Christmas Napkins

The beauty of this craft is that it is a thousand times easier to make than it looks, and it can be completed while sipping wine and watching your favourite Christmas movie – now that is my idea of an ideal Christmas craft.

On the other hand, if you have a household of Halflings, and are looking for a way to keep them entertained on a dreary Tuesday, this will also work a treat for that (although maybe without the wine – depends on how your Tuesday is going I suppose). Even the littlest ones can join in – I usually put them in charge of adding the stickers – a sufficiently important while simultaneously sufficiently easy task.

What you will need:

Green square napkins – paper if like us you go for cheap and cheerful, linen if you’re a bit posh

Star stickers

How to

  1. First, fold it twice to get a smaller square

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Then, fold up the corner of each layer to the top and be sure to leave one inch between each fold.

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Flip the whole thing over, holding the folds.

Fold both sides to the centre. Remember to align the top of each panel to form a triangular space at the top of the napkin.

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Flip back the napkin (remember to hold it tight so it doesn’t unfold).

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Fold the upper layer to the top to form a peak of your Christmas tree. Hide lower layers’ tips underneath the upper folds.

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Now decorate with stickers

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Donal and Me (Part 3 of Julie and Julia)

As described in my post: Working-Mom Problem No.1: Feeding the Hoard this winter I have decided to work through my hoard of cookbooks in an attempt to find new family recipes that I can cook quickly in the evenings that are both delicious and nutritious.

One thing is very clear – the Donal Skehan of 2011’s Kitchen Hero and the Cathy Clarke of 2015 live very different lives. Donal’s book which hopes to bring the cooking back home is not for a family feeder like me, it’s for the people who are hoping to bring the party back home. He has many hip little recipes for nibbles, quaint twists on lunch bites, but I had to combine at least 3 of his suggestions to make an actual meal that would fill an adult from dinner to breakfast the next day – there will be no midnight feasts on my watch.

vodka penne

The first one I took a swing at was the Vodka Penne, and it was delicious. On the negative side there was the unpleasant moment where the vodka was being burnt off and my kitchen smelt like a junior disco, and I had to add chicken because there was no meat, but on the positive side the toddler could feed himself and the adults were very curious as to what the heck I was serving them for dinner, which prompted them to wander into the kitchen which allowed me to assign them tasks, so even that alone gets an extra bonus point. It was a good meal that tasted very nice the next day for lunch and will definitely go into my family favourites list.

I’d give this a score of 8/10.

fish cake

But that was the only ‘meal’ I could find, so I started to combine others. I tried the Zingy Thai Fishcakes with Sofies’s Squashed Potatoes, and my own recipe for Mediterranean vegetables. The potatoes were fine, nothing to write home about, but grand. I added pine nuts to give them a bit of texture. The fish cakes were a whole different ball game – these were a disaster. I could not get them to stick together – I think I should have used two eggs maybe? So I ended up with fish lumps on day 1, and then what looked like minced fish on day 2. A disaster.

lemon spuds

 

Jamie and Me (Part 2 of my Julie and Julia project)

As described in my post: Working-Mom Problem No.1: Feeding the Hoard this winter I have decided to work through my hoard of cookbooks in an attempt to find new family recipes that I can cook quickly in the evenings that are both delicious and nutritious.

This week I continue with some meals from Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food. Jamie’s website gives the recipe for these dishes (and a few variations) so I won’t repeat the instructions or ingredients here. This week I tried Baked Camembert Pasta and Chicken and Leek Stroganoff.

camambert

Baked Camembert Pasta

Straight up I am going to tell you this is delicious. It is poured cheese over pasta. Always a winner. However, it terms of a family meal this misses the target a little bit. Its too rich for my toddler to enjoy, there is not enough to feed a whole family of adults and if there were any leftovers, they would be a clump of solidified cheese and pasta – uck! and there is no protein – I had to add chicken. So while I enjoyed this as a special treat (and I might keep it in my back pocket for valentines or birthdays) – a family recipe it is not.

On the Working Mom’s Scale

  1. Its super delicious but calorific ….. 3/10
  2. Cooking was quick and easy …. 7/10
  3. Leftovers were awful …. 3/10
  4. Not suitable for my toddler because of the molten hot cheese … 5/10

Overall 4.5/10

Chicken Leek

Chicken and Leek Stroganoff

This was a total hit. It is yummy, everyone loved it, it was quick. Ding ding ding, we have a winner – this is going straight into the family cookbook.

On the Working Mom’s Scale

  1.  There is cream and butter, so while its good its not great in terms of the calories …7/10
  2. Simple and quick … 8/10
  3. Leftovers were perfect ….8/10
  4. Everyone liked it …. 8/10

Overall 8/10

Jamie and Me (Part 1 of my Julie and Julia project)

As described in my post: Working-Mom Problem No.1: Feeding the Hoard this winter I have decided to work through my hoard of cookbooks in an attempt to find new family recipes that I can cook quickly in the evenings that are both delicious and nutritious.

This week I started some of the meals in Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food. My overall observation of this book is that it contains some good old fashioned family recipes – it teaches you how to cook the basics, and does so in an easy-to-use fashion. The only negative things I would say is that each recipe seems to require a lot of ingredients, which are not used again in other recipes, which is not great for your pocket and the recipes do not appear to be good for your waistline. That said, let’s give it a shot.

This week I tried Pot-Roast Meatloaf, Cherry Tomato Sauce with Cheats Fresh Pasta, Lamb Rogan Josh. Jamie’s website gives the recipe for these dishes (and a few variations) so I won’t repeat the instructions or ingredients here.

Meatloaf

Pot-Roast Meatloaf

The preparation for this is actually very easy, and it smells delicious cooking. It fills the whole house with that loving encasing smell of happiness. I will definitely be putting this on to cook the next time someone comes home in a bad mood. The only mistake I think I made was that I did not break down the crackers enough. Next time I won’t do this by hand, I think I will get out the pestle and mortar and give them a right bash.

On the Working Mom’s Scale

  1. It seemed nutritious without an unreasonable amount of calories …… 7/10
  2. Cooking was quick and quiet – took me less than 30 min ……… 7/10
  3. Leftovers the next day were grand …. 7/10
  4. All the family could eat it (although I would like to see a few more vegetables on my plate) 7/10

Overall 7/10

Cherry Tomato Sauce with Cheats Fresh Pasta

Seriously, he needs to get a better title for this dish. Everyone asked me what was for dinner and I struggled to tell them because I couldn’t remember the name of this (baby brain is still here folks). That aside, this recipe calls for the cook to buy fresh pasta sheets (such as one would use to cook lasangne) and then cut them up to resemble tagliatelle. I think this is fine if you happen to have sheets hanging around the house that you have to use up – but buying them specifically for this purpose was pointless. The dish was really heavy and sheets stuck together so Day 2 was a bit of a nightmare. Next time I will just buy tagliatelle and use that.

On the Working Mom’s Scale

  1. I added chicken to this dish because there was no protein …. 6/10
  2. It cooked quickly and quietly and was ready very soon after I started …. 8/10
  3. Leftovers were fine … but only fine… 5/10
  4. All the family ate it ….. 7/10

Overall 6.5/10

Lamb rogan josh

Lamb Rogan Josh

Right this one was a bit of a disaster. There is an optional? 800ml of chicken stock?? How can 800ml be optional? That is a significant amount of liquid! To be on the safe side I added it – and it was a total disaster. I ended up with Lamb Rogan Josh soup. We ate it as it was Day1, and it was greeted with great suspicion. The only saving grace was that I had shop bought naan bread to go with it which is always a hit in our house. Day 2 lunchtime I tried it as a soup. It was disgusting. For Day 2 dinner I tried everything to thicken it – I added flour, I boiled it for 30min. It improved it somewhat but it was still a bit on the dodgy side. In addition to all this it was very spicy. My husband loved that because he likes spicy food, I ended adding a lot of yogurt to cool it down – and had my grandfather been over for dinner I know that this would have been an absolute no-go. I might try this again with out the random optional 800ml, but so far it was a thumbs down.

On the Working Mom’s Scale

  1. It terms of a nutrition/calorie balance I think this recipe is quiet good …. 7/10
  2. It takes a long time to cook (simmering for 1 hour) but otherwise was easy enough …. 6/10
  3. Leftovers were a disaster, but had the original meal been better this would not have been the case …. 5/10
  4. All the family wouldn’t eat this because it is so spicy…. 5/10

Overall 5/10

Legs through cot bars: the solution

crib 1

Picture the scene; I’m downstairs having a cup of tea waiting for my son to awake from his nap when instead of the usual gurgling and chatting I hear a scream of terror. I ran upstairs to find him trapped by his leg between the bars of the cot. He had been kicking his legs in the air (like he just don’t care) when his plumb little thigh got stuck. No matter how much he pulled it would not come out. So he screamed blue murder for me. I arrived and tried to pull his leg out, but couldn’t without hurting him. In panic I rubbed moisturiser all over his leg and finally freed him. There was much hugging and kissing of relief. Despite the large bruise around his knee he seemed otherwise ok. “Whoo, he won’t do that again” I thought.

How wrong.

My son repeated this every time he went in the cot for a week. He did it when he slept over in both his nannies, and nearly scared them to death. He did it when his Dad was minding him who was minutes away from ripping the bars off the cot hulk-style before I got there in time.

Each time my son did it, he looked so incriminatingly at us, as though we were purposely leaving the tempting space between the bars for his to shove his plumb little legs.  It couldn’t go on. One of these times when we went to free him someone was accidently going to dislocate his knee in panic. We needed a solution.

First thought: throw money at the problem. Forked out €30 for air-bumpers which are normal cot bumpers but because they are mesh the child can breathe through them and they are therefore not a choking/smothering hazard. They are fine as bumpers, but my son got his leg stuck high in the cot, not low, so they didn’t solve our problem.

Next thought: Wrap cloth tightly around the entire bars. No good. I could not get the cloth tight enough to prevent his legs going though the bars as he kicked with his legs in the air. And there was nothing I could do to stop him kicking his legs in the air. He has such an aversion to grow-bags that I can only imagine that at some point in a previous life he was confined to a straight-jacket and wheeled off to the loony bin, his intrinsic hatred of being confined can have no other justification.

Solution: Cardboard tided to the cot, covered by the cloth. It’s not the most attractive solution but it works. The cardboard is robust enough to prevent his legs going through but not hard like wood to hurt him as he kicks his legs.

crib 2

Required

  • 1 Large cardboard box
  • 1 long length of cloth. I up-cycled a double bed duvet cover by cutting it along the sides to make it twice as long
  • Material for ties – number depend on the size of your crib
  • Scissors, needle and thread

The instructions are as follows

  1. Go down to your supermarket and get one large cardboard boxes (or two small ones – they are going to be covered anyway).
  2. Open the box so it is flat
  3. Remove the mattress from the cot for the moment.
  4. Lie the box against the inside of the bars
  5. Cut two little holes either side of every second bar and tie the cardboard in place with the material ties
  6. Lay the two sides of the cot and along the base – this will be tied under the cot
  7. Replace the mattress
  8. Sew the material ties to either side of the open cloth under the cot and tie

crib 3

Working-Mom Problem No.1: Feeding the Hoard

cookbooks

The weather is getting colder, the nights longer, the clocks are going back and that means only one horrifying fact to my family …. the slow cooker is going to be taken out and pressed into use again.

It’s not that they dislike tender meat stews, or vegetable stews, or spicy stews, or chicken stew, or beef stew, it’s just that there is only so much of stew one family can take before even the most delicious stew resembles gruel from a gulag.

The slow cooker had been the answer to all my working-mom problems. Prepare it the ingredients the night before (or mass prepare at the weekend), bang the stuff into the slow cooker in the morning while you are waiting for someone to get out of the bathroom and press start. Twelve hours later you will have a belly-warming … stew.

Again.

Every night for five months.

After which even the carnivore was happy to see summer salads arrive again.

This year (in what I feel was a deliberate act of sabotage) the kid, the dog and the husband accidentally threw a ball indoors and it knocked the slow cooker off its shelf causing the bowl to crack. Much to their wisely-well-hidden disappointment I managed to repair it, but being the benevolent dictator I am, I felt compelled to find an alternative solution least there be another uprising that cannot be repaired with ceramic paste.

So I have turned to my many, many cook books. Cook books which proclaim that recipes can be cooked in 30 minutes. Cook books which declare that they have nutritious family friendly recipes that all the family will enjoy. Cook books that claim they can teach anyone to cook. Well I’m going to put them to the working-mom test.

My requirements as a working-mom are

  1. Nutritious food that is tasty but not calorie laden.
  2. Can be cooked quietly when the baby is asleep or quickly when the baby is awake and ‘helping’.
  3. Preparation time should take no more than 20min, although cooking in the oven can take up to one hour, but no longer.
  4. Can ideally be cooked on Day 1, with leftovers for Day 2 (thus meaning every night is not a cooking night, but we get a well cooked meal every night).
  5. Is suitable for all the family:
    1. my husband who insists it’s not a proper meal without meat,
    2. me who insists that there are some healthy vegetables,
    3. my toddler son who has to be able to eat at least part of it with his hands,
    4. my grand-father who is suspicious of overly-spicy meat in case its gone off (apparently its something to do with a war, who knows),
    5. my parents who are open-minded but prefer the meals they recognise.
    6. my dad who is coeliac

Just to clarify, I don’t have the whole family around every night, but the new recipes I am about to learn I will use for the next forty/fifty years (possibly longer), so they have to be versatile enough for my increasingly crazy family (who I love!).

So with that in mind I am taking on my own Julie and Julia project as I work my way through my mountain of cook books and rate them on the working-mom scale.

Vampire Gingerbread Men

gbm 1

I love Halloween. And moreover I love creep chilling food that fits with the Halloween theme. My son this year attended his very first Halloween party and I sent along a few treats with him.

These are really easy to make (thanks to my cheating double cut) and as an added advantage they smell delicious all the way through the preparation and cooking.

gingerbread man 1

Ingredients

  • 350g plain flour
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 4tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 tbsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Decoration

  • Writing pens: white, green, red
  • Gingerbread man cookie cutter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line 3 baking trays
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor
  3. Add butter and whizz until mixture is like breadcrumbs
  4. Add sugar, egg and syrup. Pulse until combines
  5. Chill for 15min
  6. Rollout to 1cm thick and cut out men shapes
  7. With the remainder make small balls and squash for cookies
  8. Bake for 15min
  9. When done, the mixture will have risen and spread – recut with cookie cutter to sharpen edges
  10. Leave to cool until hardened (about 30min depending on the heat of your kitchen).
  11. To decorate as desired.