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The Siblings Project {February 17}

It’s the second Siblings Project of the year and this month I’m sharing some shots from Sunday afternoon at my Mum & Dad’s house. We went for lunch and to drop off the boys for two days as it’s Half Term and both myself and Matteo are working Monday and Tuesday.

Siblings February

The last few weeks have had their ups and downs.  Two weeks ago Ethan was poorly again, another chest infection, another night in hospital and another round of antibiotics.  He missed another week of school too.  As there has been so much going round lately, including sickness bugs at school the teachers weren’t worried about us keeping him off all week as he probably could have gone back on the Friday.  The boys are in separate classes at school but still spend some time during the day playing together.  Oliver was a bit quiet and subdued that week but seemed to cope fine without Ethan.  In a way it’s good for him and the separation in general over last term and the the last six weeks has really helped with his confidence as I feel sorry for him sometimes as it can seem that he spends a lot of time in Ethan’s shadow.

Siblings Project February

I love to watch the boy’s bond and this month they have a new game in the bath – blowing raspberries on each other’s tummies to see if they can make the other one laugh.  it’s very cute to watch!  They also love wrestling and play fighting with each other, mostly on the lounge or our bed.  Generally they have been getting on well apart from the odd quarrel over the tablet.

At Nana and Grandad’s they also created a new game which consists of jumping over the other person who is rolling.  Here are two action shots!:

Siblings Project February

Siblings Project February

So here’s hoping for a lovely relaxing Half Term.  The boys are having some surprise outings with Nana and Grandad and then we’re going to have a haircut, going to the GP for Ethan’s follow-up appointment and meeting some friends but apart from that I hope we can just have some time-out from the school routine so we can regain some energy for the next six weeks.

Siblings Project February

You can see what they got up to last month here.

The Siblings Project - Dear Beautiful

 

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Healthy Strawberry and Chocolate Muffins

These muffins are gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free but so lovely and very quick to make.  They’re inspired by Livia’s Kitchen Raspberry and Almond muffins. The sweetness of the strawberries is complemented by the bitterness of the raw chocolate.  The ground almonds and strawberries keeps them lovely and moist.  They’re lovely for a mid morning snack with a nice cup of herbal tea.

Strawberry & Chocolate Muffins blog

Makes 12 small muffins

 

Ingredients

 

200g Ground almonds

40g Brown rice flour

30g Coconut sugar

50g Cashew butter

20g Coconut oil (melted)

100ml Maple syrup

200ml Almond milk

One 44g bar of raw chocolate (broken into small pieces)

Handful of strawberries (chopped)

 

Method

 

Preheat the oven to 180 °C  (170 °C fan).

Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan.  Weigh and measure out all the other ingredients and combine everything in a large mixing bowl apart from the almond milk, chocolate and strawberries.

Mix in the almond milk slowly about 50ml at a time.  Once combined fully, fold in the chocolate and strawberries.

Spoon into a muffin tray making sure you have some pieces of chocolate and strawberry in each muffin and put into the oven for 35 minutes until golden brown.

They’re ready when tested with a skewer and it comes out clean.

Leave to cool completely before taking out of the tray.

Enjoy!

 

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I used a silicone tray for this on a baking tray but if you use a metal muffin tin you will need to line with paper cases.

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You don’t have to use raw chocolate.  I like it because it’s better for you as it contains more nutrients than normal chocolate because the cacao has not been roasted.  I used The Raw Chocolate co’s Organic Vanoffe dark 66% bar (available on Amazon).

Strawberry & Chocolate Muffins

Strawberry & Chocolate Muffins

Strawberry & Chocolate Muffins

Strawberry & Chocolate Muffins

I love to hear if you try making these and how you get on.

Thanks for reading

Laura x

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The Siblings Project {January 17}

I’ve been using the Siblings Project hashtag for quite a while on Instagram so I’m really excited to be starting our own photo project on this blog to celebrate our boy’s relationship. The twin bond is the most amazing thing to watch.  They’re inseparable, best friends, best brothers, they make each other laugh but they annoy each other too like other siblings do. These two just seem to get closer and closer.  For example, on Thursday I took Ethan for a hospital appointment. We took Oliver to the school gate and before I could even say bye to him, Ethan had grabbed him round the neck to cuddle him and gave him a kiss on the cheek saying “Bye Ollie, see you later!”

 

Siblings Project January 17

Don’t get me wrong, they have their moments but they just play so well together now, most of the time they share, they role-play, they cuddle.  It took so long for it to be like this, there was the biting stage and the hitting stage, I couldn’t leave them alone for even a minute, I never got anything done, I felt like the referee all the time.  I used to say they couldn’t live with each other but they couldn’t live without each other.  Now there is the odd scuffle most days but then the next second, they’re play fighting or asking each other things!  I think the fact that they are separated for part of the day at school means they miss each other and so they’re happy to see each other at the end of the day.

 

 

Siblings Project January 17

Siblings Project January 17

These photos were taken over an afternoon and evening last weekend.  We went to the park with their bikes and stayed for an hour in the playground.  In the evening I made pizza and we ate on the sofa as a treat and watched a Disney film.  They then had their usual “mad half hour” after dinner of play fighting and playing babies on the sofa.  They made a total mess but even though I was despairing of having to tidy the throws once again, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop them because they make me laugh!

Siblings January 17

Siblings Project January 17

Siblings Project January 17

I’m looking forward to sharing these monthly photos of our boys.  Hopefully it will be something that they will enjoy looking back at in the future.

I’m linking up with Lucy, Katie, Carie, Keri-Anne, Donna, Natalie and Amber so head over to their sites to have a look at their monthly siblings photos too.

The Siblings Project - Dear Beautiful
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Three Bean Chilli

This is a recipe that I made up based on a meat chilli I have been making since the boys were weaning, I think I got it from a weaning cookbook.  It’s super healthy and warming for when the nights are drawing in and you want something comforting to eat.

Three Bean Chilli blog

Ingredients

 

1tbsp olive oil

1 onion

1 stick of celery

1 carrot

1 courgette

2 cloves of garlic

2 tins chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 heaped tsp ground cumin

1 heaped tsp ground coriander

Hot chilli powder to taste – I used about half a tsp

1 tin/carton red kidney beans

1 tin/carton black beans

1 tin/carton cannellini beans

1heaped tsp cornflour mixed with approx 1 tsp water

Salt and pepper to taste

Three Bean Chilli

Method

Peel the onion and carrot.  Chop them plus the celery and courgette.  Add the olive oil to a large frying pan and once heated add in all four vegetables. Fry on a low heat for about 10 minutes until they soften.  Crush in the garlic and fry for another 2 minutes.  Transfer to a slow cooker (or large saucepan/casserole pot) and add in the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and spices.  If you can, leave to cook on medium for about 6 hours but it will be fine on high for about 2.  About half an hour before serving add in the beans.  Then mix the cornflour with a very small amount of water (enough to make a loose paste) and add to the cooker.  This will thicken the chilli slightly so that it’s not too watery.  Season to taste and serve with rice, garlic bread or a jacket potato.

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This time we served this with a packet to Tomato & Basil Uncle Ben’s rice as it’s the boy’s favourite.  We also had poppadoms.

Three Bean Chilli

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This chilli can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months and in fact always tastes better the next day when re-heated.

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To make it super healthy serve with wholegrain/brown rice.

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You can make this as hot as you like. I have two little boys that complain it’s burning their mouth if I make it too spicy!

What’s your favourite dish for autumn?

Thank you for reading

Laura x

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9 Top Tips for a Great Holiday in Italy

I love Italy, it would make sense really seen as I live with an Italian, have a degree in the language, used to use it in my job and have travelled there every year but one since 2002.  There’s just something about the people, the language, the history, culture and food that caught my attention.

Holiday in Italy tips blog

If you’re looking to plan a holiday for later this year or are already thinking about next year, we’ve teamed up with travel provider Holiday Gems, a website where you can find cheap holidays (whether it be a family trip, romantic getaway or city break) to bring you our top 9 tips for having a fantastic time in Italy.  All holidays are ATOL protected so you can book with confidence.

Holiday in Italy tips

So here are our Top Tips:

  1.  Take a guidebook and phrasebook with you.  Italian people are so friendly and will try to help you but not many speak fluent English.  Plan sightseeing and check opening times as many places are open on Saturdays but closed on Mondays.
  1. Look for places to eat that are recommended. Usually small trattorias offer local specialities and will be fairly priced.  Be careful to check if they charge a coperto (service charge). Ask the waiter/waitress what they advise to order.  If you have any dietary requirements they should be happy to accommodate these.

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  1. Investigate how to get around before you travel. Public transport in some areas can be very limited and taxis expensive.  If you want to travel around a lot in or are staying in rural areas away from major cities it may be advisable to rent a car
  1. Check out an Italian supermarket if you have time. Large supermarkets have an amazing selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and cheese as well as bread and antipasti.  It’s just such a different experience to an English supermarket.

Supermercato

  1. If you go in autumn or winter, try a traditional hot chocolate in a local café or pasticceria.  It’s so thick and comforting, we think it’s a million times better than English hot chocolate. I also love the mini cakes. My favourite is the ‘bigne al cioccolato’, it’s like a profiterole with chocolate creme patisserie in – heaven!

Hot Chocolate

  1. Be aware of beach sellers that operate on most public beaches. You can get some nice things (e.g. jewellery and bags) but it can become annoying when they are constantly disturbing you when you are trying to relax.

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  1. If you can, go to a village summer party. Try local food specialities (e.g. polenta, cheese) and interact with the locals.
  1. Be careful of mosquitos.  I always come home having been bitten. Take plenty of repellant spray with you and a plug-in for night time.
  1. Lastly relax and soak up the culture. Go for a walk after dinner, sample a real Italian ice-cream (gelato), eat a true Italian takeaway pizza (pizza d’asporto).

Holiday tips for Italy

Have you ever been to Italy? What did you love about it most?
Thank you for reading
Laura x
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

 

**This is a sponsored post, all opinions and recommendations are my own**

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Raspberry & Vanilla Overnight Oats

I never liked porridge until about six months ago when I started trying to eat healthier and went in search of recipes to help me do it. When I found Deliciously Ella’s baked porridge I was hooked. Not only did I now like porridge but I found a way to make it without loads of refined sugar.  I’ve been trying quite a few porridge and overnight oats recipes (all saved on my Pinterest breakfast board) and have been experimenting with creating my own too.  This is my first, it’s really simple and quick and also so lovely and sweet.  I’ve eaten it almost every day this week!

Raspberry & Vanilla Overnight Oats blog

 

Ingredients

 

1/4 cup of oats (I used gluten-free)

1/2 cup milk (I used oat milk)

12-15 fresh or frozen raspberries

1/4 tsp vanilla powder or vanilla essence

2 tsp maple syrup

1tsp ground flax or mixed seeds (optional)

 

Method

 

Measure out the oats into a small jar or pot and pour over the milk.  Add the other ingredients and mix together with a spoon.  Refrigerate overnight.

In the morning eat straight from the fridge or put in a bowl or microwavable container and heat for 2 minutes, stir and heat again for a further minute.  Leave to stand for a few minutes before tucking in!

I hope you enjoy this recipe, let me know below how you get on.

Thanks for reading

Laura x

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Ethan & Oliver Start School September 2016

When I posted the boys first day of school photo on Instagram/Facebook I said it was the day that I had been avoiding thinking about, in fact I was quite in denial about the whole thing.  Well not totally because I had bought their uniform and I knew it was going to come around.  I just really wasn’t ready, even if the boys had been ready for quite a while.  Actually they had been asking me for a whole year if they had finished nursery yet since some of their friends went to school in September 2015.

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In those last 24 hours before we left them at school for their first “half” day I realised that the biggest thing for me was that although it is still tough sometimes, I felt like I had only just begun to enjoy being a mum, to enjoy them, and that it seemed as if the time had just slipped away.  I wanted to be a mum so badly before I got pregnant but I never expected it to be so tough at the beginning.  I was in shock, overwhelmed and quite low for the first three months, I really didn’t cherish the newborn stage at all and don’t remember much about it.  The first year of the boy’s life is such a blur of nappy changes, feeding, no sleep and a few baby groups and then after that, the routine of work, nursery, toddler groups, soft play, afternoons at the farm etc.  Matteo was studying the first two years, he helped a lot but I spent a lot of time taking the boys out by myself.  We then swapped roles when I started studying, taking them out at the weekend but during the week I was then juggling uni with part-time work and looking after the boys.  It’s never been the easiest ride but I think we’ve done a pretty good job at giving them a great start to life.  Everyone always comments on how happy and content they are. They save the grumpiness and tantrums for home of course!

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The boys had two afternoon settling in sessions at school in July which they were so excited to go to.  We had been on holiday the last week of June so unfortunately they didn’t get to go for a morning session including lunch but I don’t think it mattered too much. They were not phased as all and went in together so well, I don’t think they even looked back!  I had a tear in my eye but thankfully just pulled my sunglasses down and walked out quickly to the car! They didn’t tell us much afterwards, just that they’d played with a blue scooter and kept asking when they were going back.

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Matteo took the day of their first day at school off from work so we could both take them and pick them up.  We didn’t have to take them until 10:30 so we had plenty of time to get ready and take photos.  In the lead up to that day I had been feeling so emotional, welling up when they tried their uniform on and just thinking about it so I knew I was going to cry that day.  I felt the tears coming when we had to say bye to them and watch them go to their classroom but I kept them back until we got to the car.  I know they are going to learn so much and grow up I just wish that I had cherished those moments when they were smaller that bit more.  I’m also so happy that they were happy to go and weren’t clinging to us crying and upset, as I think that would have made me worse as I would then have been worrying even more about them.

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We decided to put the boys in separate classes, for a few reasons but mainly for Oliver’s independence as he is the follower and the one who is more clingy.  It was good that we had the choice, school were happy to go with what we wanted and I was glad of this as I had visited another school where the policy is that twins must be separated and another where there was only one class so they would have had to be together. I wanted it to be our decision.  A while ago I didn’t want to separate them, but after much discussion with Matteo and once I had visited the school and saw that the classrooms are next to each other and connected by a door which is open most of the time and where the children can move freely between them, plus they had been separated for “group time” at pre-school for the last 18 months, I felt it was the right choice for them.

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And so now I’m a school mum and life is a blur of drop offs and pick ups.  The boys are happy to go, we’ve had no tears at drop off at all.  I feel so proud that they’re growing up into such beautiful, happy boys and so proud to say their my babies.

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Thanks for reading. Have your children just started school? How was it for you and them?

Laura x

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Coping out and about with twins in the early years – my thoughts on feeling judged

Having twins or multiples really is a unique experience.  This post is about finding my confidence as a new mum and feeling judged by others. So what is it like for me being a mum of twins and coping with going to the supermarket or for a tea and cake in town?  The most notable thing for me is the attention you get or should I say, the twins get.  People are so interested, which is great but sometimes it can be overwhelming when you’re trying to cope with two babies/toddlers/pre-schoolers, you just want to be left alone to get on with it and not be met with people’s constant need to ask questions or to make comments.

Coping out and about with Twins blog

The most common passing comment used to be “You’ve got your hands full!”  Sometimes I’d get this up to four or five times when I was out.  It became so repetitive and in the end boring to hear.  Most of the time I just smiled politely and carried on but there were times when I was frazzled or not having the best day when I thought I might explode if I heard that phrase one more time! I’m sure it will haunt me on my Facebook memories for years to come when I had to vent and threatened to punch the next person that said that to me! I suppose I took it as a judgement that I looked to other people like I wasn’t coping very well and this sometimes upset me as I always felt like I was doing my best even if it was the bare minimum I could do just to get through that day.

Out and about with Twins

Mummy Lauretta

The next most popular comment was “Double trouble”.  I’m not sure if that was because they are boys or if parents of girl twins or boy/girl twins get this too.

The one comment that upset me and I felt really bewildered by was when I was in town with my mum one day when the boys were still quite small and a woman walked past and said “Are they twins? I feel sorry for you.”  Did I look particularly unhappy that day?  I don’t think so.  A friend helped me when I told her about this by saying that some people feel it would be a situation that they wouldn’t cope in so assume that I wouldn’t either.  I just felt this would have been so hurtful if for example I was someone that had struggled for a long time to get pregnant.  I think that some people just can’t keep their opinions to themselves and really don’t understand the impact their words could have on people who don’t think the same way as them.

If anything, all of these comments just made me more proud to be a twin mum especially the nice ones like “Aw they’re so cute”.  To be able to experience this amazing thing and watch how the boys grow up and see how their relationship develops is incredible.  My hands are very full but so is my heart and although it’s been incredibly hard work the last five years I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Out and about with twins

Mummy Lauretta

Now the boys are a bit older we still get attention but the comments seem to have almost stopped.  People still ask if they are twins and how old they are etc. but I feel like the judgements are less, or maybe it’s just because I feel more confident now, more (maybe!) in control as I can have proper conversations now with the boys.  We are so much more interactive when we’re out so there is less space for people to butt in and talk to me.  I’m also so proud of the little people they have turned into and feel like I’ve done alright so far in bringing them up!

Out and about with twins

Mummy Lauretta

Having a support network at the local twin group helped me to not feel so alone in these experiences as just knowing that other people are going through the same thing makes you feel instantly a bit better.  Being able to chat for an hour with other twin mums once or twice a month was like a lifeline to me and I was only sad that I didn’t make the effort to find that group before (I started going when the boys were around 18 months old).   This group was also a comfort to me when the boys went through their biting phase and I would get looks from other mums at “normal” toddler groups.  I had mum friends at the others groups who were understanding and supportive but at the twin group I felt like everyone just totally “got it”.  You can find details of the Nottingham twins and multiples club and the groups they run on their Facebook page here.

Out and about with Twins

Mummy Lauretta

Out and about with Twins

Mummy Lauretta

What’s your experience of getting out and about with little ones?

Laura x

Blended Parent Network

 

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Natural Beauty Products – My Favourites

I’ve been using natural beauty products for a few years now, probably since the boys were born when I started to take more notice of and care more about what I was putting on my skin and theirs, as it worried me that the chemicals used were finding their way into my bloodstream and we don’t know their long term effects. I now always try to use products that are not tested on animals, that contain natural ingredients and avoid SLS (Sodium Laureate Sulphate – a foaming agent and skin irritant), Parabens (carcinagenic preservatives) and other synthetic chemicals or ingredients such as microbeads which have been in the news a lot recently. I find that especially in winter my skin is very dry and SLS seems to aggravate this mostly on my scalp and legs. Using more natural products has definitely helped reduce this.  Some people may think these products are very expensive but I don’t think you can put a price on looking after yourself and also because the products don’t have chemical foaming agents in them, they tend to last about twice as long as the leading brands because you don’t need to use as much product to have the same effect.

My next task is to find all natural make-up products as I’m only using one at the moment so if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them.

I’ve made a Pinterest board with links to all my favourites and many more, for example the sun creams we used this summer, the two face products Matteo uses, plus other face washes, shampoo and shower gel I like to use or have used in the past. Click here if you’d like to have a look.

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Here are the ones that I am using right now –

For me:

Green People Gentle cleanser & make-up remover – this is a really nice, light cream and not oily like some other cleansers I have tried.  The 200ml bottle last me ages.

Caudalie foaming face wash – this is the best face wash I’ve tried in terms of how it feels on my skin, how it cleans and how long it lasts, I love it.

Green People Fruitful Nights moisturiser – this is my night time moisturiser, it smells like berries.

Dead Sea Magik mild exfoliant – I use this once or twice a week on my face and neck, it’s quite thick so really feels as though it scrubs off any dead skin and cleans my pores.

Faith in Nature Coconut shampoo & conditioner – these are just really good value for money, are lovely on my dry scalp and smell amazing.

Weleda Sea Buckthorn Shower Gel – a little goes a long way, this one smells quite citrusy.

Faith in Nature Aloe Vera & Tea Tree hand wash – gentle and antibacterial on a mum’s hands and I wash my hands a lot!

Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance tinted moisturiser SPF20 – the only natural make up product I use so far, I tried quite a few samples of different tinted moisturisers and this was by far my favourite.  The sun protection factor is a bonus.

Neal’s Yard Lavender and Aloe Vera Deodorant – I love the smell of this one.

Weleda Sage Deodorant – I use this deodorant before I exercise.

Weleda Skin Food – this cream sits by my bed and I apply to my hands and feet just before I go to sleep.  It’s amazing for cracked heels.

Skin and Tonic Calm Balm – I’ve never been the best sleeper and this balm helps me to switch off and relax at night.

 

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For the boys I alternate between the following products:

Welela Calendula Soap – I’ve been washing the boys with this since they were babies when Oliver had dry skin issues, it’s so gentle and not drying like normal soaps.

Weleda Calendula Shampoo and Body wash – this is great when you go away or swimming for example as it means you only have to take one bottle with you.

Kind Natured Apple Smoothie 2-in-1 shampoo – very good value for money and a delicious smell.

Green People / Organic Children Berry smoothie shampoo – this one also smells so good.

 

Plus everyday they use:

Green People Mandarin & Aloe Vera toothpaste – safe to swallow even for babies.

 

Let me know below if you have any favourite natural beauty products, I’m always looking for new suggestions.

**This is not a sponsored post – all content and opinions are my own**

Laura x

 

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My “Chuck it all in” Vegetable Soup

This soup is brilliant for using up veg that you have in the cupboard or fridge that may be starting to go past its best.  It’s also great because it means that the kids will have quite a lot of their ‘five a day’ in one meal and because it’s smooth they don’t act suspicious about what’s in it.  In fact whenever I make it they ever moan and quite often ask for seconds.

 

This is the basic recipe and serves 2 adults and 2 children for two meals, but the beauty of this is that you can change it depending on what you have in the house and how many portions you want to make.

This time when I made it I added about half a head of broccoli I had left and half a pack of green beans.

Veg Soup blog

Ingredients

1tbsp olive oil

1 onion

1 carrot

1 sweet potato

1 potato

1 courgette

2 cloves of garlic

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 vegetable stock cubes

500ml boiling water

1 tbsp mixed herbs

100g brown rice spaghetti *optional*

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method

Peel and chop all the vegetables including the garlic.  Add the olive oil to a large saucepan and once heated add in the onion, carrot, garlic and courgette. Fry on a low heat for 10 minutes until they soften.  Add the potato, sweet potato, tinned tomatoes, stock cube, herbs, water and any other vegetables and leave to simmer with the lid on for at least 30 minutes.

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Blitz the soup with a hand blender until smooth (or less if you like lumps) and then season to taste before breaking in the spaghetti and cook for another 10 minutes while stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

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Serve with rye bread or any other bread.

Matteo loves focaccia.

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This soup can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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If you’re not vegan or dairy intolerant, you can also add any left over Parmesan cheese rinds to the soup when you add the water but make sure you take them out if you are going to blitz it to smooth.

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You don’t have to use gluten free pasta, you can use whatever pasta you like, for example stars or macaroni.

I hope you find this recipe easy and versatile.

Thank you for reading

Laura x