Category Archives: The Garden

Christmas 2013 Holiday Highlights

As of today, the Christmas holidays are officially over in our house. For me and the boys, the holidays have been total bliss. All the usual busyness of daily life stopped in our house and we enjoyed two weeks of ‘down-time’ together

Like many parts of the world, we’ve been experiencing freaky weather patterns these past few weeks, including frequent spells of torrential rain and gail force winds. Our local meadows (pictured in my top banner) transformed into a big lake.

Bathampton Meadows Flooded Christmas 2013

On Christmas Eve, we awoke to find our garden completely submerged under water. The water levels were the highest that we’ve ever seen them before, reaching the top of Lil’ L’s slide. While the water did eventually drain away, as soon as we had more heavy rain, the garden flooded again.  Fortunately, our house is on higher land, so there’s no risk of it flooding.

Flooded Garden Christmas 2013

For Christmas Day, we headed over to my mum’s in Dorset. We were having such a nice time that we ended up staying five days!

Christmas 2013

We played games, watched films, and went on some lovely walks with the dogs. Father Christmas brought Lil’ L a laser gun set, and he and M had lots of fun and laughs running round the house and forest shooting each other (boys eh?)

Lil L in Verwood Forest Christmas 2013

Using the weather tracking tool on our mobiles, we were able to time our walks to avoid the worst of the rain. Most days were dark and cloudy, but Boxing Day was exceptionally bright and dry, so we headed to Bournemouth.

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_1

It was utterly glorious!

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_4

We took a long walk along the promenade, played with the dogs on the beach, had coffees on the pier, and played the tuppence slot machines in the arcade.

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_2

I find it so invigorating by the sea this time of year. It’s great for clearing the old cobwebs away!

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_3

Love these colourful beach huts on Bournemouth promenade!

Beach Huts at Bournemouth

Food-wise, by far the best meal of the holidays was the Christmas dinner. My mum made the nut and lentil roast on Christmas Eve so, on Christmas day, we simply needed to prepare the veggies and gravy. Lil’ L said it was the best Christmas dinner he’s ever had! He even tried the Brussel sprouts and, though not keen on them on their own, he loved them mashed in ‘Bubble and Squeak’ (which we served on Boxing Day with the Chestnut and Mushroom Jalousie).

And thank you SO much for all your lovely comments about the Cranberry Glazed Red Lentil and Cashew Nut Loaf recipe. I was over the moon to hear how much you liked it!

I admit I’ve eaten far too much these past couple of weeks but I’m not worried about it. This week I’ll get back into my usual eating and exercising habits and, by the end of the month, I’m sure I’ll back back to my usual weight.  For me, this month is all about quick prep, low cost, tasty, healthy meals. I’ve got some really easy recipes to share with you, plus some awesome giveaways.

Time for me to officially bid farewell to 2013 and embrace the New Year.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy 2014 xx

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Filed under Holidays, The Garden, Walking & Hiking

Our Wildlife Garden & Summer Fruits Energy Shake (‘Breakfast in a Glass’)

What a glorious summer we’ve had this year! After a spell of wet, overcast summers, it was such a refreshing change to have blue skies and sunshine for pretty much the whole of July and August.  I absolutely loved it and took every opportunity I could to be outside, making the most of it

The plants and insects clearly loved the weather too!  This year, I decided to let the failed ‘veggie’ patch grow wild and turn it into a little haven for wildlife.

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 1 500

The whole summer it’s been a hive of activity, filled with all manner of bee, butterfly and beetle. We’ve also had baby toads and slow worms living in there too!

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 3 500

Does anyone know the name of the yellow plant below? I think it’s beautiful and it doesn’t get munched at all. As soon as I know its name, I’ll add it to my list of slug and snail resistant plants 🙂

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 4 500

We’ve also had success growing raspberries in the patch 🙂 A generous friend gave me six plants earlier this summer, and by late August they were already producing fruit. This raspberry is golden yellow in colour, which seems to make it less appealing to the birds. While the leaves of the plant have been munched, the fruits haven’t been touched at all!

Raspberries September 2013

Normally at this time of year, I would be out on my bike foraging for blackberries, but this year there was no need. By leaving the garden wild, we ended up with our own bumper crop!

Blackberries 4

In the mornings, I’ve been enjoying energy shakes for breakfast, made with a cup of freshly picked blackberries. By adding in some oats, ground almonds and chia seeds, the shake becomes a very satisfying ‘breakfast in a glass’. The additions make the shake so filling that I don’t get hungry all morning!

Blackberries 3

This shake also makes a fantastic post-exercise recovery drink and after-school ‘snack’ to revive energy levels.  I find they’re especially useful as a filling, energy booster on weekday nights when Lil’ L has after-school activities and dinner is going to be served late.

Blackberry Shake 1 500 copy

These smoothies have been a great way to encourage Lil’ L to eat berries. He still won’t go anywhere near whole berries (it’s a ‘texture thing’) but he’ll happily gulp them down in a shake. When he was little, I used to blend the berries and milk first, then strain it to make it completely smooth before blending in the remaining ingredients. These days, he’s happy to drink the smoothies straight up, pips and all!

Here’s how we make them:

And to make to even more scrumptious, I like to top off my shake with some ground cacao nibs 🙂

Berry Shake with Cacao Nibs 1 500 copy

The Good Stuff ♥
Blackberries – Fantastic immunity boosters, packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C. Also a great source of dietary fibre, vitamin K, and manganese
Fortified soya milk & yoghurt – Good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B12 and D, yoghurt cultures
Oats – Provides slow-release energy

Almonds – Provides protein. Rich source of antioxidant Vitamin E, riboflavin, manganese and magnesium

Chia seeds – Good source of protein and dietary fibre. Rich in calcium, manganese, phosphorous and omega 3 fat
Cacao Nibs – Packed with nutrients, including lots of antioxidants. Check out my raw chocolate post to find out more.

Products used in this recipe
Alpro soya milk and plain soya yoghurt (available in all major UK supermarkets)
Mornflake Superfast Oats (available from Tesco and Asda)
Chia seeds (available from health food stores and online. I purchased mine from Earthfare)
Duronic 1200 1.8 litre Jug Blender, available from Amazon

Cacao nibs – available from health food stores and online. I use the Elements for Life Cacao Nib Grinder

 

Have you had any success growing fruits or veggies this year? Do you ever go foraging?

 

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Filed under Breakfast & Elevenses, Drinks, Growing Fruit & Veggies, Healthy Snacking, Nutrition, The Garden

Nettle Soup with Ginger and Miso

Well, I haven’t had any success growing vegetables in my garden yet, but I have an abundance of nettles that are happily growing there 😉

Nettles

What many people don’t realise is that nettles are actually a ‘super food’, packed to the brim with nutrients.

“High in potassium, iron, sulphur, vitamin C, vitamin A and B complex vitamins nettles provide a high amount of dense nutrition with very little calories. The sulphur makes them great for the hair, skin, and nails. In addition, the tiny hairs, besides emitting histamine, also release serotonin and acetylcholine, two neurotransmitters that help to suppress appetite and also settle mood. Finally, nettles have gentle diuretic properties, which help relieve water weight gain, flush the body of toxins, and purify the blood”. [Source

 

Obviously you can’t eat nettles raw (unless you want to sting your mouth to pieces) but, by simply drenching them in boiling hot water, their sting is instantly removed and then they can be eaten just like other greens.

Nettle Leaf

One of our favourite ways to eat nettles is blended into a soup, flavoured with onion, garlic, ginger and miso.  We also like to include a large sweet potato in the soup, which adds a touch of sweetness as well as giving the soup a beautiful, silky smooth texture.

Just in case you haven’t come across miso before, it’s a Japanese soybean paste that has this wonderful, rich savory flavour that makes it perfect for soups, sauces and gravies.  I’m currently using the Clearspring Japanese Organic Brown Rice Miso, which is available in the UK in Waitrose and Sainsbury supermarkets, as well as in health food stores. While the jar recommends that you store it in a cool, dark place, I keep my jar in the fridge and it’s lasted months!

Clearspring Brown Rice Miso

If you’ve never picked nettles before, here are a few tips:

  • Make sure you’re wearing gloves, a long sleeve top and trousers (long pants).
  • Use a pair of sharp scissors to snip off the top leaves from each stalk (about four leaves per stalk).  Before snipping, check the leaf to make sure there are no creatures or caterpillar eggs on it.
  • Place the leaves in a colander and thoroughly wash them under running water (remember to keep your gloves on).
  • If you’re using the nettles in a soup, there’s no need to soak them in boiling water first.  Simply chop them up (still wearing your gloves) and add them to the pan.

Nettle Leaves

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a patch of free nettles growing in your vicinity, you can replace them with another green, such as kale or chard.  It’ll taste just as nice 😉

Nettle Soup with Ginger & Miso

While it’s not the prettiest soup in the world, it tastes delicious!  Lil’ L can vouch for this.  It’s his current favourite soup, and he loves taking a flask to school for his lunch once a week.  In fact, last week, he asked if he could have it for his lunch two days on the trot.  I really hope other children enjoy it as much as he does!

Here’s the recipe:

Nettle Soup with Ginger & Miso

In addition to the nettles, we’ve had great success growing dandelions this year.  Dandelion pesto will be on the menu next week 😉

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! xx

Are there any ‘weeds’ that you enjoy eating?  If you have any family recipes, please do share below 🙂

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Filed under Lunches & Light Dinners, The Garden

Weekend Highlights – Spray Painting, Bike Riding & Roasted Vegetable Risotto (with Recipe!)

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great weekend 🙂

We managed to fit in lots of fun activities this weekend, starting off with a trip to the library on Saturday morning where Lil’ L returned his book and came out with another seven! You can guess who ended up carrying those round Bath. Luckily he had lots of books to keep him occupied while we went for coffees in Neros 😉

I’m still getting a real kick out of how much Lil’ L is enjoying reading.  In addition to the library books, he’s also currently reading a chapter of Lemony Snicket to us every night and, on his own, he’s reading Philip Pullman’s ‘The Subtle Knife’ (both books that he picked up from the charity shop for a couple of pounds each).

In the afternoon, after a quick visit to a local village fete, Lil’ L and his friend T did some stencilling and spray art with M in our garage.

T did a space-inspired picture, while Lil’ L sprayed an underwater scene with a scary looking fish!

On Sunday, it actually stopped raining for a few hours and the sun came out. We decided to grab the opportunity to go out for a bike ride along the Kennet & Avon Canal.

To make it more interesting for Lil’ L, we said we’d cycle to the Angel Fish Cafe at Limpley Stoke for lunch.  That sure got him moving!

Both the boys fancied baked beans on toast but we were surprised to find that the Cafe only served white bread. No wholemeal, no granary, no seeded bread.  That’s no good! Bike riders need big chunky doorsteps of wholemeal granary bread to refuel them, not thin anaemic white slices 😉

Lil’ L asked if he could have an ice cream for dessert. I told him he could have one at the Canal Boat Cafe in Bathampton (back where we started our journey). This was a sneaky move on my part to make sure he peddled fast rather than dawdled all the way back. It sure worked 😉

We’ve had an unbelievable amount of rain lately but, on the plus side, the countryside is looking beautifully lush and green!

The muddy bike bottom really isn’t a good look is it? I’m so glad I’ve finally had mudguards fitted to my bike.

The face was pretty muddy too (and chocolatey!)

And look at those legs!

Back home, Lil’ L headed straight to the shower while I made the most of our sunshine and did a little gardening. I was amazed to find that we’ve actually managed to grow some strawberries that haven’t been eaten by a slug … or snail … or blackbird!

And look what else I came across… a beautiful shimmering blue damselfly taking refuge on Buddha 🙂

He stayed there for ages!

After a great day out, I cooked us a large pan of roasted squash and red pepper risotto. It was very yummy indeed. Unfortunately, Lil’ L isn’t a huge fan of risotto (he isn’t keen on the texture of Arborio rice) but I pre-empted any negative comments by serving it with some toasted wholegrain tortilla segments. He then proceeded to tuck in with enthusiasm, piling the crispy tortilla high with the risotto, and ate every last grain!

I often find that the addition of a ‘bready’ side dish, like a flat bread, tortilla, or piece of garlic bread can transform a meal for Lil L. I wonder if this is the same for all children?

At the weekend, I made the risotto with an old packet of Arborio rice that needed using up. Next time I make the risotto, I’m going to try the Riso Gallo 3 Grains Risotto Rice which consists of Italian Rice, Spelt and Pearl Barley. As this rice contains wholegrains, it will have a lower GI than regular white risotto rice, as well as other nutrients such as Iron and B Vitamins.

With the butternut squash and red pepper pieces, our risotto did look quite pretty. I also added some peas to add more colour and lovely nutrients 🙂

Here’s how I made it:

Have a great week everyone! 🙂 xx

This time last year… Glastonbury!

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Filed under Biking, Dinners, The Garden

WIAW Party Time! I’ll Bring the Veggie Burgers & Butternut Squash Fries

Hi everyone!  I hope you’re having a great week so far! 🙂

It’s Wednesday again!  Time to party!!!

For this week’s WIAW party, I’d like to show our eats from yesterday (Tuesday).  Thanks as always to our gorgeous girl Jenn over at Peas and Crayons for being such a great host.

Breakfast
– Hot lemon and water (pre school run)
– Post school run: Large bowl of muesli made with spelt flakes, barley flakes, oats, ground linseed, chopped brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, dates, goji berries, and a splash of Alpro Almond Milk.  This milk is really sweet so I didn’t need to any other sweetener to the muesli.

I love home-made muesli so much!  There’s something really satisfying about making it yourself.  I mix the grains together and store them in a container. We then use our ‘pick and mix’ jars of nuts and dried fruits to create our own favourite muesli combinations 🙂

Lunch
We all had pasties for lunch today.  Since the sun briefly came out at lunch time, I took the opportunity to sit in the garden.  The timing was perfect as, an hour later, we had a thunder storm and hail stones!

The peonies have just opened.  Aren’t they beautiful?

We’ve also got lots of Forget-me-nots growing all over the place.  The bees love it!

Snacks & Drinks
Pistachios when we got in from school (one of Lil’ L’s favourite snacks)
Nettle tea, 1 black coffee, water, apple juice, chocolate banana chia smoothie

Dinner
For dinner, I made a Thai curry from scratch.  Last Friday, we’d been to one of our favourite restaurants in Bath – Thai Basil – and we had the most amazing banquet of veggie dishes, including a beautiful Mussaman curry.  It was a touch too hot for Lil’ L, so I though I’d attempt to make my own, milder version.  It turned out really well and Lil’ L absolutely loved it!  He even asked if we could have it again tonight!  I think we have another winner 🙂

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to photograph it but I’ll make it again soon and post the recipe.

Instead, I’ll show you another of our favourites dinners… so nice that we’ve eaten it twice in the past week…

Home-made Veggie Burgers and Baked Butternut Fries

Black Eye Bean Burger

Veggie burgers are SO easy to make!  You can use all different types of beans, nuts and veggies in them, but the recipe below is our all-time favourite.

Dessert
Strawberry ‘Fro Yo’ which I made by blending a cup of frozen, chopped, organic strawberries and Alpro plain soya yoghurt.  The immersion (stick) blender works best for this job, as the strawberries just bounce around in the jug blender!

The fro yo was topped with goji berries and pecan nuts, and a drizzle of maple syrup.  Totally delish!  And Lil’ L loves it… even though he tells me he doesn’t like strawberries 😉

Well, that’s me done for another WIAW! 🙂  Time to head over to Jenn’s and get inspired!

Happy Wednesday everyone! xx

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Filed under Breakfast & Elevenses, Dinners, The Garden