Take a banana malt milkshake with a side of cookies, then convert that into a cake. Read More
I can safely say that I’ve literally made hundreds of school lunches over the years and I’ve hundreds more to make.
If you’ve got a child starting school this year or if you are looking to freshen up your lunchboxes, here are my top, tried and tested, tips for packing a lunchbox: Read More
You would think, as the school term has ended for 9 weeks-ish, that I’d be sick to the back teeth of lunchboxes. I’m not! We are embracing the lunchbox every day of the week at the moment. I’m still baking my lunchbox muffins; packing refillable water bottles, and now I’m planning adventures.
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There’s a freedom in not being tied to any timetable other than our own. The lack of schedule, coupled with free child leapcards until the 28th of July, has fuelled our desire to explore Dublin on a budget as many days as we can. The idea is to live lightly and to bring whatever we need with us. As we used to say in the Irish Girl Guides; leave nothing behind but our thanks.
I have ‘splurged’ on one or two events that are paid but they have cost less than €25 for the three of us. Mainly, we are making the most of the wonderful facilities that our City has to offer. There are oodles of free museums, playgrounds, and events on offer if we scratch under the surface.
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Organising is ‘my thing’ plus (some of you already know this) my husband is a coach driver. I have a few surprising locations up my sleeve that you may not know about, or realise, you can visit on a budget.
If you’re thinking about what to do with your kids over the Summer you might like to follow along for some ideas and I always love suggestions because I’m constantly learning! If so you’ll find me on FACEBOOK or INSTAGRAM and also on TWITTER
P.S. Disclosure has become a bit of a dreaded word for bloggers lately. I’ve resolved to stop telling you I have nothing to declare because I mainly never do. When I do have a relationship with a business/brand/thing I’ll be 100% upfront about it. Simply because it’s the regulations but also because it’s the sound thing to do.
Did you know that a strawberry isn’t a true berry? You should store that little nugget of knowledge up for the next table quiz you’re at. True berries have their seeds held inside the fruit; a strawberry’s seeds are dotted along the outside with their characteristic little dot. This post has been sponsored by Bord Bia and if you’d like to get more information on how to celebrate strawberry season visit www.bordbia.ie/strawberries
My father in law sat down after dinner the other evening as he’d selected the best looking strawberry from the chip for dinner. With a little knife he gently lifted the seeds from outside the strawberry onto a piece of kitchen towel to dry. Every single seed will become a new strawberry plant with each delicate white flower on that plant resulting in a delicious strawberry. The life cycle continues.
Normally associated with sweet dishes I like to eat strawberries in my salads. I hesitate to add too many ingredients into a salad with strawberries as they can sometimes be overpowered. The strawberries are a seasonal treat and I really want their natural flavour to sing!
Savoury Strawberry Salad (serves 4)
- 250g fresh strawberries, chopped
- 150g rocket
- 50g flaked almonds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon honey
Put the strawberries, rocket, and flaked almonds into a large bowl.
Put the dressing ingredients into a clean jam jar, put the lid on top to seal and shake the jar well.
Once all the dressing has been well combined, pour over the salad and serve immediately.
This salad goes perfectly with a fresh goats cheese or poached salmon with lemon.
It’s a battle sometimes to get the kids to eat enough portions of fruit and vegetables in a day. I find myself having to resort to using every single Mam-trick in the book to convince them to add an extra portion into the day.
They do however love strawberries and the beauty of this recipe is that the pancakes ‘look’ like a pizza but don’t have a savoury flavour at all.
This post has been sponsored by Bord Bia and if you’d like to get more information on how to celebrate strawberry season visit www.bordbia.ie/strawberries
My bigger problem though is making sure that the strawberries make it home from the shop without the kids snaffling them and munching them all on the way home. I’ve found this year that local strawberries need an extra day on the counter at room temperature to develop the perfect sweetness. I never keep my strawberries in the fridge because they are delicious when they aren’t chilled; the temperature they are when freshly picked is warm and that is the way they are meant to be eaten!
Strawberry Pizza Pancakes (serves 5)
- 250g (1 cup) plain flour
- 1 teaspoon bread soda/bicarbonate of soda
- 2 small-medium eggs (1 large egg should be fine either)
- 150ml buttermilk
- Optional 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil for frying/greasing the pan.
Put the flour and bread soda into a large bowl and stir so that they’re combined. Make a well in the centre and crack in the 2 eggs, pour in the buttermilk (add the vanilla extract if using). Whisk until you have a batter. Don’t worry too much if you have small lumps, as these should disappear after the next stage.
Put the oil in a heavy, shallow non-stick frying pan (see notes on frying pan below). Before you put the pan on the heat, spread the oil over the surface. I like to use a little bit of kitchen paper for this. Next, put it on a medium heat and allow it to come to temperature. This takes about 5 minutes or so. Once the pan is hot, give the batter a second vigorous whisk and you should see those lumps disappear (or at worst get smaller, they’ll be gone completely in the cooking process don’t worry).
Using a ladle as a measure, pour 1 portion onto the frying pan. Once the bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the pancake, and the batter has changed colour from pale to slightly darker, flip the pancake using a non-stick spatula. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes, until the pancake turns golden on both sides. Lift and serve.
If you want to wait for all the pancakes to be cooked before serving, pop them onto a heat-proof plate and cover with a bit of baking parchment/tin foil, then a heavy tea towel to stop them from getting cold. Lift the “insulation” everytime you cook another batch to add to the pile.
Serve the pancakes with a generous spread of fresh yoghurt (whatever flavour you fancy), sliced strawberries, and some beautiful fresh mint which compliments the strawberries perfectly. There’s no need to sweeten this recipe; nature’s treats are sweet enough!
As soon as the new strawberries start to appear in the supermarket it’s a sure sign that Summer has arrived. Even if the weather doesn’t quite agree, there’s nothing like the sweet scent of strawberries wafting around the kitchen. This post has been sponsored by Bord Bia and if you’d like to get more information on how to celebrate strawberry season visit www.bordbia.ie/strawberries
I just can’t resist buying strawberries every week for the duration of the season. I know I’m luckier than many with one of the best local fruit farms in the country only 5 minutes down the road to get my produce from. Regardless of whether you buy your strawberries from the farm or supermarket, when you buy this fruit in season you can be guaranteed it’s local, hasn’t clocked up food miles, and they’ve not been long picked either.
Gone are the days where we can go to the local farm and pick our own, but there’s nothing stopping me getting the delicious strawberries as fresh as I possibly can. Picked early in the morning, before the sun gets too high, the punnets are ripe for collection by 10am.
This is a great sugar free recipe for strawberry ice pops that is very handy for introducing new foods and flavours to picky eaters. It’s also handy to use up a glut of the most flavourful fruit.
Ingredients (makes 6 ice pops)
- 200g fresh strawberries, chopped
- ½ mango, peeled and chopped
- 100ml fresh orange juice
Blitz the ingredients in a food processor/blender until you have a fine pulp. Carefully pour into ice pop molds.
Freeze for 3 hours at the top of your freezer before eating, although ideally overnight.
To get the ice pops out of their molds, dip each into a mug of warm water for 20 seconds before turning upside down (handle facing to the ground) and pulling the mold off upwards. This prevents any breakages/leaving the ice pop behind in the mold!
Recipe notes: As there is no sugar or sweetener added to this recipe it’s suitable for all ages from weaning (after 6 months). I have a good few of these ice pops on standby in the freezer because they’re far cheaper and better value than buying from the ice cream van. They can also count as 1 of your 7 a day portions of fruit and vegetables!
I admit, not everybody will have eaten lamb today; lamb is relatively expensive to bu!. I’d bet though that if you did buy lamb for your Easter Sunday roast, you really don’t want to throw away any of that precious meat. This leftover lamb pasta recipe is especially designed for the itty bitty pieces that don’t come away easily when carving. They are perfect shredded into the sauce, browned until caramelised and cling to the pasta in nutty morsels.
This Easter Sunday we’ll all gather as a family; my siblings, our partners, our children, and my parents, and we’ll enjoy this classic roast lamb feast. When I say a classic roast lamb feast that’s not strictly true in the Irish sense of the term. The flavours and the food that we will eat together are a reflection of us as a family. The meal speaks to us of a time spent in the Middle East when Dad was serving with UNIFIL and the youngest of us was still in nappies.
It’s a meal that we will all contribute to. I’ve already been told I’m responsible for the vegetables, which is really my favourite part anyway. The biggest battle in my house will be to get all the vegetables chopped without the kids depleting the serving platter. The beauty of serving a roast lamb feast in this way is that everybody gets to pick what they like. Some family members don’t like cucumbers, some love peppers; everybody will fill their pitta bread and plates before we sit down together and celebrate Easter as a family. Read More
What do you put in your kids’ lunchboxes? Are you concerned with the contents of bought-in packets, or maybe you’re trying to lower the amount of plastic packaging within the lunchbox. These fruity lunchbox muffins are dual purpose. They have a healthy, yet stealthy portion of 1 of your 7-a-day recommended fruit and veg intake. The muffins also have a secret to reducing refined sugar in lunchbox treats that might surprise you.
Once a fortnight I make a batch of 24 muffins for the lunchboxes. I freeze what we don’t need immediately and simply take out what we need the night before school. That means the muffins are always fresh.
Ingredients Method Preheat your fan oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line 2 cupcake tins with muffin cases (24 in total). Make sure all the above ingredients are at room temperature. Put everything into a very large stand mixer or food processor. Yep everything (I’m serious). Switch the blender/mixer/processor on to low until the dry ingredients are combined with the wet ingredients. Once combined, move the dial to medium until you have a rich creamy batter. Turn off the machine. Use an ice cream scoop to portion the muffin mixture into the case. Sprinkle oats on top of the muffin batter. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes before removing from the oven and allowing to cool. Freeze as you need them.
Fruity Lunchbox Muffins
Preheat your fan oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line 2 cupcake tins with muffin cases (24 in total).
Make sure all the above ingredients are at room temperature. Put everything into a very large stand mixer or food processor. Yep everything (I’m serious).
Switch the blender/mixer/processor on to low until the dry ingredients are combined with the wet ingredients. Once combined, move the dial to medium until you have a rich creamy batter. Turn off the machine.
Use an ice cream scoop to portion the muffin mixture into the case. Sprinkle oats on top of the muffin batter.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes before removing from the oven and allowing to cool. Freeze as you need them.
Note: To make half the batch, half all the ingredients except for the eggs; use 2 instead of 3.
By covering the beef in an ale marinade you make your steak incredibly tender with a wonderful sweet malt flavour. Read More
I really love the fresh flavours in this salsa and I think that salsa is a great budget dish to offer guests to your home for celebrations. It promises fresh Summery flavours and I know (at the moment) the weather isn’t all that Summery at the moment. We can hope right? Read More
Did I get your attention there? Or maybe, like me, you rolled your eyes a little bit at the thoughts of stockpiling certain food items in advance of Brexit (in whatever form it eventually takes). Bear with me here though, because a fully stocked store cupboard is a thing of beauty and regardless of the UK imminently leaving the EU it’s a good idea.
What’s in my pre-Brexit store cupboards? It’s probably easier to list it out according to category:
- Beans – Black eyed, pinto, chickpeas (garbanzo), and butterbeans
- Seeds – Pumpkin, Sesame, Sunflower, Poppy, Nigella (onion seed)
- Sugar – Caster, Granulated, Soft Brown, Dark Brown, Demerara (did you know it’s not produced in Ireland anymore?)
- Flour – Plain, Self Raising, Strong, Type 00 (for pasta making), Wholemeal, Brown
- Tinned Beans (blackbeans, pinto, chickpeas, butterbeans, and baked beans)
- Tomato Puree
- Oils – olive, sunflower, rapeseed, peanut
- Dried Fruit – Raisins, currants, apricots, prunes, figs
- Pasta – spaghetti, lasagne sheets, and several different pasta shapes
- Rice – White, brown, basmati, pudding
- Bulghar Wheat
- Stock Cubes
- Loaves of bread
- Meat – chicken, beef, pork, lamb
- Pizzas (emergency use only)
- Vegetables – peas, sweetcorn, butternut squash
- Fruit – gooseberries, raspberries, bananas (skin off), strawberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries, apple purée (perfect for baking)
How do I build up my stores? I simply buy a little bit extra every week and factor it into my shopping budget, the maximum I spend each week is €5 on the extra items but store items like beans are extremely good value and I can get plenty for that amount of money.
The idea is, Brexit aside, that I should be able to feed the family from the freezer and cupboards for up to a month or more in the event of me running out of cash. I’d really only need to buy milk (which I know I can also freeze but I don’t have space) and eggs.
I have to emphasise here, I’m not a hoarder! I rotate my stocks and we will eat absolutely everything in the presses in rotation. Once I reach a set limit on my store levels I restock. I also keep an eye out for special offers and deals to stock back up.
Do you only buy what you need? Do you keep large stores like I do or do you just top up 1 item as and when it runs out? Might you change your shopping habits in the coming weeks and months?
It’s likely that there are some foodstuffs that are going to be more expensive in the next few months. However, buying locally produced seasonal food is always going to be more affordable. Think fruits and vegetables for example. The first of the Irish tomatoes left a farm local to me over the St Patrick’s Day weekend, and strawberries won’t be far behind, so keep an eye out in the supermarkets this week as choosing to buy Irish has a long-term impact on our local communities and economy.