Meal Planner – Week Starting 16th November

Week starting 16th November

Another week another meal planner. These kids just seem to need feeding every bloody day.

I’m a bit late this week – I’d blame the kids but really it’s my lack of organisational ability that’s the problem rather than the children, I think I was pretty much like this before but maybe with fewer wrinkles.

We started the week with an old favourite – macaroni cheese. Well I say an old favourite but it was off the menu for a while back in the day when Max decided he would no longer eat any pasta with a sauce that appeared white in colouring. Then I decided tough luck, put it back on the menu and hey presto, he’s into it again and ate the lot. I won’t patronise you by giving you the recipe, basically it’s a cheese sauce. I added some peas to cook in the pasta water for a bit of green.

The other day a man came to the door with some fresh fish for sale and I was allowed to buy some. If you knew my husband and his paranoia around buying food from randoms you’d know this was a small miracle so I’m going to celebrate by cooking up some red bass with roast potatoes for Tuesday’s dinner, I haven’t had roast potatoes for an age and a half and I can’t waaaiiitt.

On Wednesday we are doing what genuinely is an old favourite, an Ella’s kitchen recipe curry which was meant to be chicken-based but I’m switching the chicken for some prawns. It’s a really mild coconut milk based curry and the kids lap it up every time (except they won’t now I’ve said that). This is the recipe in its original form:
Thursday we’re doing some pork chops which is a bit of a departure because we don’t often eat pork but I was inspired by @everydaycurator who cooked up some amazing-looking pork cutlets the other day. I’m going to serve them with some garlic mash and greens.

On Friday Max has got a school friend over for tea for the very first time and so I wanted to do something fairly simple that everyone would eat but also something that might be fun for them so we’re going to do homemade pizza – that way everyone can pick a topping that suits. We always use the Jamie Oliver pizza dough recipe which you can find below and I’ve stocked up on some passata for the tomato topping.

We’re off to the in laws this weekend so I’m going to gratefully pass over the cooking baton to the mother-in-law on Saturday and finally, we’re coming home on Sunday to some chunky chilli and rice. This is another BBC Good Food recipe which my sister made so beautifully I thought we’d copy! It’s made with braising steak rather than mince for a chilli with a bit of a difference. I’ll keep it mild for the kids, you can find it here:

Have a great week all, love seeing all the inspiration on Instagram, gives me food for thought for next week!


Network it out

I read a great quote on Instagram this morning (while I should have been working obviously) – “the obligation for working mothers is a precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.” – Annabel Crabb, The Wife Drought.

This is my life.  5 days a week.  Leave the kids far too early, get to work far too late and then reverse it 8 (or so) hours later.  And that’s on the days that I’m not travelling which, nowadays, are increasingly rare as my job in Corporate Finance naturally takes on more of a sales slant the more senior I become in the business.

And from a career perspective it’s absolutely great.  I’m in a position that I honestly never thought I could possibly be.  I’ve already surpassed many goals that I set for myself whilst simultaneously feeling like I’ve still got so much to learn and so far to go.  I’m truly very lucky in what I do.

I’m also truly very lucky in my home life.  I’ve got 2 beautiful kids who exhaust and delight in equal measures and I get home to them for dinner most days.  Plus I can honestly say that when I’m at home with my family there’s no place I’d rather be.  Lucky.

But as you climb the ranks and the nature of your role changes the old question mark around whether or not you can have it all comes more and more into play and networking is a massive case in point.

In my line of work, networking is really important.  We win work in lots of different ways but again and again the stats prove that the most important source of work is referrals from our network.  And, when you’re in my position, out there trying to prove you can win work for the first time, building and fostering that network is essential.  I get it.  I really do.

The problem is, if there was one thing I’d most happily put into Room 101 it would be networking.  I know that, on the face of it, it’s essentially just chatting (and I’m really quite good at chatting) but there’s something about having the networking tag on it that, for me, makes it instantly awkward and unpleasant.  It somehow feels fake and forced and, while I’m waiting for them to come out with the old favourites, “you busy?” I actually hear myself saying them first to ward off a possible silence.

Aside from the general unpleasantness of it, networking has another major downside.  I work hard.  I rarely take a lunch, I travel up and down the country, I often work in the evenings, I fairly frequently work at the weekends when the littlest is napping and the 4 year old is watching a film.  So what I really don’t want to do is spend the precious time I have not working doing something that I find so deeply disagreeable.  I want to spend it with my children, drawing pictures of flowers for the baby and teaching the oldest how to perfect his “a”s.

So right now I’m treading a fine line of doing just enough that I’m moving forward but not so much that I feel my role as a mother is compromised (and that I’m spending my evenings questioning my very existence).  Nevertheless I see my male colleagues out there (some with kids, some not) 2 to 3 times a week and part of me knows that they’re moving more quickly than me and part of me can’t help be frustrated by that.

But I guess that’s the line we’re all treading, it often feels so very imperfect but perhaps we should think about it another way.  Instead of feeling like I’m giving 75% at work and 75% as a mother perhaps I should forget about dividing myself up into different roles and acknowledge that I’m giving a truly Simon Cowell 150% at life and that is what is going to make me a #mumboss.

Meal planner week starting 9th November


This is my meal planner for the week ahead.  Format remains the same –  I base our meal planners on having 2 meat, 2 fish and 2 vegetarian meals a week plus one day off and the plan is to eat real food as much as we can and, more importantly, to eat together.

ef stir fry.  We eat stir fry on a pretty regular basis but rarely use beef in it so I thought I’d give this a try and see how the kids like it.  My only reservation on this recipe was that it calls for quite a lot of rump steak which is an expensive way to eat what I think should be a low cost meal so I plan to reduce the meat and up the veg to keep it affordable.

On Thursday I’m making a very simple version of laksa with prawns.  I found this recipe here on the Good Food website a few weeks ago and we’ve had it a few times since with some rice and naan bread, I think it’s delicious and simple enough to realistically make midweek with smalls yapping at your ankles.  Just beware as this recipe serves one so you have to do some maths with the quantities – or else wing it a bit like I do.

Friday is my second day in London but the husband is off so I’m going to let him handle bonfire banger and beans.  I realise I’m slightly late to the party with this one but I noticed it on the Good Food website when I was having a nose for cake recipes and it looked pretty tasty so I thought it might be worth a try.  You can find it here:

We’re off to another birthday party on Saturday so I get to have a break from cooking and then we’re finishing off the week with calamari fritti.  This is another recipe from the Tana Ramsay book and one that I haven’t tried before.  I love calamari but the kids have literally never had it so could be interesting… I’ll report back!

He’s Behind You…

I bloody love Christmas.  I know it all starts too early and blah blah blah but honestly, how can we complain about the fact that something really nice and fun lasts for ages?  Seriously.

So I’m starting Christmas in earnest sometime around now and part of that preparation is thinking about what show we might go and see this year.  Apologies in advance to any readers not in and around the Manchester area, I’ve focused on shows that are local to us otherwise the list could get a bit unwieldy.

A couple of years back we all trooped off to the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale to see a Charlie and Lola puppet show which was absolutely brill.  So imagine my joy when checked the site to see what’s on this year to discover that it’s Moominland Midwinter!  A Moomin show with “hand-crafted, full-sized puppets” with a specially written soundtrack and the first Moomins to have appeared on stage in the UK!  I’m there with bells on.

You can find more info on the link below, it says it’s suitable for 5+ although I’m hoping you can get away with a bit younger and tickets cost between £10-£16.  It’s on between 8th December and 2nd January.

Needless to say it’s not all Moomins and if pantos are your thing then it looks like there are plenty of them around including Peter Pan at the Middleton Arena featuring Oliver Mellor and Peter Alexander (nope, no idea), Mother Goose at the Oldham Coliseum and Cinderella at the Opera House featuring Torvill and Dean as the fairy godparents.  I think I would maybe pay not to see Torvill and Dean as the fairy godparents but if you did fancy it it’s on from the 5th December and tickets cost between £11.90 and £38.90.

Back in non-panto land there’s a couple of shows on at the Lowry theatre which really look worth a visit.  Firstly, there is Mr Popper’s Penguins, suitable for ages 3+, based on Richard & Florence Atwaler’s book (on which the Jim Carrey film was based) which also includes puppets, songs and (encouragingly) a family of performing penguins.  It’s from the producers of The Tiger who Came to Tea and We’re Going a Bear Hunt and tickers are £17 for dates between 10th December and 10th January.  Tempting.

And also tempting is Snow Child which is showing between 22nd December and 3rd January for between £7-£10.  It’s for ages 3-7 and is a “magical story about family, love and the power of dreams”.  I’m assuming that this is based to some extent on the book by Eowyn Ivey which I thought was lovely.

If you still haven’t read about something that takes your fancy and you’ve got slightly older kids what about Into the Woods, on at the Royal Exchange between 4th December and 16th January, tickets cost from £10 and age recommendation is 10+.  This was originally a Broadway show with music and lyrics by Steven Sondheim so it really sounds a bit special.

And finally, also for slightly older kids (guidance is 8-14) you could go and see Inkheart at one of Manchester’s newest venues Home between 4th December and 5th January.  This is an adaptation of Cornelia Funke’s fantasy adventure novel and looks like it’s going to be a really great show.  It’s slightly pricier with tickets for adults between £20 and £33, although kids tickets are all £10, but it could well be worth it as it looks like one of the main events for kids in Manchester this Christmas.

Happy extremely early Christmas all!


Week starting 2nd November

Welcome to our second meal planner. By now you may already know that I base our meal planners on having 2 meat, 2 fish and 2 vegetarian meals a week plus one day off where we can do whatever we please (crazy I know). I came up with the format when I first started meal planning to encourage/force me to get some variety into our meals and for Max (and now Edie). Sometimes it’s a pain in the arse (like now when Max is going through a fish hating phase) but I have this vision of the future where they have become uber healthy adults with an extremely varied and interesting diet. In reality they’ll probably just exist on oven chips to get me back.

As always, the plan is to eat real food as much as we can and, more importantly, to eat together.

Mondays are always a busy day in this household so I got a bit ahead of myself today and made a bolognese sauce at the same time as I was cooking tonight’s dinner. I use my own recipe which is based on slow cooking the mince in a stock with some balsamic vinegar and lea & perinns. I left it cooking while we ate – always a protracted affair so it should be pretty great tomorrow, thanks me.

On Tuesday I’m doing a soup from The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook – carrot and red lentil. You can find something similar here:

Soup is a bit of a hit and miss affair in this household. Max (the 4 year old) has sort of got his head around it as long as you include plenty of garlic bread but Edie (the 1 year old) is not always a fan. Nevertheless I’m persisting, she’ll thank me for it one day! I’ll whizz up the soup so they can’t spot the lentils – last time I left it chunky and it was not a successful day *shivers*

On Wednesday I’m off to London for the day for work so it’s an easy meal of fish fingers and jackets for their dad to sort while I’m back late. He’s far from incapable of cooking himself so this may sound wholly patronising but realistically doing dinner and bed for 2 little ones can be a knackering affair so I do try to make his life slightly easier to assuage my guilt.

Thursday I’m back in business and we’re having pasta with a roasted veg sauce. This is another River Cottage recipe from their Autumn section (you can tell I’ve been reading that one this week) which is quite like Annabel Karmel’s famous hidden veg sauce but including roasted squash. I find that they’ll eat almost any veg when it’s whizzed up and served with pasta in this way, especially if I let them add their own parmesan.

Friday is going to be a very traditional beef stew and dumplings. I invested in a slow cooker a couple of years ago, only around £30, which really comes into its own at this time of year. There’s something very satisfying about knowing dinner is getting on with sorting itself while you get on with your day.

Saturday is our day off – this generally means eating out, or takeaway if we are feeling even more lazy. There are a million great places to eat around here so we are really spoilt for choice.

And finally, I’m finishing off the week with something a bit special (for no good reason at all) – this is a recipe from Rosie Birkett’s great cookbook A Lot on Her Plate, I bought it a few months back and have made a couple of things from it but haven’t tried out this one yet. I’m going to head to the fishmonger at the weekend to show the kids the fish and find some cod cheeks and I’ll use whatever herbs are handy for the sauce vierge. I’m not really expecting the kids to try that but I think cod and potatoes should work fine for them whilst also being something a bit interesting for us. A winner all round.

Have a great week!

Meal Planner – Week starting 19th October

Welcome to our first meal planner live on our new blog, hope you like it!

We started meal planning in an effort to stay sane whilst eating with a young family – making meals that they would eat but which didn’t bore us to tears (there’s only so much pasta and pesto you can take) whilst juggling work, swimming lessons and all that other life stuff.

The other curve ball we throw in (just to make life harder for ourselves) is that we try to have two meat, two fish and two veg meals a week (plus one day off for good behaviour). We found that it means we can’t shy away from feeding them fish when they moan about it. One day they’ll thank us (or maybe not).

This week is a simple one, life is busy busy busy.

On Monday it’s stuffed jackets which is pretty much what it says on the tin. I’ll bake some jackets, scoop out the middle, mix with cheese and sweetcorn and any other veggies left hanging around, pop it back in, top with cheese and back in the oven for 10 minutes. I’ll serve with salad which means actual salad for me and cucumber and peppers with hummus for them.

On Tuesday it’s prawns pasta, a recipe I made up one night late after work years ago. I cook some onions with some mushrooms and garlic and the tiniest hint of chilli (it used to be more in those days), then pop in some prawns at the last minute. Turn off the heat and mix in some sour cream and toss through the pasta. Serve with copious amounts of parmesan as parmesan hides a multitude of sins.

Wednesday is a new one on me, I’m trying out different ways of making quick pizzas – last week it was naan bread, this week I’m using pitta as a base with some tomato puree and whatever toppings they fancy.

On Thursday it’s fish and chips, I’m out for the evening eating canapés and acting like an adult so the chips are of the oven variety – say it loud and proud!

And finally we get to Friday and the start of the weekend, starting it the way we mean to go on with toad in the hole, Max keeps banging on about bangers and yorkshire pudding is a true crowd please.

Saturday is my day off – we might go out and eat somewhere fancy. Or maybe (more likely) we’ll eat burgers somewhere with brightly coloured decor.

I’m going to finish the week with ham and tarragon pot pie. This is a recipe from the BBC Good Food website, I haven’t tried it before so I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ve bought some ham hock to make life simpler and puff pastry too. Life is too short to ever every try to make puff pastry.

Enjoy your week!