Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Pasta Puttanesca(ish) a storecupboard standby

Pasta puttanesca is one of my favourite pasta dishes, the punchy flavours really sing to me, and as it's something M isn't a fan of, it gets relegated to being cooked when he's away or late home. However, this Puttanesca(ish) pasta is a firm favourite of mine, as it gives more than a nod to the original, without  requiring a trip to the shops as all the ingredients are things I typically have in our store cupboard.

I originally blogged this a fair few years back, with a woeful picture, and in the same post as some eccles cakes. I was eating leftovers for lunch today, and thought I'd rewrite it here and give it the benefit of some new photos too.

It's perfect for an entirely unseasonal supper (which so often at this time of year is just the thing you need) - the kick of chilli is warming, and the saltiness of the anchovies provides a lovely savouriness. I find it's best eaten from a bowl on one's knees, snuggled under a crochet blanket. But that may just be me.

Pasta Puttanesca(ish)
Serves 2

2 cloves garlic
1/2 red chilli - I use a nice big one, this is not the place for something that blows your socks off
1 tin anchovies in olive oil, chopped up
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon tomato pesto
Basil to serve

Cook your pasta in a pan, as you would usually - this sauce takes about 10 minutes to cook, so the two should finish almost together.

Drain 1 tablespoon of oil from the anchovies into a small frying pan (the rest can be discarded) and warm through over a medium heat
Add the chilli, garlic, and anchovies to the oil and cook down for 3-4 minutes. The anchovies will start to melt down
Add the halved cherry tomatoes, and allow to cook down for about 5 minutes more, use the back of a wooden spoon (or a potato masher) to break them down towards the end of cooking.
Stir in the tomato pesto and season with just pepper (you have enough salt from the anchovies).
Once you've drained the pasta, put it back into the pan and stir the sauce over, making sure it's thoroughly coated
Sprinkle with basil leaves for a lovely freshness, and serve as suggested above. Crochet blanket optional.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Dressing your kitchen for Healthy Living

Have I shown you my yellow migraine-inducing kitchen recently? You know the one, 50's Hygena cupboards, painted in yellow gloss, permanently sticky lino on the floor, with next to no worktop space. Yep, that's the one. 

Since participating in the Live Lagom project with Ikea last year, I decided that it was time to do something about my kitchen. What that was, I wasn't sure, but something needed to be done. And so, over the past couple of months, I've sanded and painted the cupboards, painted the walls and we stripped the lino back to reveal a tiled floor. Some of our Lagom purchases, including a sturdy runner for the (freezing) floor, and a lovely blind have perked the space up. I've cleared all but essentials away from the worktops, and have curtained off the microwave and recycling bins. Unlike the kitchen I had my eye on from Ikea, nothing has cost a fortune, and despite not functioning any differently, despite not being completely finished, the kitchen looks so much better. There's still work to do, the doors need new handles, I need some storage boxes for on top of the cupboards where I keep all my baking equipment and tupperware and I want to do something about the tiles. which are still ghastly.

I was asked to have a look at the following video which is about how your kitchen can help you to make better choices in your diet. Sadly, we just don't have space in the kitchen for a fruit bowl, much less a table, but we do have both on view and used heavily in our lounge. Since having Harry, sitting up to the table for meals has become much more important to both M and I.

I love the idea of your fridge sending you a selfie, but that technology hasn't reached the wilds of North London yet. Instead I have a very low-tech magnetic notepad on our fridge which you write on, every time you finish anything in the fridge, be that milk, bacon or wine! 

This is a sponsored post, all opinions are my own.

Meal planning Tuesday: 29th November

As you can probably tell, things around here have been a little quiet of late, sadly due to nothing more exciting than teeth. Since August I've had a grand total of about three weeks without antibiotics or dental treatment, culminating recently in an abscess - which is as grim as it sounds. However, I've since been referred to the hospital, so aside from looking somewhat like a demented hamster, I'm hoping things are on the up.

We've just had Advent Sunday, so I think I'm safe to use the C word around here now. Like so many people, Christmas is a family time for us - we'll be seeing all parentals, and spending time with both my brother and my sister and her family. This does mean I need to get a wriggle on, so my Bullet journal and planner(post to come) are working overtime with lists, lists of lists, colour coded lists of lists of lists etc... I made the Christmas puddings last weekend, and Harry and I are going to bake the Christmas cake this week some time. Then it's going to be time for my Get-Ahead Christmas.

Despite my blog absence, I've managed to maintain more of a presence on Instagram and will have lots of posts coming up there in the days and weeks to come. Do make sure you're following, if for nothing else than my impressive mug and tea collection.

Meal plans have been a bit more flexible here of late, as life on antibiotics does seem to render me exhausted by about 6pm and feeling wildly sick much of the rest of the time. Much pizza has been eaten.

Breakfasts - Harry and I are both enjoying shreddies with warm milk (oat for him, almond for me) Cereal with warm milk is a real throwback to growing up for me and is incredibly cheering
on these frosty mornings.

Lunches - I've actually taken a leaf out of M's book and am trying to remember to have leftovers for lunch. Normally at this time of year I eat a lot of soup, but I just don't feel inspired by it at the moment, so in order to save me from the dullness of sandwiches, leftovers it is.


Monday: Pantry pasta with garlic bread

Tuesday: Leftovers

Wednesday: Gammon, sweet potato chips, peas, carrots and sweetcorn

Thursday: Bolognaise pasta bake

Friday: Leftover bolognaise with baked potatoes

Saturday: Breakfast for dinner

Sunday: Butternut squash, chicken and barley casserole

Baking wise it's just the Christmas cake on the agenda.

As always, here are our other meal planners - don't forget to pop on over and have a read.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Meal Planning Monday: 7th November 2016

I caved this weekend, the heating's on and I'm not sorry. We've had a lovely time with family but are looking forward to a nice quiet week - I say this, secure in the knowledge that between Yoga, Brownies, Guides, a DBS I need to do and the food shop - there's about 20 minutes on Wednesday currently unaccounted for.

Breakfasts - I'm going to have a bash at Jamie Oliver's Chocolate porridge that was on the Superfoods programme on Friday. It looked lovely and I suspect the toddler would adore it!

Lunches - I'm using up the last of our pumpkin with a batch of pumpkin soup this week. I'm deliberately veering away from my usual Root vegetable soup Last week Harry and I made a couple of batches of an invented Spelt, rye and oat soda bread - obviously a dairy free recipe, but it was wonderful slathered in some butter (leftover from the Guide's baking) and eaten hidden from view with one's head in the fridge.


Monday: Heck sausages, baked potatoes and lots of veggies

Tuesday: Butternut squash and kale curry with rice

Wednesday: Gammon and egg, with Slimming World chips and veggies

Thursday: Shepherd's pie with swede, carrot and parsnip top and extra veggies on the side

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Parsnip pasta

Sunday: Breakfast for tea

I've got no plans baking wise this week - although I do have the ingredients for Apricot and Cherry banana bread so all is not lost. And next weekend I finally need to make the Christmas pudding and cake. I'm so disorganised this year!

As always, the Meal Planning Monday linky is below, so do pop around and see what all the other planners are up to.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The reality of life with allergies: when, yes, a little does hurt

Sometimes I think that my online bright & breezy persona where it seems that Harry's allergies are entirely managed is somewhat disingenious.  For the most part they are, we have safe foods - which can be as specific as one brand of one product that doesn't cause a reaction, yet another will. We have safe places to eat if we're out and about. We have safe activities to do, and groups to go to. Yet, over the last couple of weeks I have fallen foul of my confidence (over confidence perhaps) in our lives.

Over the last month - 6 weeks or so, I've noticed the return of Harry's reflux; his sleep has been interrupted, he wakes early, and during the day you can hear it. Initially I put it down to the end of a virus, then a rotten cold, but the last few weeks have seen it getting worse. Then last Saturday we had a massive gastro-intestinal reaction and part of me broke. None of my carefully planned meals, recipes, dairy free spreads, cooking nearly everything from scratch and helicopter-like supervision had been enough and my baby was suffering from that.

Like any and all mums would, I blamed myself. I still do. I could have done better, kept him safer, been more vigilant. Only you know what? I don't think I could and this has been a massive learning experience for me. Harry is nearly 2 and a half, he's into EVERYTHING, as he should be. I don't wrap him in cotton wool or bubble wrap, I let him run, jump, explore, play and learn. And I strongly believe that's right, that I should, that he needs those experiences. I just wish, hope and pray that I can keep him safe.

We think we've identified one source of the reactions, the first being that our lovely volunteer at creche totally understood my explanation of "no milk, none whatsoever" but hadn't grasped, or I hadn't explained clearly that there is milk in biscuits, so my son had been gleefully inhaling a malted milk on a Friday morning. Of course he would - he's two and not allowed biscuits very often. It must have felt like Christmas! I'm not cross, it's just one of those things where people do misinterpret the severity of an allergy that doesn't cause anaphalyxis.  Whilst not the problem for us here, there is of course the perception that as the reaction is neither immediate, nor visual it's less serious and therefore a little won't hurt. It does. It really does.

The second reaction is proving harder to identify, I initially thought it was also biscuit related and that a product I'd thought to be dairy, egg and soya free was actually a may contain. But I checked with the brand and the recipe's not changed. So we've either been caught out by one of our 'safe' may contains - foods that themselves don't contain the allergen you're looking for, until they do. Until there's an incident of cross-contamination. Until their production line is changed. And my misplaced confidence  that they were safe then becomes just that. Misplaced. But, as we don't eat a great deal in the way of processed food, I can't actually identify what it might be. Which is leading us to the conclusion that it may, in fact be a new allergen. And at that point my heart fell. Is this what life is going to be? Every few years finding new allergens, while those around me tell me that 'he'll grow out of them by the time...' he starts nursery/ school/ university?

It's also raised for me the issue of nursery - it's less than a year until Harry gets his free hours, and I'd like to send him to nursery as a preparation for Reception. He's already a lovely, social boy, but I think the structure of a day or two in a nursery environment would be useful.  My years working in social care have meant that I sat down this morning and put together an Allergy focused One Page Profile. I've attached it as a Google document so you're welcome to download and use it yourself or share it with other friends or family that might find it useful. I'll certainly be sharing it with Guiding groups, as for volunteers who often don't get Allergy awareness training I suspect it'll be a useful resource. 
And now the reaction has reduced with 'just' the reflux remaining, it's time for me to stand up, dust myself down and carry on. I can't keep Harry at home with me all the time, and realistically I won't always be able to monitor everything he eats or drinks. Certainly if he doesn't grow out of his allergies I'm expecting a time when he'll challenge me on what he can and can't eat. But for now, with our recent experience fresh in my mind, I'm moving forwards with a renewed fervour that yes, a little does hurt. Be it one malted milk, one gingerbread man... it does, as we know only too well.

I'm adding this to #FreeFromFridays hosted this week by The Free From Farmhouse


Monday, 24 October 2016

Meal Planning Monday: 25th October 2016

Another week - another meal plan, and this time I'm feeling a bit on the ball for once!

Half term means the opposite for those of us with babies and toddlers to those of you with school age children. All our activities stop and we find ourselves drumming our fingers before capitulating to another trip to the choo-choo park. That said, it will only be a little while before half-term is a wonderful respite from the rigours of school so I can't and shan't complain too much.

The trees here are already dropping these leaves that a mere week or two ago were glorious reds and burnished orange. The air has a distinct chill, and we bought Harry a bobble hat at the weekend - and I'm working on bribes to get him to keep it on his head.

Breakfasts: Baked porridge this week - using this favourite recipe with the apple and cinnamon variation.

Lunches: I've just made a massive pan of Butternut squash and kale curry, which I'll blog as soon as I can get some pictures. I'll be having it with brown basmati rice and steamed broccoli.


Monday: Butternut squash and Kale curry for me. M's at yoga so he's got freezer surprise chilli and rice.

Tuesday: Stuffed pumpkin - normally I'd do it with butternut squash, but picked up some mini pumpkins for 89p each in Aldi and thought this would be al lovely idea

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Tomato pasta bake with dairy free garlic flatbread

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: I'm out at a Guides event till late so M will be having a pizza night. This means it'll feature pizza with pineapple as I find pineapple on pizza more than a bit peculiar.

Sunday: Chorizo and butternut squash chilli But I'll pop it in the slow cooker before church as we're turfing the back garden and have bouncy church (best invention EVER) in the afternoon.

As always, don't forget the link up:

Friday, 21 October 2016

Sweet and sour sauce: dairy & soya free

Dairy and soya free takeaway style sweet and sour sauce

I don't know about anyone else with a toddler with CMPA or food allergies themselves, but when I started excluding dairy and soya - I almost immediately really craved Chinese food. I used to make a lot of stir fries with a simple Soy and honey sauce, and have an incredibly soft spot for restaurant style Crispy chilli beef. However, soya in all it's forms was completely out of the window. I started experimenting with combinations of flavours and it took a while to get a combination that I was happy with, but this is it.

Sticky enough to resemble that gloopy takeaway sauce, but with a fiery kick of chilli and ginger it's perfect for a Friday night fakeaway. Harry and I love it with rice noodles - his favourite additions are baby corn, peas and carrots, I like to completely wipe out my veg trays and make a proper fridge-bottom dish. When I made it for the inlaws however, I did tone things down a bit and just used onions, peppers, carrot and beansprouts - and I was surprised that everyone loved it!

Obviously you can add whatever you like to this sauce, meat, veggies, noodles; be they egg, rice or vegetable - and go as heavy or light on the spices as you like. Which I think is the great thing about a fakeaway - you really get to personalise it to your tastes.

Sweet and sour sauce, takeaway style
Dairy, and soya free
Serves 4 (plus a toddler)

Thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 red chilli, chopped/ or 1 tsp chilli flakes
4-5 tbsp tomato sauce
4 tablespoons Date syrup
3 tablespoons malt vinegar
225g tin of pineapple chunks in juice (chop the pineapple up if you get rings and keep on one side for the stir fry, you just need the juice here)
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder

Mix the ginger, garlic and chilli together in a medium sized bowl
Add the ketchup, date syrup, and malt vinegar - have a quick taste to check that your flavours are balanced and add extras of anything you feel it needs
Add the 5 spice powder - I normally add half the teaspoon first and then a bit more as necessary
Add the pineapple juice - give it a good stir and taste again

I marinate my chicken if I'm using it in half the sauce, then add the rest while cooking once I've added the veggies. It really is delicious, and I make a little bowl, with only a tiny bit of garlic, and ginger for Harry who inhales it too!

I'm linking this up to Le Coin de Mel's Free From Friday's linky - if you're an allergy parent, or have food allergies yourself, be sure to pop over and see what everyone else has linked up (there's a gorgeous looking chocolate cake up already)

Why not Pin this recipe for later, using the image below:

Dairy and soya free takeaway style sweet and sour sauce

I'm also adding this to A Mummy Too's Recipe of the week link up:

Link up your recipe of the week


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