Blog · Family · Recipes

Face Mask Friday – Sweet Potato Chilli

We all deserve a treat from time to time.

After my rather messy divorce last year, that ‘occasional’ treat would come in the form of a chocolate bar or two.

Now that I’ve finally put those bad habits behind me, I’ve been looking for alternative ways of treating myself that don’t include packing my body full of fats and sugars.

Thankfully, I’ve found a way of pampering myself that doesn’t involve a multi-pack of an old chocolate covered nemesis.

Face Masks have become all the rage in the last few years, there’s an army of Beauty Bloggers dedicated to reviewing them and hordes of YouTubers who are eager to show the effects of these wonder products. They’re relaxing, good for your skin and affordable: I’d highly recommend them.

I wouldn’t dream of giving you advice on which beauty product to purchase as everyone has their own skin type and different requirements. There are literally hundreds of products to pick from, but the one that I’ve found suits my needs the best is Shill’s Charcoal Peel Off Mask. If you’re particularly into Skincare then you might have heard of this product already, there are a whole bunch of videos on YouTube of people trying them out.

The first time I tried one of these masks on I played a bit of a cruel trick on my boys.

They were upstairs playing whilst I was downstairs prepping dinner (more on that below!), I knew the image of me with my face covered in this black gunk would scare the bejeezus out of them, so I crept slowly upstairs to the bathroom and slathered the stuff on my face. The aim of this product is to pull out the dirt and gunk from your pores, leaving your skin beautifully smooth and clear, but it also doubles up as a pretty great disguise/Halloween mask.

I debated in my mind the best way to surprise them with my new look. I wanted to avoid a ‘Daddy of Five‘ situation, so I resisted the temptation to film their reaction. Instead, I set up a plate of biscuits and filled a couple of tumblers up with Soy Milk. When I surreptitiously knocked on the door, Cody came opened the door with expectant eagerness in his eyes which soon turned to shock.

I really didn’t think he’d scream so much! His scream made me scream, then Dancer started yelling and soon Poncho (our Irish Setter) was up barking along with us. The screaming soon turned into laughter and I left them gasping for air, trying to calm themselves so they could devour the biscuits I brought them.

Still laughing to myself, I trooped back downstairs with Poncho at my heels. Satisfied with a prank well executed, I set about making dinner, a favourite of Cody’s and a super healthy alternative to a classic Mexican meal.

Unlike the meaty version that this wholesome one-pot meal is derived from, this meal takes less than an hour to whip up, so you can prep the whole meal whilst your face mask works away, making you look beautiful!

Sweet Potato Chilli with Beans

[Serves a prank-happy family of 3 with enough spare for the freezer]

For the Chilli:

  • 3 good-sized Sweet Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp ground Cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sweet Smoked Paprika
  • 1 bunch of fresh Coriander
  • 1 large Onion
  • 1 fresh Red Chilli, deseeded
  • 2 Red Peppers
  • 1 Yellow Pepper
  • 400g tin of Beans (Cannelini, Kidney or a Mix)
  • 400g tin of Plum Tomatoes
  • Brown Rice or Tortilla Chips

Method:

Get your oven up 180 degrees/gas 4, then peel and chop your sweet potato into bite-sized chunks – toss these in a tray with some oil and a pinch of each ground spice, then roast these for around 40 mins.

Peel and chop up your onion. Pick those lovely fragrant coriander leaves and chop up them stalks along with your chilli and peppers. Fry all these up in a big pan with the rest of the spices and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes.

Add your beans (with their juices) as well as the tomatoes and give it a good mix around. Leave this to simmer for around 30 minutes. In the mean time, peel of your face mask and admire your lovely shiny face, then think about more inventive ways you can prank your children without putting them in a constant state of suspense.

Shout your kids once the half an hour is up, take your golden sweet potatoes out the oven and stir them into the pot along with the coriander leaves. Season to your liking then serve up with some Brown Rice (or Tortilla Chips if you’re feeling naughty).…

Blog · Family · Recipes

Brand New Oven – Wood-Fired Pizza with Rocket & Cress Salad

I know what you’re thinking…

This is no time of year to be investing in an outdoor cooking oven – but the boys love pizza and I love baking, so say ‘Hello!’ to the new addition to our family:

pizza-ovenI’d recommend cooking home-made pizzas to any Mum looking for a quick dinner, it’s not as unhealthy as you might think, especially if you partner it with a hefty colourful salad.

Obviously, if you’re choosing to cook using a wood fired oven, then the time between your meal’s inception and it’s completion is going to be a little longer.

pizza-blogThere’s something so primal about lighting and kindling a fire, right in your back garden.

Although the installation of the thing did take the best part of a weekend – with the help of my boys, I can now get it fired up and cooking pizza within half an hour.

Thankfully pizza is one of those fantastic Italian creations that is super easy to knock together and you can always get your sprogs to help you out…

This recipe is totally customisable – I’ve spent a bit of time developing the right blends of flours and yeast, but if you’d prefer using a different mix – then go for it!

Wood-Fired Pizza with Rocket & Cress Salad

[Allow one pizza per sprog, you might want two – if you’re feeling naughty]

vegan-falafel-pizzaFor each 10″ Pizza:

  • 75g Plain Flour
  • 50g Strong White Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Yeast
  • Mozarella
  • 400g Passatta
  • 2 Bulbs of Garlic
  • Bunch of Fresh Basil
  • Any Toppings of Your Choosing

For the Salad:

  • Few Handfuls of Rocket
  • Handful of Cress
  • 200g Cherry Tomatoes
  • 30g Parmesan
  • 1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

Method:

First off, if you’re lucky enough to own a wood-fired oven, you need to get that baby hot! So grab your bag of fuel (I use Volcano Wood Pellets for the quickest burn) and start your fire. You’ll need to keep poking and feeding it for around half an hour – it needs to be around 400 degrees celsius for you to get a quick bake on your pizzas.

If you’re cooking with a conventional kitchen oven, then pre-heat it to 200 degrees and get to making your dough!

Throw all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and give it a good mix with some warm water to combine and activate the yeast. Once you’ve got your big ball of dough, you can divide it into smaller balls and palm them off to your kids to do the kneading. This will take a bit of time, so whilst their busy you can prep the toppings and salad.

This salad essentially makes itself. All you need to do is quarter the cherry tomatoes and toss them in a bowl with the leaves.

Grab whatever toppings you need – I usually go for red onion, mushrooms and red pepper. Slice them up thin, so they’ll cook quickly and not add too much moisture to your pizza.

By this point, your helpful sous chefs should have finished the dough. Wrestle them off their hands and leave them to prove in a warm place, whilst you tend to the fire.

Once the little dough balls have risen to twice the size, knock the air out of them for a few minutes and roll them out thin.

Finely chop the garlic and basil, mix them together with the passata and a little seasoning and then smear a helpful dollop over each pizza base.

Get your sprogs to top their own pizzas (somehow ours always end up looking like faces!) and then you’re ready to bake.

In a wood-fired oven they’ll only take 2 minutes each, but a conventional oven might take around 6-8, just make sure to keep an eye on them.

When you’re ready to eat – finish the salad with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a healthy grating of Parmesan cheese – then enjoy your rustic Italian dinner!

[Wood-fired ovens are a wonderful installation to have in the back garden. They don’t necessarily have to be that large, but you’ll still need to have a good amount of space around – so they’re not best suited for those with gardens on the smaller end of the spectrum.]
Blog · Family · Gardening · Recipes

Hello Winter! – Warmed Salad/Squash Cous Cous

The Winter months have arrived, so it’s time get harvesting!

October’s always a great time of year to get in the garden with your kids. The weather’s still relatively mild, so you can get them dressed up in jumpers and they’ll be fine without woollens, as long as they keep moving.

hereforshireHere in Dilwyn, you can feel the chill in the air but it tends to have an enlivening effect on the kids. The changing of the seasons is something us adults get accustomed to, but that’s not so for our kids.

If you’ve got young ones below 10, you’ll understand what I mean by this. Although their attention spans and memories can be a little selective, they still delight in the novel – and the winter months are a great chance to exploit this.

If your veg garden is anything like mine, you’ll still be overrun with beans and peas from the summer. Thanks to our (mostly temperate) September we can let these quick creepers grow up until mid-October. Past that they tend to die off, so now’s a good time to get your nippers to work harvesting all those delicious morsels. Obviously you’ll have to help them reach the taller sprouts – just get a big pot so they can dump the fruits of their labour in them and try not to let them eat them all – there’ll be a recipe at the end, that will be well worth the wait.

picking-beansBefore you go crazy and try pulling everything out of the ground – stop!

Make sure to leave the roots of the peas in the ground – these are packed full of nitrogen which will seep into the ground slowly, getting the soil ready for the next loads of veg that you can plant in a month or so.

squashNow, if you’ve been playing a game of cat and mouse with your squashes, it’s time to move first. Leave those beauties out any longer and they will turn to mush. I’m afraid it’s time to get your hands dirty and get those guys out of the ground.

Chuck them all in a basket, along with the bowl of greens and stick them in the kitchen ready to get washed.

Before you head inside to get cooking, there’s one more task left to fully prepare your garden for winter: rescue the Herbs!

Many of the classic British herbs, like Rosemary and Thyme will be able to brave the winter months, but for the sake of ease you may as well take them all in. Softer mainstays such as Basil and Coriander need saving from the harsh winter months, so get them potted and stick them on the window sill to get maximum daylight.

Now you’ve got your stunning winter harvest in hand, it’s time to make a delicious warming meal for yourself and your hungry sprogs!

This recipe is an absolute must for a weekend afternoon, it’ll use a load of your winter harvest up and stores easily in the fridge.

Warmed Green Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash Cous Cous

[For one hungry parent and 2-3 sprogs]

butternut-squash-kale-and-cranberry-couscous-1For the Salad:

  • 3 Handfuls of Peas/Beans
  • 1 Handful of Fresh Coriander
  • 2 Handfuls of Kale
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • Glug of Olive Oil

For the Cous Cous:

  • 200g Cous Cous
  • 1 Organic Vegetable Stock Cube
  • 1 Good-sized Butternut Squash
  • Few Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
  • 1 tsp Chilli Flakes
  • Glug of Olive Oil

Method:

Firstly, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius and drizzle a roasting tray with some olive oil.

Chop your squash into kid-sized 2cm chunks and throw them into the tray along with the stripped thyme leaves and chilli flakes and give it a good shake.

Once your oven’s hot, season the squash and roast for an hour, turning occasionally to get even colouring.

Whilst your squash is roasting, prepare your salad.

Give your beans a good rinsing and chuck them in a decent sized bowl along with a pinch of salt, the cumin and the oil. Give it a good stir.

15 minutes before your Squash comes out, fill the kettle and stick on some hot water for your Cous Cous and Kale.

Pour over enough boiling water to cover the Cous Cous in a heatproof bowl, crumble in the stock cube and leave covered.

Boil the Kale on the hob for 5 minutes, drain well and mix in hot with the other greens. Have a little taste and season with more cumin and salt if needed.

Lastly, get that lovely roasted Squash out of the oven and mix in with the fluffy Cous Cous.

Serve in bowls with a little bread roll and tuck in.…

Blog · Family · Recipes

Weekend Break To Barcelona

There comes a time when every single Mother has to take a break.

I love looking after my boys, but sometimes they can get too much for one person.

airplane-windowWhen a single Mum wants to take a weekend break, usually they’ll have to take their kids with them – then it ceases to be a holiday. I’m fortunate enough, however, to be surrounded by an incredibly supportive village community who have been kind enough to look after my boys whilst I take a trip to sunny Barcelona!

They did most of the work themselves really. My Mancunian talking lads have really done themselves proud – making friends during the Summer Holidays with our neighbours and then finding even more pals in the playground in the opening weeks of their first school term, here in Herefordshire.

Of course, I’ve had to do my bit as well, with the Community Garden and the Veg Boxes.

boys-okUs Jerichos are a family that don’t mind putting ourselves out there – now we have a wonderful group of friends, who I feel comfortable leaving my kids with over a long weekend.

Barcelona is a place that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, it’s the vibrant cultural centre of Spain that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Last weekend, I became one of those tourists.

After the first month of getting the boys settled into their new school, I felt like I really needed to get away for a few days – the boys had friends to stay with, and I wanted to make some new ones in Spain!

The flights cost a meager £70 and I found a simple website to book car a space for the weekend (I’ll drop all the useful links at the bottom of the post here, so you can plan your own trip!), so before you know it I was on the plane, setting out on my own Mediterranean excursion for less than £100!

barcelona

I thought I’d miss the boys a little bit, whilst I was away, but it all flew by so fast…I actually didn’t.

Here are a few snaps of my weekend away (Barcelona, I miss you already!):

hotel-room

My amazing hotel room, just off the Plaza de Catalunya.

paella

This gorgeous paella cost a whopping 20 euros, luckily I had someone to share it with!

travelers

I was lucky enough to meet Pablo in the reception of my hotel – we were both travelling alone, so we thought we’d pair up.

barcelona-view-amazing

The view from the top of the hill, after a long hike we sat at the top with a glass of bubbly – lovely!

I had the best time in Barcelona – wonderful people, tasty food and endless sunshine – I’ll definitely be going back.

I’m not sure if I’ll be seeing Pablo again, he had to travel back to his native country of Portugal and I had to return to gardening and my boys. I would say this to any single Mothers who feel that they can’t leave the country by themselves:

You can and you should.

Us single Mums work hard to raise our kids and we sacrifice a lot for them. At least once a year, you should find a way of escaping the country and live a different life for a while – thank me later.


All Flights booked using: https://www.skyscanner.net/

Airport Car Parking booked through: https://www.airportparkingmarket.co.uk/airport-parking/liverpool-john-lennon-airport/

Accommodation found through: http://www.booking.com/

Paella gorged on at: http://www.lamarsalada.cat/…

Blog · Family · Recipes

A Weekend in Liverpool

Moving away from Manchester was always going to be tough on my boys, but I wasn’t prepared for how displaced I was going to feel, trading the city life in for the countryside.

Leaving my job to start my own gardening business has been a daunting task but fulfilling.

day-outHaving sole responsibility over my business’ finances has been a real challenge and totally satisfying. Thankfully I’ve had one of my best friends Jess to help me all the way through. I worked with this special lady for 3 years before leaving Manchester and missed her sorely when I first moved away.

So, when she discovered she was pregnant last month, I jumped at the opportunity to meet with her up North for a reunion.

baby-groWith the boys with their Dad for the weekend, I was free to drive myself up and help her shopping for some baby clothes in Liverpool.

Although I’d brought up as much of the boys’ old stuff as possible, I wanted to treat Jess to a Baby Shower gift, so we visited a children’s designer store just outside of town. After finding some gorgeous bits and pieces there we moved into the heart of the city to grab a coffee and get a taste of the metropolitan renaissance the city is currently experiencing.

Although I’d never had the opportunity to visit in the past, I’d always heard about Liverpool’s friendly vibe and easy to navigate centre. It didn’t disappoint, all the shops and restaurants on our list were within a 20 minute walk from each other – perfect for a pregnant Mum and her lazy friend!

bold-stOur first port of call was a much needed caffeine dose at Bold Street Coffee. One of countless independent cafés and restaurants that have popped up over the last few years, this was a smartly chic establishment that served delicious coffee and a rather sinful pecan pie that I shared with Jess (who was obviously drinking decaf).

Bold Street is a bustling thoroughfare that has remained relevant, despite the development of a multi-million pound shopping centre just a few hundred metres away, largely in part to the myriad of eateries and vintage clothes stores that have jumped at the opportunity of low cost rent in an up and coming city.

With the coffees urging us on, we hit up every whole food and vintage store we could find. I left with some new brands of tofu that I’m yet to try and Jess found a lovely maternity dress that won’t make her look like Stevie Wonder (a problem most pregnant women have to deal with at some point).

egg-cafeTired and thoroughly starved, we stopped off for lunch at The Egg, Liverpool’s foremost vegan/vegetarian restaurant. In the cosy attic of a Victorian warehouse, this quaint eatery has been open for nearly a decade. Offering great value, a Liverpool tradition that is wonderfully refreshing, we ate two courses (cheese on artisan toast, broccoli quiche and vegan banana cake) all for the ridiculous price of £9.75 – the deal even included a coffee at the end!

I’m so awful at goodbyes, as soon as I saw Jess tearing up it triggered a chain reaction of weeping that took quite some time to get over.

I’ll be visiting her again as soon as I can, until then I’ll have to console myself with the kilogram of tofu that I’m taking back with me to Herefordshire – tune in next week to see what I do with it!

Blog · Family · Recipes

My Top 5 Foodie Influences

When I made the move down to Herefordshire 12 weeks ago, I needed to make some drastic life changes in order to move on with my life in a healthy fashion.

I’d spent years eating terribly and feeding my kids with the same rubbish. In danger of slipping into a teary, chocolate fuelled, depression I ‘manned’ up and hit the books- well…the internet.

This list is comprised of my Top 5 Favourite Food Bloggers – these wonderful people helped me get through a super difficult time in my life and I cannot recommend their recipes enough:

Deliciously Ella – Ella Woodward

ellaElla’s story is one that every Veggie Foodie knows. Diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome in 2011, her life was put into disarray as her heart rate and blood pressure flew out of control. With a host of other symptoms including food allergies and migraines – she had to drastically change her life in order to get better.

Cataloguing her journey off medication and into good health, her recipes utilise raw foods to provide delicious healthy alternatives to otherwise sinful foods and desserts. A true rags-to-riches story that has inspired hundreds of other bloggers to follow suit (including me!), Ella is the poster girl for food bloggers worldwide.

Oh She Glows – Angela Liddon

angelaRecovering from an eating disorder, Angela was not only forced to explore plant-based healthy alternative food substances, she also had to learn how to cook them! She had quite the challenge experimenting with vegan and whole foods to impress her husband, a ‘devout fast-food lover’.

Her blog is a triumph of perseverance and beauty. An honest writer, she’s open about her experimentation. Her thought processes are clearly tracked and her recipes are always accompanied with gorgeous photography. Another true honest-to-God inspiration whose books have sold in the thousands!

That Was Vegan – Barbara Musick

barbOn the smaller scale end of the spectrum, Barbara Musick is a vegan food blogger who has been consistently writing recipes for the past four years. After turning vegan in 2010, she aimed at guiding meat-eaters and omnivores into the sometimes bewildering world of whole foods and veganism.

Clean and simply constructed, her blog is personal and creative – making the most of her background in marketing and branding. Although Barb’s yet to make the transition from food blogger to international best-seller, she’s definitely one to keep an eye on.

Eatori – Tori Haschka

toriWhen Australian-born Tori was growing up she would only eat foods that were white. Her journey from anaemic picky eater to full blown foodie is catalogued in her wonderfully detailed blog (as well as not one, but four books!).

Tori’s Aussie humour is always front and centre in her writing and it makes her recipes a joy to cook. Her personal stories of juggling her hectic family life with her occupation as a food-writer makes for great reading and, although a lot of her food includes meat, her recipes are healthy and delicious.

My New Roots – Sarah Britton

sarahOne of the longest working bloggers on this list, Sarah has been creating whole food and plant-based meals since 2007 from her home in Toronto. A holistically trained Nutritionist and fully certified Nutritional Practitioner, her dual education has helped inform her methods for creating delicious balanced meals.

Bursting with optimism and enthusiasm, Sarah’s blog is a mecca for all things good for the body. Her holistic approach to life informs the reader on everything from healthy eating to exercise to harnessing a positive mental outlook. If you’re looking for a way to completely reshape your life, Sarah will be able to help you out!

These guys were all absolutely instrumental in getting me into the world of plant-based cooking and healthy eating. Their zest for life and ambition has inspired me to take control over my eating, and as a result my boys and I have never been in better shape.

If I can achieve half as much as these lovely ladies, then I’ll be a happy Mum!