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Posts tagged ‘dinner’

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.
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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.

Chunky Greek Couscous Salad

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These past few weeks I’ve been taking a wonderfully relaxing prenatal yoga class at The Yoga Centre Waterford. There are only six women in the class including the instructor. I leave smelling like incense and feeling like I am actually going to be able to push this child out when the time comes. It’s also been helping me with some of the more annoying aches and pains that come along with pregnancy. And let’s face it, it’s nice to go out once a week and chat with some other ladies. Pat’s great, but I need some girlie time.

The class leaves me feeling so energized. It’s not strenuous like a normal yoga session would be. It focuses much more on posture, meditation and deep breathing technique. Our instructor has two grown children so it’s nice to hear what she has to say about what works and what doesn’t during labour.

The class runs until 7:30 pm, so we usually leave dinner until after. Pat goes for a long run while I’m there, so we’re always starving and craving something fresh with lots of veggies and protein for dinner.

This couscous salad is one of my favourites. It would be even better with quinoa (I freaking love quinoa), chickpeas, kidney beans or Israeli couscous, but I’m still trying to  find my way around Irish grocery stores. I saw a box of regular couscous and grabbed it without thinking twice.

Also great about this salad is that you can prepare and mix the veggies, cheese and dressing one or even two days before you serve. The longer it marinates, the better it tastes.

I’ll usually serve a grilled piece of chicken or fish with a couscous salad, but I had some pork loin chops in the freezer. I thawed them out and made a light marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, sliced an onion over them and left them in the fridge for a few hours before searing them off, onions and all. I have to say, the pork was so tender and very flavourful – a good choice if you’re having a Greek-style salad. Grill the pork on the barbeque, if you have one. It will taste even nicer with a bit of char.

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Chunky Greek Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

1 large red bell pepper

1/2 English cucumber

1 small red onion

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

1 cup feta cheese (goat, if you can get it)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp oregano

1 clove garlic, crushed

Salt and Pepper

2 heaping cups cooked, cooled couscous

Directions:

  • Wash, seed and chop the bell pepper and cucumber. A rough chop is fine, but make sure they are all chopped into roughly the same size. *I usually take an extra step with the bell pepper and remove the white membrane on the inside of the pepper. Just slide a sharp knife directly under the membrane and slice it off. You don’t have to do this, but when eating peppers raw it takes away the bitterness you’ll sometimes taste.
  • Wash the cherry tomatoes and slice them in half. Peel and chop the red onion into small chunks. Mix all veg together in a bowl.
  • In another bowl, add the finely crushed/chopped garlic clove, red wine vinegar and oregano and whisk together. In a slow drizzle, add the olive oil while whisking constantly. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to your taste, and pour directly over the vegetables (the dressing may taste overwhelmingly of olive oil and the vinegar should taste strong – once you add the bland couscous everything will even out).
  • Crumble the feta cheese over the vegetables and mix. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to marinate for several hours or overnight.
  • A few hours before serving, pour some boiling water over dry couscous in a mixing bowl (I do 250 grams of dry couscous and 400 ml of boiling water). Cover the bowl immediately with plastic wrap and leave for ten minutes before fluffing the couscous with a fork and leaving to cool.
  • When the couscous is completely cool, mix it in with the marinated feta and vegetables. Check for seasoning and add more salt/pepper if necessary. Garnish with freshly chopped flat leaf parsley or a handful of baby rocket (ours came fresh from the garden – it was delish!).
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