Monday, 6 April 2015

Almond, Date and Cranberry Protein Balls


I've got to stop eating so much sugar. That includes all the cakes, biscuits and chocolate. I find that I can't just eat one biscuit either - it's always nearer ten. There's just something that makes sweet stuff so addictive.

So I've decided to try and change my diet. I could do with losing about 14 pounds so cutting back on sugar and refined carbs seems like a good plan. I always see these protein snacks in the shop and wonder what they are. They always seem super expensive and rather small. In my quest to find a filling and satisfying snack, I've come up with these Almond, Date and Cranberry Protein Balls.

They are super easy to make and great for a mid-afternoon snack without gorging on a whole pack of biscuits or a massive bar of chocolate. The sweetness is just right to satisfy those of us with a sweet tooth, but all those lovely almonds make these nice and filling to keep hunger at bay.

Also, and here's an added bonus - the kids absolutely love them. Eddie, my 16 month-old, adores them. These balls are a great way to get nuts into little ones without the choking factor.


Almond, Date and Cranberry Protein Balls




10 mins 0 mins 68 each

Makes 18
70g dried dates
70g dried cranberries
50g raisins
2 tsp almond butter
100g raw almonds

    1. Put all the ingredients into a small food blender. I use the attachment for my stick blender .

    2. Blend for a few minutes until the mixture starts to look stickier.

    3. Now form into 18 balls.

    4. Store on baking parchment in an airtight container for up to a week in the fridge.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Dark Chocolate Marzipan Easter Eggs

These Dark Chocolate Marzipan Easter Eggs are a family tradition in the Mean household. I'm a bit of a stickler and have to maintain seasonal traditions, and like with all my Christmas foodie treats, these Easter eggs are something I've made every year. 

I am a marzipan lover. I know some people aren't so keen on this almond mix (Mr Mean), and others might call these people just plain weird (I never said that), because who in their right mind would not love a marzipan egg smothered in dark chocolate?

I'm trying to persuade Mr Mean that my homemade marzipan is so much more sophisticated than that bright yellow, highly-almond-flavoured supermarket marzipan (I'd still eat it - I LOVE MARZIPAN!). 

He likes my Almond Nut Butter, he likes raw almonds, he'll even eat a cake made with ground almonds - it's just that marzipan flavour. Maybe he thinks I'm trying to kill him with a dose of cyanide? That's what those marzipan haters say: "It smells like cyanide." But how would they know?

And even if Mr Mean can't stand marzipan - one day, he will like my marzipan Easter eggs! 

I come from a long line of proud almond lovers. My Nana used to make these Easter eggs every year, along with her Simmnel Cake. Me and my sisters would love to help her, as they are just so yummy. 

As the years went on, Nana developed arthritis and was confined to bed. Whilst she couldn't walk, we'd still make these Easter eggs every year at her house. Now Nana's no longer with us, we remember her at Easter and enjoy these super yummy eggs, and even if Mr Mean won't partake in this one tradition, my three children certainly enjoy it! 

Dark Chocolate Marzipan Easter Eggs

Dark Chocolate Marzipan Easter Eggs

Makes approx 6
450g (1lb) ground almonds
225g (8oz) caster sugar
225g (8oz) icing sugar (powdered)
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp almond essence
2 tsp brandy
2 tsp lemon juice

200g 70% dark chocolate or 100g of dark + 100g of milk


1. Start by making the marzipan. Take a heat-proof bowl and add the sugars and both the whole eggs and egg yolks. Stir until combined.

2. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and whisk until the mixture is pale and fluffy. About 15 minutes.

3. Remove the bowl from the pan and leave to cool slightly.

4. Whisk in the almond essence, brandy and lemon juice. Carry on whisking until cool.

5. Stir in the ground almonds and knead into a firm dough.

6. Divide into six and shape into eggs. Set aside and start the chocolate.

7. Take a heat-proof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water. Break up the chocolate and leave to melt in the bowl.

8. Once the chocolate has melted, take the bowl off the heat and start to stir until for 5 minutes until the chocolate has cooled slightly. This will make the chocolate shine.

9. Take a marzipan egg and drop it into the chocolate. Using two forks, turn the egg over in the chocolate until coated. Carefully remove the egg with two forks and place on a baking sheet covered in baking parchment. Leave to cool.

10. Store in an airtight container.

Marzipan recipe is adapted from Delia Smith's Almond Paste recipe in Book Of Cakes. Here's the link from Delia's website

Dark Chocolate Marzipan Easter Eggs

Remembering Nana

Cooking Conversion Chart by Mean Mother Cooker

We all love trying recipes from around the world, but it can be tricky when we all use different measuring systems. 

So, with this in mind, Mean Mother Cooker designed this super handy Cooking Conversion Chart to help you be an international recipe cooker. Let's be one with cooking excellence!

Please share to spread the cooking conversion love!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Mean Mother Cooker is on Yummly!

Great news! You can now put Mean Mother Cooker recipes on Yummly! 

Have you tried Yummly yet? It's a great website for storing all your favourite recipes. And they have an app now to make all your tasty recipes even easier to access!

You will even get personalised recipe suggestions to help you become the master of your kitchen!

All you have to do is press the Yum icon on the Mean Mother Cooker photos and the recipe will be added! 

Make your own personalised online recipe book with Yummly.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Lunchtime Inspiration - 11 Healthy Lunch Ideas & Recipes

Lunchtime Inspiration recipes, Mean Mother Cooker

I am guilty of having the same boring cheese sandwich everyday because I just can't think of anything else to eat. So if you're like me, you'll probably love all these healthy ideas for something that's a little different at lunchtime.

I find lunchtime is the ideal time to have something fresh, healthy and super tasty. Also, if you prepare the salads the night before, with the salad dressing separately, you can have a super lovely lunch ready to go in the morning.

I have been dabbling with the 5:2 diet too. Let me explain for those who aren't familiar with the 5:2 (fast) diet. The 5:2 diet is when you spend five days of the week eating the recommended daily calorie intake, and the other two days eating only 500 calories (600 for men) a day. 

When I am on a "two" day, I like to skip breakfast, then have a lovely salad for lunch. And it's surprising how many salad veg you can eat and hardly dent the calories counter!

For these lunch ideas, I've tried to stick to healthy eating, but please adapt if you feel you need to. 

So let's go forth and have some tasty little lunches!



You can make these ahead of time and store in a jar in the fridge. Keep for up to a week. These little seeds also make a great snack. And wouldn't be too bad with a cold beer either. Ahem!

20g sesame seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
50g sunflower seeds
2 tbsp soy sauce

In a large frying pan, dry fry the seeds until they start to lightly colour. At this stage, add the soy and mix quickly until coated. Take the pan off the heat so the seeds don't burn. Leave to cool before transferring to a jar or Tupperware. Or serve hot on your salad!

1 egg
Pan of cold water

For a hard boiled egg, place your egg in a pan and submerge in cold water. Place on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once the water is boiling, put a timer on for 8 minutes. As soon as the timer goes off, you need to get that egg cold! If you leave it lingering, it will get that black ring around the yolk and be more like a stink bomb than an tasty egg. Drain all the boiling water and keep under the cold tap. I like to replace the cold water in the pan several times to ensure it isn't warming up. Leave the egg in cold water for 5-10 minutes, then tap the shell all over and peel that shell off. MAKE SURE THERE IS NO SHELL LEFT ON! I give it a wash just to make sure! 

1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

In a small jar, get all you ingredients in there. Give it a big shake! 

I used a bag of baby leaves with some chicory, cucumber and tomato, topped with the chopped hard boiled egg, seeds and dressing. I also had half a slice of toasted seeded bread.


For a healthy bread at lunchtime, wholemeal wraps are lovely. You will find the combination of low fat cottage cheese and prawns in a healthier Marie Rose sauce really tasty. Add the baby leaf salad too - and you're onto a lunchtime winner!

Prawns are a great low fat source of protein. A favourite on a 5:2 day because they are so low in calories, but you still get your protein in to keep you feeling full up.

Before using, I wash prawns and then leave them for 30 minutes in ice cold lemon water, then drain. I find this takes some of that overly 'fishy' flavour away and leaves them lovely and fresh.

Makes one wrap
1 tsp mayonnaise 
1 tsp Greek yoghurt
Squirt of tomato ketchup
Squeeze of lemon
Salt & pepper



You can't beat this Carrot Salad. I know, you may be thinking "dull", but this Carrot Salad has the addition of feta and cottage cheese to bring things to a whole new level in the carrot stakes. It's not a coleslaw either. All that creamy gloop you buy from the supermarket is not the same. This salad is lively and fresh and make lunchtimes exciting!

serves 4
4 carrots, grated
3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp low fat cottage cheese
30 g feta, crumbled
1 tsp mayonnaise 

Mix everything together and serve with a toasted wholemeal pitta.

CHANNING TATUM (I don't have the recipe for him)

Healthy lunchtime inspiration.



I've heard that mozzarella is a low fat cheese. Probably not baked on a pizza with a shed load of pepperoni. But just look at this lunchtime bute - it's as fresh as Mr Tatum himself! 

Again, I've replaced the refined white carbs with a better wholemeal version. You won't get those instant sugar spikes and need to scoff a Mars Bar 30 minutes later. 

The combination of mozzarella, avocado and tomato is a classic. And with a bit of cucumber in there too - you've got the taste, the crunch and all that healthy stuff to make one super lunchtime classic

Makes 1
1 wholemeal pitta, warmed
Half mozzarella ball, sliced
Half avocado, sliced
2 tomatoes, slices
5 slices cucumber
1 tsp mayonnaise
Small amount of Dijon mustard

You know what to do! Slice your pitta down the centre and spread the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard inside the pitta pocket. Layer all your ingredients up and enjoy!

RAINBOW SALAD, Mean Mother Cooker
This Rainbow Salad must be the king of all lunchtime salads. Forget your rabbit food, this is a taste explosion of fresh flavours and textures. Nothing is boring about this lunch!

The sweet potato only took 15 minutes in a 180C oven. 

Serves 1
1 handful of baby leaf spinach
Half avocado, sliced
Half Braeburn apple, cubed
1 small sweet potato, cubed and roasted in olive oil
10 whole almonds, toasted
2 tbsp chickpeas
Half orange pepper, cubed
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered

Whilst your sweet potato is roasting in the oven for 15 minutes, lightly toast the almonds in a small frying pan until slightly brown. 

Now make the Greek Yoghurt Salad Dressing and assemble the rest of the salad ingredients. As soon as the sweet potato is done, add to the salad and finish with a drizzle of the dressing.

JAPANESE 5:2 SALAD, Mean Mother Cooker
This is a total lunchtime saviour when you are having a fast day on the 5:2 diet. The Japanese element makes it so tasty and interesting. You could also have a sneaky miso soup with this lunch to make you feel really full.

Serves 2
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp light oil
Squeeze of lemon or lime

Put the sesame seeds in a small frying pan and lightly toast. Watch them carefully and keep them moving because they can easily burn. Let them cool slightly before adding to the rest of the ingredients. Mix and dress the salad.

Half iceberg lettuce, shredded
Half cucumber, cut into matchsticks
Handful of watercress
1 carrot, julienned 
5 radishes, julienned 
1 chicory heart, sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered
+ Japanese dressing

Assemble the salad, starting with the lettuce and finishing with the hard boiled eggs and dressing. Enjoy straight away!


smoked salmon dip, mean mother cooker

This is my go-to recipe when visitors are coming for lunch. You don't have to splash out on expensive cuts of smoked salmon (although you can if you want!), I just get a pack of salmon trimmings that look a bit nasty, but taste magnificent once whizzed up into this fine dip/pate/mousse! 

If you are short on time, make the smoked salmon dip the night before and keep it in the fridge to firm-up to more of a pate consistency. 

I like to decant the dip into two bowls so everyone can reach it at the table. I serve it with crudités and fresh bread.

smoked salmon dip, mean mother cooker

200g smoked salmon trimmings
Half a tub of creme fraiche 
2 tbsp french mayonnaise 
2 tbsp of cream cheese
Large squeeze of lemon
Black pepper

Place all the ingredients in a small food processor. I use the chopper attachment of my hand held stick blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and season. You may need more lemon. Refrigerate until required.


maple glazed nut salad, mean mother cooker

These yummy Maple Glazed Nuts make any salad super. They are easy to make and store, so you can crack them out at lunchtime to make your salad special! I find the salty feta cheese in this salad and the creamy avocado make for a great balance of flavours and textures. This is far from rabbit food!

60g almonds
60g cashews
60g walnuts
2 tbsp maple syrup

Start by lightly toasting the nuts in a dry frying pan keeping them moving all the time. Once the nuts start to slightly colour, add the maple syrup. Once the maple syrup has glazed the nuts and there is no liquid left in the pan, remove from the heat. Serve hot or leave to cool. Store in an airtight container to keep fresh for up to a week.

Take some baby salad leaves and add 5 cherry tomatoes, quartered, with cucumber, half an avocado and 20g of feta, crumbled. Add your glazed nuts and serve.

CHEESE & AVOCADO POWER WRAP, mean mother cooker
I love wraps, purely for the fact you can pack them tightly with lots of interesting salad. 

Makes 2
2 wraps
25g of mature cheddar, grated
1 tsp mayonnaise
Half round lettuce, shredded
Half red pepper, diced
Half avocado, diced
Sprinkle of purple radish sprouts 
1 large tomato, diced
Sweet chilli dipping sauce

CHEESE & AVOCADO POWER WRAP, mean mother cooker

Assemble your wraps, starting with a smear of mayonnaise, followed by the grated cheese. Next, add the salad ingredients topped with a dribble of sweet chilli dipping sauce. Roll and serve.

Lemon Guacamole 
Carrot salad
Couscous salad

couscous salad, mean mother cooker

These are great salads to make in advance so you can serve them to the whole family for lunch - no matter where they are. My son loves taking strange packed lunches (not the norm of a cheese sandwich). All the other kids are disgusted by the look of most of it (it's not a cheese sandwich). They can't believe a vegetable would even cross his lips (vegetables are not a cheese sandwich). The other day, he took beetroot dip for lunch. You should have seen those kids faces.... Yes my son eats his greens, reds, purples, oranges.....

The Carrot Salad is like above, but I've added shredded lettuce and diced red pepper.

1 large, ripe avocado, diced and mashed
Half a lemon, squeezed
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Salt and pepper

Mash all the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve.

1 cup of dried couscous
1 cup boiling water
50g pine nuts, toasted
50g raisins
Half red onion, diced
Half cucumber, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
Squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper

Place the cup of couscous in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Add the boiling water and cover with clingfilm for 5-10 minutes. Uncover and fork to separate the grains. It should be all fluffy now. Add the raisins whilst the couscous is still warm. Leave to cool before adding the rest of the ingredients.

tuna mayo sushi, mean mother cooker
You can't beat a bit of sushi for lunch. Mr Mean loves to make a bit of sushi and the kids like to help too. 

This is a great store cupboard lunch too. We always tend to make the rolls using tuna mayonnaise - not totally authentic - but it works well.

Serves 4
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 cup of sushi rice (cooked as per pack instructions)
Tin tuna
2 tbsp mayonnaise 
Sushi nori
Avocado, thinly sliced
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Red pepper, thinly sliced
Soy sauce for dipping
Pickled ginger

You will need a rolling mat covered in clingfilm. Place half a sheet of sushi nori on the rolling mat, then spread the rice over the nori using a plastic kid's spoon (the rice doesn't stick to the spoon). Leave a small gap all the way along the top of the roll, so some of the nori is showing on the long side.

Sprinkle sesame seeds over the rice - pat down with spoon. Carefully turn the layers over so that the rice is now on the clingfilm. Make a long line in the middle of the nori of tuna mayo and add the vegetables around. Next is the tricky part - bring each side of the mat up and bring the rice together to make your roll. Make sure the rice is surrounding the nori and roll until firm.

This recipe makes approx four rolls. One roll is enough for an adult's lunch. Cut the rolls into bite size pieces with a very sharp knife. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.

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