Saturday, 13 May 2017

Veggie packed masala chickpea pilaff: Dairy free & vegan

This veggie packed chickpea pilaff feels a little like the answer to the unachievable - a quick, healthy, easy, and non sandwich based lunch that will keep me going until supper without raiding the biscuit tin!

One thing I have learned though, is that the key to said lunch, be it a pilaff, soup, noodles or pasta is to make it the night before - much like I do with M's packed lunch. That way, as soon as Harry's settled to his nap I can get on with sustaining myself for the afternoon's activities - be it a play date at the choo choo park, swimming lesson, nursery visit or just our errands.

This recipe mainly came about because of a really horrid cough, cold and sinusy virus (that's a medical term) that we've been stuck with for the last few weeks. It's hit Harry hardest and the poor love has been sofa bound with a rocketing temperature - thank heavens for Calpol. I really felt the need to put a stop to it via a nourishing bowl of something with a good kick of chilli and garlic.

There is so little faff with this recipe - the cooking can happen in one pan, and even the chopping is minimal, although I don't apologise for double podding the broad beans. Nearly all the veggies are from my freezer (sweetcorn, peas and broad beans being entirely out of season right now!) and I always have tinned chickpeas in.

Veggie packed masala chickpea pilaff
Serves 3 - 4 depending on portion size

Good spray fry light, or 2 tablespoons flavourless oil
60g bulghur wheat
300ml freshly boiled water
60g mushrooms, roughly chopped
60g peas
60g sweetcorn
60g broad beans
60g brocolli - broken into florets
1 tin chickpeas  2 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 red onion, diced

2 tablespoons curry paste - I used a tikka masala one that we had open in the fridge, but you could use any you like.
1/4 pint of water

Pop the bulghur wheat in a bowl and cover in freshly boiled water - I use 60g of bulghur wheat and 300ml of  water - leave to stand for about 10 minutes until most of the water has been absorbed then drain in a seive (not a colander)

Put the peas, sweetcorn and broad beans into a microwaveable bowl, cover with boiling water and ping for a minute at a time until the broad beans are cooked (2 and half minutes in ours) then drain- I always take these out of their wrinkled white pods so that you just have the vibrant, soft green beans

Add the drained chickpeas, and veggies to the pan and stir the mushrooms and brocolli through. Put all of this into a large bowl and add the drained bulghur wheat

Put the pan back on the heat again (add more oil or fry light if necessary)and add the chilli, garlic and diced red onion. Cook these over a low heat for a good 10 minutes. Sorry, but this time you do want to keep stirring as the garlic and onion go horribly bitter if they catch and you want them to be sweetly softened.

To this add your curry paste and 1/4 pint of water. Bring this up to a simmer and let it cook for somewhere between 3 and five minutes(ish)

Pour this into the chickpea and veg bowl and stir so that everything is coated in the curry mix

If you're doing this the night before then split into 3 medium tupperware tubs and once cool put in the fridge. It keeps easily for the next three days and you can either warm it through or have it cold.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Life, love and little things - April 2017

Yes, yes, I know. Nothing for weeks. I feel like I should apologise, and provide a fulsome and thorough explanation for my absence, but what does one say? Potty training? Toddlers? Decorating? Gardening? Coughs? Colds? Scratched eye? Does that cover it? Hopefully.

Anyway - the toddler is sleeping (for now, at least), a veg packed chilli is in the oven, a Vegan Peanut butter chocolate chip banana bread is cooling, my smoked mackerel salad is coming to room temperature and I have a litre of water. All of this points to sitting down and getting on with a blog post.

I've not done a 'Life, love and little things..' post for months, which is silly as they are far and away one of my favourite things to write. So here we are - April in photos:

The weather has meant we're far from BBQs and salads so I've been dong a fair bit of batch cooking, Chilli con carne (sometimes without the carne), Sweet potato and chickpea curry, Cottage or Shepherd's pie, Shepherdess pie have all featured. My veg packed chilli is one of Harry's favourites - he loves it in quesadillas, sprinkled with Violife.

I helped out at our Division's campsite (does anyone not know I'm a Brownie and Guide leader?) making tea and serving cake on our Bluebell days. I have to say they are the most beautiful I've ever seen them, carpeting the woods in a glorious wash of colour, their fragrance was amazing. Bluebells completely signify Spring to me and Bluebell woods are simply magical.

Harry and I have been doing a fair bit of baking lately - it's good for his counting and it's a great activity when my outdoorsy, full of energy toddler can't go outside for whatever reason. Like his mother he's a huge fan of glace cherries and marzipan so we've made our favourite dairy free Simnel cake twice since Easter.

I've got a new blanket on my crochet hook - it's going far slower than it should be so I need to really get on with it as it needs to be finished by July! The colour palette is a change for me, ice cream pastels from Attic 24's Cupcake blanket. Although I'm making a Granny stripe. I really want to make Lucy's Hydrangea blanket, but M has banned me from any more yarn buying until such time as I've finished all my ongoing works in progress!

As always, you can find these and many other snapshots of my days and weeks over on Instagram - why not hop on over and see what we're up to today?

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Happy Easter

Easter is a lovely celebration, for many, a family time that, like so many festivals centres around food: Hot cross buns, fish on Good Friday, roast lamb on Easter Sunday. For our family the centrepiece is always the Simnel cake - fruit soaked in a generous splosh of Amaretto, a low temperature and relatively brief bake making for a light, and beautifully almondy bake. I'm sure others would challenge this but I really don't miss the butter, and as the egg is baked it's perfect for us. As always we use Vitalite, Pure or Flora Freedom for baking.

I've not changed my recipe up at all from last year, I'm not reblogging the recipe, but here are some pictures of this year's effort.

Happy Easter everyone

Monday, 13 March 2017

Meal Planning Monday: 13th March

It's FRIDAY and I'm Meal Planning. I know! Who knew I could ever be this organised? Blog wise anyway - if you know me in real life, you'll be familiar with my Planners, calendars, and lists: colour-coded, monochrome, stickered... all the lists.

This week's meal plan is another fairly standard week - M has been poorly this week (I confess, to my shame I'm not the world's most sympathetic nurse), so I'm hoping he feels better but aside from that it's business as usual.

Breakfasts have been a mixture of crumpets and shreddies (well Aldi's own brand which are lovely) with a banana. As an aside, is anyone actually managing 10 portions of fruit and veg a day? I am struggling.

Lunches - I'm feel a bit tired of sandwiches, so am planning on making a batch of carrot, chilli and lentil soup.

Suppers -

Saturday: Gammon, egg, Slimming World chips and peas

Sunday: Chicken & winter veg casserole, possibly with herby dumplings

Monday: Leftover casserole with baked potatoes

Tuesday: Vegan Shepherd's pie

Wednesday: Leftover Shepherd's pie

Thursday: Parsnip pasta

Friday: Emergency pizza night

No baking planned, although I'm thinking of a Dairy free hot cross bun pudding as that'd be lovely in packed lunch boxes next week - based on this recipe, but using Flora freedom spread and Oatly. So that's planned now, isn't it!

What're you up to this week? Anything exciting? Inspiring? Why not let me know in the comments below

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Rosacea and me: Skincare

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes (amongst other symptoms) it's characteristic redness or flushing. For me, it appeared following pregnancy and rapidly spread from a patch the size of a two pound coin, until it covered most of both cheeks. Initially I just looked episodically rosy but as it's progressed I now look permanently flushed with very sensitised skin.

Today's post, whilst seemingly utterly out of place on a blog that primarily concerns itself with food, has come about in response to a couple of emails I received this week. I mentioned on my Self-care on Sunday post that I'm trying to remember to put on sunscreen before I go out each day as it's supposed to help prevent the rosacea get any worse.

I've actually bitten the bullet and gone to see the GP today about it as I've got to the stage when (to the shame of my vain self) I now feel like I need to wear makeup to face the day. The doctor was great, and after my grovelling apologies at being so vain, supportively helped me to find something to try. We're going to try Azelaic acid to start with as my other meds prevent me from taking oral antibiotics.

 However, on to the theme of this post and skin care - over recent months I've pared back my skincare to a really soothing, calming routine. Previously a Caroline Hirons devotee, I've actually nixed most of her recommendations, recognising that they were, in fact agitating my redness. Here follows my favourite products that seem to be keeping my skin soft whilst treating it incredibly gently.

La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo cleanser - this is so lovely to use, I very gently smooth it over my skin, taking care not to rub or agitate it and then with a soft, warm flannel, rinse it off. Having said I've moved away from much of Caroline's advice I do still double cleanse to remove the sunscreen I'm trying to remember to use each day.

La Roche Posay Seroznic - I have a slightly doubtful relationship with this zinc and thermal water spray, I find it soothing and like the feeling of it on my skin - and from what I've read, hylauronic acid serums and creams work better on damp skin so it should help my next step work better - but I'm never sure it's doing anything - could it be a case of the Emperor's New Clothes?

Superdrug Simply Pure hydrating serum - this thin lotion soaks immediately into my skin and feels really plumping. It was discontinued for a while, but has since reappeared, is a complete bargain and is regularly on offer which is when I take advantage and stock up.

Face Theory Relaxing night cream - I actually use this during the day. I have the unscented version (as much as I love products packed with soothingly scented essential oils, I just can't tolerate them) and it's a great occlusive sealing in that hylauronic acid and softening my skin.

La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 - this is my emergency cream - at the moment I'm using it nightly as it's thick, comforting texture is helping my angry red face no end. I'm hoping that when I get over this latest flare up, or when the prescription starts working, I'll be able to just use the Face Theory, but in the interim this is great.

Elta MD Broad Spectrum SPF 46 - My current self care challenge being to remember to apply this daily as sun damage does seem to make the red and soreness worse.

 It's no accident that there are three La Roche Posay products as my much loved Boots frequently has them on 3 for 2 offers. The Face Theory and the Elta are probably my most expensive products.

If you have Rosacea or similarly sensitised skin what are your go-to products?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Meal Planning Monday on Tuesday: 7th March

Yes, I know. I know! Oddly enough I wrote the meal plan on Friday, but completely blanked on actually blogging it until today. 

Another busy week, with the sun making an appearance to brighten our days (if not yet warming us up). 

In a shocking change to proceedings I actually don't have sausage hotpot on the meal plan this week - thanks to the lovely root veg selection of Aldi's Super 6 this week, it's been replaced by another comforting favourite: Super slow roast brisket. 

Breakfasts - I keep sayng I'm going to have porridge and then having crumpets and marmite instead. So this week I'm beng upfront and planning to have crumpets in the hope that in a typically contrary fashion, I'll have porridge.

Lunches - it's been a ham sandwich kind of time these last few weeks, but I'm going to try to get around to defrosting a lovely carrot soup I made and froze recently. 


Monday: My cheat's Pasta puttanesca

Tuesday: Leftover brisket cottage pie

Wednesday: Leftover leftovers

Thursday: Gammon, slimming world chips, peas and sweetcorn

Friday: Was gong to be Emergency pizza night, but I've just noticed that I picked up a pizza that's gone out of date already. I must remember to wear my glasses when I go shopping. 

Saturday: I have a piece of Christmas gammon nestled in the freezer so I think I'll defrost that for a ham in coca cola. 

Sunday: Leftover gammon. Hurrah! 

As always that's our week, what does yours look like? If you're in need of some inspiration, why not pop on over to some of our meal planners? 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Self care on Sundays, my plan for the week ahead

I can't remember when I first heard of the idea of self-care, I know I've been thinking about it for a few years now, and do my best to carve out small parts of my week where I can give myself a little breathing space in whatever way, space or form that might take.

I've spoken on the blog before about mental health, and love the fact that self-care focuses on improving or maintaining one's mental wellbeing. It's not going to be right for everyone, and 20 minutes of fresh air a day isn't going to help someone who's in crisis. But, caught at and thought of at the right time, it could help someone stay well, or even feel stronger. 

Each week I'm going to try to think about 7 self care activities I can put in place over the week ahead. Some things might pop up every week, others from time to time and others again could be a one off.

  1. Use my planner to plan my week as an overview, and my daily spread to do the detail.
  2. Find some time to crochet each day, even if only 15 minutes.
  3. Be grateful, whether that is expressed through prayer, or simply noting down what I'm grateful for in my journal I find that the intention behind being thankful and conscious of blessings both big and small is a really positive way of reminding myself of the good things.
  4. Fresh air - even when the weather is foul, try to get outside for a walk with my partner in crime for 20 minutes.
  5. Switch off - after 8pm get rid of the technology. It's so tempting to respond to every notification, but it's important that M and I get time together.
  6. Sunscreen. I have wildly sensitive skin, and rosacea so remembering to apply this every day will do me the world of good.
  7. Sing! I've recently discovered Encore radio - dedicated to musicals - and singing along to showtunes in the kitchen is pretty much guaranteed to make me smile.
That's my 7 for this week. Why not add yours in the comments below?


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