The Season of Good Will…

How did it get to be December already? Where has the time gone? We are now officially in the countdown to Christmas (or whatever winter festival you celebrate). It’s the time of year people try to be a little kinder and more charitable, and perhaps they start thinking of ways they can help others.

I watched a video yesterday that got me thinking. It wasn’t about the festive season, it was about menstruating. I know – that can be a bit of an icky subject, despite it being something that 50% of the world’s population do at some point in their lives – for a very large part of their lives, to be honest.

This is the video – please do watch it, because it’s quite interesting.

It really got me thinking, because although I donate to a local food bank on a semi-regular basis, and although it’s not always food products I donate, there is something I never thought about donating at all, and it’s something I have used every month of my life since before being a teenager. Why did it never occur to me? Well, probably for the same reason it doesn’t occur to other people too – it’s something we’re so used to, that we don’t consider it – it gets pushed to the background.

So, although we’re now half way through December, here’s a thought. How w0ould it be, if everyone who has the means to do so, made up a package to give to their local food bank this Xmas? You can backdate it and made a sort of reverse advent calendar, putting in 24 items to donate, or you can do it from today, whatever is easiest and within your means – just pop stuff in a bag or a box to hand over.

Here are some things you might like to include:

  • Food:
    Dried goods such as pasta, rice, and lentils are good, as they keep for ages without going off. Also tinned and jarred food of any kind – beans, vegetables, fruit, canned fish and meat, are all staples to consider, along with jams, chutneys and pickles. And don’t forget condiments – salt, pepper, sauces, herbs and spices, and stock cubes – they can zing up a meal and make it much taster and less boring.
  • Feminine hygiene products:
    Next time you’re picking up your tampons or pads for your own use, pop an extra pack in your trolley to donate.
  • Other hygiene products:
    Soap, shower gel, deoderant, toothbrushes and toothpaste – take advantage of three for two offers and pop the third “free” item in your giving box. Or if you get loads of smellies at Xmas, consider donating some of those. You might also consider popping a packet of condoms in there too
  • Cleaning products:
    Cleaning wipes, antibacterial spray, toilet cleaner and bleach, rim blocks and cistern blocks, washing up liquid, washing powder, and fabric conditioner. All essentials that might go by the wayside when people can barely afford to put food on the table.
  • Baby products:
    Nappies, wipes, nappy sacks – again, take advantage of multi-buy offers and pop the extra items in the box.

None of these need to be expensive brand name items – you can donate supermarket own brands, or even the bargain range items if that’s what your budget will stretch to. Even if you can’t donate an item for every day of the month, perhaps it could be a new year’s resolution to save one item every week of the year – imagine what you could accumulate in 52 weeks, at just the cost of a few pennies extra on your weekly shopping bill? Even if you donated like this quarterly with a dozen or so items each time, that can make a huge difference to someone who needs it.

Maybe this way we can ALL have a brighter festive season. And you never know, you might get bumped higher up on Santa’s “Nice” list!


Catching up with everything…

Snickerdoodles for the coffee morning

Crikey, it’s been a good fortnight since I last posted anything – I’ve just been so busy!

I’ve bagged myself a bunch of new pen pals. so there has been letter writing and crafting going on there. I’ve also been in rehearsals for Sister Act, which is challenging, but highly enjoyable. It turns out Nun #11 (or Sister Sara of the Two Mules, as I have dubbed her) has a few tricky things to do, such as performing Latin tongue twisters, repeatedly, at speed, to a tune; or where other nuns have one note to sing, Sister Sara has eight of them, and has to sustain them. I am enjoying it immensely!

Little white chocolate mice with strawberry lace tails for the coffee morning

Then there was a fundraising coffee morning for the Beaconsfield Operatic Society, so I baked snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, and cheese scones, as well as making white chocolate mice with strawberry lace tails. Of course, I had to taste-test the goodies too, so several went into my own gob (naughty, I know, but so worth it!). We also had Grom round for Sunday dinner – she comes round every few weeks for that, and we always look forward to it. It means a flurry of activity in the kitchen, though, as when she comes, we eat our main meal at midday, instead of in the evening.

On top of all that, Choochie isn’t very well at the moment, so he requires extra hugs and kisses and general Mummy time.

And throughout all this, I have completed and added another row on my Sky Blanket. That’s thirteen rows now finished – one more and we’ll be at the half way mark!

Thirteen rows of Sky Blanket completed!

20.06.16 - Brunette KellAnd then I dyed my hair brown in preparation for shaving it all off in August for Macmillan Cancer Support and sending to Little Princess Trust to be made into wigs for kids who have lost their hair to cancer treatment. My cousin’s fiance will be doing the honours, and to be honest, I can hardly wait to have it all taken off! For the record, I will be having my head SHAVED, not just having my hair cut short!

Incidentally, if you’d like to sponsor me in my Brave the Shave efforts, you can do so at my Brave the Shave page HERE. Every little helps! Thanks in advance. 🙂

The end of No Meat March…

No Meat March 2016Well, I did it! I completed an entire month of being vegetarian, with only a couple of minor slip-ups (who would have thought some yoghurts would have gelatin in them?) – not one morsel of meat has passed my lips for the entire month.

On the whole, I’ve enjoyed the experience – I’ve tried out new recipes and got out of the rut of eating the same things over and over again. It’s forced me to really think about the food I put into my body, and finding meat alternatives has been a little challenging in some cases.

The only time I really missed meat was on Sundays – one week I did a roast chicken and it was all I could do not to pick at a little chicken when I was carving up the bird for everyone else. I had some Quorn chicken-style fillets instead, and although they were alright, they didn’t quite hit the spot. Another week I made a beef and gravy pie for the rest of the family (Hubby’s request), and although my nut roast was perfectly lovely, my mouth watered at the thought of that deliciously rich gravy and thick chunks of beef encased in flaky golden pastry!

I don’t think I’ll be going permanently vegetarian any time soon, but I am certainly going to cut down significantly on the amount of meat I personally consume. Overall, I’ve enjoyed the experience, and I will certainly take part again next March, or perhaps I’ll do another month later on in this year too, just to see. I do like the idea of going vegetarian, but I shall have to wean myself off the meat and find some delicious substitutes that don’t make me feel like I’m missing out while the rest of the family are still tucking in!


No Meat March – One Week In

No Meat March 2016
No Meat March 2016

So, today marks a week of eating exclusively vegetarian meals. Not one morsel of meat has passed my lips in the past seven days, and for the most part, I’m enjoying it. I’ve tried out a couple of new recipes and enjoyed them immensely.

I am, however, discovering that vegetarians can’t take things for granted. A few days into the challenge, I discovered that Mullerlight yoghurts have gelatin in them – I was totally gutted! I mean, who would have thought yoghurt wasn’t necessarily vegetarian? I had to start checking the ingredients of pretty much everything I ate, just to be sure! I even found myself being paranoid about peanut butter and jam and bread – I mean, if yoghurt isn’t automatically vegetarian, what other seemingly innocent products secretly contain animal products?

Another major challenge for me has been avoiding the unthinking moments, such as when I’m making sandwiches for the rest of the family, and would usually pop a stray bit of ham in my mouth – I almost did that the other day, and caught myself just in time! Speaking of ham, our pack went a lot further this week without me eating any of it!

This week we decided to forgo the traditional Sunday roast, and had bolognese instead (it was easy to make mine vegetarian), but I shall be looking for a low-syn alternative to a Sunday roast for future weekends – somehow the idea of eating a Quorn fillet while everyone else has roast chicken or beef doesn’t quite appeal to me, and all the nut roasts I’ve seen (which I would rather like) appear to be very high in syns – not great when I’m following the Slimming World programme and would be the only one who would eat it (I don’t fancy eating nut roast every night for a week just to use it all up!).

It’s definitely affecting my choices, and even if I don’t go vegetarian permanently, I’ll be consuming far less meat than I used to, and I will certainly take part in No Meat March again next year.

asian-420x258I may, however, just decide to go the whole hog and go vegetarian after this. I’ve already proven to myself that vegetarian choices can be just as tasty and satisfying as non-vegetarian dishes, even if it does take a lot more conscious effort to avoid things like gelatin, that lurk in the ingredients lists of the most innocuous products!

I’ll be interested to see if my weight loss efforts have been affected by the change in my diet too…

No Meat March

1279376409_origNumber 11 on my list of 52 Things in 52 Weeks is to go vegetarian for a week. However, I recently heard about No Meat March, and thought, what if I went vegetarian for a whole month instead?

It’s no secret that I love meat – I really do. I eat it pretty much every day at some point – but there are also quite a few vegetarian dishes I enjoy too. I have no idea if I’ll make it for the whole month, or if I’ll unthinkingly snaffle a piece of chicken or ham or whatever, but I think I’ll look at this as an opportunity to try some new recipes.

The fact is, I’ve been thinking about becoming vegetarian for some time, and this might be a way into it, but even if I don’t ultimately go full vegetarian, I can at least cut down on my meat consumption considerably. There are many reasons I’ve been considering making this change, but the main three are the detrimental impact on the planet made by farming animals for consumption, the treatment of animals reared for slaughter, and the long-term health effects of eating lots of meat products. I’m not a heartless person – I’m an animal lover and I’m an eco-conscious person, who worries about the long-term consequences of my personal life choices.

Please note, I would never berate or belittle anyone who is not vegetarian – it really is all down to personal choice and I fully respect that – it’s something every person has to decide for themselves. And in that vein, I will be the only person in our household going vegetarian – Hubby, Tadpole, and Choochie will all continue to eat as they usually do. After all, just because I prepare their food, it doesn’t give me the right to say what they can and cannot eat (within reason – obviously I would never let my kids eat bleach from under the sink etc – I’m not stupid!). If any of them should decide on their own to become vegetarian, then I will support them in that choice, although in the case of Hubby, I’ll eat my hat the day that happens, because he doesn’t like vegetables!

Either way, I’ve signed up for the challenge, and I shall give it my best shot.

If you’d like to join me, you can join the challenge by signing up via the link below:

No Meat March 2016


Sausage and Bean Hotpot

I am suffering with a horrid cold on top of it being my time of the month, so all I want to eat is good, old-fashioned comfort food. Is there anything more comforting than a nice sausage? This hearty meal will fill your belly right to your boots, and it is great for using up all the odds and ends of veg knocking about in your fridge and cupboards, looking a bit languid and forlorn, a day or two before you do your grocery shopping.

If you’re vegetarian, you can use vegetarian sausages or leave them out altogether, as it also makes a very nice bean and vegetable hot pot.

944098_10156311643150386_8876319933887294806_nSAUSAGE AND BEAN HOT POT
Serves 4-6


  • Sausages – allow 2 per person
  • 1 ltr passata
  • 2 tins of beans in water (not in sauce!)
  • a good-sized handful of lentils
  • a good glug each of balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sweetener (to take away the acidity of the tomatoes)
  • whatever herbs and spices take your fancy
  • as much veg as you can cram in there


  • Cook your sausages however you prefer – I grill mine, but you could oven cook or fry them if you like.
  • Cut your sausages into small chunks and chuck them in a pot with all the other ingredients, and let them all simmer away together till the veg is tender and the lentils are soft.

This time I used black eyed beans and butter beans, but other times I’ve used chickpeas and kidney beans, barlotti and cannelini beans – I just use whatever is in my cupboard at the time.

On this occasion, the veg I used was:

  • butternut squash (diced – I just cooked it in the sauce)
  • onions and garlic (which I sauteed lightly before putting in the rest of the ingredients)
  • baby corn
  • peppers
  • chillies
  • muchrooms
  • courgette
  • spinach

I tend to go with my old favourite combination of chilli powder, paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and dried mixed herbs for flavour, but feel free to use whatever combination you like best.

It really is one of those dishes where I just see what’s looking a little limp or what’s rolling around in the bottom of the fridge that doesn’t look too suspect or like it’s about to grow legs and walk to the bin by itself. No matter what I’ve put in, it’s always turned out tasty.

I used a combination of four Asda Reduced Fat sausages and four Linda McCartney Rosemary and Red Onion sausages, and it made five very generous portions.

I served mine with chips, but it’s also delicious if you top it with mashed potato (or a mixture of potato and root veg all mashed together) and whack it under the grill to brown. If you fancy it, top that with cheese, and serve with even more veg, steamed to perfection.

You can cook this in your slow cooker if you like – just brown the sausages, cut them up, and chuck everything in the pot. Whack it on low in the morning, and it’ll be ready for dinner when you get home from work. Equally, you can do it in a casserole dish – I reckon it’d take anything between 30-45 minutes, but I don’t tend to cook that way, so I couldn’t say for sure.

This recipe freezes well, so if you have an extra portion or two, pop them in freezable containers, label them, and whack them in the freezer to enjoy another time.

If you try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think of it, so please do leave a comment below!

Pulled Pork with Spicy Onion Gravy

Be prepared to fall in love with your food, people, because this is the most delicious syn-free pulled pork you will ever taste, and when it’s coupled with the thick, rich onion gravy, it is out of this world! This is the dish slow cookers were created for, so if you don’t already have one, go out and buy a basic model slow cooker immediately – they cost as little as a tenner, so you have no excuse not to have one, and I guarantee you’ll thank me for it once you have tried this pulled pork It’s one of my favourite recipes!

12509569_10156299358645386_5555115970830740673_nPULLED PORK WITH SPICY ONION GRAVY


  • One pork loin joint (large enough to feed however many people you’re feeding) (P)
  • 2 small/medium onions per person (S)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed (S)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed (F)
  • 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs (F)
  • 1/2 tbsp garam masala (F)
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika (F)
  • 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper (F)
  • 1 tsp jerk seasoning (F)
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning (F)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (F)
  • Stock cube(s) (F)
  • Boiling water (F)


  • Mix together the garlic, herbs and spices for the rub.
  • Coat the pork in the spice rub, pressing it into the meat, then wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour (preferably overnight, to really get those flavours into the meat).
  • Roughly quarter the onions and place in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Place the meat on top of the onions, and pop any remaining spice rub on top of it.
  • Switch on the slow cooker – I usually leave a 4-person joint in there for a good 4-5 hours on high, or 6-7 hours on low.
  • When you’re ready to serve, remove the pork loin from the slow cooker and put it in t a large bowl. Attack it with a couple of forks – it will pull apart very easily.
  • Remove half the onions from the slow cooker and add them to the pork (I cut mine up with scissors for ease and speed), mixing them all in nicely.
  • Pop the stock cube and a little boiling water in a large jug and whisk together, then add the remaining onions and any juices or scraped up “gubbins” from the bottom of the slow cooker, and blend till smooth to make a thick gravy.
  • Serve the pulled pork and onions with the gravy and bask in the golden glow of compliments from your family as they dig in.

For my gravy, I use a Knorr ham stock cube and an Oxo beef stock cube – the beef one is simply to give the gravy a deeper colour and a little extra “oomph” to the flavour. The onions have been soaking up flavour from the meat and the spice rub, and they add a lovely juiciness to the meat.

You can serve this with veg, or it is equally delicious served on a wholemeal bread bun (your HEB choice). If you have any leftovers, it’s very nice chilled with a salad too.

Pork loin can be a bit expensive, so do what I do and look for a nice piece that’s been reduced because it’s on it’s short dated – you’ll save yourself money and it’s just as good!

If you try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think of it, so please do leave a comment below!

Carrot and Lentil Soup with Fennel Seeds

It’s cold and wintery outside, and I like nothing better than a hearty, warming bowl of soup for lunch, to heat me up from the inside. This is one of my favourite recipes to enjoy on such blustery days as I want to stay cozy and warm in the house!

12359957_10156221728995386_7391187767704627159_nCarrot and Lentil Soup with Fennel Seeds
Serves 3-4


  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • A little oil
  • 5 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 100g red lentils
  • 1 ham stock cube
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1.5 ltr water
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Lightly saute the onion and garlic till just starting to go golden, then add all the other ingredients to the pan, and bring to the boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils and carrot are tender.
  • Serve and add salt and pepper to suit your preferences.

It’s so easy to make, and the crushed fennel seeds add a delicious flavour to the soup that works really well.

I hope you’ll enjoy this lovely, warming soup. If you try it, let me know what you thought of it by leaving a comment below!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

We’re just over a week away from Christmas, and in my house, that means it’s cookie-baking time! I made snickerdoodles last week (and I’ll be making more next week too!), so this week it’s chocolate chip cookies. Is there anything in the world so perfectly delicious as an ice-cold glass of milk and a soft, crumbly chocolate chip cookie? I think not! Anyway, here’s the recipe I use.

11226003_10156221677920386_7048102649200589546_nChocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 24


  • 120g salted butter (room temperature)
  • 150g sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 170g chocolate chips


  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar till just combined, then add the vanilla essence and egg, and beat well.
  • Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda and add, a little at a time, to the mixture, combining well before adding more.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Divide the mixture into 24 equal portions (divide the dough into eighths, then divide each of those eighths into three).
  • Roll into balls and place them on baking trays lined with grease proof paper or baking parchment, pressing down gently, leaving plenty of space in between.
  • Bake for around 12 minutes till golden.
  • Cool on the trays for a few minutes before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Store in an air-tight container. I’ve no idea how long these will last in such a container, as they disappear within a day or two in our house!

This is a fun, easy recipe to do with the kids during the Christmas holidays – maybe make some on Christmas Eve to leave for Santa?

If you make them, let me know what you think of them by leaving a comment below.

Santa’s Favourite Snickerdoodle Cookies

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But snickerdoodles are so delightful!
To the kitchen we must go…
Cookie dough, cookie dough, cookie dough!

Christmas is fast approaching, and as Santa’s favourite cookes are snickerdoodles (I’m pretty certain that’s official!), it’s time to get baking! They are deliciously simple to make, although it’s devilishly difficult to keep from eating the cookie dough before they even reach the oven, because the scent of all that cinnamony goodness will drive you to distraction and have you drooling in anticipation of these melt-in-the-mouth little pieces of food heaven!

I accept no responsibility for your taste buds exploding with pleasure, nor for your expanding waistline when you have to make a second batch to cover the fact that you ate the entire lot in secret yourself and the kids didn’t get any! These buttery little beauties are a recipe you’ll be baking every Christmas from now until the end of time. And in between too!

12375062_10156207007265386_1090460394727965666_oSanta’s Favourite Snickerdoodle Cookies
Makes 3 dozen


  • 240g butter (melted)
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 300g flour
  • extra sugar and cinnamon for rolling


  • Preheat the oven to 170C.
  • Melt the butter and mix well with the sugar.
  • Beat the egg well and stir into the mixture.
  • Add the vanilla, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, and salt, and mix well.
  • Sift the flour and add in increments, making sure it is well incorporated after each addition.
  • Put the dough in the fridge for a while to firm up a little.
  • When it has firmed remove the dough from the fridge. This is the hard part – do NOT eat the cookie dough! If you start now, you will not stop and you will have no snickerdoodles at the end of it, which would be tragic!
  • In a small bowl, mix a couple of spoons of sugar with a coupe of teaspoons of cinnamon (don’t stint on the cinnamon at this stage – you’ll thank me later!).
  • Using a tablespoon to scoop the right amount of dough, roll into small balls, toss them in the cinnamon sugar mixture, and place on trays lined with grease proof paper or baking parchment, leaving plenty of space in between for spreading (I only put about half a dozen cookies on each baking tray, to make sure they don’t touch).
  • Pop them in the oven for 10-15 minutes, till golden at the edges.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the trays for two minutes, before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.

You will be tempted to eat the cookies before they are cooled. I’m not going to tell you not to sneak one for yourself (baker’s privilege and all that!), but be aware that it will be extremely difficult to stop at one. Keep them in an airtight container – I have no idea how long they’ll last in there, because in our house, everyone goes at them like gannets and friends suddenly descend, having smelled the cookies baking from half way across town, and they snaffle a few to take home with them too, so they’re always gone within a day or two!

This is actually a very nice project to do with the kids on a cold, wet afternoon, but your yield will be about half, because your kids will eat the cookie dough – be warned! And then they’ll eat all the cookies too, so you’ll still have to make a second batch!

And don’t forget to leave a couple for Santa on Christmas Eve – it’s a well known fact that he leaves the best gifts for people who leave him snickerdoodles!

You can thank me now. 😉