Menu for Week commencing 17/08/2013

Saturday

Moroccan Lamb Burgers with Rice and Bean salad.

 

Sunday

Lunch: We’re expecting a family of guests this week so want to make something that has been tested on kids (hence the skewers) and something new that reminds of our holidays (hence the tapas from a new book from my friend who was visiting from Barcelona.)
Chicken and cherry tomato skewers with couscous and Broccoli and Avocado salad and Chickpea & black pudding tapa.

All going to plan I will rustle up some Wellington Squares for the sweet toothed among us. Apparently we currently have so much condensed milk in the cupboard at the moment that Himself tells me “It’s like the war.” I’ll post this winner of a recipe which I found years ago online but can no longer find.  If I have time I might make a crumble for the grown ups to use up the blackberries I picked in the wild, brambly part of our garden.

French Peasant Soup
French Peasant Soup

Dinner: A cup of French peasant soup (made Saturday) for tea for anyone who is still hungry after lunch. (No actual peasants are hurt (except maybe their feelings) in  the making of this soup.) You’ll note from the pic that I have also added potato and carrot to this soup. I love me a bit of potato in a stewy soup like this.

Monday
Lunch: Pizza rolls – these are from Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking which I got from my godmother. Not a book I would have picked myself but it has fast become a standby for me. There are some great, realistic family recipes in it.
Dinner: French peasant soup with Superquinn’s lovely brown bread. But really I have to crack this brown bread thing: if millions of Irish peasants could make it in a hovel in the howling wind and rain I should be able to make it! Mine always turns out rock hard on the outside and squishy on the inside 🙁 All advice welcomed in comments below.

Tuesday
Lunch: Tortellini with leftover pizza sauce from yesterday.

Salmon Alfredo getting shnarfed by Nipper 2.0
Salmon Alfredo getting shnarfed by Nipper 2.0

Dinner: Salmon Alfredo – I know pasta twice in one day. Hmmm. I love pasta and when I wonder about how much we eat Himself always says, “You’re a grown-up, you can eat as much pasta as you like.” I might switch the tortellini to another day so.

Wednesday
Picnic
Bean and chorizo stew (make Tuesday) – This is a receipe I found in a newspaper years ago (Saturday June 28 2003 to be precise; no idea which paper!) that we make fairly regularly. It’s absolutely delicious with new potatoes or crusty bread or indeed couscous. It’s a great summer recipe to use up your tomatoes if you are green fingered enough to grow them but also makes a hearty winter dish if you can brave the garden for a spring if the evergreen rosemary.

Thursday
Gnocchi w/ pesto
Nut roast with cheese and tomato layer – This was requested by Himself this week when I said we have too much meat in this week’s menu. I think he was trying to avoid me trying Aloo Gobi on the children and the fights cauliflower would produce. This recipe is infamous in my own family as I made it as a teenager and vegetarian. I had received the Cranks’ recipe book from my aunt in England as a Christmas present and was encouraged by my mother to prepare something. It wasn’t until my family were desperately trying to be polite and supportive about my efforts that I realised I had put in a tablespoon of yeast extract (read Marmite) instead of a teaspoon. Yech.

Friday
Picnic
Eat out after a trip to Makeshop as it is our last day of summer holidays for all as Nipper 3.0 starts in Naíónra (preschool) on Monday!

Saturday
Toasted sambos

 

[ ]Savoy cabbage
[ ] Strawberries/ raspberries
[ ] Lemon
[ ] Beetroot
[ ] Carrots
[ ] Low fat mature cheddar (Dubliner or Kilmeaden)
[ ] Tomatoes
[ ] Cherry tomatoes x 2
[ ] Bananas
[ ]Oranges
[ ] Apples
[ ] Peaches
[ ] Avocado
[ ] Smoked salmon
[ ] Ham
[ ] Bagels
[ ] Filled pasta
[ ] Milk
[ ]Tinned pineapple
[ ] Tinned beans
[ ] Raisins
[ ] Juice tropicana
[ ] Tinned tomatoes
[ ] Gnocchi
[ ] Brown pasta for macaroni
[X] Garlic mayo
[ ] Cat food
[ ] Cider/ white wine (We recently tried Stonewell Cider from Nohoval, Co. Cork, an area we are very familiar with and we are hooked!)

Weekly menus saved a portion of my life

As I try to develop a good habit (blogging more frequently, note the recent flurry of activity) I thought I would share with you an existing good habit that I have had for about 2 years now. Every week myself and Himself sit down and plan our dinners (and sometimes lunches) for the week. I think he feels that this blog series is going to be beyond boring but being a more regular frequenter of mummy and foodie blogs I disagree. I know I would be (okay not quite) fascinated (but at least mildly interested) to get a real insight into another family’s menu. So to kick off this series a few notes:

  • It saves time and money when doing the shopping, although it probably saved us more money when Himself used to do the shopping as he actually bought what was on the list while I still get sucked in by the discounts and BOGOFs.
  • It may keep us marginally healthier as we get an overview of our meals for a week, trying to include a fish meal and at least one vegetarian meal a week. My long time friends will see that I am definitely no longer a vegetarian! In fact I feel we probably eat a bit too much meat but it’s generally quicker and it just tastes so good!
  • It saves time every day as there are no long meditations on what to have for dinner. Although it does take at least 30 minutes to write the original as we peruse recipe books and sites to find what we fancy.
  • I’m not a dietician so I don’t claim that this comprises a rounded, healthy diet but I work on the a “little of what you fancy does you good” school of eating. I also try skinnier versions of staples where I can with mixed results. I’ll update site to include family reaction.
  • I’ll include links to recipes where I can and otherwise update the site to include them when I can.
  • We shop in Superquinn and await their switch to Supervalu with some trepidation…
Weekly shopping
Weekly shopping

Here goes – all comments welcome.

Saturday

Lunch: Ham/ Cheese/ Chicken Baguette

Dinner: Skinny Mac and cheese – the nippers will invariably ask for Macaroni Cheese if I ask them what they want and who would blame them? I baulk every single time as I think about all that cheese, butter and milk. I have tried a few of the recipes from Skinnytaste.com and got good reactions. Our most popular version of this classic includes a tin of tomatoes in the cheese sauce and bacon lardons scattered across the top. So this version with the broccoli was resisted initially but all bar Nipper 1.0 cleared their plates, Himself rightly commenting that it was tasty enough but broccoli was overcooked. I would recommend therefore not to cook florets for more than 5 minutes with pasta. By all means chuck in the stalks but it’s too much for florets. FYI I used Dubliner Light White block.

Sunday

Lunch: Poached eggs on toast – now in case you are wondering where is our bread on the list below we make our own in our bread machine every 1.5 days or so. Eggs were DELICIOUS with Jalapeno pepper relish from Ballymaloe, our new favourite condiment, Nipper 1.0 especially)

Dinner: Jamaican me crazy chili  and all the trimmings (cheese, salsa, iceberg lettuce, guacamole, sour cream)  followed by Beetroot Brownies made with the very last of our beetroot from the garden.

Monday

Lunch:Wholemeal Bagels with chicken/ cheese/ ham

Dinner: Chili with rice (Monday is often leftovers at the moment as I am currently doing a dance class on Monday nights.)

Tuesday

Lunch: Hot dogs for kids -I was considering trying veggie sausages to see if they would notice but the brand in the supermarket were actually less healthy that the hot dogs. Also we ended up picnicking so I brought them in the thermos.

Chicken, green beans, mashed sweet potato
Chicken, green beans, mashed sweet potato

Dinner: Grilled chicken, Sweet potato gnocchi with sage pesto with Moroccan Carrot Beetroot salad – now this is a classic example of a meal that was planned and then ditched. Our plans for Tuesday changed and we got home at 4pm which didn’t leave me 2 hours to drain my sweet potato and ricotta as per the gnocchi recipe. How unfortunate. Also we used the last of our beetroot in the brownies (yeah!) so the salad was a no-go too. So instead we had this: Marinated Lebanese Chicken (breast for us) (a hit) as I had the paste leftover after making Ottolenghi’s turkey burgers last week. This was accompanied by Parmesan Sage Mashed Sweet Potato (big hit) and Green Beans with Lemon and Feta with our first batch of beans from the garden (a hit with the adults although it was tried by two nippers – they objected to the onion.)

Wednesday

Picnic – I’ll probably do hot dogs again as we are heading to Kilkenny to check out the Arts Festival and they were so yummy yesterday.

Blackberries and green beans from our own garden
Blackberries and green beans from our own garden

Teriyaki salmon with green beans and potatoes from the garden – this probably won’t happen. It didn’t and we had salmon, potatoes and peas that Himself prepared for us when we got home from Kilkenny. Delicious.

Thursday Two pasta salads one for grownups and one for nippers Sundried (oven roasted?) tomatoes + baby greens  Pasta salad with Tomato & corn. The latter was a big hit with all but the kids wouldn’t even try the former as I suspected.

Friday

Dinner: Pizza – we have pizza every Friday. Made from scratch with the aid of our trusty bread machine. I’ll add the sauce and dough recipe soon.

Saturday

Oat pancakes with summer fruit, blueberry coulis and greek yoghurt
Oat pancakes with summer fruit, blueberry coulis and greek yoghurt

Lunch: Looking forward to trying out my namesake’s Oat pancakes – these are absolutely delicious and all plates were cleared. I doubled the recipe but only had one banana* and this didn’t harm the taste at all. We’ll definitely do these again: I still feel stuffed!

*As I was preparing the following week’s menu I realised that Nipper 2.0 had managed to shnarf the last banana. Thankfully I had picked up a tip for mashed bananas from SortedFood many moons ago and always keep a couple in the freezer in the likely event I will run out of overripe bananas.

List below is laid out in the order of our shop and doesn’t include some ingredients that we would already have stocked. Also we buy certain things from Lidl regularly so they are never included: Parmesan, Chorizo, Greek Yoghurt, and coffee. I kid you not! I use Evernote to write my menus and lists.

  • Broccoli
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • 2 yellow peppers
  • Lemon
  • Low fat mature chedda
  • Onions
  • Cherry tomatoes x 2
  • Baby spinach
  • Rocket
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Avocado
  • Basil
  • Minced meat 1.5lbs
  • Chicken breasts
  • Cheese (low fat)
  • Ham
  • Cooked chicken
  • Bagels
  • Whole wheat hot dog rolls
  • Milk
  • Kids yogurt
  • Tinned pineapple
  • Veggie sausages
  • Juice
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Brown pasta for macaroni
  • Garlic mayo
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Cat food
  • Febreze
  • White strong flour
  • Red kidney beans
  • Black eye beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Red wine
  • Almond milk
  • Box of tissues
  • Dusters

First day in the new job

Started the new job yesterday – did this. Jealous much?

Aeroplanes
Aeroplanes

However do also note the travelling laundry basket to the right. Not all fun and games eh? But at least I no longer have to do this on Saturday mornings or at 9 o’clock at night.

Happy New Year!

 

How not to run an online business or Schoolbooks.ie FAIL

At the end of August I ordered just over €100 worth of schoolbooks from Schoolbooks.ie (I know, I know, I should have ordered them last JANUARY right?!)

The nippers started back in school on 30th August and no sign of the books. I couldn’t tell from the Schoolbooks.ie website whether they were to arrive imminently or not. Around this time I realised that I wasn’t the only customer whose books were missing but I took them at their word (to the media, mind, not me) that the books would arrive shortly. However at this time our (truly wonderful and sorely missed) childminder finished up with us so there was no one at home to receive our parcel. So I emailed them at orders@schoolbooks.ie and asked them could they deliver to my city centre office. 2 working days later I was worried about the lack of confirmation about this action.

Upon investigation online I realised that the situation was far worse than I initially thought. I also realised that I was dealing with people who were being a little loose with the truth claiming, for example, that they had contacted every single customer that was affected by what seems to be some sort of technical issue. Apparently I didn’t count as I have never received a single word of communication in any format from Schoolbooks.ie. as I’m trying to be nice I will refer to this as “not best practice” especially as we are repeat customers.

I continued trying to get through by phone and tweeting about the issue in the extremely vain hope that someone might respond.

At this point I emailed to cancel my order. I still have no idea whether they read or acted upon that email. I thought that the books may still arrive.

By the end of the first full week (9 days of school) we decided we couldn’t possibly send the kids back to school the following Monday without books. I legged it to Reads of Nassau st one lunchtime and despite the assistance of a really helpful staff member Reads didn’t have a single one of the books (please note I was looking for Irish language books only for my Gaelscoláirí).

En route back to the office I rang the National Consumer Agency who made all the right noises in a non-committal sort of way. They sent contact details to me but there was nothing I hadn’t already gleaned from the Schoolbooks.ie website. I asked the NCA whether they would be investigating the issue further but the very nice chap I spoke with couldn’t say at that point. He also reminded me of our rights as online consumers which I was very familiar with thanks to my last job. One point he made was that should the books arrive AFTER I had bought them elsewhere I could refuse delivery and Schoolbooks.ie would be obliged to refund. Good luck with that, Rosie!

Since then I have written to the Visa Chargebacks department in the hope that my money might be refunded. I finally received a complete refund on October 8th.

Bodil Mimi Krogh Schmidt-Nielsen (b. 1918) with her childrenOn September 21st I spoke about this during my usual monthly technology slot on Splanc, Newstalk’s Irish language radio show. Obviously I’m dismayed that I’ve been badly treated, annoyed that I was out of pocket but what bugged me the most is that with the application of a little cop and some cheap or free technology a lot of this could have been fixed. If they wanted to be old fashioned about it a few grand to a half decent PR company could have saved their business. What galls me the most however is that the MD’s attitude to his customers has at the least cost him business and at most cost him his business. While I have as little care for him as he obviously has for me, I think in these recessionary times (sorry) it is practically criminal to play so fast and loose with his staff’s livelihoods and other people’s money. When I got home that evening, lo! the books had arrived and are still sitting on our sideboard in their packaging.

So what you might say? Well I think that Schoolbooks.ie are in fact a perfect anti-case study. I would generally avoid using negative examples but Schoolbooks.ie tick all the boxes.

It’s easier to keep old customers than find new ones (or as the grown ups call it Retention vs Acquisition). We have bought our books from Schoolbooks.ie for the last 4 years, spending at least €50 every year. Schoolbooks.ie have always been poor at maintaining contact, not reminding us at crucial points in the year about themselves in order to ensure our repeated custom.

Join the conversation or they will bitch about you and not even behind your back! I already knew that Schoolbooks.ie were poor communicators, having not received much by way of correspondence from them over the last four years; a blessing you might say in these times of bulging inboxes. It’s possible that Mr. John Cunningham, MD of Schoolbooks.ie, thinks that he is being stoical by refusing to engage with customers on Faceboolk Twitter, Boards.ie and blogs like this. He may be of the mind that it will all blow over but Gawd help the poor sucker who has to manage their SEO in the future. Considering the company is unlikely to exist in the future

Social media is all media. A storm in a tweecup can quickly become national news because you can no longer presume that the busy bodies on social media are not influencing the busy bodies in national media. This story quickly became a running theme for back to school week on Joe Duffy’s phone in radio show. Schoolbooks.ie became synonymous with bad customer service and it will be some time before the market will forget. What a waste of a perfect URL.

 

Suits you sir!

Ah the Irish Summer! Well so far this year we cannot complain too much. Most primary schools will finish up this week so expect a turn for the miserable in no short time. This year, however, I am uber-prepared. I have a list of things to do, I’ve sorted the toys and with quiet optimism I have purchased* a pair of children’s wetsuits from Puddleducks. I say quiet optimism because, while I hope to hit the beach, I am presuming it will be cold enough to require said wetsuits. About 3 years ago I bought a wetsuit for Himself so that he could “enjoy” surfing when visiting friends in Donegal even in November. Either the wetsuit or male bravado enabled him to stay in the water for up to 3 hours while myself and the other surf wag chased children up and down the beach purely for the purposes of keeping us all warm. We soon realised after one weekend in Donegal when the kids were paddling with their Puddleducks raincoats on and nothing else (I kid you not!) that wetsuits were a no-brainer for the Irish weather.

Last year we holidayed in lovely Lahinch. (I never did rustle up the energy to post about the lovely holiday we had there. We rented a holiday home in Ballyellery from Trident Holiday Homes. Photo on right was the view from the cottage on one of the truly Irish days 🙂 Ask me if you need more details.) Lahinch is a major surf destination so Himself and some of our friends had a great time. Yet again I missed an opportunity to surf as I was pregnant and too bloody tired even though I wasn’t so far gone. The weather was only okay at the time and we looked at wetsuits in the surf shops in town. The available range wasn’t great in Lahinch and even the second hand ones were pricy so we left it. However there were a number of days where we had to quit the beach as children’s lips turned blue!

I sent a tweet to Puddleducks earlier this year asking them if they were planning to stock wetsuits ever and Aedan replied to me that they were researching the options. A while later Suzanne contacted me and said they were sourcing two different types of wetsuits from suppliers and would I like to try them out. We opted for the full length suits in XSmall and Small. They have since launched a range of different beach products including these suits, a shorty version and various UV suits and beach shoes.

Due to the fact that their father has a wetsuit the Nippers were already favourably inclined. Considering the pair of them had to date refused to even put a two in the water we were concerned that it would be money badly spent regardless. Well the Nippers seemed to think that these suits would make them invincible and Nipper 2.0 even had great plans to go bodyboarding! (Where does he get these ideas!) Their first outing was literally a wash out which involved a real Irish picnic in the car before putting on all our raingear for a walk and some sandcastling in the rain on the beach. Our next outing was on one of the hottest days in this recent hot spell. My sister and I rustled the two of them up after school and headed for Sandycove. While I wouldn’t recommend Sandycove for a hot day, even midweek it was jammed, it was perfect to get the boys in the water in their suits. It’s a very calm inlet which helped them get over any reservations they might have had.

They played happily for the 2.5 hours that we were there in and out of the water. No blue lips and we are saving a fortune in suncream! The suits are great and a good fit with some growing space in them. The Nippers are very different shapes and both at the smaller end of the scale for their age. You can see from the photos that the limbs require a little turning up. Nipper 1.0 is whip thin and so we managed to pull the suit onto him no bother. Nipper 2.0 still has some of his baby fat (he recently turned 4) so we struggled a fair bit to get him into his. Let me put it like this: a child who was disinclined to put on their suit would win that particular battle! That would be my only issue with the XSmall size – it doesn’t seem to allow for the fact that a child that age might be likely to have a little more pudge. Add neoprene, however stretchy, to the mix and there’s a bit of heave ho-ing. But they were both very easy to remove and because of their size far easier to rinse than an adults. In fact I rinsed them in the sink and there is no way you would fit even a small adult suit into a sink.

We subsequently spent an afternoon on Curracloe strand in Co. Wexford which was far less sheltered and there was a stiff breeze that day. Again they played very happily in and out of the water although Nipper 2.0’s courage failed him somewhat. (Who’s talking about bodyboarding now, eh?!) Of course, I put them all to shame by swimming in plain ol’ togs. Due to the ongoing fluctuations in my body weight over the last 8 years there has been no point in getting a wetsuit for myself!

At €35.99 for the suits I think they are well worth it. They seem to be well made (I’m not expert) and include all the features you would expect on a wetsuit: tight ankles and cuffs and a turtle neck with adjustable fastener. The zip is sturdy with a strap for closing and it tucks away neatly. All the tech specs are included in the Puddleducks listing. Look at it like this: on an overcast day you might decide that the beach is just too cold for the kids so you go to the swimming pool. In Lahinch last year that notched up €21.00 for 3 of us. Alternatively if you compare it to the cost of suncream at circa €10.00 per bottle which may get wiped off as soon as it’s on it’s also a far longer lasting bargain. I also really believe it’s the way forward for holidaying in Ireland. I’m the only family member who doesn’t have a suit but I noticed in Lahinch last year that most of the families were all kitted out in them and many of them were not surfing at all, just swimming.

*Disclosure: I received these suits at cost-price from Puddleducks.