Monday, 14 December 2015

Meal Planning Monday - 14th December

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I just had to share this picture, not everyone was loving the meal plan this week.

Another week, another meal plan stuck to, feeling rather smug about it. Which of course will be my complete downfall. Although, we are being super duper frugal this week as Christmas is expensive and we need to do the big Christmas shop. So this week we will be eating odds and ends from the cupboards and freezer where we can, so look out for some weird combinations!

Monday: Moroccan Chicken Thighs with boiled new potatoes - The thighs will be marinaded in a maggi flavour thingy I found in the cupboard. They are too salty for Zoe but she eats at nursery on a Monday.

Tuesday: Breaded fish with mushroom and garlic risotto - random freezer/cupboard meal at its best right here!

Wednesday: Paul is out for a work Christmas do, so I will throw some pasta/pesto/pea concoction together for me and Zoe.

Thursday: I am out for my work Christmas do, so Zoe will be having spaghetti on toast, and Paul can sort himself out.

Friday: Breaded chicken with mash and veg.

I have a shoulder of pork in the freezer which I plan to use to make pulled pork at the weekend, or endless sandwiches and maybe a pie.

So our weekly shop this week will be practically non existent as we have most of the things we need. We'll just need bread, milk and loo roll really.

This is what I love most about meal planning, you can easily spend £50-60 a week, or do a quick inventory and plan your meals around what you already have and save a bunch.

Friday, 11 December 2015

I'm Sorry (not sorry) my Baby Sleeps.

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There is a camaraderie in Motherhood. A shared experience, a sense that only those who have been in your shoes can really understand fully. Since having Zoe I have made some truly wonderful friends, serious BFF material, I have also joined a fair few groups and clubs, I have made an observation based on my experiences in parent-y circles;

There is a camaraderie in the struggle, sleepless nights? I'm right there with you, pass the coffee. Tantrum-ing toddler, Hell yes, pass the gin. If you are having a hard time or one of those days where you just want to stick Cbeebies on and hide there is a crowd of Mums in a similar situation ready with a latte (double shot) and sympathetic ear. Don't get me wrong, this is brilliant and most days exactly what I need to get through to bedtime.

However, flip it around, you've had one of those rare golden days where your baby naps beautifully, eats all their dinner which you had time to prepare from scratch, the house is tidy, and you even managed to put a few loads of washing on. Then bedtime goes without a hitch and she sleeps through the night! As a parent these moments are fairly rare (at least for me) so when the stars align you just want to sing from the rooftops. But do you really want to be that parent 'bragging'?

Theres been a big bump in the number of parenting humour blogs I've spotted recently that seem to focus on the bad, the lack of sleep, the mess, the hilarious yet naughty things our kids do... I mean they are a great read, but it seems to be perpetuating this cycle of sharing the bad, but not the good out of fear of sounding like 'that Mum', you know, the one with the perfect hair and an answer for everything.

I'm as bad as anyone else at this, its such a British mentality of focussing on the negative. I'll be the first one on facebook moaning about my lack of sleep or having to clean spaghetti bolognese off the lampshades BUT I also want to be able to scream from the rooftops that MY BABY SLEEPS!

So I am sitting here planning a mini revolution, lets share the great things our kids do, without self-deprecation or sarcasm. Lets sing from the roof-tops when they eat their vegetables, nap in their cots or sleep through the nights - and not just the first time either, every single bloody time! Zoe has been sleeping through the night from 6pm - 6am for 3 months now and every morning I am still ecstatic! Yet I still feel like I should apologise for bragging.

So lets hear it! What have you been afraid to share for fear of coming across like you're bragging? What do you hide from your parent friends for fear they'll hate you a little bit? I want to hear you sing from the roof tops! Whose with me?!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Lemon Bars and oh how I miss baking.

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I never bake anymore. Probably a bit of a first world problem here, but I really do miss it sometimes.

I used to spend weekends planning, tweaking, tasting, enjoying, sharing and relaxing. I really enjoyed it and loved sending Paul off to work on a Monday with a box of treats for the office. There is something so lovely about taking the time to perfect a recipe, or coming up with a delicious sounding concept and seeing it to fruition. I still have slightly filthy dreams about my caramelised white chocolate profiteroles and people still talk about my after eight brownies with longing.

I know your probably thinking, if I love it so much why don't I just get my bum back into the kitchen and dust off the Kitchenaid? Well, I just can't dedicate the time or brain space to it! Having a toddler is 24/7. Any baking I do needs to be broken up into 10 minute bursts between singing wind the bobbin up and duplo building. On the rare occassion she does nap upstairs through the day I have to prioritise cleaning or prepping actual meals.

Sadly I just don't have enough hours in the day at the moment. I am hoping that as she gets bigger, she'll be able to help in the kitchen and will love it as much as I do.

So I guess this is a long-winded way of saying sorry for the lack of delicious baking at the moment, the recipes I will be posting will be more family-friendly meals and the odd quick bake. So, in light of this I though't I'd share the last thing I baked before I found out I was pregnant, I never got around to blogging them... Lemon Bars! They were completely delicious, the tartness of the lemon cut through the sweetness nicely and the buttery base just melts in the mouth.

The recipe is a combination of my standard shortbread recipe, and an adaptation of Joy the Baker's recipe for the filling;

Ingredients

Butter, for greasing
Icing sugar, to dust

Filling.
4 eggs
350g caster sugar
Juice of 2 lemons and the zest of half
35g flour
1 tsp baking powder

Buttery Base
260g flour
60g icing sugar
225g unsalted butter, softened

Butter a 25cm pan/tray and line with greaseproof paper, ideally you would like paper to stick out of the sides to allow you to lift the bars out once cooked.
Pop the base ingredients into a processor and blitz until it forms a dough ball. Or if you don't have a processor you can go old school and rub the butter into the flour/sugar and bring together into a dough. Try not to over-handle though as it is a shortbread dough so needs to stay cold to be crumbly and short.
Push the dough into the pan/tray, covering the bottom with an equal layer, it doesn't need to be completely flat but try to be as level as possible to end up with consistent bars.
Whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice until combined, then sieve in the flour and baking powder, fold until no flour is visible.
Pour the lemon/eggy mixture over the raw dough base and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes until set (a slight wobble in the middle is good as the residual heat will finish it off.
Once cool lift the bar out of the pan and chop into whatever size or shape you wish.

For my fellow bake-y parents, how do you find the time or energy?! I'd love to hear your tips.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Healthy Salmon Egg Fried Rice.

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A quick egg fried rice is one of our go-to week night meals, it is so versatile and you can pretty much throw whatever you have in there and it'll be delicious. I have made it with leftover roast chicken, pork and beef. Salmon, king prawns, veggies... See versatile!

I do use a fair few shortcuts, which you don't have to do, but for me it is a case of trying to quickly throw something healthy together before Zoe manages to climb something or get into mischief. I am a fan of the Tilda microwavable sachets, I tend to go for the wholegrain or brown varieties. Its perfect for this dish, as its pretty dry when it is cooked, and I don't know about you but when I cook rice from scratch it tends to retain moisture.

So here is the recipe for the salmon egg fried rice I made last week;

Ingredients

2 cooked salmon fillets (I oven cook mine for 15-20 minutes)
1 sachet of microwaveable rice (you can use fresh, which you've cooked yourself if you prefer)
2 medium eggs
Finely chopped garlic and onion (or in my case blended to a paste for fussy eaters)
A couple of handfuls of frozen peas
Tsp of chilli oil
Soy Sauce (to taste)

Pop your rice in the microwave for the time specified on the packet.
Heat your olive oil in a large pan or skillet and fry off your onion/garlic until lightly browned.
Flake the cooked salmon in and add the chilli oil.
By this point the rice will be cooked, tip it into the pan, stir around to combine.
Create a well in the middle of the rice with your spatula, crack in the eggs, stirring slightly to combine the yolk/white. Leave for 30 seconds or so to allow the egg to cook a little on the bottom, you're looking to have bits of cooked omelette/egg through the dish, so gently stir allowing the egg to have maximum contact with the bottom of the pan, keep going until all of the egg is cooked, stir well to combine everything.

Throw in the peas and add a dash or two of soy sauce to taste.

You can pretty much add any flavour or extra spices you like to suit your tastes. I find it so easy to adapt this to what I have in the fridge, or what needs using up.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

On your First Birthday.

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My darling Zoe Jean Danger Chops (to give you your full title), today you turned 1.

My Dearest Sweetpea, it has been my greatest privilege to be called your Mummy this past year. I don’t know how many times throughout the day I stop in my tracks and think, She's mine? Wow.
Zoe, you have taught me so much about myself, about life and the things that matter most. Watching you grow from a tiny 7lb squish into a 22lb toddler has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for being here, for being your happy beautiful self and for making your Mummy and Daddy's world that much brighter.

We love you flobbitygillions, times infitinity, no comebacksies.

I can't wait to see what the next year has in store...

Monday, 7 December 2015

Meal Planning Monday - 7th December

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HOW IS MY BABY 1 TOMORROW!! It feels like I was pregnant 5 minutes ago and now she is a fully grown toddler! I am not ready, if time could please slow down a bit I'd really appreciate it.

On a slightly more meal-planny note, we 100% stuck to the meal plan last week! First time ever I think! Go us!

Lets hope this week is as successful;

Monday: Sausage and Mash - We get these yummy caramelized onion sausages from Aldi, really delicious.

Tuesday: Spag bol with garlic bread - its Zoe's birthday so we are out all day and need something fairly quick to make, plus it's one of Zoe's favourite meals.

Wednesday: Salmon egg fried rice - this was a big hit last week, so making it again. Will be blogging the recipe soon as its a great speedy mid-week supper.

Thursday: I am out for my Christmas party with work and Paul is out at a gig, so no tea needed (except something for the babysitter)

Friday: Slow cooker stew - sadly Aldi didn't have any beef in yesterday, so will need to nip in through the week. A great winter warming meal though, served with fresh bread.

We spent £36 in Aldi this week, but this included our Christmas ham which has gone into the freezer.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Christmas Wishlist for her (Me)

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This year I have devoted 99.7% of my Christmas planning time on making it special for Zoe, buying gifts, planning traditions, booking visits to santa etc...

Don't get me wrong, it is very fun and I hope she comes to love this time of year as much as I do. However, I hadn't really given much thought to what I wanted gift-wise.

People keep asking me and I honestly hadn't even thought about it until right this second, compiling this list. And while I love the fact that Christmas is going to be all about Zoe and making it magical for her, I need to also remember all the things I love about Christmas, from the first christmas coffee and mince pie of the season, the occasional snow fall (hopefully), decorating the tree, wrapping everyones gifts and seeing them open something I chose just for them.

With this in mind I decided to put together a gift guide, I say its for 'her' but its pretty me specific.

1. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling - I absolutely adored Mindy's first book, and cannot wait to get stuck into this one. I am getting back into reading in a big way recently, after a year of having zero attention span.

2. BENEFIT! - I am a total bene-babe, cannot get enough. These three products are high on my wishlist. I love the Oh La Lift as it hides those mummy eye-bags, the porefessional primer is a miracle worker on open pores and the foundation is feather light but gives great coverage.

3. LUSH - Again, total lush bath bomb addict over here. I love the Comforter bubble bar, Intergalactic bath bomb and Angels on Bare Skin face wash most of all.

4. Coffee, coffee, coffee - I have thoroughly embraced my inner Lorelei Gilmore during maternity leave and love a decent cup of coffee. I have a great coffee machine with a steam arm for making perfect lattes, so would love some yummy flavoured syrups. These Taylorson's syrups come in some delicious flavours I'd love to try (bah humbug, egg nogg and gingerbread seem festive!)

5. Unicorn Slippers - Because, unicorns.

6. Lucky Dip Club Subscription - I stumbled across these guys through a friend and follow them on instagram, its such a cute idea and every time I see the latest box I wish I'd subscribed. Its such a lovely gift to get each month through the year too, spread the christmas joy 12 months of the year!

What's on your Christmas Wishlist this year?

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