Food food family food: Chorizo Macaroni Cheese

There are a few evenings each week when one or both girls do activities so we need pre-prepared or super fast dinners. This can do both. You can make it the day before and heat it up in the oven when you’re ready for it or you can make it and have it on the table in 20mins. It also has the bonus effect of inducing a bit of carby sleepiness in my two as well which is handy for encouraging a bit of ‘calm down time’. The fact that the ingredients for this are all things we tend to have in as staples all the time just seals it as a ‘Winner Dinner’ as my eldest calls it.

This is one of those throw it together meals so it’s not really about exact quantities.

I put a pan of pasta on the boil. How much varies by family I think so it’s really up to you. I would probably do about 350g/400g

While that is cooking put medium sized saucepan on the hob on a low heat and slice your chorizo. I’m sure I’ve said before that we’re all meat fiends in our house so I would use a whole chorizo ring like this

Put that all in your saucepan and let it sizzle. Keep an eye it though because it can burn really quickly.

Once the chorizo is cooked and realeased lots of tasty oil add two tablespoons of plain flour and stir for a minute or two before adding a splash of milk. It will instantly thicken but don’t panic, just keep stirring and adding milk a bit at a time until you reach a consistency you like. I like mine quite thick which tends to use about 1/2-3/4 pint of milk.

At this point I take the sauce off the heat and check on the pasta which should now be cooked. Drain the pasta and leave it in the pan with a lid on. 

Turning back to your sauce grate in as much of your favourite cheddar cheese as you like. I tend to use about 250-300g of mature cheddar and throw in a large chunk of any blue cheese I’ve got hanging about. You should now have a thick cheesy chorizo sauce. Add in your pasta and combine thoroughly. 

You can serve it straight away or if you like a crunchy topping you can sprinkle with breadcrumbs and pop in the oven on 220’c for 15mins.

Slower cooker doner kebab

There are a few recipes floating around out there for this. I tried a some and then tweaked a bit to get what i felt tasted just like an authentic doner meat.

Ingredients
Lamb mince                                       500g
onion powder/granules                  1tsp
Garlic powder                                    1tsp
Dried Oregano                                   1tsp
Salt                                                        1tsp
Black Pepper                                      1tsp

Method

Throw all the ingredients except the lamb into a big bowl and give them a good mix. Then add the mince and with clean hands give it all a good mix and a squidge.

I shaped the mixture into a long oblong, and then placed it into my slow cooker which i had lined with foil (this makes for minimal washing up!).

Set the heat on the cooker to high and leave it to cook for 3-4hours. Perfect for while you’re out at the pub!!

I quite like roasted peppers with mine so i thickly sliced some red pepper wrapped them in foil and tucked them down the side of the foil in the slow cooker so that they didn’t get full of lamb fat.

When we were ready to eat we thinly sliced the meat and served it in naan breads with shredded cabbage, thinly sliced onion and a homemade yoghurt and mint sauce.

Yum!!!!

Slow cooker Lamb Hotpot

First attempt at making a Lamb Hotpot in my slow cooker. Given that I slow cook it in the oven normally I figured that it should work out quite well in the slow cooker. 

I know some people slow cook almost everything but I only like to use it where the results are as good as or better than the conventional method. For some recipes you just can’t beat the heat of an oven.

Fingers crossed this turns out well…..

Breakfast Helpers

Lazy weekend mornings with hearty family breakfasts make me a happy girl. 
My favourite breakfast is pancakes. Not The fat, fluffy, American sort but the skinny, eggy, French crepe sort. I like them soo much that when we were on holiday last summer I had one – or maybe two – for breakfast every day!

I don’t mind the classic lemon and sugar filling but my number one filling is a thin smear of mayonnaise along with sausages that have been cut in half and grilled until they have a nice crispy top. My husband and friends tell me this is odd but anyone that has tried it has been surprised by how much they like it!

Thankfully my two little beans are also pancake fans who appreciate my mayo and sausage filling so they now get involved in our monster pancake sessions.


I certainly find that cooking together hugely encourages children to try eating different things. The first time I made pancakes and served them to the girls they weren’t keen to even try them but now that they get involved in making them they can’t seem to eat enough of them.

Christmas traditions

One of our little traditions is that at some point during the year when on holiday or visiting somewhere special or new, we buy a new decoration for our Christmas tree. 

We’ve been doing this since we bought our first house together in 2003 and so as you can imagine our tree is now full of these random decorations. It doesn’t make for a ‘styled’ tree but it does mean that looking at the decorations on our tree always evokes lots of happy memories and conversations about where we got each of them. 

As our girls are growing our tree is also becoming populated with homemade decorations.

Our most recent addition to the tree is a Pinocchio that we bought when visiting Sienna. 


So, our tree might well look a bit mismatched and out of sync with the rest of our decorations but it’s like that for a very good reason.

Finding my way back to me…

Having my first baby was a bit of a shock. Labour was long and difficult and the reality of caring for a newborn after such a gruelling time certainly wasn’t quite how I’d imagined.

I thought I would spend my days baking fresh bread, cooking delicious meals and cuddling a happy cooing baby in a spotlessly clean and tidy house. It took about six weeks for me to realise that my life was no longer my own. Breastfeeding is the ultimate act of selflessness. Of course you want to do it because it’s the best thing for your baby but accepting that you can’t wear what you want, go where you like or do what you want when you want can be quite tricky to deal with. Never mind the initial pain and discomfort. Trying to bake a cake for your soon to be two yr old when your newborn wants to be constantly attached to your boob for hours can be a bit challenging. Once out the other side I realised that like all things baby related, it’s a phase that is relatively short lived but in the midst of it all when missing out on weddings, parties, meals, hot drinks etc it can feel a bit frustrating.

Of course I adored my baby and every cuddle is precious. It was all just soo different from our quiet, relaxed lifestyle before baby. No more lazy Sundays with long lie ins, cooked breakfasts (more like lunches), pouring over the weekend papers with steaming mugs of coffee and boozy sunday roasts. No more going to the toilet on my own and in peace.

By the time my little bundle was around 12 weeks old I felt like I had this motherhood lark sussed. My daughter slept well, fed well and was happy to have a cuddle with anyone accept bearded men. Fair enough. Life got easier and easier and I started to do a lot of the things I had done before: go out for dinner, hang out with friends, work out, watch tv, work.

Then when my daughter was 13 months i fell pregnant again. By seven weeks pregnant i was feeling sick and shattered but with a job that was a 3hr commute away from from home and a lively toddler to look after there was little time for relaxation. The exhaustion pretty much went on from there.

The first six months of my second child’s life is a total blur. Labour was quick and easy this time but the months that followed turned out to be the hardest time of my life. My husband was out at work from 6am-7pm and often stayed away too. My mother and sister both work and don’t drive and my in-laws live on the south coast so it was pretty much just me and the two little ones all day every day. My littlest one wasn’t a fan of sleep and so only really napped for 25mins at a time and was awake to feed multiple times throughout the night. My two yr old slept well but was up and ready for action a 7am each morning and would then be full on all day until  she went to bed a 7pm.

Second time around it has taken much longer to feel like i’m back to my old self and some days were pretty challenging as you can read more about here . It was more like two and a half years rather than three months this time. Looking after small children is stressful and tiring and if you add sleep deprivation and all the usual worries and stresses of motherhood it can really have an affect upon who you are. Instead of being, thoughtful, cheerful, and capable of reasonably intelligent conversation I know that I was irritable, forgetful, distracted and easily upset.

Its only now that I’ve come out of the other side of this fog that I can see I was there. I’ve lost a friend or two along the way. One who I thought was a really good friend. Hard times certainly show you who your friends are. I’ve changed jobs and the way I think about lots of things and people has changed – for the better I think. I’m a kinder, softer more sensitive version of my former self but ultimately I’m still the same old me just with quite alot more responsibility. I still have the same interests and sense of humour and I still like to dance, drink good wine and eat great food.

I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, i don’t have to cook a perfect home cooked meal from scratch every night. It’s not the end of the world if i haven’t changed the flowers in the hanging baskets. The hoovering can wait until tomorrow. Let the weeds and the cobwebs grow for a while. They’re not hurting anyone.

So, much like most things when children are around. The ‘new baby fog’ is another phase to get through but there is a light at the end of the sleepless tunnel. Just sometimes it takes longer than others. I’ve learned my lesson and wouldn’t have such a close age gap between children again. But it hasn’t put me off having any more…….