‘Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.’

If anyone follows any Irish foodie on Snapchat, it’s most likely Karen Coakley AKA Kenmare Foodie – and if you aren’t yet, you should be. A relative newcomer to the social media phenomenon, Karen broadcasts her recipes in step-by-step video bites almost every single day if not a couple of times a day and is a natural teacher, giving tips, tricks and advice on how to cook amazing dishes, how to eat healthy (and indulge a little), how to stay fit and how to juggle it all. Our fruit delivery service is all about fresh and healthy ingredients, so we thought we’d catch up with Karen for a chat…

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Bantry-born-and-bred, Karen now lives in a stunningly beautiful part of the world, Kenmare in Co. Kerry, with her husband and four sons, who range in age from 22 to 8 year-old twins. She first began blogging a number of years ago when organising a Food Festival in her locality, initially branching out just to Twitter, she began to connect with other food lovers and like-minded people and hasn’t looked back since. Now she juggles her blog and very active social media with writing a regular food column in the West Cork Times and a fortnightly broadcast all about food on West Limerick FM, filled with local food news and recipes tried-and-tested from her kitchen table.

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Karen on her routine…

When you have children, routine is very important and everything revolves around their comings and goings. I’m up early every morning to cook breakfast for the boys before school, which is ususally fruit salad with local live natural yoghurt followed by scrambled eggs, oaty pancakes or French toast. By 9:30am, the school run and housework are both done and I’m off for a run or spinning class. I ran a full marathon last summer, so i’ve kept up my training through the year. Then it’s shopping time. Whether it’s my local Lidl or Supervalu, the butcher or the local Adult Education Centre garden that grows gorgeous certified organic veg, I’m stocking up for feeding a busy and hungry household later. Usually i’ll just find inspiration as I go as to what to cook and I’m back home making lunch by 1pm. 

Dinner is a time when we all stop what we’re doing, we all sit down and we eat together all six of us (as often as we can). This is something that is very important to me as life is so busy that it’s good to take time out and enjoy food together. Sometimes after dinner I’m off out again doing circuits or rowing training with my local club and to top it all off, I’ll get my blogging, food reports, writing, food styling, photography and general social media done around all of this. I also handle my husband’s office accounts….PHEWF!

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On remaining focused and driven…

Never lose your passion as this is what will give you your focus, I came across a great Maya Angelou quote recently that struck a chord with me: ‘You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.’ 

On social media…

Hands down Instagram and Snapchat are my favourites of the suite of social media out there. I find Instagram very positive and my photos get a great reaction, it’s growing steadily and I love the styling element to the photography. I’m very new to Snapchat but I’m blown away! I’m videoing my recipes daily and giving cooking tutorials. I’m also snapping my out and about in Kerry and my runs/trips to the gym, rowing etc. I am getting a MASSIVE response to my Snaps. I can’t believe how it’s growing for me and it’s also growing my other platforms.

I can hardly keep up with the response! Moms are snapping me pictures of  their kids eating dinner that they’ve cooked with my recipes. I have people telling me they are falling in love with cooking again. I also have mothers telling me that they have young kids and had stopped cooking and they are now back at it because of me. I had one lady in the U.S with an Auto Immune Disease who used to be a Triathlete, she had to quit running. She told me that she’s so inspired by me that she is back exercising and walks 6 or 7 miles every day. I’m actually really excited about this as it brings all that you see on Instagram and my food to life.

On her go-to recipes for an after-work dinner…

I love Spanish chicken, there is a video recipe on my Kenmare Foodies Facebook page. It combines chicken with chorizo, tomatoes, red and yellow peppers and black olives. My kids love gnocchi so a very simple one is gnocchi with pancetta, asparagus and peas in a sauce made with crème fraîche and chicken stock.

Karen’s favourite fruit recipes…

I start every day with a great big bowl of fruit salad. One of my go-to breakfasts is corn cakes with Meridian peanut butter (which has no added sugar, salt or oil) topped with sliced banana. Another is overnight oats with almond milk and fresh berries (or coconut milk and chopped pineapple for a tropical twist).

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On her food heroes…

Rick Stein is probably my idol, his recipes always work and I’ve been watching him since I was a new mom many years ago. Myrtle Allen, because I’m so passionate about local produce, foraging and home cooking. Gina Ferguson of Gubbeen Smokehouse and Veronica Steel of Milleens Cheese – both of West Cork as I grew up there where this fantastic artisan produce was unheard of in the rest of Ireland. It was second nature to us in West Cork and I think these influences helped to shape my love of food.

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On nutrition…

I’ve always been very into what I put into my body and even more so into my childrens’ bodies, this is why I cook everything we eat from scratch. I quit smoking just over 5 years ago and started to exercise and soon discovered that the better I ate, the better the quality of my training and the more energy I had. I mean you don’t really feel in the mood for a 5 mile run with a burger and a can of Club Orange on-board do you? I eat to fuel my body and also to keep me energised; I don’t ever get a 3pm slump and people are always asking where I get my energy from and it’s simple….exercise and a healthy diet.

On running…

We have so many beautiful routes here that we are spoilt for choice. Wherever we go there are mountains, country lanes, rivers and the sea; it’s so beautiful. Last year, when I was training for Cork City Marathon, there were weeks when I was running up to 40 miles. You have weeks when you are training where you have long slow runs of up to 20 miles (which took me about 3.5 hours) combined with mid-distance runs and shorter faster runs. The longest I’ve ran for was my Marathon, it took me 4:23 and I’m very proud of that! 

This year my focus and training has changed as my crew and I are training for the Irish Coastal Rowing Federation ‘All Ireland Championships’ in Donegal in August. I also hope to row in The Ocean to City Race in Cork in July which is a 28k race. Therefore, my training has changed to spinning, circuits and rowing. I’ll also be introducing strength training this year.

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On her advice for others…

Make time in the day for your exercise. I have always done this, even when they boys were little. Do not feel guilty about it, as a mom you deserve it and you will all be better off for it, you will feel happier in yourself, have more energy and be mentally and physically stronger. You will also know you’re setting the best example ever for your children especially now with obesity and sedentary lifestyles becoming such an issue. Set goals, little ones to start off with, you can’t run a marathon a few weeks after taking up running but you can run 5k and from that point on you will know that anything is possible….even running a marathon.

Diet and fitness follow each other so meal plan, think about the coming days and what you will need. Work out dinners in advance and have ingredients bought, stir fries, pasta, gnocchi or tray bakes are ideal after work dinners. Make use of your freezer, it’s a great way to get meals cooked and ready for the week ahead.

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Finally – as we ask everyone – if you had to live on just one fruit and just one vegetable for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Pineapple because it tastes like sunshine, potatoes because I’m an Irish girl!

You can follow Karen on all her Kenmare Foodie social media channels: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat (username: kenmarefoodie) and check out her blog too.