This fruit salad came together by accident – I had a lime that needed eating up and having had lunch at Mexican eatery Wahaca earlier in the week I felt inspired to give my fruit salad a bit of a Mexican twist, and we all loved it. We had it for breakfast outside last week – super-healthy and so delicious. The colours are simply amazing – look!
Warm weather seems to make it easier to eat more simply than usual and I’ve been whizzing up smoothies, throwing together delicious salads and keeping family food simple, just using delicious ingredients such as these fresh strawberries and ripe mangoes.
We’ve also been enjoying some lovely al fresco food on local picnics here in our little corner of south-east London, as well as barbecues on our recent camping trip to the New Forest, when we also toasted marshmallows and ate ice-creams every day. We were very taken with the wild ponies – what a beautiful part of the world!
Much-needed holiday to Spain soon – life’s been so busy lately, and we need a break. Catch up when I’m back 🙂
Quick 3-Fruit Salad
Enjoy making this – it’s so quick and easy and an absolute winner!
1 ripe mango, diced
1 punnet strawberries, hulled and diced
1 punnet blueberries
Juice of ½ lime
1 tablespoon maple syrup
What to do:
This one couldn’t be easier: simply toss together the fruit, squeeze over the lime juice and stir in the maple syrup. Let it sit for 20 mins before eating, so the flavours combine really well. Stir again before serving.
Having read all the recent articles about how sugar is the devil and we must all give it up immediately, I started thinking about the amount of sugar I consume, and how much the children eat. Not only is it bad for their health (as sugar-laden foods tend to be low in nutrients in general), it’s so bad for their teeth.
I am aware that when checking your diet for ‘hidden sugar’ breakfast cereal is often the culprit, and I will admit that my kids do often eat Cheerios (or the own-brand equivalent), Special K (ditto) and granola, which I know are high in sugar. I am no saint! However, I do put my foot down when it comes to chocolatey cereals and Frosties. I console myself with the fact that every morning they also eat fresh fruit, wholemeal toast or ricecakes with homemade jam or peanut butter (the no-sugar variety) and in my book, this cancels out the evil cereal. And often, in fact, they will forego the cereal for porridge or scrambled eggs, which they adore. Whatever they eat, they brush their teeth pretty well afterwards.
I never buy fruit juice because it’s high in fructose, or fruit sugar (read Zoe Harcombe’s website if you’re interested in the effect of fructose on the body) and so they drink milk or water.
I also never buy fruit yogurts because they are invariably laden with extra sugar. When it comes to yogurt, from a very young age I only really gave the littles plain (natural) full-fat yogurt with a variety of toppings – yes, fruit, but also (tiny) swirls of honey, nuts and homemade compotes. I like knowing what they are eating. Without coming over all righteous mum I would simply never buy a children’s-character-branded yogurt or fromage frais. The second ingredient in the Peppa Pig fromage frais is sugar. Each tiny 45g pot contains approx. 1½ teaspoons of the stuff. Not an insignificant amount.
So if you are interested weaning your child off sweetened yogurts, or indeed weaning your baby onto plain yogurt, I thought it would be nice to suggest a few yogurt toppings. The best plain, natural yogurt is Yeo Valley, in my opinion, and I have tried them all. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose do a good own-brand Greek yogurt. Personally, I find Rachel’s and Total a bit chalky.
I asked food writer and author Bee Wilson, who recently wrote a piece about Greek yogurt in Stella magazine, about how she likes to eat yogurt, and she told me she once visited a primary school where they had yogurt toppings on offer – dried fruit, fresh fruit, compote and so on, rather like an ice-cream bar, so you could jazz up your yogurt, which is such a lovely, healthy image. Her favourite yogurt is whole milk yogurt, topped with blackcurrant jam, a dash of double cream and a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds. Sounds utterly divine!
With the ice-cream bar image in my mind, rather than simply plonking some cut-up banana on top of the kids’ pudding at tea-time tonight, I presented them with bowls of yogurt and a colourful ‘yogurt bar’, with pomegranate seeds, blueberries, toasted flaked almonds (I didn’t toast ‘em, Waitrose did) and cut-up dried mango. They absolutely LOVED it, and merrily sprinkled and chatted and devoured their pudding. Make healthy food fun for kids and everyone enjoys the experience!
Ideas for yogurt toppings:
– homemade fruit compote (apple, apple and blackberry, rhubarb)
– homemade or high fruit content shop-bought jam
– berries, cut-up apple, banana slices, chunk of orange
– cut-up dried fruit, or raisins/sultanas (go easy though, dried fruit high in sugar!)
– tiny swirls of runny honey (my children love it when I ‘draw’ their initial in honey on top)
– nuts and seeds (be careful with younger babies as these could be a choking hazard)
Have fun topping your yogurts!
I have been thinking about one-handed breakfasts lately – things you can successfully put together with a baby in one hand. I’ve managed scrambled eggs, toast (tricky to butter, mind) and porridge. Yippee. There is life after kids. OK, it’s not quite up to The Wolseley standards, (check out their breakfast menu here – OMG!!) but it does us just fine.
I love breakfast. In fact, I often start planning it the night before. Whether it’s soaking porridge oats in water in advance (helps them cook quicker), making pancake batter and sticking it in the fridge to save time, or simply laying the breakfast table to make for an easier morning – I am all about making breakfast easy, and tasty. It sets you up for the day, it’s a chance to sit down together, if only briefly, and just check in with each other.
I like trying new things for breakfast – Spelt Flakes are a new favourite, for instance, and we always have fruit – cut-up apple or orange, or maybe banana or blueberries – and the children drink milk or water. I don’t buy fruit juice. I will drink a cup of Assam tea first thing, and have coffee later on.
So I wanted to share a recipe for something else I like at breakfast: muffins. These banana pecan ones are really easy and not too sweet. The pecans give them a protein kick, which is a good energy booster for kids. You can’t make them one-handed, but you can make them in stages; get the dry ingredients all ready, then the wet, and then simply mix together. And no, you don’t need to be a chef – they are really easy!
Breakfast Banana Pecan Muffins
250g self-raising flour
75g pecans, chopped
1tsp baking powder
75g light brown sugar
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 egg, beaten
100ml vegetable oil
250ml whole milk
You will need a 12-hole muffin tin
What to do:
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and stir in the pecans, the sugar and the cinnamon.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.
- Combine the dry and wet ingredients in one bowl, mixing swiftly. The mixture can be quite liquid, don’t worry.
- Sprinkle some granulated sugar on top.
- Fill your muffin cases about three-quarters full, and then bake for 25-30 minutes.
Perfect for a quick breakfast or mid-morning with a coffee.
If you have any one-handed breakfasts you make – do share them.
Have a nice breakfast!
Having been given a swanky new blender for Christmas I am really enjoying concocting lots of delicious healthy smoothies every morning, and the children are loving them. I have discovered almond milk, which I’d never used before but it turns out it’s great in smoothies and is much lower in calories than semi-skimmed milk. Plus I’ve been using all kinds of fruit, including papaya, blueberries and frozen berries – but the staple ingredient of all my smoothies is banana. I prefer to use Fairtrade bananas where possible, in the same way that I buy Fairtrade sugar and Fairtrade coffee when I can. Did you know that all the bananas sold at Sainburys are Fairtrade? That’s right, all of them, even the economy ones, which are perfect for smoothies. Hurrah.
So without further ado, I give you the winner out of all the smoothies I’ve been making for the past two weeks: The Banana Peanut Boost.
The boost comes from the added porridge oats (more on those below), which give your smoothie a boost of B vitamins and fibre. The sweetness comes from the banana and the agave nectar, a natural sweetener with a low GI and a great alternative to sugar – as you know, we are all being advised to cut down on the amount of sugar we eat, plus it’s not good for children to eat too much sugar, obviously. Agave nectar doesn’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels and yet is sweet enough to ward off sugar cravings, and it comes in a squeezy bottle, making it perfect for smoothies. And peanut butter is just yum.
And what’s more, assuming you’ve pre-toasted your oats, you can whizz the whole thing up one-handed, and drink it with one hand too, I promise you. No excuses, now!
You will need:
1 Fairtrade banana
4tbsp natural or Greek yogurt (Greek makes a creamier smoothie; I like Rachel’s Organic)
500ml unsweetened almond milk (Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Original is my fave)
1tsp smooth peanut butter
Agave nectar (I use the one by the Groovy Food Company)
1tbsp toasted porridge oats
First of all, you need to toast the porridge oats; you can do a batch for the whole week while you’re at it to save time down the line. Simply pre-heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat and when it’s hot, add your porridge oats and toast them, turning and mixing using a wooden spoon until they smell ‘toasty’ – about five minutes. You can use untoasted oats, but toasting them makes the smoothie much nicer. Trust me, it’s worth the minor effort. Now you are ready to make your smoothie:
- Peel the banana and break into chunks; chuck into the blender along with the Greek yogurt and the almond milk. Blend thoroughly.
- Add the peanut butter, the agave nectar and the porridge oats.
- Blend until smooth.
- Serve over ice.
Enjoy – and no monkey business!
All week it’s time to Shake Up Your Wake Up with Farmhouse Breakfast Week which is an annual celebration championing the importance of breakfast and aims to get the nation to Shake Up Their Wake Up! 47% of people regularly skip breakfast during the week so their aim is to encourage people to enjoy a healthy breakfast more regularly, think about the wonderful breakfast produce available in this country, and get out of the boring breakfast rut! For inspiration, look at www.shakeupyourwakeup.com/breakfastrecipes
I was lucky enough to be sent Denhay Farms’ Ultimate Breakfast Box to try out on the family, which included their award-winning bacon, spoiltpig sausages, Clarence Court’s Burford Brown eggs, Tracklements tomato sauce and smoked chipotle salsa. Nice.
I am a big believer in breakfast, but like most busy mums, don’t always have time during the week to make a real effort with breakfast. I usually have plain yogurt with some sort of granola (Rude Health is a favourite) and the children have cereal or porridge, fruit and sometimes bagels or rice cakes with peanut butter. However at the weekend we usually have scrambled eggs, porridge, fruit salad, American-style pancakes and sometimes a cooked breakfast, which is a real treat.
We had never tried Denhay bacon, and I have to say, it was absolutely delicious. I was very pleased to see that both it and the sausages have the Freedom Food label – something which is important to me. The sausages had a lovely flavour, and I was really quite taken with the ketchup (although, you guessed it, the kids prefer ‘the normal one’) but the eggs stole the show – I have never seen such gorgeous vibrant yolks before (if you’re into Pantones, think Spectra Yellow). Which inspired me to make scrambled eggs – one of the few dishes that really can be made one-handed – assuming you can crack an egg one-handed!
Scrambled eggs are great for older babies (make sure they are cooked through), toddlers, big kids, and even bigger kids. Eggs pack a great protein punch, plus the yolks are high in lecithin, which helps memory and concentration – so they’re an important brain food. They really are the perfect breakfast food, and what’s more, you could add some spinach for an iron kick. A great healthy start to the day for the family!
Scrambled eggs with spinach
Keeping the heat fairly LOW is the key to good scrambled eggs; it may take a wee bit longer, but you will be rewarded with delicious, creamy eggs that taste sooo good.
3 free-range eggs
Dash of full-fat milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small knob of butter
Handful of washed, chopped spinach
- Gently beat the eggs together in a small bowl or a mug with a fork and add a dash of full-fat milk if you have some, don’t worry if you don’t. Don’t overbeat, just make sure the eggs are combined. Season lightly
- Melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan or frying pan, and once it’s gently bubbling, add your egg mixture, keeping the heat low
- Stir the eggs using a wooden spoon, or even better, a wooden fork, if you have one
- Once the eggs have started to scramble after a few minutes, add the chopped spinach and continue stirring for another minute
- Grate some nutmeg into the pan and give it a final stir
Enjoy your breakfast this week. (And why not tweet a picture, using the hashtag #breakfastwatch!)
Disclaimer: I was sent the Ultimate Breakfast Box as a gift. All the views here are my own.
One of the things I will be offering on my blog is interviews with other busy parents, to help you feel inspired, give you an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek at how other mums do things and to offer tips and advice across a range of issues and topics that will (I hope!) interest you.
Jo Wheatley impressed the nation with her amazing baking skills on BBC2’s The Great British Bake Off and after winning the competition in 2011 went on to write A Passion for Baking (Constable, 2012), which is an absolutely lovely book – the photographs are gorgeous, the recipes make you want to get baking immediately plus there really is something for every occasion – I really recommend it (currently loving the Lemon Drizzle Traybake). She also writes a blog, Jo’s Blue Aga – www.josblueaga.com which features some show-stopping cakes.
I particularly love the introduction to Jo’s book, where she talks about what baking means for her. In it she says, ‘Baking is about memories, old ones and ones yet to be made: a favourite auntie’s bread pudding; a nan’s apple pie; eating the most amazing croissant with a loved one […] a birthday cake shaped like a fort for a four-year-old … I could go on forever!’
This is how I feel about food and cooking for my family, too, which is why we try to sit down to eat together as a family at weekends in particular. Simple rituals like dipping soldiers into soft-boiled eggs or tucking in to homemade scones and jam are the things family memories are made of, and I cherish the (relative) peace at weekends (however, let’s keep things in perspective here; things are never *actually* quiet with two kids!).
Now over to Jo:
Q: As a busy mum, how have you adapted the way you cook since having your children?
To be totally honest it’s been such a long time since I wasn’t a mum I can’t actually remember! Billy, my eldest, is now 25.
Q: Can you share some of the snacks you give your children?
I think snacks with oats and fruit are always a packed lunch favourite and help keep children going throughout the day. But to be fair, I’m more of everything in moderation, to totally deny children any treat will only make them want it more.
Q: Breakfast is often cited as the most important meal of the day, particularly for growing children – what sorts of things do you and your family like to eat for breakfast?
At the weekends it was always pancakes for my lot, in the week it’s Weetabix or porridge, or fruit depending on the season.
Q: What kitchen gadget could you not live without?
My KitchenAid. I love how it frees me up to do something else and can whip up meringues in moments!
Q: Who are your favourite cookery writers?
I love all types of writers and books – cookery books are my guilty pleasure – I have a tower of them next to my bed and a whole length of kitchen worktop full of them…
Q: I am all about embracing shortcuts in the kitchen – what shortcuts do you do to make life run that little bit smoother? Any tips you’d like to share?
I have a Wednesday Top Tip on my Facebook page Jo’s Blue AGA where every week I share tips. This week’s was melting small amounts of chocolate in a microwaveable bag, then snipping of a corner – perfect for drizzling without any mess of washing up! I also have bits and bobs in my book, A Passion for Baking where I give other helpful little tips.
I hope you all enjoyed reading my interview with Jo. Look out for more interviews with other interesting mums coming soon. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog, so you don’t miss out.
The One-Handed Cook