by | February 20, 2013 · 11:22 am

The mornings are getting lighter, the sun’s starting to shine, and there are signs of new life in the garden.

First Crocuses of Spring - Feb 2013

Spring is definitely in the air and how glorious it feels :)

These crocuses have popped up in the cracked pavement on our driveway!

Each Spring, these crocuses pop up in the cracked pavement on our driveway!

Now it’s lighter in the mornings, I’m finding it much easier to get out of bed.  No need for the alarm clock anymore, I’m naturally waking up at 7am.  It feels so good to be waking up in daylight rather than the pitch black.

First Primroses of Spring - Feb 2013 - 500

The river and tow path are finally starting to dry out, which means I finally can stop wading through mud on my morning runs :)

First Crocuses of Spring 2 - Feb 2013 - 500

All around there are signs of new life and the birds are busy building nests.

Snowdrops - Feb 2013 - 500

Spring is a glorious time of year isn’t it?

First Narcissus of Spring - February 2013 - 500


The theme of this month’s WIAW parties,  hosted by the lovely Jenn over at Peas & Crayons, is ‘Love Your Veggies’.  As you can probably tell from my blog posts, I have a huge love of veggies.  I love eating them, and I would LOVE to grow my own.  The trouble is, everything I attempt to grow gets eaten by a plethora of creatures.  I wouldn’t mind sharing the produce with them, but they leave me with nothing!  The question is, do I attempt to grow veggies again this year? If  I do, I definitely need to find something that’s slug and snail proof. Any ideas?

Anyway, for this Wednesday’s WIAW party, I’d like to share my eats from yesterday.  All produce shop-bought but organic and, where possible, locally grown (just not in my back yard ;) )

- Warm water & lemon
- Bowl of chocolate porridge, made with quick oats, 1 tbsp cocoa powder, Alpro soya milk, and a sprinkling of walnuts, almonds, ground flaxseed, hemp seed, and gojis on top (Lil’ L had the same!*)
- 1 black coffee

* Lil’ L came home from his last school cookery class declaring that he now loves goji berries (big thank you to his wonderful cookery teachers! :D )  I’ve tried for years to encourage him to eat dried fruits but, up until now, he’s disliked all of them. It’s funny how extreme kids can be with their foods…. going from despising them one minute to loving them the next.  Anyway, I’m just really happy that he’s now eating this  amazing little nutrient-packed berry :)

For lunch, I had a big bowl of Pomegranate, Beet Root, Orange and Walnut Salad, which also included rocket, mixed salad leaves, hemp seed and a sweet mustard dressing. This salad is packed with so many lush flavours, textures and nutrients and it includes two of my current food obsessions… pomegranate and beet root.  I just can’t get enough of them at the moment!

Pomegranate, Orange, Walnut, Hemp Seed Salad 1 - 500
- Lil’ L and M both took leftover roasted vegetable pasta in their lunchboxes (M’s pasta was mixed with Sacla Char-Grilled Aubergine Pesto; Lil’ L’s with Sacla Sun-Dried Tomato Paste as the school has a nut ban).  Mixed in with the wholegrain pasta was roasted broccoli, carrot, red onion, chestnut mushrooms, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. When it had cooled down, we sprinkled on hemp seeds (for omega 3) and nutritional yeast (for a B12 boost).  I hadn’t made this dish in a long while and I’d forgotten how good a simple meal like this tastes!

Drinks & Snacks
- Nettle tea, peppermint tea, Innocent tropical juice, water
- 2 Kallo Balsamic Vinegar and Sea Salt Rice Cakes (Lil’ L and I are loving these at the moment!)
- Lil’ L and I shared some pistachios after school

After School Snacks - Pistachios

For our main meal, we had a Moroccan-inspired Butternut Squash and Apricot Tagine.  This is one of Lil L’s current favourite dinners and he always asks for seconds!

Butternut Squash & Apricot Tagine - 500

I make the tagine mild, so that it’s suitable for children, but once I’ve removed the kiddie portions, I add some harissa paste, North African spices or cayenne pepper to spice it up for the adults.

Here’s how I make it…

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Butternut Squash and Apricot Tagine

Serves 4-6

Hands on time: 15 minutes
Cooking time:
Authentic version (made in a tagine pot): 1 hr 10 minutes
Speedy option (made in a sauce pan): 40 minutes

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
300g / 10¾ oz / 2 cups butternut squash, cut into bite size pieces
100g / 3½ oz / 1 cup chestnut mushrooms, chopped
1 x 400g / 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
pinch of saffron, steeped in hot water
125 ml / 4 fl oz / ½ cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 x 400g / 14 oz can chick peas, drained or 160g / 5½ oz marinated tofu, cubed
100g / 3½ oz / 1½ packed cups fresh baby spinach, chopped (or use frozen spinach)
16 ready-to-eat dried apricots (sulphur free), chopped
1½ tbsp sweetener of choice (I use agave syrup or Sweet Freedom Fruit Sweetener)
Harissa paste, North African dried spices or cayenne pepper (for a spicy kick)

2 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
27g / 1 oz / ¼ cup flaked almonds, lightly toasted
Sprinkling of shelled hempseed (for an omega-3 boost)
Handful fresh coriander, chopped


  1. If slow cooking in a tagine pot, preheat the oven to 200C (180 fan) / 400F / Gas 6.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and sauté the onion and celery until it starts to soften. Stir in the garlic and spices. Add the butternut squash and mushrooms, reduce to a low heat, cover with a lid and sweat for 5 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan, stir well and bring to the boil.
  3. You now have 2 cooking options: 1. Leave the ingredients in the saucepan, cover with a lid, reduce the heat and gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally or 2. Transfer the ingredients to a tagine pot or casserole dish, cover with a lid and place in the oven for about 1 hour, until the squash is tender.
  4. When ready, season to taste. If you wish to add a spicy kick to the dish, remove any children’s portions first, then stir in some harissa paste, North African dried spices or cayenne pepper, to taste. Garnish with a sprinkling of seeds, almonds and coriander.
  5. This tagine is delicious served on a bed of wholegrain couscous.  For a GF option, serve on a bed of rice, quinoa or other grain.

Here’s how I prepare couscous:

240g / 8½ oz / 1 1/3 cups wholegrain couscous
400ml / 14 fl oz / 1¾ cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil or margarine

  1. Place the couscous in a heat-proof dish. Pour the stock on top and cover with a lid or plate for about 5-7 minutes. Drizzle in a little olive oil or add a knob of margarine and fluff up the grains with a fork.


- I made a batch of Raisin and Oatmeal Cookies for my Tuesday night study class and enjoyed one with a cup of peppermint & green tea during our class break.
- Lil’ L and M had a cookie and some Alpro yoghurt drizzled with Clarks Original Maple Syrup (I love this stuff and bought 6 bottles from Tesco this week as it’s currently on offer ;) )

Enjoy the rest of your week everyone xx

- What’s the weather like where you are?  Any signs of Spring yet?
- Are you planning to grow your own veggies this year?  If so, do you know of any veggies that are slug and snail proof? All suggestions will be greatly appreciated :)



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