Life coaching with Steve

I’m having a rough week (it’s Monday), and Imaginary Life Coach Hugh Jackman is literally off partying with Trumps. I’ve drafted in Steve Rogers as my emergency back-up, but I’m not entirely sure we’re a good match.

Dear Steve Rogers,

Thanks for agreeing to be my new Imaginary Life Coach, you seem fairly ethical.

The last few weeks have been challenging for me as a neurotic parent, as my pre-schooler has been gleefully exposed to both minor explosives (‘fireworks’) and major gourd-based fire hazards. To further tempt certain death, she insists on wearing a sparky nylon costume within a half-mile radius of many of these pursuits.

When will this madness end? And how many times is it acceptable to shout ‘BE CAREFUL!’ in any given day?

Yours sweatily,


Steve says:

Miss, many thanks for your correspondence. I sincerely hope we can work together despite my busy schedule of politically unauthorised ass-kicking and troubled frowning.

Seems to me that while we’re very cautious with today’s children, they are certainly exposed to ever-greater risk. When I was a kid, we spent Halloween throwing rocks or contracting scarlet fever, but now everyone’s under pressure to dress up as a sexy pain au chocolat and set a cat on fire.

You can never be too careful, and a stern verbal warning is almost as effective as a righteous punch in the spleen. You may also like to experiment with ‘DANGER!’, ‘FALL BACK!’ and ‘YOU ARE NOT COVERED BY MY EMPLOYER’S OTHERWISE-GENEROUS HEALTHCARE PLAN.’

As costumes go, would she consider a Lycra mix, or a Kevlar-based ballistic component?

Yours etc,

Imaginary Steve Rogers

Dear Steve,

Is it ever acceptable to eat a Barny Bear for breakfast? What if you’re in a rush and you forgot to buy Ready Brek?

Yours carbtastically,


Steve says:

Good morning.

Let’s be serious – there are three main food groups to focus on if you want to look buff, catch bad guys, and outlive literally everyone you know. Canned beans. Peanut butter. Fruit-based pie. That’s it. Eat a Barny Bear for breakfast if you want, but God help you the next time you have to catch a helicopter with your bare hands. Hand.


Dear Steve,

Did you know you can put Sudocreme on razor burn? I dunno, my last guy was chattier.


Steve says:

Noted. Sorry.

Thanks Steve. Maybe don’t invest in the NVQ just yet.

More weird stuff like this:
Life coaching with Hugh
More life coaching with Hugh
Man, I feel like a WAHM-argh



Probably the most idiotic ‘recipes’ you’ll ever read

I find it almost impossible to cook anything when Ada is awake; she’s too heavy to hold in one arm, hates the sling, and is a violent spoon-throwing maniac in the high chair. Meals have been limited to whatever Chris has the energy to make when he gets in, or whatever I can throw in the oven while she bangs her forehead on my clavicle.

Until now! Dinner time has been revolutionised by freezing the raw ingredients for what US mommies seem to call – ugh! – dump meals. Sorry.

I throw together a few freezer bags of ingredients at the weekend while Chris takes Ada for a walk, then each weekday at about 2pm I just drop a giant frozen food boulder into the slow cooker. When it’s cooked, it stays warm until the baby is down for the night and we’re ready to eat. Magic.

Now. NOW. This is the real, slightly shameful secret. If I was a proper person, I’d chop up and assemble all the raw ingredients completely from scratch, but that takes far too long when I have limited solo kitchen time. So I just chuck in jars and cans of stuff and it’s still awesome.

Here’s what we ate this week; you could easily recreate these more cheaply and deliciously from scratch, but for me it’s all about time, time, time…

Salsa chicken wraps

Freeze in a bag:

Chicken thighs

Tub of fresh salsa

Tin of chopped tomatoes

Fajita seasoning to taste


Approx 4-5hrs on LOW (not high, or chicken goes stringy, yuk)

Serve with:

Tortillas, sour cream, sliced red pepper, lime to squeeze over

Lamb rogan josh

Freeze in a bag:

Diced lamb

Half a chopped onion

Tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Jar of good rogan josh sauce – add a splash of water if very thick so that the curry doesn’t dry out in the slow cooker


Approx 5-6hrs on LOW

Serve with:

Naan, yogurt, rice if you can be arsed

Meatball subs

Freeze in a bag:

Good quality meatballs (I buy them from M&S, FANCY!)

Large jar of passata

Teaspoon of dried Italian herbs


Approx 4hrs on HIGH

Serve with:

Submarine rolls, parmesan to grate over

What we call ‘Sausage Dish’ 

Freeze in a bag:

Little thumb-sized lumps of good pork sausagemeat

Your choice of tinned beans, drained and rinsed – kidney, cannellini and borlotti work well

Large jar passata

1tsp Italian herbs


Approx 4hrs on HIGH

Serve with:

Toasted wholegrain pitta bread

Pasta pot

Freeze in a bag:

Chicken thighs

Diced onion or other veg

Jar of good tomato pasta sauce plus half-jar of water (pasta will absorb)


Approx 4hrs on HIGH

Add during last half-hour:

Orzo pasta

Blob of creme fraiche

Allow leftovers to sit and go mouldy for:

A whole weekend.

That’s it! Check out this website for some basic tips on cooking times and successful veg freezing, plus loads of frankly-much-better meal ideas.


One of the worst things about summer is adverts for barbecue food. This M&S ad is this year’s least offensive example, and it still fills me with dread. One of the other worst things about summer is actually going to barbecues.
We never owned a barbecue grill when I was a kid, so when I reached adulthood I spent way too long trying to enjoy what everyone else seems to agree is Really Good Fun before realising that everything about barbecues is utter pants. Here’s how almost every barbecue I’ve ever been to* goes down:

1900: Turn up and hand over specially-chilled-and-ice-packed fancy wine. Will never see nice chilled wine ever again. Accept it and move on.

1905: Note with sadness that barbecue grill not lit yet. Politely eat two Kettle Chips and sit in the sun, basking next to sweaty packages of raw meat.

2025: Other people turn up, but not as many as advertised. Now too awkward to go home and order pizza. Attempt to make small talk while somehow both drunk and hypoglycaemic; warm Pimms only source of sustenance now Kettle Chips all gone.

2030: Barbecue lit. Hooray! Move into carcinogenic smoke plume for warmth. Experience extreme flip-flop regret.

2105: Someone from country with climate and urban terrain more conducive to barbecues smugly mansplains how terrible barbecues are in this country. Not helpful, guy.

2130: Bats.

2200: Receive a single sausage, encased in carbonite like a porcine Han Solo, plus bap and ‘mixed leaves’. Look sadly at paper plate and think about how life might have turned out. Too dispirited to add ketchup.

2230: Receive second sausage; share with wan-looking spouse.

0000: Go home starving, cold and drunk. Scent of scorched carcass clings to hair. Vow never to attend another barbecue.

Next day: Tagged in 392 unflattering Facebook photos.

My suggested alternative to this hell-on-Earth is just to just take your dinner outside. Cook inside, sit outside. It’s fun! And less messy! You can have pasta! You know it makes sense.

*Except your barbecue. It was obviously excellent.