40 things you can clean in a dishwasher

Got a dishwasher? Did you ever think its powerful cleaning capabilities could be used on other things than plates, cups and pots? Here are 40 things you can clean in a dishwasher:

Bin lids

Put them on the bottom shelf at the highest temperature for maximum cleaning.

Small plastic rubbish bins

If you have those little bathroom or bedroom bins (the 8 or 10 litre ones, or smaller), you can wash it in the dishwasher, if it fits. Just check the dishwasher’s cleaning blades still spin once it’s in.

Your kitchen compost collector

If yours is anything like mine, it gets completely disgusting with mold. Run it through the dishwasher regularly to sanitise it.

Fridge shelves

If the glass shelves of your refrigerator fit, you can clean them in the dishwasher regularly to keep them spotless.

Fridge drawers

For some reason, my vegetable drawers in the bottom of the refrigerator regularly get food residue on them. It’s easy to clean them up by placing them in the dishwasher, on either the bottom or top rack. Remove the dishwasher’s cutlery holder if you need a bit more space to fit these in!

Hobs

Those metal things that hold your pan off the heat on a gas cooker can usually be done in the dishwasher carefully. Check your manfacturer’s manual if you’re concerned about damaging your hobs. I’m more concerned with having a hygienic home and removing that impossible-to-shift grease that builds up. If that means the finish on the hobs gets a little less pretty, I can live with that. Put them through with half a tablet for peace of mind, and don’t do them more often than twice a year.

Grill tray

See the advice about hobs. The shiny metal part goes into the dishwasher no problem, but the grease-catching tray may rust if it’s not made to withstand intensive cleaning.

Oven rack

The shiny metal oven rack on which you put oven trays and casserole dishes can go in the dishwasher too. Position it on the bottom shelf carefully and check the dishwasher’s blades still spin. Don’t put cheap flimsy replacement oven racks in unless you don’t mind them getting a little rusty. Only use half a dishwasher tablet for oven racks.

Plastic laundry pegs (bag them first)

If your pegs have cobwebs or algae build-up on them, or just dirt from being outdoors, put them in a mesh bag and leave on the top shelf of the dishwasher to get them clean!

Safety child plugs

Those plastic plugs that stop toddlers sticking their fingers in electrical sockets? If they get dropped in treacle or paint, don’t worry, it’s easy to run them through the dishwasher. Just place under a cup to stop them moving around or getting lost.

Some lampshades

If your lampshade is plastic, you may be able to clean it in the dishwasher (carefully). I’d only use half a tablet and I’d also put the temperature to its lowest setting (such as a “quick wash” at about 50 degrees celsius. In theory, a lampshade should be able to stand higher temperatures (because they are next to light bulbs) but with modern energy-saving bulbs, some lampshades might not be up to the standards they used to be.

Glass mirrors (be careful)

Some glass mirrors can go in the dishwasher, but they need to be a) a sealed unit that can dry out b) non-electrical (don’t ever put illuminated mirrors in the dishwasher) and c) The backing needs to be protected. You can do this by covering the back with foil. I’d only do this as a last resort to try and fix a VERY dirty mirror (e.g. it has crayon or paint on it) as the best way to clean normal household dirt/dust off a mirror is using window cleaning spray such as Windowlene or Windex. There is a chance this could still ruin the mirror’s backing so do take care!

Glass from picture frames

Again, take a LOT of care and only put the glass in (not the frame). These can be laid flat on the top shelf. Small picture frames might not be heavy enough to stay put so I’d avoid putting in any that are lighter than an egg cup as I wouldn’t like to clean broken glass out of the bottom of the dishwasher. A better way to clean very delicate glass picture frames for ordinary household dirt/dust is to use window cleaning spray (see mirrors, above).

Toothbrush holder

Does the bottom of your toothbrush holder get a white or faintly yellow residue building up sometimes? Sort it out by chucking it in the dishwasher on the top rack with your cups.

Plastic cars

If your toddler has been feeding biscuits to his plastic cars, run them through the dishwasher to get them squeaky clean. Don’t put toys with very small parts (such as Matchbox-sized diecast cars with tyres) in the dishwasher.

Lego

Put dirty, sticky and chocolate-covered Lego (and derivatives) into a mesh bag such as the ones for washing powder tablets and put on the top shelf of the dishwasher or in the cutlery compartment if yours has an open area where you could put this.

Mega Bloks/Duplo

Bigger than Lego, I’d still put these in a mesh bag if they’ll fit, or place each individual block under a cup on the top shelf to get them clean.

Breast pump (cleanable/non-electric parts)

This can go in with your usual wash. Don’t put the tubing in. The basic rule is: if you can clean it in a sterilizer, you can safely put it in the dishwasher. Regarding hygiene, I would probably wait until your baby is about 6 months old before using the dishwasher, as before that, you need to use the sterilizer to properly obliterate the bacteria that your baby has no immunity to, yet.

Vases

Some vases can go in the dishwasher, if they’re either crystal/cut glass or glazed/fired pottery (such as Emma Bridgewater). Don’t run them through too often, but if a plant died in your vase while you were on holiday, this is a great way to properly clean it out.

Glazed pottery ornaments

Be very careful, especially if these are expensive. Small ornaments can be quite light and might get washed around the dishwasher, potentially damaging them. You need to be sure they are held down e.g. under a cup or in a (dishwasher-safe) net bag that’s anchored to something. I’ve had good results using the dishwasher to clean up cheap second-hand Jasperware I bought on ebay.

Plastic phone cases

If your phone case is plastic (not fabric or leather etc) you can spruce it up in the dishwasher. I put mine in the top rack, laid flat, and I put a cup on top to stop it escaping.

Dummies/pacifiers

These can go in your normal household dishwasher load. I hold them down by putting them under a mug so they don’t get washed around the dishwasher and end up in the bottom and dirty.

Children’s potty

If you’re toilet training your little angel, you might want to freshen up the potty every so often instead of rinsing it out all the time. Pop it in the dishwasher on a high temperature (follow the directions for the toilet brush, below, and remember the potty and toilet brush can go in together safely).

Toilet brush

Gross, right? Some people swear by it! I’m not entirely brave enough to try this one as I’d be scared of getting poo on my cups in the next wash, but if you’re going to try this, be sure to rinse off any brown bits in the toilet and put this through the dishwasher on a separate wash to anything you eat off. Use a wash temperature that’s over 65 degrees celsius to be sure to kill any bacteria (this is usually the 70 degrees celsius intensive wash option and has a picture of a pot with a lid).

Dish brush

All scrubbing brushes can work well in the dishwasher. Just don’t put them in with lots of pots and pans covered in thick sauces or other food residue, or the bristles will catch the residue. These could work well going into the dishwasher at the same time as the lint filter of your tumble dryer (see below).

Washing machine’s powder drawer

Have you ever pulled out your washing machine’s powder drawer? Were you horrified to discover that it was mouldy at the back? Maybe yours just has a build-up of powder/detergent residue in the compartments? Put the drawer in your dishwasher and watch it magically become clean! Be sure not to do this if you use a highly foaming detergent (most washing machines don’t) or you may end up with a dishwasher full of bubbles.

Tumble dryer’s lint filter

Put it on the top shelf of the dishwasher after removing as much lint as you can, to get rid of fabric dust and other ingrained yack. The dishwasher will clean it like any other fine-meshed sieve. Don’t put any papery filters in the dishwasher, or they will pulp!

Vacuum cleaner’s dust collection compartment (if no electrics in this bit)

If you need to get rid of all the dust in your bagless vacuum cleaner, put the dust collection compartment in the dishwasher; it will be sparkling in no time! Avoid putting paper-based vacuum filters in the dishwasher as they may turn to pulp.

Crocs

They’re plastic, so if you’re trying to remove ingrained dirt from your Crocs, you can run them through the dishwasher (not at the same time as your dinner plates, you don’t want cross-contamination). Remove any of those charms that you can stick to them, you wouldn’t want them getting lost!

Garden trowel

If it’s quality stainless steel or plastic, it can go in the dishwasher. Be wary of wooden handles, however, as these can be damaged if they’re left in water for too long (just like wooden spoons)

Empty plant pots

It’s easy to clean out your old plant pots (plastic or ceramic) ready to re-use for next year, just plonk them in the dishwasher together (in a separate load to your kitchen ware), add a tablet and hit “start”.

Beauty blender

Put it under a mug so it doesn’t wash away. Don’t put it in with an exceptionally dirty load of stuff because it’ll absorb the grease and grime instead of being cleaned.

Artists’ painting pallettes

Water and oil-based paint should come out in the dishwasher (dishwasher tablets are designed to cut through grease, after all). Acrylic is a bit trickier and cleaning dried-on acrylic paint in the dishwasher is less likely to produce a perfect result as acrylic paint is plastic-based.

Food trays (not ones which are cushioned)

These can go in your usual dishwasher load if there’s room.

Empty glass jars for recycling

Remove the labels first, or you’ll be scraping them out of your dishwasher filter later. If you want to reuse the jars for another project, running them through the dishwasher is a great way to clean them up. On the other hand, if you’re just putting them out to recycle, a quick rinse in the sink is far less effort.

Plastic fly swatter

The water jets in the dishwasher can get into all the crevices and get rid of those disgusting dead flies.

Paint roller drip tray

The dishwasher can remove water-based paint such as Rust-o-leum Chalky Paint but it can’t remove gloss or emulsions as these are usually designed to be resistant to water.

Paint roller handles (but not the fluffy part)

If they’ve gotten dusty or are otherwise manky from being left on a shelf for months, run them through the dishwasher.

Blender jug

Only if the jug separates from any electrical components, nothing electrical can go in the dishwasher. I find it’s particularly useful for cleaning the lid of my Kitchen Ninja (the rest of it can’t go in) which has the most awkward shape and is really uncomfortable to clean in the sink.

Hairdryer diffuser

Remove the diffuser attachment from the rest of the hairdryer and put it in the cup rack to get rid of product build-up

Hairbrushes (non-cushioned ones)

Plastic vent brushes, most combs, Tangle Teezer-type brushes (not travel ones) can all go in the dishwasher to get them effortlessly clean.

And some important exceptions:

Take care putting anything metal in the dishwasher. Cutlery is usually treated and alloyed to make it resistant to cleaning products and rust. Many other metal items are not. Metal oven cooking trays seem particularly susceptible to this.

Avoid putting anything electrical in the dishwasher. If your blender jug is like the Kitchen Ninja where the electrics are all attached to the jug, it cannot get wet so it can’t go in the dishwasher.

Never, ever, ever put anything aluminium in the dishwasher. This includes those continental coffee pots that heat coffee on the hob. I ruined a brand new one of these recently by trying to wash it in the dishwasher before using it. The inside is blackened and no amount of scrubbing gets it clean. Sigh.

Got any more ideas for things you’ve cleaned using your dishwasher? Let me (and everyone else) know in the comments!

Caution

Follow these tips at your own risk. The author takes no responsibility for damage to items washed in your dishwasher. Results could vary based on make/model/age/state of the things you’re trying to wash. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Fussy toddler? 10 easy ways to feed them healthy stuff!

If you listen to some people, all toddlers only eat alfalfa, olives, hummus and organic homemade raw vegan baby recipes that take only ten hours to make. Mine isn’t like that. He likes fish fingers and biscuits.

It’s been pretty easy to get into bad habits this year, as budgets have been squeezed beyond breaking (I earned €6000 last year BEFORE tax due to a toxic combination of factors. For comparison, in 2018, I had several months where that was my monthly earnings), and children get cranky when they’re bored because everywhere is closed and there’s only so many times you can play with the same toys.

One day, I realized I was stuck in a rut with toddler food. My baby had eaten everything and anything when he was a baby, then 20 months hit and BAM just like that he woke up one day and decided to be a fussy eater. Or was he?

In our efforts to get nutrition into him, we would often serve him two or even three different meals to ensure he’d eaten something. After a week of this, I grew deeply worried. How long would it take before he learned that all he had to do was refuse a meal and we’d get him one he liked, instead?

I searched the internet to learn about this and found lots of advice saying basically “If he’s hungry, he will eat,” and “don’t keep changing his meals” but also “don’t deprive him of pudding if he doesn’t eat his dinner.”

A lot of the advice, however, although it said it was aimed at toddlers, absolutely couldn’t work for us because it depended on the toddler being verbal. Ours is a late talker and is still mostly nonverbal. He has no functional language and can’t make himself understood through words. Reasoning with him is impossible.

So I took what I could from other advice but struggled to get it to work. I started putting things in front of him that I knew he would eat. I was scared of letting him go hungry, but was trying to follow the advice that it was bad to keep giving him alternatives if he didn’t like something.

Some nights, the only part of his dinner that he ate was his yoghurt.

My repertoire became more and more limited.

Three weeks ago, I hit breaking point. He refused one of the three things he’d currently eat. I left it on his high chair tray and left the room. I couldn’t participate in this circus anymore. Nothing about this was okay.

I felt inadequate. I was scared of stupid things like him getting rickets. I wanted to cry but most of all I was frustrated. Why won’t you eat? I screamed inside my own head, unable to speak the words because I didn’t trust myself not to shout.

I realized he was eating more variety of things at nursery than at home. So what were we doing different?

After a discussion or three with his nursery keyworker and some hefty research, I came up with a plan. It didn’t involve me becoming a stay-at-home-chef or spending a fortune, it was based in reality, where I don’t have loads of money and spend a lot of my time earning the money I have.

And it worked.

Here’s everything I did to get my fussy toddler to eat:

  1. Start with what he will eat. He liked eggs, and they’re fairly nutritious, but I wasn’t cooking them very often because washing up after scrambled egg is a nightmare (our dishwasher can’t seem to clean it off, and our tap water doesn’t get very hot or high pressure, so it’s a hard scrubbing job every time). So I decided to try boiled eggs. They taste similar but are faster to cook and require less cleanup. They have similar nutrients to scrambled egg, when served with buttered toast. I tried this and it was a big hit. Eggs are cheap and healthy. I feel way less bad feeding him an egg than giving him fish fingers.
    Working with what he will eat is especially important for toddlers with texture issues. If your toddler won’t eat specific textures, find the ones he’s currently eating and try and find similar things. For example, mine likes fish fingers, so vegetable fingers also worked for us. I thought battered chicken nuggets would be a great next step, but he didn’t like them at all (wrong texture, it has to be breaded for us, we learned). But don’t get disheartened! Each food refusal helps you narrow down which specific textures/tastes your toddler will eat.
  2. Find or cook choices with hidden veg. We don’t ever feed him chips, but he does like potato waffles. A healthier option is ASDA’s mini-waffles with hidden carrot. Carrots have lots of B-vitamins. Those Roots cauliflower bites are another way to sneak veg onto his plate. Both of these are easy oven food but healthier than the usual options.
  3. Ban biscuits. Sugary, over-processed snacks can actually restrict your palate! That’s why at fancy restaurants they serve dishes with wine rather than fizzy drinks. The sugar in fizzy drinks (soda/pop) wreaks havoc on your taste buds. The same is true for toddlers. By letting the flavoured, sugary yoghurts run out and also insisting my husband feed NO MORE BISCUITS to our toddler for a couple of days (ignoring the tantrums), our little one’s mouth got a chance to reset and he was willing to try more stuff. My husband was in the habit of giving the toddler half a biscuit whenever he asked for one. Including while I was cooking dinner. This then affected Jellyfish’s taste buds so he didn’t like what he was served.
  4. Swap unhealthy snacks for healthy ones. Some ideas include veg sticks (carrot, cucumber or red pepper), chopped fruit (apple, mango, halved grapes or halved cherry tomatoes), raisins or other dried fruit (apricots, bananas).
  5. Bake your own. There are recipes for healthy, savoury muffins and biscuits on lots of sites across the internet. When you cook your own snacks, you take control of the ingredients; for example, you have the power to swap sugar for other sweeteners.
  6. Change white bread for wholemeal. I was scared to do this, but our toddler actually prefers wholemeal because it tastes like Weetabix. So now he eats more of his toast, and that toast contains more fibre. Try it with pasta and rice, too.
  7. Keep offering things he isn’t eating. This also unsettles me. It feels wasteful. I grew up in a house where we didn’t have much money. But by prepping and serving fruit and veg even when he won’t eat it, you’re giving him the option to change his mind and try it.
  8. Don’t eat rubbish in front of him. Chocolate, crisps, biscuits, cake… eat them during his nap or after he’s gone to bed. Toddlers copy you because they want to be just like you. You’re their parent and therefore they think everything you do is amazing. If you or your partner are turning your nose up at veg and expecting the toddler to eat it, what message does that send? If the toddler never sees you eating chocolate, he will never know it’s in the fridge, and he’ll never be moved to try it.
  9. Meal plan. If you sit down and plan in advance what you’re feeding him, you are less likely to come home from work feeling like you’re on the back foot, which leads to reaching into that freezer and pulling out the chicken nuggets (or in our case, fish fingers; we can’t get him to eat chicken). Tied into this, be sure to rotate things. Toddlers get bored of the same thing day in day out. Try and have a weekly rotation so he’s not eating too much of the same food each day.
  10. Change the drinks. Fruit juice is healthy for toddlers, right? Sadly, not. Even fresh fruit juice should be watered down with 4 parts water to 1 part fruit juice for a two-year-old. It’s also bad for their teeth. Milk (or Alpro Growing Up Milk if you’re dealing with CMPA without a soy intolerance) contains calcium, vitamins and minerals not found in water or fruit juice. One issue we’ve had with Growing Up Milk is, it’s super-sweet, especially compared to cow milk, which exacerbates the issues I mentioned in point 3. Now, we give him cow’s milk during the day and Growing Up Milk for night feeds (he stopped breastfeeding two months ago) so he gets his milky nutrition.

Bonus tips for getting fussy ASD/ADHD toddlers to eat:

  1. Change the cutlery. This can make a big difference for us. The wrong spoon can really put our toddler off eating. Sometimes, the best cutlery is none at all. Other times, he insists on attempting to eat toast with a spoon and won’t accept this isn’t going to work until he’s tried it.
  2. Change the container. Sometimes this can work, too. He likes eating off some bowls/plates more than others. His favourite, however, is no bowl, so finger food placed directly on the high chair’s tray can work well on particularly hard days.
  3. If they like something, say the name of the food (as simply as possible) when you give it to them, so they associate the word with the food they like. So I say “egg” when he’s enjoying scrambled or boiled egg.
  4. Let them see it in a way they understand. I found pulling the boiled egg out of the egg cup to show him it was an egg made the difference when he first refused a boiled egg. Another thing that helped was dipping his toast for him so it came out with yolk on it. At first the egg looked all white inside because of where the yolk was, but when he saw the yellow, he remembered it was something he likes.

One important thing we’ve learned since our little one started acting like a toddler is how much his behaviour feeds off the attention he gets. He’s still very impressionable, and he can’t talk very much to express himself, so sometimes we can accidentally teach him the wrong things.

When he started throwing himself on the floor and having tantrums every time he didn’t get his own way, at first we tried hugging him and reassuring him. This meant he did it more, because he got attention and cuddles. When we realized, we employed the one-handed clapping method.

One hand can’t clap. We walk away now and pretend to be very busy with anything else at all (I’ve been known to pick up a box of tissues and start reading the label to make it clear I’m not paying any attention to the toddler). The tantrums very quickly stopped.

Don’t make dinner into a show. Some toddlers can accidentally become performance eaters, where dinner turns into a huge drama. This can feed into a bigger issue. If mealtimes are the only times your baby gets your undivided attention, he’s going to eat slowly, refuse to eat so you pick up the spoon and coax him, and do anything else he can to get that one-on-one time to last.

We nip this in the bud in two ways: First, we give him the food and the spoon/fork then step back and focus on something else. Your own food, if you’re eating beside him, or your knitting or something. Second, we make time earlier and later in the evening to sit with him and play in a constructive way to ensure he gets the extra attention he needs (this also works for tantrums). Step back when he demands negative attention and ensure he is getting positive attention for other things.

Hopefully this article has helped you with some easy ideas for how to get your fussy toddler to eat more healthily. Every baby is different, however, and what works for one might not work for others. If I find the magic bullet that transforms fish finger fiends into quinoa-lovers, I’ll be the first to write about it.

Super-fast vegan pasta salad

This healthy and nutritious vegan recipe takes fifteen minutes at the most including pasta cooking time. Perfect for a busy family’s midweek dinner or weekend lunch.

When I was at univeristy, I had a friend from Catalonia who had a completely different view of cooking to me. When I went vegan for the first time in 2008, it wasn’t really something people had heard of. My family were very critical of my decision and made it difficult to eat because of the constant criticism.

In hindsight, I think I must have hit a nerve and accidentally unveiled their own insecurities surrounding their food choices, because I don’t naturally evangelize and never have, I’ve always wanted to be left alone to eat what I want and not to be forced to eat something just because someone else thinks I ought to.

My friend and I went to stay with my dad for a couple of weeks in Edinburgh and he nonstop went on and on (and on, and on) about how veganism was stupid and pointless and the only way to eat was to be vegetarian (he brought me up vegetarian until my mum left him when I was 5).

My friend was a meat-eater but she always defended my decision to eat whatever I wanted. One day we went to the supermarket and I was stuck for ideas, she suggested I make a pasta salad. I confessed I had no idea how to make one. She told me that where she grew up, pasta salad wasn’t the same as here. It was literally pasta and salad, with dressing over both.

From that one comment, I came up with this delicious pasta salad which has been a staple in my lunchtime repertoire for the last 12 years.

Ingredients:

Leafy vegetables of your choice. My favourites include iceberg lettuce, baby spinach, rocket and watercress. You can also buy ready-made salad bags with these things in them from the supermarket.

Pasta: Allow 80-100g uncooked pasta per person. I usually do it by eye these days.

Vegan soft cheese such as tofutti, scheese, violife (not as flavoursome as the others) or you could make your own homemade vegan soft cheese. Alternatively, you could use hummus, vegan pesto or something similar.

30g sunflower seeds (or other seed/nut of your choice. I like sunflower specifically because they’re high in calcium as well as protein)

Method:

Put the pasta on to boil. If you have a pinch of fresh thyme or oregano, add it to the pot!

When the pasta is cooked (8-10 mins, taste test if you’re unsure; it should be firm but not crunchy), drain and mix in a large dessert spoon of the soft cheese or hummus. Add more if you like your food saucier!

In a serving bowl, put your salad leaves, then add the pasta, and finally sprinkle the sunflower seeds on top.

Serve.

Add more veg: Chopped tomatoes go well with this.

5 Foods to Forage in August: Ireland

One of the most wonderful things about living out in the country in a large village is the abundance of wildlife all around me. I love seeing the birds every day as the coal tits come to my bird feeder followed by the ravens, who usually grab some of the pest bugs from my vegetable garden while they’re here.

I get excited when the blackberries appear, green at first, then red, before turning that barely-black shade that means it’s time to pick them. And I always smile when I see the rose hips starting to form at this time of year, looking like dewy pink rosebuds again, as nature gets ready for the transition into Autumn.

August is the month that many berries are ripe for picking. These are usually full of vitamins (especially vitamin C which boosts your immune system among other things) and preserving these berries through making jams, jellies, wines or cordials is a traditional way to ensure you have a healthy winter.

The earliest of the nuts appear at the end of August, too, although most taste best when harvested next month or even October. If you can find hazelnuts to pick, you’ve hit the nutritional jackpot this month!

Here are my top 5 foods to forage in August if you live in Ireland:

Blackberries

ripe blackberries
Ripe blackberries… totally different to blackcurrants (but everyone thinks they’re the same thing).

These are native and you’ll find their distinctive brambles all over the place.

My grandma used to say never to pick blackberries from by the road because the toxins from petrol cars would get into the berries and make you ill. She was a district nurse/midwife so probably knew what she was talking about. She lived in an era where car fuel contained lead, but she also grew up in rural Ireland at a time when there were significantly fewer cars on the roads, so I’d still heed her advice because we know a lot more about the toxicity of other petrol fumes these days.

I wanted a reliable source of blackberries as I adore blackberry jam, so since April I have been growing my own blackberry bush in a container (to stop it taking over the garden… it’s already trying haha). If you’ve a blackberry bush, it should fruit in the second year.

Ironically, it turns out there are also blackberry brambles in the little spinney at the bottom of my garden, and they have grown through the fence, so it looks like we’ll be inundated with my favourite berries next year! I always had a great crop of wild blackberries growing in the hedge at our old house in York, England (despite my mother in law’s attempts to remove the bramble “weed” when she visited), so I can’t wait to have them in my garden again.

Choose ripe blackberries which are a dark purple (almost black), and avoid ones which have been pecked at by birds or eaten by insects. If they have brown damage to the berries, leave them for the birds, too. Absolutely never pick mouldy ones (these will have green fuzz on them).

Remember, it’s better to leave some behind than to pick everything then throw it away, because other animals depend on naturally-growing fruits for their survival.

The best thing to do with blackberries you’ve foraged is to make my grandma’s blackberry jam recipe. If you don’t have time to do it immediately, freeze your blackberries until you can make them into jam.

Raspberries

My other grandma was Scottish. She lived near an abandoned railway line where canes of raspberries grew in late summer and her freezer always had a little supply of them ready to be made into her delicious pies with homemade pastry. Aside from the berries, raspberry leaves can be harvested, dried and made into tea which tones the uterus and helps stimulate labour contractions for pregnant women (avoid when pregnant until the end of your pregnancy).

To harvest the berries: Pick them when they are a pinky-red colour. The berries are delicate so store in Tupperware-type containers. You can either eat them as-is (or as an ice cream topping), freeze them, or make them into pies or jam. Avoid fruit that is damaged or looks like old lady skin, or has gone a strange colour. Also avoid unripe fruits.

To harvest the leaves: Pick them when they are green. Avoid ones with holes in them or ones which have aphids or other insects living on the back (or front, but usually insects colonize the backs of leaves). At home, wash them thoroughly then put on an oven tray. Bake at 65 degrees Celsius (150F) for 4 hours to dry them and put them into small muslin bags or tea filters when you want to make raspberry leaf tea.

Elderberries

Elderberries are a versatile natural fruit berry growing in Ireland in August. The berries are small and round, a deep purple that looks black, with a shiny surface.

There are a few other plants that have berries that look similar, including deadly nightshade (not a tree, but it can be parasitic around trees and I’ve seen it reach heights of 10 metres or more when entangled around a tree), so if you’ve never picked elderberries before, do consult a plant or tree identification guide to be sure you’re picking elderberries.

Elderberries can be used to make jam, cordial, or wine, depending on what you prefer.

Hazelnuts

Finally, a source of protein! Hazelnuts are supposedly native to Ireland in some areas, although I’ve never seen any myself. I’d keep an eye out because they’re the jackpot when it comes to foraged nutrition.

They’re hiding in little papery structures on hazel bushes, and they’re reddish-brown when they’re ripe (don’t pick green ones)

You can roast them and salt them, or even pickle them to preserve them!

Crab apples

Crab apples are a lot smaller than regular apples. They look a bit like rose hips, and are a similar size, except crab apples are perfectly round, not rosebud shaped. If you’re familiar with the plant where you’re picking them, you should know if, earlier in the year, it had dog rose/wild rose flowers (either white or purple with a yellow centre) or whether it didn’t, and that’s a good clue, too. Don’t worry at all if you get them confused. Both are edible.

Crab apples are best used to make crab apple jelly to be served alongside chicken as a condiment (like cranberry sauce for turkeys, but more European).

Easy Patatas Bravas style Mediterranean potato recipe

I love doing fried potato recipes. This is like patatas bravas but a little different. Instead of being fried potatoes with a separate dipping sauce, this puts everything together during the cooking process. It’s a one-pan recipe that’s quicker and easier than a “traditional” patatas bravas recipe. Oh, and it’s vegan and delicious served with Spanish chicken (or tofu)!

As you will see from the photos, it’s not very photogenic. But I strongly believe that some of the most delicious food doesn’t photograph very well, and that there are a great many beautiful looking dishes on Instagram that would be absolutely disgusting to actually eat. It’s also not very spicy (but full of flavour) making it a perfect recipe for younger children, people with dentures and fussy eaters, too! Just put it through the blender before feeding to little ones who don’t have all their teeth, yet.

Ingredients:

150g potatoes, peeled and diced

6 cherry tomatoes

A handful of fresh thyme

2 tsp paprika

1/2 onion diced

1 pinch garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

Method:

Peel and dice the potatoes and put in a pan to boil with a pinch of paprika. When the potatoes are done, drain and put aside. Wipe out the pan with some kitchen roll and use again

Chop the cherry tomatoes into quarters

Tear the thyme to release the flavour

Put the olive oil into a pan and add the onions. Fry until they turn transparent

Add the rest of the paprika, the tomatoes and the thyme

When the tomato skins are beginning to separate from the centers, add the boiled potatoes and stir well. Cook on a medium/low heat until the tomatoes are disintegrating.

Serve immediately.

I saw another recipe for patatas bravas and it was literally terrible. It involved so much salt (over a tablespoon for 2 portions of food) I think it would have made anyone very sick, and it also called for cups of olive oil! It claimed it was an authentic recipe but I think the “Chef” got it from a before-scene on Ramsay’s kitchen nightmares.

After reading that recipe, I knew I had to invent my own potato recipe and share it with you because there aren’t enough good patatas bravas recipes (and other interesting potato recipes) around.

Easy Spanish tapas style olives and cashew nuts (vegan)

With the weather so warm, little tapas dishes are perfect for picking at when you don’t have an appetite for a big, heavy meal. It got to 33.5 here this afternoon, so since this isn’t an air-conditioned country, we’ve been eating big salads for lunch and trying to graze through the evening.

This olive and cashew nut recipe is peanut free as my child has a peanut allergy. It only uses three ingredients and is SO easy to make! It’s a great addition to a dinner party or just a nice snack for summertime comfort food. If you prep this alongside your main meal it can share the oven heat so it’s more environmentally friendly. No oven? Microwave for 30 seconds instead (although this will result in softer nuts)!

Ingredients (serves 1-2 as a snack depending how hungry you are):

1/2 jar of olives (I use garlic stuffed olives as these are my favourite)

1/2 cup cashew nuts

1/2 tsp paprika

Mix everything up in a bowl then pop in the oven for 5 mins until nuts are slightly golden.

Serve with other Mediterranean favourites such as patatas bravas, pasta aglio olio, spanish chicken (or tofu) or a big old Greek gyros.

Spaghetti with crab and yellow pepper recipe

Two days ago, I bought some cut-price crab that was near its use-by date. I’ve never had crab before so I wasn’t sure what to do with it or what it tasted like. I opened the packet and immediately the strong seafood smell hit my nose. It reminded me of salmon, a little. Or very strong lobster.

I looked online for crab recipes but I didn’t have any of the ingredients for the ones I found. Also, a lot of them required white wine and I’m non-alcoholic at the moment due to being pregnant so I needed an alcohol-free no-wine crab recipe.

I decided to cook it with spaghetti, but you could use linguine if you wanted to be more traditional. Or any pasta you have in your house. If you prefer a sweeter pepper, red pepper or orange pepper would also work (bell peppers, not capiscums).

Even once it’s cooked, the strong crab flavor is very apparent, and this recipe is perfect for seafood lovers looking to mix it up when it comes to their crab.

This was quite a hearty dish that I think would be very warming on a cool autumn day when the temperature starts to drop and the evenings are drawing in.

So here’s my spaghetti with crab and yellow pepper recipe. Serves two very big bowls!

Ingredients:

150g spaghetti

120g crab meat

1 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp diluted tomato puree (diluted 1:1 with water) Substitute with undiluted passata or plain tomato pasta sauce if that’s what you have.

1 tsp garlic

Pinch chilli flakes

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

A chopped yellow bell pepper

A sprinkle of basil

Method:

  1. Cook the spaghetti as you usually would. Should take 10-14 minutes depending on the cooker and pan. Fresh spaghetti takes more like 3 minutes.
  2. Remove the centre stalk and seeds of the yellow bell pepper (I do this by drawing a circle around the top with a knife then pulling on the green stalk). Chop bell pepper into roughly 1/2 inch squares (or leave bigger if you prefer).
  3. Put the olive oil into a pan and start heating it.
  4. Add the bell pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes then turn heat down to a simmer.
  5. Add the lemon juice and stir in.
  6. Add garlic, chilli flakes and basil. Mix well in pan.
  7. Add the crab meat. This shouldn’t be cooked for too long or it will become stringy.
  8. Add the tomato puree, mix thoroughly.
  9. Drain the spaghetti then mix it into the pan with the sauce. Serve.

To make this meal extra-special, you could make a garlic baguette to accompany it. For best results, don’t reheat the crab (it’s quite delicate), so scale down your recipe for the number of people you’re feeding. If you don’t have a big appetite, you could probably get 3 servings out of this (or 4 if you wanted 2 adult portions and 2 child-sized ones).

Veganize this meal by substituting silken tofu for crab and adding a handful of shredded seaweed and a tiny splash of soya sauce to keep the sea taste.

Dairy-free cheesy potato gratin recipe

This is a super-cheesy, super-saucy variant on the traditional potato gratin which can be served as a filling accompaniment to a variety of dishes. This follows on from yesterday’s cheesy vegetable bake recipe, as I made this a day later (once we finally had some potatoes).

What’s the difference between potato boulangere and potato gratin? A boulangere is a dish where thin slices of potato are put in an ovenproof dish, drowned in a sauce of cream and chicken stock, and baked until the potatoes at the top are crispy. A gratin, traditionally-speaking, is a boulangere with cheese on top. As you can see, the traditional version needs some big changes to make it dairy-free and vegan!

Every Sunday, and at Easter and Christmas, my aunt used to do a stunning roast dinner, and one of my favourite things on the dining table was a big bowl of potato boulangère with the delicious crispy slices of potatoes on the top and soft, saucy potato slices underneath. I loved it. When I had to cut out dairy many years ago after developing CMPA, I thought I’d never get to eat it again.

Sometime in 2012, my aunt gave me a dairy-free potato boulangere recipe and I was very happy to be able to enjoy one of my favourite dishes once again.

Since then, we’ve had four house moves across three countries (and two continents) and I have lost my potato gratin recipe. In the absence of a structured recipe, I devised this dairy-free cheesy potato bake a few days ago as a vegan side dish to go with the Lidl vegan Christmas roast they were selling very cheaply in January. It would also work well with Linda McCartney vegetarian quarter pounders, although you would need to add the quarter pounders to the oven about halfway through cooking this potato bake.

Ingredients:

5 medium-sized potatoes

Dairy-free white sauce (recipe here) or cheese sauce (recipe here). I recommend the white sauce.

100g grated cheese

You can totally cheat on the sauce and use one of plenty of options, such as Asda’s bechamel sauce (white sauce), or Sacla’s Vegan Ch**se sauce, both of which are sold in jars, or Tesco’s instant dairy free cheese sauce mix sachets (do NOT buy the ASDA cheese sauce sachets; they are NOT dairy free, only gluten free).

Method:

Peel the potatoes. Chop into thin slices. Fill a medium-sized glass dish with them.

Make up the white sauce (or cheat and open a jar of it) and cover the potatoes with it.

Cook on 150 degrees for 30-35 minutes then cover with grated cheese. Turn up the temperature of the oven to 180 and put the dish back in the oven and cook for the last 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted a bit and is starting to go crispy.

If you mess this up (as I did this one time) and put the cheese on too soon, just put the food in the oven and keep the oven at 150 for 20 more minutes.

To check if it’s ready, try sticking a fork into one of the slices of potato. If it feels hard, it’s not ready so put it back in the oven. If it’s soft, it’s ready to serve!

Dairy Free Cheesy Vegetable Bake

Being dairy-free, the thing I miss the most is cheese. When I first became a vegetarian back in 2007, I didn’t much care about cheese, but over the next twelve months, I really discovered it. Wensleydale. Stilton. Halloumi… I’d never tried such delicious things. I grew up in a house where “cheese sauce” came out of an instant Bisto tub with some hot water added. So the world of proper cheese was a huge discovery for me (and a double-edged sword, when I found out it actually makes me ill as I have non-IgE CMPA).

Despite being dairy-free, I do still try to enjoy cheese (soy or coconut cheese, these days) and I still create recipes that include it. The biggest thing you need to know about dairy-free cheese is it’s not a source of protein (unlike animal cheese) so you need to compensate for that by including protein in your daily diet.

One of my favourite foods is cauliflower cheese, and that’s what this dairy-free vegetable bake is based on (but using more veg for variety).

Thankfully, this recipe is both gluten-free and dairy-free (and vegan) so it’s perfect for anyone with those dietary requirements. It’s also low-carb.

Originally, I wanted to make something resembling a potato gratin, but I’d forgotten the recipe and couldn’t find it anywhere (it’s probably on this blog somewhere). Then it turned out we had no potatoes so I gave up on that, and did this sort of cauliflower cheese vegetable bake thing instead. It uses broccoli, cauliflower and peas, but if you only have broccoli or cauliflower you can use one instead of both.

This takes about 10-15 minutes to prep (it might be a little slower if you do the white sauce from scratch using my vegan white sauce recipe but you’ll get faster at the white sauce the more times you make it) so it’s great as an addition for a dinner party, Sunday lunch or a special occasion, or just to liven up weekday meals, if you’re doing something that takes a little longer to cook than usual, such as a nut roast. If you’re dairy-free but non-vegan, you could serve with salmon or another oily fish.

This could also be a lunchtime main if you added some chopped vegetarian sausages or a healthy sprinkling of sunflower seeds to add protein, if you’re looking for vegan recipe ideas or inspiration.

Dairy free cheesy vegetable bake recipe

Ingredients:

100g broccoli

100g cauliflower

50g peas

250ml dairy free cheese sauce or white sauce

about 100g grated cheese

This recipe is super-easy, and there are plenty of options if you want to “cheat” at making the sauce, such as Asda’s bechamel sauce (white sauce), or Sacla’s Vegan Ch**se sauce, both of which are sold in jars, or Tesco’s instant dairy free cheese sauce mix sachets (do NOT buy the ASDA cheese sauce sachets; they are NOT dairy free, only gluten free).

To make a “proper” dairy free white sauce, use my easy three-ingredient recipe available here.

Method:

First, chop any large broccoli florets and cauliflower florets in half. Now put all the veg into a large saucepan and boil for about 10-15 mins until it’s soft.

While the veg are cooking, make your dairy-free white or cheese sauce.

Drain the veg and put into a large glass oven-safe dish (such as a Pyrex one).

Pour the sauce over the top.

Cover with grated cheese and bake at 160 degrees Celsius/gas mark 5/350F for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted.

Serves 4.

Vegan white sauce recipe

White sauce is the foundation of most milk-based sauces, including cheese sauce, peppercorn sauce, bechamel sauce, parsley sauce and soups such as clam chowder (the white one).

I know this because, when I was 11 and learning Home Economics (now called the much edgier “food technology”) at school, I spent most of my time copying pages and pages out of textbooks while my classmates were busy cooking.

At my school, the teacher would buy the ingredients for us and we just had to bring in the money (usually about 80p-£1), or we could bring in the ingredients if we preferred. My mum refused to give me the money for the ingredients OR to buy the actual ingredients, which often left me not able to participate in home economics. The teacher, thinking I was just lazy, made me copy out of textbooks as a “punishment”.

I think I learned more from this than my classmates did. In my experience of attending 13 schools and 3 colleges, home economics teachers are singularly oblivious to the social issues that prevent children from learning. They all seem to be jolly-middle-class women who think everyone has “tagliatelle” at home.

I had been cooking for the whole family since the age of 9, but because I had never eaten a fairy cake, let alone made one, I was seen as “bad at cooking”, a label I internalized and carried with me into adulthood until I finally realized, at 27, I wasn’t bad at cooking, I just didn’t know how to cook the standard middle-class British dishes of the 1970s (which people still seem to judge us on today).

That’s fine, because people like that home economics teacher who think there’s one true way to cook “properly” are usually the first people to get upset about catering for dairy free guests, on the basis that they only know how to follow a bunch of recipes they learned at school or from Delia Smith (sorry, Delia, but you have some unimaginative readers).

So I took great pleasure in subverting white sauce for the vegan agenda and I hope you enjoy the fabulous results of using this sauce as a base for all your dairy-free milky sauce dishes that Western cuisine seems so obsessed with.

This dairy-free white sauce is very customizable, because it’s the base for so many other sauces. Leave it as-is for béchamel sauce (for lasagne/lasagna), or add things to make cheese, parsley, peppercorn sauces etc. It only requires three ingredients to make the basic sauce.

Ingredients:

25g Dairy-free butter

250ml Soy milk (other milks such as almond also work)

25g Flour

This will make enough sauce to cover two servings of cauliflower cheese. As you can see, the measurements are a ratio: For every gram of butter you need one gram of flour, and 10ml of dairy-free milk (add a bit more milk for a thinner sauce). This makes a very easy-to-scale recipe and I often measure my ingredients by eye, adding one part flour to one part butter, then I add the milk slowly from a big carton until I hit the right consistency.

Method:

Put the vegan butter in a saucepan and put it onto a medium heat. Melt the butter.

As the butter turns into a puddle but before it starts to bubble, add the flour gradually, stirring constantly. You are currently making something called a roux, which is the base of most thickened dishes.

Keep stirring (it might start to feel quite dry) until the roux turns crumbly and very slightly golden yellow (don’t let it burn). The quality of the roux will determine the quality of the finished sauce. If the roux turns brown, throw it away and start again.

The flour and butter should look like this.

Gradually add the non-dairy milk, a dash at a time (about a tablespoon’s worth, or a shot, if that’s easier to eyeball), stirring continuously. Only add more when the milk starts to thicken. I usually take the pan off the heat for this part because it’s easy to burn the milk. If you add the milk too quickly, you will get a LOT of lumps (some lumps are inevitable). Squash the lumps out with your fork.

Keep stirring the mixture until it’s a nice, thick, saucy consistency.

Now you’re done! It’s time to either serve it, if you’re making this as a béchamel sauce, or to add the other ingredients such as dairy-free cheese, if you’re making cheese sauce, or peppercorns, if you’re making pepper sauce.

Has your sauce gone lumpy? Fix it!

The main way this sauce can go wrong is if you end up with lots of lumps in a fairly watery sauce. There are two ways you can fix this:

Either use a fine-meshed sieve (if you have one; the sort with holes small enough to drain rice without any grains falling through) or a hand blender.

Lump Removal Method 1: With the sieve, get the bowl ready, put the sieve over it (bowl must be wider than sieve, unless you tilt the sieve so all the sauce falls from one place, or you will have cheese sauce everywhere), pour the cheese sauce into the sieve, and wait for the sauce to drain out, then throw away the lumps that are left.

Lump Removal Method 2: With a hand blender, leave the sauce in the pan and just blend out the lumps.  It usually thickens a LOT when you do this (because the lumps are the flour and butter that is also the thickener that gives the sauce its consistency).  If it’s too thick, stir in more milk, a little at a time, until it reaches the right consistency.