Courgette Parmigiana with Insalata Caprese

Its’s not the first time I’ve raved about HelloFresh delivery boxes, (you can read all about the time I discovered them here.) As a busy, working mum of 3, they’re an absolute lifesaver as they take the stress out of deciding what to cook and having to go buy the ingredients. I’ve just restarted my deliveries after a year break as I’ve found I was cooking the same things week after week.

I’ve only been ordering 3 meals a week so that still leaves a few days, to think up healthy meal ideas. So rather than trawl through my cook books ( that super busy mum thing again) I’ve used their new  Flavour Generator to help find some recipes. I can do all this while I’m on the site choosing my meals for the next delivery so my whole weeks meals are dun and dusted in one sitting.

It’s a great tool for helping you decide what to cook and try out some new recipes, this week I was in the mood for something Italian. You can you can choose between Italian, British, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Indian on the Flavour Generator drop down menu. Once you’ve decided on that, there’s more choices on the next drop down for flavour; tangy, herby, sweet or spicy. Then its spin and het presto! My Italian, herby mood brought up this recipe for Courgette Parmigiana with Insalata Caprese, it’s  a flavour full, tomato based vegetable bake with a breadcrumb top and tomato salad on the side. The pine nuts addition give it a really nice texture and best of all, you get to use up all the courgettes which are in abundance right now and  do some sneaky veggie hiding for reluctant vegetable eating kids.

Courgette Parmigiana with Insalata Caprese

Ingredients

  • half Red Onion
  •  2 Garlic Cloves
  •  1 Courgette
  •  0.5 punnet(s) Cherry Tomatoes
  •  1 ball(s)   Mozzarella
  • Tomato Passata
  •  0.75 tsp  Dried Oregano
  • 1 bunch Basil (20g)
  • 25 grams  Pine Nuts
  • 3 tbsp    Hard Italian Cheese
  • 20 grams  Panko Breadcrumbs
  •  1 Foccacia (I subbed for ciabatta)

Courgette Parmigiana with Insalata Caprese

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees. Peel and finely chop the red onion and the garlic. Slice the courgette lengthways into ½cm strips. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half.
  2. Next cut three-quarters of your mozzarella into slices, as thin as you can (keep a quarter for your salad). Press kitchen paper or a clean tea towel onto each slice to soak up as much excess moisture as possible.
  3. Add a splash of olive oil to a pan and fry your red onion and garlic on medium-low heat for around 5 mins, or until soft. Tip: You can start step 5 at the same time to save some time.
  4. Add in the tomato passata with a pinch of salt, the oregano and a few grinds of black pepper. Bubble the mixture for 5 mins, then remove from the heat to cool down.
  5. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan on high heat. Once hot, fry your courgette strips in batches. Cook them for 1 minute on each side and then keep to the side. Do not overcrowd the pan as this will stew the courgette rather than brown it.
  6. Put enough (about a third) of your passata in an ovenproof dish to thinly cover the bottom. Top this with a layer of your courgette (you should use roughly half your courgette here as you’re going to repeat this step!). Next, layer on a couple of slices of mozzarella, followed by some torn basil and half of the pine nuts.
  7. Spread on another layer of passata, followed by your remaining courgette, a couple more slices of mozzarella and bit more basil (save some of each for your salad) and the rest of your pine nuts. Finally add one more layer of passata and top your parmigiana with the hard cheese and the breadcrumbs. Bake in your oven for 15 mins.
  8. Tear up a small handful of basil leaves and the remaining mozzarella. Toss these and your cherry tomatoes in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Serve your parmigiana with your salad and foccacia on the side.
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Roasted Vegetable and Cheddar Cannelloni #Dolmio #ThankGoodness

This is quite possibly one of my biggest and sneakiest parenting triumphs to date! My kids are relatively healthy although but there is still lots of scope for more fruit and vegetables in their diet and I think I might have just cracked it with this recipe. Not only did they wolf it down without so much of a grumble, they got all their 5 a day in one sitting and ate mushrooms which they’ve been reluctant to try for many, many years.

The golden rule to feeding fussy eaters is to chop the vegetables up into very small chunks, which also helps when filling the cannelloni, and the lashings of Dolmio Bolognese sauce helps it all under the guise of tomato sauce. With 10  tomatoes, tomato puree,  onion,  sunflower oil,  garlic, basil, a teaspoon of cornflour, a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, two teaspoons of added beet sugar for taste, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of water, the sauce alone kept my midweek meal full of healthy goodness! watch the video to see for yourself…..

Clean plates and no grumbles was the only feedback I needed from my busy teenagers who failed to notice the feel good mum smirk on my face as they carried their plates to the kitchen, washed up their plates and fled back to their rooms without ever knowing how happy those clean plates had made me.

One small step for mankind, one giant leap for a mum trying desperately to make sure her kids eat healthy!

If you’d like to have a go yourself, here’s the recipe I used, it can be prepared the night before and baked in the oven the following day.

Ingredients 

2 carrots

1 onion

I courgette

1 aubergine

1 red pepper

4 balls of frozen spinach

4 large mushrooms

1 bottle Dolmio bolognese sauce

200g cheddar cheese

100g Parmesan cheese

250g  cannelloni

Sea salt & pepper

1 tsp Smoked lazy garlic or 2 fresh garlic cloves

Method 

  • Pre heat the oven to 150’c
  • Chop the courgette, red pepper, mushrooms, onion and aubergine into small chucks, keeping the same size so they cook evenly.
  • Grate the carrots and cheddar cheese

  • Place the aubergine, courgette and red pepper on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil season with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Mix everything thing thoroughly then place in a pre heated oven for 20 minutes on a middle shelf, checking to make sure nothing is burning after 10 minutes and giving the tray a gentle shake.
  • Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion for 5 minutes then add the garlic,  mushrooms  and carrots and fry for another 5 minutes.
  • Put an pan of water on to boil ready for steaming the spinach.
  • Add the cheddar cheese and roasted vegetables to the frying pan mix, stirring everything through.
  • Steam the spinach over a pan of boiling water while you get on with filling the cannelloni.

  • Using a table knife, fill each cannelloni tube with the mixture then layer them in a greased dish.
  • Place a layer of spinach and slice grate half the Parmesan over the first layer of cannelloni and spinach.

  • When you finished filling, pour a jar of Dolmio over the top, making sure the cannelloni rolls have slight gaps so the sauce can seep through the middle.
  • Finish with the rest of the Parmesan over the top and bake in the middle of the oven 160’c for 20 minutes.

  • Serve straight away as it is, there’s so many vegetables you’ve already got your complete meal good to go.
  • If you’ve made it in advance, made in advance too, just add an extra 5 minutes cooking time.

This post is an entry for the #Dolmio #ThankGoodness Challenge, sponsored by Dolmio. www.dolmio.co.uk/thankgoodness.”

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Win A £50 Pia Jewellery Voucher & Some Mothers Day Gift Ideas

If you’ve left buying your Mothers Day gift to last-minute, I’ve put together a sprinkling of fail safe gifts which will get you out of hot water and show just how much you care. From essential oil based natural body care which is free from synthetics to beautiful (and not bad priced ) jewellery sets and my own personal choice of flower delivery service. Keep reading and there’s a little giveaway treat at the end too!

Pia Jewellery 

Affordable and stylish , this 9ct rose gold-plated sterling silver ring, earrings and pendant with  faceted rose quartz is an alternative to gold and silver costume jewellery. Each piece comes beautifully presented and packaged making it positively perfect to give as a gift!

Oleo Bodycare

I’m a huge Oleo Bodycare fan. Hand blended without using harmful chemicals or synthetics. It uses pure essential oils so you have the added benefit of the power of each oil and they smell divine! The Hand and Body treat kit is top of my list.

Oleo body care is top on my list for a Mothers Day gift

Serenata Flowers

I’m a sucker for a bunch of flowers, I love how they brighten a room breathing life and colour. Always a welcome sight in my calm, grey decor. And when I want to share some floral love with someone who lives away, I nearly always use Serenata Flowers. The text message updates for leaving the warehouse and once they’ve been delivered is really reassuring that they’re A; going to make it on time and B; they’ve reached their destination.

Oleo body care is top on my list for a Mothers Day gift

And as a little treat to you for being such a kind, caring individual and putting some thought into showing mum they’re still your number one, why not try your luck in this giveaway? Pia Jewellery are offering one lucky winner a £50 voucher to spend on their website.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to UK residents over the ager of 18 only.

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky
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A Christmas Feast at River Cottage 

So there I was hurtling down the A35 on a dark & dingy November afternoon. I’d watched the TV shows, entrigued by the fact it was all being filmed a stones throw away from me, and today was the day I set foot in that very spot and sample the culinary delights, crafted by the team at River Cottage in Axminster.

Now you’d think that being one of the closest attendees I’d be punctual and know where I was going. Wrong. As always, my navigation skills failed me miserably (a serious weakness I need to address) One of the handful of Devon based bloggers who’d be invited along for this Christmas feast limped ashsmedly into the bumpy car park, where we’d be taken by tractor pulled trailer down to River Cottage head quarters.

Bloggers had travelled from all over to be treated to a brining demonstration by chef Andy, some networking time and then the piece de resistance; the feast.


But back to that brining demo. Even a lacto, I eat fish, vegetarian like myself came away with an urge to brine some pork for Christmas Day. A technique where you soak the meat for up to 24 days in a mixture of salt, muscsvado sugar, cider & herbs (boil the mixture up & leave to cool before adding the meat in a a reactive free pot.) Leave in a cool spot, then bake. It can be kept for days after brine soaking. Perfect for Christmas Day, Boxing Day & the remaining pre new year season.


While we broke off for some time to mingle with fellow bloggers and explore the grounds. (This was a great opportunity to talk the trade & put faces to blogs.) the guys got busy in the kitchen.



Then our Christmas feast began.

Canapés to start; Welsh rare bit made with a melt in your mouth gluten free toast. And goats cheese  topped with sliced beetroot.


Starters began with a celeriac ravioli with wild mushrooms.


Mains was an intriguing rosti topped with poached egg, roasted carrot purée & sided by fried savoy cabbage (my braces completely failed me here as I struggled to chew said cabbage but from the mumors of delight I think it was a surprising hit.)  and braised beans.


Highlight of the evening however was the honeycomb creme brûlée with Apple purer and apple crisps. Oh.my.word! Never in my life have I tasted such a perfectly baked creme brûlée. This has been my signature dessert at Christmas for the last few years anc now the bar has been raised, the challenge is on to try and replicate the River Cottage recipe.


Testament to the theory behind organic, freshly prepared food, my visit to River Cottage has reminded me exactly why I switched to a clean living lifestyle this year. Nothing beats cooking from fresh and putting a little extra effort into sourcing your ingredients. This was just what I needed after being on a restricted diet while wearing braces, I’d completely fallen out of love with food as I sulked my way through my dental treatment.

Family, you have been warned! Mamas back in the kitchen & it’s going to be good!

Many thanks to the Foodies 100 team and River Cottage for organising the evening. 

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Rebalancing At The Reflexology Retreat

I’m a huge believer in alternative therapies, be it the powers of aromatherapy, massage or practicing mindfulness and positive thinking. It’s got me through many a stressful or negative time in my life and is being put to it’s full power right now as I’m navigating the rocky road of divorce. But one therapy in particular seems to make significant differences, reflexology.  More than simply a massage for your feet, anyone trained in this practice can tell so much from what’s going on with your mind and body.

reflexology retreat 4

My first experience was 3 years ago now. Stressed to the hilt with a full house renovation and struggling to conceive, I trotted off to a local lady out of desperation. 2 hours later, I floated out of her therapy room like a weight had been lifted and much more knowledgeable about things which were going on in my body which had been niggling me for months. It was amazing and 6 weeks later I found out I was expecting a baby. Coincidence? I think not.

It’s been something which I knew I should try again, given the stressful situations I’m finding myself in right now, so this morning I headed off to see if Sarah and The Reflexology Retreat near Exeter could work her magic on my achy shoulders, broken sleep and general sense of well-being.

The aim at The Retreat is to use the ancient healing art of reflexology to provide a rejuvenating and restorative holistic experience.  By analysing the reflex points on the feet you will receive a tailored treatment every time reflecting your current physical and emotional health.

Reflexology retreat 1

The Reflexology Retreat is set in the tranquil countryside on the outskirts of Exeter, the perfect position to embrace your therapy session. After a few general health question, you head over to the take your seat, reclining on fur blankets and wrapped in a heated blanket. The next hour or so I melted into a calm reflective state, thinking I could use the free time to plan my working week in my head, there was no resisting the urge to just forget everything. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to completely clear my mind.

I’d love to explain exactly what Sarah did to initiate such a feeling of calm, but other than the occasional prod and tingles which shot through my body. The rest is a blur.

The feedback from my treatment was spot on and Sarah was able to advise on additional ways to help. Having been cured of migraines though a course of reflexology herself, she is passionate and very knowledgeable about the benefits.

Just as before, I felt like a weight had been lifted. Unaware how much tension I was carrying around, I felt lighter, my breathing slower, the familiar tightness in my chest which I’d had for so long, all gone. I’d been warned I may feel more emotional which was an understatement! Despite feeling calmer and I cried most of the way home each time a meaningful song came on the radio! Not a sad cry, I can’t really explain it, other than a release. And that calm feeling remained for the rest of the day. No more tears thankfully.

In brief it develops the bodies’ self-healing powers and maintains optimum health. This helps encourages the bodies’ neutral structure to achieve balance (known as homeostasis) in all its systems. Up to 70% of disorders can be related to stress and nerve tension.  Stress is manufactured in the body and not absorbed from outside. Long term exposure to high pressure lifestyles can result in fatigue and depression.

reflexology retreat 6

For anyone looking to manage their stress or anxiety levels, or experiencing minor niggles, a complementary therapy like reflexology is really worth a try. I’m going to try to make a conscious effort to look after my mental health more from now on. Like an annual service for the mind.

Disclaimer

I received a complementary reflexology session to share my experience 

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