If there’s one takeaway meal that has an addictive moreish quality to it, it’s the Spice Bag. It’s actually incredibly easy to make at home and this version serves a family of 5 hungry people. Leave out the chicken to make it plant based.
Due to the magic of the internet. I filmed myself making this live on Instastories. I’ve compiled it into a video and you’ll find it here:
Ingredients (Serves 5)
- 6 medium potatoes, peeled
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 3 breasts of chicken, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 peppers, sliced
- 75g frozen peas
- 1 teaspoon each of cayenne pepper, salt and chilli flakes
- 1 small chilli, sliced (optional)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat a fan oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Chop the potatoes into chips and place on a non stick baking tray. Use 1 tbspn of sunflower oil to coat the chips and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
Once the chips are cooked, leave them in the oven to stay warm. Place a large saucepan or wok on a high heat. Pour in the sunflower oil and cook the chicken first, then add the garlic and onion, finally the peppers and frozen peas. Toss until everything is cooked through.
Add the chips to the cooked chicken and vegetables. Sprinkle in the spices and toss everything together so that the chicken, chips, and vegetables are coated in the spices. Serve with slices of fresh chilli and season to taste.
For years I sat on the beach and watched as the boys splashed in the surf with my husband. On holidays we’d go to waterparks and I’d brave a slide or two but mainly sit by the pool and keep a watchful eye on them.
It’s not that I wasn’t willing to go and join in but I was wary of myself. Of how I looked in swimming togs and being conscious of other people looking at me.
Recently it’s not that I had an epiphany, far from it!
We were on the beach with the kids during the lockdown and they wanted to go sea swimming, something we normally reserve for very warm Summer days. We are going to be spending an awful lot of the year based from home and are privileged to live by the beach so I got wetsuits for the lads (boys and their Dad). My husband suggested I find one for myself and I decided not to.
The wetsuits arrived and the 3 lads got into the surf together and had an absolute ball. I stood on the beach watching them splash together and had a yearning to join in. I realised that I would have to get one for myself.
At that moment I decided that I wasn’t going to stress about how I looked. I was going to stress about not being part of the fun.
Reader. I bought a plus sized wetsuit. It wasn’t as horrendously expensive as I thought it would be.
I am wearing it to sea swim. Something I did a LONG time ago and stopped doing because of my self doubt.
I feel more confident in myself. I’m more body confident. I have borne 2 children. I’ve run a marathon. I am who I am and more comfortable in my own skin.
No longer will I stand to one side because of my own inhibitions. The boys will remember I’m there and part of their lives.
Just one of the wonderful changes that happened in our house during lockdown.
Whoever said that a main meal had to include rice, pasta, or spuds? Possibly noodles at a pinch?
The holy trinity of a double carb meal is one that my husband aspires to; a three-in-one contains rice and chips. The gourmet sandwich is always made with white sliced pan filled with Cheese and Onion Tayto. It must be cheese and onion. If it’s not cheese and onion classic, Southern Ireland, Tayto crisps, then it’s not a proper crisp butty.
Have you ever tried making a chicken and stuffing toasty with a smear of garlic mayonnaise? If you’ve never tried it before I highly recommend it, not forgetting a smear of beetroot relish on the side to dip those crispy triangles in.
If you haven’t guessed by now I’m not a fan of being tied to the kitchen sink everyday.
So take my advice, make a batch (or even a double batch) of my meatball marinara recipe. It will keep for up to 3 days in a sealed container in the fridge once cooled to room temperature. It also freezes extremely well.
Buy some ready made soft rolls, of course if you want to make your own go right ahead. If you’re using day-old rolls that are a little crunchy on the outside run them under the tap for a moment so that they soften first.
Slice those rolls down the middle and stuff them with the meatballs in the marinara sauce. Heat the stuffed rolls in a baking tray in the oven until they are warmed through. Sprinkle grated mozzarella on top, or cheddar if you want a bit of sharpness.
What about the double-carb requirement I hear you say?
Less washing up means you have to pair this meatball supper with a bag of cheesey nachos. The 11 year old has spoken and will entertain no alternatives.
Salad to the side is optional but will make you feel a little more virtuous. You will also have more washing up to do afterwards. You have been warned…
My kids love meatballs for dinner. They beg me for this dish at least once a week. If I make meatballs and leave the kitchen I have to make sure to hide them from the boys. They have been known to sneak into the kitchen and eat them straight from the slow cooker when I’m not looking. Indeed, they’ve also been known to eat them early in the morning in the interests of breakfast. One of their favourite cartoons is still ‘Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs”. This recipe is definitely made for the meatball fans.
For ease of preparation I use a food processor here. It just makes life a little easier for me, but you can of course chop the vegetables by hand or use a box grater.
This is enough to feed your family for 2 meals, if you can stop them from eating the meatballs when your back is turned…
The breadcrumbs both bulk up the meal but also give the meatballs a lighter texture than if you use just meat which I prefer.
- 100g breadcrumbs
- 50ml milk
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 300g turkey mince
- Sunflower oil for frying
- 1 onion, peeled
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 1 pepper, core removed
- 500ml passata
Combine the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl. Let the breadcrumbs soak up the milk (it’ll take about 5 minutes). Once the crumbs have soaked up the milk add the garlic, salt and pepper, dried oregano, and turkey mince to the bowl. Mix all these ingredients together with your hands or a fork. Once mixed thoroughly portion the mixture into ping-pong ball sized meatballs. Use the sunflower oil to fry the meatballs in a non-stick pan until golden brown on the outside.
Once the meatballs are golden brown pop them into a slow cooker set to high, leave the frying pan on low. Close the lid.
Take a food processor and pulse the onion, carrots, and pepper using the general blade until everything is puree style. Cook the puree off in the still-hot frying pan. This will take about 10 minutes to reduce the astringency of the onion. Pour the puree into the slow cooker and add the passata. Stir well.
Cook the meatballs in the slow cooker on high for 4 hours, until you have an unctuous sauce. Season to taste before serving. I like to add torn leaves of fresh basil on top of the meatballs mixture and serve them with penne pasta.
I finished up writing this blog as the lockdown took set. It wasn’t intentional, not at all! It’s just that as the kids finished school I began to realise that the juggle of working from home and home schooling was simply not compatible with writing here.
This time around I’ve given myself some time to load up the new recipes into the blog and space them out over the weeks and months ahead so that when I say I have a new recipe, I actually have a new recipe. When I say I have a blogpost, there is one actually coming.
An awful lot of lockdown has been difficult but equally some of it has been wonderful. The past 3 months have been stories of highs and lows.
Of many frustrated tears when I didn’t have enough hours in the working week to homeschool and work, which resulted in me working through the weekends.
Of getting tired of relentlessy cooking and satiating my family’s need for food.
Of hugs and tears and hugs again for the boys as they missed their friends, the chats, the messing.
Of my husband learning what it’s like to be here for the boys. Learning how to connect with them and be a huge part of their lives. Previously this was limited to reconnecting on holidays. Now, he says it’s the holiday he never asked or wished for, but, it’s like winning the lottery to spend so much time with these two messers.
Lockdown made my work immeasurably harder. I’m so relieved that I don’t have to actively homeschool the boys for now. I’m looking forward to reclaiming the weekends for us-time. Maybe even getting to schedule some time off in my future.
Other uplifting things have happened like me returning to sea swimming. Joyous socially-distanced walks with my friends of late. And light. My life is filled with so much light now thanks to my genius husband and the boys who worked together to create a brand new garden for us all to enjoy. Replete with so… many… solar… lights… that I can’t count them all. They finished it just as the weather took a turn for the worse. For now I’m sitting in the living room in the evenings with the curtains flung open and watch the lights gently glow as the gloaming deepens.
Things are getting better. I have time to write for myself again. I am back.
While school was underway these energy cookies made it into the lunchboxes at least once a week. For many reasons, not least that they are so darn easy to assemble in a food processor, but also because they are low on allergens. We have restrictions on certain food items in school due to children having allergies and I have to be extremely careful of nuts and sesame seeds in particular. I know that when I make these cookies they are not going to cause a risk to other children in the classroom.
Most important to the boys is that these energy cookies are one of their favourite lunchbox treats.
Earlier on the youngest fella accosted me in the office to see could we make them on my lunchbreak. They are easy enough for small hands to make with minimal supervision.
- 100g coconut oil
- 100g light brown sugar
- 200g oats
- 50g chia seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 30 ml water
Preheat a fan oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
Bring the coconut oil to a soft form/oil by popping it in a bowl and microwaving for 30 seconds (It must be soft for this recipe).
Add all the ingredients including the coconut oil into a food processor and turn on full until you have a batter. Leave the batter to one side for 15 – 20 minutes. The chia seeds will act as a binder and the batter will turn more solid.
Line a baking tray with non stick baking paper. Using a tablespoon as a cookie measure, spoon onto the baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Allow to cool before eating.
It might seem odd me doing an introduction blog post but I figured that after over 500 posts on the blog and so much water under the bridge it was about time that I did some reintroductions.
Life has changed a lot for me since I started blogging so rather than focus on what has changed, I think I’d rather explain where I am.
My name is Caitríona, I’m a work-at-home Mam who lives in the most Northerly coastal town in Co Dublin, called Balbriggan. This is why if you follow me on social media you’ll regularly see pictures of the sea and our beautiful harbour and lighthouse. Dublin is Ireland’s capital city but I live in the county so we are surrounded by farmland and bounded by the Irish Sea.
I work freelance and juggle keeping all my clients happy with being here for my family. The juggle is a great way to describe it.
There are young 2 boys in the household, one of whom has special educational needs, and supporting them is a huge part of my day. Normally I work while they are in school but with Covid-19 restrictions my working day is far more complicated. Their sister is nearly 21 now and no longer lives here but visits for catchups. My husband, their Dad, is here full time while he can’t drive a schoolbus with the schools closed. Having him here is wonderful and frustrating in equal measures (he would agree 100%).
The final element of the house is the dog; Flash. So named because he’s a nippy little fella, who likes to dig holes, snaffle toast, cuddles in the evening, and is a wonderful calming influence for both boys.
We have an allotment and a polytunnel where we grow loads of unusual things you don’t normally find growing in Irish gardens. This year we couldn’t get to the plot for an extended amount of time so it’s a big rag-tag at the moment. Next year I’m planning a big clearout and redesign. I call the allotment ‘my happy place’ and wish I could spend more time there.
A couple of years ago I took up running, even ran a marathon, but at the moment finding time to myself is a battle so I’m trying to get out at least once a week and if I do that then it’s a success.
We are trying to make the most of the restrictions and the wonderful place we live in so I’ve returned (after a gap of nearly 20 years) to sea swimming and I’ve brought the entire family with me. Yes, it’s bracingly cold even with the wetsuit on, but it’s an amazing feeling when you get home and are snuggled into warm clothes.
Right, I think that’s a good enough attempt at some reintroductions.
I’ve been working hard in the background on some new recipes, blogposts, and even some videos which are all ready to go over the coming weeks. See you soon!
All of a sudden in the past 10 days 100’s of thousands of people lost their jobs. That’s people with mortgages, rent, children, responsibilities, and in a literal night and day shift they go from having money to pay for all these things to not.
That movement from having a job to having none was brutal and life changing and terrifying. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. There’s a gut wrenching worry and the unrelenting terror that keeps you awake at night and makes you think of nothing else. Then you see people outside going about their regular business and you feel like shouting at them because they shouldn’t be when your entire world is falling apart.
It’s looking likely that my husband will also lose his job in the next week or so and I find that familiar anxiety rising in me. This time though I have the benefit of having been through extreme financial difficulty before and I know how to manage.
Step One: Prioritise
The most important thing right now is to try and stay well and socially distanced (and wash your hands). You do this by figuring out what is important and MUST be paid for as opposed to should be paid for.
What are at the top of the list? Simply food, light, and heat. You need all these three to stay well. If you have a mortgage or rent there are systems set in place now to ask for a break from the banks etc. Use these if you have to. There is no shame in doing this.
Step Two: Solidarity
We are not in this on our own. During the recession everybody was treated individually and at times when it was difficult I found that I felt we were being picked on by the bank. The difference now is that people have been laid off all at once. So you have others to speak to that are in the same situation; reach out, text your coworkers and friends, us social media. Don’t feel on your own. This will help.
Step Three: Focus On What You Can Control
The Covid-19 crisis, not having a job, being cooped up in the house? All of these you can’t control.
You can control the small things. You can make a cup of tea, sort out the bottom of the fridge for once, organise the laundry, hug your kids. These things you can focus on. If you focus on the small stuff and allow the bigger things to take care of themselves you will begin to feel better.
Step Four: Reduce and ReUse
Take a look at your finances, figure out what you can let go. Ring your service providers and negotiate a reduced repayment arrangement. Cut out those crappy monthly subscriptions that you don’t need anymore.
Get a large sheet of paper, write down all the food you have in the house. See how many meals you can get out of that. Plan your meals. Wash your hands.
Step Five: Endure
Know that you are not on your own. You will get through this.
Decide something nice that you will do when you get through the other side. You will get through the other side. It could be a trip to the hairdressers or a pint in the local pub. Whatever. Promise yourself you will do that and work towards it.
I’m just working towards the day we have free hugs for everyone!
Seriously though this is so blooming difficult and I wish we didn’t have to go down this road again. I’m grateful that I have the skills to survive though.
We will endure.
Here we have it. My free ‘what the heck do I do with my kids while they are at home in isolation’ guide to online resources. Bookmark this; in all likelihood we are all going to need it.
Just to mention; don’t unleash your kids at all of this in the first day or even days. There is loads for them to work their way through. If you let them do everything all at once they will become overwhelmed and disinterested.
Learning to Code
Suitable for all ages, Coding is something that we have been doing for a few years. Code.org is a free resource which starts your kids from scratch (sorry folks I couldn’t resist) with familiar characters to make the lessons feel more like playtime.
If you’re interested in moving a bit further than code.org then install Scratch on your pc. We’ve had some good fun with this free application.
Free Books & Magazines
I’m a huge fan of our library card opening a whole new world of reading and enjoyment. If you’re in isolation you’re not going to be able to visit the library but your card gives you free access to BorrowBox which includes free audiobooks and ebooks, you can also read magazines on RBDigital using that same card.
Learning to Type For Free
Libraries in Ireland have recently rolled out TTRS (Touch Type Read Spell) membership for members but this has to be activated in person. If you’re not in isolation get to the library and set up your account. TTRS is brilliant for children who have dyslexia, dyspraxia and other specific learning disabilities. Think about it though, your child being able to type from a young age will be hugely beneficial later on in life. While you’re at it you might like to sign yourself up too. I know how to type but I still got myself an account.
Other Free Library Benefits
Use your library app (mine is Fingal Libraries) to access free language courses online using Mango, online courses for adults in subjects such as psychology, accounting, free homeschooling resources etc using Universal Class, you can also access an Irish Language database plus oodles more. For Free.
I learned this one from the kids’ school actually. It’s a browser called KIDDLE. It’s a ‘safe’ visual search engine for kids. It is safer than letting your children loose on Google.
Origami is great for fine motor skills. You’ll find free folding directions here https://www.origami-resource-center.com/free-origami-instructions.html
You know that if you are in isolation your kids can still play in the garden? So long as you ensure that you all keep your distance from others it’s fine to let them out to run amuck. You might not have a garden though or the weather might be dire (I do live in Ireland after all). GoNoodle is a free app and YouTube channel which is designed to engage kids in the classroom (so in tight spaces). Clear a small area of obstacles and get active in bursts.
Speaking of which if you do manage to get out and about this Irish website about Biology might get you started on taking part in a biodiversity study or taking a look at your surroundings.
Keeping Up With Irish
TG4 have their own microsite for children based around their popular Cúla4 kids content. You can of course catch up with their favourite cartoons etc in Irish but they also have a Games and Crafting section on the website which is very helpful. Not forgetting their apps which are second to none.
Looking for similar in English? RTéjr is just as good.
What older kid doesn’t love Horrible Histories? Once again there’s games around a historical theme on this website by Scholastic.
Is Maths your thing? Math is fun is free and has oodles of stuff to keep everybody occcupied.
I remember learning to play chess many years ago and it’s a great way to keep a small brain occupied and working on strategy.
Does your child have a healthy interest in Science? The American Museum of Natural History has a wonderful child-friendly website which will keep them engaged as they work their way through the ‘ology’s’.
We also like to find out how stuff works. A must for curious children.
The BEST Irish website for history is Dúchas and if your kids (or even you) would like to contribute to Irish history and help the archives then consider helping transcribe the community archives. There are tens of thousands of pages left to transcribe.
It’s also worth guiding your children through the Census archives, looking up your family tree and finding out what their ancestors were doing/living many years ago.
I realise this might not be popular but you will want to consider allowing your children to play cooperative games online using headphones with their friends. I’m not going to suggest any ones in particular but you need to bear in mind that the longer their isolation goes on the worse they will feel. This feeling of being connected with their friends can be partially helped by using online games.
Obviously organsing facetime/video calling with friends and family will also help but nothing compares with theme catching up with their pals for a short while every day.
If you have any ideas that I’ve not thought of feel free to comment below!
Note: This is specifically for free online resources. I’m aware that there are loads of paid websites that offer free trials etc. I just want to sign up for stuff for free. Goodness knows we all might be feeling the pinch in the weeks ahead.
Are you worrying about what food supplies you should have in the house? I have you covered.
I’ll be honest here. I’ve been betwixt and between about writing this shopping list. I don’t want anybody to think I’m jumping on a bandwagon because I’m not. It’s no secret that I maintain about a month’s worth of supplies in the house (okay it’s more). My supply levels are not a ‘prepper’ thing or even a ‘money saving’ thing. It’s simply that it was not too long ago that I didn’t have the buffer of a full store cupboard; when times were tough financially and I had to seriously plan out every meal.
Being so open about my kitchen stores has led to a few requests from people on social media looking for an idea of where to start in case they do end up having to shut the front door to the world for at least a fortnight and go into isolation. I’m not suggesting you stockpile. Please don’t actually; please check and see what you have in your store cupboards before you go to the supermarket. Only buy what you need as otherwise you may end up with food waste and a rake of stuff that you might not need in the future.
Do be careful about calculating what you need to eat. It’s natural to want to comfort eat when you’re confined indoors, but your exercise levels will be far lower unless you have exercise equipment in the house that you’re going to use everyday.
I’ve deliberately included food here that is easy to prepare and cook just in case you do come down with the virus and aren’t feeling great. Cooking an epic slap up meal is the last thing you’re going to to want to do. If you generally eat more convenience food or would like to make your shop this way then go right ahead. I’ve not included alcohol; I figure most people have it in some form in their house if they really want it or will add it to the list.
After the (non exhaustive) shopping list below you’ll find other tips on how to survive if you’re not able to leave the house.
- Apples (in a paper bag)
- Carrots (in a paper bag)
- Broccoli (if plastic wrapped leave it that way it’ll keep for longer)
- Peppers (in a paper bag)
- Tomatoes (yes I know they shouldn’t be stored in the fridge normally but this will preserve them for longer)
- Cheese (1 block, see also freezer)
- Butter (1 block, see also freezer)
- Yoghurt (see also freezer)
- Milk (see also freezer)
- Salad leaves (held loosely in a paper bag)
- Oven chips
- Milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt can all be frozen to make them last longer than 2 weeks so fit them into your freezer if you can. We go through about 6L of milk a week for reference
- Meat/protein of choice – I’d suggest sausages, chicken breasts, minced beef, chops, all items that are easy to cook
- Sliced pans (just take out a slice or two at a time)
- Baked Beans
- Tomato puree
- Tinned chickpeas/blackbeans/beans of your choice
- Potatoes (keep in a cool dry place in a paper bag away from sunlight)
- Onions (store in the same manner as potatoes)
- Porridge Oats
- Wheat Biscuits
- Plain Flour
- Eggs (about 2 dozen but as many as you think you’ll need, store them in the fridge to make them last longer if you have to)
- Dried Fruit
- Cocoa Powder
- Stock Cubes
- Cooking Oil
Other essential items
- Toilet Paper
- Surface cleaning spray
- Paracetamol/Ibruprofen (in liquid form if you need it for children)
- Dioralyte or Zero tabs for rehydrating when ill
- Washing detergent
- Shampoo/Showergel etc
2 weeks or more is an incredibly long time to be shut off from the world. There’s a lot to think about if you want to be prepared.
- Make sure your prescriptions are up to date, filled, and that you have at least 2 weeks in stock in your house. Speak to your pharmacist if you are unsure about what you might need.
- If you pay your utilities using a pay-as-you-go meter make sure your card is topped up and that you have access to a way to add credit if you need to without leaving the house.
- It’s mad the things you don’t think about needing when it’s so convenient to nip out and grab them; do you have enough batteries/plasters/nappies/sanitary towels?
- Get a free library card (if you haven’t already) and get yourself set up with BorrowBox on your smartphone and/or tablets. You can borrow ebooks and audiobooks from the comfort of your home for free. I guarantee you will go nuts if you watch TV all day.
- Organise your friends and family to facetime/call you at intervals during the day. Think about playing games online with one another to keep in touch face-to-face (without touching faces that’s a no-no).
- Have a routine for emptying the bins out to the wheely bins then sanitising as you go out and back.
- Have a plan for deliveries coming to the door that you may have to sign for.
- If you have kids board games will come in handy along with learning a new skill, maybe origami or knitting.
This might help you/it might not. If you have any suggestions or tips to add to this blogpost please comment below so that everybody can benefit. To those who asked me for this in blogpost format I hope that this answers your questions!
Are you worrying about keeping your kids occupied? Here’s my list of free online resources.
I’m more conscious about what I post online in the past few years. I’ve always included the boys in the conversation surrounding the blog. I have a blog and they understand that what I do is online. However, they are getting older and they are starting to make their own individual footprints in the online world so I’m trying to share what is going on without too much identifying information.
When you parent a neurotypical child your path through life is fairly predictable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not without its twists/turns/bumps/surprises, but society and the educational system is geared towards the normal child progressing to be a normal adult. Whatever normal is.
Neurotypical. That’s a word that’s part of a brand new lexicon that I’m rapidly becoming accustomed to.
Like every other parent who has found themselves on a slightly different path than they envisioned the last while has been difficult.
My child is still the same they have always been. Nothing has changed about them. Life will be similar but better for them now that we know what their differences are. I, however, carry around worries that they will come up against so many more obstacles than their peers and that life will be even more challenging for them because they are marked differently to everybody else.
Now we have to channel our efforts in this direction and steel ourselves for a prolonged journey into the land of dealing with various state and semi-state institutions. To plead, not for what he needs, but for what he’s entitled to. There’s a big line down the middle of his needs and entitlements. At times the chasm that the line has become is taking my breath away.
Life goes on; we are resilient and will adapt. It’s time to get used to the new normal.
I’ve had this post in my drafts for quite some time. A long time as it happens. For months when I went to post on the blog it became an obstacle to posting something new. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve when it comes to parenting. I’ve edited and posted this a million times in my mind. This is not a ‘poor me’ or a ‘poor them’ blog post. It is what it is; we are where we are.