Cosy Mushroom Minestrone

My cookbook has gone to print! It was so scary hitting the ‘send’ button. In fact, it took me a good few hours to pluck up the courage to hit it. I was paranoid that I was going to send an old version my mistake so I kept checking and re-checking the file names. I was turning into a slightly scary, crazy woman but I finally took a deep breath and just hit the button. And while I’m waiting for it to roll off the printers in London, I’ve been having fun in the kitchen, trying out new ingredients and recipes.

One new dish that has been hugely popular in my house lately is this Cosy Mushroom Minestrone ❤️ With the weather cooling off and the evening’s start to draw in, these are the kinds of dishes that I start to crave. Warm, filling and super savoury. This is my idea of the perfect comfort food.

Cosy Mushroom Minestrone

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Sweet Beet “Love” Soup

With its sweet, earthy flavour and deep purple colour, I have always been strongly attracted to beets.  In my childhood, my favourite salad ingredient was my Dad’s home grown beetroot, freshly pulled from the garden.

beetroot-uprooted copy

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But little did I know as a child how good they were for my health.  I only recently discovered that beets are actually a super food.  Well I never!  Here’s what I’ve learned…

1. Beets are packed with vitamins and minerals
They contain a huge array of nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamins A, B & C, beta-carotene, beta-cyanine and folic acid.

2. Beets are rich in antioxidants which help to protect against disease
Beets are a very good source of antioxidants vitamin C and manganese.  They also contain a powerful group of antioxidants called betalains, which can help in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and inflammation. (It’s the betalains that give beets their deep red colour).  The nitrates contained in beets can also help to lower blood pressure.

3. Beets cleanse the body
Beets are a great detoxifier, tonic for the liver and blood purifier.

4. Beets help your mental health
Beets, like chocolate, contain trytophan, a substance which is known to relax the mind and create a sense of well-being.  The betalains contained in beets have also been used in certain treatments of depression.

5. Beets boost our brain power
Beetroot contains high concentrations of nitrates, which are converted in the body into nitric oxide.  This helps open blood vessels in the body, increasing blood flow and oxygen.  Nitrites also increase blood flow to the brain, which may help to prevent dementia.

6. Beets are energy boosters
Beets are a great source of complex carbs and slow-release energy.  The natural nitrates found in beets also help to increase our oxygen intake and energy levels.

7. Beets enhance our physical performance
Studies have shown that the nitrates in beets can enhance physical endurance.  In one study, cyclists who drank 500 ml of beetroot juice were able to ride up to 20% longer.

8. Beets are great for weight management
Beets are high in complex carbs and fibre, but low in calories, which makes them the perfect food for weight management.

And finally, did you know that…

9. Beets are Nature’s Viagra!
The Romans used beets medicinally as an aphrodisiac, and science has proven that beets are indeed a natural Viagra.  Their nitrate content increases blood flow in all areas of the body.  Beets also contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.

If you wish to know more, there’s a clip of Dr Oz talking about the health benefits of beets (including number 9!) here.

Getting in the Mood for Love with …

Sweet Beet Soup!

With its deep red colour and wonderful mood enhancing properties, I reckon beetroot would make a wonderful addition to any romantic meal that you might have planned for your loved ones this evening 😉

On tonight’s menu for us, is a starter of Sweet Beet Soup.  Until recently, I’d only ever eaten beetroot in salad but, inspired by Candy’s beautiful blog post called ‘Simple Pleasures’ I was inspired to try my hand at making a beet soup.

Candy kindly allowed me to share her beet soup photo. Isn’t it stunning?

Sweet Beet 'Love' Soup

And perfect for Valentines!

You must check out Candy’s post.  It is such a beautiful read!

For my beet soup, I chose to add sweet potato.  As well as adding sweetness and additional nutrients, I find it gives soups a wonderful, silky texture (without the need to add cream or milk).  Furthermore, with the addition of the potato, I find that a bowl of soup is filling on its own, without the need to add a side dish of bread.

For protein, additional flavour, textures and nutrients, I add a sprinkling of shelled hempseeds, lightly toasted pumpkin seeds and dried dill.

Here’s how I make it…

[This recipe has been submitted to Ricki Heller’s #Wellness Weekend]

So I’ve got the starter and dessert sorted for tonight’s meal, just got to decide on the main course now!

Are you a fan of Beets? What’s your favourite way of serving them? 

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day everyone xx

p.s. It’s the last day to enter my Valentine’s Raw Chocolate Giveaway (ends midnight GMT tonight).  I’ve been overwhelmed by all the beautiful comments I’ve received on this giveaway.  Thank you so much guys! You really have made my week!  Since there have been so many entries, I’ve decided to make another batch of chocolates, and I’ll select 3 winners in total.  I’ll post details of the winners on FB and Twitter tomorrow, and also email directly.
Good luck everyone xx

Mexican Black Bean Soup (Vegan / Dairy-free)

The black bean (aka ‘turtle’ bean), is a small, shiny bean that’s highly popular in Latin American cuisine. Here in the UK, though, this little bean tends to get neglected in favour of its big red brother, the kidney bean. It’s a shame because its flavour and texture is way superior to its big brother (in my opinion!) For me, the black bean has a beautiful smoky flavour and ‘meaty’ texture that makes it the perfect bean to add to our home-cooked Latin American dishes.

I think it’s high time we gave this fantastic bean the recognition it deserves!

One of my favourite ways of serving black beans is in a richly flavoured soup. For children, the soup can easily be blended to produce a smoother soup.

For lunch or a light dinner, we like to serve this soup with a couple of segments of toasted wholegrain tortilla.  For a main dinner, we love a slice or two of freshly baked cornbread.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Do you cook with black beans? If so, what’s your favourite recipes? If you’ve published any recipes online, do post the links below x

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Living Rich on Less! A Yummy Budget-Friendly Recipe for the Weekend – Creamy Chana Dal with Cauliflower & Peas

Cutting Back on Personal Spending

In recent years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to cut my personal spending.  Since making the decision to leave the day job, I need to do this more than ever!

Here’s a few ways that I’ve cut back on spending so far…

Sold my car saving £100s each year (I now walk/bike/bus)

– Stopped my gym membership saving £360 per year (I now exercise outside)

– Negotiated a new deal on my phone, reducing my monthly payments from £30 to £13.50, saving £198 per year. I’ve now got a much better deal for less money!

– Stopped buying so many clothes which is saving me £100s per year. I hardly ever buy clothes these days and, if I do, it’s usually to replace worn out items. I still love quality brands, like Kuyichi, but I’ll buy last season T Shirts etc for half price or less. I also buy from charity shops.

– Stopped buying books & magazines saving about £100 per year. Instead I’ve got an Amazon wishlist for birthdays & Christmas 🙂

These cutbacks have reduced my personal spending by well over £1,000 per year.  And the funny thing is, I’m actually happier as a result of making these cutbacks. My life is simpler, less cluttered and I’m less dependent on money. However, there are two areas where I haven’t cut back, and that’s giving to charity and present-giving. These are too important to me!

Cutting Back on Family Overheads

I’ve also been sorting out the family’s finances in an attempt to cut our overheads. Here’s how I’ve got on so far…

– Switched our water from rates to a meter. We now pay £35 per month, compared to £61, saving £313 per year

– Switched our gas & electricity to a new supplier and reduced our consumption. We currently pay £79 per month, compared to £148, saving £828 per year. I check the gas & electricity deals each year now and switch if I find a better deal.

– Renegotiated our house insurance. For the same cover, we now pay £149 compared to £275, saving £126 per year. My advice is to never automatically renew your house insurance each year. You seem to get penalised for loyalty! I use comparison sites to check rates then ring my existing supplier to see if they can match it (they always do!)

– Renegotiated the mortgage. We’re now on a ‘tracker for life’ deal and currently paying 2.49%, the lowest rate we’ve ever paid on a mortgage.

– Cut our grocery bill from around £80 to £70 per week (this includes all household products, food & toiletries), saving £520 per year.

To date, I’ve managed to cut our bills by nearly £2,000 per year, which isn’t too bad considering the cost of living has increased these past few years.  It didn’t take a lot of effort either. There are some great online comparison sites available now, which save time & effort. Some of my favourite sites are: www.uswitch.comwww.moneysavingexpert.com, www.gocompare.com and www.mySupermarket.com.

The one area that I still need to work on is landline telephone & broadband. We’re currently paying £109 each quarter which is way too high.  I’m currently looking at Sky and Plusnet so, if anyone has experience of either of these two, I’d love to hear what you think of them 🙂

A Budget-Friendly Recipe for the Weekend

On Wednesday, I promised that I’d give the recipe for one of our favourite lentil dishes which uses Chana Dal (also known as Yellow Split Gram and Gram Dal). This lentil is a relative of the chick pea and has a lovely nutty flavour.

This dish is super duper cheap to make! In Tesco, a 2kg bag of Indus Chana Dal costs just £2.99 (and this size bag will last you ages).

The dish is mildly spiced, so perfect for all the family, though feel free to crank up the heat if you like spice! It’s also deliciously creamy. I use Alpro Soya Cream in this dish, which makes it dairy free and low in fat. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

[This recipe has been submitted to Ricki Heller’s Wellness Weekend, November 15-19 2012]

Lentils are so versatile. As well as using them in Indian dishes, we make lentil burgers, lentil loaves and add them to soups. This week I made a large batch of tomato and red lentil soup and it was lush! Lil’ L took it to school, M took it to work, and we had enough left over for dinner one evening too. You can check out the recipe here.

Do you cook with lentils? If so, I’d love to hear about your favourite lentil dish. Add a link to your recipe if possible.

Also, do you keep an eye on your finances and look for ways to cut bills? If so, I’d love to hear your tips!

Right, it’s Friday night and the weekend has officially begun 🙂 Time for me to sign off!

Have a great weekend everyone! xx

Family Visit & Trip to the Holburne Museum

Hello everyone!  I hope you had a great weekend! 🙂

This weekend, my parents-in-law came to stay for our postponed Christmas get-together.  It was lovely to see them and we had a wonderful two days together.  We finally got round to giving them their very belated Christmas presents, and even played a board game, much to Lil’ L’s delight! 😉

Both on Saturday and Sunday we went for strolls around Bath.  The weather was incredibly mild for January (M is still in his t shirts!)  We also took a trip to the  Holburne Museum.  It was in the grounds of this museum that we saw the stunningly beautiful Field of Light back in December.

Between 2008 and 2011 the Museum was closed while it underwent an £11.2 million project of restoration and development.  At the back of the Museum, there is a contemporary extension and Garden Cafe.  It’s one of those modern extensions that I imagine you either love or hate.  Either way, it can’t be denied that it makes a bold statement!

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The museum houses Sir William Holburne’s collection of 4000 objects, pictures and books that were bequeathed by his sister to the people of Bath in 1882, as well as a further 2,500 objects that have been acquired since the Museum opened to the public in 1893.  If you’re ever in Bath, I highly recommend a visit to the museum.  There’s lots to see, as well as interactive displays, audio guides, and lots of pull-out drawers containing miniature collections and ‘guess the fake’ activities, which Lil’ L loved!  It’s also FREE admission! 

The Museum is found at the end of Great Pultney Street, which is one of the most stunning streets in Bath.

This weekend also involved two trips to the library as Lil’ L is passionately into reading at the moment, which is really lovely to see 🙂  He’s currently reading The Spiderwick Chronicles.  After practically finishing the first book in one day, he went back to the library on Sunday to borrow the remaining books in the series. 

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Foodwise, I actually planned ahead (for a change) and made lots of yummy eats including roasted vegetable lasagne and red lentil & cashew nut roast.  (Recipes and photos coming soon) 😉

For Saturday lunch, I prepared one of our favourite soups – Lightly Spiced Parsnip and Coconut.  It was very yummy indeed and perfect for this season.  The bread maker was set to work on Saturday morning so we had freshly made bread to accompany the soup 🙂

 And I’ve finally got round to writing down the recipe!  Here it is:

Have a wonderful week everyone! xx

Let There Be Light!

Hello everyone! I hope you had a great weekend! 🙂

As some of you are already aware, I’ve been justifying this year’s sabbatical with the excuse that I’m writing a recipe book.  Last year, a number of friends asked whether I could give them some of my family-friendly veggie recipes.  Since my recipes tend to be written on scraps of paper, scattered around the kitchen and my office, I thought it would be a great opportunity to collate our favourite recipes and get them bound in book format. I also wanted to collate the recipes for M so that he’ll be able to carry on making his and Lil’ L’s favourite meals should anything happen to me. This is important stuff don’t you know! 😉

Anyway, I originally said that the book would be ready by the summer… then I said late September… then I said, DEFINITELY by Christmas.  For someone that used to be a project manager, I’ve proven that I’m pretty poor at project managing myself 🙁

Last week, my mum, M and a couple of friends all had words with me, asking me where the book was, and hinting that maybe I’m spending a bit too much time in blogging world and not enough time on the book.  Hmmm, they may have a point :/  On Friday, I made a list of all the photos I’ve still got to take and the total was 30.  I’ve got 2 weeks until Lil’ L breaks up from school, so that means I’ve got to cook/bake/photograph 3 meals per day for 10 days. Is it doable? I’ll say yes, but I really have got get my skates on!

On Saturday, I managed to take a photograph of our family’s favourite tomato and lentil soup. M and Lil’ L had nearly passed out with hunger by the time they got round to eating it! It was worth the wait though, as the soup was delicious!  I’ve posted the recipe here.

 

After planning my workload for the next two weeks, I was looking forward to taking a break and popping into Bath for a coffee. 

Bath is looking so beautiful with all its twinkly Christmas lights 🙂

Lil’ L tried to take a close-up of a Christmas light and it came out all swirly. I think it looks pretty cool.

Whilst wandering about Bath, we even managed to buy a couple of Christmas presents.  I also discovered this photo on the camera: 

Not sure whether it’s Lil’ L or M hinting that they’d like this for Christmas. 😉

While we were in Bath, we went to the Holburne Museum to check out Bruce Munro’s ‘Field of Light’ installation. I was totally mesmerized by it!

My first two photos came out all blurry, but I love the effect!

 

I then propped the camera on a fence post and got a couple of shots that are slightly more in focus.  Check out how the lights change colour…

First pink…

then yellow…

now green 🙂

Cool eh?  The installation is running until Jan 12, from 4-7pm daily. And it’s FREE! If you’re in Bath in December/January, you must go and see it!

 Before I go, I just want to mention an unusual thing that happened to me last week.  I’d recently left a comment on a friend’s blog, telling her that I’d never won anything in my life… not even a raffle prize.  Lo and behold, what happens the following week… I go and win not one, but two prizes!! You can’t imagine how excited I was! 🙂

The first prize was a meal for two at Demuths Vegetarian Restaurant in Bath. Back in October, I joined the world of Twitter. The first Tweet I attempted to send was an entry into VisitBath‘s ‘Freebie Friday’ competition. Last week I was fiddling around with Twitter (trying to work out how to use it) when I came across a message dated 25 October saying that I’d WON that week’s Freebie Friday. (It only took me a MONTH to find this message durgh!)

The message said “DM us your email address”. Eh? I then have to google ‘what does DM mean in Twitter’? (I’m so rubbish lol!) 

M and I went to Demuth’s last Wednesday and we had such a great night out!

The food was so different to anything that we’ve experienced before. 

For starters we had:

Me: Eade’s Winter Beets: winter beetroot, herbs and crushed coriander with horseradish granita & sour dough croutons (vg)

M: Kohlrabi glazed with orange & ginger, served with tamari reduction, spring onion and crispy cabbage (vg/gf)

Followed by the mains:

Me: Miso Roast Aubergine with a sesame rice fritter, tofu, carrot & star anise purée, tamari mushrooms, spring onion oil & pickled radish (vg/gf)

M: Nut Roast: special hazelnut roast with local squash, roasted field mushrooms, pickled onions, thyme pesto and cider gravy  (vg/n)

Dessert:

Me & M: Rich Chocolate Mousse on a chocolate sponge with chestnut and orange puree and a fennel seed tuille (vg)

This dessert was divine! With a dairy allergy/intolerance, I don’t normally get to eat desserts at restaurants but, tonight, I was in dessert heaven! 🙂

Thank you Demuths and VisitBath for giving us such a wonderful night out. And a huge ‘thank you’ to our wonderful friend Joni for offering to look after Lil’ L 🙂

To finish off my ‘lucky’ week, on Friday I discovered that I’d won Rachel’s giveaway. To celebrate her 100th post on her blog ‘My Naturally Frugal Family’, Rachel was giving away a copy of Sarah Matheny’s (aka Mama Pea) ‘Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love’). This book was on my Christmas list, so you can imagine my delight when I found out that I was the winner. Thank you so much Rachel!

What was the highlight of your weekend? For me, it was our evening stroll round the sparkly city, finishing up at the Field of Light.  Beautiful!