My Favourite Granola

I’ve been making this granola for a while, a while ago I tried to link to the recipe (from London Bakes) and it had vanished.

I love it and I have fiddled a bit with it so I’m posting it here for no other reason than it is really good and should be somewhere I can find it easily and because I eat more granola in autumn and winter so it’s time to make a batch!

I know that I cook more from scratch than most people but I don’t believe that homemade always means better, there’s loads of things that I buy, mayonnaise for example, I’m sure that if you make it yourself it’s nicer but I don’t eat a lot of it and don’t have time, so it’s just easier to buy some.

Home made granola though, is one of the things that I prefer to make at home, because it’s really simple to make, usually cheaper and lets you control the amount of sugar. My go-to bought version is this one from Dorset Cereals and it’s pretty good, it’s also pretty expensive when you consider the cost of the basic ingredients.

One of the reasons for my deep love of this granola is that it’s a basic granola made with store cupboard ingredients that you can use as a building block. The original recipe suggests cacao nibs and if you can find them AND have the money for them in your budget, they are a fabulous addition, adding a subtle chocolatey crunch. You could also use this as a basic recipe and add the dried fruit of you choice after you’ve baked it, I’ve added dried cherries and dried apricots for different batches and they work well (I have a friend who makes this version with cacao nibs and adds dried bananas, which is great for breakfast and amazing on ice cream!)  You can customise it to suit you.

I find for breakfast pots the non-fruit version works best and I’m sure it would be good eaten with milk if you like milk, (personally I think milk is the devil’s drink!)


3 cups of oats

1 cup mixed seeds

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup sunflower oil

2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract


  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non stick mat.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 140C
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and spread on baking sheets
  4. Bake in oven for 35 ish minutes, turning once during that time, until golden brown
  5. Remove from oven and leave to completely cool
  6. Once cool, transfer to containers.


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Allotment Adventures: Dying back and planning

Back in May, when I signed the agreement for the plot, I was worried because I’d missed the start of the growing season (March-April) and it was a bit of a rush to get the ground clear, sort out how I wanted to arrange things and get plants in the ground so we had some produce.

I still think we did really well but I now know that I missed a couple of things. One of those things was succession plantings, all our green beans came in one glorious 4 week burst. The other thing was planning for autumn/winter growing. I completely failed to consider leeks, cabbages, parsnips and all the other vegetables that you start off in May/June and plant in over the summer to get you through autumn and winter.

I did manage to plant perpetual spinach, spring onions, chard, beetroot and winter leaves that will provide something in autumn but that was about it.img_5082

I’m not too fussed, it’s our first growing season and I’m still learning. We have big plans for next year and so work on the allotment is strange at the moment. We’ll clearing things down, the tomatoes and most of the courgettes came up this week (I’m leaving the marigolds  and two of the courgettes where they are for a little bit longer!) and planting things to overwinter.

This weekend while Ma was fighting the weeds in the raspberries (it’s going to be long battle), I planted onions and garlic. We planted 150 onion sets, I’d like to say that we ordered them because we’d thought about what we wanted and selected something adapted to our needs and the growing conditions on the allotments. However, that would be a lie, we went into Wilkinsons on Saturday and for the princely sum of £8 bought a packet of red onion sets, one of japanese onions sets and one of white onion sets. We also bought a packet of two garlic bulbs (germidor) to add to the ones I’d planted a while ago but haven’t come up yet, I think in part due to a fox deciding to make it’s home on the bed and have a good dig around! img_5085The bed at the front of this photo and the two raised beds in the background (covered with green netting) are all planted up with onions and garlic.

Other things that need to be planted are broad beans but that’s for November and they’ll go in one of the old tomato beds.img_5087This was were the first courgettes and the french beans were this year and it the bit of the allotment that is next to Joe’s allotment. I was going to dig over and sow green manure but when Ma and I took the sweet peas and metal frame up, we made a new plan. Current thinking is that we are going to cover with weed fabric and at some point before March, hopefully before Christmas this will be home to three raised beds (these ones) that are 155cm by 8ocm. Went we order those, we’ll also order a final square one to go next to the other square ones that are current home to the onions and garlic. I also want to create some smaller beds like the ones I currently have dill and coriander in for borage, parsley and chives. I’d also like to plant some more perennial herbs and lavender at that end as well as re-site the oregano  and thyme, which are still alive despite the best efforts of the courgettes and now the sage to kill them!

img_4752-1At the top of the plot, we need to move the rhubarb and the poorly lavender bushes. Once we’ve done that we want to mark out where the patio for the shed will be and cover that with weed suppressing fabric and mark out some areas at the top for re-siting the gooseberry bushes and wildflowers and so on.

I’ve said it before but the list of things that we want to do is never ending. I keep having to remind myself that the plot looks completely different to how it looked six months ago and that in six months time, when we have a shed and a water butt and more raised beds it’ll look completely different again. I’m not sure there is such a thing as ‘done’ when you have an allotment but I’m looking forward to finding out.

img_4234May 2016


August 2016

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Food and Budget Update: 08/10 to 14/10/2016

It was a week of not being very well, but I still think I did alright for food. Mostly because I was home for most of the week. When I was off last year, I got into the habit of two meals a day and that’s still my pattern when I’m home. Aims for the rest of the month have got to be about using more of what’s in the freezer and I can see a shift as the weather gets colder and there’s less coming off the allotment.


img_5049All shopping this week was done at Lidl on Friday night and the cost was £8.53. Not pictured but bought later in the week was a fruit salad and two packets of pasta which came to £3. So the total for the week was £11.53


On Saturday we were in Watford with the boys. We had pesto pasta and garlic bread (Oli’s favourite food) for tea. (There was also pick and mix!). Joe had something that Lu had made for him (fish and squash) and breadsticks. The rule is that if you’re eating and Joe isn’t, he starts roaring his discontent, so half a breadstick keeps him occupied. Oli used to do this, I don’t understand babies that don’t eat, because we’ve never had them in our family, fussy eaters as they get a bit older, sure, but never a baby/toddler that doesn’t care about food!img_5059Oli and I made a loaf of bread on Saturday night, which was the basis of our bacon sandwiches on Sunday morning.img_5060-1I didn’t eat dinner on Sunday night, I did over the course of the weekend eat a packet of mini salamis. Living my best life right there.

On Monday I ate a fruit salad for breakfast and leftover pasta (from last week) for lunch.  Lentil soup was dinner. I toasted some seeds with balsamic vinegar and then added some chard as a topping. The chard (only a couple of leaves) and the spring onion were grown on the allotment!img_5069

Tuesday is when my asthma went bonkers. I didn’t eat breakfast and although I did eat lunch (beetroot, quinoa and goats cheese salad) I basically was coughing so much that I threw it up, I didn’t eat dinner because I was coughing too much.

Wednesday was a better day. Coughing was less (although the wheezing was not) and this was also the day I realised I had caught a cold! I ate pasta for lunch (the same as last week with the vegetables and yoghurt mustard sauce) img_5048Dinner was fishfingers and courgettesimg_5077On Thursday, I was still sick and ate leftover pasta for lunch and baked potatoes, chilli and broccoli for dinner (thank heavens for the freezer!)img_5078On Friday, courgette pizza and garlic bread.

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Life Happened: Harder to breathe

Monday started with a trip to the doctors for a spirometry test. The good news is that I don’t have lung disease, but the nurse said that the results were classic asthma, my peak flow was lower than it ought to be and I needed to go back to the doctor to decide what treatment I needed. The next available appointment was 31 October!  My body had other ideas and on Monday night the asthma decided that it was not going to be ignored. On Tuesday, I arrived at work in a state, coughing and coughing and coughing. I spoke to the doctor on the phone and got a prescription for the asthma preventative and went home with the firm intention of working from home. Again my body had other ideas, asthma attack central. I was at one point considering a trip to A&E.

By Wednesday, I did do some work from home but not a lot, the wheezing was bad but the coughing was more under control. With hindsight, I can see that the asthma was set off by a cold, which came out in full snotty force on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Cue the rest of the week feeling rubbish and being in bed and stressing about how messy/out of control the flat and my life felt.

Ma came over on Friday and stayed. On Saturday, I left the flat for the first time since Tuesday to do some shopping and visit the allotment. Ma did a solid two hours of weeding and I collected produce and arsed about. I was in bed at 9pm because I am rock and roll.

On Sunday we went to Watford for Ben’s birthday lunch!That was fun but also quite tiring and I was in bed at 9pm on Sunday.

This week is looking much more prosaic. I have work (obvs), a new boiler being fitted, a team building afternoon and lots more sleep. Rock and roll!

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Baking Bread with a 6 year old

Whenever Ma and I go to Watford to look after the boys, I try and find a cooking project with Oli. This is because I like cooking and hope that he’ll enjoy it too but it’s also so he appreciates how much effort his parents go to to feed him!

When he was younger, I did try to get him involved when we cooked but he had a limited attention span so we only did easy things..DSCF3752img_2486

Nowadays though, Oli is interested in how things work and can be a bit more hands on, so it becomes an educational experience too. I try to make things that Oli can eat straight away and last time we made bread for our Sunday morning bacon sandwiches!

I used the basic easy white bread recipe and away we went. We talked about yeast and how it works, what yeast needs to produce air, different types of flour and so on. Although I think Oli’s favourite bit was punching down the dough, but I find that children retain knowledge in interesting ways and it comes out where you least expect it. img_5060-1The bread rose a little bit quicker that I was expecting, and I didn’t get a picture of the finished product or the bacon sandwiches but on Sunday we all, even Joe, got to eat bread that Oli made!

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Friday Links

Happy Friday!  This week hasn’t been fantastic but it it’s my brother’s birthday. So Happy Birthday Ben!

Hadley Freeman takes on Sally Phillips’ documentary about testing for Downs Syndrome and sums up what I’ve found uncomfortable about Phillips’ arguments.

I didn’t see this last week so I’m putting it up here today. I reckon that Lemn Sissay is a really good human being.

I’m not at all sure about SNL, it’s just not that funny! But I really enjoyed this probably because last weekend’s news in the US was a slam dunk for ridiculousness and Lin-Manuel Miranda…

Shami Chakrabarti has undermined the education system she argues for. This is one of my biggest problems with middle class Labour supporters, if you believe that everyone deserves the same chance you can’t opt out of the system just for your kid…

But resisting sending your child to a selective school – whether that’s through the 11-plus or private fees – does really improve the education of other people’s less-advantaged children.Research shows that articulate, confident, able classmates are the greatest source of help for other pupils. Similarly, middle-class parents who can use their time, influence and experience do wonders for their local school. Put bluntly, when people like Chakrabarti siphon their kids into grammars and private schools, they weaken the comprehensive system. Yes, the exact system they advocate.

Michelle Obama says what I hope over 50% of the American electorate are thinking. (Yeah I know voting in the US doesn’t work like that but you know what I mean!)

The New York Times response to Trump’s threats to sue for libel is brilliant and shows more understanding of the US Constitution than Trump has.

America has a cheese problem. The most shocking thing for me is that the French eat 57 pounds of cheese a year. I love the French…

Which witch are you? Glinda the Good Witch of the North over here!

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Allotment Adventures: Spiritual Growth

It feels really odd to be at the end of my first growing season on the plot. Back in May, I couldn’t imagine how much the plot would take over my life or what we’d manage to do in the time.

But here I am six months later, a gardener. Not necessarily a good one but a gardener nevertheless and it’s had a profound impact on me. It’s given me something I didn’t know that I needed (and I’m not just talking about the abundance of courgettes!)

It’s hard to talk about without feeling ungrateful and whiny because I do like my life and I am lucky but in recent years I’ve had to remind myself of that all the time. Remind myself that I actually like being alone, that I love where I live, that I do actually have people that care for me. It’s exhausting to have to remember to like your life.img_5031It was something more for me than just basic unhappiness because I was struggling to feel God’s presence in my life. My belief in God is one of the most basic building blocks of who I am, the sense that I’m living, as best I’m able, the life that God wants for me, isn’t even a question, it’s just who I am. Even when it’s difficult, when I was unemployed, when Stef died and when I was depressed, I knew that, hard as it was, I was meant to be doing what I was doing and that I didn’t understand it but it would come right. That God was with me. I was possibly the most optimistic depressed person in the world. I knew that I would get through it if I just kept on and I did.

The last couple of years, it’s been harder for me to feel that and I couldn’t quite get my head around it. No life is perfect but my life is so much better than it was six years ago and I wasn’t depressed but I was struggling spiritually and feeling taken for granted by everyone, including God.

Apparently, it’s easier for me to be positive about God when God’s not fair, than it is when I have the things I need. I never doubted God’s existence, it was more that I just wasn’t sure He cared about my life. I knew I was where I was supposed to be and mostly I didn’t mind but there is a whole world of difference between not minding where you are and being happy about it.img_5039I wasn’t lacking faith, so much as relationship and the things I normally do when I’m in a bad spot where not working. Last year, I spent six weeks more or less trapped in the flat. On the one hand it was nice to have the rest despite the foot pain and not being able to shower but on the other it was clear that without my mother, I’d have been absolutely buggered and pretty isolated. I came into 2016, knowing that something needed to change but not being at all sure what needed changing or how to change it.

Then came the allotment. Some of the things that have helped this year had nothing to do with the allotment, it’s not all about the one plot.

Having said that, George Bernard Shaw said that “The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.”

I get that because the plot has given me focus. It’s needed care and planning and almost constant weeding but it’s also been satisfying to plant things in the ground and watch them come up and provide me with food. It’s also required me to plan for the future, gardening is optimistic by it’s very nature.

It’s also helped me appreciate people on a different level, it’s been easier for people to support me, by giving me tools and plants, so they have. I’ve gained a community of people who love their plots and understand why I love mine. Who are free with a quick chat, or good advice and encouragement and produce. It’s been lovely.

Most of all it’s given me a sense of achievement, I made that space, I dug and weeded and planned and sowed and sweated and it rewarded me by producing fruit and vegetables. It’s astonishing and gratifying. I didn’t know it’s what I needed but there you have it. I needed to dig the ground to bring me back to myself and to God.img_5044


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