15-Minute One-Pot Ratatouille

I love how simple, quick and easy this is to make. It is one of the most versatile and healthy dishes i know of and goes with pretty much anything.

A medley of Mediterranean vegetables, which tastes great with jackets, rice, pasta or as a savoury pancake filling (my personal favourite). It can also be as kid friendly as you want as you can chop the veggies as big or as small as you like..

One-Pot Ratatouille
 
Prep time
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Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • Ingredients
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 large coloured pepper (yellow / orange or red)
  • ½ can chopped tomatoes
  • ½ vegetable stock cube
  • 3 tbspn olive oil
  • 1 tbspn English yellow mustard
  • Salt to taste
  1. Chop the vegetables into medium sized chunks
  2. In a large pan, add the olive oil and sauté the chopped vegetables on a medium flame for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, blend the tin of chopped tomatoes with your vegetable stock cube.
  4. Once the vegetables have softened a little, add the pureed tomatoes, vegetable stock and mustard.
  5. Add salt to taste and allow the Ratatouille to cook for a further few minutes.
  6. Serve with jacket potato and cheese, rice, pasta or even savoury pancakes

 

The YumBox: Fussy Eater Review

I have been using my spanking new, Pomme Green YumBox for my little one’s packed lunches now for 2 weeks and I LOVE it!Yumbox Classic V2 in Pomme Green Open

Not only is the YumBox practical and well-made, it’s genius design concept combines bento culture with healthy eating.

Here are mine and my toddlers top three reasons for loving my YumBox:

  1. Positive encouragement for parent’s to focus on providing nutrition and healthy foods.

The standard YumBox tray comes sectionalized into five main compartments, each representing a key food group – fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Then there is an extra little ‘treat’ section for a something naughty and nice.

The YumBox takes away all the worry about serving sizes or whether you are offering a balanced diet to your little one; it does all this thinking for you.

Nevertheless, it does all mean that parents of YumBox using kids can’t really be lazy with packing lunches as for me; I feel the need to fill every section appropriately.

YumBox claim that you can offer a perfectly balanced diet for kids up to the age of 8. Sounds great to me – six more years of YumBox use!

  1. “Healthy Habits Start Young”

This is one of YumBox’s mottos and so true. Not only is it fun for my little one to open up this box of choices, variety and delights but it is also educational for her to grow up understanding what she should be and is eating on a daily basis.

The extra effort I have been putting into packing lunches, is without a doubt already paying off in K’s learning.

  1. Say Farewell to Fussy Eaters

Whether it is dealing with fussy eaters, terrible twos or general table tantrums, I seem to have found the perfect and simplest solution in my Yum Box.

It gives me, as a parent, the chance to offer controlled options whilst giving my child freedom of choice, decision-making ability and enjoyment. There are 6 exciting foods to my little K can choose to eat whatever, in whichever order she wants. She can choose which colour YumBox she takes to school that morning.

  1. Leak Proof (Yes it actually is)

If there were bonus points, it would be given to YumBox’s leak proof lid. And YES, by leak proof, they actually mean leak proof. I have tried yogurt, curry, hummus and each and every one has stayed within the compartment I had put it in. No leakage or spreading into other sections.

  1. Great choice of colours

There are colours for every day of the week, colours for every season and colours for boys and girls. From bright colours to pastels, there is something for every choice and for every child.

 

YumBox retails at £24.95 and is available to purchase online from http://www.eatwell-uk.co.uk./yumbox

Lifestyle Pastels 8

The Ultimate Cheese on Toast

Cheese on Toast day! I am currently managing a sick 6 month old and an almost sick toddler. By almost sick, I mean the toddler who isn’t fussy generally but won’t even touch her favourite meals. Paracetamol is just a matter of time for this one.

For those of you who know me, you will know that I don’t brag. However, when it comes to cheese on toast,  I have no shame in proclaiming that I make a pretty awesome version of this classic comfort food. My methodology has evolved over the years to a winning combination of cheeses, veggies and freshly baked bread.

For the cheese, cheddar is a must as a base and this leaves you able to experiment to find your perfect partner to it. I love gruyere and smoked cheese (as used in this instance). However, there are no rules to this so just stick to the one type of cheese if you prefer.

For the veggies, again to your preference but I love the combination of onion, peppers and mushrooms.

Finally the bread; keep it simple, keep it white and keep it thick sliced. Seeded, grained or wholemeal breads will work too but my preference is white or half and half.

The milk, however odd you may find it, is the secret to success. By hand-mixing a little milk into the mixture, it creates a pastiness to the cheese, which in turn binds everything together.

 
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Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • Couple of thick slices of good quality, fresh bread
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup grated cheese of your choice (mozzarella / smoked / gruyere etc)
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • ½ tomato, diced
  • ½ onion, diced
  • Couple of mushrooms, diced
  • Handful of chopped herbs (basil / coriander)
  • ½ tspn dried mixed herbs
  • 1-2 tbspn milk
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat grill to a medium flame setting
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients together with your hands.
  3. Place the bread slices on a baking tray and grill for 2-3 minutes until the top is golden brown.
  4. Flip the bread over, soft side facing up. Spoon the cheese mixture over the soft side of the bread and place in the grill again for a further 2-3 minutes until the cheese mixture is melted.
  5. Eat hot and enjoy and serve with a bowl of soup or portion of salad.

 

The TimTam Night Binge

Here’s the vision…you have a child and then you focus on getting back into shape so people can walk past you and your 2 kids and say, ‘I cant believe you’ve had 2 kids…you look incredible!’

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I need to be fitter and workout more to achieve this. However, when it comes to food, I like to promote healthy eating, especially at home, but everyone has their moments and this was mine!

Tim Tam biscuits

04:00              D wakes up for feed….

04:05              Mid-feed explosive poo…!

04:07              Hmm…lava like poo is escaping nappy boundary and seeping through baby grow onto newly washed pyjamas!

04:12              Feed finished, 3 huge burps and poop everywhere.

04.16              In shower with D screaming as no time to wait for hot water.

04:30              De-pooed, cleaned and changed.

TIMTAM #1
Think I have earned this after that stool stress!

04:40              D’s eyes WIDE open – begin to rock him back to sleep!

04:55              Still rocking…and now he is sporting a huge smile, possibly at my out of tune, half asleep version of ABC

TIMTAM #2
Tired now and need a sugar rush. One more won’t hurt and he’ll be asleep soon.

05:05              HUGE burp and milk puke all down pyjama top

05:06              No intention of changing again so try to wipe myself dry whilst holding D upright

TIMTAM #3
Sneak one last one whilst I pass the forbidden cupboard in search of towel

05:10              Collapse on sofa whilst D practices his new-found rolling technique on his jungle gym

TIMTAM #4 #5
I think these are the only thing which will help me get through this…I’m so tired…need to comfort self pity! 

05:40              D JUST YAWNED –almost home free! Mini victory dance in the living room.

TIMTAM #6
Celebratory treat 

05:41              Stretch back and psych self up for ABC again.

05:47              Asleep at last – scream for joy (on the inside of course) and take a deep breath!

05:49              Put D very gently in cot and rush into bed as still have 40 minutes before K is due to wake

06:00              STILL AWAKE! Self-imposed pressure to fall asleep is overwhelming. 40 minutes sleep time is now down to 30 minutes!! Just lost 10 minutes in NOT sleeping!!! Sleep Sleep Sleeeeeeep!

06:10              OMG now only 20 minutes left until K wakes. Why am I not asleep! Try breathing techniques learnt in one-off meditation class.

06:15              Is there really any point in me sleeping now? Maybe I should get up start cooking. Or I could be really good and do the warm up part of my Insanity workout DVD?

06:25              Still in bed, having achieved nothing and can hear K stirring – right on cue!

TIMTAM #7
Just grab a quick energy burst before K gets up

TIMTAM #8
Still have a few minutes so why not one more

06:30              K wakes. Toothbrush, change, breakfast, pack nursery bag and transfer D into car seat.

TIMTAM #9
Sneak one ‘last’ one with head in fridge as K has healthy breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. Slight guilty feeling!!

07:25              Car loaded with 2 kids

TIMTAM #10 #11
Take for journey as only 2 left now and need to dispose of evidence before Mr M wakes…

Not feeling too great about myself and slightly guilty about sneaking Tim Tam #9, whilst K eating fruit and porridge.

I think I now definitely need some alternative kid-friendly binge options (to avoid having to secretly hide out in fridge doors) so here my initial brainstorm:

  • Grapes:                     Easy to eat on the go and bite size
  • Banana Bread:        Great for using old bananas and healthy, although they do need to be pre-made
  • Energy snacks:        Apricot & coconut energy balls, Special K packs
Friday Frolics

Tofu Okra Curry

Tofu Okra CurryGreen veggies, protein and saucy; this tofu okra curry makes a great family meal when combined with a portion of rice or quinoa. The vegetables are all out there with this colourful concoction and there is no hiding from them but it’s mild and tasty so worth the try if your kids are ready for that next step.

 
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Serves: 6-8 portions
Ingredients
  • 5-6 large okras
  • 1 large pepper
  • 1 14oz pack of firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1 onion
For the Gravy
  • 125g / half box cherry tomato
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbspn ground cashew nut powder
  • 1 tbspn sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • cooking oil
  • salt to taste
Preparation
  1. Prepare the tofu by draining out the water it is packaged within and then pressing it to remove the excess water. If you do not have a tofu press, you can do this by wrapping kitchen roll around the tofu 5-6 times and placing the slab on a chopping board with a weight on top (I use a frying pan). Leave for 10-15 minutes and prepare the remaining ingredients,
  2. Wash the okra with cool water and drain well. Pat dry with a clean kitchen towel and cut off the stems.
  3. Chop crosswise into ½ inch slices and set aside
  4. Wash, deseed and cut the red pepper into bite-sized chunks and then peel and chop the onion into similar sized pieces.
  5. Now unwrap the tofu and cut into 1 inch rectangular pieces.
Cooking the Veggies
  1. In a large non-stick wok and using about 3 tablespoons of cooking oil, stir-fry the tofu pieces for about 5 minutes until they are crispy on all sides. Remove the tofu pieces from the pan.
  2. In the same pan, add in the pepper, onion and okra and cook for a further 5 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and add the tofu back in.
The Gravy
  1. In a separate pan, make the gravy.
  2. Wash and dice the cherry tomatoes.
  3. In about 1 tablespoon of cooking oil, add in the coriander seeds. After 1 minute add in the tomatoes, turmeric powder, garam masala, salt and sugar.
  4. Allow to cook for 5 minutes on a low heat until the tomatoes have softened
  5. Add in the water and cashew powder and then blend with an electric blender to create a smooth gravy.
Final Touches
  1. Pour the gravy over the cooked vegetable, tofu mixture, simmer on a low heat and mix well.
  2. Serve hot with rice, quinoa or any Indian bread

 

Eggless Carrot Cake

A super duper interpretation of a carrot cake. It’s eggless and it tastes great!

Carrot cakes often have walnuts but personally, I’m not a fan so have replaced this with pistachios which didn’t work out too bad.

Now the icing, I happen to love the Betty Crocker products and was introduced to it with her chocolate fudge icing, which is also divine. I’m not sure if this was originally intended for carrot cake but I found it works well and tastes deliciously naughty. It is a little shortcut yes, but with two young kids, we all need a little bit of cheat!

 
Prep time
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Serves: 10-15 people
Ingredients
  • 140g dairy free margarine (I use Nuttelex)
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 225g all purpose flour
  • 1 cup soya yogurt (use plain yogurt if you are not vegan)
  • ½ tsp soda bicarbonate
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • ½ tsp ginger powder
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup chopped pistachio
  • Zest of 1 orange
Icing
  • Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Vanilla Frosting
  1. Make two 9" cakes, each with the above quantities and using the below recipe
  2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
  3. Mix the vegan margarine and sugar until you have a fluffy, buttery mix
  4. Stir in the yogurt, grated carrots, pistachios, raisins and orange zest
  5. Now, sift into the mixture all the remaining, floury ingredients and mix well to form a sticky cake batter
  6. Bake for 25 minutes and check to see if the cake is cooked. Do this by placing a knife in the middle of your cake mould and seeing if any batter is stuck to the knife when removed. If so, bake for 5-10 minutes longer
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the moulds
Preparation
  1. Remove the cakes from the moulds by placing a plate on top and flipping upside down. The bottom of the cake will now be the top.
  2. On both cakes, spread a generous layer of the Betty Crocker frosting and stack one on top of the other to create a double layered cake
  3. If you are feeling arty, decorate with chopped pistachio, marzipan carrots or get your kids to decorate with orange writing icing.

 

The Bacon Sandwich vs The Tofu Steak!

I recently read an article questioning whether parents should dictate their children being vegetarian when they are too young to make their own choice.

Firstly, I would like to thank my fellow blogger, who is campaigning for every child to ‘experience the joy of a bacon sandwich’. The article proved a very interesting read, particularly for me, a born vegetarian, raising two vegetarian children.

In all honesty, my initial draft of this post was in outrage and defensive to the core. I have since then had more time to think and it has become a household topic of discussion, sparking some interesting questions for debate.

Why is it that we we raise our children with certain restrictions in place?

The world has become a smaller place and there are now a much wider variety of experiences we can expose our kids to. Schools offer a much wider variety of subjects. Restaurants cater for a wide range of dietary requirements including kosher, halal, vegan, vegetarian and gluten free. Our children have the opportunity to learn more languages and live abroad at younger ages. Primary schools have ipad lessons for 4 year olds.

We want to expose our kids to as much as possible and in a world where we are encouraging our children to be open, why do parents exert so much control? It starts from the smallest of things. We dictate everything our children do from what time they should wake up, to what they should eat, wear and do. One of the most iconic entrepreneurs of our time, Steve Jobs (Founder of Apple), used to walk barefooted.

I wonder how many parents would allow their children to go to school without shoes. Imagine a world without control, where children could decide what they do, how they do it and when they do it.

Should parents dictate their children are vegetarians when they are too young to make their own choice?

I set out to answer this thought-provoking question but I am still unsure, battling each side of the debate in my mind. We as parents do what we perceive to be right or wrong within our own belief system. Yes, in the majority of cases, we do impose this on our children with the small things and the big.

We send our 5-year olds to parties, carrying a brand new leather handbag and wearing designer leather shoes, with a note requesting the hosts to respect and honour our child’s vegetarian dietary requirements.

A dairy cow’s life span is limited to four or five years. Within that time, they continue to be artificially impregnated and pumped with hormones to produce over four times as much milk as they would naturally.

So is it right to offer our children milk and deny them bacon?

Our children develop their own value system based on the values lived by parents. If parents are vegetarian, is it right for us to go against our own value system in order to offer an unbiased view of the world to our children?

What is our role as parents? How do we decide where to draw the line? Is our perception of right and wrong flawed or is there even a right or wrong? What do you think?

Inspired and in response to: http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2015/03/11/vegetarians-let-your-children-make-their-own-eating-choices/

 

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Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Tofu Breakfast Scramble

Breakfast Tofu ScrambleEasy to make and a super healthy, protein-packed breakfast option for the whole family. You can eat this tofu scramble alone or serve it as an accompaniment to a vegetarian English Breakfast. Keep it simple in a wrap or make it brunch with a jacket potato.

 
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Serves: 4 portions
Ingredients
  • ½ block firm tofu
  • ½ red pepper, diced
  • ½ courgette, diced
  • ½ cup of chopped spring onions
  • 2 tbsp cooking (sunflower / vegetable) oil
For the seasoning
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 2-3 tbsp water
For the end
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ cup chopped coriander leaves
  1. Press the Tofu - lay the tofu on a chopping board and placing something weighted on top to remove the excess water for 10 minutes
  2. In the meantime, cut the vegetables as stated above
  3. Heat the cooking oil and sauté the vegetables and the tofu all together in a large non-stick pan or wok for about 5 minutes
  4. Prepare the seasoning by gently whisking all the ingredients together to form a thick paste
  5. Once the vegetables are cooked, stir in the seasoning paste and add in the lime juice and coriander leaves

 

Apricot & Coconut (No Bake) Energy Bites

Nut-free, Dairy free, Gluten free, Sugar free but FULL of YUMMINESS. Feeling experimental in my first attempt to make breakfast bars, I happened to stumble upon a recipe for these little treats.

Naturally, as with all ‘experimental’ situations, the effort to recreate your initial concoction is always a challenge. Fortunately, several steps along the way, here they are, better than before and polished off by K (and me) before I have even written this post.

 
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Serves: 20
Ingredients
  • 1 cup rolled oats (gluten free)
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • ½ cup pitted, dried apricot
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut
  1. Boil some water in a pan and remove from the stove
  2. Roughly chop the dates and apricot and soak in the hot water for 15-20 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, blend together the oats and coconut to form a grainy mix
  4. Once the dates and apricots have softened in the water, drain and add to the oaty coconut mix.
  5. Blend to form a dough-like mixture
  6. Remove from the blender and roll in the palms of your hands to make 1 inch balls
  7. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours and then store in an airtight container (for up to one week)

 

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Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Roasted Butternut RisottoK has loved butternut from the days of baby purees and its smooth and subtle taste is still a winner with her. The combination of roasted butternut squash with creme fraiche makes this risotto dish smooth and creamy. Now, although risotto is intended to be served al dente, my kid-friendly version allows for a little extra cooking to give a slightly softer feel.

 
Prep time
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Serves: 6-8 portions
Ingredients
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • Fresh rosemary (bunch)
  • 1 tbsp crème fraiche
  • salt & pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Chop the butternut into medium sized cubes and place in the oven with rosmary and olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes until soft.
  3. Meanwhile, on a low-medium flame, sauté the onions in the butter for 2-3 minutes and then add the risotto rice and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Add the vegetable stock, one ladleful at a time, stirring regularly until the rice is cooked to your preferred softness. If you run out of stock, continue to add boiled water. This should take 15-20 minutes.
  5. Once cooked, remove from the stove.
  6. Remove the butternut from the oven, mash with a fork and add into the risotto.
  7. Stir in the crème fraiche and add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve hot to your tot.