Monday, 7 September 2015

Food Life Hacks with First Utility

Going back to school is exhausting, right? Under one week in and all those leisurely summer mornings, idling over late breakfasts and not needing to be anywhere before 10 seem like a distant memory, while getting back into the rhythm of a new school term feels like an insurmountable challenge. 

Me in avatar form, holding aloft my latest culinary creation! (thanks to illustrator Genevieve Edwards)

So it was most appropriate that I was recently asked to suggest a 'life hack' by energy supplier First Utility as part of a new social media campaign to share the best tips for making everyday life a little more manageable. Who doesn't need the odd short-cut to make term-time life less stressful, particularly when it comes to putting food on the table for your family. We all want our kids to eat well, but when you throw in work, extra-curricular activities and other daily obligations, it can be all to easy to reach for the convenience foods. 

But recently I have hit on two real kitchen 'cheats', which are relatively healthy, add some variation to mealtimes and couldn't be easier to prepare. I can't take credit for the first two (you'll also find my very own kitchen stand-by at the bottom of the page) but I hope they help you out in the kitchen as you make the tricky transition from holiday time to real-life time...

Spaghetti with Marmite

As featured in Nigella Lawson's 'Kitchen' cookbook. It's an improbable combo, I know, but it really does work. Plus the recipe was conceived by legendary Italian cookery writer Anna Del Conte - if the Italians eat it, it must be good! You don't even have to really like Marmite. Bung some spaghetti in to cook then heat about 50g of butter in a pan. When it's nearly melted add in a teaspoon of Marmite, plus one tablespoon of the pasta cooking water till it all emulsifies and goes loose. Add the sauce to the drained spaghetti and mix well. Plate up and serve with plenty of Parmesan. I'm biased because I love Marmite but even if you're not so sure, give it a try just once...

Roasted Gnocchi

Although I sometimes make my own chips and even the oven variety aren't really that bad for them, I do sometimes feel a bit guilty about chips being the standard potato-based dish in our home. So, for something a bit different try roasted or fried gnoochi, another idea gleaned from Nigella. These babies take literally minutes to prepare - you simply throw them into a frying pan with some olive oil and gently fry on both sides for about four minutes. Alternatively bake them in a roasting pan with some oil for about twenty minutes. 

Spinach Pesto

I have been trying to find creative ways to get the green stuff into my kids' diets for years now. If this is a familiar scenario for you, here's something that works in our house: I add a good handful of fresh or frozen spinach to pasta and pesto, a really easy way to up the veg content of their supper. I wilt it down in a pan with a knob of butter, then whizz up in a hand-blender and mix in with the pesto. Simple, quick and super cheap.

Do you have a life hack you'd like to share? Add a comment below!

Thanks to the team at Positive for including me in this initiative, and thanks also to illustrator Genevieve Edwards for my lovely bespoke illustration!


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