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!
This blog used to be a space where I would spill my heart out and share the ups and downs of life, budgeting, parenting, and feeding my family on a budget. Now I carry around stories that are not my own to tell and while it feels odd not to share them here, I won’t be. I do find myself checking what I share online so as to respect the privacy of their owners. The reality of these stories are that they shape my days at the moment and have partially been the reason why I’ve been so quiet on the blog.
If you follow me on social media you will know that I am working from home all the time now; a change that happened with the dawn of 2020. This is okay. I am needed here. It’s a change that I am doing my utmost to embrace but after a number of years away from the house at work it’s taking some getting used to.
The benefit to me being based in the house is more time to develop and test recipes, and hopefully, more blog posts and work on the website. I think if you tap my name above you’ll notice a fairly radical change to my design which I’m incredibly proud of. *whispers* I did it all myself!
This is a recipe for vegan mayo I worked on last week; served with a bowl of warm Irish vegetables and topped with toasted almonds and seeds it’s a wonderfully fresh and filling meal to have after a long day or to celebrate the best of in season vegetables.
It’s a doddle to make each ingredient sing in this plant based vegetable bowl with a plant based mayonnaise. It’s perfect hot or cold and will keep for leftovers the following day.
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 head of broccoli, chopped
- 1 leek, chopped in matchsticks
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 100g sliced almonds
For the mayo
- 1 teaspoon french mustard
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 75ml Irish Rapeseed Oil
- 2 tablespoons cooked chickpeas
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Simmer the carrots in hot water for 10 minutes, then add the broccoli, allow to come to boiling again and strain immediately. Place the carrots, broccoli, and leek (on top of the vegetables) into a roasting dish, drizzle with maple syrup. Place under a hot grill until the leeks are charred.
Put all the mayo ingredients into a blender and pulse until you have a smooth mayonnaise. Season to taste.
Serve the vegetables hot in a bowl drizzled with the mayonnaise and sprinkled with the almonds.
Tip: To make this bowl of nourishing veggies more filling add some crushed steamed baby potatoes or a few tablespoons of cooked freekeh.
We are fine at home. It’s a relief to be juggling ‘less’ around working outside of the home even if there are new juggles for us all to adjust to. Cxxx
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.