Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quelle dinde! (What a turkey!)

Let's play a game of word association. If I say turkey, what do you think off? You're probably thinking of 3 things right now. The country, Christmas dinner with the big huge bird that takes hours to cook and needs a not of basting, or, if you live in Ireland, you might also think of the famous puppet /TV presenter / 2008 Eurovision entry / presidential candidate / 'Go on ya good thing' Dustin the Turkey. If you're me, you probably also think of your Mother in Law, who is delighted when Turkey and Ham starts appearing on the menus at the beginning of December and will eat it at least 3 times a week throughout said month of December.

I have noticed a funny thing though. Say it to me in French ('dinde') and, instead of thinking exclusively of Christmas dinner (or my Mother in Law for that matter), I think of the deliciously tasty turkey dishes my mum cooks. You see, in France, turkey is not confined to Christmas time. It is an everyday type of meat in its own right. You can't beat a 'rôti de dinde' (roast breast of turkey rolled upon itself) on a Sunday or some 'escalopes de dinde à la crème' (turkey breast with a cream sauce), a typical french bistro dish.

So, I was delighted to hear that Bernard Matthews Farms & Marco Pierre White (the world renowned chef who sometimes appears on tv with a big, extremely sharp looking and rather menacing knife) had decided to unite forces in order to promote turkey as a healthy, cheap, everyday alternative to beef or chicken. Turkey breast meat is low in saturated fat, high in protein and a great source of essential vitamins and minerals. As part of their 'Change your meat not your menu' campaign, they highlighted the fact that, in 8 out of the 10 top dishes mums cook, it is possible (and tasty, not to mention healthier) to swap the meat for turkey. I am sure you have all seen the ad with Martin Kemp and Marco Pierre on TV. The interesting thing about this ad is that it was totally unscripted and really reflects Marco Pierre's passion for this too often overlooked meat.)


 So here is one of my favourite recipes using turkey: 'Escalopes de dinde à la crème'. I am pretty sure that Marco Pierre would do a much better job at it than I do, but hey, I am not a professional chef, just a mum:

Ingredients (serves 4):

- 1 turkey breast per person (you can use diced turkey breast if you wish, or strips of turkey)

- 1 pot of creme fraiche (liquid or not, full fat, 0% fat, whatever you want to use)

- 1 teaspoon of mustard (preferably Dijon mustard)

- 1 can of sliced mushrooms

- Salt & pepper.

How to: 

- In a pan, gently fry the turkey in a little oil.

- Once cooked (slightly golden on the outside), add the fresh cream and the mustard.

- Drain the mushrooms and add them to the pan.

- Season to taste.

- Cook until the cream has thickened a bit and you're ready to serve with some fragrant basmati rice or some fresh pasta and green beans. Delicious!


It makes me hungry just to look at it! So, next time you plan your meals, see if you can use turkey instead!

Bon appétit!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Raid your fridge for your beauty regime.

I love looking after my skin. I have been plagued with very dry skin from a young age and have always had to have quite a strict beauty regime. Even as a school girl, I had to use cleanser, toner and moisturiser, sometimes even prescribed by a dermatologist. My skin hates soap. I makes me feel like I have had a face lift gone wrong. My lips are constantly chapped and my house is dotted with lip balms. I have lip balm in every jacket I wear, every bag I use and in every room.

As a result I have always been interested in skincare products. I have spent hours browsing aisles and hundreds of euros on buying products. Some have worked, some haven't, some my skin could take, others make me break out in rashes and blotches. My skin is so unpredictable that even some pharmacy bought, hypoallergenic, gentle as water products are not compatible with me.

I have also always believed that you don't have to spend thousands on your beauty regime and,to this day, I hate spending too much on it. I had 2 facials in a beauty salon in my lifetime and as much as I found them great and relaxing and enjoyed being pampered, they were a gift and I wouldn't pay for them myself. Same goes for waxing etc. However, society dictates that we should all have nice, spot free, hair free, clear, radiant and plump skin. So, how can I achieve that without spending an insane amount of money.

Easy! I turn to the tried and tested methods of the ancients. Now, before you take me for some kind of lunatic who bathes in donkey's milk like Cleopatra or uses camel urine to make my hair shine, please be assured I am not (where the hell would I find a camel in Ireland anyway? It was proven on the Apprentice last year, you simply can't find one). But there are ingredients that we can all use (unless you're already allergic to them of course!).

Since I have become pregnant, my skin has been playing up big time. I have broken out in spots and rashes, it has been drier than usual and I have been far from glowing for the past couple of weeks. So I decided to take advantage of a few Noelie free days (yippie! although I did miss her) to put a stop to it. So on went the homemade face masks.

One of my favourites is the egg white face mask. All you need to do is mix one egg white and a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt (or fresh cream) and apply to your (clean) face. Leave for about 15 minutes and then rinse off. I know it doesn't sound as glamorous as getting a facial in a salon, but seriously, it works. My skin was much brighter, felt much more comfortable and looked tighter and younger. You can also add a few drops of essential oils if you know your way around them, but this time around, I chose not too as some of them are not recommended when you are pregnant.

Another one of the homemade face masks I love is a yoghurt (or fresh cream) and honey one. A similar recipe to the one above, just mix a couple of spoonfuls of honey with a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt and apply to your (clean) face and leave on for about 15 minutes. Wash off with lukewarm water. Once again, it made my skin look a lot brighter, smooth and glowing. (or you can also try half a banana or half an avocado & a few spoonfuls of  yoghurt). And while you relax with your face mask on, you can even eat the other half!

To get rid of those old skin cells, I use either sugar or salt mixed with olive oil and create my own body scrub (you can even add essential oils, a drop of food colouring, put it in a lovely glass jar, add a pretty ribbon and homemade label and, hey, presto, you have a lovely homemade Mother's day present!). The skin on my face doesn't like being scrubbed with this though as it is a bit harsh. However, it does love porridge oats mixed with a bit of yoghurt for a lovely gentle face scrub.

And when I feel ready for a bit of decadence in the bath, I put some porridge oats and couple of spoons of dried milk and some dried lavender flowers in a muslin cloth. Close tightly and drop it in next time you run a bath. You can use the muslin to scrub off those dead skin cells. The milk will also make your skin all smooth.

Who said you have to pay over the odds for your beauty regime! All you need to do is raid your fridge, spend a couple of minutes mixing and off you go to relax. Have you ever tried any 'natural' beauty treatments?

Children of the revolution.

Soaring unemployment, businesses, big and small, struggling to stay open, people struggling to afford things, poverty creeping up. Does that sound familiar? I'm sure it does. History has a funny way of repeating itself. In 1844, the Industrial Revolution had such effects on the economy. In Rochdale, England, a group of 28 local small business owners came up with an innovative idea: pool resources and set up their own shop, in an effort to sell items they would not otherwise be able to afford. These people founded the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, the first co-operative to pay dividends to their members. Their co-operation centred around a set of basic principles: voluntary and open membership, democratic control, member's economic participation, autonomy and independence, education and training, co-operation between co-operatives and concern for their communities. These are now known as the 'Rochdale Principles' and, to this day, still form the ethical basis of co-operatives around the world. A revolutionary idea at the time, but one that withstood the test of time and is still going strong, both at home and abroad. Today, The Co-operative Group has more than 6 million members (to put things in perspective, this is more than the current population of the Republic of Ireland) and 5000 outlets in the UK alone, doing business in areas spanning from food (of course) to funeral services! If you live in the UK, you probably have seen the new media campaign remembering the 'Rochdale Pioneers' and their beautiful ethical credentials.
We are reminded daily of the effects of the recession we are going through, and how difficult it is now for businesses, especially small ones. We are encouraged to support our local businesses by buying local produce from local producers as much as we can. When it comes to produce that cannot be sourced locally, such as tea and coffee, we are encouraged to buy ethically sourced produce, generally stamped as fair trade. Your local Co-Operative does not only support local businesses but also strives to provide ethically sourced produce and extends its reach for beyond your local area. The following is one of those Modern Co-Operative success stories.
Through its Enterprise Hub, The Co-operative promotes the principle of co-operation between co-operatives as well as their principle of development, training and education. They invest £7 millions a year in some of the world's poorest countries to support initiatives that benefit local co-operatives, their members, their families and their communities. The Co-operative College and The Co-operative Food have worked helping more than 10,000 small Kenyan tea farmers organise into co-operatives. This has increased their negotiating power and provided access to markets previously closed to them. It has also helped them to achieve Fairtrade certification, so they can supply tea for The Co-operative 's '‘99’ Fairtrade tea blend. All of which means they will now get a fair return for their crop, giving them the opportunity to improve their families lives and their community.
Although I am sure that there are such ventures here in Ireland, they are not as widely publicised and talked about, as The Co-operative, which really is a shame as people are willing to support local businesses, and buy local produce but unfortunately, some of them (like me) do not necessarily know where to go to do so. So, go on, Join the revolution! Support your local Co-Operative, their ethics and your local businesses, like their Facebook page. In other words, Get involved!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

If only I had a Filofax!

As most of you now know, I am pregnant. Somewhere between 19 and 21 weeks. I feel a bit silly not having a proper due date. Actually, I feel very, very silly. It makes me sound quite irresponsible really. So let me explain to you how I got there (well, not how I got pregnant, I think we all know how that works!) and the lessons I have learned from it.

You see, being the great technology whizz that I am, I thought it a great idea to keep my dates on my phone. I mean what better way to do it. If you're anything like me, you always have your phone at hand (unless, of course, it's buried under the pile of dirty tissues, nappies, wipes, empty raisin packets and other items we all carry in our handbags, or inadvertently been thrown under any random piece of furniture by a very active toddler while on silent). Way back when I was working, I used to have a lovely Filofax type agenda and would keep a record there. But since I became a Stay at Home mum, I resorted to keeping those important dates on my phone. It is after all way lighter than a big agenda diary thing (and there was not enough room in my bag for a phone and a Filofax). And of course, the stupid thing crashed and any data on it became irretrievable. In itself, not really a big problem (although annoying as hell) until your little friends come around again next month and you can start keeping record again (although by then, you have learned a lesson and keep record somewhere else too, like your laptop or something).

Lesson 1: Don't rely on technology.
Lesson 2: I need a Filofax (any lovely Filofax people feel like making a pregnant lady happy?)

So here I am, patiently waiting for my friends to come around and play. But then, it starts snowing. A lot. And a day feels like a week, a week feels like a month and the whole month the snow was around made me completely lose track of time. You see had it not been snowing, I would have been doing normal things like shopping etc and I would have remembered things, my weeks would have had some kind of structure. But instead I was stuck indoors, school was closed and who can remember what day that upteenth rerun of 'Come dine with me' was on? Or what day we watched that very interesting episode of 'Waybuloo'? (Wait, aren't all episodes of Waybuloo the same?) Well, not me. At the beginning of December, I did ask Mr Foodie when was the last time my friends had been around. You'd think a man would remember that, you know with being deprived of you know what for about a week. Not Mr Foodie, who assured me that it wasn't that long ago (emm, taking advantage of the situation, maybe?). I wasn't feeling any different. I have never suffered from morning sickness with either of the girls, and in typical fashion, didn't have any this time either (don't all hate me, please). The only thing was a very uncomfortable day with terrible stomach cramps that saw me stay in bed all day in the middle of December. Oh and sciatica, worse than I ever had before. I just thought it was to do with the sofa being so uncomfortable, so we went off to Ikea to buy me a lovely new chair to sit on and the problem seemed to decrease. So December came and went, we went off to celebrate Christmas in France (just about, because, you know, of all the snow).

Lesson 3: Don't rely on men to remember the date of your last period.

By the time we came back, we were almost sure that yes, you know, there was a little peanut in my belly. But then, the heating wasn't working and the snow had melted so life took over. Eventually, we bought a couple of pregnancy tests. Being as late as it was (and how fancy we are), we went for the super mega 'tells you how long you're gone' digital one, a double pack, just to be sure. So off I went to pee on the wonderfully magical wand that was going to tell me how pregnant I was. After I managed to sit on the toilet (don't laugh, it's not easy with sciatica!) and pee on the bloody thing, the result came back: 'Faulty'. Great! Apparently I either peed on the thing too much or I didn't put it down properly afterwards. A few glasses of water later, I repeated the operation (which included more cringeing from the pain of sitting down) and, result, it worked! It told me I was 3 weeks + pregnant. Emm, great but I knew that already!

Lesson 4: refer to lesson 1.

So, off we went to the doctor's. Of course, she asked me when my last period was. Cue, embarassed laugh. I don't know. So we settled for November 8th (yeah, I know quite far, isn't it?). We listened to the heartbeat and all. Everything went well. She told me to book my first hospital apointment in the next couple of weeks. Which we did, of course. I am technologically challenged, but not completely irresponsible. The nice lady who booked me in nearly choked on her coffee (or lunch) at the other end of the phone when I told her I wanted to book my first appointment at 16 weeks. The problem was that they were booked out until the end of April but she found me a cancellation that very same week.

Going into the hospital felt strange, like it wasn't that long ago that I was in there (wait, it wasn't really that long ago!). The midwife poked and proded my belly and declared that I was more than likely 18 weeks and not 16. So that was another 2 weeks shaved off in an instant which would bring my due date forward to the end of July. And my last period back to sometime around Hallowe'en (oooops). She also referred me to the Physio clinic for my sciatica and urged me to book the earliest scan I could so that we could date me more accurately.

So the scan is booked for April 6th. Hopefully, I will have a better idea then. All I know now is that my belly is getting bigger and I do look just about pregnant now (I am quite petite to start with). My neighbour joked that I just looked a bit fat around the middle and that some of her clients (she's a personal trainer) had bigger bellies than I did. And they're not even pregnant! I have been feeling kicks for the past 4 or 5 weeks now although they are yet to be felt from the outside.

So now, let me formally introduce you to Peanut in my Belly or Foodie Baby number 3 (or 4, Mr Foodie sometimes counts as a child, a big one, but still a child), due date: end of July, beginning of August.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dear So and So...

Dear Eircom,

When we got the phone line and broadband in with you, we thought you would provide us with acceptable service. You know Next Generation, national provider etc. Well, I am quite unhappy to say that we have felt terribly let down by you. Firstly, there is no such thing as Next Generation, never congested broadband if you live in the middle of the sticks. The only thing you can get is a measly 1GB broadband. But hey, considering you're the only one that can provide us with Internet access here, we went along with it. What we didn't expect was a broadband that is so temperamental that it drops 5 to 6 times a day for anything up to 5 hours at a time and only seems to be working in the middle of the night. I know us parents tend to be sleep deprived and be up in the middle of the night etc. But seriously, I don't want to have to set my alarm clock to 2 am to be able to use my computer and write a blog post without you dropping for god knows how long. So when your engineer came out back in October and fixed the problem, we thought that would be it. Cue buzzer sound. Wrong answer! A couple of months ago, the problem started again and had worsened causing SuperFoodie to done his supercape and fight with you. You sent somebody out to the house, who couldn't figure out what was wrong so you declared the problem fixed. It wasn't. So SuperFoodie had to come out of his slumber again to make you understand that it wasn't fixed. Eventually, you sent the same engineer back up. Maybe this time he did his job, maybe he just got lucky but anyway, the broadband has not dropped since yesterday, so maybe the problem is fixed. In the meantime, be warned SuperFoodie wants his money back.
A suffering from Internet withdrawal Foodie Mummy.

Dear mobile phone,
I have always looked after you. I fed you phone numbers and music and pictures and other things. So when you decided to crash on me back in November, I wasn't happy. I was even less happy when I realized that I couldn't retrieve any of those things especially my dates from your little chip. You have now been replaced by a lovely Smartphone and I don't miss you.
A struggling to use the touch screen thing Foodie Mummy.

Dear pregnancy test that tells you how long you're gone.

You obviously only work for the people who are eager to know as early as possible. I spent quite some money on you only to discover that you could only tell me that I was 3 weeks +. Thank you for nothing, I knew that already! I was hoping for a more accurate assessment.

Dear snow,
Why did you have to make time stand still for more than a month! If you hadn't come, maybe I would have remembered that my last period was that long ago, instead, I looked like an idiot when I went to the doctor's in February saying I thought I was pregnant but that I couldn't remember the date of my last period because of a crashed phone and you. I also looked like an idiot when I went to the hospital for the first time and the midwife thought I was 18 weeks gone instead of the 16 weeks we had settled for. I still do look like an idiot, when I tell people that I am between 19 and 21 weeks pregnant or that the baby is due sometimes between July and August. Hopefully, the upcoming scan will be able to help us narrow it down.
A halfway through pregnancy Foodie Mummy.

Dear peanut in my belly.
Sorry for not acknowledging your existence any earlier, but can you please stop making me pay for it now and lay off my sciatic nerve and bladder? Not being able to get up to go to the loo because I can't move my legs or even just sit on the toilet without feeling sharp pains is not Mummy's idea of fun, especially in the middle of the night. I promise that we will have lots of fun when you come out but in the meantime, please shift positions.
A struggling to move Foodie Mummy.

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