Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mocha Chai Smoothie - The perfect morning oomph!



I can't tell you how hard I searched for a Nutri Ninja this January! The Nutri Blender and the Nutri Ninja are the hottest new kitchen gadgets in town, and now that I got my hands on a Nutri Ninja, I can certainly see the hype. Easy to use, easy to clean, and unlimited possibilities for smoothies, salad dressings and dips to be created.



This is a super quick, fuss free recipe for a healthy chocolate smoothie, with a real caffeine hit, the perfect breakfast smoothie for coffee lovers who rush in the morning.  I don't believe in skipping breakfast, but I'll let it slide if you make yourself one of these bad boys to drink on your commute to work. I myself have this smoothie as a mid morning treat on the weekends.



Serves 2 

Ingredients
  • 1 banana, chopped
  • 1 shot of espresso (Mine is Nespresso) or 1 tbsp of instant espresso powder
  • 1 tbsp of chai seeds
  • 1 tbsp of cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups of almond milk
  • 2-3 ice cubes

Method
  1. Using either a juice blender or a hand held blender, blitz all the ingredients together in a suitable glass or jug.
It's that easy!



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Banana Oats & Apricot Muffins - Thumbs Up from Toddlers



These buns are made with my little toddler in mind, however they are not just for busy growing little kiddies. They are a great pre or post work out treat for us big kids too. The addition of the sunflower oil makes the buns incredibly moist, and the mashed bananas give a fabulous flavour. I'm using apricots here, but raisins or dried blueberries or dried cranberries work equally well.

When it comes to Aoife's 3pm snack time, and she see me pulling one of these buns from the tubberware box, she goes absolutely crazy and it's a job to lift her into the chair she's going so mad with excitement. This to me means that they have gotten the toddler thumbs up.




Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 50ml of sunflower oil
  • 1 egg
  • 55g of melted butter
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 100g of plain flour
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 50g of rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp of bicarbonate soda
  • 1/2 tsp of baking powder
  • 55g of chopped dried apricots


Method


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a bun tray with paper bun cases.
  2. Get 2 bowls. In one bowl add the mashed bananas, sunflower oil, egg, butter, and vanilla extract. Stir very well to incorporate everything.
  3. In the second bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and bicarbonate soda. Add the oats and the caster sugar and stir well. 
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Fold in the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed.
  5. Add the apricots at this point (any dried fruit will do), and stir again to distribute the fruit.
  6. Using two spoons, fill each muffin case to three quarters full.
  7. Sprinkle with a few porridge oats if you wish.
  8. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes and then cool on a wire rack.
  9. These buns freeze very well and just need a couple of hours to defrost.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Simply Adorable Mini Victoria Sponges



The little mini Victoria sponge cakes I made for a recently gallery opening were hands down the item I got most compliments on, so I decided to share the recipe on how I made them. Its pure simple really, just using my basic cake mix I use for most of my muffin recipes and a couple of cheats. These little puppies shouldn't take more than 20 minutes from start to finish. You can obviously make regular size buns also in place of the mini ones, just increase your timing in the oven to 20 minutes.

Makes approx 45 mini cakes

Ingredients

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp of baking powder
  • 140g of caster sugar
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 75g of melted butter
  • 170ml of full fat milk





To decorate

  • Whipped fresh cream (shop bought)
  • Strawberry or Raspberry jam (shop bought)
  • Icing sugar


Method


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a mini muffin tray with some bun cases.
  2. In a mixing sieve together the plain flour, baking powder and the sugar.
  3. In a jug mix together the egg, milk, butter, and vanilla extract.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in your wet ingredients and combine fully, careful not to over mix.
  5. Using teaspoons, fill the bun cases three quarters of the way up and try to flatten them with a metal spoon.
  6. Place the tray in the oven for 10-11 minutes.
  7. Place the buns on a wire rack when baked and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  8. Once cool remove the buns from their casing (they will stick to the paper if still too warm).
  9. Cut the buns in half horizontally.
  10. Using a butter knife, spread a layer of cream on the bottom half of the bun and follow that with a small dollop of jam.
  11. Place the bun into a new bun case and sprinkle liberally with icing sugar.


(Note: My mini muffin tray only takes 24 cases, but as the buns take no more than 10 minutes to bake I refilled the tray with the remaining batter once the first round had come out. Normally I wouldn't do this as the baking powder has been activiated and the mixture could become stiff, but 10 minutes didn't seem to do the batter any harm. Alternatively you could make a couple of regular size buns with the remaining batter if you like. Just remember to give them an extra 10 minutes in the oven.)

These little buns are sure to become a new tea party favourite for me.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Can't Believe its healthy Tamarind Chicken



Looking at these succulent sticky pieces of chicken you would think that they are loaded with calories, right?! Wrong!! The marinade is actually cleverly low in fat and if you bake the chicken piece on a wire rack in the oven all the excess fat drips off. The marinade gives a wonderful South East Asian flavour to the chicken meat, even when ( or IF) you discard the skin, the flavours penetrate all the way through the  juicy meat. This is a super quick recipe to prepare, but obviously the longer you leave the chicken to marinate the better.



The trick to low fat recipes I find is using fresh herbs and spices to flavour the food. Asian cuisine is fantastic for this with the holy trinity of garlic, ginger and chilli. So no need to compromise too much on taste when cooking with South East Asian style and its calorie friendly also.



Ingredients

Marinade
  • Tamarind sauce (I used the jar from Marks and Spencers)
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and diced finely
  • 1 thumb size piece of peeled ginger, diced finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 stick of lemongrass, bruised and diced
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • Chicken drumsticks or thighs, or even wings

Garnish
  • Freshly chopped coriander
  • lime wedges
(Note: I have been know to use shop bought chilli paste, garlic paste, lemongrass paste and ginger paste, in place of the fresh counterparts on occasion, making this a real store cupboard winner)



 
Method

  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and stir well to combine everything.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a shallow dish and cover with the marinade and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour but as long as you have really.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with 2 layers of foil (to help with the washing up). Place a wire rack over the foil.
  4. Place the chicken pieces on the rack and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
  5. Pour the remaining marinade from the shallow dish into a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until reduced by half. Add another tsp of honey here if you like.
  6. With a basting brush, brush the chicken pieces with the marinade every 5 minutes for 15 minutes.
  7. When the chicken is cooked, brush the pieces with a final coating of the sauce before serving and scatter with lime wedges and coriander.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Catering the Opening of Barriers Exhibition - A great marriage of Fine Art and Food



Happy new year to one and all. I do hope that everyone had a happy and healthy holidays and equally and healthy new year!!! We had a fantastic Christmas filled with family, food, fun and laughter, and a gallon or two of wine thrown in for good measure.

After all the partying of the holiday season, we are now well and truly into detox/diet mode! I should have began this healthy kick start ten days ago myself,  but I had one final event in my holiday calendar that was pulling me from going full blown Diet Diva. 



That event was the opening of Barriers, an art exhibition in the CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery in Cork city last night. This was the 3rd year that Art Group 7, a collective group of art educators/artists from diverse backgrounds showcased their paintings in Cork City. 



I'm very proud to say that two of the artists are my sister Tracy and her husband Daniel Sexton, who are both not only fantastic teachers and are also unbelievably talented artists. The night didn't disappoint. Though I'm not a very well educated in all things art (my sister would call my artistically challenged, as did my first year art teacher), I found each and every piece exhibited both beautiful and thought provoking.  Certain paintings in particular had me mesmerised, and these thoughts were echoed by the other visitors to the gallery last night. 





There was a great turnout and plenty of wine and food to go around.....which brings me to the food aspect. I was delighted to be asked for the 2nd year to provide the catering for the dessert portion of the event.



 I love making canapes, and all things miniature. I am quite used to this as I host tea parties regularly. As I was making the canapes in Killarney and not in Cork, and also I was unable to attend the opening until an hour into the proceedings, I needed to provide canapes that required absolutely no prep work and that were tray ready from my house. Hence I decided on little mini tartlets filled with a variety of tasty fillings, also my mini Victoria sponges would travel well as would my mini caramel buttercream mini cakes. 

Here's a brief outlook on the food that hit the trays in the  CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery last night.

Mini Tarts




There was a mini drama with the mini tarts as I usually buy pre made pastry cases. However on Wednesday when I set about to do the shopping for the canapes, the cases were discontinued in the shop in town and I couldn't source them anywhere locally.



 I actually ended up baking over 120 mini pastry cases myself using shop bought shortcrust pastry. I made these over two days but they kept very well in an airtight container,so they were as fresh as the day they were baked on Friday. 


In the mini tarts were a simple combination of shop bought ingredients.
  • Lemon Curd and Dark Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnuts
  • Raspberry Sauce and White Chocolate
  • Lemon Curd and Meringue Pies



Mini Buns




I made approx 100 mini buns. I then decided to turn half of them into mini victoria sponges (freshly whipped cream and raspberry sauce) and the other half into caramel buttercream sandwiches. I used Carnation caramel, butter and icing sugar to make these cute little buns. I will blog the recipe in full in the next couple of days.



Chocolate Truffles



My chocolate truffles were a total accident and a kitchen rescue on some white chocolate and cranberry fudge that didn't work out so well. Never one to waste food, I decided my too soft a fudge could be rolled into balls and coated in chocolate and thus be saved and probably turned out to be something completely special in it's own right.

So there you have it, completely anti January food. It's the weekend so I'm allowed talk about calorific food on 'cheat days'. 

Anyone in the Cork area, get down the the CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery to check out Art Group 7's best exhibition yet. You have until the 17th of January to pop into the gallery.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the blog and facebook page for some healthy, low fat January recipes!!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Chocolate & Pear Crumble Pies - Not Just Another Mince Pie



I love a mince pie as much as the next person. But wouldn't it be nice to have a mince pie with a twist for a change. I was trying to think of alternative mince pie recipes without compromising too much on the concept, and I got to thinking of good flavour combinations.




I knew I wanted chocolate chips to make the final cut, so what goes well with chocolate? Pears!!! Chocolate and Pear go together like Simon and Garfunkel!And what also goes well with chocolate from the mincemeat family? Well dried cranberries are a good call, and there is a heavy chocolate-type flavour from dates also. Very moorish. So there you have it: chocolate chips, dried cranberries, pears, and dates make up the 'dry' mince meat ingredients. Now for the quick fix 'wet' ingredients, Some marmalade and some cream liqueur will do nicely . Oh don't forget the mixed spice.....It is Christmas after all!



I like to make my mince pies look really rustic and homemade! So instead of putting a lid on the pies, I have made a super fast crumble to top the pies with. If a crumble doesn't tickle your fancy, grab a star cookie cutter with the same diameter as the circle ring you use to cut out the pastry discs and you have really pretty star studded pies instead. Either way, they are anything but another boring mince pie.



Ingredients


  • 80g of chocolate chips
  • 2 pears, diced
  • 35g of dried cranberries
  • 3 tbsp of orange marmalade
  • 1 tbsp of bailey liqueur 
  • 125g chopped dates
  • 1 tsp of mixed spice
  • 1 ready rolled sheet of all butter shortcrust pastry


Crumble


  • 25g of cold butter
  • 25g of brown sugar
  • 25g of ground almonds
  • 25g of flaked almonds



Method


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  2. First make the 'mincemeat' filling. Add the following to a large bowl and stir well to combine : chocolate chips, diced pears, dried cranberries, chopped dates, mixed spice, baileys, and the marmalade.
  3. Then make the crumble by rubbing the butter into the sugar and then add the ground and flaked almonds.
  4. Roll out the sheet of pastry and cut out circles with a round cookie cutter. (Measure the circle cutter to make sure its a small bit bigger that the muffin tin holes.
  5. Oil the muffin holes, and place one disc of pastry in each muffin hole.
  6. Spoon in the mincemeat mixture and top with the crumble mixture. You can tray freeze them at this stage and just cook them from frozen for an extra five minutes.
  7. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and place muffin tin on a wire rack. The liquid will be bubbling so be careful, they are very hot. Run a knife or spatula around the rim of the mince to release from the tin while the liquid is still hot. If it cools too much it will stick to the walls and be more difficult to remove without them breaking.
  9. After 2-3 minutes, remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. 
  10. When ready to serve, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with cream, custard, or icecream. 




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Date, Seed & Quinoa Flapjacks - The Healthiest Flapjack Ever






When running the B&B I had a constant supply of homemade flapjacks in my fridge. I used to make them for my guests, I'd eat them on the go myself, they would be gifts for busy/pregnant friends; and basically they were given to anyone who came through the door. I was always making at least twice weekly.




I am constantly getting requests for the recipe, Apricot Flapjack Squares, as everyone loves them and they seem so healthy. However being ever conscious of the indulgent wet ingredients I set about researching how I can make them healthier. Usually people would be disappointed to learn that the wet ingredients used to bind the delicious flapjacks was a considerable amount of sugar, butter, peanut butter and maple syrup. The recipe makes a big batch so you're not eating a whole amount of the wet ingredients in one square, but they are slightly addictive and one can never stop at just the one square. Trust me; I have both tried and failed.

So, with Christmas party season upon us almost, I will be on the go constantly and I wanted to make a super healthy version of my flapjacks to give me the energy I need this time of year, without piling on the pounds and bulging out of my party frocks.



Here is probably the healthiest ever!!!! There is no sugar, butter, peanut butter or maple syrup. Instead the flapjacks are bound together using melted coconut oil and warm honey. Both of which have extremely beneficial nutritional properties. The flapjacks have the usual oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit; but I've also added super foods Quinoa and Chia Seeds. Fantastic ingredients high in protein and iron. They make these 'protein bars' a fantastic way to refuel after a high energy work out, as protein is required immediately after a strenuous workout to help repair muscles.



The method is almost the same as the method for my regular naughty but nice Apricot Flapjack Squares, with a few tweaks.



Ingredients


  • 1 cup of quinoa (cook this with 2 cups of water for 15 minutes and drain excess liquid)
  • 2 cups of rolled oats
  • 3 tsp of Chia seeds
  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 1 cup of dates
  • 1/3 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup of melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup of warm honey





Method

  1. In a food processor blend up the almonds and dates.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. Into a big bowl, add the porridge, all the seeds, the blended dates and almonds, and the coconut.
  4. Mix together the oil and honey until perfectly combined.
  5. Pour the the oil/honey mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix quickly to ensure every grain is coated.
  6. Turn out the wet mixture into the baking dish and level out flat and evenly.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes then allow to cool on a wire rack.
  8. When fully cooled, place in the fridge to firm up for 3 hours at least. They are more crumbly than normal flapjack, but this is normal for non butter ones.
  9. Cut into small squares when firm and keep in an airtight container in the fridge to keep them both fresh and intact.



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