How I had my cake and ate it, avoided the gym, and lost 4 stone!

Sounds like click bait doesn’t it? But I 100% believe it to be true. So ‘What’s your secret?’ It’s a question I hear a lot these days. Well here it is! But I can only tell you the secret by letting you in on the journey of my transformation first. The transformation that lead this once obese and unfit, sugar junkie, exercise dodger to become a fit and healthy, disciplined, food loving, good example to my family. And as with everything in my life, it starts with food…lots of food!

‘I’ll never be thin, I love food too much’ This was my favourite phrase. And I believed it. And I liked it, because it excused the fact that I had a BMI that was over 35, and was touching 17 stone. So I hid behind the fact that I work in a food shop, ran a bakery, and had always been over weight, so I was never gonna change was I?!

But then once your eyes are opened to the fact that your size puts you in danger, there’s no option left but to change is there? So this is the story of a girl that learnt discipline and control, and in the process replaced obsession with a genuine love of food.

It started with exercise. I’ve never really exercised. I’d tell myself I didn’t really need to because I worked on a my feet a lot so that’s enough. But now I was at the point of needing to lose weight for my health and the health of my family, I needed to properly exercise. The thing is it’s very hard to start the process when you are very unfit, very over weight and basically a gym-o-phobe! I tell myself that I don’t go to the gym because it’s hard to get child care. But really I was scared to death of exercising in front of strangers, with machines that I didn’t know how to work, and wearing tight fitting exercise clothes. It’s my vision of hell. So I decided I’d see what the home workout scene had to offer. I’m lucky to have quickly found an excellent company, and really the cornerstone to my success. You know I love those business’ that are personal, where you deal with real people and not automated responses. Well I found this in the world of fitness. Team body project. Run by a husband and wife team, who are, via a bank of multi level workouts and plans they have made, your very own personal trainers in your living room. They may be over the waves of the internet, but they are there in your living room, by your side, kicking your bum onwards. They are also available to answer you questions, and there is a great community that provide unlimited support and loveliness!! So it took me a little while to get into exercising everyday, but I really took well to doing it at home, and followed plans to gradually build myself up. Whereas in the beginning I relied on motivation to get me doing it, now I’ve got to a place where I don’t rely on motivation. I’ve learnt the discipline to do it everyday, because it matters to me and it’s ultimately rewarding. Daniel, our trainer, says it’s like brushing your teeth. It’s not always fun but you just gotta do it everyday because you care about the outcome, and he’s right isn’t he?! So I’ve avoided the gym, and found the thing that suits me, and fits in with my day. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, heck some days it still isn’t. But the way it makes me feel and contributes positively to every aspect of my life is worth it. They say exercise only accounts for a small percentage of your weight loss, but it’s accounted for 100% of my focus.

So the diet? I’m actually really good at dieting. I’m even better at putting it all back on again. But this is a change for life, it’s not a ‘diet’. And here are the things that have helped me…

1. It’s about maths

It’s calorie in versus calories out. That sounds miserable on the face of it, but actually it has set me free. Because once it sinks in that it’s about eating overall less calories than you burn, it’s opened up the playing field. I’d always heard about magic diets that cut out one food group or another, and I’ve tried them. And I’ve had success until I couldn’t take cutting that thing out anymore and then gorged on it. But the realisation that all these diets do is attempt to control your calories within a framework that suits your lifestyle has lead me to a place where I can control my calories myself, without the rules of that diet. And in doing that, no food is off the table. But instead my table doesn’t have ALL the food on it at once! It’s lead me to really think about what foods I enjoy, and the ‘value for money’ you get out of things. This means I have cooked more, and I’ve been more creative about what I cook. It means I’ve enjoyed the process of cooking more. It means I’ve cut things that I’ve realised aren’t that important to me. For example I love poached eggs on toast for breakfast. Just skipping the spread on my bread (which I don’t even notice with a beautifully runny egg anyway) buys me a whole strip of my favourite dark chocolate to enjoy before bed. A whole strip! And if I want to go out for a meal and have a pudding? That’s fine! Just track the calories and eat less calories another day to compensate. Or do an extra workout. And what about the fact I love cake? Just fit it in to the plan, and don’t eat the whole cake! Nothing is out of bounds. The problem before is that I had no limits. So I was probably overeating by 1000 odd calories a day. I had no perception of that fact I wasn’t burning anywhere near that amount off. But the knowledge that you just need to balance it against what you burn has really set me free to choose the foods that take me to my calorie limit as I want. And with that I have had a sigh of relief and it’s lead me to the next revelation…

2. I love healthy food

Although I’ve just been banging on about not restricting any food group, when I first changed to this new way of life I did have a spell of restriction. For a few weeks I cut out sugar altogether. And then reintroduced it under my own steam. I also started to cook more. I’ve always loved cooking anyway, but I’d got a bit in a rut. Cutting the sugar and getting fit really helped give me the clarity and enthusiasm to throw myself into food again. And it’s amazing how much I found my love for cooking again! Cooking and loving food are as essential as exercise to a healthy lifestyle, for me anyway. Because I’m never ever going to stick to something that equates food to misery. But when all day I’m thinking up things I can cook tonight, I’m in happy land. And then there is no reason to leave! I’ve learnt that I’m happier dreaming of a new type of curry I can make with loads of vegetables and maybe trying a coconut rice to go on the side, than I ever was just eating the same old thing with no thought and then sitting down with a cup of tea and demolishing a whole packet of biscuits. Variety is the spice of life after all, and the habits I had got into did not promote variety. But cooking a new thing everyday opens the door to a world of variety, balance and most importantly, sticking to it!

3. There’s no time pressure

Once I decided this was a transformation for life, then it didn’t matter how long it took. When I have been on miserable restrictive diets before, it was a race to get to the goal so I could end the misery and get back to ‘normal’. Which in turn meant the weight went back on. But this is about life long habit change and not a race to the finish line. So if it’s not a race, you can actually eat a bit more! Where I had basically starved in the past, which was unsustainable and unhealthy, but fast. I found I could keep a steady 1lb a week coming off by still eating 1800 calories a day. For me that’s 3 good meals and a decent snack. Well that’s no problem I can live like that. On a diet before I’d have been gutted with just 1lb a week. But when I feel like I’ve eaten pretty happily and comfortably and a pound comes off…well that to me is a major win.

4. There’s no place for guilt

Guilt is the killer of joy isn’t it. So get rid of it. Why feel guilty because you’ve had a piece of cake. Tell yourself ‘I’m going to have a piece of cake, and I’m going to enjoy it’. Then afterward think ‘I really enjoyed that, I’m going to eat my dinner without the roast potatoes to balance the calories’! Or ‘I’m going to switch my lattes to a cups of tea’. Or a million other ways you can swap things for the cake. Guilt has no place. This one thing has made me enjoy my food. Decide you are going to have it. Fit it into the plan. Enjoy it. The end!

5. There is no wagon

This is the best lesson I have taken from Team Body Project. You see it’s not just a home workout plan. Everything that I’ve passed on in this post as messages relating to my success, have actually originated from them. I might sound like a person that’s been brainwashed by a cult, but really I’m just over the moon that I’ve had my eyes opened. I found a company unlike any other in the fitness industry. A company that tell it like it is, that get rid of the myths and bizarre diet rules that I have blindly followed my entire adult life. And this is the best one. I said to Daniel, our trainer, that I’m good at diets until I fall off the wagon. And his reply of ‘Vicky, there is no wagon’ is like the bullet that smashed everything I thought I knew about eating and dieting, and blew it wide open. Of course there is no wagon. Eureka. In a healthy life, following a balanced diet, there is no wagon to fall off. There’s just life, and a path that you keep walking. If you have a day where you eat more than you intended, oh well! Get up the next day and get back onto that healthy path. And walk it. It’s better for you to walk anyway!

So that there is my secret. I didn’t suddenly have a wand waved and fall in love with only eating raw vegetables. And I didn’t grow to feel like the very idea of cake was now repulsive! I didn’t take a mystery shake. Or only eat carbs on a Sunday during a thunderstorm. I did learn the value of moving, and the benefits of exercise. And that could be done without ever crossing the threshold of a gym (or lining their palm with silver!). And I did learn that balance in my calorie intake was crucial. Not everything I could balance on my plate like before. I learnt that there’s no place for food guilt, and also no place for restriction. I did however have to be honest with myself and not “forget” things I’d eaten! And that my friends, is how I had my cake and ate it, avoided the gym and have lost 4 stone!

Last but definitely not least, I must pay tribute to my wonderful husband, who has not only helped me, but had hopped on the journey right by my side and had now also lost a whopping 4 stone (at least, I’m sure it’s more), well done Ben!

Check out if you are interested in health and fitness at home, as well as support and advice!

Mission: Bagel

I love breakfast. But…I’m a big time breakfast hopper. I have spells where I love a certain thing, and have it every day for a few weeks and don’t fancy anything else. And then one day I hop to something else. And then have that every day. And so the cycle repeats. The last one was dark malt sour dough toast and honey. Had that every day for about 3 weeks and now I’m onto the next one.

So…This is my absolute favourite breakfast at the moment!

Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs on a lightly toasted bagel with beetroot side salad. Just to clarify, salad for breakfast is weird. This is the ONLY instance that I find it acceptable!

So my challenge it to hand craft my own bagels. Tonight I had a little play around at my first batch. I want to get a base recipe and the techniques right so that then I can tweak it and add to it. I got all set up and then I heard the unmistakable scrapings of a chair being pulled along the floor which can only mean one thing. A small child is getting in on the act!

Well the result was something that looks like bagels, and smells like bagels. But the proof is in the pudding, isn’t it? Breakfast time tomorrow will tell me the truth as to whether I progress on my bagel journey or whether it’s over before it’s begun! I will report back! Watch this…hole?

Super Dexter & Veggie Bolognese

What does bolognese mean to you? In our house it means hearty, it means packed full of good stuff and it means a great big pan full so that we can keep coming back to it through the week! I really believe that good ingredients make cooking easy, and using the pedigree grass fed Dexter Beef mince is a perfect example of this. It just has so much flavour, that this meal cannot fail!


(This serves 4 of us with enough to put into the fridge for at least one more meal for all 4!)

500g Dexter minced beef

1 onion

3 cloves garlic

Glug rapeseed oil

8 cup mushrooms

Large jar passatta

1 Red & 1 yellow pepper

1 beef stock pot

1 Courgette

1 tin mixed beans

Small bunch fresh basil

Spaghetti (for meal 1, then jacket potato for meal 2, then rice for meal 3 😂)

Salt & Pepper

How to make it tasty:

1. Heat the oil in a large non stick pan, over a med-high heat, and then add the diced onion and fry until starting to soften. Add the minced garlic and mushrooms chopped into small pieces. Combine and cook until the mushroom has browned slightly and the onion is very soft. Add the diced peppers and continue to cook while stirring.

2. When the pepper has softened, add the minced beef. Break up with the spoon and stir until browned all over. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped courgette and stir in. Leave to cook for 1-2 minutes.

3. Put a pan of water with a pinch of salt onto boil. Add the beef stock pot to the meat and veggies, and a little water (only about 100ml), and stir to dissolve the stock pot. Add the jar of passata and the strained beans and when it’s all bubbling turn the heat down to a simmer. Leave for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spaghetti into a pan of salted boiling water, bring back to the boil and turn down to a simmer. Next add to the bolognese the roughly torn basil leaves (leaving some back to garnish with). Season again with salt and pepper and leave to simmer for a further 5 minutes. Or until the spaghetti is done.

4. I don’t really need to explain how to dish it up and demolish it do I?!


Packed full of good stuff!

Makes enough to put some in the fridge for later in the week!


How can I make my child eat?

It’s always frustrating when your children eat a very limited range of food. Especially when you run a food business! As you might have seen before I have one that gives most food a go, and one that eats a very limited range. If he could live on cheese sandwiches, biscuits and those dried fruit ‘bear’ snacks (can’t remember the name, Arthur calls them ‘Bear & Mole’) he’d be quite happy. There’s only about 4 vegetables he will actually tolerate, and that’s when he’s in the mood. He won’t touch raw vegetables because they are ‘yucky’ and the only fruits he likes that aren’t dried are bananas and apples.

Then there’s the nightmares when one of the food they will eat, suddenly ends up on the ‘refuse and act like it’s poison’ list.

I have found this really hard, as I’m sure everyone does that has children that eat this way. I run a food business, my life is cooking! My life is trying new foods. My life is trying new cooking methods. But aside from this, I consider myself knowledgeable about what is healthy and what is not. And what I want my children to be eating and what I don’t. So there is a clash of wills when you are faced with a child that will only eat for breakfast toast and peanut butter. Everyday. Until suddenly it changes, and how dare you suggest he likes toast. And then he will only eat weetabix. With the milk in cup so he can pour it on himself. He went through a spell of wanting a boiled egg every morning. Yet last night when we suggested boiled eggs today, it was like we had torn his whole world apart.

So what do I do about it? Well the thing is you don’t know if you’re making the right decisions or tackling things the right way until they are grown up and you see the outcome of your efforts, and then it’s too late to go back! But this is what I believe will work. And that’s the best I can do really isn’t it?

So here’s the things I try and do:

1) Not force it.

It’s not a battle of wills anymore if you stop fighting. And by that I don’t mean give up the fight. I just mean that forcing and pressuring is going to make a strong willed child do the opposite. Don’t get me wrong I’ve done my share of begging/bargaining/laying the law down in the past. But it has never once succeeded. Not really. Yes he might have filled his ‘one bite of carrot’ requirement to buy himself a turn on sonic the hedgehog, but it’s not going to have made him like carrots. And it’s going to associate the eating carrots as something bad that I need a reward in order to do. So forcing it is out.

2) Give him control.

I’m pretty sure most of what is considered ‘naughty’ child behaviour is actually just a frustration when coming to understand the world. And his role in it. And the control or lack of it that he has. I’ve got on really well with Arthur in the past at giving him as many choices as possible, and in him making those choices, he’s not as bothered about the bigger battles. One example is he never used to want to get out of the bath. And he used to cry and I would get frustrated with him and it wasn’t pleasant. So I took the emphasis away from getting out of the bath and introduced some choices. First I’ll say ‘do you want to get out of the bath now, or in 1 more minute?’. He says ‘one more minute’. Then in a minute I say, ‘right the minute is up, it’s time to pull the plug…do you want to pull the plug or do you want mummy to pull the plug’. It’s always him who pulls the plug, but him being in control seems to work wonders. He gets out of the bath, no tantrums. So I’m starting to transfer my success with this over to food. ‘Do you want you tea with peas or with sweet corn?’ ‘If you don’t like your dinner you can choose a banana instead?’. Little things like that to hand the control over to him.

3) Make it familiar and accessible.

I will never give up dishing him up vegetables. Even if 100 times he refuses it. One time he will give it a try. The other day he discovered he liked a green bean that was on his plate. He was playing with his plate and picked up a bean and podded it open like a pea first to thoroughly investigate what he was committing too. But he ate it, and it was ok. He hadn’t eaten a green bean since he was about 10 months old. Now that’s real progress for us. I didn’t make a big deal of it, but was beaming inside. I also try to always get them involved in cooking and food prep whenever I can. The more familiar it is, the less big of a deal it will be to pluck up the courage to try it. And when that day comes that he’s ready to try new things, he will have the skills he needs to make them shine! I really believe that if I can, as a mum, pass one skill onto them, the ability to cook is the one I’d choose!

4) Lead by Example

And this is the big one isn’t it? Eat well yourself. Because when they hit that stage where they try more diverse foods, your footsteps are the only ones they will know how to walk in. This point has caused the most soul searching and the biggest change to our family life. We weren’t good examples when Arthur was little. And how could I expect him to eat grapes as a snack when I am eating biscuits? We have now completely transformed our attitude to food as a family. I know this will pay off! Because even if it doesn’t work at changing how the boys eat, it has given Ben and I much more enthusiasm for real healthy food, positive relationships with food and I’m sure a fitter, healthier and longer life!

5) Don’t Play Them Off

Well if point 4 caused the biggest change to our life, point 5 is the most challenging to implement. It is so tempting to say to Arthur ‘look at Leo, he’s eating his orange, isn’t he doing well?’ or ‘all your friends are eating strawberries, don’t you want one?’. But I’m trying hard not to do this, because he’s not a fussy eater. He’s a child. I don’t want to turn this into a ‘thing’ where he grows up with the self fulfilling prophecy that he has a negative relationship with food, and that’s somehow bad, or makes him bad. He’s a child that isn’t yet ready to try things. And if he does try them, a palette that isn’t mature enough to like them. Thinking back, all of my favourite foods currently I didn’t like as a child (most of them I would have never heard of back then, what the devil is hummus?!). So I’m determined to not make it an issue, he is only just 4. There’s loads of things he tried and even likes now that he didn’t touch 6 months ago. Which leads me onto 6…

6) Be patient, don’t worry

It’s not easy. But being more relaxed about what they eat makes meal times more relaxed. And more relaxed= more likely to try things. And if they don’t it’s ok, they will one day. And when that day arrives they will know how to cook. Maybe I can have a night off then?

If this sounds familiar to you, please get in touch to tell me what you did to help your children get into trying different foods. And please share to other parents. Because I have never observed ‘mum wars’ but I have often found solace in the ‘Mum Army’. Those band of heroes that are in your corner, who pick you up, give you advice, tell you it’s ok, and give you the strength and confidence to push on. Sometimes those words ‘yeah me too’ mean everything!

7 Reasons Why I love a Snow Day

I’m not going to deny it, like an 8 year old child I still get overcome with excitement at the prospect of a good snow day!

Yes, it makes a lot of work. The water pipes to the animals get frozen up and we have to lug buckets of water around. The roads are unpredictable so it makes getting stock from the farm to customers more difficult. Schools and children’s activities get closed or cancelled so it throws plans into disarray. YET I LOVE IT!

Here’s why:

1. It’s a challenge

There’s a word that really grates on me this time of year due to its overuse by weather and news reporters: Treacherous! But even though it grates on me, the ill-prepared English roads can get pretty treacherous pretty quickly. Yet there’s nothing like the excitement you get from this challenge being laid down before you. Customers need this food, it’s our job to get it to them! We have 4 wheel drive, we can make it. Load up the truck! Put a shovel and a flask in the back, and set sail. The scenery is amazing, and you get to take it all in while traveling at 4mph! It might take us hours, but when we get there (and we have never failed yet), sailing past abandoned Tesco lorries with a smug smile, we feel like we have won Olympic gold in the quality food games!

2. I hate living to a routine

I’ll admit it, the mundane everyday routine is not my thing. I am dreading Arthur starting school in September and having to be tied to the school run 5 days a week! Our life is quite unusual and we make plans as we go, always doing something different and rolling with the punches. We don’t have set meal times, and before children I couldn’t image the amount of ‘routine’ I’d get used to doing. It’s taken me 4 years to get bed time back to anything near 7:30/8pm! But even though it’s not my thing, I still do all the routine, I’ve got used to it…but a snow day, well that changes everything! Everything is closed or cancelled, and I love it. Suddenly it doesn’t matter what time we eat, or when we do which jobs. We have a day that we are free to move things around and change our plans and I love it.

3. Yes you have to do more outside but at least it’s not muddy!

So the water freezes and carrying buckets of water is time consuming. But it’s beautiful outside! And walking around in the snow is a welcome break from slopping and slipping around in the mud, that we would otherwise be experiencing in the winter on the farm!

4. You get to see everything with the excitement of a child

This has to be on everyone’s ‘snow is awesome’ list. When you wake up in the morning and there’s a bright white light coming through the curtains, that you know can only mean one thing. “Arthur, Leo; open the curtains!” Only to be followed by the biggest expressions of pure and innocent joy and excitement as they discover the fluffy and undisturbed blanket of snow that has changed the outside world as they know it. And as you absorb all their excitement, you feel it too. You can’t help but not be drawn into it. So much so that when they next say “can we put our boots on and stamp in it?” Well only an ogre could say no!

5. The warm house

There is nothing that compares to a warm cosy house, with snow falling outside the window. It’s why we all dream of a white Christmas! A chance to be in the warm house, fire going, with nothing to do except enjoy each other’s company and get warm and cosy. Except it never snows at Christmas, it’s always on a day when you have a million jobs to do! Unless you can cancel them…

6. The get out of jail free card

Well if the school is shut, then I really shouldn’t have to do the 4 hours of paperwork I had planned for today should I? 😉

7. The food!

There’s is nothing quite like having time on your hands, shut in the house to cook. To make hearty food, to bake with the kids and of course, to sample all your efforts! The shop is always busy when it snows, so I know I’m not alone in this one!

now? Bring it on!

Caramelised Banana & Pecan

Do you ever have those days that you REALLY want a dessert that’s warm and gooey and sticky. A dessert that is pure comfort food. A dessert that is worth not eating dinner for. A dessert that the whole family likes. But then you realise you have no time, and very limited ingredients in the house.

Well I found one to ticks all the boxes. Well made it up as I went along actually. But it was good! Great for those days when you have some bananas that need using up too!

This fed 4 of us (but 2 were little)


3 bananas cut diagonally into 1 inch thick strips

2 tsp Coconut oil

Couple of handfuls pecan halves

Dollop of double cream, whipped

Butterscotch or toffee sauce (I used the caramel that I put on top of my brownies, but any similar sauce will do the trick)

Pinch sea salt

How to make it amazing:

Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan over a med-high heat. Once it’s hot add the banana slices. When they are sizzling and browning then carefully turn them over and give the pan a little shake. Fry until soft and gooey and brown on this side too. You may have to do this is 2 batches depending on the size of your pan. Put the banana onto serving plates and add the pecans to the pan and give them a toss around in the remaining coconut, until they are just starting to toast. Serve with the banana, a dollop of cream as then Drizzle some toffee/caramel sauce over the top. Sprinkle a little sea salt on the top. Serve immediately while warm and Yummy!

Vicky’s Apple & Caramel Tart

Did you know I love creating puddings? That might not come as a surprise to anyone that has even seen our range of ‘Vicky’s Cakes’, or indeed come over for dinner!

So last weekend I tried a new one, Apple and Caramel Tart. I find the best creations come when I make it up as I go along, so that’s what I did! I’m not a big fan of things that are too sickly sweet so if a dish has a very sweet part, I try to compliment it with a not so sweet part! The salted caramel brownies that I make have a very sweet caramel so I make the brownie rich, nutty and dark, but not very sweet at all. So I thought I’d use the caramel that I use for the brownie (minus the salt) in the apple tart, and focus on making the rest of the tart quite, well erm…tart! So I used savoury short crust pastry and a sharp apple filling, to be complimented by all that gooey and sweet caramel and buttery pecans.


For the pastry:

125g butter, softened

250g plain flour (plus a little extra for rolling out)

Drop of cold water

For the caramel:

75g caster sugar

1.5-2 tbsp water

25g butter

100ml double cream

1 tbsp golden syrup

You will also need:

2 medium-large bramley apples

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1.5 tsp cinnamon, ground

Pecan halves (as many as you like)

A large pie dish

How to make it tasty:

1. Pre heat your oven to 180oC. Begin with the pastry. In a large bowl rub the butter into the flour with your finger tips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add a drop is water and mix to combine. Keep adding a drop of water more until it sticks into a ball, but isn’t too wet and sticky. Knead briefly, until well incorporated, on a floured surface and then roll out evenly until just a little larger than the size of the pie dish. Press into the bottom, and up the sides and then trip around the top leaving it a little longer than the tin, and press edges into a nice pattern with your fingertips. Line with baking paper and fill with baking beans/rice to press the bottom down and blind bake for 10 minutes.

2. Prepare the apples while the pastry blind bakes. Peel the apples and cut into slices. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and tip over the apple slices. Give it a shake so the apple is evenly coated. Once the pastry case come out of the oven, remove the baking paper and rice/ beans and arrange the apple slices in a nice pattern inside the case. Return to the oven for approx 20-25 minutes.

3. Whilst it all bakes, make the caramel. Put the sugar and water into a large pan over a high heat. There’s a big ‘to stir or not to stir’ debate but I rightly or wrongly give it a stir. When it turns an amber colour, add the cream, butter and golden syrup and return to the heat. Stir until smooth and combined and then reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes until it’s thickened slightly.

4. When the pie comes out of the oven after the 20-25 minutes, sprinkle pecans (as many as you like) over the top, and then spoon all the caramel over the top, making sure it’s all nicely coated on top. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes to finish off.

5. Leave to cool in the tin slightly, the caramel will thicken as it cools. Ideal temperature to serve this at (for me) is just warm, but not hot. So get it out of the oven when dinner is ready so that it’s the perfect temperature for when it’s pudding time! I served it with a drizzle of cream.

Do let me know if you try this recipe and what you think!

What I’d make out of a ‘Just Add Recipe’ Box

I’m so excited that we have launched the ‘Just Add Recipe’ boxes because this is exactly how we cook at home. We rarely shop for a specific recipe and we always eat different things. We even often start off cooking with one style of meal in mind, and it’s evolved into something entirely different by dinner time.

So we get a big box of random ingredients, with no real plan…and we ‘ready, steady, cook’ it. This is great for us, because it keeps our cooking fresh and our skills tested. So with launching our ‘Just Add Recipe’ boxes, we hope some other people enjoy our ‘make it up as you go along’ style.

So my challenge here is to tell you what I would make from one of our boxes.

So here’s how my mind would work. I will start by writing down what’s included in the one that’s pictured (I wouldn’t usually do this, I’d just have a nosey around the box that’s in front of me). But here goes!

2 packs of braising steak

1 whole chicken

1 pack of fish pie mix

2 packs of sausages

1 pack of Quinoa

1 pack of brown rice

4 large potatoes

1 bag of pasta

1 tin haricot beans

1 tin 6 bean mix

1 large jar passata

I tin chopped toms

1 bottle sauce shop spicy sauce

1 tin coconut milk

1 bag kale

1 large smoked garlic bulb

2 white onions

2 red onions

1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green pepper

2 turnips

2 courgettes

4 carrots

4 flat mushrooms

2 vines cherry tomatoes

1 bunch rosemary

1 cabbage

1 smoked cheddar

2 parsnips

1 fennel

1 lemon

1 broccoli

So here’s the meals I’d make.

1. Fish pie with coconut milk served with stir fried kale

So my main priority would be to use the fish first, so it’s fresh. Fish pie it is. This would use the fish pie mix, a white onion, a couple of cloves of smoked garlic, the coconut milk, 2 of the large potatoes, the lemon and the bag of kale

2. Slow cooked beef Chilli

I much prefer using braising streak for a Chilli in stead of minced beef, and cooking it all day. This meal would use the braising steak, a red onion, a couple of cloves of smoked garlic, the haricot beans, jar of passata, a red and green pepper, a courgette and some of the brown rice.

3. Spicy beef & bean pasta bake

As the beef Chilli would leave us with leftovers, I’d use the rest to mix with pasta, top with some of the smoked cheese and bake. An improvised pasta bake!

4. Roast Chicken with Mash, cabbage and roast veg

This meal would use the chicken, the remaining potatoes, the cabbage, the carrot, parsnip, turnip and half of the rosemary.

5. Chicken Quinoa Risotto

As we would have a fair amount of leftover chicken from the roast, I’d make it into something like this. This would use the rest of the chicken, some of the Quinoa, some of the sauce shop sauce, a couple of cloves of smoked garlic, an onion, half of the cherry tomatoes, the last courgette and some more of the smoked cheddar.

6. Oven baked sausages and roasted veg with tomato pasta

This would use the sausages,fennel, chopped tomatoes, some more of the smoked garlic, a yellow pepper and the rest of the rosemary, along with some more of the pasta.

7. So this is the day I love. The day where some truly remarkable creations are born. Or the day when you have something hideous! It’s the ‘what’s left?’ day!

In this instance I have the following things left:

Some Quinoa

some rice

6 bean mix

Some sauce shop sauce

Some smoked garlic

A red onion

Flat mushrooms


Some smoked cheese

Cherry tomatoes

So what I would do in this instance is put the rice in the cupboard and use all the rest to make a smoky, spicy Quinoa, bean and veg type Chilli. I’d probably have some sausages left over from yesterday that I’d cut up and throw in too. This meal does not have a name and will either be awesome of disgusting. But I love the lottery!

So what do you think to how I’d use this box? I’d love to hear your ideas. I love this type of cooking and couldn’t wait until I got a different box with different ingredients next week, how about you? Or do your family always have set meals on set days? I’d love to hear how you cook, please do get in touch!

Ben’s Slow Cooked Sriracha Osso Bucco Chilli

Ben was delighted to join Chris Mann on BBC radio Cambridgeshire this beautiful January Monday morning!

“What recipe shall I take to show Chris?” Ben thought aloud. And we both chorused “slow cooked Chilli”! Decision made. In our house we love the richness and intense flavour you get from using stewing steak and cooking your Chilli all day. Ben has really hit a winner with this one though, by using sauce shop Sriracha sauce instead of fresh Chilli, and Osso Bucco for the beef. Osso Bucco, or beef shin on the bone, is really gaining in popularity these days. Anything on the bone adds more flavour, especially if you are cooking it low and slow, and especially if it is grass fed, free range, pedigree Dexter beef, matured for 21 days. You’re in for a treat Chris!

Serves 4


4 Osso Bucco chops

3 cloves Garlic

1 onion

1 shallot

1 sprig rosemary

Sauce shop Sriracha sauce

Sea salt


Rapeseed oil

Splash red wine

Large jar passata

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tin red haricot beans (we use Hodmedods)


1. Marinade the beef! Season the beef well. Spread about half a jar of Sriracha sauce over both sides of the beef, along with the rosemary and top with the crushed garlic. Put it all in the fridge overnight.

2. Remove the beef from the marinating pot, and sear on both sides in a pan over a medium to high heat, with rapeseed oil. When nicely browned put into a large casserole dish.

3. In the same pan fry the sliced onion and shallot with any of the marinating sauce that’s left. You may need a splash more oil. Add this to the casserole dish.

4. Add in a splash of red wine to cover the bottom of the dish.

5. Add in the passata, chopped tomatoes and the beans and put in the oven on about 100 degrees all day, or at least 6 hours.

You may need to check periodically and add a little more water if it’s getting too think! This will also work brilliantly in a slow cooker. Don’t forget to remove the bones to serve, and I would devour with brown rice, but it could also be a good accompaniment to a baked sweet potato or creamy masked potato. I’m a little miffed because my house smells lovely yet the food has disappeared off to radio cambridge! Enjoy Ben and Chris!

Family baking: Banana & Oat cookies with peanut butter and dark chocolate

I love to involve my little ones in cooking. Well it’s more of a love/hate relationship to be honest! I love the result of what they learn from helping to cook, but the process itself can be a little stressful! For this reason they are not allowed in the bakery! So I try to make sure I do a bit of fun baking in our home kitchen with them, to keep them interested with a bit of indulgent cooking that isn’t just them helping to stir the dinner!

The only problem is sugar. It’s so easy for kids to eat tonnes of sugar, and mine are no exception. So if we are baking together I don’t want it to turn into another reason for them to overload on sugar. I want them to be able to tuck into what they have made!

Our quinoa bars are always a favourite, I’ve blogged the recipe for these before. But when looking for something else, a lovely customer in our Facebook recipe exchange group suggested banana & oat cookies. They are no added sugar, or very low sugar depending on what you add to them. So what else can you do on a snowy cold January weekend than give them a go.

The base of the cookies is literally banana and oats and then you can leave them plain or add whatever you fancy. We added meridian peanut butter (made with just peanuts, nothing else!) and a sprinkling of montezuma’s organic dark chocolate chips. I did add a splash of honey too. So they are not ‘no sugar’ but natural sugar.

The results? Both children happy! Daddy was happy to get home and try one. Mummy was happy that there was minimum cleaning up afterwards. And a cookie helped get that done!

So here’s what went into them…

3 small ripe bananas

2 cups of oats (I know, we are English, but it’s so much easier to measure in cups with children)

Half a tbsp honey

1.5-2 tbsp peanut butter

Half a cup of dark chocolate

How we made them delicious…

Mash the bananas. This created MUCH fun and they were more pulverised than mashed. Add the oats and stir in. It should have a quite firm consistency now, if not sprinkle a few more oats in. Mix the peanut butter with the honey in a separate bowl. I do this to loosen the peanut butter up a little so it blends in easier. Mix the peanut butter and honey and the chocolate into the banana and oats. Roll into cookie shapes on a tray topped with baking parchment. We made them into balls, assuming they would cook and go flatter like other cookies do, but they didn’t spread out hardly at all so next time I’d make the batter into flatter disks before baking. They were more like little cakes than cookies as I didn’t flatten them! Cake-ies!

Our mixture made 14. They were quite big, as it was easier for the children to do (and my patience)! We baked them at 180 for about 12 minutes. Everyone enjoyed. I’ve been told they freeze well. I wish I could say I tested this, but you guessed it, they didn’t make it that far. But maybe next time…there will definitely be a next time!