Tuesday, 30 October 2012

HALLOWEEN HEAVEN and not a trick or treat in sight..yet!

Halloween pumpkin

“I’m afraid I had to leave my shoes behind, I didn’t have enough room in my case!” was the first thing my daughter said to me nearly a year ago on returning from a cultural exchange to Charlotte, North Carolina.

 I was a little surprised.

Had she brought so many presents she had forgone bringing home her shoes?


Of course not!

She’d had an amazing time staying with a lovely buddy and her family and got to experience real family life in the States including school, football matches, and Halloween.

She adored the dressing up in spooky costumes, the pumpkins, the sweets- candy that they all collected.. In fact her suitcase was crammed full of the remaining Halloween candy she had so generously collected whilst trick or treating!

Forget the shoes; I don’t think I had ever seen so many sweets outside a sweetshop...

As things have been rather low key due to the dreaded Glandular Fever that has hit Teen V I decided that maybe this year I should get a few pumpkins and let her create her own Halloween world here!! 

Bit of a come down from last years Halloween heaven but hey..

Little did I realize how popular an idea this would be. There has been endless planning and drawing of ideas from tomb stones to witches and ghosts and carving is taking place as I type.

As I hate wasting food any spare pumpkin has been used in a soup.
Very frugal of me I know.

Pumpkin and sweetcorn soup

 I used the Waitrose spicy pumpkin and sweet corn soup recipe that they have in their magazine at the moment. It wasn’t as spicy as I would have liked but went down well with everyone once we’d added a little more seasoning to the pot.

So if you have any spare pumpkins and need a good healthy lunch I can recommend this recipe.

Spicy pumpkin soup with toasted sunflower seeds


Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 40
Serves 4-6


1 kg pumpkin peeled & cut into chunks
25g sunflower seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 large onion roughly chopped
1tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 litre vegetable stock
1 small can sweetcorn approx 195g
1 small can of coconut cream approx 160g
Salt and pepper to taste


1.     Preheat the oven to 200degrees c. Cut the pumpkin into chunks and then place on a baking sheet in the oven for 20 minutes or until soft.
2.     Put the sunflower seeds in to roast for 5 minutes- be careful not to let these burn..they taste horrible if you leave the in for too long..Trust me!
3.     Heat the olive oil and fry the onion and garlic until soft then add the chilli and coriander and fry for one minute.
4.     Add the pumpkin and pour over the stock. Drain the sweet corn and add with the coconut cream and then bring to the boil.
5.     Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and blitz the mixture up and serve with sprinkles of roasted sunflower seeds on top. Don’t forget to taste and add salt and pepper before you serve.

I think this would be good if you mixed sweet potato or butternut squash with the pumpkin. Just make sure you season it well. If nothing else it will line the stomach well for all the trick or treat sweets!

Toasted sunflower seeds

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

WHEN ONLY CHOCOLATE WILL DO...Awesome chocolate brownies

Awesome Chocolate Brownies

“Are you ok?” asked my amazed teenager tentatively when, in a moment of tiredness, I agreed to make chocolate brownies.

Normally I come up with a million and one far more healthier options than brownies. Particularly ones that literally ooze chocolate!

But hey...my resistance was low and for once I felt the need of a chocolate brownie hit!

Chocolate and nut brownies

Trawling through the well thumbed recipes from Nigella to Delia I finally opted for one from a school charity cake book which is not high profile but always brilliant.

 It’s called Awesome Chocolate Brownie Recipe and over the years I have slightly modified it to include nuts and dried fruit on occasions.

So although this isn’t the healthiest or immune boosting of recipes I have ever posted, it is, as its name says, one of the most awesome and chocolatiest!

Let’s face it, we all need a treat sometime and if you’re going to go for it..

 As an aside, in my trawls for immune boosting foods to help with the Glandular Fever I read that dark chocolate can be quite good in small quantities..however the amount of sugar in this recipe probably disqualifies it from being a boost!!

Still it tastes delicious and is more for the carers and visitors than any patients!!!

Perfect with a cup of tea or dressed up with ice cream as a pudding.


Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 25 minutes
Makes about 25 squares

4 Tbsp of cocoa powder
125g margarine or butter (or ¾ of a cup)
50ml of sunflower oil (or ¼ of a cup)
225g of plain flour (or 2 cups)
260g of Caster sugar ( or 1 ½ cups )
2 eggs
150g of dark chocolate
50 g of walnuts

1.     Preheat the oven to 180 degrees c
2.     Melt the cocoa, margarine and oil in a saucepan.
3.     Remove from the heat then stir in the flour and sugar, then beat the eggs and stir in as well.
4.     Smash up your chocolate and nuts and stir into the mixture
5.     Grease your baking tin or line with baking parchment and then tip in the mixture and put in the oven for about 20 -25 minutes.
6.      When they come out they should still look a bit gooey but have a shine to them. Let them cool in the tin for 30 minutes and then cut into squares and ..enjoy


Truly awesome and a cure for lots of things at this time of year I’m sure!

Friday, 19 October 2012

CLASSIC SPANISH OMELETTE RECIPE -light, nutritious and a hit with all the family!

Spanish omlette or tortilla espanola

In the wake of this week’s events (see my last post), I have been searching for immune boosting foods to help kick start Teen V’s recovery from Glandular Fever.

At the moment she’s not really interested in food, but I have been collecting a variety of interesting tasty things to tempt her.

Luckily there are some delicious things that aid the immune system including salmon and sardines as well as foods rich in magnesium like spinach, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate. 

So lots of options. Phew!!

Also, according to Phyllis A. Balch, author of the book "Prescription for Nutritional Healing, eggs are great as they are “rich in vitamin B-12, a water-soluble vitamin that can regulate the nervous system, ease glandular fever symptoms, improve immune system function and increase red blood cell production.”


 So a healthy egg omelette can help alleviate symptoms associated with glandular fever.

Eggs from my neighbours hens

Local eggs

On hearing this we decided that maybe a Spanish omelette would slip down nicely and the potato would add an extra helping of vitamin C.

The good thing about a Tortilla Espanola, or Spanish omelette, is that if anyone is craving meat you can easily add a bit of ham or chorizo for them and its is equally delicious.  It is a great light lunch or supper, adaptable and best of all highly nutritious!!




Serves 4
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 30 minutes


4 Medium potatoes
1 whole onion
5-6 large eggs
2 lager dollops of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic sliced
Salt to taste

1.     Peel and cut the potatoes in half length wise then cut into crisp like pieces that are not too thick and slice the onions and garlic.
2.      Toss them all in the olive oil then tip the oil into a large pan fry and gently fry until cooked, soft to touch, this will take about 15-20 minutes depending on how thick the slices are.
3.     Whilst this is cooking crack the eggs and whisk in a bowl.
4.     Remove the potato and onion mix from the pan, drain the oil, then add them to the egg mix.
5.     Heat the remaining olive oil in a smaller pan then add the egg and potato mix and cook slowly until the bottom turns golden brown. This takes a few minutes. 
6.     When it is cooked the top will still be slightly runny but you need to turn it over for a final 3-4 minutes. Try using a dinner plate to help you turn the omelette.

Spanish tortilla

This is obviously a great recipe for the vegetarians, but should you fancy a meat hit you can add chorizo or ham at stage 5. We lightly fried chorizo in a separate pan and then poured the potato and onion mix over it all to cook. 

Just divide the mixture into the appropriate portions for the number of people wanting meat and cook in two separate pans.... nothing too tricky just means you’ll have 1 extra pan to wash at the end but all eating will be happy.

  It was a hit with all the family, not just the poorly, and was even asked for again 2 days in a row..

so must be good! 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

GLANDULAR FEVER, FACEBOOK AND APRICOT COMPOTE- now there's a strange combination

smoothie and get well flowers 

I had great plans for October.

Seasonal recipes, places I wanted to go, things I thought I would blog about, but all this got put on hold when Teen V got poorly.

It started a week ago. She had a sore throat and couldn’t really eat.

Then she couldn’t keep anything down for three days, not even water, and suddenly it escalated and she was in hospital on a drip and they were running numerous tests.

Luckily it is just severe glandular fever and nothing life threatening. For that I am so thankful, especially when we saw some very ill children in hospital.....

It was a horrible shock though. 

THANK YOU for all the support of friends and family- what did we do before facebook?

 It felt very surreal, but strangely comforting, posting from my hospital camp bed in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep as drips were changed and machines bleeped constantly!


After a bit of research into GF or infectious mononucleosis which is caused by the Epstein- Barr virus (EBV), I soon realized that the food she eats in the next few weeks is even more crucial in aiding her recovery as there isn’t a cure or medicine to take.

Well, only rest and more rest, and lots of healthy immune boosting food.

So if any readers have any suggestions for a fussy teenage vegetarian, I would really appreciate hearing from you. I have started to make a list of possible recipes and things which will help, but nothing much appeals to her at the moment.

We’re starting with smoothies.

Luckily a few weeks ago I made some apricot compote for breakfast and crumbles so I  put a few of the apricots into the smoothie mix and they have gone down well.

So, I apologies for not putting a proper recipe up, however here's my compote recipe if you do see any apricots in the market or greengrocers. I would recommend getting some and making up some compote. 

It’s so easy.

You never know when it might come in handy!

apricot compote



500g apricots stoned
200ml water
150 g caster sugar


1.     Wash, halve and stone the apricots.
2.     Heat water and sugar  in a large saucepan then add the apricots and cook on a low heat for 30 mins.
3.     When cool bottle the fruit and the juice in an airtight jar and keep for when needed.

Perfect for pies, crumbles, or with yoghurt for breakfast and in smoothies!! 
Excuse the lack of photo's I've been being nurse instead this week.

 Forgot to say am booked to go to the Mumsnet Blog fest in November so must down load the tag's etc but am looking forward to meeting other bloggers then. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

GINGERBREAD WITH LEMON ICING RECIPE -It won't cure the cold but it goes well with the hot lemon and honey drinks!


For the last week I have been laid low with a stinking cold that just seemed to get worse despite the hot lemon and honey drinks and regular steaming!

As a result I haven’t felt much like cooking let alone making cakes for the after school fix. Consequently yesterday the teens took to the kitchen to ensure they had some good things to eat when they got in this week.

 Their first idea was orange and carrot cupcakes.

Sounded great, however much to their frustration, we didn’t have enough carrots.

 The rabbit must have been extra hungry this week.

So, after a quick check in the cupboards it was back to the cookery books.

Yes, we had fresh ginger and black treacle, so, they opted for Nigella Lawson’s ginger cake, From HOW TO BE A DOMESTIC GODDESS.



It feels quite Christmassy but is great at any time of the year.

The other good thing is it’s very straightforward to make. You melt the wet ingredients and then stir that into the dry ingredients.

Topped off with lemon icing it’s a perfect blend of dense sticky ginger cake and light tangy sweetness.

It looks and tastes so good, I can see I’m going to be farming out the Christmas baking to them this year.

This is also a brilliant one for cake sales or cake days as the recipe makes at least 20 pieces.

Fresh gingerbread


Preparation time 10 minutes
Serves 20 pieces
Cooking time 45 minutes


150g unsalted butter
125g muscovada sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle
2 tsp fresh chopped ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
250ml milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 tbsp warm water
300g plain flour

ICING: This is my recipe not Nigella’s as I like thick lemony icing
400g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

1.     Pre heat the oven to 170 degrees
2.     In a large saucepan melt the butter, sugars, golden syrup, treacle, ginger and cinnamon.
3.     When it’s melted remove from the heat and add the milk, eggs and bicarbonate of soda in its water.
4.     Put the flour into a bowl and the whisk in the liquid ingredients beating so it is smooth and batter like.
5.     Pour this into a baking tin lined with baking parchment  and bake for 45 minutes.  Stick in a knife or skewer, if it comes out clean it’s done..don't over cook as it’s better when soft not dried out!
6.     Let it cool and mix up the icing sugar and lemon juice. When it’s cool, carefully pour the icing on the top and let it set, then, cut up into as many pieces as you want or need!

Fresh gingerbread with lemon icing

Not sure it will help cure my cold but it goes well with the hot lemon and honey drinks!