Friday, August 19, 2016

Batch Cooking - Filling the Freezer in Under Six Hours

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Today I really wanted to get the freezer stocked up with some healthy dinner options. We were on holiday from August 6th-13th and I'm still in holiday mode - grabbing late breakfasts and then relying on pizza or burgers in the evening. I haven't eaten three vegetables all week. So, I made a list of some of my favourite Slimming World friendly dinners and got to work.

Firstly, if you're planning on batch cooking, make sure you have the freezer space, and make sure you have containers or plastic bags to hand. I find Dealz great for plastic pots, they're €1.50 for 8 or 10 packs. Any supermarket will have food/freezer bags.

Secondly, if you are planning on freezing the majority of what you cook, it's fine to use meat that has previously been frozen. You can defrost chicken, cook it, then freeze it again - but you can't reheat it more than once. (According to - there's a doc about freezing and defrosting here: Make sure any food you cook is completely cold before freezing.

I made Beef Stew, Butternut Squash Soup, Spaghetti Bolognese, Chicken Curry, Spelt Bread, Chorizo and Prawn Paella, and Chicken Goujons, all for freezing. I made a Cottage Pie for today/tomorrow.

Lads - I'm no chef, by the way, there's nothing amazing or fancy here! Just easy stuff that freezes well and that everyone in the family will eat. You can swap out any veg you don't like for something you do.

Beef Stew
Slimming World Syns Per Entire Recipe: 0

Makes 4-5 adult sized portions (you can stretch it with potatoes and extra veg)
Note: Because I was freezing this, I didn't include potatoes. I prefer to cook them fresh when I'm heating the stew up.

600g-800g diced roast beef (I bought two packets of the €3 one on offer in Aldi this week)
3-4 carrots, diced
2 large onions, diced
Half punnet of button mushrooms, chopped
Handful of dry soup mix or barley
Beef stock cube or stock pot dissolved in 500ml water

Fling it all in a slow cooker and pop it on high for 5 hours. Done.

Butternut Squash Soup
Slimming World Syns Per Entire Recipe: 0

Makes 4 decent mugs/bowls of soup

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced (good luck)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 small potato, peeled and quartered
Spray oil (eg Frylight or equivalent)
1 vegetable stock cube (I used Kallo low salt) dissolved in 1000ml boiling water.

Fry the onion and garlic in spray oil until soft. Add the diced squash and potato, then add the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered for 30 mins or until veg is soft. Remove from heat, leave to cool, then blend. To freeze in portions, place a small food bag in a cup, then pour soup into bag, tie at the top.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Slimming World Syns Per Entire Recipe: 0

Makes 4-5 adult sized portions (bulk with pasta and veg).
Note: I didn't cook spaghetti for freezing, I cook it fresh when I defrost the meat.

500-600g extra lean beef mince
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 carrots, finely diced
Half a punnet of button mushrooms, diced
2 cans of chopped tomatoes (forgot to put the second one in the pic)
1 tablespoon tomato puree


Fry off the onion and garlic until soft (I didn't use any oil, just a little water if it started to stick). Add the mince, fry until browned. Add the mushrooms, carrot, chopped tomatoes, and stir in the puree. Simmer on a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until liquid is reduced. 


Mayflower Chicken Curry
Slimming World Syns Per Entire Recipe: 8

Makes 4 Adult Portions.
I didn't cook rice, I'll do that fresh when I defrost the curry.
Note: I buy Mayflower curry powder from my local butcher, I've also seen it in Super Valu. It's 4 Syns per 28g of dry powder - I used 56g for the whole recipe.

28g dry Mayflower curry powder.
3 chicken breast fillets, diced.
1 onion, diced.
Half punnet of button mushrooms, diced.
Handful of frozen peas.
200g water (add more if needed).

To make the curry sauce, add the powder to the water and whisk until thick. Add more water if you prefer it less thick.

For the chicken, fry it off in a little water, then add the rest of the ingredients and stir fry until everything is cooked. When all is cooked, pour the curry sauce over and stir.

Spelt Bread

I'm not going to give the Slimming World Syns for this - it's a clean, good, healthy recipe and I have previously asked in a Slimming World online chat if it 60g can be counted as a Healthy Extra B and was told yes, so that's good enough for me!

Note: This recipe is from The Happy Pear first cookbook (with the yellow cover), I don't have permission to post it here so if you want the recipe, give me a shout via the blog's facebook page.

500g spelt wholemeal/wholegrain flour
1 sachet fast action yeast
Half teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
400ml warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

When the bread was cool I cut it into 60g portions and put in freezer bags.

Chorizo and Prawn Paella
Slimming World Syns Per Entire Recipe: 4*

Makes 2 large adult portions or 4 small half portions (could serve with veg, it's lovely with broccoli)
*When using Tesco finest chorizo ring. Other brands vary.

I've posted this recipe on the blog before here.

Chicken Goujons
Slimming World Syns Per Entire Recipe: 8.5 or One and a Half Healthy Extra B Choices

This recipe uses Brennan's Be Good wholemeal bread. 2 slices count as a Healthy Extra B choice in Slimming World. I get it in Dealz, it's about 10p cheaper than most supermarkets (every 10p adds up!).

Makes 4 decent portions.

Note: You can add chilli to the breadcrumbs mix if you like a kick, but I prefer to leave them plain so the kids will eat them, if I want them spicy I'll cook them in the airfryer then toss them on the wok with chilli, onion and peppers.

3 slices of Brennan's Be Good wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs (easiest way is to toast the bread then blitz in a food processor/blender/nutribullet/active blend).
3 chicken fillets, diced.
1 egg, beaten.
1 teaspoon garlic granules
1 teaspoon onion granules
Half teaspoon salt
Half teaspoon black pepper

This can be messy, but I found a great tip a few years ago on a blog (can't remember for the life of me which one, but thank you!) - keep one hand wet and one hand dry. In one bowl, beat your egg. In another, mix your breadcrumbs and spices. With your left hand, drop the chicken into the egg, take it out then drop it into the bowl of crumbs. With your right hand, sprinkle crumbs over the top of the chicken then roll to coat - voila, one wet hand and one dry hand, and NO MESS! You can either cook these in the oven or airfryer straight away or freeze in portions.

Cottage Pie
Slimming World Syns Per Entire Recipe: 0

Makes 4 large adult portions or can be bulked out with extra veg to feed more.

I didn't freeze this, but it will keep overnight in the fridge for dinner tomorrow, you could have it for dinner and use leftovers for lunch.

500g extra lean beef mince
1 beef stock pot or beef stock cube
1 large onion, diced
Half punnet of button mushrooms, diced
7-8 medium potatoes, peeled, cooked, and mashed (I used Queens)
Frylight or other brand spray oil
Handful of frozen peas

Peel and boil the potatoes.
Fry onion in water until soft. Add mince, fry until browned. Add other veg, then stir in the stock pot and add a little water if necessary. If using a dry stock cube, crumble over the top of the beef and add a little water. Simmer over a medium heat until everything is cooked through.
Mash the potatoes. Put the beef mixture into a dish, put the potato over the top, spray with oil (or add a knob of butter if not following a food plan) and then bake in the oven for 20-25 mins.

So - that's it, that's what nearly six hours of cooking looks like! I don't have a massive freezer, I cleared out one drawer to use for the stuff I made today. In there I also froze some bagel slims and some wholemeal rolls. The food can be taken out the night before you need it or early that morning.

It was a tedious, tiring few hours - but well worth it, it saves hugely on dinner prep and would be so useful for someone working full time if they could spare a few hours at the weekend, especially coming into the darker evenings when you're wrecked but would love a comfort dinner - Or if you're expecting a new baby soon! Cooking went out the window when I had the twins, I wish I'd done this beforehand (best new baby gift - cooked food, and I won't hear a word to the contrary).

Hopefully this is of some help to someone!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Nerdblock Vinyl Palooza 3.0

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I've gone from someone who couldn't see the point of subscription boxes to someone who NEEDS TO TRY THEM ALL NOW. Nerdblock are a very cool box service who have been around for ages, I had previously ordered a couple of the Junior blocks for my eldest son but we stopped because the shipping was a killer. I still get the emails - so when this popped into my inbox in late July right after I had gotten my first Funko Pop figure, I immediately wanted to build my collection. The Vinylpalooza has happened a couple of times before, I think it's just their way of getting rid of stock. But they're one-off boxes, no subscription needed, and they're a great way to build a Funko Pop collection quickly, so I took the chance.

I was really excited to get a Funko Pop figure from Suicide Squad, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nightmare on Elm Street, Star Wars, True Blood, or American Horror Story. The box was $19.99 and shipping was around the $12 mark to Ireland - in total I paid around €30 for four full sized Funko Pops and two Dorbz (smaller vinyl figures). I bought a couple of Pops in Galway last week and they ranged from €12 - €16 each so I thought €30 for four was pretty good value - especially if they were branded ones as shown in the promotional image. It was actually the image below that prompted me to make a decision and buy the box.

Unfortunately, the promos weren't entirely accurate. I didn't receive any of the ones mentioned in the initial ad, and received just one from that crowd photo above. I haven't seen anyone else receive anything from Suicide Squad, True Blood, Orange is the New Black, Star Wars, Civil War, Nightmare on Elm Street, or American Horror Story. A couple of people got an Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer Funko, but I already have him so I was glad I didn't get a duplicate. I haven't seen any other Buffy characters appear anywhere (unsurprising, considering a guy in a shop last week told me they were in high demand and hadn't been reissued since 2014). Looking at the unboxing videos I think I actually got a fairly good box in terms of what was sent out to other people - but it was still an enormous disappointment.

My boxes were all in really good condition, nothing was torn or crumpled.

First up - the Dorbz.

I got Wolverine from Marvel Series One, and The Penguin from Batman Series One. Both are cute figures and I'm glad I didn't get the Guardians of the Galaxy ones that everyone else seemed to get. My twins love Superheroes so I've put these away for their Christmas stockings.

Then, the Funko Pops:

First up, Pinhead from Hellraiser III. I didn't even know there was a Hellraiser III, I saw the original movie years ago and I think this is a pretty nice Pop. Not one I'd ever buy, but I put him with my Halloween-y things.

Next - Short Fuse from Penguins of Madagascar. Never heard of him, haven't seen the movie, but he's a cute figure and my eldest son has nabbed him.

Next up is Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles - an 80s John Hughes movie. Now, I am probably one of the only people to be genuinely happy about this Pop - not because of the movie, but because of the actor who played Jake Ryan. Michael Schoeffling was also in Mermaids, he played sexy caretaker Joe Peretti - and he was my number one crush in the 90s. I was delighted with this one.

Lastly is Dr. Ephraim Goodweather from the TV series The Strain. Nope, no idea. Not a clue. I'm thinking I could possibly customize him and try to adapt him into something else, but nope. Never heard of the series. The Strain was mentioned in the promo email, though.

And that's it. The majority of people seemed to get either this box (with a pony instead of a dog) or one of these two:

  • Samantha from Sixteen Candles, Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones, Jake Morrison from Independence Day 2 and Handsome Jack from Borderlands. Two Guardians of the Galaxy Dorbz.
  • Angel, Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy, Grey Worm from Game of Thrones and Long Duck Dong (?!) from Sixteen Candles. Two Guardians of the Galaxy Dorbz.

Overall I'm disappointed, but I'm so glad that I didn't get either of the other boxes. The kids each got something they liked, and I got two decent enough Pops. I don't think I'd bother with Vinylpalooza again, €30 is only a good deal if you would have bought the stuff anyway, and I wouldn't have willingly parted with money for any of these in a shop.

Maybe except Jake Ryan.

At a push.

The box also contained a $10 credit for online shop Shirt Punch (a bit like Qwertee). They ship internationally. I used that credit for a Draco Malfoy Funko, just paying the €8 shipping.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Owlcrate Unboxing August 2016

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Last month, I received my first Owlcrate box from a three-month subscription. I was delighted with it, but also a little apprehensive that the next box wouldn't be as good - I needn't have worried.

The theme for the August box was "Fast Times at YA High" - a nod to this cult 80s flick starring Sean Penn. It was packed full of goodies:

The book for this month was P.S. I Like You by Kasie West - a YA romance story about a girl and boy who converse via notes and letters (so very old school, eh?). Also included was a letter from the author, and a signed bookplate. There was a signed bookplate with last month's choice too - I just stuck it to the inside of the book, I did the same with this one.

The Harry Potter side of things was covered with this gorgeous print by Susanne Draws - created exclusively for this box. This is crying out for a frame! There was a badge too, created by Taryn Knight.

There was a large adult colouring book included, along with a packet of colouring pencils. I have to admit that even though I was a huge fan of colouring growing up, I lost interest when it became "a thing". I don't find mandala patterns really relaxing, I find them stressful because I hate fiddly things - but I do have a Harry Potter colouring book that I really like and I have a willing recipient for this one.

There was a second badge, and a great little notebook made from recycled materials:

Finally, there was an exclusive piece of jewellery made by the folks at Owlcrate. It's based on the YA favourite Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and it's very, very cute.

Lastly, there was a cute information card for this box and a spoiler for next month... do you want to see?

The theme of the September box will be "Darkness", and it will contain a "spooky and peculiar" item from Out of Print, something related to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.


I adore this box. I've already ended three other subscriptions so that I can afford it again when my current sub runs out in October, I think it's well worth the €40 odd a month (recently published hardback books are nearly €20, never mind the other stuff). There's a discount code too - use WELCOME15 for 15% off your first order at

Can I just say too, that I love the way Owlcrate treat their International customers. I got a shipping notice yesterday and received my box today. From America! I love how we're not left waiting for weeks, it makes a huge difference to be able to join in the unboxing fun at the same time as everyone else (or in some cases, even before).

Bring on September!