5 things I like to do on a Summer Morning

Given that the next few months are largely devoid of any serious level of commitment or responsibility, I am enjoying waking at my leisure and easing myself into the day ahead gently. Here’s what a “typical” morning is starting to look like.

1. Coffee/Tea and a book.

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I wake pretty early, probably because the renovation budget has yet to stretch to curtains, so once the sun is up, the room is bright. But I am in no hurry to actually leave the cosy confines of the bed, so I generally pad downstairs in my bare feet, make a hot drink and cuddle back under the duvet to read a chapter or two of whatever I am currently enjoying. Of course if someone else is getting up to take the dog out, then I don’t even have to make the barefoot trek to the kitchen…. yes, I know I am spoiled. But don’t worry, coffee in bed comes with a healthy dollop of sarcasm (a small  price to pay!).

2. Some exercise.

If I am going to work out I like to do it pretty soon after getting up. Less time for excuses. Lately I am trying to get back into running, but as I am carrying a tag rugby related injury, I am taking things very slowly. TBH I am probably taking things far slower than necessary but this is in keeping with the leisurely zen persona I am currently channelling. I am using a C25K app on my phone to complete pretty gentle walk/run workouts. I find some fresh air and exercise first thing really clears the cobwebs and energises me for the day ahead.

3. Smoothies

I’ve always been a big fan of breakfast smoothies and lately I have been trying to lighten them up for summer by avoiding adding milk and yogurt. This morning I had banana, mango, kale and lemongrass.

I just added ice, water and a glass of pure apple juice to the fruit mix – it was really refreshing. I love when things actually taste good for you.  Makes me feel all virtuous.

4. Breakfast

More time allows for more effort, so for the most part I am currently avoiding cereal. It feels like the entire year is made up of bowls of porridge (which I tolerate) and bowls of granola (which I love) but at the moment I am trying to change it up a little, depending on what’s in the fridge. This morning I had Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes with Yogurt and Strawberries. Delicious and so, so simple. Just take the Jamie Oliver approach – 1 cup buttermilk, 1 cup self-raising flour, 1 egg.  Whisk and cook. I tossed in a handful of blueberries that were in the fridge and served with a side of strawberries and vanilla yogurt.

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5. Housework

Now anyone who knows me has now started to laugh and roll their eyes… because to say I am not into housework is a complete understatement. But it’s true, I currently start my day with a quick spot of cleaning. You see now that we live in a teeny house, with one bathroom and very small floor space, I find that giving the place a quick once over every morning is ideal to keep things under control. Then the dread of The Big Clean and the days (or weeks) of Big Clean related procrastination are unnecessary. Now I don’t exactly enjoy this part of the morning. But I do it. Before I even get dressed or put my make-up on!!! And it is strangely satisfying.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should acknowledge just how much the Dyson helps here. Formerly, I judged anyone sad enough to get excited over a hoover. I definitely judged anyone who paid as much for a hoover as they would a weekend in a 5 star hotel. But this cordless wonder will change your life! It is worth every single cent and more. A little bit of magic sent from whoever the real domestic goddess is. And it has already been used 100 times more than any vacuum I previously owned…. so on a cost per wear calculation it is positively cheap!!!!

So that’s a little window into my summer mornings. A little chilled, a little foodie and a little productive xo.

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Goodbye Village, Hello Town

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Having spent a decade living in one of the best (and definitely the craziest) villages in Ireland, there will always be a nostalgia attached to our recent house move (even though we didn’t go far). However, a downsize from a rural to a more urban setting was the right move for us – at least for right now!!!! This was a lifestyle move, and so far it is very much suiting my lifestyle. Here’s what I mean….

This morning, pretty much directly after breakfast, I started to think about lunch. That’s pretty typical for me. There was a delicious pesto open and in need of using up, so I thought a bruschetta type ensemble might work. So far, so simple.

Problem? I LOVE melted mozzarella, with all that oozy, stringy yumminess. But I know, from bitter experience, that the supermarket offering tastes of NOTHING. And I know it needs decent sourdough or ciabatta to hold its “meltiness”. And I know that in rural areas quality cheeses and “fancy” breads are at the very least a car drive away.

But I live in town now. And this means that when mozzarella issues arise, I can tackle them with a certain urban smugness. And here’s how….

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I just popped on my coat and trotted the five minutes to the Fine Wine & Food Co. around the corner, where I picked up a fantastic artisan cheese product from Toons Bridge Dairy. As it was far too early for wine, I also got a quality Americano and threw in some firm and salty halloumi for a weekend salad. There was a casual chat about interiors with the ever hospitable Claire, the proprietor of this fabulous little independent store and cafe, before I toddled off with my paper bag fully of dairy goodness. I didn’t move house to be nearer good mozzarella, that would be a little extreme, but being able to access wonderful ingredients from quality conscious local businesses, without parking disks or travel times, is a huge part of the draw.

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Now as mozzarella without tomato is like pie without cream, I had to make another pitstop before lunch could be assembled and this time it was to my local greengrocer for ripe and juicy vine tomatoes. And this is it, this is the life I want. I want to shop less in supermarkets. I want to buy local. I want to reduce the packaging we have to dispose of. And I want to grin as a man delivering local carrots tries to sell me a kid goat!!! Simple but hugely satisfying. Now I just had to pop a ciabatta under my arm and actually make some food.

Toast the ciabatta, rub with a garlic clove, spoon on the pesto, layer up the sliced tomato and mozzarella, sprinkle with black pepper, melt under the grill. A drizzle of balsamic optional.

 

A recipe that is not a recipe at all. Simple and seasonal . The perfect lunch after a perfect morning.  It couldn’t be easier. Why not give it a go? xo

Never Look A Gift Carrot…..

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Yesterday, I got a gift of a bag of carrots. Not just any carrots either but carrots from Clonown, famed in song and deemed to have properties that would put the most extraordinary superfood to shame. Chia, Maca,Wheatgrass or Kale have nothing on the humble Clonown carrot. Not convinced? You really need to have a listen to this ode to the indigenous orange vegetable – skin, hair, fertility or muscle mass issues- you name it the Clonown carrot can fix it.

So there I was, carrots in a plastic bag, fresh Clonown dirt still attached and the farmer driving out the gate oblivious to the mud dropping from the wellies. Now all that remained was to decide if I wanted them for “supper or tae!!” And what exactly to do with my “fine big juicy” specimens.

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Traditionally, a stew or casserole would be the obvious choice, especially in the week in which we celebrate all things Irish, but neither would be my dinner of choice, especially on a rare sunny day like today. So I raided the fridge, pulled out the food processor and decided to experiment a little. If Brendan Shine had come to dinner, I think he may have added another verse for “Clonown Carrot, Ginger and Coriander Salad with a hint of Chilli”. (It’s not too late Brendan, you could debut it in the Gleneagle this weekend!) It would make the perfect side dish for rural Roscommon farmers after a long day at the bog!  You heard it here first.

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Joking aside, it honestly is one of the nicest incarnations of the humble carrot I have tasted for a long time, although I do admit to feeling that carrots are a vegetable best served raw. Incidentally, an option the celebrated ballad overlooks entirely! Although to be fair, in the Ireland that the illustrious Mr. Shine was immortalising, vegetables were cooked, or more specifically boiled, until they were soft. The only way to overcook a vegetable was to boil it dry and ruin your pot. Once there was still water, they were still perfect! They did not have fresh chilli added – sure that would “roast the gob off ya” and coriander was but a twinkle in the eye of the Irish herb garden (then merely a parsley patch). So carrots were sliced and boiled and maybe mashed with a parsnip on a Sunday. Simple!!!

And this recipe (if you could even call it that) is equally simple but infinitely more nutritious and possibly even more delicious. Here it is…

Ingredients:

  • 4 Clonown Carrots (I am sure other carrots would work too)
  • A handful of fresh coriander
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger
  • A finely chopped red chilli
  • 2 spring onions (for garnish)
  • Irish rapeseed oil (extra virgin olive oil would be perfect)
  • Vinegar of choice (I used wild mountain thyme vinegar because I was lucky enough to have it – not very rural Clonown circa 1980 I grant you)
  • A pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper

Method:

Rinse, peel and grate the carrots (I used the food processor) and place them in a medium sized bowl. Grate in the ginger. Finely chop the coriander and chilli and add both to the carrot and ginger. Mix everything well.

Whisk up a dressing in a little bowl or jam jar. I just used two parts oil to one part vinegar and added some seasoning. Pour the dressing over the carrots and mix until everything is lightly coated with the dressing. Snip some spring onion over the top. Serve as a fresh and delicious side dish with chicken or fish.

I had this for dinner with a portion of The Little Green Spoon’s Chicken Tikka and her delicious It’s Always Sunny Quinoa (a favourite since this blog post). It was the perfect healthy mid-week supper or “tae”, as Brendan himself would say, and although intended only as a simple side, the fresh, local carrot salad kinda stole the show. Give it a go with whatever carrots are local to you… and don’t be afraid to write a song about it. xo

 

Sunday Night Meal Prep..

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The roller coaster that is healthy living seems to get derailed with frightening ease at times, especially if you head in to the week unprepared. Personally, I find that my most successful weeks always start with a disciplined, well planned Monday, but that in itself requires some Sunday pre-planning. And so here I am, on a chilly Sunday evening, trying to organise the perfect healthy Monday, when really I want to cuddle up with my book by the blazing fire.

For the last little while, I have been using the app 8fit (on a 30 day free trial) to help organise my eating and workouts, so I thought I would give you a sneak peak and share my plans for a healthy tomorrow.

Firstly, I start my day sipping some water on my way to the gym. As tomorrow is to be img_2305freezing, I don’t give myself time to think about things (i.e.press snooze and drift back to sleep), just set the alarm for 6.40am, dress in the dark in my work-out clothes that are lying by the bed, brush my teeth, grab my bag and go. The 8fit model  is based on daily (or as close to it as possible) short workouts, but to justify the trip to the gym, I either adjust them or do a couple of them together with some added cardio, whatever adds up to about 45 mins. I also did a couple of ‘at home workouts’ last week, but our beloved dog Herbie thinks it is a game and it all got a bit comical and slobbery…he’s not really ready for ‘yoga with your pet’ classes, and I am not really that kind of pet owner. Here’s a glimpse at my modified version of tomorrow’s workout:

Workout:

The actual workout is completely different every day, but tomorrow is:

  • Warm-up of 5 mins cardio, 30 secs fast feet, 10 arm rotations, 10 inch worms, clockwise and counter-clockwise leg circles and 45 secs of mountain climbers.
  • 4 sets of swimmers (45 secs) with a short rest in between.
  • 4 sets of push ups (45 secs) with a short rest in between.
  • 4 sets of mountain climbers (45 secs) with a short rest in between.
  • 4 sets of deep squats (45 secs)  with a short rest in between.
  • I then finish with another 10 minutes cardio on whatever machine I fancy and a couple of plank exercises.

After this I eat breakfast at work with a strong black coffee. Tomorrow’s option is Greek yogurt with blueberries, flaked almonds and always a drizzle of honey. This is usually enough for me, but if I am starving, I keep some of Lizi’s granola close by and I can sprinkle in a handful.

Lunch, and here is where the prep is vital, is all packed up and waiting just for a little re-heating. I need something quite substantial on a Monday, because I teach a sports class in the afternoon, and then have to take my best friend Herbie out, so it is my most active afternoon of the week. Tomorrow, lunch is a chicken faijta wrap.

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Ingredients:

  • Coconut oil
  • Free Range Chicken Breast
  • Half a red onion sliced
  • Sliced peppers (I use red and yellow)
  • A handful of sliced mushrooms.
  • Generous sprinkle of cajun seasoning
  • A handful of mixed leaves
  • A tablespoon of hummus

Method:

  • Melt the coconut oil in a large frying pan and add the chicken.
  • Add the red onion, peppers and mushrooms and fry until the chicken and the vegetables are cooked.
  • Season with the Cajun spices.
  • Add to a wrap spread with hummus and a handful of salad leaves.

I cook a big batch and pop it in Tupperware to use over a couple of days for lunch/ supper.

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After work, I wrap up warm and get some fresh air with the dog, before starting on the evening meal. I try to cook mid-week meals that work for the next day’s lunch so tomorrow, given that it is to be freezing, I have planned a beef and green bean stew. It’s healthy and full of veg, especially with a portion of steamed tender-stem broccoli on the side.

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I am not a big snacker, which may seem like a good thing, but I think it leads to wanting portions that are bigger than advisable. I am working on this, and have a plan to buy smaller plates in an effort to play tricks on my errant appetite. I drink a peppermint tea after dinner to aid digestion, and like a little dark chocolate for a treat.

Coffee is one of my big vices, so I am going to try and limit it at least a little more this week in order to up my currently paltry intake of water. So, with good intentions in place, shopping done and meal prep underway, I am hoping this will be a good week on the road to health and fitness. If more days could be like a well-organised Monday, and wine and pizza Fridays became a thing of the past, maybe just one year I would achieve those bikini body goals…..but man would I miss wine and pizza. And who could live a life without crisps??  xoxo

What I eat in a day: the healthy version

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First off, to acknowledge the long, long time between posts and to commit to rectifying the situation. The lack of posts was not due to any loss of interest in the creative outlet that is blogging, but rather to a loss of the other vital component for any blog – an internet connection. Thankfully, having just moved house (not so I could blog – that would be a tad dramatic!) this situation appears to be rectified. And so, expect a return to regular updates on food, beauty, books, travel and, this year, lots and lots of interiors (because that’s what happens when you buy a 100 year old house that needs work!) But that is for another day…

Today, let’s focus on health and fitness. In a month of resolutions and restarts, today was a welcome return to a life more healthy, after a prolonged season of goodwill and excess (and for excess read chocolate, cheese, crusty bread and white wine). But let’s not dwell on that (for fear I am tempted by the remaining Cadbury’s selection box) and look at the daily diet of someone trying to be healthy (without being vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, dairy free, sugar free, or any other rigid diet that is very admirable but just not for me). For me, we are talking simple healthy choices  –  no chocolate for breakfast, ditch the white bread and not a a cracker with brie to be seen.

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So what did I eat in a day?

I started the day with a mug of warm water with lemon and a banana, eaten in the car on the way to the gym (she says with a hint of smugness). After my workout though, things got a little rushed and the planned breakfast to refuel was forgotten. In fact, two coffees (it’s an addiction you can read more about here) saw me through to lunch.  Not ideal I realise, but that’s just how things went today and I did regain a little ground with a super healthy lunch.

As part of a working lunch meeting, I had a meat free salad box from a local healthy cafe here in Athlone called Eat Unique, where salads are taken to a whole other level of deliciousness (and, let’s be honest, salad in January needs all the help it can get).  My box was made up of a selection of seven salads without even a hint of the ubiquitous limp lettuce leaf. The picture (which was taken by the cafe, not me, but I don’t think they’ll mind) gives you a pretty good idea of the amazing fresh and healthy selection to pick from.

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Throughout the day I sipped more water than usual, still nowhere near enough, but didn’t eat anything else until dinner. I didn’t even drink any more coffee!!!!

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And so to dinner… Cooking just for myself tonight, I chose a prawn stir-fry with rice noodles, adapted from Lean in 15. It was quick, simple and very tasty. It doesn’t really warrant a recipe but, if you want to give it a try, all I did was heat some coconut oil and saute whatever veg I had in the fridge. Today that was red onion, courgette, red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, fresh chilli and garlic. When these had softened slightly, I tossed in some tiger prawns – I used cooked but raw would be even better. Then I drizzled the entire dish with a little light soy and sweet chilli sauce (naughty I know but not a super size Galaxy bar or two glasses of wine). I then added a liberal sprinkle of fresh coriander and served the dish with a small portion of rice noodles, keeping a second portion for tomorrow’s lunch.

winterA coffee after dinner and a peppermint tea before bed and that was a wrap. So there you have it…what I eat on a healthy day. More healthy ideas and recipes are definitely on the cards this month as part of “Operation Close the Button on my Jeans”. I hope your January is getting off to a resolute start too and that, whatever your goals are, you keep them in your sight.

‘Til Next Time xo

 

Healthy, healthy, healthy!!!

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

Well after a fab week in London, the last few days have been about restoring the equilibrium – balancing the excesses of the good life with some of the sacrifices that come with a healthier approach. Otherwise there will be no button closing on any pair of jeans!! But that’s not to say that being healthy cannot be enjoyable. After a lovely sober Saturday night dinner with friends, Sunday lunch with family and many walks in beautiful countryside, it has been a wonderful few days in many ways. But what to eat?????

I have actually had to cook very few dinners in the last few days, just try to make slightly healthier choices at the tables of others. But breakfasts I have been all over. I have tried to keep them pretty light and definitely low in carbs and so fruit, yogurt and smoothies have been my go to meals.  Green smoothies are a goal for later in the week but so far I have been sticking to fruity and yummy. Not a spinach or a kale leaf to be seen. Baby steps.

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My favourite smoothie is not as healthy as I might like, but it is full of delicious summer berries.  I just blitz a chopped banana, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries with almond milk, Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey and lots of ice. However, when the smoothie is my entire breakfast I also throw in so organic porridge oats to bulk it out. Obviously these can be gluten free if you prefer and of course you could use protein powder instead to fill you up, but I have never actually bothered.

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Second breakfast of choice these past few days has used the same ingredients, as I am returning to frugality and attempting to minimise waste and it involves just layering fresh fruit and green yogurt in a bowl. I have again been using a selection of berries and chopped banana but this time including some perfectly ripe nectarine slices. I drizzle a little honey over this and just have it with a leisurely cup of green tea, preferably sitting out enjoying this view from the front door.

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If I am hungrier, I find porridge with raspberries does the trick, but I haven’t really been that hungry at all yet.

And now quickly to lunch….simple salads have been the order of the day but I have to admit to doing something that to me involved a dalliance with the dark side. One of those boundaries that you cross, never sure if you can return the same person. The kind of thing you judge others for, thinking you will never go that far. Well go that far I did and you know what, it really wasn’t that bad. Here it is – I ate my lunch out of a lettuce leaf, that was pretending to be a wrap!!!! The only point of redemption was that it wasn’t a burger!!!!

Actually, the lunch in the lettuce leaf was really not half bad. The filling was a combination of cold, leftover brown rice, peas, tuna (in water), avocado, red pepper, lime zest and juice, seasoning and a little yogurt all mixed together with some fresh coriander. Just bung everything in a bowl (Jamie Oliver style), mix it up and spoon it into the leaves of a baby gem lettuce. Now that is a healthy lunch!

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So there you go, from travel posts to healthy eating posts in the space of a couple of days. Because remember, life is all about balance xo

Shopping and Spruced up Scrambled Eggs

Having not been through this airport for a couple of years, this week was my first time in the new look Stansted Airport duty free area. The shopping was great, the walk back from the cafe to find MAC and Urban Decay not so good. But I managed to retrace a path and purchased a few bits and bobs that I am excited about.

Firstly a new mascara. I have been wearing Benefit’s “They’re Real” for a year or so now but I get annoyed by how difficult it is to remove so it was definitely time for a change. After a little deliberation I chose this Mac bestseller ….. in extreme black.

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One of my favourite things to do, which has to make me very unpopular with hotel housekeeping staff, is to soak a clean white facecloth in very hot water and almost steam the make-up from my face. Of course this is less practical at home – where I am the housekeeping staff – and already a very reluctant employee. The solution? My second purchase, the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser. The cleanser comes with a muslin cloth that can be used in the shower for a deep cleanse. I bought the starter pack which contains a 100ml bottle of cleanser and two cloths. I am very excited about this product.

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For quite a while now I have been looking for a bag that would carry my rather large laptop, but I didn’t want something that looked too like a traditional laptop bag. Perfect in terms of size and very affordable, a navy shopper from Accessorize caught my eye. I am hoping it will prove to be both stylish and practical for a normal work day.

And then for some reading material, I picked up Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. Not a book I knew anything about but it caught my eye and I am hoping for an easy and inspirational summer read. I will post an update when I finish reading.

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So now that we are settled in back home, it is time to get back to some healthier ways and so I started by making a light lunch of Huevos Rancheros Scrambled Eggs from Donal Skehan’s, “Fresh”.

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The recipe involved making a simple cherry tomato and red onion salsa and some homemade Guacamole but was really simple to accomplish and made for a pretty delicious healthy lunch.

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That’s all for now…I have a dinner date with the girls to get ready for. Have a great weekend wherever you are and whatever you do, xoxo.

Lovin’ Lots of Little Things

At the end of a somewhat crazy week, I am finally getting a chance to sit and reflect on some highlights…the low points would make a far less enjoyable read.

Lovin’ Visiting

Oriel Hotel, Ballincollig, Co. Cork.

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Mum and I needed some last minute accommodation  in the environs of Cork City this week and so ended up in the satellite town of Ballincollig as guests of the Oriel Hotel. Just really looking for a bed for the night at short notice, little to no research had gone into the hotel and we had no real expectations one way or another. However, it turned out to be an extremely pleasant stay that is worthy of high praise. We arrived early (about 11.30am) hoping only to avail of the free parking but were treated to a complimentary cappuccino in the bar while the extremely friendly staff worked out some confusion relating to our booking.

Coffees enjoyed, we left to get on with our day confident that our room would be ready on our return. And what a room we were greeted with. Despite having paid a very modest sum for the b&b, we found ourselves upgraded to their very luxurious bridal suite where we spent a lovely restful night. We ate a delicious, reasonably priced dinner in the hotel bar and enjoyed an abundant breakfast in the restaurant early the following morning. Armed with a complimentary newspaper we were disappointed that a really lovely stay was not a little longer. I will definitely consider a return visit.

 

 

Lovin’ Cooking…..

I am not sure that this constitutes a recipe but I have been trying to introduce a little tuna (something I am not a great fan of) into our weekly meal plan. For me it needs a little work though to make it in any way appetising. Here’s what I did for a simple frugal lunch.

Poppy Seed Bagel with Tuna Salad

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Poppy Seed Bagels
  • One tin of tuna in spring water
  • Two finely chopped spring onions
  • 1 tbs of mayonnaise
  •  Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 plum tomato
  • A small amount of grated red cheddar
  • Sea-salt and black pepper

Method:

  • Heat the grill. Half the bagels and place them on a baking tray. Toast them gently on both sides.
  • In the meantime, drain the tuna and spoon it into a bowl. Add the spring onions, the mayonnaise, the lemon juice and mix well. Season to taste.
  • Spoon the tuna mixture on to the base of the bagels. Top with a couple of slices of tomato and sprinkle on a little cheese.
  • Return to the grill for one minute to allow the cheese to melt.
  • Place the bagel tops on. Slice and serve.

Lovin’ Shopping for…

Books, books, books. My adorable little godchild has been a little out of sorts for the last few days and my dad has had some health issues to contend with as well and so to pass the time in hospital, for both the littlest patient and myself, I took a ramble to Waterstones in Cork City. I am so far, so pleased with my purchases.  For lovely Lucy, the cute and funny letters from the crayons to Duncan.

And for me, an easy holiday read that I am in the early stages of but that is giving me good vibes – The Versions of Us.

And then just lovin’

The most genius invention ever for those of us who can’t drink red wine in public….this I just LOVE!!!!

Summer Risotto

Risotto is one those dishes that divides people, there is a tendency to dismiss it as too labour intensive or difficult to get right. For me it is the opposite. I find the stirring relaxing and therapeutic, the ingredients simple to prepare and the success rate very high. It also fits the frugal foodie agenda very well and once you are happy with the base of the recipe you can make numerous variations depending on what you have in the fridge.

This version is summer veg and I am using courgette and peas (although some asparagus would also be great). Here’s what I do.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 knob of butter
  • 2 glugs of olive oil
  • 200g of arborio rice
  • Chicken/ Vegetable stock
  • A  small glass of white wine
  • A diced courgette
  • A couple of handfuls of frozen peas
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Grated parmesan
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh basil

Method:

  • Make a generous saucepan of stock and leave it simmering on a low heat.
  • Heat the olive oil and butter in a wide bottomed pan.  Add the onion and garlic and sweat very gently for 10 minutes until the onions are soft but not coloured.  Never rush the onion or burn the garlic, it makes all the difference.
  • Stir in the rice making sure it is all coated.
  • Increase the heat a little and add a glass of white wine. Stir continuously until the wine has evaporated.
  • Stir in the courgette and add the stock ladle by  ladle. Stir continuously adding an additional ladle of stock when the previous one is absorbed.
  • After about 10 minutes add the peas and keeping stirring and adding more stock until the rice is cooked. This usually takes about 20 mins.
  • Take the pan off the heat and stir through the lemon zest, parmesan and ripped basil.
  • Season to taste and serve in warmed bowls with crusty bread.

Simple, delicious and budget friendly. Perfect supper for two.

The Frugal Foodie Challenge

After a blogging hiatus for a myriad of reasons – but mostly internet issues, a crazy workload and an impromptu decision to put our house on the market  – it is time for a welcome return to some key tapping and camera snapping.  Thankfully for the next six weeks I don’t have to work so there is time and space for all things “lifestyle”. However, while there may be time there is very little cash to finance my preferred champagne and lobster modus vivendi (as it turns out that getting a house market ready, planning a week in London and marrying a student combine to leave a paltry sum for the discretionary) and so I am attempting to morph temporarily into a “frugal foodie” of sorts.

The self-imposed challenge is to make €60 feed our family of two for a week. This budget is just for food and we have allocated €140 for the other stuff houses need to function – fuel, cleaning supplies, an occasional bottle of wine, books, toiletries and the like. We do gratefully accept dinner invites from our parents if we are lucky enough to get them (and we have been very lucky in this regard) as we are not complete masochists and would like to ward off a life characterised by endless rounds of beans on toast.

So with the frugal being pretty self-explanatory, where does the foodie come in?  Well I like food..a lot.  This means that there are other things as important as cost in this whole endeavour  – like quality and nutrition. So the goal is to buy fresh and local, to cook pretty healthy food from scratch and not to simply save some cash by raiding the freezer section of the local discount supermarket. We are talking eliminating food waste, buying less (if any) red meat, looking for offers and seasonal produce and cooking…lots of cooking.

And I am discovering that not only is it fun, if you have the time, but it allows the credit card bill to be cleared, the house to be insured and any bills to be paid on time.  Win win win.

So what do we eat?  Well my goal over the next week or so is to share just that, along with some recipes and other general money saving tips.

And where better to start than today.

Breakfast – Berry Porridge with a drizzle of honey

A huge bag of porridge oats is a staple for any frugalista and although berries can feel like a luxury they are part of what puts the sunshine in summer and so I try to budget for them. And let’s be honest, porridge needs a helping hand.  But there you have it, a regular on the breakfast rotation and probably the cheapest and most nutritious early morning meal available.

Lunch  – Mushroom and Thyme Frittata 

Having checked what’s in the house (the only sensible place to start) we have half a carton of chestnut mushrooms, garlic, some cheese and a thyme plant growing on the windowsill. There is also some baby spinach and some rocket. So…what can we do?  Buy a box of local free range eggs (€1.79) and whip up some sort of omelette. It’s healthy and nutritious and it’s super cheap…..see this is fun! On top of that the recipe is simple.  And for those who echo my husband’s sentiment of “it’s an omelette, why can’t she just say omelette, frittata is just a posh word for omelette?”, the answer is because they are not actually synonyms with varying levels of pretension. They are in fact different things and in my personal opinion this difference is subtle but important. Finishing the “frittata” under the grill as opposed to the “omelette” in the pan makes it a little puffier and more solid in texture and to my mind this is more filling. If I wanted something lighter I would just make an omelette!!!

frittata

Ingredients:

  • A good glug of olive oil
  • A small knob of butter (optional)
  • 10 sliced chestnut mushrooms.
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A generous sprinkle of fresh thyme
  • 4 large local free range eggs
  • Grated cheese (also optional)
  • Sea-salt and black pepper

Method 

  • Preheat the grill. Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan on the hob. Reduce the heat and add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes before adding the garlic, thyme and plenty black pepper. Continue to cook for another few minutes.
  • In the meantime whisk four eggs with a little seasoning and a drop of water.
  • Add the eggs to the mushrooms, covering the bottom of the pan evenly and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Grate on some cheese and transfer the pan to the grill for about 4 minutes to complete cooking.
  • Carefully turn the frittata onto a large plate and serve in triangular wedges with a lightly dressed green salad.

 

frittata cooked

For dinner tonight I went to the local fishmonger and picked up some unsmoked haddock (€4.10) and then nipped next door to the vegetable shop for a handful of new locally grown potatoes (€1.69) and some nutritious broccoli (€1.49) and I am going to use all this with the lemons I have left over to make  “zesty haddock with crushed potatoes & peas” for tonight’s dinner. Now I can substitute spring onion for chives and the budget will stretch to a small packet of frozen peas but what about the great caper dilemma of 2016?? How essential are they to the dish?  Are they are worthy investment? Will I buy the capers and live 24 hrs without coffee?  I am still deliberating but on balance I think capers are in and I will visit someone who will surely offer me a coffee if I am desperate!!!!! That’s the thing about a tight budget – it’s all about compromise. And as tomorrow is Friday we start all over again. I will report back on the capers tomorrow – and the caffeine withdrawals xx