08 Dec

Make ahead homemade stuffing recipe

The beauty of this stuffing recipe is that it can be made well in advance. No more faffing around the day before Christmas, if you make this stuffing this week and lash it into the freezer then it’s all good to go on the big day.

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01 Dec

December 2018

With the Toy Show being on last night Christmas season has officially kicked off in Ireland; in fact I have a Christmas party to go to tonight. The kids are obsessed with Christmas and their pure joy and delight in decorations in the shops and music playing on the radio is brilliant. As usual for the start of December though I don’t have the decorations up and I’ve no Christmas Tree in the sitting room quite yet.

I know I’m not the only one. I suppose it’s a hangover from the days of being so stressed out about money that we tried not to put the decorations up early or the presents under the tree until we had them bought. It felt like we were making promises to the kids (and to ourselves) that we just couldn’t keep.

The memories of tossing in turning in bed at night wondering how to borrow from Peter and pay Paul will never go away. I hope that they never do because I understand now that they have (a) brought me to where I am today and (b) know exactly what it’s like for those who are struggling at the moment.

Over the next month I’ll have something new each day for you to read or watch. I’ll share my tips on how to prepare for Christmas on a budget; how to not to be a Mammy-martyr in the lead up to the big day, how to ask for help gracefully, and some budget present ideas for all ages.

For today, the first day of December, I’d like to ask you to add 1 small extra item to your grocery shopping this week to donate to your local food appeal. It needn’t be something expensive, even if it’s an extra tin of beans or a bag of rice. If you’d rather not add an extra item in, why not see if you have something in your cupboards already that you’d like to share. Here’s the list from the St Vincent de Paul for their food appeal (this is also suitable for the Lions Club food appeals). Click here for the St Vincent de Paul list.

I’ve got some bags of pasta and some tins of beans which will be brought to our local collection point this week.

Chat tomorrow. Cxxx

21 Jun

Beetroot and Feta salad

My biggest battle with food at the moment is finding a dish that’s simple to prepare and light to eat. The life of a freelancer can be a bit unusual in that I have to roll with the work when it comes in. The past couple of weeks has been particularly jam-packed in terms of jobs-on-the-go, and while I always have a slow cooker meal underway for the kids, eating a full meal after 8pm at night is always going to be a challenge for me.

In the past 7 days I’ve worked with 2 separate TV crews, and there’s more to film this evening with TG4. Tune into Nationwide on Monday evening for a peek at the allotments and my tiny kitchen (yes it is that small, and yes that is where all my recipes are developed). The work with TG4 I’ll let you know when the airing date is confirmed! Read More

16 Aug

Leaving Cert Results Day

Being ancient (according to my children) means that I remember this day in crystal moments, not as a full day. Driving my mother mad by not collecting my results until later on in the day. Crying bitter tears as I missed my number one choice on the CAO by 5 points. Going to another school with friends to get their results. Standing in a local pub with a drink in my hand that evening not knowing how to celebrate as I felt like I’d failed. Read More

19 Jul

Opinion: Food Headlines Worth Banning

Let’s ban the urgency of headlines when talking about food when talking about food

OMG if you read one thing about food today, read this, quick. Before everybody else reads it.

Does this sound familiar to you?

It certainly does to me, and I’m tired of it.

A quick trawl through articles published in Ireland by bloggers, online magazines, and newspapers in the past month reveal the following headline samples: Read More

15 Jul

Potato Corn Soup Recipe – Ad

Potatoes are a staple part of our family diet, and so when Potato.ie aka “Potatoes More Than A Bit On The Side” got in touch to see would I be interested in designing a new recipe for all the family to enjoy it wasn’t a hard decision to take.

The past two weekends, while I’ve been doing cookery demonstrations with Lidl Ireland on the road, I continuously say that if you have a bag of spuds (potatoes) and a tray of eggs you’ll never go hungry. I say this because I’m trying to explain what it’s like to live as a family on a tight food budget and yet try to pack as many nutrients as you can into your daily diet.

That’s how essential potatoes are to planning my family’s meals for the week. At the moment there’s a bag of Pat Moore’s beautiful new potatoes in the kitchen which I used for this recipe. There’s also plenty of spuds at the allotment to be dug but there is no greater storage spot than nature’s larder (the ground) at the moment so they’ll stay there for a while longer.

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12 Jul

July 2017 Allotment Update

It’s been a while is becoming my catch-phrase this past couple of weeks.

I sat down at my desk on Monday and started to go through all my recipes on the blog. There are now over 550 published articles on the blog. It’s taking me some time to go through them all, dust them off, and start sharing them again. I hadn’t done that in months. Since the middle of May in fact when life (and death) got in the way of having time to do anything other than blog and work.

The longer I continued to focus on work and family, the more difficult it became to sit at the desk and write a blog post, or go to the allotment to garden. Especially because visits to the allotment have been bittersweet.

Those onions are just about ready to harvest:

It kind of reminded me why we love growing with the kids so much when I saw the first-time joy all over again through their eyes.

The peas, the peas are taking over 2 raised beds, they are everywhere at the moment in a giant tangle of pods and climbing tendrils. I will have to do a big collection in the next couple of days and then set about podding and freezing the peas themselves.

Of course that depends on being able to get the peas home safe and sound. It can be a bit of an issue when they are the most delectable treat eaten freshly picked, particularly when you’re 5 years old.

The sweetcorn and tomatoes are also thriving, plus there’s a new baby aubergine fruiting away in the polytunnel. Nevermind all the berries, garlic, courgettes, pumpkins, and much more.

All of this sounds like a really bountiful allotment and it is. However, we have struggled with time for the past 2 months or so. It’s the one thing that will always sabotage us. The allotment has become very overgrown and choked with weeds. We never did get to finish the last couple of raised beds and have to make do with what we’ve got this year.

For now I’m going to count my blessings and move forward. I can’t change the fact that the weeds have grown but I hope to get down there later on today with my trusty gloves.

You’ll find more regular updates over on my Instagram account which is WholesomeIreland and I’m trying to keep my Insta-Stories updated everyday. I’d love to connect with you over there if you’re interested.

In other news:

  • The Leaving Cert is over, we all came out the other end in one piece. College applications and grant forms are filled in and all we can do is wait and hope that the 17 year old gets the course she hopes towards the end of August.
  • The kids are all now on holidays, bringing new challenges around working from home. I’m very grateful to have some help in this regard though.
  • Last weekend I worked with Lidl Ireland* on their LGFA Future Stars Roadshow in Cavan and Galway. There I worked with Tom Dalton of TD Fitness on some cookery demonstrations and chatted with other parents about feeding their families on a budget, fussy eaters, and how to find time out for themselves in a busy lifestyle. This weekend coming I’ll be on the Roadshow again in Dublin and Cork.
  • I’ll have a new recipe with one of my favourite ingredients on the blog later on this week.
  • The wash basket refuses to empty, no matter how many washes I put on, and the socks still haven’t learned to sort themselves.

Finally, for those wondering about the bank situation…

Nope, no change there. We got another non-update letter today, the first since the beginning of April, telling us that the review is ongoing. Apparently we’ll hear again from the bank within 60 days, when I fully expect to get another non-update. It’s now been over 6 months since they first admitted their error. Although we have been returned to our tracker rate they still insist we owe them €40,000 more than we should. No redress (restoring the account to the way it should be), no compensation, and no meaningful engagement with us.


I mention Lidl Ireland as I’m the Lidl Ireland Full Shop Ambassador and you’ll find me writing about my full shop every week on their website.

You’ll also find me popping up in their weekly brochures!

14 Jun

How To Visit Taste Of Dublin On A Budget

Updated for 2017! For ten years I managed to avoid Taste of Dublin, I knew it was on, I knew where, and convinced myself that it wasn’t worth visiting and not to bother. However, in year 10 I was invited along as a guest of the organisers to check it out. This gave me the opportunity to head on in and see if it was worth the admission price, what’s on offer, and to figure out if it’s worth your while to head along this year (year 12).

The Ticket Price

The cheapest tickets you can buy directly online are €17.50 per person and these are available for the Thursday and Friday afternoon sessions. I have to say I found these afternoon sessions to be the most enjoyable, especially when the weather is good. Regardless of which day or time you elect to visit the Iveagh Gardens, make sure you buy your tickets online. It’s far more expensive at the gate on the day. Read More

02 Jun

Bloom 2017 For The Family In Review

I go to Bloom in the Phoenix Park every year, have done since it opened. I applied for media accreditation this year and Bord Bia were kind enough to grant me a pass. With the boys on a day off school today we packed up the boys and headed for the city centre early in the day to put the festival to our family test. Read on for more top tips on how to make the most of Bloom this year from a family point of view. Note, we didn’t have the elder lemon who is studying for her Leaving Cert (starts on Wednesday).

It’s the 11th year of this extremely popular garden and food festival organised by Bord Bia in the largest city centre park in Europe. Bloom is always extremely popular with visitors. I’ve a gallery of images from our day at the bottom of this post.

What I like about the festival is that they really take on board feedback from the previous years. So it means that each year there are improvements to the schedule and layout that make your visit more comfortable.

In 2017 the notable improvements include: Read More

31 May

Crying Over Onions

It was the onions. The blasted onions. Everything up until I started watering the onions was manageable. I had kept my emotions relatively in check. Then as I started to water the onions the memories flooded back and I started to cry.

There was a glass of water on the table at tea time in the Summer. We’d invariably have fresh salad for tea. Home cooked ham, tomatoes, lettuce, a slice of homemade brown soda bread, but not cucumbers. Grandad didn’t particularly like cucumbers. In the glass on the table would be fresh baby onions or giant scallions, peeled but still in one piece. Eye-wateringly peppery in taste. Grandad used to eat them with relish, sometimes dipping them into a spoon of mayonnaise, but they were always part of the tea time menu.

He grew them in the back garden, in a sunny area beside the patio. The garden was on a slope and the patio was bounded by little walls which he built himself with love and pride. When we were small he used to grab an old piece of gutter from the shed, lean it on the patio walls, and we’d have dinky car races down the self-made chutes. Always being mindful of the beautiful flowers (and onions) that were growing in his wonderful garden.

People always ask me where I got my love of growing food from. Grandad was a huge influence on me. He did get to visit the allotment once; he pronounced it lovely. This was high praise indeed. I know that he loved the pork from the pigs that we rear, and said that it was how pork used to taste when he was growing up. That made me very happy to hear it.

Last night on the way home from his funeral, I realised that we had neglected to water at the allotment, so in our finery we traipsed up the path and turned on the tap. I had busied myself the previous few days by helping out with the arrangements. When I got the allotment there was no more opportunities to hide from the reality that he was gone; there was just me and those darn onions.

James Pearse Shortall, 1916-2017, aged 100, lived life to the full, and we have celebrated him over the past few days. I’ll be reminded of him everytime I step onto the plot.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.


19 May

Prawn Pasta Salad Recipe

When I cook pasta for dinner in the evening I normally cook a double-batch – far more than I actually need. This is because it can be used in meals the following day. The teenager likes to add boiled eggs, sweetcorn, and mayonnaise for her school lunchbox to a portion of pasta. I like to make salads with mine. If you do have leftover cooked pasta, cool it down immediately after cooking by rinsing in cold water, then once cold put it into a freezer bag or box and the cooked frozen pasta will keep in the freezer for up to a month.

This is a prawn pasta salad that is so easy to make. My father-in-law had it the other day and loved the fresh flavours in the salad. I use the cooked prawns from the chiller cabinet to make the salad but you can also use defrosted cooked prawns if you like (follow the instructions on the packet).

Once again I’ve a video recipe to accompany this blogpost, just click the box below to play: Read More

14 May

Easy Tomato Tart Recipe

Hooray for Irish tomatoes being in season! My tomatoes in the polytunnel are nearly ready but you should be seeing Irish tomatoes in the supermarket at this stage. There is nothing like the flavour of a warm sun-ripened tomato picked straight from the vine. This easy tomato tart recipe is uncomplicated, in fact it’s nearly too easy to call it a recipe! Don’t let the small number of ingredients listed here limit your options. I make this tart with chorizo, fresh basil (thyme, oregano, and sage also work well), peppers, courgette, onions, the list goes on.

As a bonus, to go along with the recipe I’ve another simple video for you to follow! Read More

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