Lazy Sausage & Bean Casserole

Mummy guilt is a bit crap isn’t it?! Sometimes I wonder why we don’t give ourselves a break, I really do. I am constantly feeling guilty about one thing or another….not listening to music practice properly, getting the big bears to look after the littlest bear too much, letting them have too much screen time, not making the beds everyday, not walking the dog for long enough, not phoning the grandparents enough, not doing my own ironing (I send it out! shhhhh), not replying to emails or texts and then forgetting about them, saying I’ll go to something and then being too knackered to actually go, missing friends birthdays, not going to the gym enough to validate my ridiculously expensive membership fee, being late for school pickup, being late for school drop off, being late for most things…..arghhhhh the list could go on and on!!!

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But then sometimes I think to myself, sod it…I’m doing the best that I can, my kids are happy and healthy and loving school, my husband gets a home cooked dinner on the table most evenings, the house is kept relatively clean and tidy and organised and sometimes (sometimes) there’s nothing on my to-do-list. That’s ok isn’t it?

I get so fed up with the guilt that occasionally I go totally against the rule book and I don’t take the kids to the playground/theme park/cinema, spend hours building lego/playdough/jigsaws, arrange lovely playdates/parties/dinners and instead, I allow us, as a family, to spend the whole day doing nothing. Nada. Nill. Not a thing. And usually we do it….in our pyjamas (collective intake of shocked breath) – so what?!

I’m not ashamed, in fact I’m rather proud of our occasional days of nothing, no pressure, no clock watching, no visitors, no plans, just all of us hanging out together watching rubbish tv and getting a takeaway (do I hear another collective intake of shocked breath?!). Did you imagine because I love to cook that we never get a take away? Nonsense….we love a take away! And we’re lucky enough to have some great gdfree places nearby that very kindly agree to deliver their delicious gdfree food right to our very lazy doorstep! We have a Chinese that lists everything on its menu with allergens and will make things specially for you if you request it, we have an Indian which offers nearly 90% of it’s menu as gdfree and we even have an award winning fish and chippie that offer gluten free fish and chips mon-thurs.

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So…to help alleviate those guilty moments I have come up with a super store-cupboard-ingredient casserole that really hits the spot in those moments of can’t-be-bothered-to-cookness. It contains 1 pack of sausages, 5 tins from the cupboard and a pint of seasoned stock. The only thing you have to chop is an onion. ok maybe two onions, but that’s it I promise.

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Family Frittata with Courgette & Chorizo

I don’t know about you but I’m always seriously knackered and can’t be bothered to cook and wish I had a fridge full of home made delicious goodies to feed me and hubs once we’ve got the three little bears to bed of an evening. I don’t mind cooking for them as they’ve had a lovely hot meal at school so all they need is a baked potato or some pasta or a wrap….something low effort and quick to make.

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But by the time I’ve supervised homework, listened to music practice, put a load of washing on, stacked the dishwasher, read through school paperwork for tomorrow, bathed the littlest bear, made sure the big two have showered, folded clothes up for the morning, checked their reading books and tucked the time-consuming little poppets into bed – the LAST thing I really want to do is cook for my poor husband!

So, having inhaled a glass of wine, the solution occurs to me and when and if I’m organised enough and/or have the time/inclination/groceries/inspiration to prepare something in advance then this recipe is a goodie. And actually the best thing about this dish is that it’s so enormous you can eat it for weeks! Mission accomplished! Healthy and delicious it’s great with a salad or on it’s own, it can be eaten hot or cold and if you’ve got adventurous kids they may well enjoy it too.

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A bowl of Portuguese ‘Caldo Verde’

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Lago de Serra

As a mother of three little bears I don’t have much time to myself. In the light of that this past weekend was a little spot of heaven, sunshine and peaceful contemplation in my otherwise depressingly busy, chaotic and stressful usual life. For the first time ever I went on a yoga retreat….to Portugal no less! And it was 30 degrees every day and it was quiet and it was beautiful.

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View all the way the coast

With only four other lovely ladies, we did yoga sessions first thing in the morning as the sun came up and last thing at night watching the sun go down, we ate healthy delicious food and we enjoyed each others company. Our teacher Anna was patient and encouraging with all of us and more than anything she was an inspiration. As a mother of three children herself she is a real woman practising a graceful and strong form of vinyasa flow yoga. Watching her practise her own much more advanced sequences than any of us students could cope with, was seriously impressive, I only hope I can develop half the strength that she has if I continue with my own yoga practice as seriously.

What I love about yoga is the peace and inner strength that you learn to develop through each and every session and I love the fact that I can see myself progressing every day. I managed to sit in a full Lotus pose for the first time since I was probably 8 years old and I held a Bird of Paradise pose momentarily before falling rather inelegantly to the ground! But I achieved something I’ve never achieved before and my body got stronger and more confident as I did it.

Now I’m back to reality with a bump into a busy Tuesday morning starting with a stressful hour long school run and a failed attempt to drive through surrey to a class that I never made it to because the traffic was so bad. Having given up and come home I decided to get back into the kitchen to de-stress and to try to recreate some of the magic I had experience in Portugal.

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Caldo Verde

I realised whilst I was away that I don’t know anything about Portuguese food so I spent some time doing some foodie research with my tummy rumbling trying to decide what would be a good way to honour my yoga weekend. And this is what I came up with: a simple, rich and flavoursome Caldo Verde (Portuguese for “Green Broth”) full of nutritious kale and spicy chorizo. Naturally gluten and dairy free it’s made with a base of potatoes and onions and you can choose to make it as spicy or mild as you fancy.

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Chicken & Courgette Puff Pastry Pie

Are you sick of my courgette recipes yet?! It’s not my fault….the bloomin’ courgette plants just keep growing bloomin’ courgettes don’t they! It seems like I’m cutting one a day at the moment! I’m having to be seriously imaginative with my recipe creating I can tell you!

img_6700Today’s treat for those green fingered courgette growers amongst you is a delicious, filling, family-friendly chicken pie. Easy to make and a great alternative for a Sunday roast or a friday night family tea. My kids have all started at new schools this term and I think because of all their adrenalin and new timetables and clubs and experiences that are going on for them, they’re coming home absolutely knackered and starving hungry. I’ve been making something in the afternoon before I go get them from school just so that I can get it on the table as quickly as possible once we’re all back.

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Homemade Chicken & Courgette Pie for dinner

And the other thing I keep realising is that my kids appetites are getting bigger and bigger….well, actually, I think it’s just my kids that are getting bigger but the two go hand in hand I guess! The littlest bear is at that annoying stage where he just grazes all day long but he does usually manage to sit down and eat something decent at tea time. And to be honest I’d much rather eat at that time too instead of waiting till 8 o’clock or later till the hubs gets home. If I eat earlier I just don’t get that horrid bloated-full up-exhausted feeling and I think I digest my food much better.

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Courgette & Lemon Loaf plus bonus Muffins!

I picked another enormous summer squash off the plants this morning and having overdone our squash eating in the last couple of weeks, including using it in pasta, in curry, in bolognese and even in salad! I thought maybe some baking was in order. These summer squashes are basically just weird shaped courgettes so that’s exactly how I’ve been using them. They are a mainly water vegetable that doesn’t need much cooking before it turns to mush. They have a simple sweet flavour and carry other flavours really well. I like to combine them with stronger flavours like chorizo, bacon, curry spices or salty cheese like goats cheese or hallumi – it works really well.

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Anyway, back to baking. Today I have created a delicious alternative to carrot cake. It’s gluten free, dairy free and even sugar free but trust me, it’s sweet, soft and good for you! The courgette has been grated into fine strands and disappears into the batter so you can’t see it or taste it but it gives lovely texture and keeps the cake soft and moist. I used apricots as an extra texture like you might use walnuts in a carrot cake. I wanted to use poppy seeds to give that classic speckled effect in the cake that goes so nicely with lemons but I didn’t have any so I substituted with linseeds but they sort of disappeared in the batter and I didn’t appreciate them in the cake so I would recommend getting hold of poppy seeds if you can. And instead of using a cream cheese frosting I drizzled it with a lemon sugar icing to compliment the lemon flavour in the cake.

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Veggie Patch Salad

I’ve missed you! Hi everyone….and welcome to all my new readers who have popped up over the summer. You’re very sweet to follow me even when I wasn’t posting anything!

I couldn’t resist writing this post because we came home from holiday to such a glut of beautiful  veggies from the garden that I was immediately inspired to cook a scrummy salad full of fresh produce.

If you don’t have green fingers you can obviously just go and shop for all the veg but there is something not only smugly satisfying about growing it yourself but it also tastes a million times better!

Before I write up the recipe, those of you that know me may be wondering how my diet has been going since my pre-summer diagnosis of Bile Acid Malabsorption. In fact, I really must write up an information page on the blog homepage so I can explain all the technical medical info about this condition and how I discovered that I had it. If you’re interested do have a quick read of this blog post as it explains the basics.

Well – it’s a massive good news story as far I’m concerned. I’ve been happily popping two pills everyday for the past two months and I am 90% better! It’s amazing. I slowly starting reintroducing dairy and then relaxed on my gluten intake, and for the past 3-4 weeks I have been eating a totally ‘normal’ diet.

Just as well since we’ve been in France for most of it and as everyone knows you can’t exist in France without cheese in one hand and bread in the other! I’ve come back with a rather impressive amount of tummy squish (!) but I sort of don’t mind because it was so relaxing not having to worry or stress about what I was eating. I think I had bread and cheese every single day (and wine obvs but guess that’s not relevant!) and I only had a small amount of tummy trouble three times and it passed by lunchtime.

Well for me, that’s a total miracle! 

Mind you, I don’t thinking gorging on bread and cheese does anyone any good anyway so I have decided to continue with gdfree blogging since I still enjoy cooking and eating the gdfree way. Whenever I come up with a shareable gdfree recipe I will still post it with variations available for non-gdfree as suits.

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Summer sabbatical

Hello lovely readers and I apologise sincerely in advance if you have been waiting with baited breath for one of my brilliant blog posts to drop into your inbox. Not only was it a manic and busy end of term with the three little bears but now we’re deep into the summer holidays and I just don’t have a second to sit down and write about anything interesting!

Oh….and my recent diagnosis with BAM has sort of left me rather shell shocked and I’m still reeling at the news that on this new medication I may be able to eat entirely ‘normally’ again. I have been on the meds for a week now and have upped from 1 to 2 tablets a day and maybe I think I should take 3 just to make doubly and triply sure that my nasty running to the loo symptoms don’t return. Ever.

But so far so good….

I have re-introduced a small amount of dairy, namely in the form of the two most important dairy ingredients in the world – Cheese and Ice Cream. Obvs. And, you know what, I’ve been alright. It seems so strange. I find myself eating and then sitting around waiting to see what happens, touching a lot of wood, praying to the tummy gods that I’ll be ok and I sort of have been. I can’t really believe it.

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I have Bile Acid Malabsorption…

So lovely readers I have news I have news I have news ahhhhhhhhhh I have been diagnosed with something which has a really cool name: Bile acid malabsorption or BAM. I have BAM! Dun dun DUNNNNNN.

I know….you’re falling off your chair as you read this right? Or not maybe? Bile acid malabsorption, what the heck is that???

So if you’ve read any of my health history or kept up with my monthly health updates, you will know that for years and years and years, since I was a teenager probably, I have suffered with diarrhoea and after test after test after test the only diagnosis I have ever been given is IBS.

And as you will know if you’re a follower of this blog, I have attempted to ‘fix’ my ibs, as well as a number of my other health issues, with the adoption of a strictly gluten and dairy free diet.

Well…..things might be about to change. I know…….WOW right?

So – bile acid malabsorption or BAM for short, is a condition in which bile acids are not properly processed within the digestive system, resulting in symptoms of chronic diarrhea.

To best understand BAM, it helps to understand how digestion is supposed to work. Bile acids are substances produced by our livers and stored in our gallbladders. Your gallbladder is responsible for releasing bile acids into the small intestine for the digestion of fats. When BAM is present, these acids are not well absorbed and therefore excessive amounts are flushed into the large intestine. The effect of bile acids on the large intestine is an increase fluid production, resulting in watery stools and a speeding up of intestinal motility, both of which result in symptoms of diarrhoea. Lovely.

There are a few reasons why you might have BAM including Crohn’s disease, Coeliac disease, gastrointestinal surgery or various other complex gastrointestinal diseases but I have none of those apparently. I just have primary, unexplained, no cause or reason behind it, BAM. Weird.

But here’s the good thing and reason why when I was told about my diagnosis by my specialist today I actually laughed with sheer happiness – there’s a medicine that can fix me!!! Hooray and about bloody time!!!

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What do you have for lunch if sandwiches are off the menu?

I can’t think of the last time I had a sandwich for lunch but apparently the humble sandwich is still the nation’s favourite lunch of choice. Number one is the cheese sandwich, followed by ham and then chicken.

According to the Telegraph “sandwiches – Britain’s greatest edible export – are a kind of anti-food. It’s a way of eating that frees us from forks, dinner tables and meal times. A solitary, cling-wrapped cheese sandwich is the opposite of a sociable meal around a big table.”

How sad is that?!

They say that the average time taken to eat lunch – usually in front of the computer – is roughly 15 minutes, and researchers also discovered that 32% of us tuck into the same lunch each day…the equivalent of 250 cheese sarnies a year. (I love that my spell check just tried to change sarnies into sardines!!!)

I understand that a sandwich is horribly efficient…it only required one hand to eat it, it only takes moments to prepare, and you don’t need any fancy or special equipment to enjoy it. But….

What happens when you’re one of those people who has been happily munching on sandwiches lunch time after lunch time, year after year and then you discover you have coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance? Suddenly regular bread is no longer on the menu.

Don’t get me wrong, of course you could just swap your regular bread for one of the many gluten free loaves out there and continue making your cheese and ham sandwiches till kingdom come. But how about you try something different? How about you go rogue and don’t eat a sandwich for lunch today? Come on, be brave, here are a few gorgeous, tasty, filling and easy to prepare lunch options that you could get creative with – and they come in the form of (don’t cry) salad.

I know what you’re thinking…..salad is boring. Salad doesn’t fill you up. Salad is just the same old lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes.

But it doesn’t have to be boring. Not if you do it properly. Not if you really throw everything you’ve got at it, everything you’ve got in the fridge and everything you’ve had lurking at the back of your kitchen cupboards for months. Then, and only then, you can make a proper salad. A salad of champions. And you won’t even be looking for the bread I can promise you!

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Gluten & Dairy Free – worth the effort?

I haven’t talked about my health for a while and although not all of my readers will be interested I thought I ought to give you a little progress report on whether my adopting this exclusively gluten and dairy free diet has actually made any real difference to how I’m feeling.

I know people want to hear me say how going gluten and dairy free has fixed me and has been the best thing I’ve ever done….but I’m not going to lie about it. I’m definitely not ‘fixed’…yet (ever the optimist). But some things are a lot better. For example, I’m not as tired. I don’t just mean normal tired though, because when I was tired it meant I had to have a two hour nap in the middle of every day which is obviously a little more than just ‘tired’. But the good news is, I don’t have to anymore!

I also don’t wake up feeling ‘hungover’ anymore which was miserable and exhausting in itself and would often bring on daily headaches. So that symptom seems to have gone away too. And I now feel like I am actually capable of sorting out my life, my children, my house, my to-do-list etc ect, when before it had really got on top of me. That elusive ‘brain fog’ that people talk about has cleared and I feel like I am functioning like a (relatively) normal mother of 3 again…if that can ever be normal?!

So to recap – I’m less tired, I have less brain fog and I’m waking up feeling clear headed and ready to get on with it. And ‘it’ has been this blog mostly, it gives me a lot of focus and clarity of thinking and hopes and aspirations that I sort of didn’t know I had. It’s allowed me to meet amazingly lovely people, connect with brands and companies who are actually interested in what I am doing so I’m very thankful for my new energy levels and the ability to focus on something again.

But…..and now for the depressing bit, my other major symptom that rules my life every single day – my IBS – has not been fixed. Yes I had assumed it would all magically go away once I had committed whole heartedly to an exclusively gluten and dairy free diet. And no it hasn’t. Without going into the miserable details of it, I still have episodes nearly every day to some degree or another, and it still affects what I eat and what I cook and how I feel all the time.

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