Summer (overnight) oats

Kickstart your day with this super breakfast, a perfect combination of goodness and taste which will keep you going right through until lunchtime. When my daughter was doing her Leaving Cert recently she often asked me to make this for her particularly on days where she had 2 exams.  Now the exams are over and I have shown her how to make it she could not believe how simple it was. It is made the night before so the oats have time to steep in the milk, use a bowl if you are going to eat it at home the next morning or use a portable container to ‘grab & go’ if you want to bring it with you say going to work the next day.  Traditional hot porridge is just not appealing during the Summer – this version is so much nicer. When I make it I don’t actually measure anything anymore and sometimes I use blueberries instead of raspberries or use a mixture of both. The ‘recipe’  (if you could call it that!)is adapted from one I saw originally in Derval O’Rourke’s book  ‘The Fit Foodie’. Continue reading

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Minestrone Soup (dinner in a bowl!)

 

You have probably guessed already that food is an obsession of mine and plays a kinda big role in my life i.e. if I am not eating it, I am thinking about it!  Apart from needing it to stay alive, food can be important to people for many different reasons. For example in our house at the moment it seems that there is a never-ending conveyor belt of different meals required and it is quite the full-time job trying to think of what to feed everyone and keeping the fridge stocked (there is only 4 of us!!). Darling daughter (DD) is in study mode for the Leaving Cert so as well as needing food to keep her fit and healthy, food is a real source of comfort in a gruelling schedule and can often be the highlight of her day. Darling son (DS) plays Senior Football(Gaelic) for which he trains 6 or 7 times a week, needs large amounts of carbs and protein for energy, strength and recovery – he seems to be always foraging in the fridge!  This ‘soup’ which is a meal in itself  keeps everyone happy whether it is for lunch, pre or post training or for supper. My daughter adores it as do I, it tastes great and takes just 2 minutes to re-heat in the microwave. Perfect for taking to school or work and really easy to make.

 
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 40 mins

4-6 Servings

Ingredients

150g (5oz) tinned haricot beans, drained & rinsed in cold water.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 leeks, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
75g pancetta / smoked bacon pieces
1 litre (1½ pints) chicken or vegetable stock
1½ tablespoons tomato purée
1 bay leaf
75g (3oz) tiny pasta shapes
Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper
Grated parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano or Gran Padano) to serve

How to make it!

  • Chop / cut the pancetta into small pieces (approx. 2cm) –  a scissors works best for this.
  • Heat the olive oil in a pan
  • Add the chopped onion, garlic, diced leeks, carrots & celery and the bacon pieces.
  • Cook for 10 minutes over a low heat without colouring, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the drained & rinsed haricot beans to the pan.
  • Add the stock and tomato purée and bring to the boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 15/20 minutes until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir the pasta into the soup and simmer for another 10 minutes until tender, stirring frequently.
  • Season to taste
  • Serve with parmesan cheese grated over the top.

Sunshine vegetable stew

 

sunshine-veg-stew

You have only to look at the colours in this dish to get a nice warm feeling and that it would fit the bill perfectly for lunch on a cold Winter’s day. I made this dish to bring to work for my lunch and I got two of these containers so 2 days’  lunches were sorted. I really like to try and bring my own food to work for at least 2/3 days a week from a healthy eating point of view and also from the cost point of view – I can easily spend €50 a week on good coffee and bad sandwiches! An added bonus is that the ingredients (apart from the fresh coriander) are either store cupboard ingredients i.e. coconut milk, tinned chickpeas or vegetables that have a good shelf life i.e. sweet potato, butternut squash, onion, garlic. These are ingredients that I would always have in the press because they are so versatile and can be used in lots of dishes.  This stew is vegetarian and vegan so can go towards one of your weekly meat-free meals.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 10/15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 mins

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp curry powder
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
½ butternut squash, skin / seeds removed and diced
400ml vegetable stock
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Large handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Place a large pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil.
  • Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté gently for 6-8 minutes until tender.
  • Add the garlic, turmeric and curry powder and cook for a further 2 minutes
  • Add the sweet potato and butternut squash chunks and stir until coated in the spices
  • Pour in the vegetable stock, coconut milk and chickpeas
  • Bring back to a steady simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.
  • Check the seasoning, stir through the coriander *and serve ( could also be served with rice to make a larger meal of it)

*If you are making this like I was to bring to work don’t stir in the coriander until you are re-heating it.

 

Smoked Trout Paté with Carrot Salad & Pitta Chips

smoked-trout-pate-7

This recipe is from one of my favourite cookbooks called The Diet for Food Lovers by Jennifer Irvine – it is a beautiful book of healthy, delicious recipes (and the pictures are beautiful too!). This particular recipe looks like there is a lot to it but it is actually very simple and easy – perfect with a glass of wine or as a starter if you were having anyone for dinner. The paté takes just 5 mins to make, the carrot salad,  10 mins and the pitta ‘chips’ take 5 mins to prepare and about 15 mins to bake in the oven.  Instead of making the pitta chips you could have some toasted wholemeal or rye bread or even some melba toast with the paté. The pitta chips are worth trying though as they are surprisingly tasty (and a healthy alternative to tortilla chips) and take only minutes to make – my daughter loves them and took them in her lunchbox when I made them recently. And who would ever have thought of a carrot salad? It looks beautiful and the dressing really turns it into something special. Continue reading

Curry in a hurry!

turkey-curry-3

There are few things that bring a little whoop of joy to my heart as much as when those magic words “that was soooo nice” are uttered at the dinner table. It makes all the time and effort that goes into planning and preparing a meal worthwhile. This high praise was given to the dish that I am sharing with you this week. The amazing thing about this dish is that it is one of the healthiest, leanest dinners that I cook. Continue reading

The wonders of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

ACV Irish

Apple Cider Vinegar is pretty incredible stuff. Commonly used in salad dressings, sauces, marinades, chutneys and preservatives, it also has remarkable medicinal properties. What I’m talking about here is raw, unfiltered, unpasteurised vinegar which contains the ‘mother‘. Don’t ask me to explain what the ‘mother’ is, all I know is that this is the real good stuff which is explained as strands of proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky, cobweb-like appearance. This gives the vinegar its anti-bacterial, antiseptic, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. It means that any ailment that can be traced from bacteria, a virus or a fungus can be treated with the help of apple cider vinegar. The main reason this works is that apple cider vinegar, as acidic as it tastes, actually helps to alkalize your body (most of us are more acidic). A body that’s more alkaline may be more effective at fighting off viruses that cause colds and the flu. There is tons of information on the internet about this amazing stuff so why not ‘google’ it for yourself when you have a few minutes to spare.

Up to now I have been buying Bragg’s, made in the U.S. and widely available in Ireland in many supermarkets and health food shops and inexpensive at approx €5. However, I was excited to discover recently this wonderful Irish Apple Cider Vinegar from The Apple Farm of Tipperary (don’t you just love the bottle) which I bought in The Ballymore Inn* in Ballymore Eustace for approx. €10.

* a great spot for lunch or dinner plus they also sell a range of Irish food produce like this Apple Cider Vinegar.

I have used ACV to help relieve head colds, sore throats, urinary tract infections and I now take two teaspoons in a glass of water as a supplement at night time. If drinking apple cider vinegar straight up is too much for you (especially if your stomach is upset from the cold or flu) dilute it with a bit of warm water and some honey.

Cold Remedy
Drink a tablespoon or two of ACV (in a glass of water) at the first onset of a cold or the flu.

Urinary Tract Infection(UTI) (cystitis)
This is something I suffer from on a regular basis so I speak from (painful) experience! Apple Cider Vinegar can be useful in preventing the bacteria that cause UTIs from multiplying or growing. If you feel the a UTI coming on you can use apple cider vinegar to help relieve the symptoms.
1. Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water. You can also add lemon juice and sweeten with honey. Mix well.
2. Drink this at least twice a day for a few days.

Note: It is important to catch a bladder infection early. Although the incidence is low, if left untreated a bladder infection can travel up into the kidneys. So, if you are  still having symptoms after a couple of days of treatment with raw apple cider vinegar, go to your doctor for medical help

Apple Cider Vinegar Salad Dressing Recipe
Mix 3 parts olive oil to one part vinegar. Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a sweet taste if you like. Mix well and drizzle over your salad.

Using Apple Cider Vinegar Once You’re Already Sick
If you waited too long and are in the throes of a cold or the flu, keep drinking the vinegar anyway. It’ll help your body fight off the germs, give you some energy, and help improve your digestion.

ACV US

Feta Stuffed Butternut Squash


Feta & Butternut Squash

It’s all about green, white and gold today given the day that is in it, it feels like the right thing to do and an appropriate way to show support for our ‘boys in green’ as they play France in the Euros. This dish is another one to put on your list for your meat-free dinner day. It is easy to make as well as healthy, wholesome and really tasty as it contains a great combination of flavours. Many of the ingredients are ones that you can have in your store cupboard. Butternut Squash for example has a great shelf life – this particular one was in my vegetable drawer for at least a month! Feta cheese is also something you can have in your fridge as it has a long shelf life once unopened. To use the rest of a packet of feta you could make this Green Pea & Feta Cheese Omelette the next day. The other ingredients i.e. onions, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes in oil would always be staples in my kitchen with the only ingredient that I might need to buy being the fresh mint.

Serves 2

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 40/50 minutes

Ingredients

1 small butternut squash
½ – 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled & finely chopped
80g / 3oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained & roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds
100g / 4oz feta cheese, lightly crumbled
2 tablespoons of fresh mint, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 200°C / 400° F / Gas 6

  • Prepare the butternut squash by cutting it in half lengthways and scooping out the seeds with a spoon
  • Place the squash on a non-stick baking tray (or a tray lined with baking paper)
  • Roast in the oven for approx 30 minutes or until the butternut is soft, cooked through and has a slightly coloured surface (a larger squash will take longer to cook)
  • While the squash is in the oven heat the oil in a pan and add the onions.
  • Sweat over a low heat for 4-5 minutes until they are soft and translucent.
  • Add the garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • In a bowl, mix the sun-dried tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, crumbled feta, mint, cooked onions and garlic together.
  • Remove the butternut squash from the oven when cooked and scoop out some of the flesh to make space for the filing. (Keep the flesh for another dish). Fill the squash with the stuffing mixture, then return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and serve with some green veg.

PS – this reheats very well so you can enjoy it the next day as well !

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