Garlic & Parmesan Cauli Bites

You may have picked up on it by now from some of my previous posts but I am a big fan of Cauliflower as a healthy alternative to many of our beloved Complex and Simple Carbohydrates. It is an extremely versatile vegetable that is packed with goodness and healthy stuff for our lovely tummies to feast on.

You will also know by now if you follow this blog that two of my favourite things in this world are Garlic and Parmesan. So whilst brainstorming for my Spring/Summer recipes, I landed on the idea of making Cauliflower Bites – something crispy and tasty that you can dip into your favourite sauce (I mixed ketchup with Franks Hot Sauce OMG) and snack on while watching some TV at the weekend or whatever. I also think they would make a lovely side dish alternative to the Sunday dinner instead of roast potatoes. I know the roasties are sacred but it’s just an idea 🙂

They were pretty easy to make seeing as I was making it up as I went along and I must say I was delighted with the result. They lasted a few days in the fridge and also reheated well in the microwave. If I were to give any tips, I would say to leave them baking in the oven for as long as possible – you really want to reach the core of the florette and also crisp up the coating as much as possible to maximise the flavours and the overall eating experience.
Any other tips I could offer is just to enjoy making them and of course, eating and sharing them!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 medium-large Cauliflower head
2 Eggs, whisked
¼ cup Plain Flour
1 cup Bread Crumbs of choice
¾ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
¼ Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste
Dash Olive Oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 190 Degrees Celsius.
Chop the Cauliflower head up into small florets and add them to some boiling water in a pot on the hob. Cook until they are just about tender (approx 4-5 minutes).
In a bowl, mix flour, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and seasoning.
In another bowl, mix the breadcrumbs or breadcrumb alternative and grated Parmesan Cheese.
In a third bowl, have your eggs whisked and ready.
When the Cauliflower has been cooked, pat dry and leave to cool for about ten minutes. You can run it under some cold water before drying to speed up the cooling process.
Firstly dip your Cauliflower floret into the bowl of flour and seasoning.
Then dip it into the egg and then onto the cheese and crumb bowl.
Ensure your floret is fully coated.
Place the coated floret on a lined baking tray and continue this process until all the cauliflower has been used up.
Drizzle the florets with olive oil and pop in the oven to bake.
Mine took about 15 minutes and then I let them stay in for another 5 just to crisp up that little bit more.
I mixed some Franks Hot Sauce and Ketchup together and the combination went great.

And there you have it, another simple, cheap and delicious healthy snack to keep you on the right track! Enjoy xXx

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Root Vegetable & Potato Bake

I thought this might be a nice recipe to share with you all now that it’s coming up to the biggest dinner of the year – December 25th. These days everyone is looking to put their own individual twist on the classic meal and I thought this was lovely way to cook your vegetable and one of your many potato side dishes. Lets face it, there is always about 3 or 4 different types of potato sides on an Irish Christmas Dinner Table.

Now the only advice I can offer with this one is that you should only commit to it if you’re ready to slice all those veggies and not lose patience half way through. I used my Slicer Dicer so I didn’t have that worry – use one if you can, it will literally halve your preparationn time.

Christmas is such a special time of the year and I hope you all have some family or friends at your dinner table to share the day with. Hosting the Christmas Dinner is no easy feat, I have only done two in my lifetime so far and no matter how many helpers or time you give yourself, we all know it is a serious day of preparationn and timing accuracy.

I look forward to Christmas dinner in my family’s home so much every year, my mother always does such a stand out job. My sister and I missed a few Christmas’ over the past number of years from living abroad and it meant so much for us all to sit around together last year for the first time in 5 years.

With the Turkey and Ham usually being the main event, I’m sure many of you will agree that the side dishes that come with the meat are crucial and have to be delicious and plentiful. No amount of roast potatoes will ever be enough on the Christmas table 🙂

This veggie bake is rich and indulgent and has a great Christmas taste to it with the hint of nutmeg. Any root vegetables or potatoes can be used for this dish once they slice thinly for you and are suitable for baking, below can just be a serving suggestion.

I have a few more Christmas side dishes to share with you between now and the big day so keep an eye out if you feel like doing something a little different this year. You can also eat more of these sides too seen as they’re on the “clean” side 😉

Ingredients

2 Carrots
2 Rooster Potatoes
2 Parsnips
1 large Sweet Potato
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
300 grams White Sauce*
70 grams Parmesan, finely grated
½ Tsp. Ground Nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 190 Degrees Celsius.
Rinse and peel, top and tail your vegetables accordingly.
Using a good, sharp vegetable knife or a vegetable slicer (love mine), thinly slice each of your root vegetables.
Grease a medium sized oven dish and layer up all of your root vegetable slices.
Prepare your white sauce as directed in whatever recipe, jar or packet you are using.
Here are a few ways to make your own white sauce;

White Sauce:

https://clodaghscountertopblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/zucchini-lasagne/

There are a few white sauce alternatives you can use in this recipe. I also found this great link from another blogger’s website for lots of other white sauce ideas;

https://www.thehealthychef.com/2013/04/white-sauce-10-ways/

Just before you finish the white sauce, stir in the nutmeg, crushed garlic and desired seasoning.
Pour the white sauce over the layered root vegetables making sure it reaches all the corners of the dish.
Sprinkle the parmesan on the top.
Add the dish to the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and the top layer is golden brown.
Serve the bake as a side dish to any main meat, poultry or otherwise and maybe some steamed greens.
This veggie bake is really rich and creamy and such a good comfort food, It works as a great accompaniment to roast chicken (that’s what I had it with) and I bet it would be a great festive side to serve up over the holiday season.
Enjoy All! xx

Basic Banana Bread

Banana Bread is one of life’s simple pleasures.
It’s simple and tasty and such a good way to use up any uber-ripe bananas you didn’t get around to eating.
On a scale of one-to-sweet, my recipe is pretty savoury – maybe a 1 or a 2 and the verdict from the office guinea pigs was an all-round thumbs up.
I am much more of a Savoury than a Sweet so I pulled back on the sugar content of regular recipes and I was really happy with the result.

Banana Bread really is very easy and quick to make and will make a great breakfast-prep for a week in work. It is also lovely to pop in the oven early on a Saturday morning so those endless cups of tea that will be had over the weekend will have a yummy side kick.


If you have kids it’s also a fun way to get them into the kitchen and curious about baking. This was one of the favourites when I looked after a gorgeous brother and sister in Oz. We loved to bake and they had serious sweet-tooths so this was a cheeky way to get one of their 5-a-day in.


Depending on what recipe you use, there is still a significant amount of flour and sugar used in many Banana Bread recipes but I would still recommend a low-sugar recipe like below if you are looking to curb a craving but don’t want to dive head first into the biscuit tin.


Most of the ingredients you should already have on-hand if you are a standard enough baker – the ingredients required are very basic so it won’t cost you the earth to go out and get the goods you need to put this lovely little loaf together.


A great little tip my sister gave me too is if you don’t think you will use all the bananas before they do go off, chop them up and freeze them in individual portions to use for banana bread when you do feel like making some. They don’t take long to defrost and mash really well from frozen.


Banana Bread is also very photogenic as you can see from my pictures, trust me I’m not great at the old photo-taking but some foods just look great behind the lense 😉


As always folks, I hope you enjoy making this as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. xx

Ingredients

3 very ripe Bananas
⅓ cup Butter, melted
⅓ – ½ cup Sugar or Sweetener (depending how sweet you want it)
1 Egg, beaten
1 Tsp. Vanilla Essence
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
Pinch of Salt
1 ½ cups Plain Flour
Handful of Flaked Almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Celsius.
In a large mixing bowl, add the bananas and mash them with a fork or potato masher.
Once the bananas are mashed, add the remainder of the ingredients – be sure to sieve in the flour!
Mix all of the ingredients together until a dough-like consistency is formed.
Pour into a greased bread tin.
Sprinkle the flaked almonds on the top and push them ever-so-slightly into the dough to secure them.
Pop the bread tin in the oven on the middle shelf and bake for about 50 minutes (until cooked through).
Once cooked, remove the loaf from the tin and let cool on a wire rack for about ten minutes.
Slice the loaf like you would a regular bread loaf and apply butter or jam or whatever your choice of topping is and serve!
So simple and sooo good!

Clo’s Chicken Pie

Happy New Year to all you Lovely Humans! If you are reading this, I hope you have read some of my other posts and if so, I would like to first of all thank you for even bothering 🙂 This blog started as something to do at the weekends, to share my love of cooking and develop my knowledge of healthy food, its benefits to my health and how to make it good enough to eat. I honestly have no idea if people are even reading it so if you are, thank you.

One of my 2017 Resolutions is to develop this blog more and explore other ways that I can share the benefits of healthy eating – and healthy cooking – with you all. I am almost finished a course in Nutrition and Food Science that I have found so informative and interesting. I have been jotting down so many new ideas for The Countertop so “watch this space” – lots of exciting posts and delicious recipes will be coming your way in 2017 if you stick with me.

So, I thought I would kick of the New Year with an easy one – the humble Chicken Pie. If like me, you are not fully ready to dive feet first into Clean January but want to ease yourself in instead, then this recipe is perfect! This pie has all the elements of an indulgent meal but it is in-fact quite the opposite. When you break it down, the ingredients are all generally very healthy – chicken breast, spinach, almonds. Yes, the pastry might be a tad indulgent but when weighed out against the rest of the ingredients you will have nothing to feel bad about. The trick here is the mixture’s sauce. It will look and taste like you’ve landed a pint of double cream over the chicken pieces when you have really just combined some yummy almonds and chicken stock together! I was very excited when this experiment worked and the result really is delicious.

It would be a great Sunday Dinner if you are at a loss as to what to cook today. It is a simple recipe with a truly comforting and tasty end result and will help you settle into Sunday evening nicely.

So I urge you all to give this one a go – a true comfort food to get us all back on track for a brand new year full of possibilities! xx

Ingredients (Serves 4)

320 gram Ready-Made Puff Pastry Roll
3 Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast Fillets
2 cups Fresh Spinach Leaves
60 -80 grams Almonds
500 ml Chicken Stock in Water
1 Tbsp. Corn Flour
1 Brown Onion, coarsely chopped
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
Dash Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to season
1 Tsp. Dried Parsley

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Celcius.
Grease a small-medium size oven dish and put to one side.
Chop the chicken fillets into small chunks.
Heat the olive oil on a frying pan on the hob.
Add the chopped onion and chicken pieces to the pan and fry until the chicken is cooked through and has browned.
Remove the pan from the heat.
In a food blender, processor, Nutribullet (whatever you have available), add the chicken stock, crushed garlic, almonds, dried parsley and seasoning.
Blend this mixture until it becomes smooth and creamy – add a little more almonds or stock until you reach your desired consistency.
Once you are happy with your sauce, return the frying pan to the heat and add the sauce.
Reduce the hob to a medium heat and stir the filling consistently for about a minute.
It is at this stage that you can use your own judgement – if you think the mixture needs some corn flour to thicken or more seasoning etc, play around with it at this point.
Once you are happy with the mixture, stir in the Spinach leaves and remove the pan from the heat.
Roll out the pre-rolled pastry and cut it out to cover the oven dish – leaving an extra few centimetres to cover the edges.
Pour the chicken filling from the pan into the oven dish.
Cover the mixture with the puff pastry, securing it tightly over the edges of the dish.
Place the dish on the middle shelf of the oven and cook as per the pastry’s cooking instructions (about 40 minutes usually).
Once the pastry has cooked through, remove this delicious pie from the oven and serve.
This will go great with many different sides. Try some fresh salad, sweet potato fries or steamed broccoli.
Delish!

 

There’s No Taste Like Home

This weekend I decided to hide away at home and cook to my heart’s content (along with watching a scary amount of Gilmore Girls!)

I pretty much spent the last of this month’s pay cheque on a super long list of ingredients and fired up the oven. I’ve been preparing so many new Autumn/Winter recipes in my head the past couple of weeks so I thought it was about time I sat down and actually formulate, type and share them.

This recipe is one I use so often and have done for years. Like Irish Soda Bread, scones are so much more than a traditional Irish food. Their taste can bring you back to years gone by or remind you of that great afternoon spent with friends or family chatting with a pot of tea. There  is something about scones that make the Irish heart melt faster than the butter used with them. When we were away in Australia, tea and scones were a regular and love-filled treat that we would sit down and share together. A true reminder of home.

Scones can be made sweet, plain or savoury to name but a few and today I am sharing a savoury recipe as this is the one I love the most. I’m not much of a sweet tooth but will work on putting together a sweet version of this if you guys are happy with how these turn out.

Now the smell from the oven is telling me to wrap it up so I can enjoy one of these beauties with my cup of tea on this freezing Sunday afternoon. Enjoy folks!

 

IMG_1436

Ingredients

200 grams Plain Flour
1200 grams Brown Flour
2 Tsp. Baking Soda
50 grams butter
200 ml Buttermilk
Pinch of Salt
⅛ cup of Dried Herbs of choice (e.g. parsley, rosemary, thyme)
¼ cup of grated cheese (optional but delicious)

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 Degrees Celsius.
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, butter, cheese, herbs, salt and baking soda and mix thoroughly.
Use your fingertips to rub in any unmixed lumps of butter until you have a fine mix.
Slowly pour in the buttermilk and mix until you get a dough-like consistency.
Add a drop of water if the mix is too dry.
Sprinkle some flour out on the countertop and transfer your dough from the bowl to the surface.
Gently knead the dough until it is holding strong.
Tear away small handfuls of the dough and roll into your scone shape.
Place the scones on a lined baking tray.
When all the dough has been used up, brush a small bit of buttermilk on each of the scones.
Place the baking tray in the middle shelf of the oven and bake the scones for about 15 minutes.
When the scones have turned a beautiful golden-brown colour and are cooked all the way through, remove from the oven.
Allow to cool and then serve.
I have enjoyed these with soup and ham and cheese too. Plain old butter will also do the trick, the choice is your own 😉

IMG_1435

Simple Sunday Tray Bake

This recipe occurred to me by total accident and extremely unfortunate circumstances last Sunday. I made it home to my home-house for the first time in months and was so excited about my mothers Sunday dinner. My darling mother could sense the anticipation and even made double the provisions so that I could take some leftovers back to Dublin with me for a yummy Monday lunch in work.

After our dinner, I soon hit the food-coma stage and decided I had better get on the road sooner rather than later before I get too lazy to go anywhere so I jumped into the car and headed home…FORGETTING THE LEFTOVERS!! By the time I realised, it was too late and words cannot describe the devastation I felt!

So, me being me, I had it in my head what I wanted for lunch in work on Monday and was adamant to replicate the Sunday dinner but in an easier (lazier) version as it would be late on Sunday evening after a busy weekend that I would be throwing this together and I wanted as little effort as possible.

While daydreaming about food (as usual), I took the wrong exit off the motorway and ended up outside a Supermarket that was open late, “it’s a sign” I thought so I ran in and grabbed some provisions for my vision!

I eventually got home, turned on the oven and the result was actually a masterpiece – and took little or no effort whatsoever! Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner – Literally!!

This one is barely a recipe but brilliant all the same so give it a go next Sunday and reap the rewards of a really yummy and easy Sunday dinner.

Ingredients

8 Chicken Thighs (on the bone is better for flavour but it’s up to you)
900 grams / 1 large head Brocolli
750 grams baby potatoes, washed
250 grams Basil Pesto (homemade or ready-made depending on energy/hangover levels)
Olive Oil Spray
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
In a large oven dish, place your chicken thighs and spray with some olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper.
Place dish in the middle tray of the oven and leave to bake for 40-50 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.
About 20 minutes into cooking the chicken thighs, take out the tray and pour the baby potatoes onto the tray, distributing them evenly with the chicken thighs.
Spray and season the potatoes and pop back in the oven to cook.
Put a pot of water on the hob to boil and add the broccoli florets to the water to cook for about 3-4 minutes.
Strain the broccoli and leave to one side.
When the chicken and potatoes are almost cooked with about 5/10 minutes to go, add the broccoli to the tray and pour the pesto over the whole tray.
Place the mix back in the oven and finish cooking for about another 10 minutes.
When you’re satisfied that the chicken and potatoes have been cooked through, remove the oven dish and serve!

Simple…As…That!


 

Irish Soda Bread – Home Is Where The Bread Is

Irish Soda Bread is one of the definitive symbols of the Irish Kitchen.
It’s something that will remind you of your fair Irish mammy or will make you want a cup of tea or bowl of soup.
Irish Soda Bread is loved around the world and I can say this from personal experience.
When living in Australia, we would see signs outside some local bakeries “We sell Irish Soda Bread!” and I remember a housemate and I begging her mother to pass on her famous recipe so that we could try our hands with it ourselves and share this special food with our Australian colleagues.
Needless to say, the Ozzies were very impressed with our creation.
I even remember having a conversation with another Irish girl in Perth and the topic of food we missed from home came up. Obviously, Irish Soda Bread was discussed at length and true to this day, I met the same girl a couple of days later hurrying home holding a large bag of flour – off to make the bread that reminded her so fondly of home!
This simple recipe is a true family favourite and is far better for you than most breads you will find on the shelves.
If you are curious to know what all us Irish are talking about or are Irish yourself and fancy a small taste of home, give this recipe a go.
Remember to stay in the kitchen while the bread is baking, the smell is one of the nicest and comforting smells in the world!

IMG_1316

Ingredients

4 cups of good quality Plain Brown Flour
2 cups Buttermilk
1 Tbsp. Bicarbonate of Soda
60 grams room temperature Real Butter
1 Tbsp. Salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Celsius.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and set to one side.
Sift your flour into a large mixing bowl and then sift in the bicarbonate of soda.
Add salt to the mix and then stir all three ingredients together with a wooden spoon.
Now to get your hands dirty, carefully rub in the butter to your floury mix until fully combined.
Using your wooden spoon again, stir the mix while slowly adding the 2 cups of buttermilk into the bowl.
When all the buttermilk has been poured in and stirred, use your hands again to mix the dough together to get a good doughy consistency.
Don’t worry if your hands are covered in gooey dough, this is the fun part!
Sprinkle some flour out on your countertop and roll out the dough to knead it with your hands.
Knead the dough for a couple of minutes, round it into a ball shaped loaf then pop it on the baking tray.
I always like to slit a cross shape on the top of the ball of dough before putting in into the oven.
Pop your dough into the oven and let it bake away, filling the kitchen with amazing smells for about 30-40 minutes.
Once ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack so that it doesn’t sweat.
Boil the kettle while you are waiting and prep whatever condiment you want to have with your bread.
I am a fan of the simpler things in life so plain real butter is my go-to topping but golden syrup, jam, cheese slices or hummus all go ridiculously well with the bread.
Personally, I think this soda bread is best served fresh out of the oven or toasted but it’s up to yourself how you want to have it.
Either way it is going to taste incredible, remind every Irish person of home or make anyone else wish they were Irish.
Enjoy! xx