Wise Kitchen

May 3 2015

Polish shops in Galway. Grocery, Bakery and more!

Posted by     6 Comments    in Kitchen


There are quite a few Polish shops in Galway. I have popped in and out of most of them, doing the odd price check on a few items but am always that little bit hesitant to go wild and buy lots of stuff, because let’s face it, my Polish sucks.

Several months ago, a friend of ours brought us a box full of Polish Doughnuts to give our kids a sugar high they have still not come down from. She had stopped in to a tiny little Polish bakery called The Little Teapot in the Liosbán shopping centre. (Take first RIGHT after the Ulster Bank).


So a few weeks later, the Chef, always interested in checking out the competition, popped in to see what they had on offer and he was quite impressed himself. These doughnuts, are a far cry from the Krispy Kremes you might be pining for. As a matter of fact, they aren’t really anything like the traditional sugar-sprinkled doughnuts-with-a-hole you might already love.


They are pillows of jam (or custard) filled goodness, best eaten fresh from the fryer. This little bakery is worth a visit.


They have a few tables and chairs, so you can have a cuppa coffee when you go. They have a host of other baked goods on offer too and everything is priced quite affordably.


Now, seeings as you are in the neighbourhood, right out in front, just a few doors down from the Ulster Bank along the main Tuam road (N-17), you will see a sign for what looks to be just another pizza place in Galway.


Be adventurous and pop in for lunch or supper sometime. Now, when you walk in the door, you will notice a decent amount of tables and way back in the back, the first thing you are going to spy is the massive Pizza oven and a guy tossing the dough around. Ok – so their pizza is pretty excellent.


Not quite as good as our favourite Pizza place, or our second favourite pizza place, but definitely worth your time and money. We like to get the large pizza (20″) as they make 3-pizzas-in-one for us and this suits all the tastebuds in our family. Be warned, the Diablo is hot-n-spicy – for real.

BUT the real reason to stop in here for a bite to eat, is the cafeteria style food they are serving in the back. Yes – the harsh glow of the yellow food lamps do not do it justice so I’m a gonna let my words do the work here.

The soup, never the dull-n-dreary ‘veg soup’ we still see in so many Irish eateries, changes on a regular basis but their light creamy broth loaded with al-dente broccoli is just a damn fine soup.

There are a few different sauces lined up to go along with whatever meat you choose as your staple. The choices range from breaded and fried Pork Chops (yes they are excellent), chicken breast pounded thin and smothered in sumptuous mozzarella, and a few other chicken and pork offerings.

Cabbage is a big staple in the Polish diet, but not as we know it. This place, puts on a display of five (possibly more) types of slaw and salads for the taking, and a couple of beetroot salads too. Because they are in Ireland, they are smart enough to keep spuds on the menu, offering mashed and roasties … which were just ok – nothing at all to write home about, but the sauces and gravies they offered alongside were good enough to make up for this. As an example, lunch for two adults, including a glass of their homemade mixed fruit (quite tart) juice offering was just under €20. You can’t beat it with a stick.

Now, I am sure you are wondering, why on earth am I blogging about a middle-of-the-road cafeteria-style restaurant located in the middle of a busy little industrial estate. There is nothing sexy about this right?

Wrong. Since I moved home to Galway (in 2008) the food scene has blossomed and bloomed in the loveliest of ways. Restaurants and cafés have popped up and a few  local and very talented chefs are interested in banding together to promote our city as the food capital of Ireland.

But a few high-end restaurants and over-sharing chefs, does not a strong city food-scene build. John McKenna was chatting with Keith Finnegan on the radio a few weeks back and he said that the reason Galway’s food scene was thriving, was because we had a lot of middle-of-the-road restaurants.

None of us eat dine at the fancy places once a week. When we go out to eat, with our without the brats, we want honest-to-goodness sustenance at a price that will not break the bank and the assurance we don’t have to do the dishes.

Sure, we want local, and more importantly want to see the restaurants support local farmers, but the reality is, middle of the road restaurants are here to stay and most of us love ’em.


Now, to wrap up my little spiel on the Polish goodness on offer in our little city-by-the-sea, gather up your shoppings bags and head to one of the more recently opened Polo Stores. They are loads of them in Dublin, and according to one of the lassies who works with Ron at Morton’s of Galway, this is one of the best Polish Grocery shops in town.

Polo Stores Galway

Unit 4, Tower House,

Tuam Road. Galway.

(091) 441 – 044


Now, I know … the packaging and labels are all in Polish, but trust me, that should not stop you from popping in for a look. There are a few things in this shop you need to buy.

Ron asked his co-worker (Marta) to meet us at the Polo Store last week and she gave us a translated tour of the shop. She.was.brilliant.

Right inside the door, the first thing she picked up was a packet of spice powder for a quick (3-day) pickle. Just add water and cucumber.

Right beside that, was a packet of dehydrated beetroot. I have ground this with my mortar and pestle and added it to mayonnaise and yoghurt. Oh-em-gee……delicious and, eh, pink!


Moving right along the aisles, the question begged ‘why are there over 20 different jars of pickles?’ Well, apparently, aside from a few that have chilis in the jar for a bit of extra heat, the only real difference is the brand label. Just made by a different company – nothing to be afraid of.

Marta’s advice was simple – if in doubt, look at the picture on the packet. For the most part, it tells you what the product is. My personal experience, in all the Polish shops in town, is to just ask for help. Clearly, and if you are a woman you will understand, this is the easiest thing to do. If you are a man however, it is kind of like asking for directions – and you might end up spreading shoe polish on your toast.

Speaking of toast ………


Sweet jeebus …. this little tub of mushroom paste … on toast, or a cracker, or added into a soup that needs flavour.  Definitely a great addition to a sandwich too.


Admittedly, we already have bag of chicken hearts in the freezer, but where else would you find this in Galway?


The frozen plums are perfect for your morning smoothie if that’s the kind of way you roll, but we love to roast ’em with honey and set them atop a bit of ice-cream.


The green label on the fresh soft cheese packets is low fat and the red is full fat.

Both packets are just excellent in flavour and price, and while you are in the refrigerated section look for little packets of fresh yeast (less than €1 per pack) and their Pork lard is pretty excellent quality too. It’s the makes you want to make a bit of pastry right away kinda-lard.

Ok – so this is the most I can offer on a rainy Sunday morning from Galway this bank holiday weekend. The main thing is to get in there and try something new.

We are headed over to the Claregalway Sunday Market to peruse the goodies on offer this week!

Thanks for stopping in for a read.


May 2 2015

Galway’s #BestScone – send in your nominations please!

Posted by     6 Comments    in Kitchen

Ah …. nothing quite like a cup of tea and a scone.

Some like their scones warm with butter, a bit of jam or clotted cream. Some like them burnt a bit around the edges, caramelisation of the currants and raisins, and some like ’em hot outta the oven with nothing on ’em.

When it comes to finding ‘Galway’s Best Scone’ I thought about it for a few weeks before taking action. I chose a few places in the city centre, and a few in the outskirts.  All of them have damn fine reputations for their baked goods.

And why am I doing this I hear you ask? Well, because Goodalls Ireland is running their #BestScone competition again this year. Last year I was kinda disappointed that Galway did not win, even though Mitchell’s Café at Kylemore Abbey did make it to the final ten!

So this year, we have take it upon ourselves to find a few decent scones to nominate from right here in Galway!

I need your participation please, after you do your own research of course, I want you to hop over on to their Facebook page or send them a Tweet to nominate your favourite Galway Scone. If you look up the hashtag #BestScone on Twitter, you will see a long stream of scone nominations coming in from all over the country.

The Top Ten Best Scones in the country get in to the finals and the overall winner, aside from claiming the title of Irelands Best Scone, will also win €1,000 for their shop.

Shur – we could all use a few extra pennies in the purse guys n’ dolls.

So please, use my research as motivation to get your favourite scones on the map. Nominate today! (Because the deadline is May 8th, so hurry).


How ‪#‎Bestscone‬ competition works.

Firstly Goodalls invites nominations from the public (via Facebook and Twitter) as to who they think have the Best Scones in Ireland.

At the end of the nominations period the 10 businesses with the highest amount of nominations go forward to a public vote which will be worth 50% of the overall result.

The final 50% will be earned at the scone tasting at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin, by a panel of expert judges.

The marks will be counted and verified on the 8th June 2015 and a winner chosen!


Scones for the taking. Taste at Born.

I assembled a tasting panel of four experts, (no kids this time just industry experts) and we held a blind tasting. This is the best way to get totally unbiased feedback from a group of Galwegians, because trust me, their loyalty to certain businesss’ might just sway their decisions.

I know the photos below are not sexy, but there was a need to make this as simple as possible, giving the price and weight of the sone too – incase this matters to the reader, or the eater!

One thing I found interesting when reviewing the details with our tasting panel, was that in this instance, size actually didn’t matter.

The criteria we felt was important was simple:

–     Fruit content – this is very important

–     Mouthfeel (not gummy and not dry)

–     Over mixed/dense – don’t overwork the dough!

–     Balance of flavour (not too sweet, or salty, can you taste baking soda?)

–     Attractiveness (colour, shape, burnt or not!)

–     Is it fresh??

I weighed them all and shared the prices too. Keep in mind, both Kai Café and Taste at Born are more eat in cafés than take-away-bakery so their prices are that much higher and their scones are bigger. We also placed the scones in a low-lukewarm oven to give them all a chance to appear ‘fresh from the oven’.

To kick of our quest for #Galway’s #BestScone, we started at Galway’s Best Café!

I make no bones about it. #WeLOVEKai. I have had their scones on previous occasions and knew they would be contenders as all of their baked goods are pretty stellar.


Here is what the tasting panel had to say:

Expert 1: A bit doughy, great taste but not enough fruit.

Expert 2: A bit disappointing and not enough fruit.

Expert 3: Nice, but I really need butter and jam with it.

Expert 4: Not enough fruit but decent.


Next up, an institution of fine foods and wines in Galway for years, and slap bang in the middle of town, McCambridges of Galway.


Here is what the tasting panel had to say:

Expert 1: Way too dry. Fell apart when cut open and no fruit.

Expert 2: Very dry – and no fruit at all . This was clearly yesterday’s scone – not fresh.

Expert 3: Way too dry; No fruit at all. Tight crumb, no air and way over-mixed.

Expert 4: Dry. No fruit, or there was a bit of a raisin – but it was burnt.

(Note to readers … by ‘no fruit’ they mean when cut open the scone is bare but there are one or two raisins scattered on the edges – so technically there ‘is’ fruit, but clearly not enough).


Ok, the third scone we sampled came from the lovely Jenny – Taste at Born on the canal. If you have not been to this little café, then you need to put it on your list. Sitting on the banks of the canal, she has quite possibly the nicest outdoor patio in the city. AND, she  does not ‘charge extra’ for her gorgeous range of Gluten Free baked goods. She also makes the best cupcakes in Galway and is known to many as ‘the cupcake lady’.


Here is what the tasting panel had to say:

Expert 1: Would be better with butter and actually was.

Expert 2: Lacking in flavour but decent texture.

Expert 3: Too doughy, a bit under baked and could do with a bit more sugar.

Expert 4: Not enough flavour or fruit but nice texture.


Ok – moving on to number four, we cut open what I thought looked like a stellar scone. A bit square, and loaded with fruit, it looked like the kind of scone we used to have as kids. This one came from The Oven Door, at No. 3 Middle Street (close to entrance of Augustinian church) and their phone number is (091) 563 805.

Interestingly enough, these guys have zero web presence hence the sharing above of physical address and phone number.

They are aptly named, because you walk in the door of their tiny shop and are practically in their oven. Floured from head to toe, the pleasant bakers are there to tempt you with tarts, scones, bread and a slew of other beautiful traditionally baked Irish goodies.



Here is what the tasting panel had to say:

Expert 1: The crust is really lovely and this scone is loaded with fruit.

Expert 2: Loved the crunch of the crust and texture. Might have found a little baking soda aftertaste but not offensive.

Expert 3: I’d buy this scone again. Just lovely.

Expert 4: Great flavour and fruit. From the looks of it might not buy it as I prefer a more ‘well done’ scone, but this was very nice.


And now, we move on to Griffins Bakery, located down the town near the Kings Head. A favourite bakery of many a native and tourist, Griffins has been feeding the city of the tribes for decades.




Here is what the tasting panel had to say:

Expert 1: This looks and feels very strange. The texture is very different to the other scones and the taste and mouthfeel is just weird.

Expert 2: Way too salty. It is not like a fruit scone, even though it has fruit.

Expert 3: This looks and tastes like an American savoury biscuit. Like the ones you have with sausage gravy for breakfast. I don’t like it.

Expert 4: This tastes very different. It tastes like it is supposed to be a savoury scone maybe? It seems like they used a different flour too as it is nothing like the other scones in texture, weight or to look at.


Moving on to number six, we sliced into the scones from The Gourmet Tart. Now, as I live with a baker, there is very little need for me to buy a loaf of bread around here, but I have been known to purchase their seeded Ciabatta on occasion.


Here is what the tasting panel had to say:

Expert 1: This tastes burnt. The raisins are hard and there is not enough fruit.

Expert 2: Burnt outside and undercooked in the middle. The oven was too hot.

Expert 3: I just don’t like it. It is too doughy/under baked in the middle.

Expert 4: This is kind of like eating cream crackers. It’s doughy and dry at the same time. and a bit of a slimy-across-the-tongue texture.


And last but not least, we finished up with Morton’s of Galway. Now, as we were doing a blind tasting, you can be sure that the tasters did not have a clue they were rating my husband’s scone. Had they even tried to guess, it would have been impossible because  all scones were so different. Had the panelists known they were sampling his morning efforts, they might have shown bias or have chosen not be honest enough with him – just to spare his hurt feelings, bless their little hearts.

Feedback is crucial folks. Be it positive or negative. We can always learn from a bit of criticism.


Here is what the tasting panel had to say:

Expert 1: There is not enough fruit. The cranberries are lovely – just need more. The scone is delicious.

Expert 2: Baked perfectly. Great crunch, mouthfeel and texture. More fruit please. I’d up the price to €0.90 and add loads more cranberries. ( I wonder how Eric Morton will feel about this?)

Expert 3: This is a good scone. I’d buy it again.

Expert 4: A bit salty and shaped too perfectly but not bad.


So there you have it guys and dolls.


It was clear to us which bakeries were using a high quality flour and just raw ingredients. Some are using a premixed ‘just add water’ kind of mix and others are using a product that has lots of dough conditioners and modifiers in it.

A pre-mix is not necessarily the end of the world, and many bakeries use this because it is hard to offer consistency when you have a (sometimes) transitional staff. One baker makes and bakes the first batch in the morning and the lunchtime baker does the next batch. The first baker might mix his batch by hand, making sure the dough is never overworked and sticks to the recipe. The second-shift baker might throw it all into the mixer because they are in a hurry and could forget to add salt if not following the recipe.

You can’t compete with a bakery that offers consistency all year round. They are the ones who deserve the title of #BestScone in Galway and Ireland for that matter.


Kai Café always showcases the most beautiful baked goods.

So, our panelists all agreed that Kai and Morton’s shared second place and Taste at Born  ranked third.


Only one bakery had their ingredients listed – Morton’s (eggs, butter, marg, flour, salt, sugar, raising agent, milk, cream, buttermilk, cranberries). Morton’s takes the lead in offering the cheapest scone out of the bunch listed here, an they also offer mini scones at €0.38 ea – this is a great deal.

The clear winner for all panelists was:

Number FOUR – The Oven Door


So now that I have done all the hard work for you and whetted your appetite for a lovely warm scone this dreary dismal Saturday morning, can you let your fingers do the walking and please nominate your favourite scone in Galway!

Vote here on Facebook or here on Twitter.

Thanks for reading along and enjoy the bank holiday weekend!



If you would like to be added to our panel of expert tasters for future research, shoot me an email at MonaZWise {at} GMail {dot} com

And if you have a favourite scone – leave  a comment right here below telling us why it is so great, and share a link so everyone else can check them out.

I have already heard from a few people over on Instagram that PoppySeed in Galway and The Hungry BookWorm in Loughrea have excellent scones.


Apr 25 2015

Mindful Movements Equipment based Pilates – Galway – open day today (Saturday April 25th) at 2pm

Posted by     1 Comment     in Kitchen

One of the damn near impossibilities for most mums (and dads) these days, is carving out a few hours a week of ‘me time’.

Kids, be they smallies in the sling, toddlers on the tear or older, they suck the life out of us. Ok, maybe they don’t suck the life out of us entirely, but our time is spent nurturing them and their needs; taxi driving them to their social and scholarly commitments. ‘Me time’ evades us.

Sometimes we need a good kick up the arse to remind us that if we don’t take care of the engine hauling the train, then the train might actually crash, or just stop working entirely.



Me, I am at that stage in my life where I have finally come to the realisation that I need ‘me time’. I need, want, and have earned at least a couple of hours a day where I focus on me. My health and my sanity (with four kids!!) demands it.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you will notice I keep a fairly steady flow of #Sunrise photos in the photo stream. I have always been a morning person. Typically by 5:30am I am awake and ready to go. Keep in mind, I am usually fast asleep by 10pm each night, so am averaging 7 + hours of sleep on a good night. This, a healthy diet (thanks to my live in chef), a walk every morning and a weekly visit to my local Pilates studio ensures a few of the boxes are ticked when it comes to taking care of ‘me’.


If you are ready to carve out a few hours of time per week, for you, then today is the day to get started.

Sara O’Reilly owner and instructor at Mindful Movements studio here in Galway, is celebrating her first birthday today. Her studio is open to the public for a few hours this afternoon starting at 2pm and I would love to see a few of you there.


Many of you are probably wondering what ‘Equipment based’ Pilates really is, so I took a few photos of the lovely Sara herself using one of the beds yesterday. I know, I know … it looks like torture, and truth be told … it sometimes feels a bit like torture….


Trust me when I tell you – there is no sleeping on these beds!


Yes – Sara is smiling but I can assure you, once you get to the stage of being able to use one of these beds … it would be difficult to look this glamorous.


There are a few other free classes today, and I signed up for ‘Body Balance’ with Seámus, because lets face it, grace is not my middle name.


So. Is today the day you give it a shot? Are you going to drop the kids off to Granny or let your other half wing it for a few hours while you make a little ‘me’ time? What do you have to lose?


At the end of the day your health is your wealth …. make time for you.

See you this afternoon at

Mindful Movements (Sara O’Reilly)

Unit 14 A

Lisbon Business Park


(091) 760 004/087 138 1516

eMail: info@mindfulmovements.ie

Mar 2 2015

Crushed Cauliflower Sauté

Posted by     4 Comments    in Kitchen

The humble head of Cauliflower.

Mostly roasted with coconut oil, turmeric and a bit of sea salt is how we snack on this vegetable or sometimes just raw to dip in a bowl of blue cheese or ranch dip; it’s a favourite here at Chez Wise.

Recently, we have been enjoying this beautiful brassica in an entirely new way and this recipe is here to stay. 

Cauliflower duo


The beauty of this recipe is that you don’t really ‘need’ a recipe. If you have ever made a stirfry, then you already know how to make this.


Cflower ingredients


Crushed Cauliflower Sauté


  • 2 heads of cauliflower, leaves and stalk too
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 green onions
  • 2 hot chilis
  • 4 Tbsp Sesame oil
  • 2 tsp butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper (white)


  1. Trim the leaves of the cauliflower and set aside.
  2. Cut the cauliflower up into florets and slice the stalk into large dice.
  3. Place it all in the flood processor and pule until it looks like rice.
  4. If you don’t have a food processor, grate the cauliflower on a large box grater.
  5. (This can be kept wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge for a few days and it freezes well too).
  6. Slice the green onions an fresh chilis.
  7. Using a wok (or a large pan) add the butter and 4 eggs. Sprinkle with salt and white pepper and scramble roughly for 3 mins on high. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  8. Wipe out the pan, then pour in 1 Tbsp sesame oil.
  9. Start adding the cauliflower and stir it as it sautés.
  10. As you add in more cauliflower, add in a little more sesame oil.
  11. The cauliflower needs the oil to cook.
  12. It will not harden or crisp up – it just cooks into a delicious bowl of something that resembles rice.
  13. When the cauliflower is piping hot, add in the green onions and chilis.
  14. Then add the egg into the mix, one spoonful at a time.
  15. Optional
  16. If you want to add a bit more protein to this meal, you can add it at this point (already cooked) and just allow the cauliflower to re-heat it. We tend to eat it asa veggie dish – because no one notices the meat or fish missing, but have had it with sesame crusted prawns and chicken too.



Cflower ingredients egg


No one has noticed that there is ‘no rice’ in this stir fry. The kids all go back for seconds.

The nutritional value in cauliflower is high and it is very low in carbs. All in all, this is a humdinger of a dish, not to mention quite inexpensive too.


Cflower finito



Basic nutrition details for this brassica:

A 1/2 cup of cooked cauliflower has 14 calories, 1.1 gram of protein, 2.6 grams of carbohydrate, 0.3 gram of fat and 1.4 grams of fiber. The low calorie and carbohydrate content of cauliflower makes it a suitable food for helping your lose weight as well as control your blood sugar, if you have diabetes.

More nutritional information right here


Ok – it’s Monday morning and there is a light blanket of snow on the ground in Galway. The mornings are getting brighter (around 6:45am this morning no lights were needed to find my way to the coffee pot!).

The kids are rambling around the house readying themselves for school and I have a long list of ‘crap to do’ this week – so Monday – let’s be having you!

Have a great week y’all.


Feb 26 2015

When you wish upon a star

Posted by     8 Comments    in Kitchen


Remember me? I know … it has been ages since I dragged you into a long winded story. Life had runneth away with me there for the last few months and I’ve been spending way too much time with these guys ….


Kids January 2015

They are getting so big


We have had a few crazy fun-filled, and much quieter-than-expected, months. Christmas stole in right after my graduation in late November and before we knew it the kids were back to school in January and back out again only last week on mid-term break.

This is the first time in five years where I have had such a nice long break. The kids are happy. The Chef is delighted to have his partner-in-crime more readily available to cater to his whims and fancies … and I am finally able to relax. After five years of studying in college, it has taken me months to just sit down with a nice book and read it without feeling guilty … sheer bliss.

So how is it, with no TV in the house, I have not had more time for writing? Shouldn’t I have loaded up the blog with tons of recipes and stories to keep you up to date on the latest food trends in Ireland and alerted you to the new eateries in the West?

Well, truth be told guys and dolls … I needed the break. I have been blogging since 2007. That is (more than) seven years on the trot. They say a break is as good as a holiday and in this particular case … I have to agree.

The thing that most surprises me about not being a slave to the TV anymore is that we are still bombarded with news. Sometimes it comes wafting in over the airwaves, and if I turn that off its a timely notification on Facebook, or a Tweet that has taken on a life of its own making sure the world knows something is happening RIGHT NOW. And even with all notifications killed and the volume turned off on the phone, I still get updates from the Chef when he gets home or the kids tell me what they read on the ‘school internet’ bless their little hearts.

So switching off, not just getting rid of the telly, is actually vital. The stack of board games has grown and some family members have even been caught reading this at bedtime the day before a big game – especially if Granny is calling over for tea.

A few weeks ago, coinciding with his bedtime, Jack insisted we drag our weary butts outside to just sit and stargaze. The sky was heaving with stars … the cobalt backdrop smothering the countryside and a blanket of stars as far as the eye could see.

If you have ever tried to take photos of the stars (or the moon for that matter) on your iPhone …. you will know that the photos come out like crap … so I asked a buddy of mine, who is clearly very talented, to share a few of his with me for this blog post. Thanks Aidan!

Starry Night Aidan Coughlan Graveyard Galway

© Aidan Coughlan – under the Galway skies


I used to think that to buy a star would all be a bit hokey, to be honest. I was all grown up in my thought process and applied logic to the concept like ‘how can you sell a star’? ….I found this website wwwBuyAStar.ie  which is laid out nicely. They have a few different options – like for a kids birthday present, or a wedding gift, a new baby present or, seeing as it is right around the corner, how about a present for your Mum – because all Mums are stars already, right?? (Mother’s Day in Ireland is Sunday March 15th 2015 – mark your calendar now!).

I was explaining it to Jack (who will be TEN on Saturday) when the chef butted in and told him ‘there is no need to buy a star buddy, they are right there for you to see anytime there is a clear night’.

‘Yeah but guys’, and his little hand guiding my face to look at his while he commanded his father’s attention with his other hand, ‘say when you die, and then us kids buy a star for you…….and then when we all die, we can get stars too and then we can use the map to find each other in heaven’.

‘Alright Jack – let’s buy all the stars then darling’.

No logic needed here folks … anyone else want to buy a star?

Map of the Stars

Map of the stars


So, I think I’m going to invest in a nice telescope for him. I am also taking him to the next open night at the Imbush Observatory at NUI Galway (March 11th or 25th 2015).

The School of Physics at NUI Galway and the Imbusch Observatory in Dangan host open nights a few times a year.  The open nights will start at 7pm, and there will be an informative hour-long lecture and 3D tour of the universe which will be followed by a hands-on viewing of the sky by night, weather permitting.

Admission is limited to two per person and is strictly by tickets only, on a first come first served basis. All bookings are by email and those interested should send requests to tara.shanahan@nuigalway.ie

If you have never been, you are in for a real treat!

Starry Night Aidan Coughlan River

© Aidan Coughlan


Tuning out from the (mostly) bad news on the TV, in the newspapers and online is not easy. But I have to say, if the alternative is spending a few evenings in late Winter, bundled up outside with my hubby and kids watching the world go by, star-by-star … it’s a no-brainer for me.

Thanks for all the Facebook birthday love earlier this week guys n’ dolls – another year old and (hopefully) another year wiser folks!

How y’all doing? Anything strange or exciting going on in your life?



Oct 25 2014

Making choices …. taking chances ….


You gotta love the innocence of kids … always number one in her eyes even if I had failed my exams.

Seven years ago, this week, the Chef and I, with two toddlers by our side, packed our bags, left our friends and (restaurant) life and family in Cincinnati, Ohio, behind us for greener pastures in Europe.

We spent a year living and working in Zurich, Switzerland.  We lived a block from my brother and the beautiful lake and less than an hour from my sister in the Alsace wine country, France. This was the plan. This was the life. It was going to be fabulous. We would all raise our kids within close proximity of each other … at the time there was only 6 of them and that number has since risen to 12 (eleven in Europe and another one in Canada).

But as luck, or even fate, would have it, we did not love Switzerland and Switzerland did not love us. We were grieving for our friends back in the US and both began to worry that we had made a huge mistake. The eldest, RoriBelle, was nearing school-going age and we began to feel ‘homeless’. We had to face the facts; We had made a bad decision. Was it time to ‘go back home’ to the US?

My Mum finally managed to convince me to move back ‘home’ to Ireland – even if it was just for a few weeks visit. She knew we were heartbroken that things had not gone according to plan. She knew we needed time to heal. She also wanted those grandchildren within her grasp – because at the time (2008) she had no grandchildren living in Ireland and she’s needy like that. Since then, a lot of her prayers have been answered because she now has eight grandchildren living within a ten minute drive of her house. Careful what you wish for Granny .. your kitchen floor will never be clean with this bunch of beautiful brats we have all been blessed with.

Somehow, and under the threat of my Mum’s wooden spoon no doubt, I ended up in college. I never wanted to go. I was certain college was not for me. I have always had a creative mind. Exams, test taking, etc. whilst I did grand in secondary school, was not something I ‘loved’.

But an evening poetry workshop with (Belfast native) local poet Fred Johnston led to me finding a ‘dream course‘ at my local university, NUI Galway, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I remember, when still in Switzerland, talking to my boss, a lovely tall German lady, and she asked me what my ‘new’ plan was and I told her I was lost. I had no ‘plan B’ and I was just stuck. It’s true.

She said “Móna, self-made people like you always land on your feet”.

She did not mean any harm by that statement, but she, the rocket scientist who was highly educated, reminded me that I wasan employee without a college education. I did not know it then, but it was probably that punch in the gut she delivered, with grace, which propelled me into the university and made me buckle down .. I had to prove to myself and to my family, that I could do this.


FB 1st class

The outpour of love and support from friends on Facebook has overwhelmed me. Feeling very loved indeed.


Since then, I have achieved lots … the list is not long, but it is interesting and includes writing and publishing a book, winning multiple blog awards (which I have you readers to thank for) a lovely long contract with the Sunday Times, and just yesterday finishing up my Masters in Journalism with first class honours.

For the Americans reading this ….. I know you are thinking 72% seems low … that is because our grading system here is different to yours in the US. So really, a grade higher than 70% is damn near impossible to achieve. Throw in two kids, then add two more (foster) kids into the mix and a job on top of it all .. well, you get the picture.


Grading UNI

Grading at Irish Universities


College is not for everyone. Continuing eduction for a mature student, a parent, is impossibly hard.

It is a life I would not encourage you covet. Not unless you have 100% support from your spouse and your extended family and friends. You will need all of them. At exam time you will need a friends (quiet) spare room to hide in; during visiting lecture series time you will need your so-not-a-morning-person mother to drag her weary butt out of bed to take your kids to school because you have to get in two hours early to just get parking. You will need your partner to cook, do laundry, and entertain the kids by themselves for years and it will almost kill your relationship if you let it …. but it can be done.



There is no place like home … there is no place, like home.


The support is there. From your friends, from your family, from your lecturers.

All you have to do is ask for help.

So there you go … what is life if we don’t take risks? There is no guarantees that any of my decisions and risk-taking will pay off. I know this and the chef knows this. But allowing oneself to pursue things that make us happy in life is hugely rewarding – and that in itself makes this journey so much fun.

No sense in putting things on hold guys n’ dolls. …. there will never be a good time to ‘have a baby’, ‘go to college’, ‘look for a new job’, ’emigrate’, ‘move home’.

The time is now.

Now …. about that ‘look for a new job’ bit … any ideas?


Oct 11 2014

One year – TV free at home

Posted by     16 Comments    in Kitchen
Happy 4 Family 2014 - Version 2

This is a FULL family photo – with 6 pp in it .. two adults and four kids … I can’t put the rest of the image on the blog because the HSE does not allow us to flaunt the faces of our foster kiddies … but picture two lovely lassies with smiles as big and bright as the other two and my arm wrapped around them.    One happy, never-normal, family.


Where to start …

One year ago:

Me: ‘Put down that remote’

Me: ‘Turn off the TV’

Me: ‘No you can’t watch cartoons all day.’

Ron: Clutches remote tightly … pretends he does not hear me. He is gifted at that.

Kids: Throw hissy fit … whine, rant, rave , even shed crocodile tears because they can’t watch whatever they want, whenever they want.


Today – it’s been a year with no TV in the house:

Silence. Someone is reading, someone is outside weeding with their father, and a couple of them are playing Yahtzee.

I – am blogging; the kids hate me ‘less’.


I did not make the decision to rid our lives of telly. I’ve never been a fan of the telly box, so it really was not my decision to make. The chef, however, could have been described as a borderline TV addict. When we lived in the US, and worked nights at the restaurant, we just taped or Tivo’d everything we wanted to watch. It was bliss. No ads. Never. We never let the kids watch telly either, just pre-recorded episodes of Dora or The Backyardigans …

When we moved home to Ireland in 2008, Ron started complaining about how awful Irish TV was, and how much he missed ‘real’ TV. I did like most good wives would, and totally ignored him, because unless for the odd episode of Antiques Roadshow or Downton Abbey … I never whiled away my time watching telly. I used ‘college work’ as my excuse to retreat to my room and read or study. It worked out just beautifully.

Then a change was made … we moved house late last summer, and the time came to renew our TV contract. I grumbled a little about what a waste of times and money it was, when all he did was complain about how awful it was. So he made a big decision to just ‘let it go’.

No TV and no internet either. We do have satellite broadband here in the boonies but not anywhere close to streaming speeds … so only get to see Netflix on a rare occasion and it is usually a binge fest watching past episodes of Sons of Anarchy or House of Cards.


So how’s it been?

The answers won’t surprise you:

Jack – aged 9: “Well, I miss my Saturday morning cartoons but I really don’t miss all the ads on telly. I like that Dad rents a few movies for us at the weekends and we go to the Cinema a good bit more too.

Rori – aged 11 – “I miss TV but we get to watch it at Granny’s house! Last year, she let us watch the Late Late Toy Show – we were up until 1am in the morning. Ha ha .. it was legend Mom! I don’t miss watching crappy shows when there is nothing good on. I like having LOTS more books to read.

Sam – aged 13 – “yeah, I miss it. We used to watch Victorious .. and the music video channel .. I miss that, but now that I have more music on my mp3 player it is fine like”.

Lulu – aged 8 – “Yes, I miss cartoons … and miss having a TV but I love all the boardgames we play”

I asked Ron if he was going to sign a contract with Sky to get the TV service back and to my surprise .. he said ‘no’ very quickly. “I really don’t want to pay for mediocre TV. The kids and I are all happy to watch movies I rent from extra vision and I’m not sure if you’ve noticed honey, but I’m reading more now than I have ever done in my life.”

Books my bag

Oh – I’ve noticed alright because he is the kinda husband who has to read passages of a book out loud when he thinks you should listen to what he has discovered.

He is reading a lot more. The kids are reading a lot more and are all playing outdoors a heck of a lot more! There is very little Wii allowance time (less than one hour a week) and they have exhausted their library cards. Only one of the four of the kids still really dislikes reading …. the other three fight over books.

They are reading more. They are cooking in the kitchen more with Ron and they are doing all the weeding and garden projects with him too.

 Charlie Byrnes Books

Just today, we were at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop in town, at a very cool ‘Build-a-book’ workshop for kids, which the MA students from Lit/publishing and Writing programmes at NUI Galway were on hand to help with, and I told Olivia, the Children’s section media manager I had to frisk my kids when we left because I was afraid they had stolen a few books.

Her response was brilliant: ‘Isn’t it great to worry that they’ll want a book *that* much!


We are spending WAY MORE quality time together. We have always made a point to eat at least one meal together around the table with the kids – every day. There is no annoying noise from the telly. There is chat and talk and conversation and lively debate. Sometimes, there is so much talking all one-over-the-other we have to just wait our turn and marvel at the fact that they are very much present and engaged.


I’ve noticed that anything I need to watch on Telly – Twitter tells me what is happening. If there is a big story breaking, the Tweets guide me to a link and I can catch up the next day on playback … if it is really important – and it rarely is.

Kids Swans

So there you have it. Life without the TV is just bliss.

TV viewing robs us of our time, our most precious asset. Even with the internet, the average person watches more than four or five hours of TV a day. That’s 30 – 35 hours a week. That’s a lot of TV. If you get rid of your TV, you can reclaim this time for yourself and you just never know what you might accomplish with a few extra hours a day to play with.


If you are thinking about it – unplug the TV for a weekend. Starting Friday – just go cold turkey. Before you know it, your sunrises will be brighter and you will be finding excuses not to spend time walking along the beach with your loved ones watching the sun go down on Galway bay …

Sunset Galway

That’s all I got for now folks. I’m kept on my toes these days. Along with lecturing a few hours a week I am also working (freelance) in the Marketing and Communications office at NUI Galway – writing a few articles for their annual Amumni Magazine, Cois Coiribe. This year, the magazine will be distributed via The Irish Times – thats over 120,000 copies of our magazine available to people living on the island of Ireland … on Friday 28th November which is (purely coincidental) the day after my graduation from the MA in Journalism – which, also purely coincidental,  falls on (US) Thanksgiving.

This WiseWoman has so much to be thankful for …


Oct 5 2014

Growing Spuds (outside) for Christmas Day

Posted by     4 Comments    in Kitchen

Autumn has finally arrived in Galway – October 2014




But this is the latest task bestowed upon us by our friends at GIY Ireland #GIYNation. They sent us a few seed potatoes and asked us to plant them outside, with the suggestion that we might have spuds for Christmas dinner.

So a planting we did go.



The compost is looking great this year, and this is thanks to the fantastic family of fat worms living in and working the dirt.

The kids got stuck in digging and shovelling as much as they could over onto the new makeshift potato bed. Ron thought it might be a good idea to build a little enclosure around it, still allowing for the rain to seep in at the back, but covering the top and sides to protect it from the wind in the back garden. We also planted the spuds right next to the compost heap so this will help keep that area of the garden warmer during the winter.


Digging in the dirt


Of course, the minute you start any gardening project around our place, there are always a few onlookers … waiting for scraps …



Our egg-laying ducks … expert worm catchers!

We had to shoo them away because we need those worms …. the ducks were relentless though and spent the latter part of the evening aerating the compost pile for us. They did in turn show their appreciation the next day by laying some of the biggest eggs I’ve ever seen. One of them – a double yolker!

It has taken both of us all summer to get through Dan Barbers’ tome of a book ‘The Third Plate’ and it should be noted that this is a great read. Understanding where our food comes from is becoming more and more important to us as a family and now, monitoring ‘what’ these table birds of ours are eating is our new experiment. Feeding them an unhealthy diet of GMO Grain only means we are eating the same … you are what you eat, right?


Up the Corrib River near Menlo Castle … the fab four ..

We have had a fantastic summer. The kids are all healthy and happy and settled back into school. I am working at the university (part time as a lecturer for the Journalism department and part time freelance journalist) and Ron is still trucking along baking his little heart out at Morton’s of Galway where his Sourdough bread is flying out the door daily.


Give a man a bag of flour …

In another few weeks … I will graduate (late November) and then have a few big decisions to make (again) about the next steps to take … ‘more school’ or ‘get a real job’ are the two phrases tossed about each night around the dinner table …

Any advice or suggestions …. throw them my way please x


She who made me a mama … RoriBelle – my little gardening helper


That’s all I got for now ….

Stay tuned … the next blog post is ‘surviving one year without TV’ ….


Sep 28 2014

19 years and counting ….

Posted by     2 Comments    in Kitchen
Jack's Hands

Teaching hands … with his whole heart

Funny how the time slips by so fast, isn’t it? One minute you are walking along minding your own business and the next minute you are wham! head over heels in love with a man who is just not that in to you.


Well, at least not until you got him drunk on Irish coffees and kept him that way until he succumbed to your wildly Irish ways.


19 years later … he is still here by my side, cooking and feeding our family with so much more than food.


I have just finished judging the finals of  the annual Blog Awards, and honestly, bloggers out there, hats off to you all. The very best part of blogging, aside from meeting lots of new friends right here on this blog and then in real life, is discovering all the new voices and talent behind so many new (and old) Irish blogs.

I had some real favourites this year and I can’t wait to see who cleans up at the awards ceremony in a few weeks. Best of luck to you all!

Now, on to the crux of the matter.



A recipe for these excellent little balls of dough stuffed with even more excellent spoonfuls of shredded Oldefarm pork and vegetables.

19 years and counting ….
Recipe type: Steamed and stuffed Pork Buns
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 14 buns

Light and lovely little buns stuffed with anything you want really. This recipe makes 14 buns
  • For the buns
  • 2¼ tsp dry active yeast
  • 240 ml milk
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 700 g flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp sugar/honey
  • For the filling
  • 450 g shredded (cooked) pork (or could use ground (raw) pork too.
  • 250 g shredded cabbage
  • 1 carrot, diced small
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tsp grated ginger, fresh
  • 2 green onions
  • 4 garlic cloves

  1. First .. for the buns
  2. Heat the milk and oil in a pot until it is lukewarm. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the liquid and let it sit for 8 to 10 minutes – this helps activate it.
  3. Sift the flour, salt, and sugar together in a bow.. Add the yeast liquid into the flour, mixing with a fork. Once all the liquid has been poured in, knead for 15 seconds until the dough comes together. Do not overwork the dough – or it will become chewy.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, 4 to 5 minutes max. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover, and let it sit for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  5. When the dough is almost done with its rise, sauté it all together in a pan the ingredients for the filling — pork, vegetables, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, ginger, green onion and garlic.
  6. Next, punch down your risen dough. Turn it onto a floured surface again and knead for just a few strokes.
  7. Cut off a ping pong ball-sized piece of dough and roll into a 3″ diameter flat circle.
  8. Place about a tablespoon of the pork mixture into the circle and fold the dough up around the filling, pinching and pleating until the top is sealed. It doesn’t have to be perfect
  9. Place the finished buns on a baking sheet and cover with a damp towel to keep them from drying out as you fold the others.
  10. Fill a wok (or pot or rice cooker, depending on what you’re using) with about an inch or two of water and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. After the water has begun to simmer, set the basket over the water, covered, and steam for about 15 minutes, or until buns are resilient when touched and the filling inside is cooked.
  11. Make sure to refill the water between batches, as it will likely evaporate during the boiling. You may also need to adjust the heat to low as the water boils — a low simmer is all you need.

We did lightly pan fry ours right after steaming, in a toasted sesame oil, and served it with a Korean dipping sauce – a staple here at ChezWise … and Jack, our nine-going-on-nineteen son, can make it with ease.


It is delicious. Give it a try.


Korean dipping sauce

When planning a meal around here, the sauce always has a big role to play in the end result. When we come across a sauce loved by the whole family we tend to keep a jar of it on hand in the fridge and that way, when trying to feed a hungry brood in a hurry, there is one less thing to make. This dipping sauce can be used as a favourite sauce served alongside a plate of wontons, poured over a delicious fried rice or noodle dish, or as the perfect accompaniment to seafood pancakes.

What you will need

236 ml [1 cup] soy sauce 129 ml

115 ml [1/2 cup] water

1 Tbsp brown sugar/honey

1 pinch black pepper

1 tsp garlic, minced

1 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tbsp concentrated vinegar (Essig essence)

2 green onions, chopped

2 chili peppers

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

How to prepare

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

Store in the fridge in a jar with a tight seal for weeks on end.

We use this sauce a lot here at home. We have basted roasting chickens with it, dipped dumplings in it and it is also an excellent choice for drizzling over a bit of fresh salmon sashimi if you are fortunate enough to have it on hand.



Anyway … it has not all been a bed of roses guys n’ dolls … and there have even been a few times where neither of us knew which way was up or which country we were headed to next.

But we have hung in there and are still working out our differences – every single day of our version of this wedded bliss. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Would you?


A quick reminder for those of you who have been following along … this is how loaded our special day really is.

September 30th was the day we met, the day we got married, the day we opened our restaurant, the day we brought Jack home to live with us and the day we closed our restaurant right before moving back home to Europe.

We have kept it fairly uneventful since then … but I always have a feeling that something significant will happen on this special day.

Another week awaits us and this one brings a new month rolling in with cooler breezes.

Thanks for tuning in x



Sep 23 2014

Driving an eCar….money…money….money….

Posted by     4 Comments    in Kitchen

Wow .. where to start. This journey we are on with the Electric Car from Renault Ireland and GIY Ireland has taken several twists and turns over the course of the summer.

Local gardener goes for a spin

Local farmer/vegetable grower, Oisín Kenny, from Claregalway, stopped by to check out the eCar.

The first thing worth mentioning is … it is still summer here in Galway. Although the air has cooled a wee bit, and the leaves are starting to turn and tumble, the sun is shining, the kids are not wearing coats to school and there is beer n’ BBQing happening in the backyard every evening.

Himself has never experienced anything like it and has been wearing shorts since April. He said it ‘feels like an American summer’. He still refuses to swim alongside us in the sea though … that would be admitting he has now, finally after 6 long years of fighting it, acclimated to his new home.

GIY Nation Jack gardening lesson Dad 2

Jack has started to follow in his father’s footsteps .. showing the most interest, of all the kids, for the gardening projects.

A few weeks ago, while I was wrapping up my Thesis for college, he was banished from the house two weekends in a row. I had to get my work finished, so he planned a few excursions with the kids and decided to do a little driving experiment to go along with it.

I asked him to document the details because he took the eCar on one excursion and the diesel guzzler van on another outing.

eCar at Claregalway Castle - July 2014

Enjoy the unedited version of my husbands detailing of his little jaunts through the Irish countryside on a quest.  Best if you read it with a half Alabama/half Galway accent. And read it slowly … because that is the way he talks … real slow …. like ….


It ain’t about the money…Well, actually, it is.

by Ron Wise

A few weeks ago I started my journey from Galway to Claremorris with a two-fold purpose. The first, was to do a little experiment with the eCar v’s the family ICE vehicle (Internal Combustion Engine) otherwise known as the 3 litre diesel van that sucks the life out of my wallet every time I turn the key in the ignition (which I ran on the same trip the week later).

The second purpose was to find our gander, Pippin, a lady friend. Pippin has become an integral part of our flock management system here at Chez Wise, and lends his watchdog services to ward of stray dogs and greedy foxes, and he also, alongside Pearl the terrier, keeps a watchful eye over all the babies that hatch over the course of the summer.

See short 6 second video here.

The trip from our home in Galway to Claremorris was about 60km so I had to plan accordingly, as we don’t have a fast charge capability with the Renault Fluence. A few phone calls later, we had received the OK from the lovely folks at the McWilliam Hotel to allow me to park the car and charge-for-free in their parking lot, while I spent the day at the Claremorris Country Fair with the four kids, and without my wife … because she was still writing her damn thesis.

Although we had a wonderful experience at the fair, and the kids were well behaved, we did not find a mate for Pippin.

Pippin the Gander ...photo bomb expert

Pippin the Gander …photo bomb expert

We made our way back to the hotel, loaded up all our purchases of the day and did a quick headcount because Móna gets mad if I misplace a kid …. and we headed home. The cost of the trip, there are back with the eCar was €2.00 – as we charged at home before we left Galway and the McWilliam Hotel, as with all public chargers are all still free.

Under the hood

No oil .. so no extra maintenance costs …clean engine ..

The following week, still determined to find a mate for my gander, we headed back that same way in the Diesel van. The same trip to Claremorris and back cost just under €15.00

You can see why I love the eCar. It is about the money, well more like the savings.



My very pretty niece, Keira, who comes to visit us every summer all the way from Switzerland. She is quite the gardener.


Having to figure out a way to encourage all the kids to become more involved in the gardening projects this year was a challenge we were ready for. There is a lot of finger-pointing going on and ‘it’s her turn’ etc. but the unexpected side effect of it all, is they have now started to fight over who gets to harvest and eat the goods. The cucumbers are chopped in salads, we have a few late strawberries popping out this week thanks to the Indian summer we are experiencing, and the most recent project assigned to us by the folks at GIY Ireland is to plant a winter crop of spuds for Christmas day.

Rumour has it they will not grow to produce ‘Spuds for Santa’ as the kids have nicknamed it, but all we can do is wait and see.

Tomato harvest August 2014

For now, and especially with regard to driving the eCar for a few months …… we are really  enjoying the ride  ….

That’s all for this week,


About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
You can find me here
  • Contact Mona
Ron Wise About the Chef
You can't find the Chef here.
You might as well just come visit.
He prefers face to face communication.

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