Monthly Archives: October 2012

Meal planning

Weekly meal planning

Since we have had a baby and moved country, we have had to make many adjustments.

We no longer have two well paying jobs to support us, and now there is an extra (growing!) mouth to feed.

So, what do we do about it? We plan! We make lists! We are strict with ourselves.

I start menu planning by looking through our fridge and cupboards, listing anything that we need to stock up on. This is usually butter.

We then write a mini list of any meals we feel like eating during the week. Anything we need to buy for that meal is added to the shopping list.

I then decide on whether that meal is for lunch, dinner or both, based on whether baby can eat it too – as he only eats with us at lunchtime at the moment.

We don’t decide what each meal will be, but we plan 7 lunches and 7 dinners and make whatever we feel like that day.

This helps us to be really specific when it comes to shopping, to keep our spending as low as possible. We are trying to keep food at €40 per week but aren’t quite there yet.

How do you plan your meals? Do you make shopping lists too?

Any advice on how to keep our costs even lower?



Photos from Réserve Africaine de Sigean

When my brother came to stay we did some touristy things including a trip to

I’m fascinated by the amazing wildlife we share our world with, but usually find zoos too depressing to enjoy. This was brilliant by comparison. It’s not quite wild natural habitat, but it’s pretty vast and I’d highly recommend it. Also my brother’s knowledge of species and the natural world is scarily good, so he was our tour guide.

Two important lessons I learnt:

  • If you’re going to see some awesome animals, charge your camera. I was only just getting started when mine died.
  • For entertainment, pot belly pigs are on a par with lions, black bears, giraffes and rhinos. They are only beaten by play-fighting Asiatic black bear cubs.

Anyway, here are the few pics I managed to get…

Large and little, Vietnamese potbelly pigs

This is the little one from the photo above

Watching. You.

Favourite posts this week

Afternoon walk companion

:: My sister-in-law makes the best cinnamon rolls. I want to make her these ones.

:: Luisa just had a baby, released a book and went on a book tour. She still has time to make awesome cookies. I don’t know how she does it!

:: I love to hear how people manage work/life/children etc. “Daddy day” sounds great to me!

:: We don’t have a microwave, but if we did we would probably eat chocolate fondants every day (recipe in french).

:: What an incredible place for kids to spend time – love, love love.

:: The photos! The meringues! The lifestyle! I’m not saying I wish I could be someone else..but if I could… ;)

:: A Superhealth Community – so many important points here.

:: Three very good things indeed – but I’d go for the pistachio honey.

:: Please, please, please someone come and make me these scones. Thanks!

:: Geometric Food Art – how creative!

:: Fascinating to read what these foodies eat during the day.

:: For those of you in the UK with Sky, have you seen Girls? We watched the whole series in 2 days – watch it!!

Wishing you a wonderful weekend




The early bird…

We left at dawn to do our weekly food shop without losing too much of the day. The views are always amazing on this road, but this time I actually had to stop the car and take some photos on my phone. It’s only by waking earlier enough, that things like this are seen.

Macarons part deux

Coffee and chocolate macarons

I don’t know if you follow us on twitter, but if you do you’ll know that I managed to sneak in the second attempt of macaron making today.

Mixing on baby’s floor a.k.a multitasking

Those of you with babies will know that this is a minor miracle, especially when baby is napping less and moving more!

Nevertheless, I had my points for improvement from last time and was therefore focused and efficient.

Coffee macaron mix

I decided that whilst I’m still learning, I will reduce my quantities to just one egg white. I can’t stand waste! I didn’t weigh it though, so next time I will.

I made a few more folds when mixing than last time (although it was technically fewer as I had a larger volume then…but you know what I mean!). I think I should do more folds still next time as the mix was still a little pointy.

Time to rest

I also let the macarons rest for the full hour before baking, although I found some advice today saying 20-40 minutes is plenty…hmmm. Please ignore the fact that I didn’t fill my circles – laziness? lack of time? I just wanted to make more!

Some cracks did form, but only on half of the macarons – the ones at the back of the oven. Next time I might turn them around halfway through cooking.

Nicer bottom eh? This time only one stuck to the baking paper! I baked them for 15 minutes and then left them in the oven for another 2 minutes with the oven switched off.

Macaron “feet” starting to form

So the infamous macaron feet did start to form, which is much better than last time! Maybe with a little more folding the feet will improve. I’ll also reduce the resting time.

I filled the macarons with a chocolate buttercream, too generously according to just one person ;)

They were gone within an hour!



Favourite posts this week

Intense clouds from the front door

:: Answers about Felix Baumgartner’s skydive. Incredible video!

:: We all need a classic chicken stock recipe.

:: Beautiful photos. Beautiful pie. Anyone else fancy a pie party? We could have these pot pies too.

:: We were given some basil the other day from a friend, but I think this mustard green pesto would be delicious.

:: Boy do I miss mature cheddar. I want these crackers, but will need to use something french instead. Poor me ;)

:: My comfort food? Pie – fish, chicken, whatever. How about you?

:: What a clever idea! Might be something I could do for Christmas gifts.

:: Love this Onion Tale. Adding the book to my wishlist now.

:: Cheesecake courgette & chèvre - looks delicious. On next week’s meal planner!

Wow – lots of links this week. Hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.

We are going to pop to Spain today or tomorrow – well, why not?

Wishing you a happy, healthy weekend!



Macarons in the making

Coffee macarons – first attempt.

I was tempted not to write this post. I definitely didn’t want to include any photos, but here we are!

For our anniversary (first year is paper) Shake bought me a little french book on making macarons. He always manages to pick something I have been thinking about without having told him! 

Today whilst baby napped I decided to make my first batch. I was really strict about measuring the ingredients accurately (very unlike me…) and borrowed an electric whisk for the egg whites as I wanted to make them as best I could.

I actually had to whisk the whites in the spare room so it didn’t wake the boy up – that’s one disadvantage of his room being next to the kitchen!

People seem to be daunted about making macarons, and having tried now I can see why! So, the purpose of this post is to document what went wrong and what I will change for next time.

Macarons resting

I am happy with my measurements, but having carried out some research after I made my mix, it is suggested to use egg whites that have been left out for at least 24 hours! Oops. Well, next time I will plan in advance.

Another factor I can change is that I think I needed to mix the mixture?batter? a little more as when piped onto the tray the macarons had little peaks (you don’t want to know what Shake said they looked like…!). I used a damp finger to smooth them down before baking, but this is apparently a sign of under-mixing.

Cracked macarons

I’m not 100% sure what was wrong with the shells above, but it might again be due to the mixture not being mixed enough? Or I didn’t leave them out for long enough before baking? Or they were in the oven for slightly too long? Hmmm….who knows!

Interestingly, these shells came off of the paper very easily, whereas the shells from the shelf above stuck to the baking paper. I say “interestingly”, but actually this was annoying!

I used a tip I read here (from the Macaron Queen :) ) and put some water under the sheet for a few minutes and they did mostly come off.

I made a coffee buttercream to fill the shells and we did sample a few.

They tasted pretty great, but obviously not as good as these (yet!).

If you have made macarons before and have any suggestions/hints for me I’d love to hear them!





One year

Dome ring love :)

Today is a special day.

One year ago we were married and spent the best weekend with our closest family here. If you ever get the chance, GO THERE!

Wedding cake

I can’t believe how much has changed since then, but I do know I am the luckiest wife and mummy ever!

I wish we had been blogging this time last year. It was such an amazing and different wedding and I’m sure there are elements that I have forgotten already.

I do remember campfires, wellington boots, sunshine (even in October), cake galore, a lovely chef, chickens, children, simple pleasures…

We are off to have a special lunch (baby included) and spend the day together as a little family.

Chocolate, spiced apple and carrot layered wedding cake.

Sending you all much love



Favourite posts this week

Réserve Africaine de Sigean

:: Love Ottolenghi. Love Heidi. I need to make this.

:: Wish I was brave enough to stop using shampoo – maybe one day.

:: Great response by Louisa to those children protesting against healthy food in schools.

:: I love and admire Ashley’s honesty. I need to date my husband.

:: I don’t know how she does it. Time to get my knit on.

We hope you have had a happy, relaxing weekend.

Tomorrow is a special day for us. I can’t wait.



Alternative Chocolate Cake

Sometimes I need chocolate, but I don’t need as much comfort as this cake provides.

Sometimes I don’t have any butter. This is rare, but sadly true.

Sometimes I feel like using different flours, just because they make me feel a little less naughty.

So when these powers are combined, I make this Olive oil, Chocolate and Rosemary cake.

The recipe is from one of my favourite books – Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. It’s honestly worth buying the book for the chocolate chip cookie recipe alone – they are the best I have ever tasted. Hmm. I need to buy some chocolate chips this week…

I really hope you make this cake soon. You won’t regret it. The flavour is so interesting (in a good way!) with the nutty spelt flour, hint of herb and the comfort of the good, dark chocolate.

Chocolate, Olive Oil & Rosemary cake

olive oil for the pan
3/4 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), chopped/shaved into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 180degreesC. Rub a 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with olive oil.

Sift the flours and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the olive oil, milk and rosemary. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, gently mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate.

Pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly and smoothing the top.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is domed, golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

The cake is extra delicious when served still warm.