Meal Planner (archive)

Week starting 9th May


It’s been a weekend of overindulging with barbecues and sausages which, combined with my broken back meaning no exercise, has left me feeling a bit like we need some goodness in us this week. Man cannot live on sausage alone (wise old saying).

Today we kicked off with a quorn bolognese (with spelt pasta) and once again the lack of actual meat went unnoticed by the kids who were happily lapping it up whilst we sat about feeling virtuous (although we may have ruined the effect with leftover lemon tart a bit later) (and also we were never just sitting about, we have 2 kids and a massive pile of washing).

Tomorrow is prawn jalfrezi, an old BBC Good Food recipe which you can find here:

It’s a relatively healthy take on curry and we’ll have brown basmati rice with it but a curry isn’t a curry without some naan bread so that will be our naughtiness for the day. We might also have to switch out the prawns for chicken to use up some of our leftovers. We’re a bit crazy like that.

Wednesday is going to be a quick one – quesadillas – it’s fast becoming one of my favourite meals to have in the middle of a busy week. They are so quick to make, extremely kid friendly and taste great. Plus we get to make slightly more interesting versions of them for ourselves with exotic ingredients like mushrooms which will not be tolerated by certain members of the family.

On Thursday Max is going to be so pleased to hear that it’s sea bass for dinner but hopefully I’ll be able to ease the pain with some Jersey Royals. I’ve attempted to explain the importance of Jersey Royals to him already but I’m not sure that he truly grasps the importance. Next year perhaps.

On Friday we’re rounding off the working week with chicken and chorizo kebabs – this is pretty much as straight forward as it sounds, we’ll serve them with some rice and some green salad.

And finally a good old chilli con carne to finish the week. I’m going to be using a recipe from the John Torode book My Kind of Food which is very similar to this one here which uses braising steak instead of mince.

Have a great week!


How we tackled (Archive)

…Healthy Substitutes


Unlike many food sites these days we are, quite deliberately, not really anti-anything. Today we had leftover Easter eggs for pudding because everyone was behaving themselves for a change and, well, it’s time to get this chocolate out of the house one way or another.

So we’re not anti-sugar, we’re not anti-dairy, anti-gluten or anti-meat. Like my nan used to say, everything in moderation.

That said, we do like to eat together as a family, I do want them to develop healthy habits (and I do want to fit into nice clothes) so healthy eating is still high on the agenda, there’s just a bit of chocolate thrown in for good measure.

But what do you do when they really only want to eat pasta and sausages?

This post is all about a few ideas on healthy substitutes that the 3 of us employ to make sure that there’s a balance to all that egg hunting.


I don’t think I’ve ever come across a kid that doesn’t like pasta, it’s like the universal language of toddlers. Whenever you’ve got their friends over for tea you know you’re pretty safe with a pasta-based tea. I’ve always tried to balance the meal a bit with a side of salad or veg on the plate but recently I’ve also experimented with different types of pasta as an alternative to the white stuff.

Personally I’ve never been so keen on the wholemeal stuff although I know it works for some but I have to say spelt pasta has been a bit of a revelation. I think you really can’t tell the difference taste-wise (the kids certainly haven’t noticed) but it’s a healthier alternative which makes the meal feel that bit lighter.


Of course there’s also the infamous courgetti (which you don’t necessarily need to invest in a spiraliser to achieve, a peeler or just chopping finely works fine too) which personally I think is great but I’m yet to convince my 4 and 2 year olds that this is the case.

Veggie substitutes

Part of our meal plan mantra is that we aim to eat 2 meat, 2 fish and 2 veggie meals a week. I concocted this idea myself when Max was small and, I have to admit, sometimes I wonder why I make myself stick to it when someone is moaning about fish or when the husband warily eyes my soup but I’m hoping it ultimately means we have a fairly balanced and varied diet which should be good for all of us *mum stare*.

I find the veggie meals the hardest to come up with, not because I don’t enjoy veggie meals (actually I prefer them) but rather in making veggie meals that are palatable to all and that don’t become repetitive. Some of our favourites include curry because it feels hearty whatever is in it, soup (husband aside), quesadillas (a relatively new addition) and copious pasta sauces such as hidden veg, homemade pesto, and good old macaroni cheese.

More recently we’ve experimented with meat substitutes. Some can’t take to tofu because of the texture issue, I like it personally but again I’m not sure the kids will be persuaded. What they don’t notice however, is whether it’s real mince or quorn mince, really absolutely no clue and I actually prefer the quorn version – less chewy, easy to cook and (brilliantly) very cheap. I’ve used it in spag bol, in chilli, in shepherd’s pie and nobody is any the wiser. Hoodwinked.


Veggie burgers are also a great alternative to the lardier meaty version (although some days it just has to be the lardier version) and there are some good recipes out there including this really nice (or “brilliant”) one.

Sweet tooth

Blogs and cookbooks from the likes of Deliciously Ella and the Hemsleys have really done a lot for the new wave of sugar substitutes. I sort of feel like I can’t move for mention of medjool dates in any pudding recipe I read recently and whilst I sometimes have a bit of an eye roll at some of this stuff I do think there are things to be learned.

One thing I have changed up recently is making my own granola. Reading that sentence back is a bit of an eye roll moment but actually it’s so bloody easy, you can make a cereal in which you control the sugar and it actually tastes better. With full disclosure I prefer it as I’m not a dried fruit fan and it’s hard to find good granola without it but actually we’ve all started eating it now and I’ve become a bit addicted to making it at the weekend. I usually use a John Torode recipe as the basis of my recipe but I reduce the amount of sugar he uses and substitute maple syrup which comes with a lower glycemic index if you’re into that kind of thing.

Maple syrup is one substitution but supermarkets are also stocking an increasing range of alternatives which can be used in your granola and also in your baking including agave and date syrup. My sister made me this cake for my birthday a few weeks ago (it was yum):


When we thought about it there are lots of other ideas too – baked chicken with curry sauce instead of pan frying (see the katsu recipe below we’re having this weekend) and using filo to top a pie instead of its heavier cousin puff. The ideas keep on coming so we’ll keep on sharing.


Meal Planner (Archive)

Meal Planner – Week Starting 2nd May


Bank holiday bliss… well most of the time anyway.  It feels great to have an extra day although it does tend to be an extra day of “can you hear what I’m saying to you?” on loop (he invariably can it’s just not something he wants to hear).

This week I’m trying something a bit different and cooking most of our meals from Joe Wicks (The Body Coach)’s Lean In 15 – “15 minute meals and workouts to keep you lean and healthy.”  Clearly I’m not trying to put the kids on a diet or exercise regime but the concept of quick and healthy meals feels like it should fit in well with a family as well as a single fitness freak.  Well that’s the theory anyway.

Today we started out with the sag aloo which is supposed to be done with chicken for added protein but I missed that out for a veggie meal and added peas instead.


I have to say it was not a good start, I thought this was pretty terrible and the kids wouldn’t eat it at all.  The only thing it really had going for it was that it was ridiculously quick to make but if quick = shit then it’s not really worthwhile because I then had to spend additional time making toasted bagels to fill them up.  As a rule I almost never offer them an alternative to dinner, I have a strict like it or lump it strategy, but when something just isn’t nice it seems unfair so toasted bagels they had.

I made this great sag aloo a couple of weeks back and this is how it’s supposed to taste.  Everyone ate it and nobody needed bread afterwards.

Let’s hope tomorrow’s poached salmon and bacon is a better experience.  You poach your salmon fillets in water for 10 minutes and serve with fried up bacon, courgette, tender-stem broccoli and cherry tomatoes (plus parmesan and pine nuts).

Wednesday fish fingers.  Just cos.

Thursday another Body Coach recipe which I feel a bit more confident about – Italian Stallion sausages is basically a simple sausage casserole which is something we’ve tried many times.  The sausages and veg are cooked in tomato puree and chicken stock and the recipe says 15 minutes from start to finish (duh) so sounds like a stronger bet.

On Friday we’re doing something slightly more straightforward as we have some of Max’s friends over for tea and I’m not sure they want to be Lean In guinea pigs, we’re having homemade pizza so they can all pick their own toppings.

Saturday is a day off (I’m hoping this is to bask in the sun and maybe a bbq *crosses fingers*) and Sunday another Body Coach recipe – chicken and new potato hash.  This is a fairly simple mix of baby potatoes, chicken, mange tout and paprika.  Hoping that simple does not once again equal crap.

Have a great week!


Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 25h April


I’m beyond late blogging about my meal planner this week, we’ve practically eaten it all already but because I suddenly realised that meals were actually going really well and everybody has eaten up every day I thought I’d post it up there anyway. Obviously I’ve jinxed things for tomorrow now but I’ll be out so never mind!

Max left me this message at the end of last week so I felt that pasta pesto had to be on there somewhere:


Basically that’s what they want to eat every day but in the interest of our sanity I think we should mix it up slightly more than that. If you’re interested in my pesto recipe you’ll find it in our archive page. It’s a very simple blitz of basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil and parmesan. It literally takes 5 minutes to make and tastes 100% better than any jar we’ve ever tried. Wanky as that sounds it’s genuinely true, the kids won’t even eat the jars now.

On Tuesday it was our favourite prawn laksa recipe which I nicked from BBC Good Food, find it here:

The kids love noodles so despite the carnage we create in eating them this mild curry recipe with some nice juicy prawns is typically a winner.

Tonight we had fajitas which were a resounding success. This isn’t always the case as they can both be a bit sniffy about chicken, and meat in general in fact, but for some reason today they decided to both behave like angels and eat the lot. I made my own salsa using the recipe below and I cooked off the chicken pieces in my own spice mix which was half a tsp of cajun spice, half a teaspoon of cumin and half a teaspoon of oregano. Edie actually commented, “this is nice!” about 5 times. We served it all with some cooked peppers, grated cheese, lettuce and sour cream (for the grown ups).

Tomorrow is going to be veggie pitta pockets which is a nice way of saying sandwiches. I’ve bought some nice fillings for them including falafel and chorizo and they’ll have fun filling up their own pittas.

On Friday we’re trying a new recipe which I’m really looking forward to – see the link below for salmon burgers. Max is still insistent this is the only fish he wants to eat so I’m going to test him on these, fingers crossed a burger shape is enough to convince him to keep trying.

Saturday is our day off for a possible trip to Yorkshire Sculpture Park (if it stops hailing/snowing/raining etc.) and then I’m finishing the week with what used to be my favourite meal as a kid – steak pie. I cook down some braising steak with some onion in stock and red wine for an hour or two and then encase in some shortcrust pastry and cook for 40 minutes or so. It’s the best.

Have a great week!