10 Jul

Self Acceptance

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.

Self Acceptance

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.

04 Feb

Plant Based Mayo

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. 

Ingredients 

  • 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

06 Jan

Banana Milkshake Cake

Banana Milkshake CakeTake a banana malt milkshake with a side of cookies, then convert that into a cake. Read More

11 Jul

Savoury Strawberry Salad – Ad

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) 

Ingredients 

  • 250g fresh strawberries, chopped 
  • 150g rocket 
  • 50g flaked almonds, toasted 

Dressing 

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • Fresh cracked black pepper 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1 teaspoon honey 

Method 

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.  

10 Jul

Strawberry Pizza Pancakes – Ad

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) 

Ingredients 

  • 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. 

Method 

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! 

02 Jul

Sugar Free Strawberry Ice Pops – Ad

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

Method

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!

21 Apr

Leftover Lamb Pasta

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.

Read More

20 Apr

Roast Lamb Feast

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

29 Mar

Ale Marinated Steak Recipe

By covering the beef in an ale marinade you make your steak incredibly tender with a wonderful sweet malt flavour. Read More

26 Mar

Mango Salsa Recipe

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

23 Mar

The Brexit Kitchen Stores

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:

Dry Stores

  • Beans – Black eyed, pinto, chickpeas (garbanzo), and butterbeans
  • Lentils
  • 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
  • Oats
  • Tinned Beans (blackbeans, pinto, chickpeas, butterbeans, and baked beans)
  • Passata
  • 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
  • Couscous
  • Stock Cubes
  • Tea
  • Coffee

Freezer

  • Loaves of bread
  • Meat – chicken, beef, pork, lamb
  • Fish
  • Pizzas (emergency use only)
  • Yoghurt
  • 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?

PS

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.

04 Feb

Pork Wrap With Lime Salsa

Make Once Eat Twice

Week 4 Recipe 2

The second recipe in the series is another simple assembly job. If you intend on using the rice you used the night before you might like to read my tips for cooling rice quickly so that you don’t risk food poisoning.

Leftover pork can be a little bit bland and this is the reason why I pair the pork with a lime salsa. It’s extremely easy to make.

Ingredients

  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced

Method

Stir all the ingredients together in a bowl and leave to sit in the fridge for about 1 hour before serving.

To assemble the pork wraps, heat a dry pan to medium on the hob.

On a clean surface fill a wholemeal wrap with a tablespoon of rice, pork, and black beans, top with some salsa. Roll the wrap tightly and then toast on the dry pan until heated through. Enjoy immediately!

PS: In the spirit of being open and honest, my 7 year old declined the assembled wrap and instead had the below bowl of leftover pork, baby peppers, and wholemeal wraps for his dinner. I had the contents of the wrap, but not the wrap. The rest of the family enjoyed the wraps!

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