Burrito brothers. And burrito parents.

We went on holidays recently. In the years before I found myself responsible for my very own small people, I used to occupy an entire suitcase myself. Well my stuff did, my clothes and loads of sandals and make up because I went to beaches and pools and historical sites and nice places in the evening time. Imagine! Anyway with the arduous task of packing for ourselves and the two small boys ahead (tiny cars going where assorted chunky bangles used to) we decided to save on washing up and general hassle and just eat out the night before we went on holidays.

Myself and Mark are big fans of the original teeny Boojum on Millennium Way in Dublin (there’s Belfast and Galway branches too).  We’d often pop in for a burrito when we’ve needed a quick bite out and about. The older child had accompanied us several times and loved getting his hands on the “crippies” – nachos. Now it’s got a big sister, a spacious branch across the river on Kevin St just by the DIT.

When we called in to the new one on a midweek evening ten days after it opened, the first thing that struck me was how visually interesting and fun the decor is. That alone was enough to buy me a few more minutes eating time while the toddler explored the colourful textures and surfaces.

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Trying it out…and settling on Daddy’s.

The choices are really varied with different wraps, two types of beans, two of rice, three salsas and all of it (bar the wraps themselves) is made fresh by Boojum. There’s combinations to suit every palate. Everything is made fresh on the premises and the fresh and flavourful ingredients set it apart from a rash of bland and stodgy burrito joints that have popped up around the city in the years since they first opened.

I chose a vegetarian burrito packed full of Mexican smokey pinto beans, with a medium salsa, and delicious guacamole. No one dare tell me that’s not a decent healthy dinner. My husband had the meatiest hottest burrito he could order and we chose soft tacos for the kids.  We were encouraged to try different fillings for the tacos. So we had some with pork and tomato salsa and some with chicken and corn salsa.  Me and Mark are already big fans, and Dominic loves ham wraps for his school lunches, so the tacos were an easy sell.  Teddy ate some of the fillings, a bunch of tortilla chips and then wanted to play hide and seek in the seating area.  This is really family friendly food – don’t let the notion that Mexican food has to be spicy cloud your judgement.  There’s not only a small beer selection, there’s also lots of interesting non-alcoholic options, stretching way outside the usual Diet Coke or 7Up options.  Mmmm, delicious ginger beer! It’s great value for a quick family meal in town, and though there’s not children’s options several of the dishes are shareable.

The seats are of the high stool variety, and during our visit they hadn’t any high chairs yet. The manager Steffi assured me that they were on the way so they’re probably in situ by now. They do have a big restroom area including baby changing so this was clearly just a new restaurant teething issue rather than an omission.

It’s great that more restaurants are catering to parents with kids with tastes beyond chicken nuggets and chips or pizza. Boojum has firmly joined it’s Camden St noodle house neighbour Neon on my list of Dublin’s great family spots.

I was invited to visit Boojum for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.

Thoughts on free range; a visit to Sweden.

We live in a city. A city with traffic, unknown dangers; of the real kind and the scaremongering kind. We ferry our kids about in cars and on the back of bikes but we don’t leave them off on their own without several phone calls to parents and prearranged pick up and drop off times. Things are different all over the country of course, I know lots of kids rural or otherwise have more freedom.

This year, we’ve taken our holidays in Sweden staying with friends. Sweden: land of long maternity and paternity leave, massively subsidised childcare, an outdoors lifestyle and lots of freedom for kids. Schooling starts comparatively late (aged seven) and is holistic in nature. Discipline isn’t an oft heard word.

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All Of The Fishes

Our two are younger than our friends’ children but they’ve been learning fast – they’re spending a lot of time naked. There’s a lake near by; we’ve all been swimming in it and our drinking water (unflouridated) comes from there too. The eight year old and his friend cycled down to the swimming area themselves, with tractors and Volvo estates passing them by carefully. The kids wear bike helmets, their natural freedom is complemented by a respect for the realistic dangers. (In their parents cars they sit rear facing until age four or five). We’ve seen six year olds don their life jackets and go to fish off the pier in a different part of the same lake. The eight year old caught a pike the day before we arrived, he’s told me in excellent enthusiastic childish English at least ten times how he saw the pike and BASHED its head with the handle of his fishing rod. He also showed me photos of the fish him and his father have caught and named them all in Swedish and English.

The Next Door Forest

The Next Door Forest

On Sundays a refurbished steam boat takes people for pleasure cruises around the lakes. In the winter the lake freezes up to two metres thick and people light campfires right out on the ice. They skate on it, they drill holes and fish on it, they live with and on and in and around this lake.

The local community have an informal rota of keeping the common areas mown and tidy. It makes it a pleasant place to be and keeping the long grass down lessens the chance of being bitten by an adder. For even though the land is verdant green it’s not like Ireland – there’s huge insects, snakes, moose and wolves and wild boar in the surrounding forest. They don’t litter, they take care of their amenities, nature-given or man-made.

Kids are taught to embrace the freedom of summer in the same way grown ups do because it’s not all idyllic weather-wise; in contrast to the 6-8 weeks of proper summer weather where the sky barely darkens you’ll find yourself penned in by snow and ice and darkness from December to April.

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Huge insect buzzing round me in the garden

Where we’re at. Superfoods and Bambi.

Did you think I’d forgotten about you?  I hadn’t at all, but it’s fierce hard mammying two young fellas, working full time outside the home and writing for deadly new Irish parenting website parent.ie (See my cute tree over there on the left)  I’m very proud of it, and my association with it, but with all that going on I’ve been neglecting my own little space over here.

My boys are flying. Doing too well almost, if we stay in the house for the day the endless requests for snacks just grinds me down.  These snacks can be bananas and mandarins now, it’s not necessarily rubbish though “noooo, something from the red box” is the most common refrain. Obviously this old biscuit tin is where   I kept my biccies and chocolate undisturbed by small sticky hands til they wised up to me.  For years I got away with having the balance of power food wise in the house.  Now the eldest is very forthright about what he does and doesn’t want, and true to the nature of second siblings, his younger brother is showing single mindedness in every regard at a younger age.  We have a rule with the elder, you can’t say you don’t like it if you don’t try it, inspired by these crazy Yo Gabba Gabba guys (it’s on Netflix, Season 1 Ep 1 – Eat!)

And though I don’t always get my way, we’ve hit a happy medium.  Tonight we were having some ‘smashed’ roast potatoes (broken slightly with a potato masher half way through cooking), roast veggies and then some quorn fillets (fillets of what! The name weirds me out a bit, but if I’m going to eat fake meat I can deal with it I guess).

I stuffed the ‘fillets’ in the manner you would with a chicken breast, so you can do the same with that if you like.

Supercharged cream cheese & pesto stuffed quorn fillets with panko breadcrumb coating

panko-quorn-collage

4 quorn fillets

2 tablespoons fresh pesto

2  tablespoons cream cheese

1 tablespoon flaxseed.  

Mix these 3 up in a bowl.  I used Linwoods Milled Flaxseed Almonds Brazil Nuts Walnuts & Co-Enzyme Q10.  That’s quite a mouthful eh?  I love the crunch of the nuts through the flaxseed. 

Defrost your quorn fillets either in the fridge overnight, or with a little water in a bowl in the microwave for a few minutes – low wattage, 5 minutes.

Cut the fillets in half and spoon the filling in, close the fillet again.

For the coating:

50g of panko breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon flaxseed

Mix these 2 together.  I get the panko breadcrumbs in Tesco, €1 for 150g.

 Brush the stuffed fillets with olive oil, and coat in the crumb mixture.

Bake at 200c for 25 minutes.

Now, here’s the rub.  I had a willing audience for these in the form of the 22 month old and 4 year old.  But dear reader, my veggie ways hold no sway with my husband when he decides he is going all roar, caveman and eating meat. He decided nothing would do him but to cook bloody venison steak on the griddle pan.  Both little beggars pushed their plates towards his and pleaded in their unique ways for a share.  They ate their flax-laced veggie dish, and they ate some medium venison steak.  “Eat Bambi” I hissed resentfully at the toddler, “go on”.  And he did, and then he pushed his plate to me and said “more!”, indicating seconds were required of the first course.  Truly a mix of both their parents, and happy healthy eaters to boot.  I know I can’t complain.

Best Laid Plans – Growing It Myself

here’s hoping

I’m quite excited.  In January the storms came, the wind huffed and puffed and blew our fences down.  State of our garden!  Weirdly the neighbours have a fence backing right on to ours (still upright), and in-between there’s the original low metal fences that ran between the houses.The man of the house dismantled all the wonky panels and left all the parts, nails and all piled up just outside the back door.  The weather has started to improve and I’m dying to let the kids run free out there but it’s a health hazard right now.

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Jumping the kale bandwagon: healthy fried rice with kale & spring onions

Just call me Gwyneth, the high priestess of worthy eating herself.  I bought 2 bags of kale last week, for the first time in my life.  I went to trusty twitter to find out what to do with them, forgetting to mention I don’t have a juicing contraption so green smoothies and juices are pretty much out.  I learned that it can take the place of spinach in most things, so that set me on the right path.   But also, kale crisps.  Crisps is an overstatement, but I ate a 250g bag of kale in 2 days that way.

Then I go to write up this post only to find that this very weeks Irish Times magazine has a write up on the Superfood Du Jour.  The health benefits are outlined as below, pretty impressive I reckon you’ll agree:

A single cup of chopped kale is estimated to contain 134 per cent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C – and 206 per cent of the recommended intake of vitamin A. That’s not quite as impressive as the 684 per cent of vitamin K. So kale delivers vitamins A, C and K, copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorous and lots of alpha-linoleic acid, which is good for the brain. The same cup of kale contains just 33 calories. 

I couldn’t just buy kale for snacking, and there was no selling them as ‘crissups’ to a 4 year old boy so I found this lovely Gwyneth Paltrow recipe on the Red website – Healthy Fried Rice with Kale & Spring Onions

So the original article declares that the Paltrow-Martin children call this green rice, which I think is stating the obvious on their behalf, and they couldn’t really claim any copyright to what is just in essence a statement of fact rather than some sort of creative naming on their part.  In fact I’d say give my 1 year old another couple of months and he’ll come up with that one himself.

Image:  Ellen Silverman/Red Online

Image: Ellen Silverman/Red Online

Scoffing at celebrity children (or rather the media portrayal of) aside, this really is delicious.  It packs a punch as a light meal in itself, but I served with with some quorn pieces baked in pesto and creme fraiche. To be honest I was afraid the rice would be entirely rejected.  It was eyed with suspicion by Dominic who doesn’t like you to tell him he’s having something he knows and likes (rice) and then fill it full of something else (kale). But he ate it happily enough after a fashion.  Teddy attacked it with gusto, and was the recipient of the leftovers for lunch the next day too.

I would say that kale is a little faffy to prepare.  So if you can at all trim the leaf from the stem during nap time/before work/while kids are at school/the night before.  You do not want to be doing it with a small child screaming for their grub.  After you’ve worked through a bag with a  kitchen scissors (way easier than a knife), then it just works like spinach but takes a little longer.

If you’re worried about offering your children something you don’t think they’ll eat, here’s how I approach it.

  • You’re not allowed say you don’t like something if you haven’t tried it.
  • There isn’t alternatives offered.  I may, in this instance, give the tricky customer a serving that has a bit more plain rice, and a bit less kale, to entice them in.  Or in an easier scenario than this, keep the new ingredient a bit separate so it can be just sampled then eaten around.
  • Nobody has to clear their plates.  If you say you’re full or done, then I believe you if you’ve eaten any reasonable amount.  I cannot be doing with a half hour of cajoling.
  • Re: the above, I am a reasonable adult and realise that even if there’s food left on your plate and you say you’re full there’s always room for ‘something nice’.  That’s how I operate, so I get that you do too.

Of course this has worked on the elder child for the most part, but come back to me in a couple of years to check the toddler isn’t living on just orange food.

Meanwhile, kale FTW!

- Jill

In which a cake nearly breaks my heart but turns out well in the end.

how this…

The elder child went and turned 4. Despite my protests that I’m only about 20 I appear to have 2 cats and 2 sons and am Quite Grown Up really. So it was about time we bit the bullet and hosted a party for him and his buddies from Montessori. For birthdays so far we’ve stuck with family affairs except for his 3rd where I was so busy feeding a small baby I was never going to entertain anyone at home. The young lad had a little party in playschool surrounded by friends and everyone was happy. Honestly I think parties could be banned til age 5 at least and kids wouldn’t really notice.

…became this.  This is Bucky.
(image courtesy of disney.wikia.com)

The other small boy is a different affair because he has a July birthday so we got to go to the park for his 1st birthday and invite absolutely everyone we wanted with kids to come along because we didn’t have to squish them in our tiny house or clean up afterwards.

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Glut of eggs. Gleggs. Egglut.

Back on form

Back on form

How did I end up with 14 eggs 2 days ago?  By doing the most unplanned and frequent supermarket pop-ins you can imagine over Christmas, that’s how.  Dominic was at the point of eating 1 egg, scrambled in the microwave each day for lunch.  No toast, no bagel, no cheese, just an egg.  All the better for leaving space to spend the rest of the day begging for a go of his selection box or a half a candy cane.

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Starting the year the sugar filled way

I’m destined to always start the New Year on the wrong foot.   Nearly 4 years ago Bump wasn’t playing ball, and didn’t appear til January 8th, so we are bound to a life of always needing copious amounts of cake when all around are dieting.

Picking fancy cake for a growing boy

picking a fancy cake for a growing boy

Plans are afoot.  Books are being flicked through.  The boy is having his first ever not-just-cousins (much as we love cousins!) party and some of his little mates from Montessori are coming.   He is involved in the choosing of friends and of cakes.  He has sophisticated tastes and landed upon a Strawberry & Marscapone number from the Like Mam Used to Bake cookbook.  I’ve decided that I want to enjoy that one in a languid fashion and not with 10 grabby little hands nearby.  So I’ve settled on a pirate ship cake, inspired by Bumbles of Rice and I’ve ordered some Jake & the Neverland Pirates partyware.  (Cunning plan to reuse some of it for someone else’s 2nd birthday…)
Besides that there’ll have to be something not too bad for them – I’m thinking popcorn, fruit salad and cheese straws. Kids are mad for breadsticks so these cheesey ones won’t go astray. I also have a bean dip recipe that if ignored by children should keep me and husband’s energy levels up.

Then of course, there’s his actual birthday which is midweek and cannot go unmarked in ‘school’.  His teachers are wise to my baking, and will be expecting something to appear I’m sure. I’m going with tried and tested Rice Krispie Marsbies which appeared in tray bake form last year as his actual cake.

I’ve made the list, and have disgusted myself by the requirement for a kilo of butter for all these endeavours. Healthy eating starts the day after the party!

The reason I tell you this is for a twofold motivational reason:  If I tell the internet I’m doing something, then I’d better follow through.  So here you have it: I’m recreating Bucky in chocolate cake, and if I eat a mountain of baked goods I’ll be fine because I’ve also signed up to do a half marathon in a couple of months.

Wish me luck & check in again to see the results!

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It’s a most wonderful time of the year…

…when your kids eat up pink fillet of beef on Christmas Eve-Eve and you don’t know whether to cheer or shed a tear.

The veggies were ignored save for a potato gratin. Can an almost 18 month old get gout?

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For balance, Teddy also seemed very enamoured by the chestnut-nut roast I was having yesterday. (Made by my mother in law, and made so well that I never even attempt to make one myself because hers is so damn good)