Thursday, 26 February 2015

Getting better - minestrone soup for the soul

We're all in the process of shifting these rotten bugs, and I always turn to soups to help. There's just something about a hot bowl with lots of veggies and other good things in it that makes me feel better.

It was actually a suggestion at Slimming World that I try making soup - one of the things I struggle with is snacking. Biscuits and tea had become a bit of a habit during my pregnancy and then to 'keep me going' when breastfeeding. It was a habit I needed to shift, and happily I seem to have managed it. That said, fruit in the middle of winter is only ever going to have a limited appeal, and a cup or bowl of soup keeps me going nicely. This is the second time I've made my minestrone and although it's not in the slightest bit authentic I do really like it.

My minestrone (serves 6-8)

1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 sticks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 peppers - I use red and yellow, diced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 box passata
1 big splodge tomato puree
2 big handfuls of small pasta (or just break up some spaghetti)
2 pints of chicken/ veg stock
Fry light

Spray a big saucepan with Fry light and soften the onion, garlic, celery and carrots for about 10 minutes or so. If it starts to stick, add a splash of the stock
Add the other veggies, give the pan a good stir
Add the tomatoes, pasta and tomato puree, and fill the tomato tin up with water and add that too
Add the stock and leave to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes
After the soup has been simmering it should be nice and thick - add the pasta and if it feels like it might need it, another tinful of water
Turn the heat up so the pan's at a gentle boil for 7 or so minutes to cook the pasta through.

It's now ready to serve, you could garnish with shredded basil, and if you're not on Slimming world or dairy free (or both!) a big handful of grated chese in the middle of the bowl would be fabulous.

Don't feel restricted by this recipe though - if you have tinned beans, then add some for some extra fibre and protein (and if you're me to make it go a bit further although this makes lots and lots). Lardons would add some extra flavour, or even chopped leftover ham - if you've done a ham in Coca-Cola lately it's a great way to use up the end of the joint. Which is now making me want to do another ham. If you've got some courgettes or mushrooms, they'd be nice additions too.

I don't serve this with bread, because of the pasta. But I know that soup is always better with bread for dunking.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Stuffed butternut squash - a Slimming World recipe

I'm not doing too badly at Slimming World - steadily losing a pound or so a week. I struggle with snacks, as there's only so much fruit that is appealing and in season at this time of year and as I can't have dairy products, lots of the suggested snacky bits are off the table for me.

I'm finding lots of inspiration for recipes on line, and either adapting things like paella, or using other people's slimming world recipes as a starting point for my own tastes. I've set up a Pinterest board for recipes that already are suitable, or I think could be adapted... it's here, and if you'd like to be added to submit either things you've tried or dishes you've found online then drop me a line in the comments, or via email.

This is one of those recipes - adapted from here. I ended up making a few changes, based mainly on the fact that I tend not to shop specifically for a recipe any longer - see this post for why. I actually really enjoyed it and would definitely make it again. I would also say that for us, this easily did 4 portions, plus loads of the topping for the freezer.

If you're doing SP (which I haven't yet) I think this would work as there's no carbs in there. If you know SP well, and could comment below, that'd be terrific. 

Stuffed Butternut squash

1 butternut squash, halved lengthways
300g chicken breast (it was one of that week's Special buys at Aldi, otherwise I'd have used thighs)
1 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 sticks of celery finely diced
1 large (or 2 small) carrots, finely diced
1 red & 1 yellow pepper, finely diced
250g (or so) mushrooms, quartered
Big splodge tomato puree
1/2 head cauliflower, whizzed up to rice in the food processor
3/4 pint veg stock (I use the low salt bouillon from Marigold)
2 tsp paprika - I think the sweet smoked paprika would taste fantastic, but I don't have any in
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp red chilli flakes
Salt & Pepper
Fry light
If you have it, then cheese from your HEA - we used a little pecorino as it's sheeps cheese and Harry seems to be able to tolerate this.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees
Halve the butternut squash, scoop out and discard the seeds* and then scoop out some of the flesh to make a nice sized hollow for the filling. Dice this and put it to one side for the filling
Season the 2 halves of squash, spray with fry light and put, skin-side down on a baking sheet - bake for 20 minutes or so

Your veg and chicken all want to be diced about the same size. Spray a large pan with fry light, and soften the onion, garlic, celery and carrot for about 10 minutes. If it starts to stick add a splash of water
Add the chicken and cook until it's lightly browned
Add the rest of the veggies - peppers, mushrooms and butternut squash
Pop in the tomato puree, spices and chicken stock
Add the cauliflower, give everything a good stir, turn the heat down and let it simmer uncovered.

Now I should say this made bucketloads - enough to freeze at least half for another day. Which is great as we enjoyed it. It'd also be lovely with a baked potato, and if you had a HEA (and aren't dairy free) then some feta or halloumi would be amazing. 

Fill the butternut squash halves with the chicken mixture, top with the cheese if you're using it. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is nice and melty/ browned.

Serve with steamed greens - I had kale and brocolli.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Meal Planning Monday - a person can develop a bad, bad cold...

This weeks learning about being a parent - baby groups = lots of germs. Germs = a poorly baby. Poorly baby that sneezes in your face = a poorly mummy and daddy. So from the 'unclean' house here's our, very gently, hopefully healing meal plan for the week. One where the baby will eat best!

We're on week 2 of our switch to Aldi, and it's still going well. The only dud product thus far is the own brand weetabix which apparently tastes like cardboard. The (much contended on facebook) meat is all really good quality, and the fruit and veg are lovely. All good thus far.

Harry's doing really well in terms of his weight and we've added in a proper supper. I knew he was poorly this week when he was off his food and then wanted to be spoon fed. He's never let me feed him porridge, and the poor love just couldn't cope with doing it himself. Hugs all around.

Breakfasts - as always are porridge and fruit for me. I'm going to do a post on Harry's breakfasts as the mix of pancakes, mini omlettes, and porridge fingers seems to be a sure fire hit.

Lunches - I've made a yummy batch of syn free minestrone soup for my lunches which I'm really looking forward to feeling well enough to eat. Harry has the usual fishcakes, veggies, and some leftover chicken casserole.


Monday - I've got a little turkey breast to roast (ostensibly so that Harry can have some pieces of meat with his lunches) and we'll probably have that with some plain baked potatoes and lots of veggies to up our vitamin C to fight of these lurgies.

Tuesday - leftover turkey, pretty much the same again. The nice thing about these dinners is we eat with Harry (depending on M being home) as this way he's eating the same as us. The grin on his face if you're eating what he is, is one of the simple ways that Baby led weaning is a winner for me.

Wednesay - oddly I stocked up the freezer with some butternut squash pasta for Harry (it's always really useful to have some emergency meals for when dinner for us needs to be later) and I think I'm going to remake it for us, with (at the suggestion of Dawn and Mandy on the facebook page) some lardons added for the benefit of the resident carnivore.

Thursday - hopefully leftovers

Friday - Veggie lasagne was supposed to be made this weekend, using a butternut squash puree to replace the cheese sauce, so I think we'll give that a go then. Hopefully there'll be freezable (it's a word) leftovers

Saturday - Gammon steaks, roasties and veg (I'm also having that pineapple)

Sunday - Tomato pasta I think - maybe there'll be some lardons left

That's our week, what are your choices when you're all under the weather? And do you have to placate a resident carnivore in your meal plans too? All suggestions welcomed.

As always, don't forget to pop on over to At Home with Mrs M to see what everyone else is up to. I'm off to mainline some vitamin C and feel sorry for myself over Call the Midwife.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Meal Planning Monday - our Aldi switch

My maternity leave (and pay) comes to an end at the end of this month. Truth be told, I'm not sure what the future holds, part-time positions at my level in my field are like gold dust. We have a lot to think about, but it's meaning a tightening of our belts. For a while, I've been doing our fruit and veg shopping at Aldi, making use of their Super 6, and planning our meals around it. However since Christmas 'Ive noticed our weekly, main shop creeping up. Even using My Supermarket I couldnt reduce it any more. So, Friday evening saw the three of us head to Aldi and in one fell swoop reduce our shopping bill by 33% - desite the fact that we bought meat, and randomly Swarfega (it's for M).  The only thing I couldnt get was my almond milk, and I can pick that up during the week.

It's half term this week, so there's no Hartbeeps or swimming, but there is Stay and Play on Monday which we're going to go to as Harry loved it last week. I think we'll try and organise an NCT meet up later in the week, and I'm excited to see my sister and nephew on Thursday. I think it's Thursday anyway.

Breakfasts - porridge with cinammon, ginger, apple and blueberries for me. Porridge fingers, fruit toast or a bagel for Harry

Lunches - I need to make a new batch of split pea and veg soup so that I can have something hot at lunchtime. I made Harry sweet potato and salmon fishcakes last week, and some chicken and veg casserole - baby portions of which I froze and he can have for lunches this week.

Dinners -

Monday - Leftover roast chicken with baked potatoes and veggies

Tuesday: Sausages, baked potatoes and beans

Wednesday: Freezer surprise (bolognaise I think)

Thursday: Gammon and wedges - is it bad that I really want pineapple on mine?

Friday:Breakfast for tea

Saturday:I think a casserole of some sort - perhaps my chicken, butternut squash and leek (let's see if I can make it Slimming World friendly)

Sunday: Leftover casserole

That's our week, 33% cheaper, and looking hardly any different... Have you had to trade down for your shopping? What are your money saving tips?

As always be sure to head on over to At Home with Mrs M to see what everyone else is up to.

Friday, 6 February 2015

February baby favourites

How is it that time again? I'm writing this on the 1st of the month and can't believe that my baby is nearly 8 months old. Our favourites are starting to change as the baby gets more mobile; the activity mat (our one dud purchase) is firmly out of favour, and the jumperoo is the place to be. Facing the patio doors to the garden Harry has become a wonderful kitty scarer, and the local birdlife isn't quite sure what to make of him either. After a good bounce in it, he's ready for a nice long nap, which provides me with the opportunity to put my feet up with a much needed coffee do the hoovering. Ahem.

Waitrose Baby Bottom Butter, Bepanthen and Sudocrem Care and Protect

We've been using the bottom butter since birth, sadly Harry's inherited my horribly sensitive skin and after a reaction to something in NICU that ended up with him needing a prescribed cream under his nappy I wanted something fairly unreactive and having used Bottom Butter on my bump throughout pregnancy I thought I'd try that. Winner. However of late teething and weaning are doing unkind things and we've upped our game to include the Sudocrem and Bepanthen. The Sudocrem Care and Protect we use during the day, Harry hasn't reacted to it at all and the Bepanthen at night just to make things a bit more comfortable and to ward off that dreaded nappy rash.


We joined the library a couple of weeks back, and at Rhyme Time Harry enjoys looking at some different books. Our favourites at home are from the That's not my... series - the combination of the sensory element with storytime (I love our storytime, Harry cuddles and reading are my idea of heaven) seems to really keep him interested.

Rice cakes and breadsticks

Like all new mums going through weaning, I'm permanently interested in finding things Harry can snack on that are a bit more portable. Breadsticks are the newest as I was afraid they'd be a bit scratchy, but Harry adores rice cakes. His face lights up when I get the little tupperware I keep them in out of my change bag. On a side note how sad was I to discover that rusks are basically sugar. I love rusks.

And one for me... Ole Henrikson Nurture Me

Pregnancy has left me with what I can only describe as ridiculously sensitised skin. I have one cheek covered in a red splodge, and the rest of my face is on the edge of being sore the whole time. Some research online led me to the above which I managed to find on sale with 20% off as my Maternity pay barely stretched to it. It does seem to be soothing my skin, although sadly not taking down the redness. I'm hoping it's just hormonal and will start to ease soon, but my ridiculous levels of vanity mean I'm whacking on the concealor like it's going out of style. Just as well Harry and M don't care really.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Meal Planning Monday - A healthy start in February

Last week was a bit of a disaster on the Slimming World front - although I've not been weighed yet - but a combination of a few things just meant that the plan went out of the window. Today is a fresh start and to help, I've really focussed on some new recipes that are all free food. I'll be writing everything down to help me stick to my guns.

Harry has started having supper on the next step of his weaning journey, so we're now up to three meals which is very exciting. He's still getting nearly all of his calories from milk and seems to be doing very well. New flavours recently have included fruit bread, melon, rusk, plums, rhubarb, and cauliflower - all of which have gone down a storm.

Breakfast - porridge for me, with ginger, cinnamon, apple and banana and for Harry with a little of mixed spice and mashed banana. Alternatively scrambled eggs and mushrooms.

Lunches - we're sticking with soup, split pea for me.

Supper -

Monday - We've been visiting family so will be late home

Tuesday - Chicken and cauliflower 'rice' stuffed butternut squash

Wednesday - Leftovers

Thursday - Spanish chicken and cauliflower 'rice' (can you tell I got some caulifowers cheaply)

Friday - Pasta and meatballs with tomato sauce

Saturday - Sausages, baked potatoes and veggies

Sunday - Roast chicken (or whatever meat is on special)

Not too tricky a week - provided they're not dire, and I can get them photographed I'll blog them as I'm quite excited about their newnes.

That's us this week - be sure to pop on over to At Home with Mrs M to see what everyone else is up to. I'll make sure to link up. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Meal Planning Monday - how is it that time again?

Just call me the white rabbit today - I've been late for everything and my meal plan is no exception. To be fair I realised at 5am whilst feeding Harry that I hadn't written up my plan but as I haven't yet worked out how to simultaneously blog, sleep and breastfeed that got promptly forgotten. Anyway, I'm typing up now - it's not Tuesday yet.

This week is a funny old time - we were talking about it today at Slimming world (it's going well, thank you) Apparently today is 'Blue Monday' the most depressing day of the year, and last Thursday was the day that all our New Year's Resolutions got chucked out of the window. I don't know about either of those being true, I am a bit down at the moment, I know I'm not getting enough daylight despite trying to get out everyday as sometimes it's just too cold. M is working crazy hours, and Harry is still teething. I think once the weather changes and M and I see each other a bit more I'll start to feel a bit brighter.

Food wise, this week is mainly roast chicken orientated. It's in the oven at the moment (smelling wonderful) and I'm hoping the leftovers will keep us going until Thursday.

Breakfasts: Porridge or scrambled eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes. Harry's still having his porridge fingers or scrambled eggs too.

Lunches: I made a root veg and pearl barley soup for this week. Then I can supplement that with chicken sandwiches.


Monday - Roast chicken, roast potatoes (does everyone else know how to make syn free roasties or should I blog them?) stuffing, lots of veggies

Tuesday - Leftover roast chicken with baked potatoes and veggies

Wednesday - Chicken and mushroom risotto (I'm going to try using a puree of cannelini beans to replace the butter and cheese at the end)

Thursday - Leftover risotto

Friday - Meatball pasta I think.

We're with family this weekend, so have a couple of days off meal planning. Which is always nice.

What are your favourite - make your chicken go further recipes? 

Be sure to pop on over to At Home with Mrs M and see what everyone else is up to this week.


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