Fast, Kid-friendly Vegetarian Dinners

It’s 5:30, you’re staring at a few hungry, grubby faces and thinking, “What are we having for dinner?”  I’m usually a big believer in menu planning.  However, there are plenty of days when I don’t have a plan, but everyone still needs to be fed.

If we lived in the US, we might go out to eat, but in Ireland, there really aren’t many of the “fast-casual” restaurants.  There are no Chili’s, Applebees, etc.  The closest thing to the fast-casual restaurant is the local pub.  Some pubs have great food, and some do not.  Our local (as they are called here), has great atmosphere, but the food is a total dud.  Fast food is not very common either.  So, it is handy to have a few go-to kid-friendly recipes around to get dinner on the table quickly.  We are vegetarian most of the time,  but most of these meals could easily incorporate meat.

For the record, I define fast as: “Idea – to – Table” in 45 minutes or less.

Pasta with Butternut Squash, Pine Nuts and Sage Leaves.  We almost always have these ingredients on hand, thanks to the sage bush in our back garden.

Lentil Sloppy-Joes.  I was really skeptical of this recipe before we tried it, but it is so good! It tastes as good or better than sloppy joes made with manwich and ground beef.  Since this recipe uses lentils and canned tomatoes, you can keep almost all the ingredients in your pantry until needed. Also, this recipe freezes really well, so you can make a double batch and stick it in the freezer for a super-quick meal.

Frittata.  We don’t really use a recipe any more, but I have included one to get you started.  The main difference between this recipe and ours is that we thinly slice our potatoes in the food processor and saute them until crisp along the edges.  With a food processor, this dish is so easy to make.

Pasta with yogurt, peas, and chile.   My kids love peas, and they love yogurt, so they really enjoy this recipe.  If you eat vegetarian regularly, you need to check out Yotam Ottlenghi’s recipes and cookbooks.  We have Plenty and love it. He has a new one coming out this year, Plenty More.

Baked Ravioli.  Another great recipe to help break out of the “pasta and tomato sauce” rut.

For more ideas, you can follow my Pinterest Board, “What To Eat for Dinner 2014“.  I post recipes that we cook for dinner that are available online. What are some of your go-to recipes?  I’m always looking for new ideas!

10 Tips for Flying with Infants

Terrified of flying the not-so-friendly skies with your infant? Relax – and go for it!  I personally think that, of all the ages and stages I have experienced so far, traveling with infants is the easiest.  They don’t need any toys, they can’t talk back, you don’t have to bring a year’s supply of snacks… I have flown with my kids as young as three weeks old.  I think that the smaller they are, the easier it is.  Here are my tips for a less-stressful experience:

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[li_item icon=””]Check your stroller with your luggage.  I know this sounds counter-intuitive, right?  But it is so much easier to not worry about the stroller until you get to your destination.  No trying to fold a stroller one handed while holding your baby.  No worrying about whether the “gate checked” stroller will actually make it off the gate and onto the plane. Instead, carry your child in an ergo/sling/bjorn or other carrier that you like.   I like the Ergo because it has a zippered pocket in front where I kept my wallet, phone, passports and boarding passes. This will keep your hands free. Since you are flying with an infant, your stroller and car seat should be free to check.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Carry all your diaper bag supplies in a backpack.  That cute diaper bag you love, the one with one strap?  Pack it in your luggage.  It is so much easier to have both hands free, rather than trying to keep your diaper bag on your shoulder.  This is the less fashionable option, but definitely the most workable.  You can always carry your diaper bag or purse  when you get to your destination.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Sit on the row with the airplane bassinet, if possible.  If you are flying on a wide-body aircraft, and flying “infant in arms”, you should call the airline and ask to be seated on the bassinet row, if is available.  The bassinet row is the bulkhead row – sometimes the first row of coach – where you can attach a bassinet. The bassinet is this baby bed that attaches to the wall of the bulkhead, and you can place your child in it, as long as you are at cruising altitude, and everything is going smoothly.  Bring a blanket to put in the bassinet.  It makes a great place to put the baby while you rummage through your bag, stretch your arms, or have a snack. Even if you don’t use the bassinet, the extra space in the bulkhead row is so helpful![/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Wear slip-on shoes. At TSA checkpoints, you are basically on your own. They will help you put everything through the scanner, but they will not hold your baby while you take your shoes off, or anything else. If you have liquid baby items (diaper cream, etc), I usually keep them in their own plastic baggie. So I have one baggie for my stuff, and one baggie for infant stuff.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Nurse, feed, or offer a pacifier during take off and landing. This is a big one. To keep your child’s ears clear, you’ll want to feed him during take off and landing. If you’re not feeding him, definitely use a pacifier. The sucking that they do during feeding will keep their ears clear in the pressure changes. I try to hold off on feeding until we are taxiing to the runway. Bring a nursing cover if that makes you more comfortable, but it is 100% legal to nurse a baby uncovered on an airplane. I have hilarious stories of nursing on an airplane.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Bring disposable changing pad covers. Changing tables on airplanes and in airports can be gross. I pack several of these large disposable changing pad covers. That way, you can just change your baby and wrap everything up in the changing table cover, and toss it into the trash. You can get them at BabiesRUs, Target, BuyBuy Baby, and other places. (I buy them in the US, and bring them back to Ireland!)[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Pack just enough diapers to get you there. It’s tempting to plan for the absolute worst and bring 30 diapers and a full package of wipes with you. I usually bring enough diapers for 24 hours (more for international trips), about 10-12, and a half-used pack of wipes. I buy more diapers and wipes at my final destination. Or better yet – have whomever you are staying with buy diapers and wipes ahead of time! It is the kind of job that people LOVE.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Check the identification requirements. Infants may not need a picture ID for domestic flights, but you may need to bring a copy of the birth certificate. If you are flying internationally, your child must have a passport.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Water and snacks – FOR YOU. Especially if you are nursing, you can get super thirsty and hungry. I always bring a snack like trail mix that has a good mix of carbs and proteins. Luna bars are also good and can take a beating in your carryon. Rather than try to fill up a water bottle after security, I just buy one.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Don’t worry if he starts crying. I know that is easier said than done, but take a few deep breaths and relax. Don’t worry about what everyone else is thinking. You don’t have to see them again anyway. I have traveled multiple times with infants, and not once has one of them cried the entire flight.[/li_item]
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In my experience, the good far outweighs the bad when traveling with kids.  Traveling with kids takes work, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.  I’ll follow-up with posts about flying with older infants and toddlers, and flying with young kids.

Did I miss anything?  Any advice you disagree with?  What tips would you offer?

Hello there!

After many months of writing and designing webpages for others, I finally decided to jump into the deep end.  Welcome to Sips of Coffey, where I hope to share the frustrating, the annoying and the beautiful of expat life.  I also want to write more about this wonderful city and country that we have called home for the past three years.

Three years ago this week, my husband and I, and our two young children landed in Ireland.  We moved here for his job, and the opportunity to experience life overseas.  We knew no one, had no family history in Ireland, and oh – we had just found out we were unexpectedly expecting our third child.  It has been a wild and crazy ride. Fresh off an MBA and Masters in Public Policy, I had planned to find a job in Dublin.  But between a surprise pregnancy, the most expensive childcare costs in Europe, and a work permit process that was far from transparent, life has taken a different path. But then again, I don’t know anyone whose life has turned out exactly how they planned it.  I’m passionate about food, travel (with and without kids), and really good coffee.

So whether you’re interested in the ins and outs of traveling with young children, expat life, or Ireland in general, I hope you’ll join along.

x Rheagan