Sunday, June 12, 2016

Red Quinoa & Smoked Salmon Sushi - A Low GI Alternative to Sushi Rolls

Nori Maki is my favorite sushi!! I adore the taste of the nori seaweed paper and the sweet and tangy rice vinegar soaked sticky sushi rice! I've been hooked ever since my Sushi for Beginners class in Ballymaloe (see previous blog post here). I've been obsessed lately with trying to eat foods with a low GI, and trying to pair the correct foods together. I was shocked to see sushi rice so high on the glycemic index (89). Not one to say good bye to my beloved nori maki rolls, I set about trying to find an alternative for the high GI rice. After all, every other part of the rolls are extremely healthy.

That's when I discovered that the awesome quinoa could do the same job as the rice. I have developed quite an obsession for red quinoa, I love the crunchier texture over white quinoa, but they both still have the same nutrient make up more or less. I'll admit that white quinoa is fluffier and probably be easier to work with from a 'sticky' perspective, but I think that the red quinoa just has more flavor, dammit!! :)

There is something so satisfying about rolling nori maki rolls. I can't put my finger on it, it's reminds me of make and do as a child and has a fun playful aspect to it. It's actually childsplay to make and you'll find that you become more confident and accomplished as you progress from rolling your first roll to the final one.

I have an endless supply of gorgeous fresh smoked salmon in my kitchen from the Bed and Breakfast so I robbed some for my dinner to make these rolls. We get our salmon delivered to the door from a local supplier and it's definately worth buying your smoked salmon locally. There is no comparison with the cheaper supermarket alternatives. If you don't like/have smoked salmon you can use pretty much anything, prawns, crab, or go completely veggie, and have a rainbow of peppers and cucumbers. There are no rules!! Afterall, I'm not even using rice!

I will say you can't have sushi without wasabi, pickled ginger or soy! Now that's a deal breaker! I love the hot hit you get from wasabi, so I spread it on my salmon in the roll, but if you're not that hard core, just plant a blob of it on the side of your plate and dip in the roll after. The 'hot hit' though is an addictive feeling.

Here's the recipe to my favorite, but use this as a guide and substitute in the ingredients you like

Makes 4 Rolls


  • 1 cup of red quinoa
  • 2 cups of water
  • 4 tbsp japanese rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 4 nori sheets, try to source a sushi rolling bamboo mat also. They are usually sold along side the nori sheets. It makes rolling so much easier.
  • 50g of smoked salmon, sliced thinly
  • Thinly sliced variety of peppers, carrots, and cucumber
  • 1 tube of wasabi
  • soy sauce
  • pickled ginger


  1. Firstly you must cook you quinoa. Add 2 cups of water to a saucepan, bring to a boil, add the the quinoa and cook on a simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Drain well.
  3. Spread the quinoa out in a dish and mix in the vinegar, salt and sugar and make sure everything gets well coated.
  4. Allow the quinoa to cool.
  5. Get your bamboo rolling mat and place in front of you.
  6. Wave a sheet of nori over the hob, careful not to burn, but just to heat slightly to make the sheet more pliable.
  7. Place the nori sheet on the bamboo mat, shiny side down.
  8. Spread a thin layer of quinoa over the the whole sheet, out to the edges, leaving a small space at the top side of the sheet to seal it. 
  9. Lay the smoked salmon and the vegetables (whichever combination you prefer) on the side nearest you. Careful not to over fill as the roll will burst if over filled. I know this from vast greedy experience.
  10. Dab the empty edge of the nori sheet with rice vinegar using your finger. This is your glue.
  11. Carefully , as tight as you can, start rolling the the roll, away from you.
  12. I like to cut the ends of the sushi rolls normally for a cleaner finish, and these ends are cooks treat.
  13. Cut the roll in half, and then cut those halves in half, and finally , cut those pieces in half. You should have eight pieces, for small bites. you can make them bigger, but the sushi etiquette is to be able to eat your roll in one mouth full, and I don't know about you, but my mouth isn't big enough for anything bigger than 1/8 of a roll at a time.

To serve, put a 'blob' of wasabi on the side of the plate, soy sauce in a dish and pickled ginger on the side. Dip and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bake it Easy - The Fastest Cookies I've Ever Made

I don't normally 'review' products, and in fact I'm such a keen baker that I wouldn't normally buy a 'mix'. But this cookie mix is something completely different, and left my highly impressed!So much so I felt I had to share. So this isn't really a review, but more of a recommendation!

 With the Bed & Breakfast in full swing, and with two kids under three years old, I'm constantly living on borrowed time. But that doesn't mean I want to comprise neglecting my baking time with my daughter Aoife. She is only three, but already a baking enthusiast! This mixture was great, as I knew exactly what in the mix and exactly what we were consuming, unlike some 'cookie dough' you can buy in the fridge section of the supermarkets.

I bought the Oatly Dotely mixture, which is a strawberry and oat cookie mix. It's divine. It reminds me a little of Hagen Daz Strawberry Cheesecake Ice-cream. I'm actually thinking that if you make your own ice-cream (sometimes I do when time permits), add these cookies crumbled into the final icecream to make a healthier Strawberry Cheesecake icecream.

The mixture in the jar is a layered combination of dried strawberries, oats, coconut, sugar and flour and vanilla. You simply just pour the contents of the jar into a bowl, and mix well. Then add cooled melted butter, honey and an egg (all mixed together), to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. The recipe at the back of the jar is a doddle to follow and it correctly states it makes 15 cookies, using a teaspoon to measure them out onto a baking tray. I drizzled melted white chocolate over the cookies, as a little weekend treat, and I place them at the Bed & Breakfast entrance as a nice little welcome treat for all my guests.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kale & Cashew Pesto

I'm a huge pesto fan! I find it to be such a diverse ingredient in the kitchen, pairing it with pasta, potatoes, dressings, salads, stews, roasts and bakes; I always have one type or another lurking a kilner jar in the fridge. This is not the first pesto recipe I've blogged! Check out the following link for my previous pestos:

Basil & Almond Pesto
Parsley, Chilli, & Garlic Pesto
Rocket Pesto

You may notice in each of those pesto recipes I have left out the Parmesan cheese component, and this recipe is no different. This makes the pestos vegan friendly.I adore Parmesan cheese, but my husband is not a fan, so I've learnt to exclude it.

I've upped the super powers though for this particular pesto, Kale & Cashew nut. You can't get healthier than Kale, and it's currently enjoying a moment as THEE go to super  food. This is a super clean guilt free pesto that is packed full of nutrients. The cashews also really help bring a creaminess to the final pesto!

My fussy little three year old would live on pesto pasta given the chance, so this was the perfect way to sneak some kale into her diet. While she didn't take kindly  to the change in taste in the first bite or two of her 'usual' pasta. By the end of the meal she had a happy belly and a happy mommy!! If it passed the Aoife Test, then it will please the very fussiest of little eaters!


  • 50g of raw cashew nuts
  • 1 large handful of chopped kale leaves (no stalks)
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 3 tbsp of flat leaf parsley


  1. Simply place all ingredients into a food processor and blitz until the desired constituency. I like to stop just before it gets 100% smooth, for a little bit of texture. 
  2. Store in a kilner jar, or similar, with a layer of oil on the top to preserve the pesto.

I also spread this on some salmon fillets, then baked as normal in the oven, it was really tasty.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spicy Harrisa Chickpea Cakes with Chunky Raita

Here's a super quick, super healthy vegetarian dish perfect if you are stuck in a lunch time rut, like myself! The harrisa paste gives the chickpea cakes a real hot and smoky kick, with the raita being the perfect cooling accompaniment. This can easily be made ahead of time and reheated in the microwave and added to the raita salad, if you are office based. But equally this dish is a perfect starter for a dinner party or also throw the cakes in a pitta or flatbread for a wonderful alternative to a sandwich. Whatever the occasion, there is no excuse not to give these babies a go!!


  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tbsp of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp of harrisa paste
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices of bread, blitz to breadcrumbs


  • 50ml of natural yogurt
  • 1 tomato, deseeded and diced
  • 1/4 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 5ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp diced red onion


  1. Add all the chickpea cake ingredients to a food processor and blitz to a batter style consistency.
  2. Wet your hands and shape into small patties (cakes). I got 10 from this recipe, but you can make them smaller for canapes or bigger for burgers.
  3. Heat a non stick pan to medium and add a small amount of olive oil.
  4. Fry the chickpea cakes for 4 minutes on each side.
  5. To make the chunky raita, simply combine all the ingredients and stir well. If you have mint or coriander, this would also work.
  6. Enjoy. These can be stored cooled for 2 days in the refrigerator and reheated gently on a pan for for 1 minute in the microwave.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with St. Patrick's Day Frosting

We love St Patrick's Day in this house. It's always a big family day and an excuse to eat some lovely Irish food, watch the parade in town and maybe (just maybe) have a little tipple (or two).This year we have the added bonus of babysitting my two little nieces also, so we will be baking these cupcakes in the morning for their arrival!

I trial-baked these cupcakes on Sunday with my daughter to share with her cousins on a playdate. We made 12, and they went down so well that I actually didn't have one to myself at all. I had to rely on family taste reviews to let me know that they were good. Very good I'm told. Too good my mother said!! I used Rachel Allen's recipe for chocolate cupcakes from her book Cake; and just added 100g of chocolate chips. I tried to make the frosting as green as I could. I ended up using a full tube of green gel food colouring.

Where ever you are celebrating St Patrick's Day, I hope it's a safe and fun day for everyone. Fingers crossed for good weather. (nothing worse than parade watching in an unbrella jungle)



  • 100g soft butter
  • 150g of vanilla sugar (sugar in a jar with vanilla pods)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125ml milk
  • 175g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 100g chocolate chips
St Patrick's Day Frosting
  • 100g very soft butter
  • 225g icing sugar, SIFTED
  • 30ml milk
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 tube Dr Oetker green food colouring (or any colour). The more colouring you add the deeper the colour of your icing.

To Decorate

  • Chocolate stars (or smarties, chocolate shavings, sprinkle, to name a few)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a muffin tray with 12 paper cases.
  2. Using a hand whisk (or electric) cream the butter, add the sugar and whisk until light and fluffy.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a bowl and then slowly add them to the butter, whisking all the time.
  4. Pour in the milk and beat until mixed.  
  5. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.
  6. Add the chocolate chips and gently fold stir until the flour mix is incorporated in.
  7. Divide the bun batter between the 12 cases and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool on a wire rack in the tray for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely. They need to be completely cooled before icing, otherwise you will have a runny mess.
  9. To make the icing, whisk all the icing ingredients together, either using a hand held whisk or an electric mixer.
  10. You can decorate using a piping bag, but I prefer a more 'homemade, rustic' finish and used a warm palate knife.
Enjoy and Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Banana & Maple Granola Cups

I was inspired to make these cups after seeing a video on Proper Tasty facebook page. They are a great inventive way of getting some slow releasing energy oats into you the morning, as well as looking oh so pretty.In addition to being nutritious and good looking, they are very versatile and keep in the fridge in a sealed airtight container for up to a week.

Even though I was inspired by the video in the above link, I did change a few ingredients and also part of the cooking method. I found from cooking the cups in the muffin trays they had a slightly 'soggy bottom', so for a final five minutes in the oven, I took them out of the muffin tray and turned them upside down on a baking sheet, to crisp up the base of the cups, so no soggy bottoms in sight!

I'm very excited to get my guests reviews on them when I open our bed & breakfast Sika Lodge next week.

Here's how I made them

Makes 12 cups


  • 250g rolled oats ( I used jumbo oats)
  • 150ml pure maple syrup
  • 2 mashed bananas 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt

Example of toppings

  • 0% fat strained Greek Yogurt
  • Berries
  • Mango puree
  • Compote
  • seed mix
  • Stewed fruits


  1. Mix the maple syrup, vanilla extract, and bananas thoroughly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, cinnamon,and salt.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
  5. Oil the muffin holes of a 12 muffin tray.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin holes and using the back of a spoon spread the mixture up the walls of the muffins holes, creating the cup shape.
  7. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and the muffin tray and invert the granola cups on a baking sheet. 
  9. Bake for a further 5 minutes to crisp up the bottom of the cups.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  11. Add a generous dollop of thick Greek yogurt and top with your choice of berries, compote, dried fruit or mixed seeds. It's your call!
Tip: A drizzle of honey certainly wouldn't go astray either on these!!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Roast Squash & Goats Cheese Quinoa Pizza - A Pizza Not Just for Weekends

Big big fan of pizza,who isn't?, well except my daughter (THE fussiest toddler on the planet) But it's usually keep for weekends as I'm thinking of the fat, calories and carbs!!! But then the other day I was reading my new Donna Hay book, Fresh and Light, where a quinoa crust tart was featured, so I got to googling quinoa pizza. I was thinking, if a tart base can be made from quinoa, then surely a pizza base can be fashioned in relatively the same manner.

I stumbled across a website called Simply Quinoa, and I was blown away by the variety of recipes on the website, all of which contain quinoa. If you are a fan of quinoa or looking for some ideas to replace your carbs with quinoa, then I suggest you check out the website. I'm highly impressed!!!

It's from Simply Quinoa that I got the recipe for my pizza base. I did use red quinoa (though apparently white quinoa is better), as this was all I had in the house at the time, but it worked out brillantly. I've used gluten free pizza bases in the past, and most are disgusting. I was very skeptical of the result in using quinoa would have on the finished product, but I needn't have worried. I kept saying to my husband 'wow,wow, I can't believe it' as I was eating the pizza. What's more,Alan (fearer of all that is alternative and healthy) agreed it was pretty tasty.

So here is the recipe as taken from Simply Quinoa for the basic base Simply Quinoa's Ultimate-quinoa-pizza-crust/

Serves 2 (or Serena)


For the Pizza crust

  • 3/4 cup of quinoa, soaked for 6-8 hours
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

For the pizza topping

  • 1 tbsp of passata
  • Roasted cubes of butternut squash
  • 50g soft goats cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated mozzarella
  •  1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp  black pepper
  • Pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and lay oiled baking paper on a baking tray.
  2. Rinse the quinoa and put in a blender along with the other ingredients. I used my Nutri Ninja, making it the work of mere moments. The mixture is like a pancake batter.
  3. Pour the batter out onto the baking paper trying to keep a circle shape.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn it over and bake for a further 15 minutes.
  5. Spread the tomato sauce over the base and scatter the toppings over the sauce. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until the pizza is ready. Then enjoy.
You can use any ingredients once your pizza base is made, everyone has their one favorite pizza toppings. 

I'm even thinking that this crust would also work as well sweet as it does savory, so watch out for my quinoa apple tart or a nutella smore pizza!!!!

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