Thursday, November 3, 2016

Our Little Holiday

So we just got back from what can be considered our first family holiday. We took a trip to Southport, which is only about an hour and a half away, and spent a few days at the Pontins resort there. Now, I've never had any experience with Pontins/Butlins/any UK holiday park, because it's not a thing in America. Basically, for those of you who don't know, it's a sort of apartment complex for families by the sea - there are several big companies who have multiple locations across the country - and they're a sort of budget self-catering (thumbs up for the "budget" part) working class family destination.

Was it a bit run-down and pikey? Yeah. But it was a bundle of fun - for all of us, but especially for Chloe. Everything from soft play to the swimming pool, live music and a walk along the beach - it was great, though I expect it's better in peak season when the outdoor attractions and seaside can be enjoyed more. That being said, we made the best of our accommodations - which honestly, weren't terrible, but turned me into a Nervous Nellie because it wasn't quite clean/safe enough to let a little toddler run around and get into everything. Pack n Play to the rescue, right?

We loved Southport too; it's the first seaside town/city we've been to (aside from Southampton, I guess) that isn't derelict. It still had all of the seaside-y charm, but managed to stay modern and continue to grow outside of the tourist trade, which seems promising given... like, everywhere else.

So, we loved it. Steve and I both had totally different plans on where we'd like to holiday as a family. As it turns out, our definition of fun has been completely turned on its head by the happiness of one little miss Chloe and the amount of joy that we all took out of our short little vacation. I guess you could say we're planning to do it again next year!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Dairy Free Diaries: Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Comfort food is a big necessity in this cold, wet weather. This rich, creamy, dairy-free soup is spicy and perfect for a cold day - an it only has a few ingredients and is SO simple to make! Butternut squash is one of the weekly specials at Aldi this week, making this filling & nutritious dinner for 4 cost around £1.50. No joke. Talk about a win-win-win.

I'm not fully dairy-free anymore, but I was for several months when my daughter was born, because she had various digestive problems when I ate/drank dairy products. With dairy being one of the most inflammatory foods we can eat (second only to gluten), I often recommend eliminating dairy to health coaching clients with various issues related to inflammation (eczema, bloating, blemished skin, etc). It doesn't have to be a restriction - there are tons of ways to eat delicious foods without giving a cow a second thought - and this recipe is one of them!

1 butternut squash, halved and seeds scooped out
1 organic white onion, diced
1 heaped tsp madras curry powder
2 cups organic vegetable or chicken stock
1/2-1 cup non-dairy milk (I used soymilk)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Lightly rub the cut halves of squash with olive oil, and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast at 180C/375F for 20-30 minutes or until squash is fork tender. Remove from oven, allow to cool, and then cut into 1" cubes.

In a large pot, saute onions in olive oil until lightly browned. Add curry powder and stir for 1-2 minutes before adding the stock. Then add the butternut squash, reduce heat, and cover with a lid. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, then remove from heat and blitz with a hand blender (or, if you are using a conventional blender, allow to cool first!). Return to the pot, add non-dairy milk, and stir over medium low heat; add salt & pepper to taste. It's that simple! Voila!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Southwest Sweet Potato Chili

The weather is officially colder, and I'm in the mood for hearty, warm comfort foods. Chili is one of my favourite meals to whip up, because it's a toss-it-all-in-one-pan-and-forget-about-it kind of dinner, which is especially important when you have a baby who is learning to walk and determined to get into absolutely everything. Like, seriously. Yesterday she put a banana in the dryer... and then turned it back on. I need my hands free, is the bottom line here - so this dinner takes about 10 minutes to throw together, and then it just bubbles away on the stove while you do whatever it is you have to do. Oh - and it's great in a slow cooker, too!

You see, I'm sort of looking to take this blog in slightly new direction - I've started a YouTube vlog type thing (look for Munchie Mummy!), and I want to help people to not only eat healthier, but on a budget! Living healthily is more than just buying fancy organic foods, so I'm on a mission to show everyone how they can live better - for less! Our grandmothers really new how to stretch protein in a meal - which is great because it saves us money on our grocery bill, and eating less meat in general is better for our health! This meal has so much veg in it, it's really an "eat the rainbow" dish. If you want spice, add chili powder as well as the other spices, but since I'm sharing this meal with our little one, I just tossed chopped hot peppers/hot sauce into mine as I liked it! For a vegetarian option, replace the beef with 1 can of black beans or chickpeas.

1/2 lb mince beef
1 sweet potato, diced
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, drained (or black beans)
1 white onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (I used half red, half green)
1 cup frozen sweetcorn
4-5 chestnut mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp paprika
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Chili powder, to taste (optional)

For the garnish (all optional, but I use them all!)
Chopped coriander (cilantro) or parsley
Grated cheddar
Greek yogurt or sour cream
Hot sauce

I brown the beef in a pot with the onion, then add the seasoning, the tomatoes, 1 can of water, and sweet potatoes. Add in the beans and frozen corn. Taste, season (I usually chuck in more seasoning, but do it as you prefer!) and allow to bubble away uncovered until the chili thickens and the sweet potatoes are tender. Serve with rice, couscous, or on its own as a hearty winter stew!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tuna Sashimi Bowl

I love sushi, and it used to be an almost weekly meal for me when I lived in NYC. I love it.  This sushi bowl combines the delicate flavors of sushi with the fresh, delicious, colorful concept of "bowls" that are oh-so-popular. Let's be honest - the stuff you get in the grocery store that is hours - even days old - just doesn't cut it. It defeats the whole purpose of having sushi - the textures, the simplicity, the freshness. But, for most of us, we don't have 10+ years to train as a real sushi chef.  But we can have the same types of flavors, textures, and freshness in the comfort of our own kitchens. Still with me? Let's talk tuna. Literally.

Get the best possible quality fish that you can. Go to your local fishmonger (if you have one) and ask what's good and sushi quality. You might end up with salmon, you might end up with yellowtail. Make sure it's the best quality, and make sure that it's sustainable. Take it home, and whip up this simple yummy marinade!

1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp rice vinegar OR white wine vinegar
1 tsp mirin OR 1/2 tsp honey

Now put it in a zipper bag with your fish, push all of the air out (but don't squish the fish!) and seal it. Store in the fridge for an hour or so while you prep your veggies and cook your rice! I recommend using a short grain sticky rice or sushi rice - it will hold together really well so that you can get a bit of everything in each bite.

Some of my favorite vegetables to prep are crunchy bean sprouts (marinated using the same recipe as above), lightly steamed spinach dressed with salt and sesame oil, and creamy avocado. The sky is the limit - use your favorites and make it sing with color and flavor! Then, take your fish out of the marinade and slice is against the grain delicately. I recommend 1/4" thick slices, using a sharp serrated knife and cutting in one smooth, slow motion. Don't saw back and forth - if you can't cut with one slice, get a sharper knife!

As a "dressing" or topping for your bowl, you can use good quality soy sauce,or mix up another little batch of the marinade recipe. Sriracha or gochugaru (spicy Korean chili powder) are a great additional of heat, and spring onions (scallions) add a fresh bite to the dish! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Meal in a Jar: Roasted Vegetable Panzanella!

Ok, I'm a total sucker for anything served in a jar. There, I said it. But jar lunches, besides being adorable, are also extremely practical for anyone who is meal prepping for a week ahead, or wants to transport a meal or salad without mixing everything together until it's time to serve.

Panzanella is basically a fancy Italian word for bread salad. Yup - bread salad. I took a leftover half of a baguette, made some quick and delicious croutons, and tossed them in with sweet roasted vegetables and a 30-second vinaigrette - tadaa! Lunch (or dinner), any day of the week. If you're entertaining, you could easily double or triple the recipe and serve up a big platter, topped with sprigs of fresh basil. Don't be afraid to improvise using whatever you have on hand - I had some fantastically sweet organic cherry tomatoes lying around, so I threw some of them in, and roasting only intensified their natural sweetness. Such a satisfying and unbelievably easy meal!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Smoked Mackerel Quiche

Summer is drawing to a close, but warm weather still finds its way up North every now and then, teasing us with sunshine and the ability to put the cardigans away for a few days. It's the one time when a filling, hearty, warm meal just won't do; enter the quiche.

We probably have quiche at least once a month in the spring and summer months. The produce in season right now lends itself really well to these toss-it-all-in meals, it's light yet filling, and can be eaten hot or cold (leftovers for breakfast are amaaaaazing). It's the all-purpose meal of champions, with an "anything goes" ease.

I know I'm a bit late posting this recipe but one thing leads to another and *poof* time to catch up on photo editing and recipe posting. Chloe's first tooth came in last week and it has been the most sleepless time in my life since she was a newborn. What a trooper, though. And thank God for those homeopathic chamomile teething crystals (when we finally found out about them and bought some) - worked a charm and I didn't have to resort to using some chemical/painkiller-filled gel in my baby's mouth. Win-win-win all day long.

They say our bodies tell us what they need by the food cravings we have; I was craving oily fish and wanted mackerel, so I must have needed vitamin D and Omega 3's. If you're not a mackerel fan, smoked trout or salmon would also be delicious! And since the fresh pea season has since ended, trust me, frozen will do just fine.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Spicy Tuna Cakes

I love crab cakes, fish cakes, any kind of seafood-related food in patty form, really. They can be such an easy pop-in-the-oven weeknight meal, served up with salad, that we used to always have them on hand in the freezer or fridge. Until I tried to make my own, that is! These are so yummy, have a bit of an Asian flare if you serve them up with sweet chili sauce, like I did this time, and take all of 5 minutes to make. Pop them in the oven, and dinner is done! The grated and finely chopped veggies added into this recipe help to pack extra goodness into every bite, making this a really easy meal that you can feel good about.

For the dressing on the spinach, I combined 1 tbsp sweet chili sauce with 1 tsp sesame oil, and 1 tsp rice vinegar (you can substitute white wine vinegar). If you want some real spice, sriracha or wasabi mayo would probably be great with these, too! Actually, now that I mention it, I'm dreaming up a spicy tuna burger with wasabi mayo...