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Posts from the ‘Quick Dinners’ Category

Bacon & Cabbage with Parsley Cream Sauce

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Ah, Paddy’s Day.

Those Facebook memories that keep popping up remind me that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just a fun family holiday. Things just seem to happen for me around this time of year – good things.

Luck of the Irish? Perhaps. Or maybe we’re all just in better moods because the sun tends to come out in March. The trees start to bud, my garden starts to grow, the end of calving season (and; therefore, around-the-clock cow monitoring) is in sight and the air feels significantly warmer.

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Patrick with some Irish fans in Yogyakarta – our most booze-free Paddy’s Day

This time eight years ago, Patrick and I were embarking on a three-month-long backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Facebook tells me we were in Java, Indonesia. We just climbed Gunung Bromo, a small active volcano, and were en route to Yogyakarta – a city we absolutely loved.

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Paddy’s Day Parade in Seoul, South Korea, 2008 (strange, no?)

This time four years ago, we were getting ready to leave Toronto for good. I was very excited and a little bit worried. After all, I was nearly six months pregnant and we were both leaving good jobs behind, with no work prospects in Ireland. I loved my work in Toronto but didn’t love living in the city. I couldn’t deal with the prospect of raising my kids so far away from family. Moving to Ireland, as you may have guessed, has worked out brilliantly. We are happy and thriving (and working!).

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Beautiful Porto. Take me back!

This time three years ago we were in Portugal on our first-ever family holiday with Maeve. She was seven months old and we had a wonderful time in Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro. The weather was warm and sunny (but not too hot) and we visited with friends I hadn’t seen in years.

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Maeve and her cousins, eating green pancakes.

And this year? One of my best friends is coming to stay with her 10-month-old baby boy. When they go home, Patrick and I are going to Galway for a few nights to eat, drink and relax sans children. So yeah, March brings good things, and St. Patrick’s Day is just one of them.

I remember Paddy’s Days of the past. In university, in Korea, in (yes!) Yogyakarta and, of course, here in Ireland, I’ve had some crazy times. These days our Paddy’s Day tends to be quieter and more kid-focused. Coffee at a friend’s house, taking the kids to the parade, making green pancakes for breakfast – all of these things are quickly replacing the pub breakfasts and day-long drinking sessions of the past.

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Bacon and cabbage is becoming tradition, too. While North Americans gorge themselves on corned beef, the Irish will generally sit down to a family meal of just about anything (Chinese takeaway? I wouldn’t say no). At our house, I usually make a big feed of bacon and cabbage for us and any other family members milling around the farm.

The parsley sauce is entirely optional, but I like it. A lot of people eat their bacon and cabbage with a schmear of English mustard or the ubiquitous brown sauce, but I think it’s more of a complete meal with the parsley sauce (also, it will impress your friends if you want to make this for a Paddy’s Day dinner party). It tastes fancy but is so easy to make.

The dish is called Bacon & Cabbage, but it wouldn’t be the same kind of bacon you have with your scrambled eggs. Here, a loin of ham is called a joint of bacon. You can get them smoked or unsmoked. Just ask your butcher, or, when in doubt, get some uncooked ham. It’s basically the same thing. Bacon and cabbage is usually served with mashed potatoes, but I love boiling new potatoes with the skin-on this time of year.

Whatever you end up doing for Paddy’s Day, I hope it’s great and full of delicious food, drink and loved ones. Sláinte mhath!

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Bacon & Cabbage with Parsley Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

Bacon & Cabbage:

1-2 kg ham/bacon joint (cured and uncooked, ask your local butcher!)

1-2 large head savoy or green cabbage

4L chicken stock

1-2 bay leaves

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

Parsley Sauce:

½ cup butter

1 clove garlic, minced

¾ glass dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • In a large pot, bring the ham, stock, bay leaves and thyme to a simmer. Simmer the ham/bacon for about 1 hour – or until the ham is cooked through.
  • While the ham is cooking, prep your cabbage: using a large knife, cut out the core and slice the head of cabbage into large wedges. Leave the wedges whole and set aside while the ham cooks.
  • When the ham is cooked, remove the ham, bay leaves and thyme from the pot. Add the cabbage to the remaining broth and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Make the parsley sauce: in a hot saucepan, add the butter and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds – don’t let the garlic brown. Add the wine and reduce by half, then add the cream. Let the cream boil and thicken for a few minutes – you want the sauce to coat the back of a spoon.
  • When the cream is thickened, add the chopped parsley and season with Dijon, salt and pepper.
  • Slice the ham and add it back into the broth with the cabbage wedges, just to heat through.
  • Depending on the size of your bacon (I usually buy a 1kg joint), this will feed 4-6 people. Serve hot with boiled or mashed potatoes.

#IrelandCooksforSyria: Spiced Chicken Shawarma with Creamy Garlic Sauce; Cream & Rosewater Baklava

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Over the past few years, Ireland has been welcoming Syrian refugees to its towns and villages. As a result, there is a good-sized Syrian community now living in Thurles, the nearest town to our farm.

I’m part of a group of Irish Food Bloggers that are posting Syrian recipes today in an effort to introduce you to typical (read: addictively delicious) Syrian cuisine and start a conversation about how we can help welcome refugees into our communities. It doesn’t have to be about fundraising or even necessarily being politically active (though both of those things are great). In my case, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know some Syrian women in Thurles on a more informal level.

Although I was relatively ignorant about Syrian food and culture before writing this post, I did know that most Syrians are practising Sunni Muslims. This means the women wear Hajib when they’re out in public, socialization is largely segregated by sex, and alcohol/pork/non-Halal foods are not consumed – ever. In a small town like Thurles, that can lead to problems when it comes to the weekly shop.

As a result, most Thurles-based Syrian food shopping is done at the Halal shop in Port Laoise or the shops in Tallaght (Dublin) with the last few bits being done in Thurles itself. I was so impressed, when my friend Reham recently had me over to her house, with the size of her refrigerator – it’s a huge, North American-style, stainless steel beauty. I was green with envy.

“We need lots of room because we don’t get to Dublin very often,” she explained. “When we do go, we buy a lot of Halal ingredients and use the fridge/freezer for storage.”

Reham came to Thurles with her husband, son and daughter about two years ago (and she has since welcomed an adorable baby girl!). Her sister came as well, with her own family, but as many Syrian families are quite large the sisters still have siblings, in-laws and parents living in other parts of the world.

Reham and I originally met at a Thurles Women’s Group gathering. I was invited to attend by the local coordinator and didn’t really know what to expect. I ended up staying for hours, having great chats with nearly every woman – Syrian and Irish alike – in the room.

Kids, husbands, the little quirks that come along with moving to Ireland – by the end of the night the ladies and I were laughing like old friends, and Reham promised to make me shawarma – something I used to eat every night in Toronto after cleaning down the restaurant kitchen (the shawarma shop on the way to my apartment was the only restaurant still open at 2am!).

“There is one Halal restaurant (Kebabish) in Thurles,” she said later at her house, in between bites of shawarma and fresh lemon, “but we usually prefer to eat at home.”

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I don’t blame her. Reham could make millions selling her homemade pickles and I would be a daily patron if her family ever decided to open a shawarma shop in Thurles.

… Have I mentioned I LOVE SHAWARMA?

In Toronto you can’t walk 500 metres without seeing a shawarma shop. Not all shawarma are created equal, though – the best ones are filled with juicy, spit-roasted slices of chicken or lamb, a generous smear of garlic cream sauce, fresh tomato and pickles and maybe a dollop of hummus for good measure. You can get them in a pita wrap, or with all the ingredients piled on a plate with fries.

Reham doesn’t have a spit (at least, I didn’t see one in the kitchen), but the chicken was moist and deliciously spiced. She wrapped the chicken and sauce in pita and toasted the whole thing on a grill – burrito-style! We then dipped our shawarma in extra garlic sauce and piled them with fried potatoes and bright red pickled turnip.

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I was so full after the shawarma, but there was a delicious looking baklava for dessert filled with thickened cream and flavoured with rose water – how could I pass that up? I downed two pieces along with my cardamom-infused Arabic coffee.

I’m so glad to have met my Syrian neighbours in Thurles. They are as mad about food as I am, they’re fun to be around and they teach me new things all the time. As a newcomer myself it’s great to spend some time with other non-Irish people every now and then!

I’d encourage anyone interested in getting to know their local Syrian community to research any local men’s/women’s groups that might be involved. You can also contact your local representatives to ask how you can get stuck in.

The Irish Food Bloggers involved in this linky are supporting Amnesty International’s “I Welcome Refugees” campaign. Click on the link to learn more about this great initiative.

In the meantime, you can make this shawarma and baklava. You won’t regret it.

*Thanks to Billy at Rookie Cook for organizing this! Here are links to other #IrelandCooksforSyria blog posts (will add to this as they come):

The Honest Project

Rookie Cook

Colm O’Gorman & here’s Colm’s piece in the Irish Times

Tasty Mediterraneo

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Spiced Chicken Shawarma with Creamy Garlic Sauce 

Ingredients:

For the Chicken:

500g chicken breasts or boneless thighs, sliced into large pieces

2-3 pita wraps

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp each:

ground coriander

ground cumin

all-purpose Syrian spice mix (you can find it in Halal shops)

pinch of cinnamon

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

100g plain Greek yogurt

2 tsp salt

For the Garlic Sauce:

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

juice of one lemon

1 egg white

2 Tbsp ice water

1 cup rapeseed oil (or canola; sunflower – any mild oil)

good pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  • Marinate your chicken in the spices, garlic, lemon juice and yogurt for at least an hour.
  • Saute or grill your chicken pieces until fully cooked. Open up the pita and spread 1 Tbsp garlic sauce in each. Layer the chicken into the pita and roll up tightly like a burrito.
  • Grill the shawarma wraps until hot all the way through and the outside is slightly toasty. Slice into 2-3 pieces per pita.
  • Serve with French fries, extra garlic sauce, dill pickles, pickled turnip and beetroot, fresh cucumber, fresh carrot, and slices of fresh lemon (you eat the lemon, it’s not for juice!).

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Cream, Rosewater and Pistachio Baklava

Ingredients:

at least 16 sheets phyllo pastry (8 for the bottom and 8 for the top)

melted butter (about 60g/1/4 cup)

250g/1 cup crushed or blitzed pistachios

Rose Water Syrup:

2 tsp rose water

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup honey

Cream Filling:

250ml/1 cup heavy cream

250ml/1 cup whole milk

60g/1/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp cornstarch

2 tsp vanilla

Directions: .

  • Make the rose water syrup: in a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice, water, rose water and honey. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes (until slightly thickened). Set aside to cool.
  • Make the cream filling: in a saucepan, combine all of the ingredients, stirring until smooth. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 2 minutes to fully thicken. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, then wrap clingfilm directly onto the surface of the filling (to avoid a skin forming) and chill for 1 hour.
  • Preheat your oven to 180∘C (350∘F)
  • Line the bottom of a small, lightly buttered casserole dish with half the phyllo pastry, brushing each sheet with melted butter before adding the next. On top of this, add the cream filling and spread evenly.
  • Add the remaining phyllo sheets on top of the cream filling, again brushing each sheet with melted butter (including the top sheet). Using a sharp knife, lightly score the top of the baklava with a diamond or square design.
  • Bake the baklava for about 40 minutes (check after 30). The pastry should be golden brown and puffed-up and the diamond or square design on top should be prominent.
  • Sprinkle the top of the hot baklava with the crushed pistachios and then douse the whole thing in syrup (this must be done as soon as it comes out of the oven). Allow to cool before cutting and serving.
  • You will want to eat this within 2 days (the fresher it is, the better it tastes).

Derg Cheddar Stove-top Mac & Cheese

17815155688_ba31eb834d_z I hear tales of 30 degree weather in Canada right now, but here in Ireland it still feels like winter. Yes, we have some lovely weather for the month of April, but as my father-in-law says, “That was our summer, right there.” I’m currently bundled on the couch in my housecoat; a cat curled so far into my hip he’s almost invisible. There’s a fire in the fireplace and outside it’s absolutely dismal – wind, rain and very low temperatures. So much for our Irish summer! We’re busy on the farm, as always. We’re beginning to plan for cutting silage, but the growth is not as good as it should be due to the colder weather. We’ll have to wait for nicer weather to do that, anyway. Between our jobs, home life, farm work and Maeve being with her child minder during the week I barely have time to even think about blogging. But I need to keep this website going. It’s my portal to the rest of the world. And I love sharing our lives with you all (and thanks for deeming it interesting enough to follow!).

Diva Bakes stall at Ballymaloe Litfest

Diva Bakes stall at Ballymaloe Litfest

A few weeks ago I went to Ballymaloe Litfest. I’ve been going since the festival began – for about three years – and I have to say, it just gets better and better. The guest speakers, amazing chefs, food writers and food producers who come to the festival make it even more special. This year I ACTUALLY MET ALICE WATERS. For real. She is just as lovely in person as she seems, which is refreshing. She signed a book for Maeve, who will receive said book when she is off to university (yup, I’m going to keep it that long). I’ve looked up to Alice Waters for years and was thrilled to hear her speak and meet her.

The gorgeous falafel from Rocket Man

The gorgeous falafel from Rocket Man

My delicious masala dosa from Ayer's Cafe

My delicious masala dosa from Ayer’s Cafe

The food at Litfest was better than ever this year. The Rocket Man from Cork always impresses with their fresh salads and pickles, but this year they were doing falafel flatbreads which went down an absolute treat. I had an AMAZING dosa from Iyer’s Cafe in Cork – the best I’ve had outside of Asia, in fact – and we got Maeve a little wood-fired pie from Volcano Pizza. So, so good.

The love folk from Ayer's Cafe - such amazing Indian food!

The lovely folk from Iyer’s Cafe – such amazing Indian food!

Miss M was a bit out of sorts, so we couldn’t stay as long as we wanted to, but before we left I loaded up on Arbutus Bread (some of the best loaves in Ireland) and Cloud Confectionery marshmallows (they come in so many awesome flavours!).

Loved all the pickled/fermented product on display from My Goodness

Loved all the pickled/fermented product on display from My Goodness

When we got home we were a) committed to never travelling with a toddler ever again and b) exhausted. We needed some comfort food. I had a block of delicious Derg Cheddar, made just down the road in Nenagh (this cheese is amazing – made only from raw, summer milk when the cows are at pasture; it’s aged but manages to taste creamy and sharp all at once). I decided to make stovetop mac and cheese with crispy garlic breadcrumbs and it saved our lives.

18002974775_4dab097404_z Derg Cheddar Stovetop Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

½ lb pasta

60g plain flour

60g butter

1 bay leaf

½ L full fat milk

½ Tbsp Dijon mustard

Pinch of nutmeg

500g Derg Farmhouse Cheddar, grated

Salt & Pepper

For the breadcrumb topping:

500g fresh breadcrumbs

60g butter

1 clove garlic

Salt & Pepper

Chopped fresh parsley, thyme, chives and/or basil

Directions:

  • Heat a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce:
  • In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. When it starts to bubbles, add the flour and mix well. The mixture should look a bit doughy – this is called a roux. Let the roux cook for one minute, then add the bay leaf and half the milk.
  • Using a metal whisk, stir the mixture until it thickens completely. Make sure you’ve beaten out any lumps, then add the rest of the milk.
  • Allow the mixture to slowly come to a boil, gently whisking the entire time (the bottom will stick and burn if not!). When it comes to a boil and thickens, remove it from the heat.
  • Stir in the Dijon, salt and pepper, and finally, the cheese. When all is melted and combined, give it a taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  • When cooked, strain the pasta and toss with the cheese sauce. Make the breadcrumbs:
  • In a large pan, melt the butter and add the finely chopped garlic. Let it cook for 30 seconds, then add the breadcrumbs. Cook the breadcrumbs until the butter has been absorbed and they become golden brown and crunchy, stirring often. When finished, toss with the fresh herbs.
  • Serve the mac & cheese is bowls with the breadcrumbs sprinkled over-top. This makes four large servings.
We love Ballymaloe!

We love Ballymaloe!

Sriracha Glazed Meatloaf

16309632331_350a999463_z So… I need to start this post by telling you how completely THRILLED I am with my new logo and header, designed by my dear friend, fellow mama, crafter extraordinaire & author of the most fabulous blog Where Wishes Come From, Sadhbh (pronounced “Sive” as in five, for all my fellow North Americans). She’s got beautiful twin girls and her gorgeously creative blog is all about celebrations and fun, achievable crafting projects for busy moms and kids. I basically look at her blog and sigh.

It’s interesting to see how others perceive you – often we’re so unsatisfied with ourselves and feel like we need to change. The likeness Sadhbh created of me left me totally floored, in a good way. She caught an inner essence I didn’t know many people saw (plus, she put a maple leaf on my chef hat! *cue happy sobbing*). So thank you, sweet Sadhbh! I hope I can return the favour tenfold.

So the blog got a bit of a makeover, and recently my meatloaf did, as well.

15691796663_70b6a9278b_z I never ate meatloaf growing up. Like brussels sprouts and liver, my mom never made it and, as a result, never made us eat it. Now I have a healthy respect for the potential meatloaf can have as a budget/kid/family friendly meal and none of the negative associations some might have acquired over the years.

Now that I’m back to work full time and Patrick is travelling to and from Waterford nearly every day, I appreciate meatloaf more than ever. How easily it comes together, how fool-proof it is, how Maeve will actually eat it. It’s not really a traditional Irish meal but my family is more than happy to wolf it down. It works on every level.

Don’t get me wrong, though. If you’re anti-meatloaf I also totally understand how it can sometimes be a soul-crushing, depression-inducing, grey-looking lump of meat if too little care is taken.

But ground beef? Streaky bacon? They’re such great flavour carriers. So much potential. 

That’s what brought me to this sriracha meatloaf. That, and when Patrick was in Boston on business last year he brought home a lot of sriracha sauce. The only issue? It was Trader Joe’s brand, not the Rooster. He thought the Trader Joe’s version might taste the same but it just doesn’t.

As a result, it’s been sitting in the fridge for awhile. Traditional meatloaf gets covered in a ketchup-based sauce, so I thought sriracha would probably work, too. And it did! Because, sriracha.

Now that I use sriracha instead of ketchup, I can’t ever go back. Adding a few more Southeast Asian ingredients to the ground beef mix only makes this meatloaf better. The Trader Joe’s sriracha sauce is a bit on the sweet side so I’ve been able to completely substitute the ketchup, but if you’re using the Rooster brand or another authentic hot brand you might want to go 50/50, to avoid it being too spicy.

Unless you like it spicy. In that case, go nuts. 16125783187_f918edc508_z Sriracha Glazed Meatloaf

Ingredients:

1 lb (about 450g) medium ground beef (you want a little fat for flavour, so try not to use lean)

1 lb smoked streaky bacon

4 slices of white bread

1 1/2 cups full fat milk OR coconut milk (if you’re feeling wild)

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced (I just squeeze in some shop-bought garlic paste)

1 Tbsp finely chopped, fresh ginger (or, see above – just buy the paste)

1/2 Tbsp chili paste

1/2 tsp dried lemongrass (optional)

2 eggs

Salt and Pepper (2 tsp each)

For the sauce:

1 cup sriracha sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan).
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, tear the bread into small chunks. Pour the milk over to soak. Add the garlic, chili, ginger, lemongrass, salt and pepper. Mix up the eggs and throw them in the bowl, too.
  • The bread should be nicely soaked by now. Using a fork, mash all the ingredients together. You want a mixture that resembles paste. You don’t want to physically see chunks of bread.
  • Add the beef to the bowl and, using your hands (take off your rings; it gets messy) mix everything together.
  • Turn the mixture out onto the baking sheet and form it into a cylindrical loaf.
  • Wrap the loaf in the streak bacon.
  • Mix the three ingredients to make the sauce. Pour half over the loaf and spread it around.
  • Bake for one hour. Let it sit for five minutes when you take it out of the oven. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top before slicing.
  • Serve with buttermilk mashed potato, stir-fried noodles or aromatic rice. Makes great leftovers!

*Tip: use a serrated knife (a bread knife) to slice the loaf. You’ll make cleaner cuts through the bacon.

Taking Part in Bumbles of Rice’s A Week in Dinners

Bumbles of Rice is a parenting and lifestyle blog I like to read. Lately, the author’s been posting some of her family’s real life dinners – the good, the bad, and everything in between. I think it’s cool to see how food bloggers really eat – especially since you usually only see the successful dishes on the blog – so here’s my family’s last week in dinners (please note: I’m a mom of one and am still technically on maternity leave, so my dinners probably haven’t changed too much since before Maeve was born).

A week in dinners from April 27th to May 3rd:

Sunday

I had planned a big Sunday roast. We still try to avoid bad stuff during the week (though we fail a lot more these days as you’ll soon read) so Sunday was going to be our big dinner day. But then Maeve hadn’t slept well the night before and I suddenly felt ill and exhausted. Sooo Pat got us Supermacs. That would be a quarter pounder burger with all the fixins and chips with garlic sauce on the side, please. I was “good” and got a bottle of water instead of coke. Maeve had rice porridge for dinner and then complained until I gave her a chip (bad mommy).

Monday

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Maeve goes to a child minder on Mondays and Wednesdays now (as I am flat out busy working on the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada for Vacay.ca). Since she was out of the house, I had a bit of extra time and made that pork roast I had planned for the previous day. So much for eating healthy during the week! I stuffed it with breadcrumbs, lardons, onion and apple. I made mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower, green beans and a rich gravy to go with. Maeve loves cauliflower and green beans – not so keen on the pork.

Tuesday

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I had some ground lamb in the freezer and we were pressed for time last Tuesday so I made my never-fail, 30 minute baked lamb koftas. Ground lamb, spices, garlic and ginger – mix, shape and bake. I served them with some brown rice, a small salad and a tahini-buttermilk sauce. This is one of my favourite dinners. Maeve had fruit and porridge earlier since we ate past her bedtime.

Wednesday

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I had some leftover spice mix from the koftas, so I sprinkled it on some salmon filets, placed some sliced lemon over top and baked them for about 10 minutes. I served the salmon with sriracha-mashed sweet potato. Maeve loves both salmon and sweet potato – we just have to make sure there are no bones in the salmon before giving her a piece.

Thursday

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I made my version of cashew nut pork. It’s so quick to make, healthy and, in my not-so-humble opinion, better than a takeaway. Broccoli, sliced pork, onion, garlic, ginger, toasted cashew nuts, chili, a sprinkle of brown sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar and you’re good to go. We had leftover rice in the fridge from the koftas so I fried it with an egg. Simple. Maeve had already eaten at this stage but wanted some broccoli. I sucked off the sauce and let her chew on a floret (gross, I know, but that’s me).

Friday

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I had been craving a curry all week, and as it was the Friday before the bank holiday weekend I went all out and made Vij’s Chicken Curry and homemade naan bread. Vikram Vij is one of Canada’s greatest chefs. His restaurant was #1 on our Top 50 list a few years ago and remains a contender – it is just so good. His chicken curry is full of depth, has a touch of heat and is full of melt-in-your-mouth chicken pieces. You don’t need rice with it – just scoop it up with the naan. Maeve loved her naan bread, but the curry was a bit too spicy for her.

Satruday

We were in Tipperary for the long weekend and it was quite late before Pat and his dad came home from the farm. A new chipper had opened in the village so we tried it out – as suspected, it was pretty terrible. I got curry cheese chips. Blah. Maeve was sound asleep by the time we sat down to supper.

So there you have it – a typical week of dinners for me and my little family. Looking back, I think we eat too much junk on the weekends. That will have to be remedied! Thanks Bumbles of Rice for inviting your fellow bloggers to take part in the real life dinners series! If you want to share your dinners and see what others have shared, click here.

Resolutions & My New Favourite Salad

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The New Year has come and gone.

I’ve never been one for making resolutions. I know, deep down, I’ll give them a good shot for a few days and then slowly descend into the downward spiral of apathy. Before too long, my running shoes are gathering cobwebs and the tofu in the fridge starts growing it’s own small country (complete with citizens). I’m a realist. I know my strong points and my super-duper weak points.

But this year has been slightly different. This year, I have a baby. I still have baby fat. I don’t have any nice clothes, and don’t want to buy or even try on nice clothes because I don’t feel like myself anymore. When I moved to Ireland last Spring I was five months pregnant. All of the clothes that didn’t fit me were given to good will or to friends and what came with me filled one medium sized suitcase – a few of my favourite wardrobe pieces I couldn’t bear to part with. I foolishly thought I’d be back to my regular size a few months after the baby was born, but it’s been a long, hard road.

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I don’t want to diet. I’m breastfeeding and I’m against dieting anyway. Fad diets always end in failure.

I don’t like eating a lot of processed foods, so that hasn’t been the problem. The problem with my food intake is the fact that I use so much butter, cream, salt and sugar in my cooking. It’s what we do in the restaurant kitchens and it’s how I was taught to cook. I thought those ingredients were what made food taste good, but I was wrong.

Food makes food taste good. And salt, I still believe in that one. And lets face it, even though I know it’s bad, cream and butter do make everything taste amazing.

And we’re entering the downward spiral. But I digress.

The whole Paleo thing may be a fad right now, but after some research I think this is a fad worth checking out. Why? Because we’ve only been ingesting cultivated crops for a small portion of our existence as humans. Before that, did we die because we didn’t have any grains? No. We foraged, we ate lots of veggies and we hunted for our meat. That’s the food our bodies were designed to ingest.

I love bread. And rice. And quinoa and couscous. But lately I haven’t been feeling great and I’ve definitely not been eating well, so I’m going to give this Paleo thing a try for the month of January. After all, it’s more of a lifestyle change than a diet. And my lifestyle has already changed so much in the past year.

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So here’s my Paleo inspired month-long diet:

  • No grains or legumes. That means rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, peanuts or anything else that falls into the category (I cheat a little and still eat oatmeal for breakfast for breastfeeding purposes).
  • Less dairy. Most paleo folk have shunned dairy altogether, but I don’t want to give my dairy farmer father-in-law a heart attack. I am doing away with cheese, cream, sour cream, buttermilk – basically everything other than regular drinking milk and Greek yogurt.
  • No potatoes (I know).
  • Larger servings of vegetables and more protein. More nuts. More raw veggies. More eggs. Good quality, unprocessed meat.
  • No sugar (I know). Honey is OK.
  • No alcohol (I already cheated and had a glass of red wine last night; this part’s gonna fail).

We’re having one cheat day a week so we don’t go insane. Let’s see how this goes.

Our meals have been really good so far, though! I made Mexican-spiced beef lettuce wraps with guacamole, braised chicken legs with sweet potato and roasted peppers & tomatoes and, last night, took a recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini & Sumac. Delicious and filling.

I had some leftover lamb mix from the braised eggs, so for lunch today I made a Middle Eastern salad with lettuce, cucumber, Happy Pear alfalfa sprouts, the lamb, two poached eggs and the tahini sauce (thinned out to make more of a salad dressing). Here’s the recipe:

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Jerusalem’s Leftovers Salad

Ingredients:

Lamb leftovers from Ottelenghi’s Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini and Sumac (page 205)

Tahini dressing leftovers from the same recipe

1/4 English cucumber, sliced into half moons

1/4 red onion, finely sliced

1/2 head lettuce (any kind will do), shredded

1/2 package rinsed alfalfa sprouts

4 eggs

Sumac, for garnish

Directions:

  • Gently heat the leftover lamb in a pot or in the microwave. Set aside.
  • Put a pot of water on to simmer with 1 Tbsp vinegar.
  • Slice/wash/dry veggies and mix in a bowl.
  • Thin out tahini sauce with a bit of water and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  • Poach the eggs in the (barely) simmering water for 3 minutes.
  • Take out two plates and divide the veggies evenly between them. Spread them out around the plate.
  • Top with the warmed lamb and poached eggs.
  • Drizzle the tahini dressing over the top and sprinkle some sumac for garnish.
  • Eat while the meat and eggs are warm.
  • *I was going to add pomegranate seeds to this salad and forgot. They would have been a really good addition, I think. Baby brain.

If you’re also interested in this lifestyle change, I love reading The Domestic Man. He creates such gorgeous food and his whole family eats a paleo-inspired diet.

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Pomegranate & Toasted Almond Couscous Salad

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Happy Friday!

This is the first time in weeks we’ll be spending the weekend at our house in Waterford. Combine a weekend at home with our broken washing machine finally getting fixed and you’ve got a list of mom chores a mile long to get through. Here’s just a taste of what needs doing:

  1. Laundry. And then some laundry. Then more laundry.
  2. Guest room bed made; sheets washed.
  3. Go to the Nearly New Sale on Sunday and buy a crib. And try to refrain from buying a million other baby items.
  4. Set up said crib, finish the nursery, set up baby monitors (yes, I realize my baby is three months old, but if she isn’t sleeping in her nursery yet it doesn’t have to be finished!).
  5. Bake Christmas Cakes.
  6. Clean. And then clean. And then a bit more cleaning.
  7. Make Sunday Roast.
  8. Groceries.
  9. Make a to-do list for Christmas. Seriously, I need to be organized.
  10. Get photos developed at Harvey Norman.

Etc., etc., etc.

So just a quick post today, hastily typed while Maeve plays with her toys on the carpet (before she gets bored and I have to walk her around the house until she falls asleep… if she falls asleep). We had this couscous salad last night served warm to accompany some seared salmon, but it was even better today as a cold lunch.

Pomegranates are in season and those plump, juice-filled seeds remind me that Christmas isn’t too far off (omgomgomg). Combined with some fluffy couscous, zingy lemon, olive oil and scallions they make a super tasty, Middle Eastern inspired side (for example, served warm this salad would be delicious with braised lamb) or healthy lunch. If you want to go crazy, season some natural yogurt with cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper and drizzle over the salad.

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Pomegranate & Toasted Almond Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked couscous (or barley, or bulgur, or quinoa)

1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

rind of one lemon, finely chopped

seeds of one pomegranate

1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

2 Tbsp good quality olive oil

2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/2 bunch fresh, flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (chiffonade)

handful of fresh arugula (rocket), for garnish

Directions:

  • Toss the couscous, pomegranate, lemon zest, scallions, almonds, parsley, olive oil & salt and pepper in a bowl to combine.
  • Plate and garnish with arugula and another drizzle of olive oil.
  • Serve hot, warm or cold as a side of main dish.

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