Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Foolproof Beef Wellington

You know that one dish that never ceases to please just about everyone? Well, this is mine.  This is our Christmas dinner every year and also tends to crop up for other special occasions.  We do it for Christmas because with Paul being American we celebrate Thanksgiving and a full turkey dinner twice in a month is just too much for me!  This is a very traditional recipe with a beautiful mushroom and shallot duxelle and cheaters (store bought) puff pastry*.  Serve with some pan gravy, roast potatoes cooked in goose fat, some trimmed asparagus drizzled in lemon butter and roasted beetroot for an amazing luxurious (and easy, but no one will be able to tell) dinner!  Apologies for the poor photos, I only had my iPhone at the time.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3lb beef or venison fillet, trimmed
  • 8oz cremini (chestnut) or wild mushrooms, finely diced
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or brandy
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh parsley, finely chopped.
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 15 slices of prosciutto or serrano ham
  • 1 package of puff pastry*
  • Egg wash**
Heat a large skillet and add a glug of olive oil.  Season the trimmed fillet with salt and pepper and sear each side until browned, about a minute a side, longer if you want your finished fillet to be cooked more than medium rare.  Remove from heat, set aside. 

Add butter to skillet and allow to melt.  Add shallots and cook for a few minutes until softened.  Add mushrooms and cook until liquid has evaporated.  Add white wine and cook down until liquid is gone.  Stir in the garlic and herbs, cooking for a minute.  Remove from heat. 

Unroll a large piece of plastic wrap, thick enough to wrap around the fillet.  Lay out the prosciutto, slightly overlapping on the cling film.  Spread the mushroom duxelle over the prosciutto leaving about an inch at the edges. Coat the fillet with the dijon mustard. 

Place the fillet on top of the duxelle and prosciutto then use the plastic wrap to bring the prosciutto up and around the fillet. Roll the fillet up tight, twisting the plastic wrap at each end tightly to form an even cylinder. Pop in freezer while you prepare the pastry.

Roll out the pastry sheet so that it is large enough to enclose the fillet.  Brush the edges with egg wash and wrap fillet up sealing the edges.  Use any extra pastry to make a decorative topping for the wellington.  Brush the pastry with egg wash and bake for 25 minutes at 200C/400F for medium rare and 30 minutes for medium. Allow to stand for ten minutes before carving.  Enjoy!



* Aldi are doing a butter puff pastry in their chilled section now and I have to say it's very good and much better value than the branded stuff!

**1 egg plus a teaspoon of cold water

Linking up to: Recipe Sharing Monday,

Review: Amazon Kindle

I come from a line of avid readers. My Dad gave me a copy of Jane Eyre when I was about eight and I never looked back. My Grandmother who died this past September passed on her love of reading to my Dad and he passed it on to me. Any time I would visit her I would bring all the books I'd read and swap them with a pile of hers. We'd discuss authors and plots and I would marvel at how lucky I was to have such an astute and intelligent grandmother, despite her physical frailty.

About three years ago Dad got a Kindle for Christmas, the big old ugly white one with the keypad.  I was incredulous, how could he do such a thing? Betray the paper he had always loved? Surely not!  I refused to believe him when he told me how much he loved it. I watched with disdain as he devoured book after book at the pool on our vacation in Portugal. Most of all though, I missed him giving me a big pile of books any time I would visit.

About a year ago my best friend in the states got a Kindle for her birthday and also sang it's praises.  It made me think twice, but still I knew that I loved the feel, smell and sensation of a book in my hands. I liked to dog-ear interesting passages and scribble notes if I so chose. I also loved to have a big pile on my bedside table to peruse at my leisure depending on my mood.  She told me how it was a wonderful tool for nursing mothers as it only required one hand.  That struck a chord and I considered how it might be useful, but dismissed the thought immediately.

Fast forward to last Christmas.  We were all sitting around the tree watching the kids open presents when my parents presented myself, himself and my brother and sister-in-law with a similarly shaped and wrapped present, insisting we all open it at the same time.  There were cries of delight as everyone saw their new Kindle, except from me, still not being convinced.

Within a few days I had started to set it up and ordered a few books.  I started with a Kindle Single by Lee Child, as I didn't want to waste money on something I thought I would hate.  I was pleasantly surprised with the interface and how easy it was to read and use.  Next thing I know I had downloaded The Hunger Games Trilogy (all three for less than the price of one at Easons!!!) and read them all in a couple of days.  I bought a few books suitable during my pregnancy including a Pregnancy Yoga book which was brilliant as I always had the poses with me.  I ordered the breastfeeding essential Motherfood which is also brilliant to have with me on the run and allows me to make good choices of food and snacks on the go. All of a sudden I found my paper book pile dwindling as I purchased more and more of my reading on the Kindle.  It was pretty obvious I was hooked!

I love that I can carry all my reading with me at any given time without being laden down with books.  It's small and sleek and easily fits in my handbag. I absolutely LOVE the prices.  For someone who used to spend upwards of €100 a month on books I have cut down substantially and whats even better is that the books are always there on my device as I need them. I cannot believe how quickly I've converted to a Kindle enthusiast.  It really is a brilliant investment for anyone who loves reading.

I use an American Amazon account as we still have residency there and I use that address.  My Dad does not have residency but also uses an American account as the prices are cheaper. The only difference being there are sometimes titles (often the free ones or deals of the day) that are only available to download to people with confirmed US addresses.  You can get the Kindle on Amazon.co.uk as well, but it's only $79 in the US store versus £89 and the books are cheaper and there is a bigger selection.  A no brainer if you ask me!

My first Kindle stopped working and I have to say that for the most part the customer service was excellent.  They replaced the Kindle and gave me a $25 credit for the inconvenience.  It was a bit of a struggle because I bought it in the US, they wouldn't ship a replacement here, but I got it shipped to my father-in-law who was sending a package here anyway and he tucked it in.

It is a sound investment that pays for itself quickly with the reduced cost books. It's also very green considering the huge cut down in paper use.  If you keep an eye on Amazon you can also get some excellent daily deals and free books.  You can get almost all the old classics for free.  Sometimes authors or publishers make their books free for 24 hours to get up the rankings and you can get some great deals and savings here.  I would go for the slightly more expensive touch version if you had the means, but the basic is just fine and working well for me.  The Kindle Fire looks nice, but it's basically a tablet and I know myself too well to realise that no reading would get done and all the bells and whistles would take away from the primary purpose of an e-reader.  All in all I would highly recommend a basic Kindle to anyone who reads a lot or enjoys reading.   
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Homemade Power Bars

Proud Daddy with his girl!
Apologies for being so MIA of late, it's been a busy few weeks. My eldest made her First Holy Communion last weekend and my baby was baptised the next day.  There was a big party on the Saturday followed by a smaller more intimate lunch after the Christening.

It was a wonderful weekend but very exhausting and I swear I'm still recovering.  Baby loved all the attention. I was worried as he was being passed around like snuff at a wake, but he soaked up every minute and was an absolute charmer!  I think he's getting used to just me again.  Ella had a wonderful day and cites the best part of the day being when she took her dress off.  That's my tomboy for you! ;)

Family Picture on Mark's Baptism Day
The week before that we had Ella's eighth birthday party.  That birthday also marked eight years since we became parents, scary to think, especially considering it seems like we've just started all over again.  Having a six year gap really makes you seem like brand new parents and I have to say it's a whole different ballgame in your early thirties than in your early twenties.  I'll actually have to write a post about that, because I find the differences fascinating.  But I digress...

Power bars...where to start.  Well, himself works crazy hours, sometimes 18 hour days with a good amount of physical work thrown in.  He's the most conscientious worker (he's worked for this company for 7 years and has yet to call in sick) and gets so involved that he often forgets to eat or if he does eat, it's a packet of biscuits or similar junk.  He cycles too and from work which helps to counteract his horrible eating habits, but I felt like he needed something to get him through the day so I started experimenting with recipes.  Below is a power-packed whole foods granola bar which really packs a healthy punch and keeps you full for quite some time.  The quinoa and oats form the basic recipe with the binding of honey and peanut butter, but everything else is easily adapted to your taste.  I would also recommend adding some dried fruit, the bars pictured are fruit-free for the kids as they can't stand dried fruit, bt adding some tart dried cherries or sweet apricots would add a lot.  These are also good for those of us who are breastfeeding, as both quinoa and oats are known lactogenic foods. Double win!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup greek yoghurt
  • 1 cup chopped/ground nuts*
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit
  • 2 tbsp linseed
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup seeds**
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
Soak the quinoa in water with a dash of lemon juice overnight.  The next morning, drain and add to the milk. Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds, add to the milk with the remaining pod.  Bring milk to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until all liquid is absorbed.

Soak oats in yoghurt overnight. Once quinoa is cooked, mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Line a 9x13" pan with parchment paper and spread the mixture inside.  Bake at 200C/400F for 30-45 minutes until browned around the edges and cooked through.  

Allow to cool and slice into bars.  Enjoy as a power snack, kids brain food, breakfast on the go or with a cup of coffee!

* I used almonds and hazelnuts. 
** I used a mix of sunflower and pumpkin




A sneak peek (and horrible photo) of my eight year old's birthday cake. Recipe to follow!




Saturday, May 12, 2012

Weekend Reading

Some interesting articles and blog posts for your weekend perusal:

An excellent excellent piece on extended breastfeeding, coincidentally written before Time's controversial cover story.

File this one under WTF! The worse PR campaign of all time? You decide!

This analogy really shows how clever formula marketing has been and continues to be.

7 tips for people new to cloth nappies is a good read if that's an avenue you are exploring or considering.

Another pre-Time commentary on attachment parenting and feminism. I love this post, having always identified as a feminist, yet feeling eschewed by said group since becoming a mother.

Loving these recipes for homemade cleaners!

And finally an absolutely delicious looking raspberry lemon roulade. Perhaps a mothers day dessert for my American friends? <3
Thursday, May 10, 2012

Breastfeeding Difficulties: Living with IGT

I'm feeling sorry for myself lately.  The past few days I've been kind of low.  One would think that being surrounded by extraordinary women and their gorgeous children at the Homebirth Conference would have left me on a high and to an extent it did, but it also served to make me feel less of a woman... again. I hate my boobs.

My wee man is two months old and I still nurse him at each feed, but I have to supplement him and as he grows so does that supplement with my supply staying the exact same. I nurse and if I have time I hook him up to the SNS and feed him the supplement at breast, but with two school age kids and their various extracurriculars, I don't really have the time to have a 90 minute SNS session more than once a day, if even, so that means he gets a bottle.  He nurses for about five minutes on each side before getting frustrated and annoyed as the milk dries up.  This is the day to day of Insufficient Glandular Tissue or IGT.  It sucks. A lot.

I want to be able to pick my baby up when he cries and satisfy him.  I want to be able to nourish him by myself as I should be designed to do. I want stains on my shirts because my milk leaks. I want mustard poo. I don't want to smell like curry because of all the fenugreek I take.  I don't want to be hungry all the time because of the high dosage of domperidone I'm on.  I don't want to have to hide a bottle under a blanket when I'm with other breastfeeding women.  I don't want to have to explain my situation to everyone who gives me a dirty look. I want the people closest to me and everyone else -strangers included who feel they have the right to comment - who ask why I bother and suggest switching to bottles to realise they are not helping.  I want breastfeeding "experts" to stop telling me it's something I'm doing wrong.  I just want to be normal.

How can my body make and sustain this beautiful baby for ten months then not continue to do so after he is so beautifully born

I cried my eyes out the entire drive home from Dublin last week not because I was jealous of all those women I saw who were lovingly nursing their babies, but rather because I was mourning the fact that I couldn't do that.  I was sad, angry and frustrated. Why me? What is wrong with my body that my breasts never developed? Why can no one fix it? Why does no one even care enough to try? Why do people tell me not to bother?

The thoughts that go through my head are endless. Nothing can prepare a mother for primary lactation failure.  It goes against every maternal instinct one has.  Putting a baby to an empty breast only upsets him further, it's heartbreaking to watch. It kills me when I see people not even try to breastfeed, or give up for stupid reasons. It makes me mad that women who could easily feed any number of babies don't because they fear they are giving up their freedom or won't make enough or it might hurt or they just can't be bothered.  I would rather have enough milk and raw nipples or permanent mastitis than IGT.  Not being able to feed my babies just kills me and it's so hard not to be angry.  I know I shouldn't judge other women, especially because I believe most of it is due to lack of education and/or support, but still, it's just hard when you have literally tried everything under the sun to no avail.

One of the ladies in the IGT Support Group summed it up perfectly when she said "IGT is like a silent killer to the wonderment of motherhood."  So true. She goes on to share how it has affected her:

To me having IGT is like a silent killer to the wonderment of motherhood. Yes the children get older and nursing struggles become distant memories (I have 7 and 5 1/2 yr old boys too) but for now, right now I am saddened. I struggle with wondering why God would make a perfect beautiful way to feed babies and then not allow me to feed them that way. I never had fertility problems, I had no idea my breasts were empty shells devoid of mammary glands. They aren't huge but they're breasts! I even commented to my husband during my first pregnancy "well I'm leaking colostrum, so at least we know my boobs work..." after noticing there was a lack of tenderness and growth about 25 weeks in. The only reason I keep going with the SNS is for the joy I feel when I see those blue eyes peering up at me. He loves to nurse, all my baby's did. And the little smile in the corner of his mouth when he opens wide to latch on, those few swallows he gets before needing the SNS; it's worth it to me for that calm and peace and unity we have, my baby and I.

Yes. THAT is what I need to focus on. Those loving eyes looking up at me enjoying what little he can get.   I have to remain positive and enjoy the nursing relationship I do have and who knows, maybe as he gets older and adds solids I will eventually be able to eliminate supplements.  I cannot let other people's negativity and "I don't know why you bother" attitude bring me down.  I cannot look at other women who are successful and let it sadden me.  I cannot let blog posts like this make me cry and mourn.  I will continue to do what I am doing because it benefits my son and it benefits me.  Must.stay.strong.