Chilled soups for quick summer lunches = get the kids to drink their greens

Ever find it’s too hot to make a roast on a summer’s Sunday or even too hot to stand outside and bbq?
Today was one of those days where we came home from church and I was glad that i had thought ahead.
The boys had helped me make a really easy green mug soup, which I have since realised is also perfect to get them to eat their greens when it’s picnic time on a day out.

Here’s what we put in:
some garlic
the bits of a courgette that my julienne cutter wouldn’t catch anymore
two handfuls of frozen peas
a handful of soya or edamame beans
2 nuggets of frozen spinach or two handfuls of fresh
a five year olds handful of fresh mint
1/2 l of vegetable stock
some cumin
some lemon juice

This is how we did it:
1st Fried the garlic and courgette pieces until it started to give a bit of a scent
then threw in all the other ingredients
poured boiling water and stock powder
whizzed with food processor or hand blender
added cumin and lemon juice to test

At this stage the soup will be cold from all the frozen veg, so you could serve straight away – in a mug, because that way, if you have children, they will be so excited that their drink is so much better than plain water…in return they have a great intake of greens: double bonus!
We just put it in the fridge and when we got home our lunch was ready waiting for us: Very tasty with leftover communion bread…the sacredness that keeps on giving.
And the third alternative; pour in a flask to keep cool and take on a picnic; again, serve in cups or mugs for freedom from mess in awkward sitting positions (anyone else too old for picnics??).

Butter bean bonanza – yes, I like alliterations

So, it’s been a while. Life’s thrown a few curveballs and I’ve not caught them very well.
But because a writing friend has recently asked me if I’ve cooked anything amazing recently, I thought I must take note next time I do.
Today worked out a treat. Creativity struck. 10 minutes before we were due to leave the house for a drinks and nibbles combo with “Kids tea” at our friends’ house (the only way you get to go out at a weekend if babysitting services are hard to come by).
I had promised to bring some nibbles. I knew it would get past my normal dinner time (which would be the “kids tea time” at 6) until I’d be due my main evening meal that night and that the drinks part of the evening would make me feel even more like just stuffing crisps down my throat than does my stressed out “have to make it to bed time” state…
So, I decided I’d attempt to bring something veg based and healthy.
A dip!! One of my easy-can-dos.

Thinking I’d thrown a tin of chickpeas in the blender I thought I could just do regular hummus, but then I realised it was butter beans and so I was thrown off course. That’s when things tend to go good in my kitchen. So what I ended up chucking in turned out to be demolished entirely on the evening. This is what I recommend, therefore, one uses if attempting to make something semi-presentable out of a tin of butter beans:

Add to it:
1 table spoon coconut oil
juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon sweet chilli sauce
2 table spoons edamame/soy beans
small handful of coriander
small green chilli
salt and pepper

Blend, Then:

Use anything coconutty, such as coconut milk, coconut water or more oil to adjust the texture to your liking.

This looked fun with all the green specks. And it tasted tropically delicious while being plant based and not too calorific.
It worked well with the crispy flat breads and crudités I also managed to throw into our bag before I had to help my husband put shoes on the children.

Enjoy! And do do Friday nights with friends even if you have three or more kids.

Why I need to talk about my mum

Because she’s the most lovely person I’ve ever met, apart from perhaps my own daughter, whom I don’t know so well yet. (Boys go into a separate category for now)
Because, when I was seven, she’s taught me what acceptance means, and I will never forget that lesson. There was a boy in my class at school, whom nobody liked. Did you have someone like that in your school? And why would we? He was disruptive, loud, obnoxious, he made a mess of all our games and nice play, he didn’t get it. And he smelled. That was probably the worst thing for me, who’s always had a finely tuned smelling organ.

But when I came home to talk about how weird he was, my mum just said this: The more he feels that you all don’t like him, the more strange he’ll become. If you let him feel included, he’ll probably become a lot nicer to be around. So the next day, I invited him to our house to play and it was, of course, fine. From then onwards, this is the truth that I try to remember every time I meet someone I find difficult, including myself. We become acceptable once we’ve been accepted.

Back to my mum: Now, that I’m five times the age I was when I first learnt about accepting the unacceptable, she is still my primary teacher of unconditional love. You’d think I should know by now? Probably. But there’s something so powerful in watching yourself react to your children and then remembering or indeed continuing to experience the way your own mum is with you. In the face of tantrums, mishaps, disrespect and demands it can sometimes be such a challenge to accept my kids fully. To have a view of them that isn’t tainted with everything they cost me. And often, among mummy friends, we have a bit of a culture of commiseration, when we talk about parenting. A focus on how hard it is – which it is, truly, and which we do need to be honest about.

But it’s easy to perhaps miss one of the underlying issues, which are to do with unconditional love. Such a cliché, I know. What does it mean? Well, I think it’s about focus. Away from me. And onto who they are. What they’re becoming. What, like all of us, they’re still in the process of learning. That the tantrums aren’t there to spite me and the spillages on the new winter coat weren’t planned. That, at their core, they’re the most amazing of God’s creations that I’ve ever come across, even the boys (this is a joke). That they have treasure residing in them, that they want to love and laugh and learn and be. And as soon as I choose that grace factor it all becomes a little lighter, a bit more fun and the pain is a little less hurtful.

If it wasn’t for my mum, I don’t know who would inspire me to see this? If it wasn’t for recognising how she endured me, even at the times when my tantrums were spiteful…and how she still bears with me like only my husband does, gently correcting me where I really, really need it, it would be a much lonelier and less colourful journey, the one of learning to love. It also would be a little less humbling, I give you that. But then it’s also mysterious and exciting to be humbled by the ones we strive to honour.

Next time, more food stories!

One of those days…and black beans.

The other day I found out in the morning that I was going to host our small group for tea (translate; a simple evening meal) that night because my friends had fallen ill.

I felt this very energising mixture; fortunate for the unexpected company when my husband was going to be out for a fancy meal with his work colleagues…and I was also just a bit apprehensive that I would have to manage the children’s meal, bath and bed on my own, and somehow try to create a welcoming atmosphere. It’s called EEEk!

But energy was flowing, so that’s a good thing. And in my mind I did a supershuffle of all the potential evening meals I’d planned for that week. And got lucky!! One of them was beautiful babylovesveg Popeye’s black bean stew….

This is the easiest meal to stretch and make a little more fancy for adults. Just multiply the quantities by however much is required.
Instead of tinned black beans, you can also use the much cheaper dried ones and just keep them simmering away for at least an hour or so before using them as the recipe suggests.

All you then have to do, when the kids are in bed, is;

slow fry some chorizo, as much as you think your friends will want,
cut some spring onions,
perhaps some fresh or dried chillies
and/or some cumin seeds
and/or some chopped fresh coriander

If you also want the stew to be a bit thicker and saltier, you can throw in some fajita spice mix, which will deal with both those issues.

When the guests arrive, throw your chorizo alongside its cooking oil into the bean stew and put all of the extras in small bowls, so people can pimp their bean stew according to their own taste.

If you’re as fortunate as me, they will bring a salad and some crusty bread, some wine and dessert, and the party can begin.

I cooked the rice twice, once for the kids, once for the adults. This can be a bit of a juggling act when you’re also ‘on bed time’, but if your oven is any good, you can also keep it warm in there, and there’s always the microwave!

Why I’m almost ready for Christmas

Are you one of those people who feel that unless they’ve done everything perfectly, the Christmas season (and really, what I like to call the superior preceding Advent season) somehow shouldn’t have started yet, because you’re a bit behind and might never catch up? I’m not talking about wrapping every present in matching wrapping paper and making sure you write more Christmas cards than last year and getting caught up over which supermarket’s turkey is the most ethically sourced (although these have also been my worries).

No, I mean the perfectly honourable reflections of the fact that you are a good middle class person with a conscience…getting an advent calendar with stories and pictures to cut out, lighting a candle on each advent Sunday, reflecting well enough on the coming of the King and what that should actually mean, baking the most meaningful Christmas bakes, making sure each neighbour you’ve disliked this year gets a bag of goodies, thinking really hard about each present you buy or ask for (as subconsciously you’re a bit guilty that we even do presents when what the world really needs is for us to be ethical and not excessive), making sure we do something fun and festive at the weekends that the children will remember in years to come, but also engaging them in some form of charity event because that’s important, too…I’m out of breath just writing this…

I’m one of those people. I want to do it all well. Desperately. But a very wise friend, incidentally, the one who also does Advent inspiringly well, once taught me the value of simplicity. How it applies particularly when you come to a shift in how you do the everyday. Simplicity means it needs to feel doable. Like we’re entering into the season with a refreshed sense of excitement. Of actual joy over the one who came to save us, not the guilty, better-feel-joyful kind. This is a joy that’s mobilising. And as I think about this, my perfectionist inner wannabe domestic goddess can go pheeew and deflate. The joy of my salvation will carry me through all the excitement, pain and potential of this season, because the King has already come. My soul is so saved. More each day. And that’s why, for me, Christmas can come this year.

More toast, please.

And “I’m still hungry!”

These are the phrases I hear around 53 times per day, by two out of my three children. And the third one will start doing the same once she’s graduated from the blissful “mamama” and “dadada” – stage.

So this blog is my “pièce de résistance” in the literal sense of the term. An attempt to capture beauty and meaning in the relentlessness of the ‘every day’, which, at our life stage, often appears to go on forever, and then some more.

And what else could it be about other than food: The daily battle for survival, satisfaction and, of course, sanity. If this battle is won, for example after a creative, exquisite, but not too indulgent meal with my love, with wine, coffee and pudding, I might find a sense of peace and hope for the future. If lost, say, when middling child rejects my elaborate efforts to make him appreciate his vegetables and just shouts “Daaaw, daaaw, daaw!” meaning “Toast, toast, toast!” it leaves me despairing over how mean and unrewarding my life feels, and I have to work hard to suppress the urge to throw the plate like the toddler would.

In looking for the moments that move me (and could be worth writing about), for better or for worse, I was drenched in joy yesterday, when said middle toddle, in yet another one of his “more, more, more daaw” moments, was offered a piece by his older brother, who is keenly aware of his own struggle for more…

What moved him to share his very last piece of bread, I wondered, knowing his stingy mother probably wouldn’t come out with another tray, but tell him to “wait 20 minutes to see if he’s really still hungry.” It could only have been love or the instinct to care for the younger, less mature ones that oldest siblings appear to adopt from a very young age. After all, he’s still only 4!

But maybe, only maybe though, he was able to let go of the bread because he’d received true satisfaction from my new favourite, our pink porridge. This I try my hand on when feeling generous enough to let dad have a lie in on a Saturday morning (yes, you heard me right, it is that way round in our household!).

For colour, secret vegetable and steaming creaminess on a grey and very early morning, it certainly does the trick and takes less than 10 minutes to make, even if you don’t have a food processor. Here goes:

Ingredients for 2 hungry kids and 1 adult, or 2 generous adult portions:

  • 1 raw beetroot
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium parsnip
  • 1 tsp mixed allspice
  • 3 tbsp porridge oats
  • 2 tsp mixed seeds, such as chia, poppy or sesame
  • 1 dash of orange juice
  • Any sweetener you feel you believe in, to taste

Blitz or grate the vegetables

Put veg, oats, spices and, if using, chia seeds in a pan

Pour over some hot water and stir over a low heat until you reach your desired texture, around 5-7 minutes

Sweeten with your chosen sweetening agent

Sprinkle over remaining seeds.

If it’s too hot and the kids or you are too impatient for it to cool down, use a bit of yoghurt or coconut milk to speed up the cooling and add some colour variation. There you have it,  I think it’s good for sharing.