Christmas indulgence… of the toddler kind

Now that all the Christmas-ness has somewhat settled and we are in that bit which I think is a little bit like no mans land, where nobody knows the day or the date and wanders aimlessly in a food coma, I thought I’d reflect a little on the last few days. While eating left overs.

Last Christmas, B was 6 months old and still pretty manageable – when I say this I mean he hadn’t quite reached tantrum stage and was crawling at a relatively slow pace.

He was also a weaner… so naturally we went to my parents armed with pots of pre-prepped lunch and dinner, bottles and all manner of baby paraphernalia necessary to survive a mere night away from the confines of our baby-equipped home. Obviously he was dressed in the obligatory Christmas themed outfit. I also had huge ideas of grandeur as a new parent about his perception of the day, and was definitely expecting him to rip open presents and quiz me about Rudolph and Santa’s whereabouts and their legitimacy. In actual fact, last year he didn’t really have any idea about presents/Christmas or said chubby man in a red onesie and a beard.

I was also breastfeeding and felt kind of guilty getting sloshed so that was off the cards too.

This year however, was an entirely different ball game.

I’ve definitely indulged in a gin or three this time round, and intend to continue this into the New Year’s festivities.

When it comes to Boden, he is a fully fledged, food chomping, cheese chowing, meat munching black hole into which I could throw pretty much anything edible and he would most definitely ram it in, or at the very least lick it to decipher it’s level of edible worthiness. He can sniff a biscuit out a mile away and nothing in food form is sacred in our house anymore. The rustle of a wrapper is all it takes these days, and he is no fool. I cannot mug that boy off with a piece of grape whilst smuggling a twix up my jumper.

This year, we pretty much rocked up to my parents with Boden, the bare essentials and of course, all the necessary food to completely stuff ourselves with. Anything else B needed, we figured we could fashion out of bits and bobs my parents had available. I like to think of it as a type of Bear Grylls style parenting approach these days.

As for food, there was not a tupperware pot in sight and ashamedly, that boy well and truly jumped on the lackadaisical attitude we adopted for the day and pretty much stuffed himself like a goose being prepped for foie grais… There was even a moment where I turned around and he had managed to wrangled 6 mini cheddars into his mouth – I know this because I’ve taught him how to spit things out when asked (gross but exceptionally handy), so I was graced with a handful of soggy, limp, cheesy biscuits. Just what one wants for Christmas.

He’s also become pretty tactical in his food gathering… he actually used a quality street tub as a step up to the other sweets I’d put ‘out of the way’.1464683_1949508951940322_6084703043235232478_n

Not only that, but whilst knuckling down to leftover pudding for our second breakfast on Boxing Day I could see him very carefully weighing up his surroundings; it was as though he was hatching a plan of military precision to get himself a piece of the action.

First, he thought he’d go for the easy target – Granny. However, she was in ear shot of my husband and me and we quickly nipped that in the bud. I do draw the line at salted caramel cheesecake for breakfast for an 18 month old, even if it is Christmas. He gave me a very brief look, as if to suss out whether it was even worth trying to hustle me out of my pud and decided against it and instead wandered off down the hall to find Pops… as you can imagine this was an absolute dead-cert and based on the ‘mmmmmm’s’ coming from the kitchen I’m guessing he struck lucky on his third attempt. If at first you don’t succeed, go find Pops. He’s softer than a Boxing day turd.

Last year’s actual dinner was a bit tricky as Bodes wasn’t overly up for being sat at the table… this year though he was seriously into it. Crackers were a definite winner (I’m debating whether I can take these to all meals out for the foreseeable future?), and he tucked into a fair old lump of salty Gammon (I know….!), goose fat roasted potatoes (again… whoops) and I’m pretty sure I saw old Pops sneak a cheeky spoon of brandy-laced Christmas pud in there too.

The best bit though, despite him eating all sorts of things he shouldn’t (but absolutely bloody loving it)… was seeing him open his presents. This was priceless. I still don’t think he really knows who the big guy is in the red suit, but he definitely got the spirit of the day and I’m not even going to feel guilty about the naughties, because it was all 100% worth it.

So to all owners of current weaners this Christmas, prepare yourselves for next year… have eyes in the back of your head, move the nuts up high (and recycle all your chocolate tubs/steps) and don’t beat yourself up over a little toddler indulgence. I haven’t.


Dear Santa, I confess to being slightly shitty this year at the whole Christmas thing…

So last year B was about 5 months old; tiny, immobile and I was on mat leave which meant that apart from being sleep deprived I actually had a fair amount of time. I do actually love Christmas but this year is a whole different playing field and I really need to up my game for next year before Bodes cottons on…

  • Our Christmas Tree is in actual fact no more than a mere Christmas 2015-12-2019.22.19shrub. Since moving house I have no idea where our decorations are so I was very grateful for the salt dough tree object Boden brought home from nursery the other day. I’ve since bought a shit load of lights and tipped them all over it in the hope that it will jazz it up somewhat – the kids are all about the lights anyway. Plus, judging from all these Facebook posts about children mounting Christmas trees I’ve figured that in fact I’m just side swerving the potential for crisis and a trip to A&e – practical parenting.
  • Me and salt dough don’t really get on. I tried to do the whole crafty-mum Christmas decoration thing. Failed. Burnt it. Forgot the actual hanging hole. Maybe I’ll try again next year… maybe I’ll just keep the burnt one and leave it at that. Thank you nursery angels for stepping in.
  • Bodes has eaten quite a few mince pies… I’m expecting a few eye rolls at this for the sheer amount of sugar he will have consumed in doing so. I don’t care. Technically they’re not chocolate and it gets so very boring being the disciplinary cowbag of the house all the time.
  • B doesn’t have a stocking this year – I’m not entirely sure if this is a thing yet at 18 months but I endeavour to improve on this for next year.
  • Called up to book to Santa and his magical, wish-come true grotto today (I figured I still had time)… Missed that boat. Apparently everywhere is either fully booked or now closed as it was the last weekend before Christmas?! I’m wondering whether I can get a husband sized Santa outfit to somehow rectify this situation. Getting him to wear it is probably beyond even my capabilities so maybe I’ll scrap that idea too. Or learn how to photoshop B into a Grotto? Or… maybe I’ll just take him to B&Q and let him run free among the Christmas display for a bit and take a few action shots.
  • For those of you who may have seen my Facebook page, I actually sent Bodes to nursery with broccoli fritters for his party plate – there was literally NOTHING else in the house. Dire.

N.B. These were actually pretty tasty, if you want to give them a go:

One tree of broccoli – chopped and give it a couple of mins in the microwave with a dash of water to soften up.

Chuck it in a bowl with one egg, 40g plain flour, tablespoon of cream cheese, half teaspoon of baking powder, crunch of black pepper, dash of milk and a lot of grated cheese. Blitz it all up and fry off in dollops with a little olive oil on a medium heat. Turn them when bubbles appear on the surface. 

I have however, purchased a cracking Christmas jumper for the little champ which I figured claws back a few points?

So for now, I’m drinking a gin cocktail (totally legit now it’s Christmas) and planning on being a far better Christmas reveler for next year…



Weekday quickie involving a chorizo

Just a really quick recipe alert for anyone wanting to use the old slow cooker in this miserable winter weather.

Two of my favourite ingredients are chicken and chorizo… a winning combination. A bit like lobsters, I feel as though these two should mate for life. 2015-12-0721.42.53

This recipe freezes really well and you can make it the night before ready for the after work onslaught.

This will make enough for the two of us and a few portions for B. But you can always add a few more chicken pieces and chorizo if you’ve got a bigger slow cooker than me.

  • 1 onion diced
  • Splash of olive oil – don’t go too heavy as the chorizo is quite oily
  • At least 2 cloves of garlic
  • Pack of chicken thighs and legs – approx 3 thighs, 3 legs (Fillet won’t be great as it’ll dry out)
  • Half a ring of chorizo – if you’re making for more of you then whack a whole one in – this was just my attempt at being ‘frugal’ and then hiding the remainder from my husband for another dinner. Although being frugal with chorizo is a bit ridiculous in itself.
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes approx 500g
  • 500ml chicken stock – go low salt if you’re sharing with the little people
  • Generous splash of red wine
  • Good crack of black pepper
  • Sprinkle of thyme
  • Squirt of tomato puree 

Fry the onions off with the olive oil and garlic.

Throw in the chicken and chorizo (I had some bacon in the fridge which needed to be eaten so I chucked that in too) and brown it off.

Add the wine and let it reduce down a little.

Put all of the above into the slow cooker as well as the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good stir. 

Leave it to cook for a couple of hours until the chicken is tender and delicious. 

Serve it with mash, or rice depending on how much effort you want to put in and maybe some crusty bread to mop up the ‘gipper’ as our good friend Lee calls it. And then pat yourself on the back for being organised and drink some wine in the bath.

My sister is also quite the fan of this recipe, and I may have backseat cooked this with her for a date. So it’s good for dinner with friends or prospective lobsters in your life too.


The tale of the missing Matchmaker


As some of you may be aware, I’ve got a slight problem with mint chocolate… mostly in the form of Mint Matchmakers. When I say slight, it’s pretty major actually. I can devour a box in approximately 30 minutes flat, and that is with me exercising a certain degree of restraint. After Eights – 70 minutes, followed by a very brief period of shame at the fact that I’ve consumed an average of 1300 calories. By myself. Mint Aero Bubbles, well Kobe barely gets one bubble before they’re inhaled. Pretty much anything in minted chocolate form is a goer for me…

I was in Sainsburys the other day, and despite putting myself on a mint chocolate ban until the week before Christmas I buckled at the mere sniff of the Matchmakers down the Christmas aisle and I took it as a sign that the notion of putting myself on a ban was absolute stupidity and bought 3 boxes. They were only £1, it would have been criminal not to.

Driving home I realised this was a touch indulgent and if left to my own devices it was quite likely Kobe would come home to find me in a mint chocolate stupor.

Taking my receipt and returning the chocolate wasn’t an option – I’m unsure this would even be accepted, even if they were still in there wrappers. So it got me thinking about how I could manage this predicament.

There’s a game that I like to play which makes food shopping slightly more tolerable. In that, I buy things I know Kobe will like to eat – wine, chocolate, bourbon biscuits – and then when I get home I hide them. The bread bin, behind the bananas, the cleaning cupboard, the washing machine – you know, places he frequent’s often. Then when he returns home, he usually notices I’ve been shopping and I inform him that there are goodies in the house… which he can have if he finds them. Tedious and slightly childish but it can brighten up a dull day when faced with a child that deems a nap to be a complete waste of time.

I therefore thought in order for me to avoid demolishing all 3 boxes of matchmakers in one go, that I would assign Kobe the task of hiding said chocolate and that I was only allowed to have them when it seemed like I really NEEDED them… It genuinely seemed like a good idea at the time.

Now I take pride in my memory, I tend to remember very minor details… such as the time I picked a bit of wax out my ear when I was 8 and horrified myself at the thought that I’d just plucked out my own ear drum and feared that I would be deaf forever more – clear as day. I also remember where I put all Kobe’s treats, so in the event that he really NEEDS them I can retrieve them with swift efficiency.

Apparently Kobe doesn’t share that trait of mine. Which has resulted in 2 boxes being aptly distributed and the third is MIA. He literally has no idea where he has put it, genuinely. Naturally, I have searched every crevice of the house, a bit like a sniffer dog at the airport but to no avail and I’ve come to the  dark realisation that mint chocolate is pretty much my version of crack; I literally can’t live without the stuff and fear some form of post Christmas rehab is going to be required.

Obviously I went and bought myself another bag of Matchmakers. Bar a toilet break, I pretty much nailed them in under 15 minutes.

So Kobe, if you read this… I’m on to you. This has not gone unnoticed. Sleep with one eye open, because there’s some mighty fine bananas on top of the microwave and they’ve got your name on them.





It’s all down to the timing…

A very brief note on transforming oats into something utterly delicious, completely indulgent and totally manageable for the inept bakers of the world.

I very rarely venture into the realms of flour and baking soda unless I absolutely have to, and flapjacks are my fallback when we’re out of any shop bought naughtiness.

So here’s the recipe (more of a preparation guide to be honest), I feel this is perfect for a rainy Saturday.

Also, I don’t tend to add raisins. I hate it when the ones on top burn.

Oven on at 150-170, depending on whether you have a fan or not.

Grease and line a baking tin, I use one that is 9 inches x 9 inches

175g butter

175g dark brown sugar

150-175g golden syrup (go for 150g if you’re adding a handful of chocolate chips)

350g oats

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a pan

Once that’s all melted and lovely, add the oats and give it all a good stir. Now would also be the time to add the chocolate chips, they will melt obviously. Or you could leave the mixture to cool a little before adding them.

Bake in the oven for about 35-50 mins, now this is the crucial point. You want them crispy on the edges but gooey on the inside. So keep an eye after 35 mins and whip them out when it looks set in the middle and caramalised on the edges.

Leave to cool, it’s oh so tempting to cut and eat the straight away – don’t. Hot sugar is haaaaat. They’re also easier to cut when cooled.

And then share them, or hide them and eat them all to yourself with a cup of tea when child/children are sleeping.


Lazy Ragu – for lovers of the trusty slow cooker

One of my favourite memories of my Dad is during my Uni years; I actually think it was my last year and I was in slight (major) dissertation panic and living off red bull, 3am library visits and of course, £1 vodka shots. He had the truly brilliant idea of posting me a slow cooker, filled with freshly baked banana muffins… 1 of my 5 a day as well as a vague attempt at encouraging me to vary my food group from carbs and liquid. Perfectly logical. This has to go down as one of the best parcels I have ever had delivered to my door – receiving baked goods in the post is simply genius and that little slow cooker has done me proud. Not so much while I was at Uni as you can imagine… but certainly the last couple of years and it’s nothing fancy but I absolutely love it (this has just massively shown the impact child bearing has had on me).

I think anyone with a child/children whether you are working or not will get the need for easy dinners because quite frankly it all just gets a bit much sometimes. Although I have to say that work can be a welcome break, I can live on the edge a little… drink cups of tea above 37 degrees and put them down where I want to, I don’t need to clear a 5 mile radius at a height of at least 1.5 metres to ensure safety at all times. Plus, I don’t have to share my lunch and I can eat it like a normal person… chew it, and put it down for a bit without fear of a grubby little hand reaching up and grabbing it like some sort of food ninja.

Again… I’ve digressed slightly but where I was going with that one is that this recipe is great to come home to and opening the freezer after a tough day and finding this ‘ready made’ is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I know you’ve got to do the grafting initially, but there is also a tiny bit of smugness to be had with this one when you open the freezer and shock yourself with being organised.

This is definitely one of my all time comfort foods and I love that despite it being a household staple in most families, everyone’s tastes slightly different. My Mum’s is still a great contender and if she’s offering, and it means we get to eat, chat and leave then I’m generally very happy with that arrangement.

I thought about how I could make spag bol a little more indulgent and I figured bacon and possibly sausages were the answer to this – two ingredients which simply have to be consumed on a regular basis (I know, they’re meant to be really bad for you now but everything in moderation/good quality yadayadayada). Plus, you can hide some secret veg in there and the little people of your household will never know. Hold the salt until you dish up (the alcohol will cook off) and freeze a few mini portions. This is the dogs whatsits on a drizzly winters day with garlic bread, wine and crap telly. Oh, and obviously a good amount of cheese, parmesan preferably.


So my version goes like this, it made us two batches and some portions for Bodes:

1 pack of stewing/casserole beef – approx 500g

Glug of olive oil

1 pack of bacon lardons, preferably smoked

Couple of pork sausages if you’ve got them, chopped up in rough chunks

1 onion chopped

1 carrot, diced as finely as you can manage.

Couple of handfuls of chopped mushrooms, leave these out if you’re not a fan

At least 2 cloves of garlic, depending on how much you love the stuff. Add more if you like.

500g carton of passatta

A generous glass (half bottle) of red wine

Basil (fresh if you’ve got it) or a good shaking of the dried stuff

Oregano, same as the basil.

Pepper, be generous again.

Splash of balsamic vinegar, this is like the Italian version of Worcester sauce.

Couple of tablespoons of tomato puree

Fry off the onions in the olive oil on a medium heat until they start softening, then add the garlic, beef, bacon, sausages and carrots and brown this all off. Chuck in the red wine and let it reduce down for a bit and then put it in the slow cooker with all the other ingredients and set it to a low heat and leave for at least 3 hours or until you can take out a bit of beef and it’s tender and delicious and falls apart.

Give it all a good mix to break up some of the beef and other bits and pieces and serve with fresh pasta if you’ve got it, and a really generous sprinkling of parmesan. Mmmmmm.

A bit like lasagne, this is really good left until the next day.

We love it, add your own tweaks… and let me know your thoughts.

Buon appetito!

Hangover prepping

We went out for dinner last night, with friends and there was not a feral child in sight. It was amazing.

This had been organised for some time and no word of a lie, the prospect of this evening has seen me through a few dark days recently. As most parents will tell you – mostly Mum’s actually because my husband still has an uncanny knack of turning a few quiet beers into ending up in some weird rave warehouse in Lewes – random nights out with a child are pretty much like going to soft play and all the children adhering to their allocated, age appropriate areas whilst maintaining a calm disposition – they just don’t happen.

As a treat, we got taxis last night, there and back. So novel and so deserved I feel. Which obviously meant that we needed to withdraw some cash to pay old drive. Despite having several cash points in the near vicinity of the high street, Waitrose was the chosen option, by two of the husbands I’ll add. Which meant that in order to withdraw said cash, a purchase needed to be made. Not chewing gum, or a lottery ticket say. No, no. Cans of G&T and bottles of cider. One each for the journey. I haven’t ever seen my husband skip, but I’m pretty sure there was a little hop and a shuffle out of Waitrose at the sheer excitement of this actually being a thing we were doing, a cheeky pre-dinner appetiser if you will. Now I’m not going to lie and say that I was really unhappy about this because actually, it was bloody brilliant. I felt like just for a moment, we were back being 18 and care free. Classy I know, but do it every now and then. It was great.

So anyway, dinner was amazing. The Hurstwood near Uckfield, I would really recommend it. I had serious food envy though, I actually thought fish and chips over steak would be a good idea. This was a total fail on my part, and never again shall I be so foolish. Life lesson: where there is steak, eat it.

We also pretty much managed to clear the entire area surrounding us. I think this was due to the fact that we were all so excited to be out it was pretty much like 4 year olds at a party with one of the infinite icecream machines, except we’re adults and there was a fairly infinite supply of alcohol. Had it not been for the minor detail of returning home for babysitters and said children, I’m pretty sure we would have been in TJ’s dancing like twats and getting a MacDonalds drive through on the way home, it was a very close call.

These days, a night out also requires a high degree of organisation in order to deal with the next day. Luckily though, we got off pretty lightly. In fact, we shipped B off to the in-laws and it’s pretty much felt like we’ve been on holiday minus the chaos of an airport and locating passports.

So back to the food… You know you get these end of the world people who prep for the inevitable apocalypse by drying out parsnips and stuffing them into air tight bags? Well I’m a ‘hangover prepper’. Naturally I did this on Saturday morning. This involved purchasing the obligatory eggs, bacon, sausages and English muffins – when we are totally past the point of no return we just head to my Mum and Dad for the Sunday cure. It was absolute heaven to wake up to that this morning, and knowing I could eat the whole plate to myself was even better.

I’ve also gone slightly American and embraced the need for junk food when feeling a little fragile; braised pork ribs in coke, smothered in sticky BBQ sauce. I’m a little bit excited about these. Totally unhealthy but completely needed. I’ll report back on how they turned out. I’m pretty pleased with the level of forward thinking that I’ve employed with this one.

So to close, my top tips for going out minus child in tow and surviving the inevitable hanging out of one’s backside:

  1. Ship them out, not permanently but just allow yourself to relish in a lazy morning. They don’t happen often and all parents deserve them every now and then.
  2. Food, Food & Food – you know you’re going to want delicious morsels when trying to wrangle a toddler. Give in to the shit. It’s so good every now and then.
  3. Get a cab, and go on… Grab a can for the way – it’s dark. No one can see.