Meal Planner

Week starting 25th January

Back to the world of meal planning after a bit of a break for Christmas (although it’s nearly the end of January, not sure I can blame Christmas anymore – let’s face it, it’s laziness).

Our basic premise remains the same every week – two meat meals (usually not more than one of which is red meat), two veggie meals and two fish meals per week and a wild card day to go out and have a good time. Last week the wild card day was a day out to York on the train and burgers at Byron. So bloody good.

Last week I decided after many months of debating to buy Jamie’s Everyday Superfood book so this week’s menu is heavily influenced by it after I realised it’s actually pretty good when you’re cooking for kids (except the breakfast bit – I still can’t figure out how anyone does anything interesting for breakfast, I’m sure it’s to do with getting up earlier but I don’t want to think too hard about that.

So today (Monday) was Asian crispy beef served with noodles and salad. I was pleasantly surprised about how easy this was to make with two hungry under 5s at my feet and also how bloody tasty the beef was. I’d make this again for sure, it makes a change from the usual stir fry and we also thought the beef would be good in tacos.

Tomorrow it’s going to be a simple meal of baked salmon fillets with creamy mash (using creme fraiche) and peas and Wednesday is also a simple one of crispy jacket potatoes with cheese and salad. We’re having a lot of salad this week because I over-ordered on the iceberg….

On Thursday we’re going to be having a veggie curry with rice. I do like to experiment when making curries but generally find that the thai/coconut milk ones go down best with the kids. I just throw in whatever veg we have around that I know they won’t turn their noses up at. There’s no logic to it as they’ll both eat raw pepper by the handful but if you try to serve it to them cooked they’ll act like you’re trying to poison them.

On Friday it’s going to be Jamie’s skinny carbonara recipe which I hope is kid friendly as we’ve got Max’s best friend over for tea. It’s obviously a variation on a carbonara which involves making a pesto with almonds, peas, basil, parmesan, garlic and lemon juice and a creamy sauce with yoghurt and egg. You get a bit of bacon too, our second meaty meal of the week.

Saturday is our day off, who knows what exciting plans await (for exciting plans read most likely fish and chips and TV on the sofa) and then on Sunday I’m finishing with another Jamie recipe to round off the week although varying it slightly. I’m going to buy some nice big juicy prawns from the fishmongers and make “sizzling moroccan prawn, fluffy couscous and rainbow salsa”. I say a variation as the picture shows the meal covered in pomegranate seeds and I can’t bloody stand the things so mine will be lovely in its pomegranate freeness.

Happy week everyone.


Meal Planner

Week starting 7th December

Meal planning this week feels a little bit like a lost cause – there’s so much going on and so many people due in different places at different times that the prospect of all coming together to eat sensible meals feels impossible.

And let’s face it meal planners can’t really reflect a real life week with young kids where nobody eats anything one day or when you’re so tired by Thursday that only beans feels doable but I aim for a balanced week and if we all get through it alive and reasonably well nourished a pat on the back for me. If one day most of that nourishment comes from cake, I can deal with that.

Anyway, now to the matter at hand. A week in meals. 2 meat, 2 fish, 2 veg and a day off – this week on Friday as it’s my work Christmas party on Thursday night so the chances of me accomplishing anything at all on Friday is unlikely.

Tomorrow we are starting off the week with bangers and mash. This is an all time favourite meal for both of them. Even if they were both in the middle of the worst stomach bug in the world they’d still eat this. I feel all warm and fuzzy just knowing that they are definitely going to eat tea tomorrow 🙂

Tuesday is also a bit of a banker although you really never can tell with fish. Sometimes the 1yo flat out refuses and sometimes she eats it only pausing to shout “more chicken” (protein identification not her strong point). I’m doing fish cakes plus sweet potato fries for a bit of a change.

Wednesday is veggie curry – a bit of a hotchpotch of recipes which involves some spices (garam masala, curry powder plus ginger and garlic) mixed up with onion, a selection of favourite veggies and some coconut milk. Coconut milk curries nearly always go down well in our house but if in doubt, throw naan bread at the situation.

On Thursday I’m out for the night so I’m leaving them to it with some homemade pizza. We have some dough ready to go in the freezer from the last time (we always use a Jamie Oliver recipe) and a few toppings in the fridge including chorizo, peppers and, of course, mozzarella.

Friday is lying in a dark room day and then on Saturday we are on to another major favourite, spaghetti bolognese. I like to do a slow cook one at the weekend with some good mince from the butchers and make a bit of an occasion out of it. I’m not sure the kids really notice the difference but we do and it’s nice to treat yourself when you’re not out so regularly on a Saturday night.

And finally, finishing the week with salmon en croute. This was mostly driven by the fact that salmon was on offer at Ocado and also by the fact that en croute is just yummy. I usually keep this quite simple by using ready made puff pastry and making the filling out of some mushrooms, onions and garlic cooked and mixed up with philadelphia.

So that’s it from me, hope everyone is feeling festive and has a great week.


Make it easy on yourself

This week brought the day that I have been dreading since before I actually finished work for Christmas (I think I may think too far ahead) – the dreaded return to work.

It’s January, it’s cold, it’s still bloody raining, I’m full to the brim with cheese and despite the fact that they are driving me certifiably insane, I’m just not ready to face the prospect of leaving the little urchins behind and returning to a world that isn’t dominated by Paw Patrol, chocolate and toddler mediation. Basically it sucks.

Add to this the tendency for self-reflection that the dawning of a new year inevitably sparks and suddenly I’m questioning my very existence. Well, my existence as a working mother anyway.

And much as it’s somewhat pleasant to eat a meal in peace and pay a visit solo, it’s also particularly unpleasant to feel like I’m missing out on too much of the school gate stuff, to say goodbye in the morning and know it’s going to be a good 9 hours until I see their squidgy bodies again, to have someone squealing “Mummy!” in high pitched tones as you trudge off down the garden path.

But amidst this gloom a post from the Unmumsy Mum this week got me thinking. Quite rightly she drew attention to a lot of the critical nonsense thrown at mums across social media forums these days, critical nonsense thrown by none other than other mums.  And quite rightly she said we should be uniting and supporting each other, not criticising each other for choosing bottle over boob, cot over co-sleeping or whatever the hell it is that people have got their knickers in a twist about these days.

But the thing that really struck me about this was that not only should we not be criticising each other (obviously, duh) but we should also be going much easier on ourselves. Because for every mother who feels strongly enough about breastfeeding, for example, to comment negatively on another woman’s choice I feel there must be a story there.  A story about having struggled through the first few months of pain and desperation of trying to get her child to feed or a story of questioning her choice to be the sole food provider in the night when she was so exhausted her eyes hurt or a story where she criticised herself so fiercely it left a scar she didn’t know how to deal with.

I think it’s really this self-criticism and this need that we have to be seen as the perfect mother by the world around us that does the real damage, to ourselves and to others when we act out in judgement because we’re fearful that it’s really us that’s wrong.

So this year I am making a resolution to go easier on myself.

Last year I started reading the really excellent “I Know How She Does It” by Laura Vanderkam which I would recommend for all (working) mothers out there. The premise of the book is that we don’t fully realise how much of our lives we do actually commit to our families and so Vanderkam suggests keeping a log of your time to get the true picture, something I actually did last year.

I work full time hours in a very intense industry (Corporate Finance), I have a stressful job that frequently involves travel, but actually, when I sat down and made myself look at it, I still manage to commit a huge amount of time to my family.  Despite spending a lot of time travelling around the country I usually make it home for our 6pm family dinner at least 4 times out of 5 every week.  I manage to drop both kids off a couple of times a week and, however busy I am and what’s going on around me, I drop everything at 2.45pm on Friday to do the last pick up of the week.

Last year was the first time my other half and I had ever both been away from the children overnight together (excepting the birth of number 2 which was kind of unavoidable) and I choose to spend 99% of my weekend time with them rather than in a spa or shopping or other pursuits which sound bloody heavenly in theory but I kind of dread in reality when the time comes and I have to be away from them again.

I haven’t missed a single parents evening, a single Christmas production, or any such kind of momentous occasion. When, last year, a big pitch was scheduled on the day of Max’s last pre-school carol concert I politely but firmly said I wouldn’t be able to make it.  The pitch date was moved and life went on.

In short, I’m actually not doing that badly.

And, although I’m going to have many more hours and days of guilt-ridden soul-searching I’m sure (guilt is the best kept secret of motherhood after all) I’m going to try to remember this as much as I can this year. It’s going to make me a happier person which is great for me, great for my kids and great for everyone I come into contact with, in the real world or virtually.