Phoebe’s first nursery session

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In every parent child relationship, there comes a time where it becomes necessary to loosen the apron strings a bit, and a couple of days ago that bittersweet moment came for us in the form of nursery (well, pre-school really, but Phoebe calls it nursery).

Miss P has just reached the grand old age of 3 and is so ready for this first step in her formal education. The big day came, and Ste and I kept excitedly reassuring her that she would love it, that she would make new friends, and have lots of new toys to play with. However, nothing seemed to console her and she was adamant she was not going to nursery.

I was dreading dropping her off. As if I wasn’t feeling guilty enough about dropping my daughter off in an alien environment, with complete strangers who I wasn’t even sure I trusted, so could hardly expect her to trust. I’m pretty sure people think I’m an over protective mother, and I unashamedly admit it. I don’t know whether it’s a result of her being a long awaited IVF baby, or whether all mums feel the same, but I certainly didn’t go through what we did to palm my most cherished treasure off to other people willy nilly. There are very very few people I’ll leave her with feeling completely confident she’s in safe hands, so this was a huge deal for me. Anyway, I digress.

So 12.30pm arrived and I bundled her out of the car without too much resistance. Throughout the morning she kept asking whether I was going to stay with her, and I kept explaining that Mummy would drop her off, like I do at the creche at the gym, and pick her up later.  She wasn’t happy about this. A kindly lady approached us as we entered, and thankfully Phoebe seemed to warm to her, so when the lady suggested they go into the play barn, and I explained to Phoebe again that I would be back later, she reluctantly went with her, albeit with a look of horror on her face! I turned and walked out quickly, to conceal the tears that we’re starting to well in my eyes, every bone in my body screeching, “why the heck are you leaving your precious only child with people you don’t even know!”. I do of course know that this is merely the next step in our journey of raising a confident, independent and most importantly of all, happy young lady, and despite our reservations, we know that this will ultimately benefit her.

The time passed quickly and before we knew it it was time to pick our girl up. Ste and I hurriedly went inside to see Phoebe happily cuddling one of the staff, and our anxiety was replaced by relief as it had evidently been a successful afternoon! PHEW!

At home I made her her favourite treat (hot chocolate with pink marshmallows), and she told me all about her fun filled afternoon.

Now we’ve got to go through it all again today. There have already been tears…and they’re just from me! 😉

Super Saturday Supper

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In this house Saturday supper is generally less formal than our usual eating around the table with knives and forks. Saturday calls for something to share, something to get stuck into and something just a little bit more special. It’s usually devoured in the lounge along with the obligatory Saturday night TV!

Seafood was the flavour of the day today. Baby squid with ginger, garlic, red chilli and coriander, garlic butter baby lobster (as Phoebe calls them… king prawns to the rest of us), and Thai style mussels. All served on mixed leaves with olives and crusty homemade bread. Delicious! 

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I took a gamble and totally cheated on the mussels…and I have to admit they weren’t a patch on my Asian inspired moules, but it was Saturday evening and time is precious on Saturday evenings!

Prepare the squid.  There’s a handy guide on the BBC website if you’re unsure.

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Chop up the rest of the ingredients for the squid and fry them off in a little olive oil (you could also use coconut oil if you wanted a more Asian flavour).

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Throw the squid and cook for two to three minutes, before adding a handful of chopped coriander.

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As for the garlic prawns literally just melt some butter in a pan, add in some olive oil to stop the butter burning, throw in some crushed garlic and then add the prawns. You can sprinkle some chopped spring onions on like I did if you want but it’s not crucial.

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I served these, along with the mussels and squid on a large platter with fresh warm crusty bread for mopping up the delicious juices. Et voila, easy, quick Saturday night dinner is served!

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Meat free Monday… The Best nut roast you’ll ever taste.

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Let’s face it, the humble nut roast has become somewhat of a joke between us non-vegetarian types. Perceived as being as outdated as a black forest gateaux or prawn cocktail, and as dry as the Sahara, I for one was not in the slightest bit interested in trying one.

Despite my carnivorous tenancies, I ended up marrying a pescatarian (love must really be blind!), and soon realised if I wanted him to last into old age I’d have to broaden his culinary horizons, gently weaning him off processed meat substitutes, breaded fish and pizza.

My mum gave me this recipe and it’s a definite hit with the hubby. Moist, textural, and delicious, this is a far cry from nut roasts past. In fact, I will happily go so far as to say this is the best nut roast you’ll ever taste! Plus I can rest easy knowing exactly what’s in it, and knowing he’s getting a good dose of protein.

Here’s what you need:
1 medium onion
8oz mixed nuts
4oz wholemeal bread
1/4 to 1/2 pint of vegetable stock
1 large teaspoon of marmite (for all you marmite haters out there please don’t omit this. It adds a depth of flavour like nothing else can)
Large handful of fresh herbs (parsley or coriander (cilantro) work really well)
Knob of butter and splash of olive oil for frying.
Freshly ground black pepper (doesn’t need salt due to marmite and veg stock)
3oz grated cheese (I used an extra mature cheddar)
Couple of cloves of garlic
5 or 6 mushrooms, optional.

I made a double batch so doubled the quantities.

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I like to use the nuts in the picture above from Lidl as they’re exactly the right amount and very good value to boot.

Finely dice the onion and chop the garlic. Fry until softened in the butter and olive oil.

Put the nuts into a food processor and pulse until they’re chunky, not powdery or too small.
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Remove the nuts and put the bread through the processor too until you have a fine crumb.

Heat the stock and add the marmite.

Combine all the dry ingredients.
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Add the stock a little at a time until you get a moist yet stiff consistency. If it’s too sloppy it won’t hold its form once cooked.
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Spoon the mixture into greased individual loaf tins, or one large tin of you prefer.
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Cook for about 30 minutes at 180oC. Leave them in the tin for at least ten minutes before turning them out.
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These freeze beautifully and heat up in the oven really well. I tend to wrap them in tin foil, put them in the oven frozen for about 20 minutes then remove the foil for another 10 minutes until they crisp up again.

Paprika spiced Salmon with minted Quinoa and roasted vegetables

Salmon & quinoa
With an under-the-weather and very tired toddler today, I needed something relatively easy to throw together for dinner tonight using what I had in. This totally hit the mark. Easy, yet tasty and undeniably healthy. Here’s how to do it.

Rub paprika, black pepper and lemon juice into the salmon and set aside to marinade. Chop up a load of veggies (I used butternut squash, onions, copious amounts of garlic, mushrooms, carrots, red and yellow peppers and broccoli) and place on a roasting tray. Season with pepper and herbs of your choice (I used parsley) and drizzle over some olive oil (or use fry light which is what I did). Roast for about 30 minutes, then toss and place the salmon on top and roast for another 20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through.

Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa to help get rid of the bitter taste, then cook in vegetable (or chicken) stock with a handful of fresh chopped mint and a little less of parsley, and a couple of smashed cloves of garlic. I did mine in the rice cooker using a 2:1 ratio of stock to quinoa. It cooked itself to perfection and kept itself warm without me having to check it was even done. Easy peasy. Serve and enjoy.

Spiced Orange and Yoghurt Pudding

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As you may have already noticed, I’ve mentioned Slimming World in a few of my previous posts. After Christmas I bit the bullet and made a conscious decision to finally try to shift the baby weight, after all, the only thing wearing a bit thin was the excuse with the aforementioned baby actually being a feisty 22 month old toddler!

Before and after 60lb weight loss.  I'm somewhere between the two now.

Before and after 60lb weight loss. I’m somehwere between the two now.

Before getting pregnant I’d had to lose 60 pounds in order to do IVF, and I was the fittest I’d ever been. All the hard work paid off and I was rewarded with a beautiful, health 10lb 4oz baby at the end of it. To my horror though, not only had I gained a baby, I’d also gained half the weight I’d lost back. Anyway, long story short, it’s now time to start shifting it.

Needless to say IVF was a great incentive to stay focussed, but this time I’m struggling. Truth is I love food. I love cooking it, eating it, sharing it, experimenting. Food and entertaining is a huge part of our lives and it’s not unusual for us to have friends over for dinner a few times a week. Is this lifestyle conducive to weight loss? At first glance, no, not at all. However, I don’t think it needs to be that way. With a few swaps here and there good food and even desserts can be factored into a weight loss plan.

Here’s a recipe for a Slimming World Spiced Orange and Yoghurt Pudding which is 4 ½ syns per serving and serves 6.
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This is what you’ll need:
3 Eggs separated
4oz Golden caster sugar
1tsp. Cinnamon
450g Fat free natural yoghurt
Zest of one unwaxed orange
3floz orange juice
1oz Plain flour
1oz Toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 180oC. In a mixer whisk the egg whites and half the sugar until white and fluffy peaks, then spoon into a bowl and set aside.
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Add the eggs yolks and remaining sugar into the mixer bowl and beat until pale and creamy, then add in the yoghurt, cinnamon, orange juice and flour and mix until well combined.
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Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture until all combined and spoon into a lightly greased tin, or oven proof dish. Bake in a Bain-Marie making sure the water is no higher than halfway up the tin. Place in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes until golden on top.
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Scatter over the almonds and serve with a dollop of reduced fat crème fraiche if desired. One thing I will warn you about is using a lose bottomed tin. I thought that if I wrapped it in tin foil before putting it in the bain-marie it would be fine, but some of the water did make it through making the bottom of the pudding a little wet. Next time I’ll stick to a fixed-bottom dish instead.

Enjoy!

My recipe, in an actual book!

Food Glorious Food

Food Glorious Food

Book KubbahToday I had the great surprise of receiving a parcel that I wasn’t expecting. My anticipation was heightened for the mere fact that it wasn’t even delivered to my door, but to our old place, and I had to drive across town to collect it. The hubster was excited because he thought it was a birthday present from my sister in Japan which appears to have got lost en route, but he was wrong. It was for me. I ripped it open and to my sheer delight it was a recipe book. Not just any old recipe book, but a recipe book with one of my recipe’s printed in it! I am rather excited about this! Book full page I have had lots of articles published in the past, mainly in NHS mental health magazines which was my job before I became a mummy, but this is different. I am passionate about food and also about my Assyrian heritage, and to have the opportunity to share this is thrilling! The book, ‘Food Glorious Food’, accompanies the TV series which is starting at the end of Feb on ITV – be sure to tune in.

Assyrian Macaroni

Macaroni

It’s hump day today.   Wednesday.  The middle of the working week.  Since Monday we’ve all been working our way up the proverbial hill to reach the summit and now we’ve scaled the ‘hump’ we can anticipate the weekend with renewed vigour.

Usually I’m very organised and plan our all our meals for the week on Sunday and do the food shop on Monday.  Not this week though, and we’re totally off kilter because of it.  It got to 5pm tonight and I still hadn’t figured out what I could make that would satisfy a toddler, a vegetarian and a Slimming World follower.  Then I remembered this recipe. 

When most Brits think of macaroni they think heavy, stodgy cheesy sauces and claggy pasta.  This is a spicy Assyrian dish which uses macaroni in a totally different way, and was a firm favourite in our house when I was growing up.

Here’s what you need:

½ packet of short macaroni

1.5 lbs of Lean minced steak (or quorn for a veggie alternative)

1 large onion finely chopped

1 green or red pepper finely chopped

8 mushrooms thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic – crushed

2-3 tablespoons tomato puree

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Handful of fresh coriander or parsley, finely chopped

Salt and Black Pepper

Oil for frying

Here’s how to do it:

Fry the onion in a little oil or low fat spray, and then add green pepper

Remove from pan

Fry the mushrooms and remove from pan

Add the meat or quorn and fry gently, adding the garlic

Place a lid on the pan and continue cooking through gently.  If using quorn add some stock as it tends to absorb a lot of liquid and the stock will add flavour.

Return onion and green pepper to the saucepan and add the tomato puree.

Add the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper

Mix together well

Add the mushrooms and parsley or coriander

Cook for just a few minutes.

 

Meanwhile cook the macaroni in lots of boiling water until al dente

Add to the meat mixture in the saucepan

Stir well.  The macaroni should turn a nice red colour as it absorbs the flavours from the meat/quorn.

Serve with salad.

Enjoy!