Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Future is Bright - Chicken with Lemon and Thyme #BrightFutures

Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to forget about the things that really matter, in my case, spending enough quality time with my children, as I know that by teaching them and investing in them, you create bright futures for all that come into contact with them, either directly or indirectly. We talk about waste; we talk about caring for the environment; we talk about helping those less fortunate than us.
That is why I am enthusiastic about the idea of promoting a #BrightFuture, Unilever’s drive to promote sustainability, ethical practice and their dedication to improving people’s lives across the world. As this is a food blog, I want to talk about the ways in which you can create brighter futures for others by thinking seriously about how we buy, treat and consume food.

Unilever’s involvement with Rainforest Alliance certified products is one way in which you can do something pretty great by doing very little. A PG cuppa, for example, and a sit down with those who you love is an immediate hit of kindness and an example of caring for those around you, whilst supporting those in the tea plantations around the world who wish to farm sustainably. Making a simple choice of putting a Rainforest Alliance banana into your child’s lunchbox means that you are thinking about the health and wellbeing of your children as well as helping those on banana plantations have a better life. Crumbling a Knorr stock cube to make a chicken stock is supporting the idea of farming sustainability because of their desire to improving agricultural practices in the production of their goods.
So what do I do? What can we do?
I buy in season. Buying strawberries in winter is crazy because they take like wet cotton wool and have been flown half way around the world. The taste of the first strawberry from the garden in late spring/early summer, when it has been gently warmed by the sun is the stuff that makes us foodies swoon with delight… and most kids too.
Buy what I need.
I can’t get to the supermarket in the week as I am usually hiding behind a veritable ‘Great Wall of China’ of exercise books. So, I do it all online, but only after planning what I intend to cook for the week and buying just what I need. I used to throw out loads and feel guilty about the (wo)manpower that had been wasted to make it, the energy needed, the fact that people are starving in many parts of the world and I am filling a bin full of food that, with more forethought, could have produced a tasty meal.
Leftovers are pretty fabulous.
The joy of making that oversize cottage pie/lasagne/chilli is that you get to put what’s leftover into a plastic container and take it to work the next day. Bung it in the microwave, wait for the ping and hey presto, you’ve avoided wasting petrol and additional costs by not going to the pie shop (if you’re me, that is…)
Sustainability and Ethical Practice
The selecting of products which support growers and producers is something that can be easily accomplished. You’re probably supporting many of these great causes already by buying products that support producers worldwide and happily, many of these products are not necessarily more expensive than those that are not as ethically orientated. Win win. However, it’s worth considering those products that might be dearer, especially something like chicken, which tastes so much better when there has been ethical treatment of the chook before it reaches the bright lights of the fridge section.
Talking of chicken, and this is where there has to be a recipe, for this is a food blog, I love getting all of us sat down round the table sometime of a weekend and having a really good meal. Brighter futures start at home; those moments where I can spend quality time with Lola and Finn, chatting, laughing, teaching, caring… Cooking is one of the ways that I show my love and in my own way I am creating a safe, happy environment which I hope that will encourage my children to pass on as they grow.

Easter Chicken with Thyme and Garlic, adapted from ‘Eat Greek for a Week’ by Tonia Buxton
1.5kg free range/organic/corn-fed chicken
2 lemons (unavoidable air miles, due to a lack of Mediterranean climate…)
1 bay leaf
3tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp thyme leaves
Approximately 40 cloves of garlic (unpeeled, thankfully)
2 large onions (or you could use 10 peeled shallots)
150ml white wine
250ml chicken stock (I used a Knorr stock cube – see my preamble)
100ml Greek yoghurt (many small producers make their own versions of ‘Greek’ yoghurt)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180c Put a lemon and a bay leaf into the cavity of the chicken. Season the chicken all over, including the inside. Brush the oil over the chicken skin and season it with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one tbsp. of the thyme leaves over the chicken.
Place the cloves of garlic and the onions in the bottom of a large ovenproof casserole and put the chicken on top.
Cut the remaining lemon into quarters and tuck them in under the bird.

Pour over the wine and the chicken stock, then cover with a tight fitting lid. Put the casserole onto a moderate heat until it reaches a simmer, then, place in the oven for about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours. Ensure the chicken is cooked through by piercing the thickest part of the leg with a skewer or knife to see if the juices run clear.

Carefully remove the chicken, onions and garlic to a warmed dish, leaving the ‘sauce’ in the bottom of the casserole. Cover with foil. Skim the sauce for any fat that has risen to the surface then add the remaining thyme and the yoghurt to make a ‘creamy’ sauce. Bring to the boil for a couple of minutes, season to taste and then pour the sauce into a warmed jug.

Serve the chicken with the sauce and whatever suitable accompaniments you fancy.

 This post is an entry for BritMums #brightFuture Challenge, sponsored by Unilever and linking to

Monday, 10 October 2016

It's all in the balance - Lunchbox ideas with #FloraLunchbox

Who would have thought that packing a lunchbox could be such a challenging thing? In previous blogposts I have already alluded to a certain lack of thought in what you gave your child to take to school for lunch, back in the days when summers were hot, winters were cold and I carried my packed lunch in a bag the size of hand luggage, but back then, the received wisdom was that trans fats were harmless and that food should be bright and convenient – to heck with the E numbers and other additives, that inadvertently sent your child on a rollercoaster of craziness during the afternoon’s lessons. Thankfully, parents are now beginning to think about the variety and suitability of lunches, and it’s great that the people at Flora are giving people alternative ways of filling lunchboxes with delicious food which facilitates good health and stamina to take on the rigours of fronted adverbials, 'Goodnight Mr Tom' and dodgeball.

Lola and Finn are picky discerning eaters… but it is pleasing to see empty lunchboxes when they come home from school most nights, knowing that I lovingly filled them that very morning with a balance of wholesome food and the odd treat. It was interesting to read the great suggestions that Flora made for recipes that could easily be put together to make a luscious lunchbox which can be found here and in particular, their really useful lunch planner. It got me thinking about the little quirks that go into my children’s lunchbox, many of the ingredients of which are present in Flora's suggestions. Phew, maybe I am supermum after all.  Here we go – from the weird to the wonderful:
The ‘Tuna Crunch Barm’

Not really earth shattering, but Lola’s sandwich of choice. It used to be a mixture of mayonnaise, tuna in brine and tinned sweetcorn, but over the years it has evolved into really quite a treat! Don’t be surprised to find a sandwich filling that with the tuna contains diced red onion, diced peppers, spring onions maybe, sweetcorn definitely, and occasionally, the mayonnaise is switched for a salad dressing, just to make the whole thing taste ‘zing’.

‘The Enthusiasm Frittata’
So called because everything I have got left (in the fridge) goes into it… *tumbleweed*
Finn loves eggs – From that first 'proper food' meal of loosely scrambled egg, circa 6 months old, to today’s vociferous dunking of soldiers on a Sunday morning, Finn knows his eggs, and this one appeals to his lunchtime tastebuds. This week’s offering was made with six beaten eggs, some leftover potato, some leftover roast gammon and spring onions. You fry off the frittata filling with a bit of oil, butter or Flora and then add the eggs, which have been seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. Stir the filling round so that all the ingredients become equally dispersed and then leave the mixture to cook and set. Once the bottom of the pan has become quite set, put the pan under a pre-heated grill and allow the top to set, puff up and become gloriously brown. Allow to cool, cut into chunky wedges and put into the lunchbox.

The Carrot, Coriander, Lemon and Hummus Combo
Proof, if it were needed, that you can put anything in a buttie. I live in an area of the country where it is de rigeur to put a pie inside a buttered barm, (this should be on your foodie bucket list…) so this combo doesn’t seem that weird to me. If you use something like a wrap then this becomes a delicious Vegan lunchbox main, especially if you use Flora that is dairy free. To make this ‘interesting' sandwich, you need some hummus, some coriander, a squeeze of lemon and some grated carrot. Grate the carrot and mix it with the hummus. Then mix in some chopped coriander (I am a bit of a coriander fiend so I have loads in, but I tone it down for Lola, who likes this combo, because I know coriander can sometimes taste a bit soapy) and a squeeze of lemon. Mix and taste. You might need a touch of salt; you might need a bit more lemon. Once you’re happy with the taste and the consistency, load it onto bread/into a wrap.

Flapjacks. The treat to make the afternoons seem not so bad.
The recipe that I use for Lola and Finn’s favourite flapjacks is here. Other recipes are available. Lola and Finn are fans of the apple flapjack in particular and I have been experimenting with substituting some of the oats with some millet, which gives a nice crunchy texture. However,  I do believe that anything coated with butter/golden syrup/brown sugar is going to taste mighty fine and a little bit of flapjack will leave your bubs sated and with enough energy to take the world on.

Maybe, with a little bit of help, it is possible to improve on the current percentage (a mere 1.6%!) of children who eat a packed lunch that is nutritionally comparable with the guidelines set out for school dinners. It’s vital for the long term health of our children that little changes are made to produce, maybe over time, a lunch that strikes a balance between health, wellbeing and …the odd flapjack!

This post is an entry for the #FloraLunchbox Linky Challenge, sponsored by Flora. Check out their lunch planner and recipe ideas here < >


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