Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Tomato and basil quiche

Not every winter meal needs to be a heavy stew or curry. Sometimes it's still nice to have something light and tasty. This tart is simple to make and it's meat-free. Serve it with a fresh green salad for an easy lunch.

1 roll ready-made puff pastry
300g cherry tomatoes
4 large tomatoes, sliced in rounds
Olive oil
100g parmesan, grated
3 eggs
250ml double cream
Handful basil leaves, shredded, plus a few small ones left whole for scattering

1. Heat oven to 200ºC.
2. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put the tomatoes on the low shelf of the oven and roast at a high heat for 10 minutes.
3. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Add the cream and stir in the basil and season.
4. Spread the pastry over a greased round quiche dish or in a rectangular shape on a greased baking tray.
5. Sprinkle half the cheese over the base, scatter over the tomatoes, pour over the cream mixture, then layer the tomato rounds on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
6. Bake for 20-25 mins until set and golden brown. Leave to cool, then remove from the tin. Scatter over the remaining basil and serve in slices.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

4 allergy mistakes

Sick of struggling with horrible allergies that make you feel irritable and tired? Consider these four common allergy mistakes before giving in.

Mistake 1: You treat symptoms without knowing what you’re allergic to.

Solution: Get tested. Before you assume that your allergy medicine isn’t working, make an appointment with a reputable allergist. They will then be able to tell you the best method of treatment.

Mistake 2: You don’t steer clear of your allergy triggers.

Solution: It’s not always that easy, but depending on your allergy trigger, try and minimise your exposure to it.

Mistake 3: You wait too long to take allergy medicines.

Solution: Don’t wait until you start sneezing and sniffling to take medication. Medication works best at blocking symptoms, not treating them, so if you know you have seasonal allergies then plan ahead.

Mistake 4: You eat foods that might aggravate sniffles and sneezes. Some people find that certain foods such as fruit can also trigger allergy symptoms.

Solution: Talk to your doctor if you’ve ever experienced these symptoms after eating certain foods. Cooking the food can help, but your doctor will be able to advise you.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Fish pie with mashed potato

A tasty way to get even the fussiest of eaters to eat some fish.

1.5kg potatoes
150g butter
1.5kg hake or any fish of your choice
500ml full cream milk
3 bays leaves
125g frozen peas
75g plain flour
125gr grated cheese
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp bread crumbs

1. Peel the potatoes and bring to a boil in salted water. Once they are tender, drain and then mash them with 75g of the butter. Season to taste
2. Put the fish into a large pan with milk, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring the milk to a boil, then, immediately turn down and simmer the fish until it is just cooked through. Remove the fish to a plate and pour the cooking liquid into jug, straining out the bay leaves.
3. Put the frozen peas in a bowl and pour over some boiling water.
4. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
5. Melt the remaining 75g butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour to make a roux.
6. Take off the heat and whisk in the milk in which the fish was cooked. Put back onto a medium heat and keep stirring until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Take off the heat and stir in most of the cheese and the drained peas.
7. Flake the fish and line a casserole dish with it. Pour the sauce over using a spatula to help you distribute it equally. Top with the mash potato.
8. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and top with breadcrumbs.
9. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.

You can also give this fish pie a try to see which one wins over the kids.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Create a schedule for your newborn

Why? A baby has three basic needs – sleep, food and lots of love. It doesn’t sound that complicated, but when you also need to take care of yourself and your other family members, a schedule can really come in handy. Another reason is that your baby will benefit from knowing what to expect each day and this can prevent them becoming over-tired or hungry and irritable. This in turn makes a happy baby and happy mom.

When? This is debatable and you’ll need to see what works best for you and your baby. Some experts recommended starting a routine between two and four months as their habits will become more consistent from about three months. You can take this opportunity to coach them into a routine. Just remember however that no schedule supersedes the needs of your baby. Never deprive your baby of food, sleep or comfort because it’s “not the right time”. Use your gut instinct and let your baby guide you.

How? On Babycenter.com, baby schedules have been grouped into three main types: parent-led, baby-led and combination. The parent-led schedule is the strictest and you as the parent dictate when, where and how much your baby will eat, sleep and play. This is often based on their natural patterns, but is a very precise schedule.

The baby-led schedule is the least strict and pretty much lets your baby decide what is happening that day. You basically just follow your baby’s cues on when he’s hungry or sleepy.

The combination schedule combines the two methods, so you’ll have a schedule for the day and on most days you’ll follow a similar pattern. But a nap can be pushed back if baby isn’t tired or if your grocery shopping is taking longer than expected then baby will have lunch slightly later.

You really just need to decide which method works best for you and what fits with your lifestyle.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Chicken and mushroom hotpot

It has chicken, veggies and potatoes all in one delicious pot. Family-friendly, budget-friendly, winter-friendly – check!

1 tbsp oil
8 chicken thighs
250g mushrooms
2 tbsp flour
1 large onion, chopped
300ml chicken stock
Your choice of veggies, we used carrots and green beans
4 potatoes, sliced for topping

1. Brown the chicken on all sides, then transfer to a large casserole dish and sprinkle with flour.
2. Fry the onion and mushrooms for about five minutes.
3. Partially cook your veggies if needed (carrots can take a while).
4. Spoon the veggies, mushrooms and onion over the chicken and cover with the stock. Season well.
5. Layer the sliced potatoes over the top of the mixture.
6. Cover the casserole dish and cook on a low heat for one hour. Then uncover and cook for a further 15 minutes until the potato topping is golden brown.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

How to help kids who hate school

1. Get to the root of the problem. Is the issue social, psychological, physiological (Lack of sleep? Over-stimulation? Food? Hormones?).

2. Get your kid involved with extracurricular activities that interest him.

3. Involve the teacher and troubleshoot the situation together. If the problem is with a specific classmate or teacher, talk to a school administrator about your options. As a last resort, don't be afraid to change classes/teachers.

4. Set aside 15 minutes per day to allow your kid to worry, and have him write down his fears in a journal. After those 15 minutes, the worrying is over until the next day.

5. Be honest about your own experiences in school. Let your kid know you've been there, too.

6. Get a tutor or academic coach. Individual attention from someone outside the family can make all the difference, especially if the issue is academic.

7. Let your kid vent. Sometimes when you're upset, all you need is a friendly ear.

8. The easiest way to relieve stress is to laugh! It releases endorphins that make your kid (and you) feel better!

9. Use reflective listening. If your child says "My teacher hates me," reflect by saying "You feel like your teacher misunderstands you—tell me more" to validate the feeling.

10. Seek professional help. If you feel you've tried everything and your kid is still unhappy and insists that he "hates" school, don't be afraid to set up an appointment with a counselor or child psychologist.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Make the perfect pot of soup

As we've said before, soup is the ideal family meal for winter because it makes a lot and can be fairly inexpensive. But we're not all experts on home-made soup, so here are some handy tips to make sure your pot of soup is absolutely delicious!

• If you use a stock cube, they often contain salt already so don't add salt to your soup until the end.

• If the recipe calls for you to fry vegetables and garlic in a mixture of oil and butter until they are lightly coloured, don't skip this step. It provides the flavour base for the soup and will make a world of difference.

• Canned beans are fabulous to add to soup but rinse them to get rid of the liquid from the tin. If you are tempted to use the tinned liquid in the soup, remember it can overpower the flavours and make the soup look very cloudy.

• Soup can be made in advance, cooled, covered and put in the fridge or frozen. Bring back to room temperature before heating through gently (don't bring it to the boil or the bottom can stick before the top of the soup has heated fully). Stir often.

• Many soups benefit from a dollop of cream or creme fraiche at the serving stage. You can also add a sprinkling of toasted almonds or sesame seeds, a spoon of pesto, chopped herbs, grated cheese, garlic croutons or even finely chopped fried garlic or salami. Choose one that suits the soup best.

• Fresh ingredients are best, but some canned or frozen vegetables will work well, such as peas, green beans and corn.

• To reduce the fat content, make the soup the day before, chill and scrape off the fat that rises to the top. If you don't have time to chill the soup, use an unprinted paper towel to soak up oil from the surface.

• If your hot soup ends up slightly salty, add a whole, peeled potato to the soup and simmer for about 15 minutes to absorb salt. Remove the potato and serve.

• Be aware that herbs will have a more intense flavor if added at the end of the long cooking process.

• To make meat or some vegetable stocks, roast the vegetables and or bones in some olive oil in an open pan in the oven, and then add all of them and the roasting pan bits to the broth along with some fresh herbs and spices. Simmer, then stain out the chunks before using the broth to make the rest of the soup.

• Fresh chopped parsley added in the last few minutes of cooking adds a wonderful fresh flavor to soups and stews.

• Precook your pasta before adding it to the soup. It doesn't bring all the starch with it and can be added last so it doesn't get overcooked. You can even use leftover pasta that you have stored in the fridge.

• Add the vegetables to your soup in the order of the time it takes to cook them. Carrots, onions and potatoes first, zucchini, fresh corn, frozen peas, etc. during the last 10 minutes.

• Don't forget a dash of garlic, this is the "vanilla" of soup making.

• A pinch of red pepper flakes makes a wonderful addition to most soups.

• To make a good base for your soup, you can use any of the following: canned soups, such as tomato or mushroom or cream of chicken canned tomatoes or tomato juice, canned chicken broth, homemade stocks, commercial soup bases, Oxo type cubes or powders, the addition of some bacon or seafood broth.

• Did you burn your soup by mistake? You can fix it. All you need to do to camouflage the burnt taste is to pour the liquid gently and carefully into a clean pan and flavour it with curry powder, mustard, chutney, or your favourite flavour.
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