Here’s to hummus

It’s been quite a while since I gave my blog any attention. A busy few weeks between one thing and another. But I’m determined to get back on track now!

It’s a quick post today, just to get me back in the swing of things. My go-to quick lunch recipe recently has been hummus. I’ve tried a variety of recipes, and have found that I tend to prefer hummus with some added flavour, such as sun-dried tomato, chilli or roasted red pepper.

It takes about five minutes to make (if even). Simply whizz the following in your blender:

  • 1 can of drained & rinsed chickpeas (approx 400g)
  • a good glug of olive oil
  • juice of 1 small lemon
  • 1 tbsp of tahini
  • salt & pepper to season
  • and finally, your flavour of choice

For my latest batch  I threw in some chilli flakes, a roasted red pepper (skin removed and chopped roughly) and a handful of coriander.

Spicy red pepper hummus

Spicy red pepper hummus

Lentils for lunch

Lentils have a habit of sitting in my kitchen press for quite a while. They are the kind of thing I buy, thinking they’ll be handy and healthy. Yet they are not something that I get excited about cooking. I struggle to do much with them beyond making dahl or adding them to soups or stews.

Thanks to a column by Lilly Higgins in a recent edition of the Irish Times, I was encouraged to look at lentils in a new light. Her lentil salad recipe looked tasty, and quite filling. It also seemed like a recipe that would pass my lunch test, namely quick to prepare and easy to transport.

A glance at the ingredients list revealed nothing too complicated: cooked and cooled green lentils, a splash of olive oil, some sea salt, lime juice, mango chunks, red onion and coriander. I added sweetcorn and pomegranate too, and also some fresh parsley.

A tasty lunch, and it would be nice as a side for dinner too. Plus, bonus points for being colourful!

 

The beauty of simplicity

When it comes to special cakes, I swing between two points of view. I love the creativity of a cake covered in fondant icing, and decorated with little figurines and all the bells and whistles, but I also find the simplicity of a more rustic cake really appealing.

To mark my grandmother’s 90th birthday this weekend, we were under strict instructions “not to make a fuss”. So with that in mind, birthday cake wise, it was all about keeping it simple.

Aerial view

Lemon birthday cake dressed with berries and fresh mint

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How was your Pancake Tuesday?

I was all set to make healthier pancakes last night, using buckwheat, oat or almond flour. And then planned to use yogurt and berries for a simple topping.

But sometimes, the traditional option is called for. On a wet, icy evening, all I wanted was a plate of comfort food: fluffy hot pancakes topped with lemon, butter and sugar, and a big mug of tea.

From batter to plate: pancake time!

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And the best bit? Leftover pancakes for breakfast this morning!

A ball of energy

We all have days when we are zipping from A to B, with a to-do list a mile long and people pulling us in multiple directions. Those are days that usually call for a Double Decker for me. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

However, I recently spotted a recipe for energy balls that I thought might be a tasty alternative and a good way to give me a boost on the go. This recipe features lots of things I love, including oats, banana and coconut, so I was hopeful that these snacks would be right up my street.

Energy balls

My attempt at energy balls

The recipe also uses raw cacoa, something I have never used before. As far as I understand, it’s basically unprocessed cocoa. A lot more expensive than regular cocoa powder, but I decided to give it a try once anyway!

After blending all the ingredients, roll the mixture into balls and bake in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes. Allow to cool before munching.

These were very easy to make, but to be honest not as tasty as I’d hoped. Not a bad flavour, but possibly a little dry. I might add dates next time or some sort of dried fruit, for a bit more stickiness. So, all in all, unlikely to replace my Double Decker just yet!

Have any of you had success with energy ball recipes? I like the idea of nutritious, portable snacks, but they need to be tasty – not just virtuous! Share your recipes via a comment. Thanks!

The flip side

Cottage cheese is decidedly awkward. Recipes call for a dollop here and there, but invariably I’m left with a half-full tub of the stuff, wondering how to use it up. And let’s face it, it really isn’t the most inspiring of ingredients, thanks to its lumpy texture.

I’ve come across a few recipes for sweetened cottage cheese protein pancakes, but (1) I’m not a fan of protein powders as it all seems a bit artificial and (2) these recipes seemed a bit too breakfasty.

Instead, I decided to try a more ‘lunchable’ sort of pancake creation this week, albeit without a recipe. I had some cottage cheese to use up, so I winged it a bit! The finished result was actually quiet tasty, and the lumpy cottage cheese texture was well hidden.

Pancakes for lunch

Pancakes for lunch

What you need (makes 1 decent-sized pancake):

  • 2 tbsp of cottage cheese
  • 2 tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of baking powder
  1. Blitz your ingredients in a blender. I use a very cheap, yet very efficient ‘mini-chopper’ from Aldi for small things like this (when I can’t be bothered taking the full-sized blender and all its paraphernalia out of the press).
  2. Heat a little butter in a medium-sized pan.
  3. Pour in the mixture, and cook on each side for 2 minutes
  4. You can use this as a base for whatever takes your fancy lunch-wise. I opted for sauteed mushrooms and spinach, some parmesan shavings and a little black pepper.

Lazy Sunday

It’s a bit miserable out today, a bit damp and grey, and well…January-ish. On such days, I’m usually far more susceptible to the lure of tea and biscuits, accompanied by a ‘straight-to-TV’ film or a flick of a magazine.

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary on sugar, which quite frankly terrified me and was far more effective than any January health kick in motivating me to step away from the biscuit tin.

That said though, life would be terribly dull without a few treats, so I’ve been trying to make a few less-sugary, more nutrition-packed alternatives at home. I like the idea that sugar is not banned completely, but that it comes serves with some nutritious stuff.

The Little Green Spoon blog is full of great inspiration and I’ve been meaning to try its pistachio and cranberry squares for the last couple of weeks.

These were really simple to make, and quick too (an added bonus!). In summary, lightly toast oats and pistachios. Blitz these with coconut and cranberry, and then bind with melted coconut oil, almond butter and maple syrup. I reduced the amount of maple syrup slightly.

If you happen to be into icing cakes, and have an icing smoother, it comes in very handy for squishing the mixture into a baking tray to set. If not, your hand or a sideways mug (hold by the handle and roll) will also do the trick.

The recipe I was working from yielded 12 perfect squares. My attempt was a bit crumblier…so broke a little when I cut it into pieces. Still tasty, just a bit misshapen (and the leftover crumbs were delicious sprinkled into yogurt).

A taste of Japan

Food is a big part of holidays…and holiday memories.

In 2014, my boyfriend and I went to Japan. It was an amazing trip, a real adventure, and it was punctuated by delicious food. I always enjoyed sushi, but since that trip I have developed a love of it.

Last week, we decided to revisit some of those holiday memories with a sushi making course. It was a lovely way to spend an evening, and best of all, we left with boxes of the sushi we had made to bring home for dinner.

The ditherer’s dinner

Firstly, a belated happy new year. I’ve been a bit slow to get back to blogging after the festivities.

When I eat out, I am ridiculously bad at deciding what to order. I’ll wait until the last minute, hover between two or three dishes and panic order as the waiter or waitress is starting to lose their patience. And often, I’ll regret my order a second later and change my mind.

If like me, you are a bit of a ditherer, then dinners that take away some of the decision process are great. Think tapas and thali plates. Continue reading