Thursday, 30 May 2013

Healthy kids' food on the go

We head off on holiday this week and as with any travel day, snacks are an important part of the packing when there are children involved. We're likely going to be in trains and planes during the kids' usual mealtimes and so I find myself needing to bring more food than I do normally on a trip. I'd rather avoid buying the salt-laden sandwiches on offer in airport cafes and on the plane and I also like to keep the food consumed by my children fairly healthy and balanced when we are travelling, to avoid sugar rush induced behaviour and the like.

I never pack the same food for each trip but thought I would share a list of food I have brought with us in the past, as well as what I am planning to bring with us this time to provide some healthy food on the go inspiration:
  • Sandwiches on either wholemeal bread or pitta bread. Something simple that won't leak out or get too messy like peanut or almond butter.
  • Carrot flapjacks
  • Savoury muffins
  • Slices of/individual homemade quiche/s
  • Carrot/cucumber/celery sticks
  • Boiled eggs
  • Avocado (requires sourcing a knife en route!)
  • Babybel cheeses
  • Breadsticks
  • Nuts (sometimes with raisins)
  • Super Simple Seedy Snack Bar
  • Popcorn
  • Plain oatcakes
  • Organix snacks (often their cheese crackers, oat bars and gingerbread men)
  • Bear Yo Yos
  • Fruit: apples and bananas travel well
  • Plain biscuits (usually sugar-free)
I'm sure there is more that I am forgetting but hopefully some of you might find the ideas listed above helpful if you are looking for some different options for snacks on your travels.

What do you typically take for snacks or small meals for your children when you are out and about or taking a long journey somewhere?
photo credit

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Things are growing!

I was nervous that there would not be a follow-up to my post about our attempt to grow some tomatoes this summer but so far so good. This past weekend, we moved onto stage two: transferring the tomato plants that had sprouted in our pots inside, to bigger pots outside. 
Behind the tomato plants in the photo below, you can see our pot of broad beans that we are also growing. Those seem to be thriving. Hopefully our tomatoes will do the same and will start to produce some flowers soon.
It's been fun seeing the results of seeds we have planted actually growing into something and in a relatively short space of time. However, we have many hurdles to overcome before there's a chance of tomatoes to pick later this summer. We dropped off our pots of tomato plants to our neighbours who are kindly keeping them protected and watered in their greenhouse for us while we are away on holiday. They grow quite a lot of vegetables in their garden and were bemoaning the fact that many were lost to the slugs last year.

Have you been planting fruit, vegetables or flowers in your garden? If you've grown tomatoes before, do let me know if you have any tips or tell me what you found most difficult.
Disclosure: We were sent a crate detailed in this previous post. If we blog our progress Heinz will send us a hamper full of Heinz goodies as a reward.  Get involved too and head over to the Heinz Tomato Ketchup UK Facebook page offering free tomato seeds, tomato trivia and a fun game for all the family to enjoy.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Travelling with kids - the most difficult age

Next week is the half-term holiday and we are heading away to hopefully escape the grey skies of London. As both my husband and I have family who live outside the UK, we travel and fly quite frequently, either visiting relatives or taking family holidays.

Our eldest child has flown a lot in his four years of life and we flew our first long-haul flight to see family in the States when he was four months old. He's always been a great traveller and we have certainly been thankful of the fact! There was just one trip where we had a very difficult time with him. It was another flight to the States and he was around the age of one. There was very loud crying, we were those people and it was not fun for my husband and I!

With our daughter, we didn't fly out to the States until the end of last year when she had recently turned one. Remembering our one bad experience with our generally happy travelling son, we dreaded the journey with our daughter at the same age and rightly so. Normally when you expect the worst, it can only be better. Not so in this case! She is quite different in personality to our son and there was nothing at all that would keep her happy during the ten hour flight and of course she refused to nap.

Having those experiences behind us, I can conclude that the most difficult age to travel with, is around the age of one. It is probably from around ten months to the age of two. At this stage, these are children on the move in one way or another, they don't like sitting still. They are too old to simply eat and sleep. They are too young to really do anything or be engaged in much of an activity for very long. They want action, not naps. They want to explore and not be constrained in an infant seatbelt.

After the long-haul flight with the two children, we've flown one other time, earlier this year. Thankfully it was just a two-hour flight and we managed to keep our one-year old mostly happy with dragging out lunch on the plane and doing some walks up and down the aisles.

Next week we will take a three hour flight and the time of it means our daughter will likely miss out on her usual post-lunchtime nap. It could be a long three hour flight but we will have grandparents with us too so hopefully the extra pairs of hands will make it easier. Even so, wish me luck! I am going to read over a couple of my old travel related posts: 10 toddler entertainment ideas for long journeys and Toddler travel tips.

Do you agree that around the age of one is the most difficult age for journeys, based on your own travel experiences with your children? Maybe it's more about aeroplane journeys specifically because they are more likely to fall asleep in a moving car? What do you think?
photo credit

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

In honour of National Vegetarian Week

It's National Vegetarian Week here in the UK and as a vegetarian who likes to write some food-related blog posts, I could not ignore it! I have included lots of recipes in the history of my blog, so I'm going to share a few from the archives in the hope you might like to try some out this week.

Eating alfresco: 4 fun family recipes
Sneaking in some spinach - 4 suggestions of family-friendly dishes to incorporate spinach
Recipe: mac and veg slice
A vegetable victory - recipe for cauliflower pakoras
6 sandwich alternatives

Cookbook recommendations:
These are some of my favourite cookbooks I turn to when I want to try out some new vegetarian recipes:

Online resources:
Lots of information, recipe ideas and more on the National Vegetarian Week site 
Some great vegetarian recipes from Jamie Oliver
A vegetable themed Observer Food Monthly
Tons of ideas on the BBC GoodFood site

I hope the above gives you some inspiration for enjoying some vegetarian meals with your family this week, or any week! I'd love to hear any of your favourite vegetarian recipes, cookbooks, food blogs etc. If you are not a vegetarian, do you find it difficult to create vegetarian meals for the whole family to enjoy? Do you or would you consider doing a meat-free day each week?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Practising some positive reinforcement

It's a convenient coincidence that often when I blog about a particularly challenging time I'm having with my children, it then promptly improves! I won't speculate on why that is, but most recently I wrote about struggling with a very defiant four-year old and things have been a lot better of late. Around the time I had written that post, I was reading something that suggested parents should remember to tell their children when they like the way they have behaved, to encourage that good behaviour. It makes sense but I had not really ever thought about doing it on a regular basis.

As with many things in life, we tend to take the good things for granted and focus our attention and energy on the bad or difficult things. The result is, we can sometimes let much of the positivity around us pass us by.

Whilst as parents, we are generally quick to praise and encourage our children when they are learning a new skill or trying really hard at something for the first time, once they have grasped it, we tend not to acknowledge it again. I decided I would try to compliment, thank or remark on my son's good behaviour or actions just once a day even. It could only have a good effect, I would be opening my eyes to some of the everyday things I take as a given and I'm sure my son would enjoy hearing some positive feedback from me.

Mornings had been a struggle with my son waking and moaning about still being tired and general grumpiness permeated the air! We had been trying to encourage a happier start to the day and I realised he had stopped the moaning and was being pleasant, getting himself dressed and chatting nicely to us most mornings. I thanked him for his efforts and told him what a great difference it made to everyone's day.

I told him how I appreciated him taking his cereal bowl from the table to the sink after breakfast, thanked him for not moaning about going up the hill home from nursery even though he's tired, for playing nicely with his sister, eating his dinner all up, being good about getting ready for bed.... Each time I said something like this to him, he responded with, 'thank you'! I could see it made him feel good, more valued maybe and of course, encouraged him to keep doing what he was doing in those situations.

I felt better too. I recognised that by bringing in some extra positivity to our daily lives, it made the day that bit better or maybe just made my son and I feel happier. I think that is what's called positive reinforcement! If you're not already doing a bit of embracing the good actions and behaviour in your children, I'd strongly recommend you give it a try. See how it affects your relationship, your parenting and the response and behaviour of your children. I'm not claiming it's the answer to all parenting challenges but I do think it helps create a nice bit of positivity in each and every day, which can only be a good thing.

Do you naturally do some positive reinforcement with your children or like me, is it something you had heard of but not directly applied to yourself and your children?
photo credit

Monday, 13 May 2013

This week: sneaking in some spinach

Some of my favourite vegetables are in season at the moment and our veg box delivery is a particular joy when I see the likes of asparagus and spinach inside it. Unfortunately my one year old and four year old do not share my sentiments, usually turning their noses up at any green vegetable!

My mission therefore becomes how to cook with these vegetables in a way that will encourage my children to consider eating them. As I know I am not the only parent to have difficulties with getting green veggies into my children, I thought I would share the recipes that worked last week for me, all of which incorporated spinach.

First of all, I made some spinach and cheese muffins for lunch one day. It's a recipe from the The Hummingbird Bakery Cupcakes & Muffins cookbook. I found the recipe online if you fancy trying them. These looked very heavy on the spinach when I put them into the muffin cases but after baking, the spinach of course cooks down and they turned out well. The children loved them. My four-year knew they had spinach in but happily ate them.

Another day we had tostadas and I threw some of the spinach into the bean and vegetable mixture I made to top our corn tortillas with. The topping consisted of some spring onion, yellow pepper, a big handful of spinach and some black beans and pinto beans, seasoned with salt, pepper and cumin. These were quickly devoured and there was no mention of the spinach.

Pizza is not something I made this time round but because the tostadas are a similar thing with the topping and cheese sprinkled over, I'm sure you could include some spinach on a pizza and it be eaten up. I've done it with kale in the past and my son devoured it.

Finally, I made a lasagne and used up the last of my spinach. It was a bit of a different lasagne to what I normally make. It was butternut squash and leek, with the remaining spinach (loosely based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's butternut squash and fennel lasagne). The sweetness of the squash helped the spinach go down :-). Lasagne has always been a good dish for incorporating lots of vegetables and being a meal my children enjoy.

I hope you find the above suggestions helpful if you too struggle to get your children to eat their greens!

What are some meals you make with green vegetables that your children like to eat?
photo credit

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Finding quiet amidst the chatter

We were with friends recently, who have two young children like us, and got to talking about the noise in general that little ones make. The other mother said to me that as she's not a loud person herself, she often finds it quite exhausting with her two girls being so loud and so full-on all the time.

I knew exactly what she meant. Both she and I are soft-spoken and more introvert than extrovert. Whilst we like to chat and socialise, we find constant chatter a little wearing and we need a bit of peace and quiet. I imagine even loud people need some quiet too ;-).

When I think about the moments I savour in any given day, I have to admit it is those when I am alone and surrounded by silence. Lately it's been sitting outside in the garden for a few minutes during nap time, enjoying the sunshine with only the sound of the birds singing . When my son is at nursery and my daughter is sleeping, I sit down with a cup of tea and soak up the silence, feeling annoyed if it's interrupted by a phone call or knock at the door. The quiet time for me is a way to recharge and in that respect, even five minutes (maybe even less) helps me through my day.

Don't get me wrong, I love the chatter of my little ones, the funny conversations with my four year old, his enquiring mind asking me all sorts of obscure questions and my 18-month old making any attempt at communicating! The chatter is a sound of joy, a sound of life and I wouldn't want any less of it. The incessant chatter of little children is a precious thing and I wouldn't want anyone to think I don't appreciate it.

Finding some quiet in the day is more about regaining some balance for my own personality. Like I said above, it's my way of recharging, breathing and renewing my energy levels. I guess there are always opportunities whether it's after they are in bed, whilst they are at a playdate, at school, or maybe out with their father on a weekend.

How do you find your quiet moments? Do you feel you need them or are you the kind of personality where the constant chatter is what keeps you energised?
photo credit

Friday, 3 May 2013

Recipe: mac and veg slice

As someone who loves to cook, I couldn't resist entering the #eggmainsinminutes Linky on BritMums, sponsored by British Lion eggs. So today, I am sharing a recipe with you for an egg main dish. It's a family-friendly chunky omelette, made with pasta and vegetables and can easily be adapted to fit in with your family's favourites foods.The recipe is adapted from one on the Be Food Smart meal mixer app.

 (Serves 4)
  • 100g macaroni
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • a selection of veg - I used grated carrot, diced mushrooms and tomatoes but anything goes (asparagus, peas, sweetcorn, courgette, pepper, small broccoli florets....)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 50g grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tsp mixed dried herbs
  • salt and pepper 
(See alternatives below for more inspiration on ingredients).


Cook macaroni until just tender (10-12 mins). Rinse with cold water to cool quickly and drain thoroughly.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, add your veg and cook gently for 3-4 mins.
Add the macaroni and combine well.
Beat the eggs and milk together, add the cheese, herbs and salt and pepper.
Pour egg mixture into the frying pan and cook on a low heat for 4-5 mins until the base is set. Meanwhile pre-heat the grill to medium-high.
Put the frying pan under the grill  and cook for 4-5 mins until the top is set and golden.
Serve warm or cold with a green salad or more kid-friendly, with roasted sweet potato wedges.

It would also make perfect portable picnic fodder.


You could substitute the pasta for diced/sliced cooked potato (approx 250g); you could experiment with different cheese like feta or blue cheese; you could add some kind of meat if you're a meat-eater. There are lots of possibilities for tweaking the recipe to the tastes or dietary needs of your family.

If you enjoy eating eggs, do take a look at the Egg Main Meals in Minutes site for more recipe inspiration.

What are some of your favourite egg main dishes?