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.
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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

Salmon & Asparagus Terrine

Salmon & Asparagus Terrine 3

Impress your friends with this beautiful and delicious terrine, perfect as a starter or for a light lunch with a glass of wine. What’s more you can make it in advance so it’s hassle-free, just have it chilling in the fridge until you are ready. This is a Mary Berry recipe, she is one person I so admire and whose recipes I totally trust i.e. they always work!  I made this for a dinner party recently and it went down a treat.  Continue reading

Bacon & Asparagus Frittata

Bacon & Asparagus Frittata

You know when you come home, hungry (in my case usually ‘hangry’!) and need food fast, well instead of dialling your local takeaway this is the perfect answer and will be on your table even faster.  Tasty, quick, healthy and satisfying.  I made this one with asparagus, bacon pieces and finished it with some rocket but once you have eggs in stock you can just use whatever ingredients you have e.g. chorizo, cheddar, parma ham, sausage etc etc.   It is a great way to use up leftovers too.

Make sure you use a non-stick pan  – I always keep one purely for omelettes, pancakes etc. Otherwise you may be scraping your dinner out of the pan!

Serves 2

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
250g or 1 bundle of asparagus tips
75g of bacon pieces
4 large eggs
50g parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp chopped chives
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Cook the asparagus in a pan of simmering salted water or steam over boiling water
  • Remove after 5 mins (they need to be tender and still bright green)
  • Drain, run under a cold tap and cut into pieces (approx. 1 inch)
  • Heat the frying pan and cook the bacon pieces for 3 to 4 minutes (no additional oil may be needed)
  • Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl, add the asparagus, parmesan and chives, stirring well.
  • Season with salt & pepper
  • Pour the egg mixture into the pan and cook gently for 3 minutes, drawing back the edges with a wooden spatula and tipping the runny egg over the edge to help it set.
  • Cook over a gentle heat for 5 minutes and then place under a pre-heated grill, cooking for 2 minutes or until the top is set and lightly golden.
  • Remove and serve. Enjoy!

Mason Jar Salads

Mason Jar Salad 1

These Mason Jar* salads are a recent discovery of mine. They are genius!  Since I went back working I have been buying my lunch out each day which is not something I can or want to keep doing. Apart from the expense I find I am eating stuff I wouldn’t normally choose to eat. In line with my 80/20 philosophy about food I like to eat healthily during the week so I can relax at the weekend and enjoy a few treats plus a few glasses of wine. This requires a bit of organisation and planning though during the week and these salads in a jar are a brilliant idea.  I make two at a time and they fit neatly in my handbag. With these salads it is all about the order of the ingredients – salad dressing first, this is so important as it guarantees that your salad ingredients don’t get soggy. Then put in a grain or a protein or something else big and chunky (e.g. chick peas, quinoa, sweet potato, butternut squash, pasta etc) layer your ingredients according to how heavy they are, e.g towards the top add nuts, grated cheese, seeds and lastly top it with your salad leaves. When you are ready to eat it then you just turn it out into a bowl, the salad leaves will be at the bottom.  Just mix it and there you go – a perfectly fresh and satisfying salad.   This website which I came across will give you some great ideas to encourage you to give this a go.

*PS – I bought the jar in SuperValu for €4.50 – however any clean jar that has a suitably wide opening will do.

In the one in the photo there is the following (from the bottom up!):

  • Spiralised / grated courgette
  • Shredded carrot
  • Black olives
  • Cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Cucumber chunks
  • Cooked chicken
  • Mange tout(lightly steamed)
  • Broccoli (lightly steamed)
  • Mixed leaves

 

 

Tortilla de Patatas

 

Tortilla 1

This picture represents my perfect Friday night feast! Feet up, glass of something red and full bodied in hand, let the  weekend begin! (I suppose if I tried hard I could manage to enjoy this too at lunchtime somewhere sunny and warm !)  There is a Spanish theme going on here – I may have mentioned before that I go to Spanish classes every week so trying out the food is all part of the homework! Someone has to do it. In the photo along with the olives, sundried tomatoes, manchego cheese(my absolute favourite of all cheeses) and serrano ham, there is some Spanish tortilla or Spanish omelette. Continue reading