Wednesday, 29 February 2012


here is my not so hot start to a supposedly healthy lent!...oops.. and just because it was all there in the fridge on the first day of lent and it needed to be used up. 
so much too for hubby and my decision to start running - on alternate days for all of Lent. Day 7 and we're failing miserably.
but on a more positive note - oh my goodness fresh organic eggs are so delicious!.. and the yokes are so orange! 
We have started to get organic eggs delivered with our veggie box. Even if i buy free-range organic eggs from the supermarket, these Riverford eggs are SO much more delicious. As are my friends eggs who keeps chickens in her backgarden.

a favourite breakfast for the kids - boiled, poached or fried - as long as the yoke is super runny and dippable. i love serving up eggs. they feel so full of goodness
i discovered recently the joys of poaching eggs by just cracking them in to a saucepan of simmering water (add a pinch of salt). the kids love pouring in an egg and watching it make great shapes in the water.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

banana muffins

Who doesn't always have a few rotting bananas in the fridge? here is a recipe for some quick, easy and yummy muffins. you could add raisins, choc chips, nuts or peanut butter to spice things up a little. However they are delicious just as they are, plain and simple, with a hint of cinnamon. This recipe also makes the best banana bread EVER but we needed quick muffins on this occasion - when do you not need a quick muffin hit?

125g butter
180g brown sugar
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
250g/2cups plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarb of soda
3 tblspns warm milk
 mix the butter and sugar until smooth
 mash the bananas and add them
 add the eggs and mix some more
 add the cinnamon, vanilla extract, cinnamon, flour, baking powder
mix the bicarb of soda with the milk and add to the mix
bake at 180 for 10-15mins. always take them out of the oven when they look almost done [too early is better than too late]- then they will be nice and moist. yum
i used some leftover batter to make a loveheart as i had been away from the family over night and had missed them and wanted to say i loved them... aahhhh

Monday, 27 February 2012

meatballs in tomato sauce

meatballs are one of those things i buy at the supermarket and think i should really make at home. so we finally did. the kids loved making and eating them. 
my one big mistake was getting started late on this meal and attempting to involve two very hungry toddlers - they were desperate to eat anything in front of them - which happened to be raw meat and eggs! mmm.
i ended up shouting and alarming both of them at various points - making my 2 year old cry in fact - 'uggh this is all going horribly wrong, getting very late and not why i involve my kids in the cooking!' 
and then it got better. I gave little Miss M some raw veggies and a blunt(ish) knife to keep her happy while Mr Z and i went to work on the meatballs - him promising not to eat any more of the raw mix!

1. put 4 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan with pinch of salt 
plus 3 pints/1.5L of tomato puree 
Kiddies loved squeezing out an entire tube of tomato puree and watching the cool shapes of the swirling oil in the tomato mix
2. Cook the tomato sauce over low heat while you make the meatballs, stirring occasionally

3. grate 125g/4oz parmesan cheese and 1 small loaf of crusty white bread
4. Add 500g/1lb of lean minced beef plus 3 eggs to the grated bread & cheese - mix it all together

5. Add a little salt & pepper and a ladlefull of the tomato sauce and give a good mix
6. the best bit - shape the squishy mixture in to nice round plum-sized meat balls. 
Little Mr Z said he wanted to make "the biggest meat ball in the world ever!"
7. Using a big spoon, put the meatballs carefully in to the tomato mixture and simmer for 30mins
8. Serve on spaghetti (although my kids loved the meatballs so much they didn't want to eat any spaghetti. The meatballs have bread and eggs mixed in so they are nice & filling)
You could add red peppers, beans or peas to the mix or serve courgette on the side.

Sunday, 26 February 2012


i never seem to be able to keep a basil plant alive for very long which frustrates me because i love the idea of having a thriving basil plant and i love to put fresh basil in my cooking. they also can make the kitchen smell divine. it feels a waste to keep buying basil. i have finally looked up how to keep a basil plant alive and i'm hoping the tips will help this one survive. 

i found there are whole blogs devoted to basil - here and here - they are lovely. The main way i seem to be going wrong is lack of sunshine... better find a new home for my basil plant. One site also suggests Basil needs a steam clean once a week! This site has good tips for all herb growing.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

a few of my favourite things

i can't help but love peanut butter, banana and honey. perhaps it's my american blood but they are three of my favourite things and mixing them together is the ultimate treat - especially with a good cup of tea... and of course a little yellow digger.
the digger did just happen to be on the table but looks rather lovely with the banana
perhaps add in some nutella and ice-cream for true indulgence... mmm

Friday, 24 February 2012

playing with nuts

a lovely activity with a three year old is playing with nuts and a nut cracker (it involves crushing, breaking and bits flying around the room). Little Mr Z likes to talk about the different types of nuts and guess what's in each shell, eating them as we go! and the shells are lovely textures.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

grand plans

today i had grand plans to take the kids to a new play group & the toy library, write thank you cards & birthday cards AND run errands - post all those overdue thank you cards, send the birthday parcel & buy MUCH-needed milk. however after a broken night my energy was low and the kids got in to a stay-at-home groove. you know the one - where getting everyone dressed & out would be like pulling teeth. Various poo and wee incidents (the kids... not me!) combined with totally dirty dreadlocked hair (again the kids - though mine is not far off) meant a bath seemed like a very good idea. the kids stayed in the bath for over an hour. it was brilliant. i pottered around, went in and out, did laundry, tidied, dressed myself (no shower again.. armpit hair almost down to hips). by 11am i was dressed and kids were in cosy dressing gowns admiring their wrinkly fingers.
we moved on to a toy-sort which involved 4 year old finding and taking OUT every interesting toy he had forgotten we had. and 2 year old taking great glee in chucking toys in boxes, while mummy picks up the toys covering the floor of the entire house and tries to put them away in their correct box.
it is interesting having a boy and a girl and the mix of toys. i'm all for not directing my kids towards certain interests and i'm glad my daughter is surrounded by trains, cars and trucks and that my boy gets to play with dolls and try on bracelets. i did like finding my daughter putting the train track in to her baby crib, rocking it and singing "rock, rock, rock the train". 
Little mr Z really didn't want to get dressed and Miss M was getting grumpy and hungry so of course errands were abandoned and lunch time it was. yummy home-made pizza and chocolate chip cookies (carbo-loading seeing as we'd all got so much exercise & fresh air in the morning - ha).

i do love a good morning in with no agenda and no time pressures. i could feel my stress levels rising as we neared pre-school start time. i started clock-watching, getting impatient and quickly losing that lovely sense of meandering freedom & playfulness that no agenda holds. however i'd go stir-crazy and get very fat and lonely if i did it too often. and i am now relishing son at preschool and daughter asleep time!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Gallery

so i'm taking part here in The Gallery from the blog Sticky Fingers.

Here are my landscape photos
i love this landscape because of the contrast between the beautiful peaceful flat sea and the jagged intriguing window in the foreground. we crept in to this old house on the coast of Ireland and had a nosey around. it had belonged to my ancestors, been sold to developers and had sat empty for some time. There was graffiti, rubbish and signs of squatters. We found old letters addressed to my great aunt in the top rooms. it was scary and thrilling walking over broken floor boards and waiting to hear footsteps somewhere in the abandoned house.

and i couldn't resist posting this amazing sky. just what are those clouds doing?

pancake feast

so being half american, our usual pancake fare would be this for dinner on Shrove Tuesday....and i LOVE it! We also frequently eat this for weekend breakfasts

however this year i decided to learn how to make crepes. i had great intentions of picking up spinach, creme fraiche etc from the shops and following a recipe. however at 8:30pm i had just got the kids to bed, hungry husband home, feeling weak with hunger and exhaustion myself and had bought no extra ingredients and made no start on the "pancake feast" i had promised. i opened the fridge and decided to free-style.. determined to follow-through on my idea from earlier in the day, even though my energy, enthusiasm and mood had hit rock bottom!

Here's the easy crepe recipe i followed:
  • 1. Melt a tablespoon of butter and set aside.
    2. Sift 125g plain flour and pinch of salt salt into a mixing bowl, then crack in an egg and mix well.
    3. Add 150ml milk and 150ml water and stir well
    4. Add the melted butter and beat until smooth and well combined

    Leave aside while you make your filling with whatever you have on hand in the fridge. Here's what i did:

    1. Heat oil in a pan
    2. Add a chopped onion and cook a few minutes
    3. Add four strips of bacon (chopped) and cook a few minutes
    4. Add a chopped chard (i had this in the fridge and had to look up what it was - use whatever veggies you can find) and cook/stir a few minutes
    5. Turn heat down and add 2 big tablespoons greek yoghurt
    6. Add pepper (i had a tiny bit of salsa that needed using up so added that as well)
    7. Pour crepe mixture in to a hot oiled pan until bubbly and flip it over
    8. Put your veggie/yoghurt mix on the crepe in the pan and add some grated cheddar cheese, when the crepe is browning underneath, fold it over and serve (or put in the oven while you make more)...

the first two i made were a disaster
the second two turned out well
and we saved just enough batter to finish off the meal with lemon and honey crepes
Not sure if i prefer the american pancake meal or the french crepe version but i did enjoy the savoury first course rather than a whole meal covered in maple syrup. I will definitely try more crepes as i think i could improve on the actual crepe itself and want to experiment with fillings. it could make a great meal for the kids as you can choose the fillings you know that they will like. i've never seen a crepe consumed so fast as when little mr z was handed one filled with nutella yesterday.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

play doh convert

i always think why bother going to all the effort of making play doh when you can buy it so readily and cheaply? and when i HAVE gone to the effort - randomly selecting simple looking recipes from the internet - it's been a sticky disaster which has put me off play doh making altogether.

here's the bright store-bought stuff:
when we moved house six months ago my sister in law brought me home-made play doh for the kids. it was such a brilliant gift. in the chaos of house-moving, lovely fresh play doh to keep the kids entertained was so helpful. I have since used her recipe and it makes brilliant long-lasting play doh. i am a convert. the recipe lives on our fridge. Here it is:
still ready to roll (after months of life!):
i love this old rolling pin that my mum kept from when we were young

play doh village

two things

two things that drive me mad:

1. an exhausted child resisting sleep
2. a child resisting getting dressed

sleep and getting dressed are pretty major parts of our lives so i'm working on chilling out and not letting it get to me so much. an internal mother rage can boil at these things but i'm trying to breathe deep and let go...

after seeing daddy off to work this morning, little mr z told me :
'i told daddy two things - could he get back as quickly as he can so he can say goodnight to me specially, and mummy is going to read my story tonight.' - the importance of the bedtime ritual - he's planning it out already and it's 8am.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

pasta play

pasta is so lovely and tactile - a tray of it kept my boy entertained for a long time yesterday - we added in a scooping pot... then a handbag..
and some weighing scales
the next day i put my two-year old to work cleaning up the pasta (ie. moving it from one container to the other - a 2yr old heaven)
until she poured the entire lot on to the floor and my son lept in with delight and the kitchen became a sea of pasta! 
 we cleared them all up together (the reward being pasta in the good pasta jar!). I'm just glad you boil pasta before eating it and am hoping no rabbit droppings got cleaned up with it!

Friday, 17 February 2012

unexpected guests

with a family of six turning up for tea i thought i better have some food ready. i also had my three year old to entertain. so we set to cooking. this simple meal was perfect for both involving little mr z and feeding hungry kids.

pour oil in two empty dishes
saute garlic and add two tins of chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper - leave to simmer
break up four mozzarella balls
and chop a big courgette in to slices
place a layer of lasagne on the bottom of the oiled dishes

pour some of the hot tomato mix over the lasagne sheets
put the courgette slices over the tomato 
spread the mozzarella over the courgette and add another layer of lasagne
Add another layer of tomato mix and cover in grated cheddar
bake in the oven (180) for 40 minutes
taste-testing - yum!
had some left-over chocolate chip cookie dough in the freezer to finish things off