Like most parents who work from home the hours between the school drop-offs and pickups are ever so precious. A mountain of work can be tackled in a quiet house, so I generally try to use that time wisely. On days when I'm busy writing, it's always lovely to have something nutritious to refuel with when I'm grabbing a quick break. My go-to is often wholegrain toast, smothered in a good quality nut butter and topped with sliced banana. It ticks all the boxes - quick, tasty, nutritious and filling. Another snack I adore is banana bread, and this recipe is one of my favourites. It's effortless to make, so much so I'll be passing the job of making one weekly over to one of my secondary school boys, once the holidays are upon us. In this recipe, I've used a mixture of pecans and walnuts, but any unsalted nuts would work in their place. 



Banana Nut Bread

This loaf is refined sugar-free and gains its delicious sweetness from the ripe bananas and the addition of some maple syrup. Chia seeds, pecans, and walnuts are a great addition to this loaf as they're packed with heart-healthy vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s.

Ingredients

250g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g chia seeds
50g pecans, roughly chopped
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
100ml coconut oil
100ml maple syrup
100g Greek yogurt
2-3 (200g) bananas, mashed
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1tbsp oats

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C / fan 170°C / gas mark 5. Using a little sunflower oil, lightly grease a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Place the flour into a large bowl. Sieve in the baking powder. Add the cinnamon, chia seeds, pecans, and walnuts. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the coconut oil to a large bowl with the maple syrup, Greek yogurt, and mashed bananas. Using a wooden spoon, beat together to combine, while gently breaking down the coconut oil with the back of the spoon. Add the lightly whisked egg and stir well to combine.
  4. Add the flour and nut mixture, and bring the mixture together with a wooden spoon.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin. Sprinkle over the oats and press into place to ensure they stick.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven, for 55-60 minutes, until well risen and golden.
  7. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire tray to cool. Store in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
Chickpea flour, which is also known as gram flour, is a versatile gluten-free flour. It’s widely used in Indian cuisine within a variety of dishes. In recent years it has become much easier to source chickpea flour. It’s available to buy in specialist Asian food shops and health shops, as well as many of the larger supermarkets. Its consistency works wonderfully in batters, so it’s a great choice for savoury pancake. As this flour is made from ground chickpeas it is also high in protein, making it rather nutritious. I’ve paired these flavoursome pancakes with a simple mushroom and chive filling. These delicious pancakes would serve well for breakfast, lunch or tea.



Mushroom & Chive Stuffed Chickpea Pancakes

Ingredients
Serves 4
For the filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
25g butter
250g mushrooms, thinly sliced
A pinch of sea salt & freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp cream
For the pancakes:
150g Chickpea flour {gram flour}
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
250ml buttermilk
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp olive oil

Method
1. To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a medium sized frying pan. When hot, turn down the heat, add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the butter. Once frothing, add in the mushrooms. Season with a little sea salt and some freshly ground pepper. Increase the heat and sauté for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked. Add the fresh chives and cream. Combine well, and then keep the pan over a very low heat, to keep the mixture warm until the crepes are ready to be served.
2. In a large bowl combine the chickpea flour with the salt. Crack the egg into a jug, whisk lightly with a fork and add the buttermilk. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and using a wooden spoon combine until the batter is smooth. Stir through the freshly chopped chives and oregano.
3. Heat a large frying pan. Add a little olive oil. Once hot add a ladleful of batter to the centre of the pan. Tilting the pan, swish the batter around quickly to form a circle. Cook the crepe for approximately 2- 3 minutes and then flip it over and continue to cook on the other side for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate, and continue to cook the remaining crepes.

4. To serve; spoon some of the mushroom and chive filling into each crepe, and sprinkle over a little freshly chopped chive to garnish.  
If you're looking for something easy to bake with the children over the Easter holidays, these muffins are a great option. The method is so simple as it merely involves adding the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and if your little ones are banana fans they'll love the results. These muffins make for a somewhat less-guilty treat to enjoy with a glass of milk or a cuppa.



Ingredients

3 ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs, lightly whisked
100g greek yogurt
100ml sunflower or rapeseed oil
1tsp vanilla extract
150g wholemeal flour
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp raw cacao powder

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/Gas 5. Line the muffin tins with 15 large muffin cases.
2. Place the bananas, eggs, yogurt, sunflower oil and vanilla extract into a large bowl. Stir well to combine.
3. Add the wholemeal flour to the bowl and sieve in the plain flour, baking powder, sugar, and cacao powder into the bowl. Stir well until everything is combined well together.
4. Divide the mixture between the 15 muffin cases.
5. Bake in the preheated oven, for 25-30 minutes, until well risen and golden.
6. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire tray to cool. Store in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
This hearty, filling and flavorsome soup makes a wonderful lunch, any day of the week. If you've got a busy day in store, this soup can be easily be prepared the day before and then simply reheated just before serving. My children love the addition of cheesy soldiers, for dunking into the thick soup, but croutons or even crusty bread would also make a perfect accompaniment.


Ingredients

75g butter
250g potatoes, peeled and diced
225g carrots, sliced
150g parsnip, roughly diced
1 white onion, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
2 leeks, white part only and sliced
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.2 lt chicken stock
100ml cream

Cheesy Soldiers:
4 thick slices of bread, such as sourdough, cut into large fingers
50ml olive oil
75g cheddar cheese, grated

To serve:
A few fresh chives, finely chopped

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. When it begins to foam add all the vegetables, stir to combine well with the butter.
3. Sprinkle with a little salt, a few grinds of pepper and the thyme leaves. Place a butter wrapper, or a piece of greaseproof paper, over the vegetables to help them sweat. Cover with the lid of the saucepan. Sweat over a low heat for about 10 minutes, making sure that the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
4. When the vegetables are soft but not coloured, and the stock, and continue to cook for another 15 mins until the vegetables are cooked through.
5. Meanwhile, make the cheesy soldiers. Brush the chunky fingers of bread with a little olive oil. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle the grated cheese over each finger. Place in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes.
6. Using a hand blender or a food processor purée the soup until it is smooth. Taste and season, if necessary.
7. Add half of the cream and stir well. Pour the soup into serving bowls and garnish each one with a sprinkling of chives and a spoonful of cream swirled on top. Serve with the cheesy soldiers or crusty bread.