Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

I love soup season. This soup, with it’s seasonal veg, warms my very soul. ‘It is absolutely yum’ (the Master of Mischief, age 4) and when served up with warm and buttery crusty bread it is always a hit with the kiddies. Even my husband (Mr ‘I’m not bloody eating that’ gave it a thumbs up) Enjoy!

You Will Need

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (I prefer to use 1 tbsp of garlic granules)

1 tsp ginger

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp tomato puree

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and diced

3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

600ml chicken stock (you can use vegetable stock if you want, I prefer to use chicken)

1 can coconut milk

Chilli flakes to garnish, if preferred

Method

Over a medium heat, start by cooking the onion for 1-2 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin and oregano and continue to fry for a few seconds while stirring.

Add the tomato puree, butternut squash and sweet potato chunks and fry for a further 2 minutes.

After this, add the stock and bring the whole pot to the boil.

Reduce to a medium heat and simmer until the butternut squash and sweet potato are cooked. (I usually give it 30 minutes; you may wish to leave it longer or less depending on the size of your chunks)

I also like to give it a stir halfway through.

Once the squash and sweet potato are cooked, add the coconut milk and simmer again for a few minutes.

Using a hand blender (or food processor) whizz the soup until smooth.

Serve with a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a side of warm crusty bread.

Other Ideas

I love the flavours of this soup. I serve it with a sprinkle of chilli flakes to add a dash of heat, but not too much, as I usually serve it up for the kids. If you wanted to add extra kick you could add a deseeded and chopped red chilli at the same time you add the garlic and herbs. If you’re really brave, bung a second one in there.

If you want to bulk up the soup and add some extra hidden veggies (its all getting blended so why not eh?) you could add things such as mushrooms, peppers, carrots and celery with the onions to create a veggie base for the soup.

Chocolate Bark

Chocolate Bark

This recipe is the epitome of fake baking. With very few ingredients, zero cooking time and a vast variety of flavours, this is everything a busy parent needs in order to trick their children into thinking they are baking, without doing any actual baking! An extra bonus with this delectable treat is that the end product is absolutely gorgeous. Perfect for a night-time naughty or an afternoon delight.

These quantities are for white chocolate and sprinkle bark and a mint chocolate bark. See the other ideas section at the bottom of the page for a variety of other flavours.

White Chocolate Sprinkle Bark

You will need:

4 100g bars white chocolate (I used the 30p bars from Morrisons simply because they were cheap, whether you choose to use branded or baking chocolate is a choice I will leave up to you)

Sprinkles of your choosing (for this recipe I used mermaid sprinkles)

Method

Break the chocolate into a large bowl and melt. I usually melt my chocolate in a heat proof dish over a pan of boiling water. You may choose to microwave your chocolate. If you do decide to microwave, I would recommend 30 seconds to start then stir and continue to microwave at 10 second intervals stirring in between and repeating until the chocolate is smooth.

Pour the melted chocolate onto a sheet of parchment or baking paper and spread evenly until you have a thick layer of chocolate.

Add your sprinkles

Allow to cool slightly and then leave in the fridge until set.

Once all the chocolate has set, roughly chop into shards.

Mint Chocolate Bark

You will need:

4 100g bars of milk chocolate (as before, I use the cheap stuff, you can use whichever brand or make of chocolate you prefer)

½ tsp peppermint extract

1 pack mint aero bubbles (a bar of mint aero of other variety of mint bubble chocolate will also work)

1 pack after eight minis

Method

Break the chocolate into a large bowl and melt. I usually melt my chocolate in a heat proof dish over a pan of boiling water. You may choose to microwave your chocolate. If you do decide to microwave, I would recommend 30 seconds to start then stir and continue to microwave at 10 second intervals stirring in between and repeating until the chocolate is smooth.

Once the chocolate has melted, add the peppermint extract and stir well.

Pour the melted mint chocolate onto a sheet of parchment or baking paper and spread evenly until you have a thick layer of chocolate.

Smash the aero bubbles until they are a mixture of small chunks and minty dust.

Sprinkle the smashed aero bubble chocolate over the melted chocolate, add as many after eight minis to the top as you want.

Allow to cool slightly and then leave in the fridge until set.

Once all the chocolate has set, roughly chop into shards.

Other Ideas

So. Many. Options!

You can literally top your bark with anything. The options are endless. Below are my top 5 ideas to vary your chocolate bark flavours.

  1. Salted Caramel: for this flavour I use milk chocolate and add small fudge chunks and crushed up pretzels. The salt and the sweet are a heavenly combination.
  2. White chocolate and strawberry mallow: for this I use white chocolate, chopped dried strawberries and mini marshmallows.
  3. Candy Cane: this is great for Christmas! It works well with white or milk chocolate. Add ½ tsp of peppermint to the chocolate after melting and top with crushed up candy canes. So yummy!
  4. Mini Eggs: for this I use a white chocolate and crushed up mini eggs. The pastel colours of the eggs and the white chocolate look really pretty together.
  5. Rainbow Bark: you can do this a couple of ways. Firstly, you could buy coloured chocolate, melt and swirl together to make a mix of colours and then sprinkle the top with skittles or smarties. Another way to do it if you don’t want to use coloured chocolate (it can be expensive), or if you can’t find it (where I live, you’ve more chance of finding rocking horse shit) is to use plain white chocolate and cover it with as many colourful sweets and sprinkles as you can find. You can either lay the sweets on top in rainbow colour order or you can bung them altogether and create a colourful feast for the eyes.

There are probably a million more variations, these are just my top 5. Let me know in the comments what flavours you decide to do.

Happy Faking!

Chicken and Broccoli Rice

Chicken and Broccoli Rice

This is a really easy and delicious week night dinner recipe. It takes hardly any time to make so is great for those times you want something tasty but can’t be bothered cooking. I often serve mine with a splash of sweet chilli sauce. Delicious!

You Will Need

400g cooked chicken breast (diced) I use the frozen cooked chicken strips as these are cheap to buy and can be kept in the freezer. I find that this helps me to cut down on waste by only using what I need

300g dried long-grain rice

1 chicken stock cube

200g broccoli, cut into small florets

1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 tsp garlic granules

1 tsp mixed herbs

Method

Cook the rice according to the packet instructions and drain.

In a separate pan, boil the broccoli (for 2-3 minutes) drain and set aside.

Over a medium heat, pan fry the chicken with the garlic and herbs in a large frying pan or wok (ensure chicken is cooked through). Add to this the finely chopped carrot and onion and continue to fry until softened. Once softened, add the broccoli.

Crumble the stock cube in with the chicken and vegetables and add a good splash of water. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add the cooked rice to the chicken and vegetables and stir until they are thoroughly mixed.

Serve straight away either on its own, or with sweet chilli or soy sauce.

Other Ideas

If you need a quicker mid-week dish, try using microwaveable golden vegetable rice. Simply prepare according to the packet instructions and add to the chicken and vegetables. You could even try other rice flavours.

If you want to sneak a few extra veggies into this, you could include a small tin of sweetcorn, some chopped mushrooms, or some chunks of courgette. Any extra veg you want to use can be added at the same time as the carrot and onion.

Roasted Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Soup

Roasted Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Soup

This is a soup-er dish to make. It is easy to do and is packed with hidden veggies which is great for the kids. We served ours at tea time with a big salad and homemade crusty bread. We had the leftovers for lunch the next day. This dish is definitely a household favourite!

You Will Need

4 red peppers (halved and de-seeded)

1 white onion

2 sticks celery

2 carrots

1 courgette

450ml vegetable stock

2tbsp olive oil

2 tsp garlic granules

½ pack goats cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Rub the chopped and de-seeded peppers with the olive oil and roast in the oven on a medium heat for 30 minutes (or until they are tender)

Dice the onion, celery carrot and courgette and in a large pan lightly fry all of the chopped vegetables with the garlic.

Once the veg is softening add the vegetable stock and simmer.

Remove the peppers from the oven and add to the pan, stirring well.

Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and using a hand blender, blend the soup until it is smooth.

Add the goats cheese and stir well (until the cheese is mixed through)

Return the soup to a low heat and simmer until it reaches a suitable eating temperature. Make sure not to boil the soup.

Season to taste and serve.

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to include the cheese, try adding some tomato puree to the soup for extra flavour.

If you don’t have a hand blended, simply allow to cool slightly and add to a smoothie maker or large blender to whizz into a soup. Return to the pan after and heat to a suitable temperature.

Soup is a great way to sneak extra veggies into your child’s diet without them ever knowing. Add as much or as little as you want to your soup base. If you feel you are veering into veg soup territory, increase your pepper count accordingly to balance the mix and keep your pepper flavours nice and strong.

Picnic Platter

Picnic Platter

A great sharing platter for children on sunny afternoons. I find that it is much easier to present all the food on one big board than serving up several individual plates of food (which usually means a tonne of washing up after). This is a stress free and easy to produce option for feeding the whole family on those sunny days in the garden.

You Will Need

One of the best things about sharing platters is that you can fill them with whatever you like. The platter in this image was created for three children and requires the following.

3 Turkey sandwiches on wholemeal bread (cut into triangles)

3 large rice cakes

3 cheese triangles

2 pork pies (cut into quarters)

6 cocktail sausages

1 salad pepper (cut into batons)

½ cucumber (cut into batons)

2 kiwi fruits (cut into quarters)

2 satsumas (peeled and segmented)

1 apple (chopped into slices)

3 kids tube yogurts

3 pepperoni snack sticks

Method

Make the sandwiches (removing the crusts if you prefer) and place them on the board in a line down one side.

Quarter the pies and position these next to the sandwiches, next to this add the sausages.

Chop the pepper and the cucumber half into batons and positions these on the board.

Slice the apple and kiwi and peel and segment the satsumas. Place all fruit together on the board near to the pepper and cucumber.

Place the cheese triangles next to the rice cakes on the opposite side to the sandwiches.

Finally add to the board the pepperoni sticks and tube yogurts.

Serve immediately.

Other Ideas

As I have said, the best part about these platters is that you can fill them with anything. If you have more adults than children, try substituting the cheese triangles for a selection of cheese slices, cured meats and crackers. You could even incorporate some chutneys and pickles to make it into more of a Ploughman’s platter.

If you prefer you could also add a larger selection of vegetable sticks, including celery and carrots and serve some dip alongside them.

Another easy ay to change it up is a wider selection of sandwiches. Try adding some egg and cress, tuna and sweetcorn, cucumber or even jam. This will give it more of a traditional afternoon tea feel. You could even throw on some scones and really make a show of it!

Bacon Naan

Bacon Naan

This is one of my favourite twists on the classic bacon sandwich! It was something that myself and my husband first discovered on a weekend away for our first wedding anniversary. When we re-create it at home it takes me back to that fabulous (child-free) weekend we had. It has now become my go to for a special occasion breakfast.

You Will Need

1 pack large garlic and coriander naan breads

1 pack smoked streaky bacon (or whichever cut you prefer)

2 tbsp Ketchup

½ tsp cumin

Method

Cook the bacon as per the cooking instructions until you have your desired crispiness.

Heat the naan breads as per the packet instructions.

Mix the cumin into the ketchup and place in a small serving pot.

Place the bacon onto the naan break and fold. Serve immediately with the accompanying sauce on the side.

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to use a naan bread, any kind of flatbread would work as a suitable substitute.

You also don’t have to use garlic and coriander, you can substitute the flavour for whichever is your preferred choice.

Rocky Road

Rocky Road

This is a great recipe if you’re in need of a sweet treat or a rainy day activity. It requires few ingredients and is easy enough that you can get the kids involved.

You Will Need

200g plain digestive biscuits (you can use rich tea if you prefer)

200g milk chocolate

100g mini marshmallows (you can chop normal sized marshmallows into smaller chunks if you can’t find mini marshmallows)

100g raisins (optional)

Method

Break the digestive biscuits into small chunks. To do this place the biscuits into a food bag and bash with a rolling pin (this is great for if you’re having a stressful day). You’re looking for your biscuits to be anywhere between dust and chunks that are about the size of a 2p.

Break the chocolate into small pieces in a heat proof dish and melt over a pan of boiling hot water. Stir the chocolate continuously until there are no lumps. Set aside and leave to cool slightly. If you prefer you can microwave your chocolate at 10-30 second intervals, however I prefer to use the boiling water method as I have had a few bad luck moments where my chocolate has burnt in the microwave.

Once the chocolate has cooled slightly, add all of the remaining ingredients and mix until everything is coated in the chocolate.

Pour the mixture into a lined baking tin and sprinkle with a few extra marshmallows. Allow to cool for at least 3 hours.

Once the chocolate has set, cut into squares or slices.

Other Ideas

You could mix up the flavours by adding ½ tsp peppermint essence to the melted chocolate and crushing some mint aero on the top before you allow it to set.

Another alternative is to use white chocolate instead of milk chocolate and substitute the raisins for dried raspberries or cranberries.

Superstar Eggy Bread

Superstar Eggy Bread

This makes for a great Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast. I love it mostly because it is something my dad used to make for me and that his mam made for him. It definitely takes me back to when I was a kid. An added bonus is that it is cheap and easy to make. Winner!

You Will Need

2 Large Eggs

2 Slices of bread (any flavour)

2 Tbsp Milk

1 tsp Cinnamon

Star and circle shaped biscuit cutter

Strawberries and Blueberries (as many as you want)

Icing sugar to serve

Method

Whisk the eggs, milk, and cinnamon together in a wide bowl.

Cut out two stars and two circles from the slices of bread.

Soak the stars on both sides in the egg mixture. Transfer the soaked bread from the bowl to a non-stick frying pan and fry on both sides until golden. Repeat this process again for the circles.  

Once cooked, stack a star on top of a circle and position on a plate with chopped strawberries and blueberries.

Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.

Other Ideas

To prevent waste, try using the off-cuts from the bread and make eggy bread bites by chopping them into chunks, coating them in the egg mixture and frying.

If you don’t have a star or circle cutter you can soak a whole slice of bread into the mix and chop into fingers, squares or triangles once cooked.

You can also mix it up by trying different flavours, substitute the cinnamon for nutmeg or ginger to try something new. You could also serve the eggy bread with a dollop of Nutella to make it a bit naughtier.

You can also serve this dish with a selection of fruits. Try making it more tropical by serving pineapple, mango, and kiwi. You could even sprinkle the dish with desiccated coconut instead of icing sugar for a real tropical twist!  

Spaghetti Car Banana (Carbonara)

Spaghetti Car Banana (Carbonara)

This is always a hit with my children. Obviously, to many it is known as spaghetti carbonara, however, after a hilarious mis-pronunciation from the Master of Mischief it is only known as car banana in our house. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

You will need

350g Spaghetti

100g Bacon Lardons (or pancetta if preferred or you want to splurge and be fancy)

1 tsp Garlic Granules

1 Onion (diced)

3-4 Mushrooms (diced) – Optional

For the sauce

500ml Milk

4tbsp Plain Flour

50g Butter

100g Cheddar Cheese (grated)

Method

Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions.

While the spaghetti is cooking, pan fry the bacon lardons with the onion, mushroom (if using) and garlic granules until cooked.

To make the sauce, pour the milk into a saucepan and add the butter and flour. Place over a medium heat and whisk together. Continue with a fast whisk while the butter melts and the mixture comes to a boil. As you continue to whisk the flour should start to disappear and the sauce should begin to thicken. Whisk for a further 2 minutes until you have a smooth sauce. Add the cheese to the saucepan and stir until all the cheese is melted.

Once you have finished the sauce and the spaghetti is cooked, combine all the prepared ingredients mixing the spaghetti into the sauce and adding the bacon, onion, and mushroom mix.

Stir together and serve with salad or vegetables.

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to include meat in the recipe you can substitute the bacon for extra vegetables such as courgettes or peppers.

You could also mix it up by using chicken instead of (or as well as) bacon.

Sausage and Mash Volcano (with lava beans)

Sausage and Mash Volcano (with lava beans)

A fabulous novelty twist on the classic bangers and mash. This is sure to impress even the fussiest of children. You can substitute the sausages for a vegetarian alternative to fit with any or all dietary requirements.

Sausage and Mash Volcano

You will need

1 pack sausages (whichever flavour is preferred)

500g potato (peeled and chopped)

2oz butter

1-2 tbsp milk

420g tin baked beans

Method

Peel and chop potatoes and place in a large pan of water.

Over a medium heat bring to the boil and cook potatoes until soft.

Cook the sausages as per the packet instructions.

Once the potatoes are cooked, let them cool for 3-4 minutes (or until the steam has evaporated, wet potatoes make soggy mash – nobody likes soggy mash!)

Mash the potatoes with the butter and milk and continue mashing until you reach your preferred smoothness.

Spoon a mound of potato into the centre of your plate.

Slice the sausages down the middle and begin propping them against the side of the mash potato mound, leaving space at the top for your lava.

Heat the beans and spoon into the open space at the top of the ‘volcano’

Enjoy!

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to use beans or you find you have a bean-less cupboard you could use gravy for your lava or if you want to your lava a bit fancier you could use mixed beans in tomato sauce (Aldi do a fantastic mild mixed taco beans which my littlies love!)

If your littles ones are on the fussier side and beans (baked or otherwise) or gravy is a no-go, you could just squirt some red sauce in there and you’re laughing all the way to an empty plate. 

Also, you could go really wild and add some broccoli trees to the base of your volcano or cut out some dinosaur shapes using biscuit cutters and some red, green or yellow peppers.