Mama OWL Blog: September 2011

Chicken Cacciatore [Recipe]

Friday, 30 September 2011

Serves 4
Ready in about 1 hour
Syns per serving: EE - free Original - free

INGREDIENTS

Fry Light
Salt & pepper
4 skinless chicken breasts
12 back bacon rashers, all visible fat removed, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 fl oz / 113 ml chicken stock
2 x 400 g cans chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
A small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn, to garnish

METHOD

1. Heat a frying pan sprayed with fry light. Season the chicken, add to the pan and fry until golden. Transfer to a large dish and keep warm.

2. Spray the frying pan with little more fry light. Add the bacon and fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the onion is tender.

3. Add the chicken to the onion mixture, stir in the stock, tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Cover the pan and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve garnished with basil leaves.

#R2BC - Reasons to be cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

This week's #R2BC blog hop is back at home at Mummy From The Heart

My reasons to be cheerful this week...

1. Gorgeous weather! It has been more summery than summer was, and I am savouring every last second of the sunshine before we are plunged into what has been reported as a 'harsh winter'... wow, will look forward to that then! I am basking in glorious sunshine, enjoying beautiful blue skies and a warm breeze - our last hurrah 'Indian Summer'.

2. A great family. I have witnessed a few examples of some really appalling rudeness this week unfortunately, but on the plus side it has made me very grateful for the family I have and the way I was raised. Not only has it stood me in good stead for my own life as an adult and how I treat other people, but also in particular what I am like as a parent and how I am raising my children. I had a lovely compliment today about how well behaved my children are, so fingers crossed I am doing all right so far!

3. It's Fajita Friday. We have a tradition of having fajitas every Friday followed by a homemade dessert, and a family movie before bedtime. It's my favourite day of the week! Today's dessert is custard & cinnamon tart, can't wait to dig in to that!

Have a great weekend!



Getting ahead of myself [Meal Plan]

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I have cracked on and written next week's meal plan, and ordered the shopping for delivery too. Something I won't have to worry about at the end of the week, another job off my list. With the exception of Fajita Friday, everything else is Slimming World, recipes on request!

Monday 3rd October - American blue cheese burgers & french fries, with sweetcorn relish and coleslaw (sounds good doesn't it? All homemade, all Slimming World, looking forward to trying it!)

Tuesday 4th October - Chicken Cacciatore, with baked potatoes

Wednesday 5th October - Scandinavian style meatballs with tagliatelle

Thursday 6th October - Egg, chip & pepper bake

Friday 7th October - Fajitas

Saturday 8th October - Spanish rice with bacon & chorizo

Sunday 9th October - Roast with trimmings

I don't want to be anything other than what I've been trying to be lately

Tuesday, 27 September 2011






Because I am a good mum.

I'm not one of those people who berates myself for not being good enough, not doing enough, not having everything perfect. I will not aspire to be something that does not exist, setting myself impossible tasks and having unrealistic expectations. I do my best, and while it isn't perfect, it is perfect for me.

My children are clean, fed, well dressed and neat & tidy (when they leave the house, what happens after is mostly out of my control particularly where school is concerned, and they come home looking like they have been dragging each other through the mud), polite & well mannered (most of the time...) and well behaved (again, most of the time, they're children not robots and we're not immune to fights, bickering and being called fartface or bumhead) and they are happy, healthy and LOVED.

I'm a good mum because I hug each and every one of my five little ratbags every day, I tell them I love them every day, I ask them how they are or how their day has been every day. I always tuck them in at bedtime, and I always kiss them goodnight.

I let them bring their toys out and play with them wherever they want around the house (even though I would prefer Harrison didn't line up his fire engines on the draining board when I'm trying to wash dishes truth be told, but he likes to be next to me and I won't argue with that) because this is their home, and their right to do so. Once they have finished playing, they pack up their things and put them away. Sometimes they do it without me asking, other times it takes one, two etc times for me to remind them to put it away and it eventually gets done, but in the grand scheme of things it isn't a big deal, this is our home not a show house.

I'm a good mum because I take the time to do things with and for my kids. It isn't the fact that I can bake a mean cake (thanks to my mum, nan and sisters), or that I prepare most of their meals from scratch, or that I set up arts and crafts & activities for us during the holidays and time off school. Anyone can do that, baking a cake isn't rocket science and nor does it make you a wonderful mother.

The thing that matters is like I said, that I take the time to do it WITH them and FOR them. Not so I can rub it in anyone else's face, or use it as a stick to beat others with to make them feel bad for their choices as parents, what they do or don't do with their kids. It is something that I as their mother do, because I enjoy it, because that is how I was raised, because that is important to ME.

I'm a good mum, because I like to take pictures of my kids just being my kids. Being themselves, being how they are in their natural surroundings, having fun and being silly. Making funny faces, pulling bunny ears behind each others heads, giving each other piggy back rides. I take zillions of pictures because I want to absorb every last minute of their childhoods. I want to remember spending weekends watching them zooming around the park on their scooters, hanging upside down from the zip wire, rolling down hills, sitting watching sunsets, running through the woods knee deep in mud. And when the time comes that maybe I can't remember as well as I could do, then I will have pictures to look at and help me remember. And when I am gone, my kids will have the pictures to look at, and remember the time that their dad and I spent with them, doing things with them, being a family.

I'm a good mum because last night we sat and watched TV together for an extra half an hour before bed time, because their dad was working late, and I wanted just to sit with them. Which meant that this morning, I ended up stood in my pants & a t-shirt in the utility room at the crack of dawn ironing their school shirts because I didn't do it last night. I hadn't even had a coffee, it astounds me that I didn't iron my hand or something because I am useless in the morning without caffeine.

I'm a good mum because I make time for my kids. Time is precious. It is slipping away from me even now. I look at my children in the evenings when they are tucked up in bed sleeping and I wonder when they all got so big.

Our eldest is thirteen, a young woman now. I won't say lady, because quite frankly her attitude at times makes me consider locking her in her room but that is part and parcel of being a teenager and I wasn't any better (my mum can barely conceal her glee when I complain to her that Alicia has done this or said that... "You weren't any better", and "Payback...!" are her usual words of choice). But I look at her and think that before I know it she will be a young lady, and she will be gone, out into the world to pursue her career and her dreams and begin her life.

The boys are 10.5, 8 and "nearly six!" and they are just beasts. They're big strapping lads like their dad (6'1) and my brothers (who take after my dad, who is an impressive 6'4, both of them are younger than me, and both of them are head & shoulders taller than me and I'm 5'10). I look at my boys and wonder what sort of men they will be.
I hope my sons will be just like their dad, and their grandfathers. Good, strong men with their priorities in order, who take care of their families, who work hard for what they have, and are caring and decent. I know I won't have to wait long, soon enough they too will have grown up and gone, and I will miss having fire engines on the draining board.

The baby is 17 months old today, and I swear I have no idea where the past year and a half has gone. How is she so big? She was just born! I'm enjoying every minute of her and her siblings, because time is precious, and so is my time with them.

I'm a good mum, because sometimes we've had a busy day and been out doing this & that, and we stop off and pick up a takeaway on the way home. Balls to the routine, sometimes things happen and you have to roll with it.

I'm a good mum because most days I am lucky if I can drag a brush through my hair (or indeed even find a brush...) before getting out of the house. But I don't care, because the kids have left the house looking clean & tidy, and are fed & watered ready to start their day.

The bottom line is, I'm a good mum for the time I take for my kids, even if I sacrifice a little of myself to do it.
And if you are doing your best, then you're a good mum (or dad, or guardian) too, and don't let anyone tell you any different. Keep up the good work.

The week after the day after tomorrow [Meal Plan]

Friday, 23 September 2011


Monday 26th September - Rigatoni alla amatriciana

Tuesday 27th September - 'Brinner' (egg & bacon, toast, sausages, tomatoes, hash browns etc - this has turned out to be a firm favourite in our house, and quick & easy for a post-football training meal for Adam & Joshua)

Wednesday 28th September - Macaroni Cheese with broccoli

Thursday 29th September - Cottage Pie

Friday 30th September - Fajitas

Saturday 1st October - Baked cannelloni

Sunday 2nd October - Roast with trimmings

#R2BC - Reasons to be cheerful

Friday, 23 September 2011

This week's #R2BC is hosted by the lovely Mum Of All Trades and next week will be back where it began at Mummy From The Heart.

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

My reasons for being cheerful this week...

1. I am going to buy some new Autumn/Winter boots. My last pair - that I absolutely loved - unfortunately died a slow and painful death, however this does mean that in light of the new season that is upon us I can now justify buying some more! I wore flip-flops out in to the garden today to hang out some washing and nearly froze my toes off... Boots are an absolute must!

2. We are re-decorating the house. Well, pretty much every room except the boys room (just retouching the paint, grubby boy hands!) and the living room (happy with how it is). The hallway is looking fabulous, new paint job just done, wallpaper almost done and a new carpet going down when that is all finished. Maybe being excited by DIY projects is a sign of old age, but I don't care, it's going to look great when it's done.
Adam is doing a great job and completing it all while also working all the hours God sends and coaching our eldest son's football team, he's an absolute star.

3. There are less than 100 days until Christmas. I *love* Christmas and have already started making plans for dinner and desserts, and all of our arts/crafts/baking. I love this time of year, Autumn is here and preparations can begin for the festive season and for Harrison's birthday which is a month before Christmas, exciting times.


Macaroni Cheese [Recipe]

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Serves 4
Ready in about 1 hour
Syns: Extra Easy 5 1/2

8oz/227g dried pasta tubes or shapes
11oz/312g broccoli florets

For the sauce:
2 level tbsp cornflour
0.5pt/284ml skimmed milk
5oz/142g fat-free natural fromage frais
1 level tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Salt & pepper
2oz/57g reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, grated

1. Preheat your oven to 180c/350f/GM5. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, adding the broccoli florets for the last 4-5 minutes, drain and set aside.

2. To make the sauce, blend the cornflour with a little milk. Heat the remaining milk and bring to the boil. Stir in the cornflour mixture and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring until thickened.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the fromage frais, mustard and nutmeg with a wooden spoon, then season.

4. Stir most of the grated cheese into the sauce, reserving a little for the topping. Put the vegetables and pasta into an ovenproof dish and pour the sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.

5. Bake for 20-30 minutes until crisp and golden. Serve.

NB: You can also prepare the broccoli separate to the macaroni cheese and serve alongside the dish.

Peanut Butter Fudge [Recipe]

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Ingredients

125g/4½oz butter
500g/1lb 2oz dark brown sugar
120ml/4fl oz milk
250g/9oz crunchy peanut butter
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
300g/10½oz icing sugar

Preparation method

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
Stir in the brown sugar and milk, and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes, without stirring.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla seeds.
Place the icing sugar in a large bowl, and pour the hot butter and sugar mixture on top. Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until smooth.
Pour into a 20cm/8in square baking tray, and set aside to cool slightly, then place in the fridge to chill completely.
Cut the fudge into squares with a sharp knife, turn out of the tin and store in an airtight container

** not my recipe, cannot remember where it was from originally though!

Rigatoni alla amatriciana [Recipe]

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Serves 4
Ready in about 30 minutes

Ingredients:

8 rashers of bacon, all visible fat removed, chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed (*I personally use a big splodge of garlic puree!)
1-2 tsp dried red chillies (*I recommend only 1/2 a tsp though!!)
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1-2 tsp artificial sweetener
A small handful of fresh basil, finely chopped, plus a few leaves to garnish (*I don't bother with this bit...)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
14oz/397g dried rigatoni pasta

1. Place a pan over a medium heat. Add the bacon, onions, carrot, celery, garlic and chillies and fry for 2-3 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes and sweetener. Bring to the boil. Stir in the chopped basil, reduce the heat, cover and cook on a very low heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Season well.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain, add to the sauce and toss to coat evenly. Garnish with basil and serve with a mixed leaf salad.


Slimming World Recipe: Syns per serving: Extra Easy FREE

Mum's kitchen specials [Meal Plan]

Monday, 19 September 2011


Monday 19th September - Baked Cannelloni

Tuesday 20th September - 'Brinner' (Eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns, baked beans, toast)

Wednesday 21st September - Broccoli, Mac & Cheese

Thursday 22nd September - Spanish Rice with chicken & chorizo

Friday 23rd September - Fajitas & nachos

Saturday 24th September - Homemade Chicken Curries (Korma & Dopiaza) with rice, naan & poppadoms

Sunday 25th September - Roast with trimmings


I appear to have misplaced my arm...

Friday, 16 September 2011

When I woke up this morning and checked my phone I noticed that the text I had received appeared to have come from an unknown number. On reading it, I realised it was from my sister-in-law, and was then instantly confused as to why it wasn't listed correctly as it has obviously been saved in my phone for some time...

Horror of horrors, every single one of my contacts is GONE. My HTC Desire appears to have eaten every single one of them. To make matters worse, it would not even link to my Facebook contacts so I could retrieve the ones that were synced.

I have spent this morning distraught, fiddling about with settings, deleting and resetting and trying to retrieve the lost information. I do not even have my MOTHER'S mobile number now. I cannot possibly be expected to remember all of these numbers, even the most important ones, because to be honest I can barely keep my kids names straight these days, or remember where I left things (the baby was here a minute ago...), so long sequences of numbers is absolutely out of the question. My phone is my lifeline!

I have at last managed to get the flaming thing to recognise Facebook again and have linked in to the people who have replied to my request on FB to text me, and also to identify themselves when they do so. I have some amusing friends, and a lot of "Guess Who?!" which is entertaining but not helpful!
I actually feel like I have lost an arm, my phone connects me to everyone, if I don't have contacts I don't have PEOPLE. Things could only be worse if I had actually lost my phone (which I thought I had done once after a particularly messy night out for a friend's hen... as it turned out another friend had it in her bag, we still to this day do not know how it got in there...).

And so now I am left with the task of re-entering details and backing them all up so it doesn't happen again. Let this be a lesson to you all, back up your contacts. And probably, get a better phone than I have, because this one is OUTTA HERE when it's time for renewal!

#R2BC - Reasons to be cheerful...

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Joining in with the R2BC Blog Hop for the first time, so bear with me...

My reasons to be cheerful this week -

1. It's Thursday, which means Friday is tomorrow, which means the weekend is nigh! What's not to like about that?!

2. The children have all settled back in to school well, two full weeks (almost...) and it has been plain sailing *touches every piece of wood I can find* so that makes me very happy.

3. The council cancelled my husband's second parking ticket in as many weeks, simply because I told them I wasn't paying it because we are parked outside our house. Simple as that, I received a letter this morning telling me it was cancelled. Well, all right then!

Pop over to this week's R2BC guest host A matter of choice and join in! Next week #R2BC will be hosted by Mum Of All Trades


Vanilla Butter Biscuits [Recipe]

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

This recipe is mine, that was passed on to me by my nan. It is simple yet delicious and makes beautiful melt-in-the-mouth biscuits.

INGREDIENTS

250 g / 12.5 oz butter, softened
140 g / 7 oz caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
300 g / 15 oz plain flour

METHOD

Mix the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until soft and fluffy.
Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until fully combined.
Soft over the flour and stir/knead to combine.
Roll out the dough on a prepared surface and cut out desired biscuit shapes
Place the shapes on lined baking sheets and bake in a preheated oven on 190c for approx 10-15 minutes (you may need to adjust for your own oven)
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack

More culinary delights [Pictures]

Monday, 12 September 2011

A few more pics of some of the yummy things I have made in recent months...

baked couscous with chunky chili vegetable sauce

whoopie pies

My husband's 30th birthday cake (he's a painter & decorator)

random cupcake

pretty swirly cupcakes

Logan's Pokemon birthday cake

the cupcakes I made for my husband for father's day

the cupcakes I made for the husband & kids for Valentines Day

Gingerbread Mr & Mrs + baby for a friend's wedding

toy story cupcakes for my nephew's birthday

Logan's Pokemon cupcakes

mince pies last Christmas

chocolate & cinnamon cupcakes with vanilla buttercream & a gingerbread heart that I made for a friend's wedding

team cupcakes I made for Joshua's Football cake sale

Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies [Recipe]

Monday, 12 September 2011

A LOVE FOOD recipe, by Angela Drake
Makes 15

INGREDIENTS

250g/9oz plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
large pinch of salt
2tsp ground cinnamon
115g/4oz butter, softened
150g/5½oz caster sugar, plus 2tbsp
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
150ml/5 fl oz buttermilk

Coffee Filling:
115g/4oz unsalted butter, softened
85g/3oz full-fat soft cheese
1 tbsp strong black coffee
280g/10oz icing sugar, sifted

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180c/350g/GM4. Line 2-3 large baking sheets with baking paper. Sift together the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon.

Place the butter and the 150g/5½oz caster sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract followed by half the flour mixture and then the buttermilk.. Stir in the rest of the flour mixture and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

Pipe or spoon 30 mounds of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets, spaced well apart to allow for spreading. Mix together the rest of the cinnamon with the 2 tbsp caster sugar and sprinkle liberally over the mounds. Bake in the preheated oven , one sheet at a time, for 10-12 minutes until risen and just firm to the touch. Cool for five minutes then using a palette knife, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

For the filling, place the butter, soft cheese and coffee in a bowl and beat together until well blended. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until smooth.

To assemble, spread or pipe the coffee filling on the flat side of half of the cakes. Top with the rest of the cakes.

Trek Ben Nevis

Friday, 9 September 2011

I was looking through my old posts and realised I never blogged about my Ben Nevis trek. All I can say is wow, what an experience. The Scottish Highlands are positively breathtaking, standing on Ben Nevis looking out across at the view, and hearing literally nothing, not even birds, was surreal. So peaceful, and just beautiful.
The trek up the Ben was tough, much tougher than I expected I have to say, but made it up in good time. Unfortunately for me, I tore the tendons in my groin while we were walking up the zigzags, if it hadn't have been for one of our Mountain Leaders (Jason) lending me trekking poles I never would have made it up there, I ended up using them as crutches because I was in a ridiculous amount of pain.

The summit was stunning, it snowed while we were at the top but it was so clear, we could see for miles. We stayed for a short while, took pictures and celebrated our achievement and had something to eat and drink, before making our descent. I say OUR descent... The rest of our group carried on down with Viv, and Jason bless him got stuck babysitting me, because by this point I was dragging my leg, I could no longer even lift it to walk despite the trekking poles.

Jason took the decision that it was simply taking too long, it took us 40 minutes to get 500m from the summit, and bad weather was coming in. He called Mountain Rescue to come and get me, which I was mortified about and sat myself on a rock in tears with my bottom lip stuck out like a petulant child. We made ourselves comfortable while we waited, I was terrified because I knew it could take hours and the absolute last thing I wanted was to be stranded on the top of Ben Nevis in the dark.

Luckily it didn't take long for the crew from RAF Lossiemouth to come to our aid, the fabulous medic morphined me up and they got me and Jason in to the helicopter (unbelievably scary, my eyes were shut tight the whole time) and down to the ground safely, where I was taken off to hospital and checked over. I spent the next two weeks on crutches.

So. It was certainly an adventure. The best thing is, I get to relive it all, as they were filming for Highland Emergency and there was a camera crew on board the helicopter. So... fun times. I will look forward to seeing my pigtailed, sweaty, crying self in my ten layers wearing tracksuit bottoms on television for the nation, maybe even the world, to laugh at. BUT - Clare and I raised almost £1500 for the National Autistic Society, so it was worth every minute.










Versatile Blogger Award

Friday, 9 September 2011


I have been given the versatile Blogger award by Nikki from Diaries of a Denham Housewife, the idea is to list seven things about myself and then pass the award to 15 new blogs out there.

1. I LOVE to cook, and to bake. Mostly I spend my time perfecting recipes I find in books, magazines or online, but sometimes when the mood takes me I love nothing more than to potter around in the kitchen, making my own variations of recipes and seeing how they turn out. Some are good, some not so good... But it's a lot of fun and I have come up with some good ideas. I always cook from scratch, all sauces and dinners, pies and curries etc. I like to know what is in my food and what I am feeding my children, and also want them to have healthy meals with fresh ingredients. I'm not going to lie, in the bottom of the freezer lives a bag of chips, a bag of sausages and a bag of chicken nuggets for emergencies (although they have been there a good while now), but other than that, I make everything myself. Not trying to be smug, it is just important to *ME*.
I have loved baking since I was a little girl, I was taught how to make cakes by my mum and nan, and spent many afternoons and weekends baking goodies with my big sisters. I think it is SO important to teach children to cook and bake, and love nothing more than being up to my elbows in cake batter with the kids whipping something yummy up. It comes naturally to me as I have always done it, and I enjoy passing on tips and skills to the kids to help them on their way for when they eventually grow up and move out and one day have families of their own.

2. I don't spend nearly as much time, effort or money on myself as I know I should. Everything is taken up by the children, my life literally revolves around their wants and needs and I often neglect myself because of this. 9 times out of 10 if you see me out and about, I will be wearing jeans & a *t-shirt/jumper, with *flip-flops/trainers (*delete as appropriate for season) with my hair in a ponytail and probably no make up on. When there are sales on in the shops, the first place I look is at the kids clothes. Why do I do this? They have billions of clothes, I know this because of the endless pile of washing I have to do. Me, I have three pairs of jeans, a pair of trousers and a handful of tops that I wear to death because every spare penny is spent on the kids. This does need to change, but I always feel SO guilty if I buy anything for myself. I shouldn't, I just do. And as far as nails and hair etc, I barely have the time to cram a one-off treatment in to my day never mind fit it in/afford it on a regular basis. Luckily for me I have met a fabulous lady named Shelley who I have now appointed as my beauty therapist because she is mobile and her prices are VERY reasonable so I can at least attempt to keep my eyebrows & nails in check occasionally. I also have a fabulous hairdresser in my dear, dear friend Jennie who I have known since I was 14 and who I trust to always make my hair look AMAZE even when the only thing I manage to do it myself is drag a brush through it!

3. I love Christmas. I am so excited about it I can barely contain myself. I have started the present shopping in earnest and planning what we will have for dinner, and desserts, and the baking we will do. I have started stocking up my baking cupboard with pots of ginger and cinnamon and little decorations for the gingerbread houses, and buying craft things to make our own napkin rings, place mats & table decorations... It is going to be a wonderful family time.
The down side to this year, is that this will be our first Christmas without Grampy. Grampy passed away aged 96 years on June 25th of this year. He has been a big part of my life forever, growing up next door to him & my nan, and seeing him almost every day for as long as I can remember. His absence is felt, and he is very much missed by me, and the family as a whole. RIP Grampy xx

4. I love to take pictures. I would say I love photography, but I'm not a photographer, I just love to make memories and what better way to do that, than with a photo? I love to look back on all our days out, or days at home in the garden or just pottering around the house hanging out. As a family we love to go for walks in the woods, or around the local country park, and for day trips to the zoo, seaside or aquarium. I have thousands of pictures I need to organise in to albums, and I look forward to sharing them with the kids as they grow up so they can look back on them and remember all the fun we had together and all of the good times we have shared.

5. I never planned on having five children. I actually didn't plan on having any children, as to be honest I have never been a massive fan...! But I wouldn't have it any other way, I LOVE having a big family and seeing them grow and learn together, and while there are days that I am grateful for the lock on the bathroom door or for when bedtime rolls around, the vast majority of the time I enjoy every single minute of my kids. Even when they are covered in chocolate/mud/vomit, they are all mine and I am so so lucky to have them.

6. Trekking Ben Nevis this year was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It was much harder than I expected and while it didn't go entirely to plan, it was just an amazing experience and I am so excited at the prospect of doing more for charity in the years to come. I want to continue to raise money for The National Autistic Society, Children's Hospice Southwest, and The Search & Rescue Trust. Watch this space!

7. Next year in March is my 10th wedding anniversary. We have been together for 13 years now, and it hasn't always been plain sailing, but we have muddled through and have made a happy family together and are raising some amazing kids. I have some special plans for next year to mark the occasion... But they are top secret, and I don't want any busy bodies spoiling the surprise for "him indoors" so you will just have to wait and see...! But I think the man deserves a reward for putting up with me for this long so it's only fair ;)

I don't know 15 blogs to pass this on to just yet... So I'll have to do some browsing and get back to you!

Tomato & herb couscous [Recipe]

Thursday, 8 September 2011

This is a super simple recipe by Paul Rankin, which my youngest loves (made without salt for her) and makes a good side dish.

Less than 30 mins prep time
Less than 10 mins cooking time
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
250g/9oz couscous
150ml/¼ pint hot vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
1 lemon, juice only
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt & pepper

METHOD
1. Place the couscous into a heat proof bowl, pour over the hot stock and olive oil and cover with cling film. Leave to stand for five minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, lemon juice and parsley to the couscous. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper and stir well.

3. Serve!

Cajun chicken with spicy potato wedges and coleslaw [recipe]

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Serves 4
Ready in about an hour
Syns EE2

INGREDIENTS
4 chicken drumsticks, skinned
4 chicken thighs, skinned
2lb/908g large new potatoes, quartered into wedges
30g sachet Schwartz Flavourful Cajun Chicken recipe mix
8 mini corn on the cobs
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to garnish

for the coleslaw:
7oz/198g summer cabbage, quartered, cored and shredded
2 carrots, coarsely grated
Salt
4 level tbsp extra-light mayonnaise
4 spring onions, finely shredded

METHOD
1. Preheat your oven to 200c/400f/GM6. Cut a few slits into the chicken drumsticks and thighs and put them in a large roasting tin with the wedges, Sprinkle over the Cajun seasoning and toss everything together.
2. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes, mixing occasionally. Add the corn cobs halfway through the cooking time.
3. For the coleslaw, put the cabbage in a colander. Pour over a kettle full of just-boiled water, letter it drain, to soften the cabbage slightly. Cool it quickly with cold water and let it drain again.
4. Add the carrot to the colander. Sprinkle over a good pinch of salt and mix well (this both seasons the veg and draws out some of the moisture). Leave to drain for 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and mix together well with the mayonnaise and shredded spring onions.
5. Divide the spicy chicken, potatoes and corn cobs between 4 plates, garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley and serve with the coleslaw on the side.

Spanish Rice [recipe]

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


This is an original recipe by a lady named Diana, from Bristol

Serves 6

  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 2 cups/400g long grain rice
  • 2 cups/500ml hot stock
  • 500ml carton passata
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • Your choice of cooked chicken, cooked prawns, mussels or chorizo
  • 50g frozen peas (or mixed veg)
  • 50g tinned/frozen sweetcorn (or mixed veg)
  • 1 tsp paprika and dried/fresh herbs (optional)

Finely chop the large onion, red pepper and green pepper and fry gently in a little olive oil until softened. Add the paprika and herbs, if using. Add two cups of long grain rice and stir it around until coated. Add the passata and stock and stir well.

Place in a suitable container. Cover and microwave for 5 minutes on high. Sir well, then microwave for a further 10-15 minutes on medium until the rice has absorbed the tomato liquid. Add some more stock or boiling water during the cooking time, if there's not enough liquid to cook the rice.

Meanwhile chop some garlic and heat gently in a little olive oil then add cooked prawns, mussels, chopped cooked chicken, some chopped chorizo or cooked spicy sausage - whatever you fancy - and heat through.

Add the peas and sweetcorn, and cook for a further 2 minutes, then stir into the rice mixture.


Just before serving squeeze some lemon juice over.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Variation: For a vegetarian version just leave out the meat and fish and add extra vegetables such as green beans and mushrooms, or add some Quorn pieces.

To save money, use frozen mixed veg.

Not suitable for freezing.


- I cook my rice on the hob as I don't like microwaving, just follow your own packet instructions to cook on the hob.

Baked Cannelloni [recipe]

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

This is not my own recipe, but rather a tried-and-tested Slimming World one that is fabulous, and delicious, and even a hit with the kids!

Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Syns per serving: EE1 R6 G1

INGREDIENTS

8 cannelloni tubes
A few basil leaves, torn
2 level tbsps grated Parmesan cheese
227g/8oz fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
227g/8oz fat-free natural cottage cheese
freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg yolk
salt and ground black pepper
426ml/¾pt passata
pinch of sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and ground black pepper

METHOD

1. To make the filling put the spinach in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Cover with a lid and cook very gently over a low heat for about 5 minutes, until the leaves are limp and bright green. Drain in a colander, pressing down on top of the spinach with a saucer to squeeze out all the liquid.

2. Chop the spinach and mix with the cottage cheese, nutmeg, egg yolk and seasoning. Spoon the filling into the cannelloni tubes and arrange them in an ovenproof dish.

3. Mix the passata, sugar, garlic and seasoning together and pour over the cannelloni. Sprinkle with basil and Parmesan cheese and bake in a preheated oven at 200C°/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for about 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.

Feeding the five thousand...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


Wednesday 7th September - Fusilli & meatballs

Thursday 8th September - Homemade chips, cajun chicken & corn on the cob

Friday 9th September - Fajitas and nachos

Saturday 10th September - Baked couscous with chunky chili vegetable sauce

Sunday 11th September - Roast chicken & trimmings

Monday 12th September - Spanish rice with chicken & chorizo

Tuesday 13th September - Baked cannelloni


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