Musings of a Middle-aged Mum

I want to tell you about a friend’s blog today. The blog is written without name references so I shall just call her Musings.

Musings of a Middle-aged Mum is most book reviews and her weight loss journey. The books range from seriously educational to the occasional young adult in genre so there is something for everyone. Just scrolling through her Goodreads is like browsing through a packed library. If you want to expand your mind but don’t quite know where to start this blog is for you.

The other weekly aspect of this blog is the weight loss journey. Musings often shows what types of things she has been eating and how that has worked for her. Weight loss is hard work and Musings keeps it real. Did the BBQ throw her healthy eating out the window for a couple days? Yes, but she refocused and got back on her mostly veg plan. See her journey isn’t just about the numbers but about finding a healthier relationship with food. I really respect that because health isn’t a number.

Musings is not on a WFPB or vegan diet though she does eat mostly vegetables. Vegan and vegetarian recipes are sometimes shared and honestly….every recipe counts. So please follow Musings and help support her in being healthier in mind and body.

Pasta Sauce

Who doesn’t love spaghetti covered in tomato-y goodness? I know I do. In fact this was the meal my daughter specifically asked me to make this week so it must be good. I have been known to buy sauces but they are never quite right and I always need to buy several jars to feed everyone. Making my own is easier to me.

All you will need to make this recipe is chopped tomatoes, onion, vegetable stock cube, herbs and spices, and a bit of sugar. You can choose to add in soya mince, lentils or if making for an omni family meat can work as well. I used white sugar as I had it to hand but in future I will likely have a go with maybe agave nectar.


3 cans (1200g) chopped tomatoes

1 onion – diced

3 Tbsp mixed herbs

3 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tbsp onion powder

1 Tbsp oregano

1 vegetable stock cube

1 tsp garlic puree

1 tsp cayenne


First sauté the onion in vegetable stock until softened.

Add garlic and heat for another minute.

Add all the other seasoning and heat another minute.

Add the chopped tomato, paste and sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low heat. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

If you are going to add soya mince, cooked lentils, or cooked meat do it now and sauté another 5 to 10 minutes until extras are hot through. I would recommend only about 250g of any of these choices.

I know many people like to add extra vegetables to their sauce. Hidden so small children don’t know they are getting their five a day. I would have happily done this as a chunky vegetable sauce and probably will in the future but I wanted to give the omnis something meaty so used , soya mince myself. Good choices would be courgette (zucchini), carrot, peppers, spinach, or other greens.

Serve over pasta of your choice with salad or cooked veggies like the asparagus we had. This could also be used for lasagne or on its own with vegetables.

Hines Baked Beans

Yes, I did that play on words. I previously had this recipe on here but have updated it to a whole foods friendly option, tested it out again, and gotten the pictures I wanted to share so here we go again!

I originally modified another recipe 9 years ago but as life evolves so has my recipe. This is now whole foods friendly and I am including a quicker option. Originally, I worked from dry beans as it is a cheaper option but I discovered I had used up all my dry white beans and wouldn’t have time to soak them for today so I sent a couple kids to the store for tinned beans. This is a complicated situation because I didn’t have a clue how much cooked beans I would have from 2 dry cups so I guessed! This came out exactly as I remembered it so 2 dry cups can be replaced with 3 tins of white beans. I used cannellini beans as great northern are not available at my store.



2 cups dry white beans (great northern or cannellini work well) or 3 tinned drained (saved liquid for later)

2 medium onions

4oz molasses (treacle)

1tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

3/4 tsp dry mustard powder (I use Coleman’s in the yellow tin)

1 cup Homemade BBQ Sauce

2 tsp liquid seasoning

1/2 cup maple syrup

1. Soak and cook beans as per packet instructions if dry. Save bean water for later.

2. In a saucepan mix the remaining ingredients and heat until well combined.

3. Put beans in a casserole dish or round cast iron pot with a lid. Pour the contents of saucepan over the beans and mix together well. The liquid layer needs to just about cover the beans so if it is low you need to top up with bean water (either from cooking or tin).

4. Cover the pot and place in the preheated oven. 170C / 350F. Bake covered for about 1.5 hours. Uncover the pot and let stand 15-20 min to thicken.


Be careful not to let it get too dry. In all honesty I did and needed to add a bit of veg stock to bring it back.

I served it with cornbread muffins (recipe to come) and a salad. Would also go very nicely on a baked potato.

I actually feel this is more of an autumnal or winter meal; however, it has hit the spot as a cooler summer Sunday dinner.

Have a go at this gorgeous bean dish and let me know how you get on. I love to hear from you.

Up Cycle Route 6 and Down the Grand Union Canal

Last week we walked from Willen Lake to Great Linford on a circular route. This week we decided to continue on that route further and started off from the Linford Manor Park. We parked up at the Memorial Hall off of Marsh Drive in Great Linford.

Now if you want to add the Milton Keynes City Walk together with the this one you just need to turn left after Linford Manor toward the railway path next to the church. If you have previously done the MK city walk you should recognise the hall and car park when you park up to do this one.

From the car park turn left and walk up into the Linford Manor Park going straight over the paths toward the almshouses and church. Join the path to the right of the church. It will continue on cycle route 6 and join onto the railway path further up.

Church on the left and cycle path to the left going straight on

Very shortly up this path there is a sitting area made to look like a stone circle. There is also a little path behind this stone circle which is very curious. We took a quick detour to have a peek and it looked like it might have continued a bit more but we wandered back to the path first thing as it was not the plan for today. It might be an adventure for another day.

We continued on this path nearly to Wolverton. It is a nice paved path hidden down in the trees away from the roads. Just don’t get off the path and you will be ok. There is a fork a couple of miles down the path with no markings so we turned right into a Parks Trust park path.

Keep right

Follow signs for cycle route 6 right up into Wolverton. Over Grafton Street you will see a cycle path bridge separate from the canal path. Follow the cycle path. This will continue into a park area in Wolverton called The Secret Garden. At this point you need to make a left turn after seeing another stone circle at the tree and follow the path up to the street level. I know….turn left at the tree sounds dumb so here is a picture of the tree (and the stone circle).

While in The Secret Garden look out for the sculpture of the people watching tv. Sign of our times I guess. At the street level you will be on a bridge that goes over the main train line and the canal. In order to get to the other side of the canal you need to cross this rather busy road. When you reach the other side of the road turn right and watch for a path to your left. I think it had iron gates that are kept open. There is a sign saying it goes to Wolverton Park. I think this is what they call the flats there as you are going into a complex of buildings…all flats. Go down the stairs and turn left onto the towpath of the Grand Union Canal.

Do note that if you need any food or drinks that Wolverton is a town and if you had turned left at the bridge you would have found yourself with several grocery stores to choose from including Tesco. We packed our own snacks and had them along the way as Alan had eaten too early in the morning and was hungry and I had hurried along and failed to eat enough. We had bananas near the beginning of the walk and baked potatoes while sitting on a bench at the beginning of the towpath. Quick, easy and packs well.

Along the towpath

Now I make this walk even more straight forward. Keep walking along the towpath until you reach bridge 76a. This is an old rail bridge that is on that railway walk we stated off in just by Linford Manor Park. The path onto the bridge is on the far side of the bridge. When on the bridge turn left and follow until you can turn left to meet the towpath on the park side. I wish I had pictures and better details for you but Alan got us over on the park side towpath a bridge earlier which required us to cross a VERY busy road that I didn’t like crossing. I hope you will be more sensible and stay safer.

Once you have crossed over to the park side you should recognise where you are. The first stone circle is dead ahead and you are back in Linford Manor Park. Just stay straight over the junctions and back to the memorial hall with the Manor House to your right.

This is a simple paved route that will not require waterproof shoes. The towpath isn’t as paved but it is a good hard surface for the duration of your time on the path. As there are stairs at Wolverton this is not wheelchair friendly and honestly the towpath would be a nightmare at times. A pushchair is possible but it would need to be carried down stairs in Wolverton and on the towpath it would be rough going so I would recommend an off-road buggy.

So the total distance was 6.67 miles and it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes including snack breaks. I hope you enjoy this walk and consider adding the two walks together for a bigger walk as well.

Sourdough Casserole (vegan)

I really enjoyed the Chicken Sourdough Casserole that I wrote about while still eating meat. The sourdough topping was very much not WFPB however so I had a go at fixing this. It was a success.

Sourdough Casserole

800g sourdough starter

1 300g packet of silken tofu 

2 Tablespoons Nutritional yeast

2 teaspoons baking powder

Seasoning to taste : I used about 1/2 Tablespoon of smoked paprika and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Get creative!

This is just the topping. The filling can be as Wild West as you like. I used my instantpot to cook up onions, peppers, spring greens, green beans, carrots, and sweet corn. Might have used mushrooms as well. You can do whatever floats your boat….just make sure you have plenty of greens. I have even used some Spanish beans by Heinz in one of these as it didn’t have added oil (might be wrong about that so read labels) and it was wonderful.

If you can make a sourdough starter and get on well with it the benefits can me great. Meals can be improved. I found using organic whole wheat flour and bottled water worked best for keeping it active and healthy. I ran out of that flour though and used plain white and killed my starter. I am sad about it as I had only gotten mine to a good active level. I have decided to give up on this particular activity though as it wasn’t working out as well as I had hoped and I can focus on other things. So this is my last sourdough recipe but it is a goody!

Let me know how you get on with this. Constructive feedback is always welcome. Please share along to friends and family as I can only grow if people find out about me.

What Whole Foods Plant-Based Means To Me

I realise that some people that land on my site might not know what Whole Foods Plant-Based (WFPB) means.  That is like with many things a slightly loaded question and different people see it in different ways. We first learned about this through Forks Over Knives though I have also read How Not to Die, The China Study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and the Starch Solution.  I have taken from all and made a plan that works for us.

First and foremost, WFPB is about plants.  No meat, no dairy, not eggs and no oil.  Now some people take the no oil thing to an extreme of no nuts, coconut milk, or avocado.  We are note at this time going that far; however, I am still trying to find less fatty options when possible.

It also means little to know processed foods.  It isn’t so much a ban on all processed foods but means if I feel I must get something I need to find the most natural option. Because of this I am becoming quite the label reader…even more than I have been in the past.  The challenge?  My eyesight is not what it used to be and the ingredients are microscopic in size.

What do you eat if you don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs?  Are cakes and cookies a no go area?  Will all joy in life be extinguished by this way of eating?  The answers are…

What we do eat:



Whole grains


Herbs and spices

Completely unlimited!

Cakes and Cookies

That is a big fat yes though it will take lots of practice and creativity.


All joy gone?

I don’t think so at all.  I get to eat flavourful food in unlimited amounts and add in occasional traps like cakes and cookies (and any other dessert I can modify).

What do I need to limit?

I need to work on limiting added sugar and when I do use it go for more natural options.  White sugar is heavily processed and adds nothing to you nutritionally.  Brown sugar really isn’t better.  If at all possible, I need to replace these with either less sugar or preferably less sugar and something like maple syrup or agave nectar.  I haven’t used agave yet so another frontier to conquer.

I also want to limit salt.  Some of the books I have read are all over reducing salt and others seem to have a nonchalant attitude toward it.  I don’t want it to become a problem in the future.

We do limit the nuts, nut butters, and the avocado though they have not currently been eliminated.


As you will recall, that is a no go!  No cooking with oil, no butter on my popcorn (I am struggling with that), and no oil added to products from the store.  This is one of the biggest places the label reading comes in.  Oil is added to just about everything.  Even my vegetable stock has oil added to it (working on finding one that in low salt and no oil…and of course available in the UK).  I cook with vegetable stock in place of the oil.  I bake with applesauce (and my sister, Marilyn, mentioned puree prune).  So far, I have just not had popcorn so if you have an oil free way for me to have my nutritional yeast stick to my popcorn please comment below!  I miss popcorn so much.

Completely Unlimited?

You might be feeling rather incredulous about that statement…completely unlimited.  If I had gone into this with weight loss in mind I would not have trusted that and would have counted calories anyway and restricted my whole grains. Luckily, I haven’t restricted myself at all and can report that it is true that you can eat as much as you need to be full.

I did not go into this for weight loss though it is welcome.  I know my weight before I started this (about 4 days before) and my weight after 18 days.  I have lost 3.5 pounds having eating much more than I normally would.  My meals have been huge.  Just about equalling the amount my husband eats and I have lost weight.  I have had nice cream, whole wheat crackers, roasted chickpeas, as well as experiencing with cookie recipes.

I can tell you what WFPB means to me but the only way you can ever truly understand is to try it for a couple weeks. Enjoy not being hungry.  Get creative in the kitchen.  Explore Instagram, Pinterest, and of course Fivebeansoup for ideas and recipes.  I am on Instagram as Fivebeansoup if you would like to follow me there and see my daily creations that don’t make it onto the blog. Let me know how you get on. Share this article with your friends and family.  Check out the books I mentioned above.  most of all, don’t just live…THRIVE!



What I Eat in a Day

I am working on a few recipes but I will admit that I am a bit stuck at the moment. I have been watching these what I eat in a day videos so I thought I could do a blog version of it.

You will notice I tend to be rather heavy in the fruit. Not to worry though as I am not gaining weight at all…in fact I am down a few pounds eating this way. I am not focusing on weight at all though, just on healthy eating.

So the whole foods plant based way of life is about eating plants. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes but no oils. I started this with the ideal of following the Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease path but I am trying to learn about all the WFPB paths out there. The Prevent version say no oils, nuts, or avocado as fat is bad for the arteries. I feel that the nuts and avocado rules are a bit too much for me right now so I am allowing it. You have to do you.


Breakfast was a smoothie (actually two of these glasses of smoothie) and some watermelon. The smoothie was:

1 frozen banana

1 cup frozen (from fresh) spinach

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

2 Tbsp ground flax seed

1 scoop My Protein strawberry clear protein

1 pint of water

I blended it all up in my Ninja Blender until it was smooth. It was more like a fruit chiller than a creamy smoothie. Lately I quite like this but I imagine I might switch back and forth between this and my old milkshake like smoothies.

Lunchtime was salad. My husband had headed out for a short walk so I decided to prepare a salad. I was out of peppers so it wasn’t quite my typical salad .

This salad was actually dinner. I swear I remember taking a pic of lunch but I seem to have misplaced it. For lunch I had little gem lettuce, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, radish, beet, spring onion, seeds, and cannellini beans with homemade hummus and chutney. I have learned a love for using hummus and chutney together in place of salad dressing. I am still perfecting my hummus recipe so it should be along in the next couple weeks.

My day was spent testing my chocolate chip cookie recipe in addition to doing some bulk cooking on lentils. The cookie recipe is not ready. I had previously done it with oil replaced by peanut butter and it was good but it was still fat. Today I used applesauce and the taste was good but something was not right with the texture. I think it was the flax with white flour (was out of the whole wheat). The texture came out sort of like a bagel….very chewy in a bread like way. More experimenting to do yet as perfecting your chocolate chip cookie recipe is of eminent importance. By the way, I only ate two.

Alan and I went for a walk after the cookies and before dinner. Just about a mile around the ‘block‘ but exercise is exercise. Fresh air felt good…kind of centering. Not that long after the walk we moved on to dinner.

Dinner was Sloppy Janes, that it sloppy joes without meat. I found a recipe online. Don’t recall the website but as I didn’t care for the seasoning in it it is a moot point. This was my first attempt at sloppy janes but I have made a few notes to modify the basics I learned into something I think might taste a bit better. If I get that one perfected we will be up to two recipes for future posts.

You can see that again I have had my Sloppy Jane with another salad topped with hummus and chutney. It was a good and filling meal.

After dinner I prepared some nice cream for our evening treat. Nice Cream is blended frozen fruits into a consistency very much like ice cream but no dairy involved. I made a big bowl for each my husband and me. On Thursdays I do the shopping and my first stop was the farm shop up the road. I got lucky and they were selling several bunches of very ripe bananas for £1. I should have bought several boxes but silly me only bought one. When I got home I peeled and froze almost all of the bananas for smoothies and nice cream. I am already running low.

To make this nice cream you will need to blend:

2 frozen bananas

350g bag of frozen strawberries

1 scoop of My Protein strawberry clear protein (optional)

200ml plant milk (I used oat but what every you like or choose water)

I have a Ninja blender which is very good but it isn’t the top of the line blender so the milk is there to help it blend down. I had to stop and scrape down repeatedly but it was worth it. I scooped it into bowls and put it in the freezer until we were ready for dessert.

In addition to my meals I also had several cups of tea with oat milk, several pints of cold water, and a few munches of sugar snap peas. In fact I am impressed that I am really not snacking as much as I used to do when eating a more standard diet. In fact I am finding that my urge to snack seems to be reducing as opposed to the way standard diets cause me to feel ravenous.

I know as I am making the changes in my eating I am very interested in what other people are eating when following a whole foods plant based diet. I have always been so used to eating the processed foods, meats, and junk in general so it is a diametric change. Even though I am new to WFPB, I hope this is in some way helpful to others in their journeys.

Milton Keynes City Walk

People seem to have a very poor image of Milton Keynes. I am often told that Milton Keynes is just concrete. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. We walked for just over 6 miles and it was all lovely and green.

We started out from Willen Lake. The car park we used was across from Gulliver’s Land. From that car park we walked under an underpass toward Gulliver’s Land. Once under the underpass you will see Gulliver’s Land on your right bordering the path toward Campbell Park. Walk up to the canal and turn right with the canal on your left.

Keep straight on with the canal to your left. This is a towpath, the Grand Union Boardwalk, and cycle route 6. We stayed on this path for quite a ways. At the end of the boardwalk turn left.

We continued on this path with the canal still on your left.

On the other side of the canal you will see the entrance to Pennyland Marina. Continue along and you will find a brick arch bridge. There is a sign for Great Linford Village. Turn left toward the village.

We walked straight on up the path toward the village. There will be a field on the right and houses on the left. The field is for ponies. There will be a junction. A path on the left perpendicular to your path and another path parallel. Turn right onto the parallel path with the pony field on your right. This path goes back down toward the canal. When you reach the park turn left.

Again we are heading toward the village with the park on the left. The path continues on into the village right up to the high street where we turned right. There are some lovely old houses on this street along with a pub called The Nag’s Head.

In the picture above you can see white gates at the end of the road. This is the entrance to Linford Manor Park. People love to say that Milton Keynes has no history. That it is too new of a town but they are wrong. Milton Keynes was built from several smaller towns and villages. The family that built this Manor House dates back to the 11th century. pretty sure that count toward history.

We got a bit curious here and wondered around the park a bit before starting the head back with the canal on our left. The path runs along with the house on your right. There is a car park and hall on the right and we reach a minor road. Cross over the road and up to the path diagonally on the right. This path leads back to the park you walk3 through before. Keeping the canal on your left continue following this path. It is again the towpath, canal south, and cycle route 6.

Little more history in the Brick Kilns for Great Linford

There are works of art along the way both north and south on the path. Look out for them.

At Downbarn Park turn left toward Willen Lake and the Peace Pagoda. You will see Campbell Cafe on your right and come to a bridge over Brickhill Street. After the bridge you come to the zig zag. This also features in one of th local parkruns and it a nightmare for me. This time I walked up the stairs but the zig zags are an option if stairs are not an option. At the top turn to your left and head down the hill in from of you.

As you head down the hill you will see the Peace Pagoda on your right. I will admit that we made a wrong turn so I don’t have good pictures of the Peace Pagoda. We thought there would be a path on the right but it didn’t lead anywhere so we went off-road to just get back down to the path. You can be sensible and keep the pagoda on your right to the bottom of the hill and turn right. When you reach a fork bare left with the mini Stonehenge style sculpture on your left.

Continue under the underpass and bare right at the next fork and head back to the car park.

This was a perfectly family and disability friendly walk. No stiles or gate to get through and all the paths were well maintained. It was very flat on the whole with the most challenging hills being bridges over canal or road. It was a total of 11k including wondering around in the Linford Manor Park for a little while. So a rough estimate is about 6 miles in total if you just wal the route without extras.

This route is by far not unusual for Milton Keynes. There are so many parks that wind throughout the city that you can find yourself in nature with only a few minutes walk. Sometime soon we will start from the manor park and head farther north but for today this was enough.

I hope you all give this walk a try and enjoy some downtime in the greenery of Milton Keynes.


Do you have any idea how easy it is to make applesauce? It is so simple that the first time I made it was in Kindergarten when I was 5 years old. Of course we made it as a class project and didn’t worry about nutrition back then. I distinctly remember sugar being a big ingredient but guess what….totally unnecessary! Also, back in the day we were given some sort of grinder thing to process the cooked apple. I think we can make do with either a blender or a stick blender.


6 medium apples

50-80 ml water

There you go….nothing more needed.

I used a paring knife to peel the apples (and ate the peel as I went) then cut each apple in half from top to bottom. Now slice the halves in half in the same way. Essentially quarter the apple from top to bottom. Now cut out the tiny bit of core that it hard or are the seeds (we do not want seeds!)

Now cut each of the quarters in 4-6 pieces and put them into the sauce pan. Add the water and heat on the cook top until the apple is soft. When the apple is soft turn off the heat.

While still in the pan use the stick blender to purée the apple. This is applesauce. Carefully pour the applesauce into a jar (my six apples filled a 500ml jar to the top) and keep in the refrigerator. Use within a short time.

Honestly, I could happily sit down and eat this in one sitting but that might be a bit overdoing it really. I made this for baking actually.

Did you know that applesauce can be used in place of oil in baking recipes? I haven’t tried it yet as applesauce isn’t so readily available in the UK. You can get a tiny jar for a pound or two but nothing bigger that about 200g which is one recipe at best. That would make baking just way to expensive so I made my own. Next step is trying it out in my chocolate chip cookie recipe.

So enjoy your applesauce as a dessert on its own or use it in recipes in place of oil. Don’t waste the peel and know when you trim out the true core it is a fraction of what a apple corer would remove so more sauce for you if you use a knife.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Sure you could buy your sauce from the store. You wouldn’t know everything that is in it and you would be bringing home more plastic waste but you could do that.

That shop bought sauce also couldn’t be adjusted to your own taste. I will give you the basic recipe I use here but you can change bits to fit your tastes. This recipe actually started off as three ingredients that my mother taught be to mix: ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar when I was about 10 years old and have evolved over time.

First I started by wanting to avoid the fish in the Worcestershire sauce. Then I wanted to reduce the cost of the sauce so needed to switch out the ketchup for chopped tomatoes. Eventually, then recipe had evolved into what I am presenting today. Sometimes I probably use a bit more garlic or a bit more sugar but this is a good base to start with.

BBQ Sauce

800g chopped tomatoes

3 Tbsp liquid seasoning (liquid smoke)

2 tsp garlic purée

1/4 cup brown sugar (maple syrup or honey would also work)

1 Tbsp Molasses

1 Tbsp tomato purée (tomato paste)

1 tsp smoked paprika (I heap it)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp mustard powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 vegetable stock cube

1/2 tsp hot chilli powder

First thing to remember…blend the tomatoes before heating if you want your sauce smooth. I forgot this step and had to do the risky step of blending the hot bbq sauce as my family are picky about hiding the tomatoes. You got add all the ingredients before blending and then cooking but the sugar might want to stick to the side of the blender. I usually just blend the tomatoes then add all the rest in the pan.

Mix all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer while stirring regularly. You want the sauce to get to a deeper red and reduce a bit. Once you get your sauce to a consistency you like turn off the heat and use a silicone spatula to scrape in all into a container to cool before keeping it in the refrigerator. I made enough for two jars of sauce (my jars are 500ml size).

We will have ours on tofu burgers and probably dip chips in it as well. I also love to have a bit of this sauce on a baked potato with some beans and greens. If you are an omni eaters it is also great for cooking meat in.

These two jars of sauce might have cost as much as £1 in total to make but probably closer to 80p. It not only can be just the way you want, probably healthier but also save you money. Let me know if you like this sauce and how you prefer to use it.

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