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.
I was musing to myself earlier, as some spinach flew past my ear, I should really share the good *and* the bad more often. Oh you hear all about my wonderful childrens eating habits, eschewing primary coloured yogurt pots for the natural stuff and chomping down on chickpeas instead of chicken nuggets. Just there on tuesday they both ate fajitas – salsa, guacamole – the whole shebang, Dominic’s all nicely wrapped, as in the above picture, Theo’s in its constituent parts. Tonight, my spinach pasties rebranded as ‘green parcels’, did not go well. Despite spanakopita usually going down a treat.
The meal plan said Thursday: Puff Pastry Surprise. This was a weak attempt at meal planning in fairness, I chalked it up there knowing full well that meant frozen pastry taken out this morning with whatever veg were still standing (but not walking on their own yet) that evening. First mistake – we didn’t actually have puff pastry, only shortcrust. That’ll do. So I grated courgette, defrosted and patted dry some spinach and sauteed the two with some garlic. I grated a good hunk of cheddar in, mixed the whole lot with an egg, grated nutmeg, and a bunch of herbs. Then I divided it into Daddy Bear, Mummy Bear & Baby Bear style portions on the pastry sheet. I folded each piece over, glazed with egg & stuck them in the oven. Job done.
“Mammy what’s for dinner?”
“Er…Green Parcels!” I exclaim.
“I don’t li…” (thinks, what is she talking about?) “…ke them things I want eggy”
“Oh love there’s eggy in Green Parcels” (If I keep capitalising it, it’ll become a real thing.)
(Considerably calmer) “I just want the eggy then okaaayy?”
I pause 2 seconds, which these days elicits a swift “Yes or No? Mammy! Yes or No?” before I have time to think or rationalise or say maybe and I say “Yes”.
Now, you try extracting molecules of egg from between the strands of grated courgette and mushed spinach encased in pastry. Oh yeah, and he didn’t want the ‘parcel’ opened for me to do this. I haven’t been a mother long enough to learn how to perform keyhole surgery on pies. So I didn’t. And he ate a good bit of pastry and some green went in too. Some tears occurred at the injustice and yes, the spinach got on the window.
So I sit down to write this and discover through my fab Irish Parenting Bloggers group that Kate‘s kids ate squid for lunch today. In school. Okay maybe they did mistake it for pasta and weren’t super pleased. But what I will say is that they only recently moved to Spain, where this and chickpea stew, and pork chops are on their school menu in the upcoming weeks. The message I take from my and from her experience, is: Y’know what? Sometimes our kids will refuse stuff, and former favourites will be thrown back at you. But keep offering, because though my bigger boy loves ham way too much he also knows his way around a lentil. Don’t let your kid dictate your family meals, there’s no way they’ll starve. Variety is the spice of life. Don’t sweat the small stuff. All those things.
This weekend we all stayed in a castle (or at least a tower and farmhouse), where we got to be princesses and knights and cook on a range and bathe in a roll top bath. We were part of a group of 8 adults, 3 toddler/preschoolers, 3 under 1 – all celebrating one of the grown ups significant birthdays.
We got home today with no inclination to go to the supermarket at all. So dinner, I felt, was an inspired healthy meal cobbled together from the meagre contents of our kitchen. And, it was themed: Eggy Crowns for my little princes.
Mama thought I didn’t really want much food and then she looked at her notebook and saw that I’m having about the same as my big brudder when he was a little baby. I like green food, and white food and orange food. I don’t know if it’s fun though, it’s kinda hard work sometimes I want to bounce in my jumperoo or practise my sitting up when we’re at dinnertime. If I could practise my sitting up at dinnertime then nobody could sit on me or fall me over or take my toy because nobody would be eating his dinner then.
The green food is spinach. We had 2 things that was spinach that mama likes to make. One was popeye pasta. I tried to pop my eye out with a spoon I think that’s why it’s called that. Dominic ate lots and lots but I just sucked my pasta and had some green.
Then mama made the green pie that she made before, except she made ones for Dada Bear, Mama Bear and Doma Bear not just one big one. Teddy Bear (that’s me!) just needed the inside bit on a spoon not all wrapped up like everybody else’s.
The white food is good it’s called nachurl yogurt. Everyone else eats colouredy yogurt, I eat mine from a big big tub all on it’s own or with some squished up apple mama cooked. I like that best on a spoon.
Orange food is my favourite and it is the same as my plate. Mama said she will give me lots of it again. I had sweet potato wedges to squish up in my hand and my mouth.
Mama had to take some of the outside bit from the wedgey out of my cheek cos it wouldn’t come out and it wouldn’t go in to my tummy properly either. Then I had the same flavour all smushed onto a rice cake at lunchtime.
There was carrotty bloop but I wouldn’t eat it. That’s because my big brudder wouldn’t eat it and sometimes I watch what he does and do it too. Mama was a bit sad because she said it was delishus and Dada slurped it up too and sometimes Dada doesn’t like Mama’s dinner . I did eat some squashy chickpees though. Yum.
– Lil’ T.
Poor lil’ D had a wee bug this weekend. He was sick friday & saturday, and luckily a good bit improved by sunday. I’ve gotten quite good at dealing with weekends of nothingness now. Before every bit of me would pine to be out and about, and that is still preferred, especially with 3 hours to bedtime when Dom is feeling well enough to be playing and get cranky and housebound but not well enough to eat or go anywhere. Still, I battened down the hatches after a trip to Lidl & did a baking & cooking frenzy. I was never a girl guide, but they must have some sort of ‘Irish Mammy’ badge and they’ll be round with it this week I’m sure. Because I made my First Ever Apple Tart and it was delicious. Actually I might not get that badge, because I made it in a tin and not on a plate. Then yesterday I made a veggie lasangne, or just “‘sagna” as Dom called it. Or, “no ‘sagna” if I’m really truthful.
Recently I discovered a new to me blog, LittleGrazers.com and I’m really looking forward to working through lots of the recipes over there. What had caught my eye were the Mini Spinach & Feta muffins as I’m always looking for good snack ideas & we’re clearly going through a spinachy phase.
I think mini muffins are very small – like, bite sized, so I doubled the recipe and made 18 large bun sized ones. They required about 5 more minutes in the oven for this. I also used 1 cup of plain & 1 cup of wholemeal flour (remember I doubled everything) just to healthy them up a bit more. Frozen spinach did the job here, I thawed it in advance then sautéed it slightly in butter & garlic as per the recipe. And, having taken a commenters on the original recipes views on board, I added about half a teaspoon of nutmeg in too. Sure it was still sitting out from the sauce for last nights lasagne, why not?
So far I only have the true opinions of 4 thirtysomethings (including me) who seemed to like them (well I definitely did!). The 2 year old excitedly asked for a cake and was a bit confused/disappointed with it not being an actual cake. Well there’s one going in for his creche snack tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes! I’m going to freeze a few of these in the hope that they’re his new favourite thing, if not, I’m happy to eat them too.
I think these would be really good for starting out baby led weaning – a great little out & about lunch especially. Probably best to get in there before they have cake-shaped expectations!
Next up and currently cooling are lemon butterfly buns, but they’re adults only…
Although my tastebuds recognise it’s Greek provenance, to my heart & mind it’s Catalan cuisine. Specifically post-cava and cocktails street food in late night Barcelona about 10 years ago. You see I had friends that lived there after we graduated, and deep in the heart of tapas land, my vegetarian friend Fiona introduced me to the wonder of spanokopita, or spinach pie to give it its’ more pedestrian name. It was purchased from a tiny shop in a dingy square* and the flaky pastry parcel combined with the tangy feta was perfect post pub grub. The lashings of spinach were just a positive by product, and set it apart from a greasy kebab.
Fiona herself has made spanakopita (not for me mind, hmph!) but I’d never had it outside of holiday scenarios. I don’t cook with pastry a lot, or ever really, but when the ever reliable Domini Kemp featured it in the Irish Times last saturday, I had to give it a go. It really is pretty close to store cupboard stuff. Only, with our small freezer I wouldn’t generally have a kilo of frozen spinach lying around, it would take away space from the Ben & Jerrys. Still, Popeye type quanties of spinach though it seems, it was actually less than 1.5 bags from Dunnes. This is definitely a frozen spinach recipe, you would need a ridiculous amount of the fresh stuff to the same yield. Feta & puff pastry are everywhere, though I got mine in Aldi, and the rest I had. I believe filo pastry is more authentic but whats a million layers of flaky pastry between (hungry) friends?
1kg bag frozen spinach, ideally defrosted
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 large onion, finely sliced
Few pinches dried oregano or mint, or any herb
Squeeze of lemon juice
100ml crème fraiche
35g pine nuts
300g puff pastry
Salt and pepper
Heat an oven to 200 degrees/gas six. If the spinach hasn’t defrosted, you can heat it up in saucepan with some water and a good knob of butter, then drain and squeeze it dry in a tea towel. Sauté the fennel seeds in a frying pan until you can get a good whiff from them and then add the oil and onions and sweat it slowly. Add the herbs and when the onions have softened up a bit, add the lemon juice. Roughly chop the spinach and then add it also. Mix well and season lightly, then take it off the heat and let it cool down.
Beat the eggs and pour a small amount into a cup, which you can use for glazing the puff pastry later. Chop the feta into cubes and add it and the rest of the beaten eggs to the spinach mix, along with the crème fraiche and pine nuts. Mix well and adjust the seasoning.
Pour the filling into a buttered gratin dish. Roll out the puff pastry big enough to cover the spinach. Press the pastry into the edges of the dish, trim off the excess, and glaze with the beaten egg. Make a few slits in the pastry. Bake for about 30 minutes until it has puffed up and is golden brown. Allow it to settle for a few minutes and then serve.
This was absolutely beautiful, and I can see me coming back to it again and again. I didn’t change one single thing about the recipe either. A complete miracle! We had an impromptu grateful dinner guest, Dom ate loads (he was particularly enamoured by the pine nuts) I ate seconds, and husband bagged the last slice for his lunch today. You could feed 4 hungry or 6 polite adults I reckon. I would like to try it as picnic lunch type pastry parcels though, so I might have to experiment. Mark’s making mac n cheese for tonights dinner as I type, but I really wish I had more leftovers for of this for me now!
*update, Fiona has a remarkable memory and tells me that it was Dionisos, The Quick Greek, in Placa De George Orwell