Planning Out Loud: Menus and Meals

Hello and welcome! In this video I move my meal planning pages from my collections insert to my Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal. I also decorate the pages using watercolours and metallic paint.

My aim is to post a video on Youtube every Wednesday, but I’d like to know what topics you’d like to see me cover. Planning? Mental Health? Wellness? Arts and Crafts? All of the above? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for watching!

Cooking Out Loud: Emergency Soup

So, today we were supposed to be visiting my mum who lives 75 miles away, but this morning we woke up to snow – the first of the year. Mr Bowers is poorly, so I was going to take the kids, and leave him at home to recuperate. This would have been my longest drive – 150 miles in one day – since starting to drive again in July. I was kind of looking forward to it, as I now feel ready to attempt longer journeys behind the wheel, but I didn’t think it was a good idea to attempt such a journey in heavy snow. All that’s bye-the-bye though – we’ve stayed home. The kids took themselves off to the park to build a snow man, so I thought I’d make soup for lunch to warm them up when they returned. This is my emergency soup recipe, as it’s made from frozen vegetables, which I keep in the freezer – obviously – for days such as this. It’s a real winter warmer. To make it, you’ll need:

  • 700g frozen butternut squash cubes
  • 150g frozen sliced mixed peppers
  • 8 frozen shallots
  • 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
  • 1L hot vegetable stock
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC (400F, 180ºC fan, GM 6)
  2. Spray a non-stick baking tray with a little oil, then spread the vegetables on it. You can give them a spray of oil too if you like.
  3. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until cooked and starting to brown.
  4. Remove from the oven and place in a non-stick cooking pot with the vegetable stock.
  5. Using a hand blender, carefully puree the mixture, making sure the stock and vegetables are thoroughly combined.
  6. Serve immediately with bread and butter, or let it cool for reheating later.

Let me know if you try it!

#amrecovering: f is for fuel

There’s a lot of gumpf on the interwebs about what foods we should and should be eating, but we all know that a balanced diet is what we need – everything in moderation and a bit of what you fancy does you good. Variation is the key to getting all the nutrients we need for heart, mind and body health. I’m trying to reduce the junk food – cake, crisps, chocolate, biscuits, ice cream etc – in my diet, and increase all the good stuff (see photo). Some days it’s easier than others, especially for a life-long comfort eater like me. But I’m getting there.

This is a mind map from a Recovery College course on nourishing wellness that I attended.

#SaturdaySoup: Vegetable (Morrisons Soup Mix)

IMG_9166Yes, it’s Saturday Soup, but on a Tuesday.

As I was trotting around Morrisons on Friday, I spotted this bag of Vegetable Soup Mix and thought I’d give it a go because … well, there would be no peeling, no chopping, and it was an absolute bargain! (I bet I’d have been hard-pushed to buy the individual constituents – potato, swede, carrot and leek – for less than 69p.) All I had to do was take it home, open the bag, “sweat” the veg in a bit of butter and oil for five minutes, add 600ml of vegetable stock, leave it to simmer for 20 minutes and then give it a whiz with the hand blender. Easy peasy.

IMG_9173It was a little bit leeky and could have done with a few herbs, but served with some buttery slices of tiger bread it was tasty enough and made about six portions.

The kids deemed it “nice” which is pretty high praise coming from them!

Any suggestions for this week’s Saturday Soup?

#SaturdaySoup: Thick and Creamy Parsnip Soup

photoNow that Autumn is well and truly underway, it’s time to dust off the bread machine and break out the hand whizzer. That’s right … It’s Soup Season!

Yesterday, I whipped up one of my favourites: Thick and Creamy Parsnip. The whole family loves this one, even the 12yo who won’t normally give parsnips the time of day. It’s quick, easy and tasty which is pretty much all I want from a soup. It’s probably quite high in fat as it contains butter and cream, but if you wanted to reduce the calories, you could use low fat alternatives. (But I’m betting it wouldn’t taste as good!)



  • 30g salted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 decent-sized parsnips, cut into small pieces
  • 1 heaped tsp garam masala
  • 750ml hot vegetable stock
  • 100ml double cream
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Melt the butter in a non-stick pan and then add the onions. Cook the onions until soft but not brown – about 5 minutes.
  • Add the parsnips, garlic and garam masala and cook for about 2 minutes.
  • Pour in the stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until the parsnips are soft.
  • Remove from the heat and puree using some kind of blender. Be careful as the soup will be HOT!
  • Stir in the double cream and season to taste.

If you give it whirl, let me know how it turns out.

#atozchallenge: E is for Eggs

EggsThings that help …

Mmm … eggs. I love eggs. I love them fried, poached, boiled and scrambled. They’re a good source of protein, and although they do contain cholesterol, the latest advice from the British Heart Foundation is that there is no limit to the number of eggs you can eat each week!

I’ve been following the BHF’s So You Want to Lose Weight for Good guide since September last year and have so far lost over 3 stone (20+kg). Eggs have always been part of my diet, but I eat them more regularly now. (Two eggs count as one portion of protein.) Losing weight has had a majorly positive impact on my health, both physical and mental. I am so much fitter and can do so much more – like walking my daughter to school without any back pain and without breaking into a sweat – and I feel as if I’m starting to get to grips with all the food/weight/body-image issues I’ve been wrestling with since I hit puberty, but I’ll come to those in another post …

Eggs contain tryptophan, one of the building blocks of protein, which plays a roll in mood. According to the British Dietetic Association, studies have shown that adding pure tryptophan to the diet of people with depression can improve their mood. You can’t buy tryptophan supplements in the UK, but you can buy eggs!

A quick google of ‘health benefits eggs depression’ takes me to Top 10 Health Benefits of Eggs which tells me that:

“Eggs, being rich in vitamin B12, can help improve your mood and keep stress at bay. They also contain other B vitamins such as vitamin B6 and folate that promote mental and emotional well-being. In addition, egg yolks are a good source of lecithin, which works as a mood stabilizer. Eggs are also believed to help treat depression due to their high levels of the amino acids methionine and cysteine.”

Sounds good to me!


An explanation of my AtoZChallenge theme can be found at Me and My Mental Health – It’s Time to Talk.

New Food: Slow-Cooked Hungarian Beef Goulash

GoulashIt’s Tuesday night, which means it’s Slow-Cooker Night. Our slow-cooker and it’s accompanying recipe book will be 16 years old on Friday … as will our marriage. I think we’ve done pretty well at looking after our wedding presents. We’ve still got the slow-cooker, the dinner service, the cutlery, the pots and pans, an electric whisk and three out of four clocks, plus we’re still using the towels and flannels we were given. Not sure what happened to the plastic fish dish though …

Anyway, even after 16 years there are still some recipes in the slow-cooker recipe book that I haven’t tried yet, so I thought tonight I would give the Hungarian Beef Goulash a whirl.

Here’s what goes in it:

  • 450g stewing steak, cubed
  • 25g seasoned flour
  • 2tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 2tbsp tomato puree
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 2tsp mixed herbs
  • 150ml beef stock
  • 200g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 150ml red wine
  • 2tsp Worcestershire sauce

And here’s what you do with the stuff what goes in it:

  1. Toss the meat in the seasoned flour.
  2. Heat the oil in the slow-cooker pan and fry the onion, carrot, pepper and celery until soft.
  3. Add meat and fry until browned.
  4. Add paprika, tomato puree, mixed herbs and seasoning and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  5. Add stock, tomatoes, red wine and Worcestershire sauce.
  6. Bring to the boil, place lid on pot and transfer to the base unit.
  7. Cook for 5 – 7 hours.

So far, only Sam and I have eaten tonight’s fare. I was so hungry, it barely touched the sides, but I definitely remember tasting the red wine. Sam’s given it 10/10 because he ‘can’t think of any way to improve it.’ He even ate all the bits of vegetable, including the pepper and celery. Must have been good.

ETA: Approving noises are emanating from the kitchen, so I’m guessing Matt and Sophie like it too.

GirlGuiding: The Lazy Brownie Mum’s Guide to Decorating Biscuits

biscuitsTonight was Take Over Night at Sophie’s Brownies. Her six’s job was to teach the rest of the pack about Canada, so Sophie came up with the idea of decorating biscuits to look like the Canadian flag. Sounds simple, but anyone who’s ever tried decorating biscuits with children knows that it’s probably one of the stickiest activities you’ll ever attempt. Dreading what might come back home with Sophie and knowing she only had a 10 minute slot, I decided to take the easy option and forgo the usual malarkey in favour of red and white royal icing, which Sophie and I pre-rolled and pre-cut at home. I sent her in with a tub of 30 rich tea biscuits, 30 circles of white icing and 30 chunks of red. She came home with the leftovers neatly sealed in a box and a big smile on her face. Sorted!

New Food: Chicken and Vegetable Traybake

Chicken TraybakeBack in September 2013, when I started the NHS’s The Weigh Ahead programme, my Weight-Loss Support Worker recommended I follow the advice given in the British Heart Foundation’s booklet So You Want to Lose Weight … For Good? It tells you how many portions of fruit and veg, carbs, protein, fat and dairy you should have a day in order to lose weight, and how much of all sorts of different foods equate to one portion. I’ll admit, that doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s worked; I’ve managed to lose just over 3 stone and have finally figured out how to eat a healthy, balanced diet – I realised that although my diet was full of nutritious foods, I was simply eating too much of them … a hangover from my days as a Slimming World Free Food devotee. I was also eating a lot of crap, and on the whole I’ve managed to reduce that too. Having said that, it’s not been as simple as following the advice in a booklet; I couldn’t have done it without the encouragement of my WLS Worker and the sessions with my Motivation and Change Therapist. The fact that I was mentally ready to change was also a massive factor.

So what’s this got to do with a Chicken and Vegetable Traybake? Well, it’s a recipe from the latest edition of the British Heart Foundation’s free magazine, Heart Matters. It’s very straightforward: cut up some red onions, new potatoes, courgettes and red and yellow peppers, season with black pepper, drizzle with oil and then roast (along with some whole garlic cloves) for 15 minutes. After that, bung in some skinless, pre-oiled and pre-herbed chicken thighs, add some halved tomatoes and then roast again for 45 minutes. Serve with a salad and crusty bread.

The kids gave it 8.5/10 which is high praise indeed! I’d give it a 9/10 myself … Although the courgettes were a bit soggy, everything else was just right. I could live off roasted vegetables, especially roasted peppers.

What impressed me most, though, was that what came out of my oven (above) looked similar to the picture on the recipe card (left).hmrecipe_chickenveg traybake copy That doesn’t always happen!

Barefoot Prayers: Bread – A Response

DoughBeing a long-ago convert to bread machines, it’s been a while since I actually kneaded any dough, but as soon as I read today’s poem, I knew that was exactly what I should do. All I had in the cupboard, though, was a packet of bread mix – no very strong bread flour, no yeast. Still, the packet had hand baking instructions on the back, so I decided to give it a go. As I mixed and kneaded and then let the dough rest, I listened over and over to today’s prayer, letting myself hear as well as feel. Many more words came to mind. Here are some of them; they very much reflect my life’s journey over the last few years:

mix. mucky. messy. sticky. stuck.
knead. vigorous. brutal. stretch. hard work. muscles ache. tender. tenderise. pummel.
wake up yeast. come together.
prepare for what’s to come.
rest. recover. relax.
raise. rise. prove. lift. fill. aerate. enlarge. change.
get ready.
bake. set in stone. perfect.
ready. digestible.
break. open. ready. offer. expose.
give. giver. be a giver.
be consumed.
share. spread.
digest. absorb. nourish.
spread. multiply. flow.
build. construct. grow.

Inspired by Bread by Stephen Cherry (Barefoot Prayers: A Meditation a Day for Lent and Easter)