Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cardamom Scented Hot Cross Buns

With Lent coming early this year and me craving something sweet and spicy, I decided to whip up some hot cross buns.  These are delicious right out of the oven and just as good a few hours later with a thick spread of butter.


Ingredients:

  • 450ml milk
  • 120g butter
  • 1 orange peel
  • 1 lemon peel
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 black cardamom pod, crushd
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 900g bread/strong flour, sifted
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 14g of dried yeast
  • 200g mixed dried fruit/sultanas
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 egg and 2 tbsp milk for egg wash

For the cross:

  • 8 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 8 tbsp water

For the sugar glaze:

  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract


Gently heat the milk, butter, cardamom, cloves, fruit peels in a saucepan, simmer for 2 minutes and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. Cool and strain. Stir in the beaten egg.

Place the flour, yeast, spices, sugar and dried fruit in a bowl.

Pour the milk into the dry ingredients and bring together to form a ball.

Knead the dough on a floured surface for 10 minutes until smooth and place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with saran wrap. Allow to prove in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F

Knock back the dough and divide into 15 balls and shape into buns.

Place the buns onto a baking tray lined with parchment, placing them fairly close together but not touching.

Make a cross on the top of each bun with a knife and leave to prove for a further 1 hour or until doubled in size. The buns will almost join. Brush the buns with egg wash.

Mix the flour, sugar and water to form a thick paste (place the paste into a plastic bag, cut a small corner off) and pipe a cross on each bun.

Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until risen and golden.

Combine the sugar, water and extract together until sugar dissolves and brush over the buns while still hot.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

10 Tips to a Tastier and More Efficient Kitchen

I, for one, am sick and tired of notable chefs and cooks selling out and buying into the whole “30 minute meal” phenomenon. I cook 98% of my food from scratch and it rarely takes me more than 30 minutes to prepare a meal, usually much less. I am of the persuasion that you should not substitute quality to get something on the table quicker.


So instead of bringing you ten ways to save time in the kitchen I am bring you a list of simple changes you can make in your kitchen to ensure fresher, more efficient and better tasting food whilst making the kitchen a more enjoyable place. Ultimately some of them will save you time and money, but taste wise you won’t sacrifice a thing!


1) Use fresh herbs.
Garden Raid
Photo owned by Nikki L. (cc)
Most recipes require seasoning of some sort and if not, adding some can make quite a difference. Even if you insist on making casseroles with canned soup adding a pinch of fresh chopped thyme brings it to a different level. Most supermarkets carry fresh herbs these days, but it’s also very easy to grow a small herb garden on your kitchen window.

Currently I have basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, bay leaves and flat-leaf parsley growing. I would have coriander as well, but I always kill it! If you don’t have green fingers, like me, I suggest buying the plants already grown. I love just being able to snip a bit here or there and really enhance my cooking. Before growing them myself I would make sure to always have parsley in my fridge and usually a bit of basil too. Ultimately, growing your own will save you money and time. I am not opposed to dry herbs, except for the extremely tasteless parsley, but fresh makes such a taste difference.


2) Grate your own cheese.

Seriously. This takes maybe thirty seconds longer, but the taste difference is unbeatable. Pre-shredded cheese usually has a flour or starch coating added to it, to separate the pieces. You can often buy one block of cheese for the same price as 3-4 bags of an equal amount of grated cheese. Yes, it will take you a little longer to grate your own, but it’s cheaper, tastier and just plain cheese!


3) Buy free-range eggs

As someone on a budget I often have to make concessions and pass up on the lovely organic food I long to buy. However, one thing I will not concede on is eggs. I know battery chickens have a terrible life, but that in itself is not why I choose free-range. I truly believe they have a superior taste and texture. If you don’t believe me, buy a battery egg and a free-range egg. Crack them both and look at the color difference. The free range will have a lovely yellow yolk and a nice thick white. Now fry them up. Add a little salt. Which tastes better? Honestly now! It is worth the small price difference even in baking.  Be warned that organic eggs are not necessarily free-range.  It just means they are fed organic feed.


4) Get a good knife.
IMG_0531.JPG
Photo owned by jwalsh (cc)

Yes I did say a knife. If you can afford it and want the whole set, don’t let me stop you, but really all you need is a decent chef’s knife. Some brands to look out for include WusthofGlobal, Sai and Henckel.Personally I love Global as they are contemporary looking and weighted. Chefs knives come in all sizes, so pick one that works for you. Personally I don’t like a big blade and use a 6.5 inch Wusthof knife.

Keep your knife sharp. I give mine a little love every day before using it. Just a few swipes on a steel. If it cuts through a tomato without any pressure you’re all set. Take care of your knife. Never put it in the dishwasher.
Learn how to use it. You don’t need to go to culinary school to have good knife skills. Just buy some cheap vegetables like onions or cabbage and start practicing, it’s all in the wrist. You can even watch some videos here. Ultimately you will save so much time with a good knife and it’s a lot less dangerous than a blunt or poor quality knife. Easy and fun!


5) A stick (immersion) blender is all you really need.

From someone who at one point had everything BUT a stick blender, take it from me, these babies rock! I used to have a beautiful Kitchen Aid (sniff) and a fabulous Cuisinart food processor as well as various other chopping gadgets back in the US. Now I have a stick blender. It chops, it whisks, it purees, it makes smoothies - it rules! I do have a very nice food processor, but I rarely get it out as the stick blender is sufficient for nearly everything I do and a big time saver in terms of the hassle in getting the processor out and put together and then cleaned up again. Now having said all that, if my US KitchenAid worked here in Ireland, I would take it back in a flash, but mainly for the dough hook.


6) Use real garlic.


I know how easy it is to buy the jar of already minced stuff, but don’t, compared to the real stuff it is NASTY! Same goes for ginger. Use the real deal and grate it. And lemon juice too. Buy the lemon. Please.

If you have a garlic press it will take you just as long to crush a clove as it would to open a jar and spoon some garlic flavored goop out. And for goodness sakes, no garlic powder in place of fresh garlic in a recipe ok???

I use my chef's knife to chop my garlic and I keep promising myself a garlic press, so it takes me a good bit longer than using the jar, but if you have a press or other handy garlic chopper you’ve no excuse! Use some caution with fresh garlic. I never trust a recipe that has me add garlic at the same time as the onions. Garlic burns and turns bitter SO easily and burnt or bitter garlic is horrible. I usually sauté onions first and add the garlic for a minute at the end and then follow the recipe as written.


7) Use good chocolate.
Chocolat Bonnat. Bloom.
Photo owned by EverJean (cc)
If you enjoy baking, try not to skimp on chocolate. I used to pass on the organic cocoa powder, but I have yet to find anything remotely comparable. It is top notch and makes your brownies SO much better. I also always have some high quality chocolate bars on hand. This means at least 70% cocoa solids. My favorite at the moment is the Lindt 80% bar or mad Willy’s 100% bar.



8) No substitute for real butter

If your health will allow it, when a recipe calls for butter, use butter. If a recipe calls for margarine, use butter. Forget the fat, it’s just milk, whereas that other stuff is full of chemicals and tastes dreadful. I’d rather cut back on butter than spray my food with chemicals.

A little butter goes a long way. I would love to sauté everything in butter, but to cut down on saturated fat I usually use extra virgin olive oil and toss in a sliver of butter to get the taste I crave. Add a sliver of butter to cooked sauces for a velvety finish. If you are in the US and can afford the occasional treat, I strongly recommend that you buy a European butter, as the taste and color are far superior. I used to buy the French President butter when we lived over there, but you can now get our own lovely Irish butter here!


9) Alliums are your friend.

Onions and Garlic
Photo owned by John-Morgan (cc)
Onions, shallots, scallions, leeks, chives and garlic are essential in cooking. No matter how much you think you hate them, I can guarantee you that all your favorite restaurant foods are full of them. Most soup bases are full of onions and would be tasteless without them. 

Try sauteing a few diced shallots before making your normal béchamel or risotto. It adds such a wonderful dimension. Shallots are my favorite in the allium family as they add an almost wine-like presence to food. Leeks are another wonderful vegetable. Just sautéed in a little butter they make the most wonderful accompaniment to any dinner. If you don’t like the strong taste of onions, then leeks might be for you. I use alliums in everything. If I looked at my most frequently purchased grocery, onions would top milk or bread!

10) Try baking your own bread.

I used to be terrified of yeast breads, but now I love them. There is something so incredibly satisfying about kneading your own bread and after awhile it becomes instinctive. If you haven't tried Artisan Bread in Five Minutes yet, you are missing out.  Truly delectable bakery quality bread from your home oven with no kneading or hard work needed.  I make a loaf or rolls every single day and people are always amazed at my bread.  It's so simple and incredibly cheap.  A rustic loaf costs me a few cents to make. 


This is a post I wrote a few years ago on my old blog and for Blissfully Domestic, it has been updated. 
Monday, January 23, 2012

Nursery Makeover on a Budget

We're fortunate to have four bedrooms, but since the girls share a room, we only use two.  The third is a dedicated guest room and the fourth has been at some stage or another a guest room, an office, a study room, a craft room and just a general storage area.  When we found out number three was on the way, I knew right away I wanted to do it up, but money was going to be tight since we had long ago gotten rid of all our baby supplies.  I immediately turned to Pinterest for inspiration and figured with some recycling and Ikea, I could keep to a budget of one hundred euro.  At the time we weren't sure if we were having a girl or a boy, so we wanted something that we could either "pink out" or "blue up" when baby came along.  We went about fifty euro over budget in the end, but I think it turned out well.  The lighting was ten percent off at Ikea the day we went as well.  If I don't mention the furniture, it's something we already owned and don't mind my yoga equipment in the corner! ;)

Elephant Wall Stickers - B&Q - 11.99, Ikea Bug Lamp - 6.99, Ikea Lack Table - 8.59

 Ikea Mammut Shelf - 4.06, Ikea Chest of Drawers  - 49.81, Crown Paint, B&Q - approx 35.00










 Elephant Wall Art, B&Q - 14.99


Ikea Knappa Lamp - 20.32













Linking up to: Not Just A Housewife, Take a Look Tuesday, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Handmade Tuesdays, The Homemaker's Challenge

Borscht


This is a fantastic seasonal recipe that showcases the flavour of fresh beetroot so well.  It's also a great use for leftover roast beef.  Borscht, like our own Irish stew, is a very personal recipe, each cook will do her own thing.  This particular recipe has no cabbage which might strike some as odd, but it truly is sweet and delicious and full of wintery goodness.  Easy as pie to prepare and even easier to eat!

Ingredients:



  • 1 lb leftover beef or stewing steak, diced
  • 2.5 litres beef stock
  • 6 large beetroot, scrubbed clean and tops removed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 large tomatoes, chopped
  • Juice of a lime
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • sour cream, to serve
  • chopped chives for garnish


Combine the first six ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow the soup to simmer for 2 hours.

Half an hour before serving, remove the beetroot, keeping the broth at a simmer.

When beetroot is cool enough to handle (I run them under cold water), peel and grate them (the peels should slip right off).

Return them to the pot. Stir in lime juice and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.

Serve, garnished with a dollop of sour cream and some snipped chives.


PBFD2M2ZFGKD
Saturday, January 21, 2012

Freebies for Pregnant and New Mums in Ireland

Last Updated 26/07/12

I thought I would compile a comprehensive list of all the freebies out there for expecting or new mums.  There are quite a few deals to be taken advantage of that may or may not come in handy now or later.  I hope this helps some of you and if there's anything I'm missing, please let me know!



EU Mom has possibly the best deal out there in which you collect a box of samples, coupons and information at your local Centra or Supervalu after signing up on their site.  Samples I got included Johnsons products, Detol, Sudocream, wipes, Floradix and Persil.  Definitely worth signing up for. There's also some coupons, car seat and safety information and other bits and bobs.



Pampers have a nice little packet of samples for expecting Mums.  You need to sign up before 32 weeks. I haven't received mine yet, but it looks like there's some nappies and wipes and perhaps some coupons and baby information.

Tesco Baby Club is a great resource if you shop at Tesco.  They send a magazine and coupons throughout your pregnancy and up until the baby is three.  When combined with other coupons from Pampers or Pigsback, it can result in some free nappies!

Milupa offers a baby club as well and sends vouchers and information out. Your baby must have been already born to sign up.

Silderm are offering free samples of their stretch-mark cream.

Avent Bottles are offering a free welcome gift for new Mums who join their club.

Bepanthen nappy cream are offering a free sample on their site.

Gentlebirth an Irish hypnobirthing program, that I use myself, occasionally offer free hypnobirthing mp3s, worth keeping an eye out on their site.

Cow and Gate have a nice little coupon book that they will send out to you if you sign up.  There were coupons that could be used during pregnancy and beyond, including Xtravision rentals, Chemist vouchers and more.  You are given the option on whether or not to receive information on their formula.

Aptamil also offer some money off coupons on their products.

Baba Me offers a voucher to trial their Bumgenius Cloth Nappies or a free newborn nappy.

NEW: Free gift from Clevalogs.ie when you sign up for their newsletter.



The following sites offer information on their products and infant nutrition or development, but no coupons or samples that I can tell.  Think targeted emails based on your stage of pregnancy or baby's age:
Huggies
SMA
Lansinoh

Updated 19/4/2012

Orange Pound Cake


My organic box arrived this week loaded with oranges.  It is Seville season after all and people all over Europe are making marmalade.  Well, I hate marmalade and I'm not particularly fond of oranges on their own, so I had to come up with some way to use them.  This is a fabulous pound cake that is melt-in-your-mouth buttery orangey goodness.  The syrup ensures it stays moist and I do believe it tastes better the next day.  I will definitely make this again and add a tiny bit of orange extract to the batter next time.  If you're looking for a lovely fruity cake to cheer someone up, this has got to be a hit!


Ingredients:

  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated orange zest (6 oranges)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice, divided
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Heat oven to 350F / 180C. Grease and flour two 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ – inch loaf pans.

Cream the butter and 2 cups of the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then add the orange zest.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, combine ¼ cup of the orange juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla.

Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

While the cakes bake, cook the remaining ½ cup of granulated sugar with the remaining ½ cup orange juice in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes. Spoon the orange syrup over the cakes and allow the cakes to cool completely.

Source: Barefoot Contessa
Friday, January 20, 2012

Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) and Carrot Soup

Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes as they are sometimes known are a very under utilised vegetable.  They are tubers, just like potatoes, but with a sweet and subtle taste.  They remind me of an understated combination of artichokes and celeriac.  They go well with fish, potatoes and make a wonderful addition to the winter kitchen.

I was pleasantly surprised to find over a pound of them neatly tucked in the bottom of my weekly organic box.  I had plans of making a romantic dinner for himself consisting of seabass with a Jerusalem artichoke risotto, but kids and hormones got the best of me and they ended up as soup.  This is a lovely soup that tastes rustic and earthy.  Himself had never had these artichokes before and he loved it.  The kids were not told what was in it, but they too really enjoyed it.  It's easy and tasty, what more could one want?

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz butter
  • 1.5 lb Jerusalem Artichokes
  • 1 lb carrots
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1.5 L Stock
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Creme Fraiche, to serve
  • Fresh parsley, to serve
Peel and "de-knob" the Jerusalem artichokes.  Cut into small chunks.  Place in a bowl of water to prevent oxidation.  Peel carrots and cut into chunks.

Melt butter in stock pot.  Saute celery and onion until softened. Add artichokes and carrots and saute for ten minutes.

Add stock and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes or so until vegetables are cooked through.  Blitz the soup with an immersion blender and serve with creme fraiche and fresh diced parsley.

Source: Delia Smith
Thursday, January 19, 2012

Snickerdoodles


Snickerdoodles are a wonderfully simple American sugar cookie - a lovely little afternoon snack.  Incredibly easy to put together and the kids love to get involved and do the rolling.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking / bread soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For the topping:
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F/180C.  

Cream sugar and butter, beat in eggs.  Whisk dry ingredients together and beat into butter mixture.  Beat on low speed until combined. 

Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl.  Roll dough into one inch balls and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  

Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. 

Cinnamon and Sugar Cake Doughnuts

Well with two healthy recipes in a row, I had to throw something out there that whilst delicious, is incredibly sinful!  I made these for New Years Day breakfast and they were a huge hit.  My oil was a tiny bit hot, but we were too impatient, hence the darker colours here.  This is a fabulous recipe that unlike yeast doughnuts, does not require any proving time.  You could easily ice these with a light icing sugar glaze as well.


  • 3 cups white flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • oil for frying
To coat:
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 cup sugar

In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk, egg, butter, and vanilla. Stir until well blended. Allow to rest while oil heats up. 

Pour oil into  heavy duty pot to about 4 inches depth.

Heat the oil to approximately 190 C 

On a floured counter, roll the dough out to about 1/2 an inch in thickness. Use a doughnut cutter or glass (I used a bottle cap for the hole) to cut out the doughnuts.

Fry doughnuts in hot oil until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels.

Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and place warm doughnuts in it, turn to coat.

Enjoy warm or cool!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mama's Power Brekky - Curried Pea Frittata


Being eight months pregnant, I've found that I need to eat a high protein nutritious breakfast to ensure I have enough energy to get through a day of small child wrangling, school runs, cooking, cleaning, errands and managing to look somewhat sane and possibly even awake when hubby gets home after ten.  Eggs are a fabulous way to start the day and ensure your energy level remains high for quite some time. Add that to two servings of veggies and you're really off to a good start.  Peas are a great source of ALA and phytonutrients and topped off with some homemade beetroot relish I have a breakfast that any midwife would approve of. This is so easy and so delicious and is a truly fabulous start to the day!

Curried Pea Frittata for One
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • handful frozen peas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • beetroot, tomato, salsa or other fresh relish to serve
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until just softened.  Add the peas and cook until warmed through.

Meanwhile whisk eggs with salt, pepper and curry powder.  Pour over pea and onion mixture and allow to gently cook.  Lift sides with a spatula to allow egg to flow underneath.  Cook through, or pop under a hot grill to finish.  

Serve hot with relish or mango chutney. 
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fluffy Oatmeal Pancakes


My kids are pancake mad. They would have pancakes or waffles every day if I let them, but as it is I reserve them for weekends.  I've been trying to get more whole grains into them of late, so began experimenting with healthier pancake batter.  This final recipe is a real winner. Even though it's mostly oats and whole wheat flour, they remain fluffy and light and are divine with a little butter and maple syrup.  I mix this in a food processor so I can process the oats before adding the remaining ingredients.  Normally pancakes are terrible when done in a food processor, as they get over whisked and tough, but because of the whole ingredients in this recipe, it works just fine.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups buttermilk*
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
Whizz oats in food processor until floury in texture. Add whole wheat flour and whizz again.  Add reminaing dry ingredients and pulse to combine.  

Add wet ingredients and blend until combined.

Grease a small frying pan with butter and wipe.  Ladle in about one quarter cup of the batter and swirl the pan to spread it out.  Cook over a medium-low heat until bubbles for in the centre of the pancake.  Flip and cook other side.  Repeat with remaining batter.  

To keep warm, I put a little water in a pot and keep it simmering. I top the pot with a plate and place the pancakes on top as I go, topping with a lid.  It keeps them warm but doesn't allow them to dry out.

Serve warm with butter and real maple syrup.

* You can substitute regular milk soured with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Baked Ziti


I first heard about Baked Ziti when I was watching The Sopranos.  I was immediately intrigued and have tried several recipes since.  This is the recipe I've cobbled together that everyone seems to love.  I tested it out on my sister-in-law who is Italian and she said it's better than her Grandmothers which was high praise indeed.  What I love most about this recipe is the cost, it's so cheap to make consisting of basic frugal ingredients.  If you're sick of the usual bolognaise based dishes like lasagne and meatballs, definitely give this a go.

Ingredients:


For the tomato sauce-

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 lb Italian Sausage, removed from casing*
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 500g of passata
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
For the bechamel-
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • grating of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
To assemble-
  • 1lb (dry weight) ziti or penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella

Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F.

Cook ziti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onions until slightly softened and add sausage, stirring to break up.  Once browned, add garlic, sugar and oregano. Stir in passata and tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and season with salt, pepper and/or sugar to your taste.

Meanwhile, make the bechamel.  Heat butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan.  Add butter and stir for a minute.  Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a boil.  Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in nutmeg and parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Grease a 9x13 casserole dish with butter and layer half the pasta, half the meat sauce and half the bechamel in it.  Repeat and top with mozzarella.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until bubbling.  Allow to stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

* If you cannot get Italian sausage, use normal Irish or herb sausages and add a tablespoon of fennel seeds, an additional tablespoon of oregano, teaspoon of basil and a quarter teaspoon of chilli flakes.

 

Decadent Chocolate Mousse


This is a quick and easy recipe that doesn't involve egg separating and tempering.  It makes a rich and decadent mousse that can be adjusted to your taste.  If you're on a low carb diet and like dark chocolate, just leave out the sugar for a luxurious treat.  If you prefer a milkier chocolate, use a lower cocoa percentage.  I wrote this recipe down when I was in college and I think it was from the back of a cooking chocolate bar, but I can't for the life of me remember which brand.  I like it because I don't need to whisk egg whites or temper yolks and it creates just as luxurious a mousse.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
  • 10 oz dark chocolate 
  • 1/4 cup espresso, hot
  • 4 eggs
  • 2-3 tbs sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
Melt dark chocolate over a double boiler and remove from heat.  Stir in coffee and allow to cool.

Beat eggs with sugar until fluffy, thickened and pale yellow, about 5-7 minutes.

Stir eggs into chocolate mixture.

Whip cream to stiff peaks and fold into mousse.  Spoon into glasses or ramekins and chill for 2-3 hours.  Serve as is or with some crème fraiche and red berries. 
Monday, January 9, 2012

Weekly Menu



One of my new year's resolutions is to plan a weekly menu.  I am hoping to do some batch cooking in the next few weeks so himself won't be stranded when baby comes.  I figure I'll make double dinners and freeze half. Oh how I wish I had my big American freezer, this dinky Irish one will maybe allow a weeks worth of meals at best, but a week will buy me some time with our wee man come March.


Monday:
Chicken Curry with White Rice

Tueday:
Baked Ziti and Garlic Bread

Wednesday:
Mongolian Beef with White Rice

Thursday:

Friday:

Saturday:
Leftovers

Sunday:
Fennel Stuffed Pork Belly Roast with Roast Potatoes, Carrots and Creamed Leeks

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Almond Crunch Granola

This is a wonderfully delicious and decadent breakfast that you would easily pay a good few euro for in the supermarkets, but when home made with Aldi ingredients, it costs jut a few cents a bowl and tastes sublime! A perfect way to start the day!

 
Ingredients:
  • 6 cups porridge oats
  • 2 cups dessicated coconut
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Whisk oil, egg whites and extract together until frothy.  Combine with dry ingredients and spread out on a large cookie sheet and bake for fifteen minutes. 

Remove from oven, stir and top with almonds. Bake a further ten minutes and stir again.  Bake for a final five minutes until golden brown.  If desired, mix in some dried fruit of your choice. Store in an air tight container and serve with ice-cold milk or Greek yoghurt.