I...

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Totally Tropical Green Smoothie

I’ve been dreaming up this green smoothie all day. As I am now on a one-handed countdown (4 days!) until my holiday, I’m doing a last-minute, slightly panicked pre-bikini detox. Nothing but juices and smoothies all day, and then fish and vegetables in the evening (this really is only for a few days, I wouldn’t recommend this long term!)

As you can imagine, by 3pm today, I was pretty starving. I don’t do well on juice detoxes, as you know. I had been concocting my afternoon smoothie since breakfast. It had to have to have all the components of the perfect smoothie:

  1. It had to be filling – this was to see me through until suppertime
  2. It had to be sweet – but not too sweet, as I didn’t want a sugar rush, and then a sugar crash and find myself picking my way through the kids’ tea
  3. It had to contain some vegetables – for fibre, antoxidants and detoxification
  4. It had to be high in protein – an absolute must! This...
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Why I don’t agree with ‘The Eatwell Plate’

When my 6-year old son came home from school a couple of weeks ago with a little certificate saying he had successfully completed the ‘Eatwell Plate’ challenge by choosing a selection of healthy foods to for his plate, my heart did a little jump. So proud was I that he was following in his mother’s footsteps. He’d even been given a laminated sheet to show which foods he had chosen. I was quite impressed: clearly they had been encouraged to select a variety of foods featured on the aforementioned ‘Eatwell Plate’. His selections included broccoli (which he hates!), peppers and pineapple, as well as some tuna, kidney beans, oatmeal and…bison? Thankfully nothing from the ‘junk’ section: well done me. Overall, not bad.

Then I turned the page over and looked at ‘The Eatwell Plate’ as recommended by the Food Standards Agency, and I was distinctly unimpressed by what our children are being taught in school about healthy...

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