The humble spud

Potatoes…where would we be with out them?!

I’m a big fan of spuds: baked, boiled, fried, mashed…whatever is going.

Today was a day of catching up on admin, so it called for a very quick lunch. Sunday nights typically see me doing some food prep, so I had a few sweet potatoes in the fridge, baked and ready to go.

A quick zap in the microwave, add some spicy yogurt (yogurt mixed with Cajun seasoning), fresh chilli, spring onions, coriander and some salad on the side. Done!

‘Tis the season

As a child, mince pies confused me. I thought they were cakes made with minced beef, and didn’t really get why people seemed to like them so much.

Thankfully I’m a bit less clueless now! Despite enjoying baking, I’d never made mince pies before.  The Christmas tree went up last weekend, so it seemed an appropriate time for a first attempt. I was pleasantly surprised by my first batch, but hopefully will make tidier looking ones next time.

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Five to try: Apps for healthy food ideas

My bookshelves creak under the weight of countless food books; some dog-earred, others reserved for special occasions. Books, and the recipes they contain, become like friends. The one you turn to in a panic when you need something in a hurry. The ones you spend indulgent afternoons with, simply enjoying the luxury of time.

In a small apartment though, there’s only room for so many friends at the party. Which is why I’m trying some new online relationships, trading my lust for new cook books for the immediacy of downloading a new app. So far, so satisfying.

Food apps are very handy for on the go recipe hunting. For the day when you are on the bus and remember you’ve an *insert wilting vegetable of choice* buried in your fridge that needs to be turned into a meal pronto.

The beauty of apps is that you can try a new one out without a big commitment. The most I’ve spent on a foodie app so far is €4.99, and there are a lot of cheaper – or even free – options.

In no particular order, the following five apps are my current favourites for healthy recipe ideas. They all focus on eating natural ingredients, and overlap a lot in terms of their philosophy. I don’t really go for the whole juicing craze, or the idea of a “cleanse” whereby you eat a very restrictive diet, but I agree with the overall goal of eating less processed stuff and trying to choose fresh, natural stuff instead.

Food Fix Up: I came across this app from Aussie Stephanie Neal purely by chance, and now I’m addicted. I especially love the jerk chicken with baked sweet potato and mango salsa.

Deliciously Ella: This app is a pretty popular one, and the Ella of the title now has a book out too. A good range of recipes, with a special mention for all the lovely smoothie ideas.

Green Kitchen: For starters, this app features gorgeous food photography. It offers a wide range of vegetarian recipes from couple David and Luise, who also have a lovely blog.

Clean and Green: This app has some really simple recipes, and is a nice starting point for someone who wants to mix up their menu a bit and introduce new recipes.

Honestly Healthy: This app has some recipes with fancy ingredients, and some more complicated suggestions. But still some nice ideas to try.

If there are any apps you enjoy using for healthy eating ideas, I’d love to hear about them. Share your favourites by posting a comment below. Thank you!

When bread was toast…

Remember when bread came in two sorts, or seemed to at least? Brown sliced pan or white sliced plan. And possibly on the odd occasion, old-fashioned ‘Granny’ brown bread.

For mini-me, bread meant squished triangles, sandwiches to barter (yes to jam, no to egg), toast to cover in butter. Or a ketchup laden chip butty, which was always infinitely tastier when the white bread was spongy and fresh and the chips were doused in vinegar.

Then came the bread stick, which to mini-me was the height of exotic. Now though, there’s more bread options on offer in your average supermarket than mini-me could have shaken the aforementioned bread stick at. Focaccia, ciabatta, pitta bread, naan bread and plenty more besides. And more recently, there’s been an explosion of gluten free bread options.

While reading the papers over the weekend, I came across a Susan Jane White recipe for a Paleo focaccia bread that intrigued me. My general approach to food is a little bit of everything in moderation, so diets like the Paleo one and so on are not really my thing. That said though, I liked the look of the flavours in this bread (rosemary and lemon) and so decided to give it a go as I had all the required bits and bobs lurking in my kitchen (flaxseed, eggs, lemon, dried rosemary, olive oil, honey, baking powder, milk, sea salt and currants – nothing too weird required).

If you fancy giving a Paleo bread a go, here’s a video showing how to make a slightly different version of this bread (with olives and sundried tomato instead of rosemary and lemon).

The verdict? This bread is very moist and quite tasty, and I plan on using it for lunch this week (that is if I stop munching on it now!). The recipe suggests having it with avocado, olive tapenade or hummus. I look forward to trying all three.

Jammin’

As a kid, I used to pick loganberries in my grandparents’ garden and help my gran to turn them into jam. To this day, toast with oozing melted butter and sweet sticky jam is the ultimate comfort food for me.

Jam is a handy thing to have in the fridge: a dollop in porridge when you run out of berries, a quick filling for a cake, a lazy sandwich.

I’ve been intrigued recently by a variety of recipes I’ve come across for chia seed jam. I wasn’t convinced that it could measure up to the real thing but I decided to have a go.

Making chia seed jam is really easy. All you have to do is boil up the berries of your choice with a tiny splash of water (enough so the berries don’t stick to your pot), mash it all up, and then add about a tablespoon of chia seeds for every cup of berries. Stir it, and watch it thicken up.

Some of the recipes I read suggested adding maple syrup or honey to sweeten it. I thought that defeated the purpose of attempting to make a healthy jam. However, after just eating some of my first batch on my porridge this morning, I think a bit of something sweet might be required, as there’s a slight bitterness to the seeds. Even with some maple syrup it would still be a lot less sugary than regular jam though.

The verdict? A nice experiment and definitely a good topping for porridge, but not sure it’s a match for real jam!

 

Oh crumbs

Midweek dinners can get a bit dull. I find, especially if I’m busy with work, that I tend to cook the same five or six dishes in rotation. I have great intentions of mixing it up, but then when I arrive home tired, I get lazy and opt for a tried-and-tested recipe that I can throw together quickly.

I’m trying to be a little more inventive recently, without adding hassle to my day. One really quick way to liven up a piece of baked fish or chicken is to make a nice crumb to add some crunch and some flavour.

I regularly make bread, and there’s usually a little bit left over that can be turned into bread crumbs with a quick blitz in the blender. Add a glug of olive oil (or whatever other oil you fancy), some basil, some lemon zest and a few shavings of hard cheese. Mix it all in a bowl, then spoon it over your fish or chicken and bake as normal. This also works on top of pasta if you want to make a quick pasta bake.

The ingredients

The ingredients

Ready, steady, bread!

A lazy breakfast is a great start to the weekend. For me, a big mug of tea and ‘fresh from the oven’ brown bread slathered with something gooey, such as jam, mashed banana or peanut butter is a lovely Saturday morning treat.

Two slices of bread

Soda bread is quick to prepare, and then takes about 45 minutes in the oven…but it is worth the wait!

I’ve tried a variety of bread recipes over the last couple of years. Currently I’m using a modified version of this vegan one. I came across this recipe when hunting for a dairy-free brown bread recipe (to make dairy free bread for a visiting friend). I’ve since modified it, adding back the dairy (normal milk instead of soy/almond milk), using 1 egg and leaving out the sugar. I’m pretty happy with the results, and it also means I don’t end up with half a carton of buttermilk lingering in my fridge. Play around with it, add seeds or oats, and find a texture that you like.