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Yummy peanut and date bars (chocolate topped so extra kid-friendly!)

It’s a nice feeling giving your kids a snack and knowing exactly what is in it. These nutritious yet moreish peanut and date bars contain only roasted peanuts, dates, a little honey and some chocolate on top, and are simple to make.

peanut date bars

Peanut and date bars (makes around 10 bars)

200g unsalted peanuts
250g dates, roughly chopped
A good squeeze of honey
100g milk chocolate buttons (or more if you want it really chocolatey!)

First put the peanuts on a non-stick oven tray and roast in the oven at gas mark 2/150 degrees for approx 10 mins until golden brown (make sure you check them regularly and keep giving the tray a good shake – burnt nuts are bitter and horrible!)

Put the peanuts, dates and a good squeeze of honey in a food processor/blender and blend until the mixture is sticky and fine (you may need to do this in two batches). Cover a shallow square/rectangle shaped container with tin foil then press the mixture on to it until evenly dispersed. Melt the chocolate in the microwave (do this in short bursts to avoid burning) and pour and spread it evenly over the mixture. Refrigerate for a few hours then cut in to bars.

Keep them in the fridge – they will last a few days!

Kulfi (Indian cardamom spiced ice cream) – no ice cream maker required!

easy kulfi annum an and

I am very happy to have successfully made kulfi, an Indian style ice cream containing cardamom, which must be one of the most beautiful, delectable spices in the world. It definitely makes it in to my *exciting ingredient* list.

This kulfi is refreshing, surprisingly easy to make (95% of the work is stirring), you don’t need an ice cream maker and it tastes gorgeous and exotic. I have my sister to thank for my obsession with cardamom – she went to University in Bradford and every visit involved a trip to the Indian sweet shop.

The ice cream contains whole milk, ground almonds, rice flour, sugar and cardamom and is cleverly topped with flaked almonds and chopped pistachios to give it a little crunch. Allow about 1 hour 30 mins to make it (as I say most of this is stirring and cooling) and then at least 5-6 hours for it to freeze. It serves 4-6 people depending on what container you use – I recycled glass ramekins but you could use any small freezable container. You can get rice flour from most supermarkets now (sometimes in the gluten free section) and ground cardamom from Indian shops. If you can’t find ground cardamom you could buy cardamom pods from the supermarket and crush them. My kulfi was a little lumpy in parts when I put it in the ramekins but it still worked!

The recipe is from the inspiring book Indian Food Made Easy by Anjum Anand. It is a great book if you want to try out Indian cooking for the first time and then feel pleased with yourself! For two equally manageable and delicious recipes from the book check out these previous posts: and

Kulfi (serves 4-6 people)

1 litre whole milk
2 tbsp ground almonds
1 tbsp rice flour
5-6 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder or crushed cardamom
2 tbsp chopped pistachios
2 tbsp flaked almonds

Heat the milk in a saucepan over a low heat and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and cook gently, stirring often. Place the ground almonds and flour in a small cup and once the milk is warm, stir in a little milk, make a thin paste and stir back in to the pan with a little sugar. Continue to cook gently as the milk needs to reduce by half – this takes about one hour. If a skin forms on the surface just stir it back in.

Stir in the cardamom powder to taste. Cool completely, then decant in to your freezable containers (you will need 4-6 depending on the size). Freeze for at least 5-6 hours and take the containers out of the freezer 20 mins before serving. Dip them for a while in hot water to loosen them (and you may need to use a knife to cut around the edge) then turn on to serving plates. Sprinkle with the nuts!

From Indian Cooking Made Easy by Anjum Anand

Halloumi, bean and veg stew (ready in 20 mins)

halloumi bean stew

This is one of those meals that was invented when I was using up the contents of my fridge and cupboard. My kids didn’t turn their noses up at it so it is a success in my book! They loved the natural saltiness of the halloumi cheese and the Mediterranean flavours of the capers and olives, so much so that they happily accepted the presence of the beans and vegetables. My boyfriend approved too (if you read my blog regularly you will know that he normally only gets excited by fish fingers and Rustlers burgers).

This dish is healthy, tasty, colourful and quick so makes a perfect family meal! Allow about 20 minutes to make it.

Halloumi, bean and veg stew (serves 2 adults and 2 kids)

Tin chopped tomatoes
Tin haricot beans, drained
Shake dried herbs (or fresh e.g. parsley/oregano)
1/2 block halloumi cheese, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
tbsp capers
tbsp chopped black olives
1 veg stock cube (I like Oxo as it crumbles easily)

Heat some oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic, herbs, and chopped onion and pepper. Sweat for at least 7 minutes, until softened, stirring regularly. Add the chopped tomatoes, drained beans, halloumi cheese, capers, olives and crumble in the stock cube. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 mins. Serve!

LA-style all green salad (ready in 15 mins)

LA style all green salad

This must be what the figure conscious celebs of LA eat. It’s super healthy, full of greens, lentils (canned for ease!), seeds and a deliciously tasty yoghurt dressing with cumin seeds. It only takes 15 minutes to prepare and is guaranteed to make you feel virtuous. I couldn’t resist having some mozzarella on the side though…

LA style all green salad

The recipe is courtesy of Sainsbury’s magazine (supermarket magazines are the best place to find clever recipes in my opinion). Here are a few tips for super-charging salad, also courtesy of Sainsbury’s: ‘liven it up with flaked salmon or sliced chicken; bulk it out with drained, canned beans; add roasted tomatoes, courgettes or cooked grains such as quinoa or pearl barley, to create more interesting textures and flavours; sprinkle toasted seeds or nuts on top for added crunch’.

LA-style all green salad (serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 clove garlic, crushed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
80g fat-free natural yoghurt
1 medium head broccoli, broken in to florets
250g asparagus, trimmed
200g watercress
410g tin green lentils
1 ripe avocado, chopped
40g seed mix

Make the dressing: combine the olive oil, cumin, garlic, lemon zest and juice and natural yoghurt. Set aside.

Steam/boil the broccoli until just tender, adding the asparagus for the final 2 minutes.

Toss together the salad leaves with the asparagus, broccoli, lentils and avocado. Divide between 4 plates and drizzle with the dressing and serve scattered with the seeds.

Recipe from Sainsbury’s magazine

Cooking with kids – Strawberry fridge jam

strawberry fridge jam cooking with kids

My son told me he would like some ‘red’ jam so we agreed to make our own! He enjoyed mashing up the strawberries (we pretended we were angry with them) while his little brother squeezed the lemon, then we added the sugar, stirred it all up and preperation was almost complete!

strawberry fridge jam cooking with kids

cooking with kids strawberry fridge jam

The kids were really proud to have made their own jam and gave a jar to nana.

strawberry fridge jam cooking with kids

cooking with kids strawberry fridge jam

I would advise against getting the kids to stir the jam as it gets VERY hot. Don’t worry if the consistency is a bit thin after it is heated as it will thicken over the next day. The jars will keep in a cool, dark place for up to a year or in the fridge for 3 weeks once opened.

You can recycle old jam jars by washing them then sterilising them in the oven – put the jars and lids on a tray on gas mark 1/140 degrees for 10 minutes (or a dishwasher cycle) and fill while still warm.

Ingredients – strawberry fridge jam (makes 2 – 3 jars)

800g strawberries
Juice of 1 lemon
500g jam sugar with pectin

Finely chop half the strawberries and mash the rest in to a pulp. Mix together then add the lemon juice and sugar. Mix again then leave to stand for 1 hour to draw out the juices.

Put in a saucepan and heat on a high heat. Boil on a high bubbling heat for 8 minutes, skimming any foam off the surface.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes then fill the jam jars.

Cranberry granola

I love the idea of having homemade cereal for breakfast, especially as there is so much added nastiness in shop-bought cereal nowadays. This granola (popular in America) is full of nutritious ingredients and interesting textures such as porridge oats, flaked almonds, cranberries and raisins. There is added flavour from the cinnamon, vanilla extract and desiccated coconut, and then from baking it all in the oven until it is golden. There is also sugar and maple syrup, so it is a little bit naughty too. Have it with milk or with some yoghurt and fruit.

mumsnet cranberry granola

The granola takes up to 50 minutes to make and will keep for a month in an airtight container. It is from the brilliant new Mumsnet cookbook Top Bananas! (see my full book review here You will need a BIG bowl to stir everything together!

Cranberry granola (makes about 15 portions)

500g porridge oats
100g flaked almonds
100g desiccated coconut
3 tbsp light brown sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
130g golden/maple syrup
50g dried cranberries
50g raisins

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees/gas mark 2.

Put the oats, almonds, coconut, sugar, melted butter or oil, cinnamon and vanilla into a large bowl and add a pinch of salt. Using a large spoon (or your hands) work in the syrup until you can’t see it any more.

Line two large baking trays with greaseproof paper and divide the granola mix between them. Place the trays in the hot oven and bake until they are golden. This will take between 25-40 minutes and you will need to stir everything at least once and swap the position of the trays. Check it frequently so it does not burn.

Remove the trays from the oven and let it cool before stirring in the cranberries and raisins. When it is cold store it in an airtight container. Will keep for up to one month.

From Mumsnet cookbook Top Bananas!

Sophisticated fish dinner in 20 mins

This one-pot recipe is based on the ‘sophisticated sea bass’ recipe from the excellent new Mumsnet cookbook Top Bananas! (see my full review of the book here I have simplified it slightly, and you can use any white fish if you’d rather not buy expensive sea bass.

Mumsnet sophisticated sea bass

The sauce only has a few ingredients but the result is an impressive, unmistakably Mediterranean tasting dish that makes a quick evening meal – a ‘dinner winner’ as Mumsnet says! The white wine instantly adds a sweet, classy flavour. Serve with a green salad.

Sophisticated fish dinner (serves 4 adults)

3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped, or small bag of cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, crushed/chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes or 1 fresh chilli, chopped
125ml white wine
4 white fish fillets (any should work – I used river cobbler as it is cheap!)

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic, parsley and chilli and cook for 2 mins. Add the tomatoes and mash in to the sauce so they soften and the seeds mix in. Add the wine and let the sauce simmer for a few mins. Season, reduce the heat and place the fish, skin-side up, in the pan. Cook for 5 – 10 mins until the fish is cooked through, turning over if necessary.

Serve the fish with the sauce over the top and a green salad on the side.


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