18 Feb 2012

Baked Bean Chilli - great for kids

Here's another quick to make, delicious evening meal that your kids will love: Baked Bean Chilli.
Many kids aren't overly fond of kidney beans but most of them like baked beans. To make this recipe, use a mild chilli powder and swap the kidney beans for the baked beans. It's a regular favourite with my boys. I always try to use organic meat - organic mince isn't much more expensive than regular, but whatever you can afford is just fine.
No need to buy fancy ingredients - the point of my recipes is to make is easy to rustle up something tasty without needing to buy a whole load of strange ingredients. Mums are far too busy for that on an average weeknight!

Baked Bean Chilli with rice and cheesy sprinkles

Ingredients for 4.

  • 500g pack of mince (beef, lamb, pork or quorn - though lamb can be fatty so drain off excess fat after frying)
  • 1 Onion
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Clove of garlic, chopped or 1 teaspoon of puree from a jar.
  • 2 tins of baked beans
  • Mild Chilli powder
  • Stock cube to match the meat you're using. (I always use Kallo Organic cubes)
  • Sweetcorn, frozen or tinned (optional)
  • Salt, black pepper, a few mixed herbs to taste.

Fry the onions and garlic (if using puree, add when you add the mince). When softened, add the mince and fry until browned. Add one or two teaspoons of chilli powder and stir into the meat. It's always better to add too little than too much at this stage - if you can't taste it by the time it's cooked, you can always add more - but you can't take it away. Be guided by your kids' palettes.
Add the stock, dissolved in a small amount of boiling water.
Add both tins of baked beans and some water, if needed, to loosen the consistency. Add the sweetcorn if using - I think it always gives it a nice sweetness.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for about half an hour.
Season during cooking with salt, black pepper and dried mixed herbs.
If it's too watery before serving, you can thicken it with some cornflour, or whatever you usually use as thickening.
Serve with rice, baked potatoes or even nachos with a sprinkling of cheese on top.

Even picky eater, Son2 who complains about most stuff, doesn't moan when he knows it's "The Bean Thing" for dinner!

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14 Feb 2012

My Cybher12 'Meet and Greet'

My writing pal, Mel Comley and I are off to Cybher12 in May.
Cybher12 is billed as the number one event for women who blog. As it's not just for Mummies, of which Mel has no desire to be, she's coming over from France so we can go up together.
I'm hoping that this trip, Asperger's Son2 might speak to her, or even look at her, as he managed to avoid it for the whole three days of her last visit.
Sian of Geek is The New Chic blog, is running a pre-Cyber12-event virtual 'meet and greet', so here's mine:

Name : Tania Tirraoro, aka The Special Needs Jungle lady
Blogs : NotAsAdvertised Special Needs Jungle
Twitter ID : @TaniaLT & SpcialNdsJungle
Height : 5'3" but Son1 claims I'm 5' 1". He LIES!
Hair : blonde and bobby
Five things you should know about me...
1.I'm always taking too much on then moaning about it
2. I used to read the news on the telly but now I write books. Sometimes.
3. I have loved James Taylor since I was 19 and have made my husband go to 5 of the 7 concerts I've seen. Even though he doesn't really like him.
4.I have two tween/teen sons, both with ASD. This can be exhausting.
5.My 2012 goals are to learn how to relax while still awake and to write a fourth book.
James Taylor -
quite a number of years ago
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13 Feb 2012

Forty minute meal - Chicken and bacon risotto

You know what it's like - you get home after school and the kids are starving. You could easily shove some good old nursery food in the oven - burger and chips or chicken goujons.. but here's something that takes only a few minutes longer and is much more delicious. And, as my boys have an Italian heritage, it's something I've honed from watching Nonno in the kitchen..
It's a great dish to customise according to what you like. Everything in the ingredients is available at any supermarket.

A family favourite, chicken & bacon risotto
  • Pack of quick cook chicken or turkey breast
  • Packet of bacon lardons/pancetta or streaky bacon cut into small pieces.
  • Arborio or carnoroli rice, enough for your family size. (see hint for measuring later)
  • One Onion (You can use frozen diced for speed, but it's a bit watery)
  • Garlic - 1-2 cloves fresh or pureed in a jar.
  • Dash of white wine (optional)
  • Frozen sweetcorn or peas or other diced veg, if desired.
  • Olive oil
  • Hot chicken stock - cube is fine. How much depends on how much rice, but if not enough you can always add extra water to the pan.
  • Salt, black pepper
  • Italian herbs, fresh or dried. (eg, oregano, marjoram, basil or a dried Italian herb mix in a jar)
  • Cream, Cream Cheese or Creme Fraiche, whichever you prefer.
  • Heavy risotto/paella pan or large frying or saute pan.
Fry your onion and garlic, if using fresh, in a good glug of olive oil  for a few minutes until softened. Then add the chicken, diced, and the bacon and fry for a few minutes.
Then add the rice. I measure it out by using the plates I'm serving the meal on - imagining it doubled in size, not forgetting the other ingredients. This way I can measure the correct portion for each person according to their appetite. Keep stirring the rice in the pan so it doesn't stick.
Then, add the wine, if using, or a small amount of your hot stock. If using pureed garlic you can add this now. Stir and when absorbed, add some more. Then when that is absorbed, add a larger amount - your ingredients should be swimming but not submerged.
Then you can add your seasoning and any vegetables you want in it- go easy on the salt as your bacon will be salty. Better to add more if needed than to have a salty risotto!
Simmer until the rice is soft - you may need to add additional water as you go. Do not leave it alone for too long in case the water is absorbed.
When the rice is soft and the water absorbed, add a wodge of cream cheese (any type), a glug of cream or a good dollop of creme fraiche, whatever you prefer. This makes it really creamy and my kids love it.

When you're comfortable with making it, you can change it up by adding different ingredients, different meats or no meat, just vegetables. You have to go with what you know your kids will eat, though I have been known to sneak tiny chopped up courgettes in it which they boys won't touch in a larger size...
Buon apetito!
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10 Feb 2012

Happy Birthday, Mum

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9 Feb 2012

Helping our teens learn money management

Up until last month, our boys, aged 14 and 12.5 received their pocket money in the form of a credit on a spreadsheet maintained by my accountant husband. Then, when they wanted something, they checked how much money they had and we paid for it from their balance.
This prevented them losing cash or wasting the money on sweets and it mainly worked well. However, it was difficult to check up at a moment's notice how much they had and Son1 regularly went overdrawn by using our registered credit card on Apple and Xbox to make unauthorised small amount purchases.
My husband recently decided to reorganise their finances, moving their savings to a higher interest children's ISA and we decided, at the same time, that they were old enough to have their own debit cards and manage their own money.
So, we've begun transferring their pocket money into new young persons' bank accounts from which we will be expecting them to buy their own magazines, withdraw cash as needed for things they want and register their cards for their own Xbox points and Itunes purchases.
This could go horribly wrong, but we think it's good to start them early on making their own small financial decisions rather than wait for them to head off to university with a freshly minted bank card and no common sense.
They have been instructed always to check their balances before making a cash withdrawal and to keep an eye on their finances using the online facility. We will also keep a watchful eye on this to make sure they don't end up overspending and their decisions are sound.
Somehow, I think that they will be much more cautious about using their 'own' money when they can see it disappearing from a bank account than they have been about watching it disappear from a spreadsheet, knowing that there are no consequences and they can always overspend. These debit cards have no way to go overdrawn, apparently, and in any case, they aren't often out and about armed with their cards without us being there too.
Still, I feel a little bit nervous about the whole thing, I have to admit, although this may be more to do with letting go of a little bit of control over their lives. This is something that, inevitably, must happen of course, it's just hard to "loosen the apron strings".
I'd be interested to find out how any one else has approached this... and what the results were.
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5 Feb 2012

Fun in the snow in Farnham

Thought I'd share a few pictures of fun in the snow. 
The good thing about having boys - and older ones at that - is that you can throw the snowballs as hard as you can at them. 
The downside is that they're better throwers than me. And hubby is ruthless.
Note dog hiding behind hubby...

Be scared.. be very scared...

Revenge for every time I've annoyed him in the last week
See how I'm not watching for the impending attack?

Boys in retreat

Dad on the rampage

And splat...
Son1 in Ninja gear
Boys go on the offensive

Dad comes out fighting...

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