minestrone soup

It’s soup weather now… soup, bread, cheese, it’s just what’s required lunch wise.

what you need:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 big red onion
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 3 big carrots
  • 2 courgettes
  • a bag of spinach (approx 150 – 200g)
  • tin of borlotti beans
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • a big splash of red wine
  • 1 pint chicken or veg stock
  • handful of tiny soup pasta (or snapped up spaghetti)

what you do:

  • peel and finely chop the garlic, onion and carrots, finely slice the celery.
  • add a big splash of olive oil to a large pan and gently fry the garlic, onion, carrot and celery for around 15 minutes
  • dice the courgettes and chop the spinach
  • add a splash of wine to the pan (you can leave this out or add a glass it’s up to you)
  • add the tinned tomatoes
  • add the courgettes, spinach and beans
  • add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes
  • add the pasta and cook for another 8-10 minutes
  • sprinkle on any chopped herbs and season to taste

to serve:

My preference is with parmesan cheese, chopped parsley and lots of black pepper, bread essential. This is also sent in thermos pots for packed lunches.

You may also like – spicy lentil soup or twister bread

meal plan Monday

This week I’ve gone with an Italian theme in order to boost energy levels and hopefully eat more healthily. The last week or so with poorly children eating habits have well… mainly been take away, nice at the time but afterwards blurgh! So this week it’s all Italian.


  • B – chocolate twister bread (okay… it’s LIKE a pain-au-chocolate… France, near Italy)
  • L – pasta & bean soup
  • D – braised chicken & artichokes with rosemary roast potatoes and green beans


  • B – chocolate twister bread…. again
  • L – minestrone soup
  • D – sausage & borlotti casserole with couscous and wilted spinach


  • B – pancakes (I’ll call them crepes then that’s almost Italian)
  • L – minestrone soup
  • D – flatbreads with beetroot, walnut & lentil salad, goats cheese and hummus


  • B – not sure it’s a long way off but it will involve coffee
  • L – hummus & sun-dried tomato twister bread
  • D – tomato & lentil sauce with short pasta


  • B – who knows
  • L – spanish omelette – tomatoes/olives/red onions/baby potatoes
  • D – pizza made with whatever veggies and cheese is left in the fridge

I’ll probably blog some of the recipes throughout the week.

Head over to Mrs M to see what everyone else is having this week….

custard splat sponge

This cake must be eaten in wodges. It’s a wodge kind of cake.

what you need:

  • 4oz butter
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4oz self raising flour
  • 5tbs custard powder
  • 2tbs milk
  • 5tbs icing sugar

what you do:

  • preheat the oven to 180C
  • cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl
  • beat the eggs in a jug & add slowly to the butter/sugar mix
  • sieve in flour and 3 tbs of custard powder
  • add the 2 tbs of milk and mix into smooth batter
  • pour into a greased cake tin (I use an 8 inch heart-shaped silicon mould)
  • bake for approximately 18-20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean
  • once cool mix the icing sugar and remaining custard powder in a jug with a tiny drop of boiling water – splat the icing onto the cake from a height, for no other reason that it sounds nice and splatty.

to serve:

Obviously with a cup of tea and elevated feet.

like cake?  try my carrot & banana traybake 

twister bread

A really versatile recipe which can be used to make sweet or savoury bread. In this recipe I’ve used sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan but I have made it using plain cheese, cheese, ham and mustard, pesto and olive or my most favourite of all Nutella.

what you need:

  • 600g strong white flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp dried fast action yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • approx. 350ml tepid water
  • filling of choice

what you do:

  • tip the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and oil into a large bowl.
  • gradually add the water, mixing with your hand until a nice pliable dough is formed.
  • tip dough onto floured surface and knead for 10 minutes
  • return to the bowl and cover with cling film, leave to rise in a warm place until double the size (around an hour)
  • alternatively do as I do and use the dough setting on a bread maker for the stages above. 
  • tip dough onto floured surface and roll out into a large rectangle

  • add the filling of choice – this time I blitzed sun-dried tomatoes (approx 8 big ones & some of the oil in a food processor) and sprinkled on finely grated parmesan.
  • roll into a big sausage – think swiss roll.

  • slice into 1 1/2 inch rounds and place into greased loose bottom cake tin (I put surplus into loaf tins)

  • leave to rise for 30 minutes – I use the oven for this on 50 C.
  • once the bread has doubled in size…

  • bring the bread from the oven and turn the oven up to 200C – brush the bread with milk and then bake for approx 20 minutes.
  • once cooked remove from tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

to serve:

The nutella version is ideal for breakfast. The savoury versions are nice served with stews, like my sausage & cider casserole or soup such as my lentil & tomato. Or used in packed lunches – the chunks just pull off into nice serving sizes.

the accidental attachment parent

This is me. I am the accidental one. I never intended to be a baby wearer, a co-sleeper an extended part of my baby but that is what has happened.

My first two children now seven and nine didn’t do any of these things, they slept in cots in their own rooms, they travelled about in a pram quite contentedly and in fact were quite independent from me – happy to go off and play, amuse themselves etc. Then we get to baby three. He’s an entirely different little personality, he is a complete attachment child. He can’t sleep unless he’s in our bed, he’s only content if he can see us, he detests being put into a pram, cot, play pen where he isn’t with us and so I’ve morphed into an attachment parent.

But thinking about things, is attachment parenting how it’s supposed to be? Is it right to put a tiny baby into a barred cot in a separate room from his mother or father? Is it right to put a baby into cots, playpens, prams etc so you can  get on with whatever it is you wanted to do? Is it right to send him to a nursery from a very young age to be cared for by a stranger.

If left to nature is attachment parenting not how things would be? Would the young sleep with the parents, travel around by being carried and held, observe the world from the arms of mum and dad?

Or… Is it because this is baby number three and our last baby that we’ve been so much more laid back and wanted the easy option? In the night when the baby has cried I honestly have not been able to be bothered sitting up in a chair rocking him back to sleep for what could be hours on end. I’ve wanted to sleep, I’ve wanted to be comfy in my bed and so have popped him in with me. I can’t be bothered listening to tantrums and unnecessary crying because he’s bored or wants to do something with me instead of on his own and so he is always kept happy by being with us and 99% of the time he is really happy and laid back in a way I don’t remember the other two being.

Also because we’ve had two other children we feel no pressure to be checking child development books to see if we are establishing all the “correct” behaviours and milestones at the correct times. Or is it simply that we’ve created a rod for our own back by being lazy and relaxed as many people like to tell me, daily.

chunky vegetable chilli

This is a very cheap dinner to make, it happily feeds six people. The recipe can be easily altered to suit what veggies you already have in and need to use up.

what you need:

  • large onion – red or brown
  • 2 big carrots
  • 2 peppers – any colour
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • tin of kidney beans
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a grating of cacao or spoon of cocoa powder (optional)

what you do:

  • peel and chunkily chop all the veggies & garlic
  • add a splash of olive oil to the pan – add your veggies and cook gently for 10 minutes until softening
  • add the spices and continue to cook for 5 minutes
  • add the tomatoes and kidney beans and a can full of water
  • season with salt and pepper – add cocoa if using
  • transfer to oven on 180C for 2 hours or put in the slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours

to serve:

serve with boiled rice and a dollop of yogurt, also great just served with a chunk of bread, maybe a scattering of grated cheese.


  • if you are needing this meal to go a lot further – mix it into the rice and serve it as spicy veggie rice.
  • any leftovers are nice in a wrap for lunch the next day or maybe as a jacket potato topping.
  • spices are often available at much lower costs if you buy them from the world foods sections in supermarkets rather than the spice aisle….

Autumn seaside – National Trust – Formby

This post doesn’t need all that many words. Formby is stunning, the autumn weather gorgeous and the children happy*

*well when I say happy, obviously that incorporates a wide range of sulking, arguing, fighting, tantruming and general Veruca Salt style behaviour in amongst the happy. But the happy was very happy – paddling, shell collecting and for a certain small boy the sitting in the sea fully clothed experience….

Formby is a brilliant place to visit and an absolute must if you are around the Southport area. It’s so easy to spend a day here – picnics, walks, beach, red squirrels, forests and obviously ice-cream.

spicy tomato and lentil soup

Simple, easy to make, filling.

what you need (serves 4):

  • small onion
  • 2 carrots
  • a large ripe plum tomato or two
  • a couple of handfuls of puy lentils
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp of dried sage
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a splash of red wine
  • salt & pepper
  • a small crumbled chilli

what you do:

  • peel and chop the onion and carrots
  • chunkily chop the plum tomatoes
  • add a splash of olive oil to a saucepan – slowly fry the onions, carrots and plum tomato with the garlic and sage for 10 – 15 minutes
  • add the red wine, tin of chopped tomatoes, crumbled chilli and puy lentils
  • top up the pan with enough boiling water to cover everything well (approx 1-1 1/2 pints)
  • season with salt & pepper and leave to simmer for an hour – do keep an eye on it you made need to top up the water depending on the quantity of lentils you use.

to serve:

  • my preference is sprinkled with a mound of double gloucester cheese with plenty of homemade bread to dip in. I also send this in flasks for the children’s packed lunch.

the ghost of bloody Mary

Halloween is drawing near and so talk at school has turned to ghosts, one ghost in particular, the ghost of bloody Mary. Not as I had assumed the vile hangover following a few too many tomato juice & vodkas but an actual ghost who haunts the boys bedroom.

She came home from school with him yesterday after a day filled with scary stories. She is now a firm fixture behind the curtains, possibly in the wardrobe and sometimes under the bed waiting to drag the boy from his covers in the dead of night and into the underworld. She casts all manner of terrifying shadows and has been known to whisper evil things in demonic dog like voices….

I’d like to thank Mary personally for making my bed even more crowded than usual. I just love it now there’s one more in there with us, sleeping with just the baby and a husband wasn’t quite squashed up and uncomfortable enough. I like to have half my body hanging off the bed, I enjoy sleeping with one foot on the floor in a desperate attempt to hold on to a remaining few inches of bed with my name on them and now thanks to bloody Mary that’s all the more possible.

cinnamon and raisin cookies

Perfect for autumn. They shout at you to pop your pyjamas on, snuggle up on the sofa with a cup of tea and tell you that it’s fine to eat a stash of these one after the other. They want to help you keep your strength up, to get you through cold tiring days. Yes, these cookies just want to be eaten.

what you need:

  • 4oz butter
  • 3oz muscavado sugar
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 6oz plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3oz oats
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 bar of Green & Blacks milk chocolate (my preference)
  • 3oz raisin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

what you do:

  • preheat oven to 180C
  • put the butter and sugars into a mixing bowl and mix together until creamy and fluffy.
  • add the egg and mix well
  • tip in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and oats & stir
  • add the raisins, chop up the chocolate bar into smallish chunks and tip in – stir well to combine everything
  • using floured hands – roll pingpong ball sized amounts of dough and place on greased baking sheet – well spaced.
  • using the back of a fork squash the top of the balls so they flatten slightly
  • bake for approx 10-12 minutes until just turning golden for chewy or browned for crispy.

to serve:

feet up, cup of tea or pop in packed lunches. One will never be sufficient.