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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.

Summer Sangria (fruity wine punch)

Sangria is a refreshing, fruity Spanish red wine punch that I was lucky enough to enjoy when one of my oldest friends Kez lived in Barcelona. It is delicious and also popular in Brazil, so I have decided that I am going to drink it regularly throughout the World Cup!

simple sangria

There are different versions of sangria, some with brandy, some with rum and some with both, and I have based my version partly on what was already in the cupboard (the above photo doesn’t really do it justice). You need red wine (any will do!), white rum, orange juice, lemonade and (ideally) fresh mint and fruit. Feel free to adjust the ratios to make it more or less alcoholic – it is all down to personal taste.

I associate sangria with summer and special occasions and hope I will still be awake and enjoying a glass when England play late tonight (most likely I will be asleep on the sofa and only jolted awake by cheering if and when our team score). Come on England!

Summer sangria – takes 5 minutes

3 parts red wine (cheap is fine)
1 part white rum e.g. Bacardi
2 parts orange juice
1 part lemonade
Chopped fruit and mint leaves e.g. oranges, lemons, strawberries, melon. Cucumber is nice too.

Mix everything together with ice. Adjust if necessary according to taste. Serve in a jug!

Top Bananas! Mumsnet’s family recipe book review

You can imagine my delight at being asked by Mumsnet to review their cookbook, Top Bananas! Here goes…

The recipes in Top Bananas! are reassuringly based on the most popular tried and tested recipes loaded on to Mumsnet by parents themselves, so it is full of humour and understanding about what it is to be a time-strapped parent. I like the balance of healthy, quickish and easy to follow veggie, meat and fish recipes and appealing, novel ideas for snacks, baking and party food. It is handily divided in to chapters, with lots of tips and encouragement with getting kids to EAT (and cook) plus attractive photos (very important!). There are several recipes that can be used as a base and experimented with, which excites me a lot.

We have had a busy week trying out some of the recipes. I made the delicious cranberry granola and felt very snazzy slapping a homemade sticker on the jar.

Mumsnet granola

The naturally sweet butternut and red onion soup was another hit with my normally anti-soup kids. My partner and I loved the (one-pan!) sophisticated sea bass – it’s so simple and we will be cooking it for guests.

Mumsnet sophisticated sea bass

Me and the boys made the beautifully moist chocolate bribe biscuits together and devoured them in an afternoon. They loved having banana pancakes for breakfast. We liked the tuna melt parcels (super easy) and I am hoping my kids will try the great balls of broccoli second time round (they were tasty and I had never thought of grating broccoli). It’s so nice to have new ideas.

Mumsnet banana pancakes

So far my absolute favourite recipe has to be the malt loaf. It was so simple to make (each ingredient is a teacup’s worth) and is now a household staple.

Mumsnet malt loaf

Other stand-out recipes I will be trying are kedgeree (a clever way to introduce the kids to spices), golden wonder (a sort of courgette tortilla oven-baked for ease), kid-friendly potato and chickpea curry, salmon espanol, Yorkshire towers, 60-second cheesecake (genius!), lazy days couscous, marmite swirls, ice-cream-cone cakes (excellent idea), chocolate, almond and chestnut cake (yum) and last but not least the no-knead soda bread (I have an aversion to kneading). Were I a meat eater we would definitely be trying some of the one-pot meat dishes and array of chicken recipes.

Thank you Mumsnet parents – your cookbook is packed with interesting, family-friendly recipes, wittily written by those who understand what it is to cook dinner while your kids are hungry and running riot. We will come back to you time and time again.

Here is the Top Bananas! link

5 minute chocolate cake in a cup

5 minute chocolate cake cup microwave

Yes, you can make chocolate cake in 5 minutes in a cup. I tried it three times in a row and came up with this recipe. Simply put the ingredients in a cup, stir, top with a big dollop of nutella and pop in the microwave for around 90 seconds. Out comes an ACTUAL cake which you can eat straight from the cup or spoon in to a bowl with cream.

5 minute chocolate cake cup microwave

As long as you always have a few basic ingredients in the cupboard you can whip this up whenever you like! Awesome.

5 minute chocolate cake in a cup

35g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp veg/sunflower oil
3 tbsp milk
1/3 tsp baking powder
Big dollop of nutella

Put everything apart from the nutella in a cup and stir it really well. Top with a big dollop of nutella and put in the microwave on full power for 90 seconds (you may want to experiment with your microwave and try 60 seconds and then 10 seconds until it is moist but set like a cake). Eat!


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