Awesome Autumn!


My daily Mumsnet email that I received recently started with the quote 

“Ah, autumn – sweet season of soggy leaves and overpriced pumpkins. This is also an excellent season for snuggling up with blankets, bars of chocolate and books, and pointedly ignoring the ever-increasing darkness outside.”

Whilst I wholeheartedly crave the feelings of warmth and coziness this invokes, I also love autumn and can’t wait to be outdoors jumping around in the crispy russet autumn leaves with my gorgeous kiddies. Autumn for our family signifies the cool down from summer and run up to the festive season, it’s still warm enough to go outside in a light raincoat, without hats and scarves yet the shops start stocking their Christmas treats.

After burning off our energy on long walks in the woods, there’s nothing better than coming home to a hearty wholesome autumnal meal. At this point in the year its harvest time and there is an abundance of wholesome and inexpensive foods to cook with, from apples and pears to pumpkins and parsnips. This is where I love my slow cooker, beef stews packed with root veggies, veggie chilli with aubergine, lentils and kale or even a simple succulent roast chicken, they all come out brilliantly in a slow cooker. Another family favourite for Saturday lunchtime is roasted butternut squash and ginger soup, see my recipe below. For hearty warming pudds we have pear and blackberry pie, made with the blackberries picked on our walk and topped with a wholemeal scone dough rather than pastry or rhubarb crumble made with wholemeal flour, olive margarine and a bit less sugar.

You can invoke that gorgeous snugly warm feeling that comes with the change in season without reaching for the oversized box of Quality Street!


Lovely leftovers


Hate food waste? Here’s my top 5 tips for using up food before it spoils:

  1. Whizz stale bread into breadcrumbs using a food processor and freeze. These are perfect for coating home made chicken nuggets.
  2. Puree fruit with natural yogurt in a blender and pour into ice lolly mounds and freeze. A delicious after dinner treat!
  3. Any leftover veggies lurking at the bottom of your fridge are a great edition to a warming soup, just peel, chop and chuck into a pan of lentils, water herbs and spices and simmer away. Blend with a stick blender at the end of cooking for a thick smooth hearty soup.
  4. Leftover chicken from your roast? Serve with fresh pasta and a creamy sauce made from low fat creme fraiche, grated Parmesan cheese, wilted spinach and tarragon. 
  5. Brown bananas go great in banana bread. See my blog for the most delicious banana bread recipe!

The food standards agency state that foods can be eaten up until their ‘use by’ date but must be discarded thereafter. This is very important as it’s about food safety. The ‘best before’ date is about quality, foods can safely be eaten after this date but may not be at their best.


10 top tips for mindful eating for kids


Mindful eating is about focussing your child’s attention on the food that’s on their plate. Every Mum and Dad wants their child to eat more healthy nutritious food and less junk food, but inadvertently we sometimes create unhelpful food rules such as ‘you cant have pudding till you’ve had your dinner’, or ‘no biscuits because they’re bad for you’, which can take the pleasure out of eating anything.

Practicing mindfulness can help your child develop a positive relationship with food and reduce fussy eating behaviours. Moreover its never too soon to start, toddlers do this already, they inspect their food by touching, squeezing, smelling and playing with their food before it ever reaches their mouth. But applying the principles at any age can lead to success. Here are my 10 top tips for mindful mealtimes:

  1. Remove all distractions from the dinner table, no TV or toys.
  2. If possible eat together around a table.
  3. Be a role model, ensure parents and children are eating the same meal.
  4. Don’t reward a healthy food with something that is not, for example don’t imply that your child can’t have pudding till they’ve eaten their dinner.
  5. Take it easy at mealtimes, remove rules and try not to offer encouragement, it often feels like pressure to the child.
  6. Wait 15 minutes between dinner and pudding, long enough for their brain to get the message about how full they are after your meal.
  7. Talk about food but not in relation to their eating. Discuss healthy foods and less healthy alternatives, where they fit into the food groups, colours, shapes, textures.
  8. Try not to classify foods as ‘bad’, even if you are talking about sweets and crisps. Call them ‘unhealthy’ and follow up immediately with a healthier alternative.
  9. Involve them in food shopping, looking at different brands of similar products and note how they differ.
  10. Get involved in preparing meals, with supervision children can get involved with chopping, peeling, stirring etc.

Before long your child will learn to eat when they’re hungry, and stop when they’re full. They will learn to really taste food, and to enjoy the taste of food. They will also begin to sort through any preconceived or emotional issues they have around food and eating, which is really helpful with picky or fussy eaters. But moreover they’ll begin to enjoy the eating experience more, whether that be at home, school or out and about.


Wholemeal fruity muffins


Healthy, delicious and perfect for lunch-boxes…and a quick and easy bake!

100g self raising flour
100g wholemeal self raising flour
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
100ml rapeseed oil
75g of Demerara sugar
2 eggs
1 carrot peeled & grated
225g tin of pineapple, drained
100 g of raisins

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases.
In a blender cup add the oil, pineapple, sugar, eggs and whiz together.
Stir in the raisins and grated carrot.
In a clean bowl combine the flours, bicarb and spices.
Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine.
Fill muffin cases & bake for 25mins or until golden.

Apple, Cinnamon & Oat Biscuits


Inspired by biscuit week in last night’s Bake Off?
Can biscuits really be healthy though?

Try this recipe I’ve created which is packed with fibre, B vitamins, slow release carbs and heart healthy oils….and it goes without saying….I’ve managed to squeeze a bit of fruit in there too!!

Ingredients (makes 24)
90g wholemeal flour
125g oats
125g honey
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
80ml rapeseed oil
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 apple, grated (I chose a pink lady)

1. Line your baking trays with baking paper
2. Preheat the oven to 190C.
3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
4. Drop teaspoons of mixture onto the baking tray
5. Bake for 15 minutes or till golden.



Healthier Chocolate Beetroot Cakes


100 g olive margarine
150 g of milk or dark chocolate
3 whole eggs
4 egg whites
150 g of soft light brown sugar
150 g of wholemeal self raising flour
200 g fresh beetroot grated (be careful not to use pickled!)

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C
2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases
3. Melt the olive margarine in a pan over a gentle heat, add the chocolate and continue stirring till melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
4. Separate the eggs, placing the whites into a large clean mixing bowl and whisk till stiff peaks start to form.
5. Combine the yolks, grated beetroot, sugar and cooled melted chocolate mixture. Mix with a fork.
6. Add the flour to the beetroot and chocolate mix and mix to combine but be careful not to over mix.
7. Fold in the egg whites gently making sure they don’t deflate.
8. Spoon into muffin cases and bake for 20-24 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they bounce back when pressed in the centre.

Can be frozen for up to 3 months, perfect for popping into lunchboxes for a school time treat!


Wholemeal Banana Bread


A firm favourite in our household…..

Rapeseed oil for greasing the loaf tin
100g caster sugar
160g wholemeal self-raising flour
200g self-raising flour
1 large egg
125ml semi skimmed milk
50g olive margarine, melted
3 ripe bananas, peeled

1. Preheat the oven 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease a 1kg loaf tin with oil.
2. Put all ingredients into your mixing bowl and mix to combine but don’t over mix.
3. Transfer to your loaf tin.
4. Bake for an hour.
5. Test with a skewer. If there is mixture on the skewer bake for another 10 minutes.
6. Allow to cool and turn on to a cooling rack. Serve warm, in slices.


What’s so special about Quinoa? 


2013 was officially the International Year of Quinoa!
Quinoa (pronounced ‘keenwa’) has started to become very popular but what on earth is it? Well it’s a gluten-free grain often referred to as a superfood. But quinoa isn’t technically a grain at all – it’s a seed, from a plant which has been cultivated in the Andes for over 5000 years.

Quinoa is unusual as it’s one of the few plant foods that is a complete protein, in fact it contains double the protein of other grains. It’s also packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre, and is low in fat, making it an ideal food for your growing little one.

It’s also very tasty and can be used in place of pasta, rice or couscous in any savoury dish. It’s flavour complements both sweet and savoury foods and so is incredibly versatile. It is cooked in the same way as rice but don’t be afraid to add some herbs and spices to your cooking water as it is excellent at taking on flavours.