Recipe: Off-the-chart tasty good-for-you burger with side salad and peanut dressing

Most people love a good burger, but the fast-food versions are full of cr@p and not particularly good for you. What if I told you, you could have your burger, have it be off-the-chart tasty, and totally good-for-you? And to top it all off, it’s so simple to make you’ll wonder why you ever bought ready-made burgers? Look no further – your entirely healthy, delicious dinner recipe is right here!


This really IS a tasty burger!


For the burger (per burger):

  • 4oz low fat beef mince (20% or lower) or turkey mince
  • 1 tsp of your favourite sauce (I use Levi Roots’ Reggae Regaae Sauce)
  • 1/2 eschalion shallot or 1/4 small onion
  • pinch each of black pepper and cayenne pepper
  • Wholewheat or 50/50 English muffin

For the salad:

  • Green salad leaves
  • Small chunk of cucumber, sliced
  • One apple, cut into chunks

For the peanut dressing:

  • 1 tsp peanut butter (or any other nut butter)
  • Small dash of sesame oil (or peanut oil)
  • Small dash of lemon juice
  • Pinch each of salt and smoked paprika


  • Put all your burger ingredients (apart from the muffin) into a small bowl and mush them all together with your hands, then form into a patty. Whack it on the BBQ or under the grill to cook through.
  • Arrange your salad ingredients on a plate.
  • Put all the dressing ingredients into a small bowl and mix to form a runny sauce (play with the quantities till you find a combination that suits you best).
  • Cut our English muffin in half and lightly toast.
  • Serve your burger on the muffin, and drizzle your peanut dressing over the salad, reserving a little to put on your burger.
  • Enjoy!

It’s quick and so simple as to require virtually no effort at all, and it really is off-the-chart tasty and good-for-you stuff! I’ve not tried this particular burger on the kids yet, but I’m willing to bet that even my fusspot, Tadpole, would eat this with minimal tweaking of the recipe.

Reasons to be Cheerful – Sunday

sunday-2Day seven (and the last day) of my positivity project – here are my three reasons to be cheerful for Sunday:

  • Family Time
    Hubby works hard. Every week he is off Sunday and one other rotating day through the week. He does, however, often work on his day off through the week, so Sunday is the one day every week when we can guarantee he’ll be home with us. Sunday is family time, and whether we’re just staying home or off somewhere for a family day out, Sunday is OUR time.
  • Pony Rides
    Another new experience for Tadpole. He’d never been anywhere near a horse (they’re so big he’s been kind of terrified of them), but there were two nice little ponies at the Maritime Festival today, giving rides to the children. To our surprise, Tadpole decided he’d like to have a ride, so we let him pet one of the ponies first, to make sure he wouldn’t freak out. He met a gorgeous little pony called Ripple and decided that, yes, he’d very much like to have a ride. So he donned a riding helmet and was lifted on. Judging by the grin on his face, he loved it. It didn’t even phase him when Ripple tried to do a little bit of trotting. I get the feeling that Tadpole will want to do it again soon!
  • Sunday Lunch at Dolly Dimple’s
    I’ve always enjoyed a nice Sunday dinner, but it’s even better when I don’t have to cook it myself – not because my cooking is bad – in fact, I’m a very good cook, and my Sunday dinners are lovely – but because it’s nice to be able to sit down to a good meal without having to spend time in the kitchen cooking it. Even if you enjoy cooking (as I do). Especially when the weather is hot. Dolly Dimple’s do a gorgeous Sunday dinner of roast pork or beef, with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, various vegetables, and lashings of gravy. It’s also very reasonably priced and they’ll do a “baby meal portion” (which is actually still quite large!) for £1, so it’s great value for those with little ones too.

So, that’s my week of reasons to be cheerful. I could have included many more things, and some days it was difficult to whittle it down to just three, so I guess I have plenty to be happy about. I just have to remember that on days when I feel a little grumpy and hard-done-by!

Hope you’ve all had a fabulous week too!

Tadpole riding Ripple. I love that they BOTH smiled for this picture!

Tadpole riding Ripple. I love that they BOTH smiled for this picture!

Abstract art project for a rainy day…

As it started chucking down rain today (typical – it’s the first day of the summer holidays!), and we’d got soaked in the morning at the maritime festival, I thought it best if we stayed in our warm, cozy flat and did an indoor activity.

My summer holiday bucket list is already coming in handy! I scanned down the list and read out a few ideas to Tadpole, and we decided to make lollipop stick picture frames and create some abstract art to show off in them.

It’s, like, the easiest project in the world:


  • Wooden lollipop sticks (plain or coloured)
  • PVA glue
  • Card
  • Coloured pencils / felt-tipped pens / paints
  • String / thread
  • Stick-on jewels (optional)


  1. Take four wooden lollipop sticks and lie two of them parallel to each other, then lay the other two on top of them to create a frame. Leave the ends of the sticks sticking out a little – this will help with hanging them later.
  2. Glue the lollipop sticks together where they cross over and press lightly to stick them together. Let them dry.
  3. Put the frames on top of a piece of card, and draw pencil lines to show the inner and outer edges of the lollipop stick frames, then cut them out, using the outer lines as a guide.
  4. Create your artwork within the inner lines – anything you like; drawing, painting, collage, whatever.
  5. Glue your finished artwork to the back of the corresponding frames.
  6. OPTIONAL: Decorate your frames with stick-on jewels.
  7. Take short lengths of string or thread and tie a slip knot at each end.
  8. Hook the loops of the slip knots over the ends of the top length of the frame.
  9. Display your artwork.

We spent a good couple of hours making our frames and creating our modern art masterpieces, and it kept Tadpole very well entertained. I think we’ll do this again at some point, perhaps towards the end of the summer, and see what we come up with…

I apologise for the blurriness of some of my images – my mobile phone seems almost completely incapable of taking a good picture lately (we’ll be choosing new ones in October, thank Gods!), and even the slightest sway of the pictures resulted in an incredibly blurry photograph!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Reasons to be Cheerful – Saturday

saturdayDay six of my positivity project – here are my three reasons to be cheerful for Saturday:

  1. Fun Local Events
    Despite the weather being less than pristine (in fact, it was a bit of a wash-out), the Blyth Maritime Festival was a lot of fun. There were the usual market stalls in the market place, but also fairground rides, then down at the quayside, there was a storytelling mermaid, bands and dancers performing, craft stalls, more rides, and a couple of guys in medieval get-up letting folks make their own stamped leather bracelets, so I made one for Tadpole. It was a fun time for very little outlay (I paid for him to do on a few rides, but that was all).
  2. Having two gorgeous lunch dates
    Well, one, really. Tadpole was awake and eating, but Choochie fell asleep as we reached our favourite cafe (Dolly Dimple’s), so Tadpole and I were each other’s lunch dates. He was quite delightful company.
  3. House!
    We had our offer accepted on the house we looked at the other day. Now we just have to see if the bank will give us a mortgage. It’s a do-er upper, but it has real potential, and we can see our little family being very happy there. Fingers and toes crossed!

Reasons to be Cheerful – Friday

fridayDay five of my positivity project – here are my three reasons to be cheerful for Friday:

  1. School’s Out
    It was the last day of school for Tadpole today, so it is now officially the Summer Holidays – HOORAY! We have LOADS of fun and exciting adventures planned for the next six weeks, which should keep all of us entertained.
  2. Pointless
    We watched Pointless tonight, which is one of our favourite quiz shows, and I got several pointless answers. It’s a silly thing, but it makes me happy when I get an answer that scores zero. Especially when one of my pointless answers is in the final. I got a pointless answer in the final tonight If I had been on the show, I would have been £4,500 better off right now. It makes me feel clever, and validates me having my brain full of seemingly useless and very random information.
  3. Friday
    It’s Friday. That’s usually reason enough for anyone to be cheerful. Even though I’m not currently working, and “Friday Fever” doesn’t actually apply, I still look forward to the weekend, because that’s family time. Of course, Tadpole usually stays overnight at my Mam and Pop’s place on a Friday night, so he has fun there, while we’re home with Choochie, but it still marks the beginning of the weekend, and that’s a good thing.

Summer Bucket List

Summer-Fun-20111It’s officially the summer holidays. For the next seven weeks, there will be no school, so I have to find ways to keep the boys (well, I say “the boys,” but I actually mean Tadpole – Choochie is happy with the label on a muslin for the best part of an hour!). I thought the best way to make sure we had many fun and exciting adventures would be to make a summer “bucket list” – a list of activities and places to go that can be checked off as the summer days pass. Here’s what I’ve come up with:


  • Build sandcastles
  • Paddle in the sea
  • Go rock-pool dipping
  • Go swimming
  • Bake cookies
  • Bake cupcakes
  • Make a colour wheel spinner
  • Make a God’s Eye
  • Make lollipop stick picture frames
  • Plant cress
  • Have a picnic
  • Read James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Read some books on Bug Club
  • Go for a walk by the golf course to see how far the path goes
  • Go blackberry picking
  • Do some pavement art with chalks
  • Go on a mini beast safari
  • Take Tadpole out on his bike
  • Have a play date with friends
  • Watch a family movie together



Reasons to be Cheerful – Thursday

ThursdayDay four of my positivity project – here are my three reasons to be cheerful for Thursday:

  1. New Foods
    Chochie was sitting in his highchair, picking at his ham sandwich (which he usually loves), while I ate my hot-smoked salmon with a green salad. I then started following up with half a pink grapefruit, and Choochie put down his now limp sarnie and motioned that he wanted some of my grapefruit. Expecting a reaction like the one he had with lemon back at Easter (because although it’s sweet, my pink grapefruit is still quite zingy!), I scooped a little onto my spoon, checked it had no pip fragments, and popped it in his mouth. His little face lit up! He asked for more, so I gave him more, and he ended up eating about a third of my half grapefruit! When it comes to fruit, my youngest is a bit of a greedy guts. I love watching him experience new flavours for the first time.
  2. School Fayre
    This afternoon was Tadpole’s school fayre. There was plenty to see and do, and Tadpole and I won several prizes – loads of lovely toiletries and, best of all (in his eyes), a single-use camera, which he will use to document some of our summer holiday adventures. It made him incredibly happy to win it. :)
  3. Scorchio!
    Today is so sunny and hot and summery, it was absolutely glorious. It really feels like summer today, and I hope we get some more weather like this once school is finished!

Reasons to be Cheerful – Wednesday

WednesdayDay three of my positivity project – here are my three reasons to be cheerful for Wednesday:

  1. Steak
    Because steak is awesome. Because we’re having some gorgeous frying steak for dinner tonight, which I will serve with some steamed baby potatoes, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and a medley of steamed vegetables. There’s nothing quite like a nice bit of steak.
  2. House Hunting
    We started looking at potential forever homes for our little family. Nothing is concrete, but we’re putting out feelers and that feels good. It feels like there is a chance we could be out of this tiny little flat at some point in the near future. It feels like a step in the right direction and like there is possibly a tiny spark of light at the end of the tunnel. We all actually went to view a house today which was very nice. Fingers crossed for a positive outcome…
  3. Jane Austen
    I’m reading two books at the moment – one paperback and one Kindle – neither of which are by Jane Austen, but both of which have a connection with her. The paperback (Longbourn by Jo Baker) is the events of Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view, and the Kindle book (Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James) is an account of the eponymous author falling in love for the first time, and loosely echoes the books she would later write. I’m a massive Austenite and I’m enjoying them both immensely.

Reasons to be Cheerful – Tuesday

TUESDAYDay two of my positivity project – here are my three reasons to be cheerful for Tuesday:

  1. Achievement
    Tadpole came home from school today with two awards – a medal for sporting achievement and a plaque for academic achievement. He is one of only eight children in his class to get the plaque for exceeding expectations. As you can see from the photograph, he’s very proud of himself – and we’re incredibly proud of him too!
  2. Sweet, Blessed Sleep
    It seems like Choochie may be turning the corner on the subject of sleep. Till now, he’s barely slept, day or night, which has resulted me being a total Mombie for nine months. The last week or so, however, he has improved greatly, meaning that I am looking and feeling a little less like an extra in a George A Romero film. Long may it continue to improve, because I’ve actually forgotten what it feels like to sleep for more than a couple of hours straight.
  3. A Good, Home-Cooked Meal
    Meatballs in my own, home-made awesome sauce with some pasta and a little cheese sprinkled on top. It’s delicious, if I say so myself, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The truth is, I love cooking, and I love sitting down to enjoy a home-cooked meal with my family – it is one of my joys in life.

BOOK BLAST: Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia

Everyday Celebrations with Maria LoggiaBook Details

Book Title: Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia
Category: Non-fiction
Genre: Cooking, Food & Wine, 176 pages
Publisher: Cardinal Publishing
Published: Oct 1, 2012
Tour dates:  July 14-18,  2014
Content Rating: G

About the book

Maria Loggia’s kitchen door is always open. Her home and garden are a gathering place for friends and family, who come to share her easygoing enthusiasm and generosity – and her inspired Italian cuisine. In this, her second book, Loggia celebrates the seasons with 16 sumptuous menus – from a spontaneous al fresco garden party to a slow-simmered midwinter feast and a traditional Sunday family lunch.

Meet the author

Maria finds inspiration in her Italian heritage and draws on family recipes that go back generations. She founded Tavola Mia, her at-home cooking school in 1999. Through her study of Italy’s regional cuisines, which has included numerous sojourns back to her native country, she has acquired great expertise in the art of Italian cooking. Her passion, humor and dedication to excellence have made her an inspiring teacher. Using fresh local ingredients, Tavola Mia celebrates the seasons in authentic, irrepressible Italian style.


Try One of the Recipes!


Petto di Pollo Farcito con Uva e Noci

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Grapes and Walnuts




For filling:

  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup (125 ml) red seedless grapes, quartered
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) finely chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 7 oz (200 g) soft goat cheese, cut in 6 slices

For chicken:

  • 6 tbsp (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 bone-in chicken breasts, skin on
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp (45 ml) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 orange, cut into wedges
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, each cut in half
  • 5 bay leaves

To serve:

  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange


Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

To prepare filling: Heat butter and oil in a large skillet and sauté shallots until soft, 1 to 2 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in walnuts, grapes, chives and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly. Leave goat cheese aside for now.

To prepare chicken: Oil a 14-inch (35 cm) round earthenware tiella or roasting pan with 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the olive oil and set aside. On a baking sheet, season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Make a lengthwise slit in each chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through. (This will form the pocket for the stuffing.) Rub remaining 4 tbsp (60 ml) olive oil into the chicken (including in the pockets). Divide stuffing equally among chicken breasts, stuffing it into the slit in each breast, and top with a slice of goat cheese. Pull the chicken skin over the filling and secure with toothpicks. Smear butter over the skin and season again to taste with salt and pepper.

Gently transfer chicken to prepared tiella. Scatter orange wedges, rosemary and bay leaves around chicken. Roast 35 to 40 minutes, or until juices run clear when the thickest part of the breast is pierced. Then broil 2 to 3 minutes, or until skin is crisp and golden. Drizzle with orange juice and serve warm with pan juices.

Serves 6

Tips from Maria:

Consigli di cucina (kitchen tips)

The chicken breasts can be assembled the day before, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. When ready to serve, bring chicken to room temperature and cook as instructed. Doing it this way allows the flavours time to meld together beautifully.

Che cos’è? (what is it?)

I’m convinced food tastes better when cooked in a shallow, glazed earthenware dish known in Italian as a tiella. I find earthenware dishes distribute heat slowly and evenly as the food cooks. Aromas and flavours are intensified and casseroles never stick or dry out.

To season a tiella: Before using your tiella the first time, immerse the dish in cold water to soak overnight. The next day, empty the tiella and wipe it dry. Rub the inside with olive oil and place in a preheated 300°F (150°C) oven for 1½ hours. Remove seasoned tiella from oven and place on a wooden board or thick tablecloth to cool. (If placed on a surface like granite or a cold stovetop, it will crack.) To clean a tiella, soak it in warm, soapy water, then scrub with a soft sponge.

Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview video:

Maria Loggia from Pierre Blais on Vimeo.

Where to buy the book:

Cardinal Publishing