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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5 Small Food Swaps for a Healthier You

So we are well into our New Year now and hopefully still sticking to some of our New Year’s Resolutions that we made a few weeks ago with such enthusiasm and hope. My Resolutions are mostly career and travel focused this year but I am bringing my promise to myself to live balanced and eat healthy with me from last year with the aim of continuing to explore the healthiest ways to cook and eat the widest range of fresh foods I can find.

This post is just to share a little bit of both self-taught wisdom and knowledge learned from my Nutrition and Food Science class. It is a few simple hacks that I swear by to live a little healthier in the easiest ways I can think of. I hope this post inspires you to keep up the good work you are already doing and to enjoy living healthier by making small, simple changes to how and what you eat.

Soft Drinks
I am Diet Coke’s Number 1 Fan, I’ll admit it! But I have taken control of my love for this nasty can of fizz and will usually treat myself to one a week (OK maybe two). But I know people out there who cant go a day without cracking open a can of the fizzy stuff and I have read so many articles on how this can be seriously detrimental to ones health and a huge factor in weight gain for many people. To make a long story short, stay away from soft drinks!
A great swap that I found is infusing fresh fruit like berries or kiwi with Sparkling Water. You will get that familiar, fizzy sensation you’re craving with a subtle hint of fruity flavour. For any Irish readers, I’m also loving the new Ballygowan flavoured Sparkling Water cans if you want to try one of these first – delish!

infused-water

Pasta
Penne, Fusili, Spaghetti – we love them all! I think I speak for most of us when I say there is just something about Pasta that is irresistible and I for one will admit that this is undoubtedly my guilty pleasure, I just love the stuff! But as we also know, too much of the good stuff will give us nice little Pasta Bellys that will simply not go with that Little Black Dress we’ve been dying to wear 😉 So what do we do? Buy a Spiralizer! I know Ive raved about it several times in my posts but trust me when I tell you, it is the best money you will spend on a Healthier You this year!
Spiralized vegetables such as Courgette and Butternut Squash are an excellent swap for Pasta and Spaghetti and will keep you well on track with those New Year Goals. Check out some of my Spiralizer Recipes for some inspiration.

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White Rice
Again, another “white food” that we sometimes can’t help ourselves with. Rice is a wonderful accompaniment to so many family favourites but like Pasta, too much will send our healthy eating plans back to 2016. So what to use instead? There are a few different options here.
Quinoa would be my go-to grain, it’s simple and versatile and is very good for you. Other grains like Bulgar Wheat or even Wild Rice are great alternatives too. These ingredients are also cheap to buy and easy to cook so they’re certainly worth trying out.
Another great swap is Cauliflower Rice. You can find some simple instructions on how to make Cauliflower Rice in one of my earlier Posts on how good Cauliflower is for you. I would highly recommend giving this one a go.

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Sweets and Chocolate
I consider myself very luckily that I was born without a sweet tooth. I rarely crave sweets and chocolate and am more a savoury, cheese and crackers girl myself but I have seen friends and family fight the craving and it is Painful! Like all food, everything in moderation is more than allowed but many a friend has told me that once that packet of sweets or bar of chocolate has been opened, there is no stopping them until it has been obliterated. I’m sure you ave all had your fill of the sweet stuff over the Christmas and maybe even the sight of a sweet tin you will still find repulsive so now would be a good time to make the switch – while you still have the willpower!
Good quality Dark Chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa is a good alternative to keep hidden in the door of the fridge for when the craving just gets too much. I always buy the Lindt or Green & Black brand and tuck it away in the fridge case of emergencies.
Another good swap for sweets is Dried Fruit such as Figs, Cranberries or Goji Berries. They will kill the craving and help you stick to your goals with their more natural sugar content. Go easy on them all the same though as too much will lead to a build up of these natural sugars that will turn into stored energy and eventually fat.

dark-chocolate

Minced Beef
Certainly a true Irish staple, minced beef is used for so many delicious dinners – Bolognese, Burgers, Cottage Pie, Lasagne – it can be the main ingredient to some of our favourite meals. Poor quality mince and even some regular mince has a very high fat content and this can of course have adverse effects on our body’s health.
An ideal swap is making the change to Turkey Mince. This is just as versatile and far leaner than its beefy counterpart. Use it just as you would regular mince and you will be feeling leaner in no time. I have some great recipes including my most popular post to date – Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers – for some inspiration.

https://clodaghscountertop.blog/2016/06/11/turkey-quinoa-stuffed-peppers/

Of course, if you’re not up for trying a different meat, Lean Mince products are available. You just may need to seek out a good butchers or well stocked supermarket to get your hands on it.

turkey-burgers

Aubergine, Red Pepper & Olive Pasta Sauce

For those of you who have read some of my previous posts, you will know that I am allergic to a zillion different foods and have had to cut out the majority of these from my diet. That unfortunately means that I have slipped into the habit of creating recipes based on the foods I am allowed eat. But have no fear! When creating my plan for 2017 for this little blog, I vowed to try and incorporate some of my forbidden foods into my recipes again so that you don’t have to miss out like I do. Even thinking about what I can’t have anymore is making me pine for them! I actually miss yogurt so much. And eggs…and mushrooms…and tomatoes 

So this little creation sticks mostly to my list of allowed foods but I have also used some tomato puree from concentrate in the recipe so you guys are not deprived. This is a great recipe for a really rich and filling Pasta Sauce using chunky vegetables with intense flavours to create a very indulgent meal without most of the naughty additions.

The key to this sauce is to keep the vegetables whole and not to pulverise them down during the process. You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in a jar in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze it either. Whatever you decide to do, decide to make a batch either way – it’s just gorgeous! This sauce is full of flavour and healthy vegetables and will leave you feeling super satisfied. I used Spaghetti as it was all I had in the pantry but I would also recommend Penne as this always goes well with Pasta Sauce. I also added a sprinkle of chilli flakes to the mix as I can hardly have any meal without them these days but this is up to you if you want to add them. The same goes for any other of your favourite seasonings you might want to add.

As always, this meal is cheap to prepare, quick to cook and so comforting to eat so go ahead and give it a try! Thanks for staying tuned xXx

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 medium sized Aubergine AKA Eggplant
2 large Red Peppers
½ cup Black or Green Olives, halved
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. concentrated Tomato Puree
1 cup Vegetable Stock
Salt & Pepper to taste
½ Tsp. Chilli Flakes (if desired, optional)
2-3 Tbsp. Olive Oil (maybe a little more)
Enough Pasta of your choice to serve

Method

Finely dice the Aubergine and Peppers – about 1cm cubes.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot and add the crushed garlic.
Stir the garlic until it has browned and then add the diced vegetables to the pot.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil and stir it in to coat the vegetables.
Continue to stir the mix until the vegetables start to soften and cook through.
Add the seasoning and tomato puree and stir through the mixture.
Pour approximately half of the stock into the pot and bring it to the boil.
Once bubbling, reduce the heat to a low-medium temperature and stir the mixture occasionally.
Put the pasta of your choice on to cook as per the packet instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, continue to stir the sauce mixture every now and then.
About half way through the pasta’s cooking time (approx. 6-7 minutes), blitz the sauce quickly with a hand blender to break up the vegetables and combine the sauce to make it thicker.
*Do not fully blend the sauce as you would if you were making a soup – only blitz for about 30 seconds – you want the sauce to remain chunky.
Return the pot to the heat on a simmer with the lid off to reduce the excess moisture.
Slowly pour in small tipples of the remaining stock, stirring it through and letting it absorb.
You may be left with some excess stock but it’s better to have made a bit extra than not have enough.
By the time you have cooked and strained your pasta, your sauce should be just about ready.
Add the cooked pasta to the pot of sauce and  stir it all through so that the pasta is fully coated.
Serve piping hot.

 

Curried Cauliflower & Potato

A hugely popular dish in its Indian Motherland, Potato & Cauliflower Curry or “Aloo Gobi” is a deliciously simple curry to whip up and is also great for those Meat-Free-Mondays or any other meals you would like to try al-veggie. I made this dish a few weeks ago and put it away in portions for lunch and ready-meals. The recipe below got me about 8 portions which is pretty great considering how little is required to put this together – you are defo getting serious bang for your buck!

Curries are such good dishes to make when you’re on a  budget or time poor and in need of something that will get that metabolism going. This one is packed with vegetables and spices so is a great all-rounder for when you want to get all your nutrients in and stay on top of your healthy meal plan.

Potatoes are a great addition to any curry, helping your curry sauce thicken and adding lots of texture. They’re also great in the classic Massaman Curry for those of you who venture to Thai cuisine for your curry fix. Cauliflower is such a superfood as it is and is welcome in any healthy meal you’re making if it fit the bill.

I also added some peas and green beans as they are a great filler for any curry. You can add other greens like snap peas, mange tout or baby broccoli too if you like 

Another great thing about this dish is that you don’t need to add a rice or noodle side-dish due to the presence of the potato and cauliflower. Now that’s not to say you can’t either – go for it if you want 

The great thing about a home-made curry is you can make it as mild or as spicy as you like so make sure to play around with the seasoning until your happy. Be careful too though as the flavour will develop as the curry cooks so try it intermittently to make sure it doesn’t get too hot for your taste buds.

Keep this in the fridge for up to 3 days and you can freeze it off too if you don’t think you’ll get through it all in this space of time. It defrosts quickly and reheats well so is an all-round great recipe for the quick and convenient health-at-home approach.

As always, enjoy my dears! xX

Ingredients

100ml Vegetable Stock in Water
1 Brown onion, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. Tomato Puree
1 Large Cauliflower, broken into florets
1 Tbsp. Curry Powder
8 Baby Potatoes, quartered
1 cup Frozen Peas
1 cup Green Beans
1/2 Red Chilli, thinly sliced
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Add the chopped onions and crushed garlic to a heated, oiled pot on the hob and cook until the start to brown and are aromatic (about 1-2 minutes).
Add the stock water to the pot and bring to the boil.
Reduce to a low heat once bubbling.
Add the cauliflower florets, diced potatoes and curry powder to the pot and stir thoroughly.
Feel free to add a pinch of your favourite spices at this point too – maybe some chilli flakes for an extra kick?
Let the curry mix fuse and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato purée and some more water if desired, stir through and leave to cook on low for about 10-15 minutes.
Do some taste testing during this time and add any seasoning you want to reach the perfect flavour.
Right at the end, add the peas, green beans and chopped red chilli.
Let these heat through for a couple of minutes and then remove the pot from the heat.
Your curry is now ready to serve-straight from pot to plate!

 

Roast Vegetable Lasagne

Lasagne is one of my all-time favourites comfort foods. It’s hearty and filling and packed with flavour. It’s a great one to make for meal prep too as it freezes well and one large lasagne tray can give you about 6 portions – ideal!

I have been packing in the carbs since the weather turned, I know I know, I’m so ashamed but I couldn’t fight the cravings any longer and these cold winter nights were just asking for it. So I wanted to balance out the badness a bit by adding more vegetables.

I tried a gorgeous Mediterranean lasagne in the Happy Pear restaurant during the summer and I also make a mean zucchini lasagne so I started the thought process with both of these ideas and the below was their love child.

A colourful combo of roast veg, tomato and white sauce and lots of cheese, this vegetarian lasagne alternative is definitely a Winning Winter Warmer of a meal.

It’s also economical to buy with all the ingredients coming to about €10 and its quick and simple to put together.

A basic jar of tomato sauce will do if you’re not up to making your own and I’ve also put in some different ways to create your own white sauce from scratch too if you want to keep up the healthy buzz.

I would also recommend using parmesan cheese to bank the calories but feel free to drown it in mozzarella if you so please. These sub-zero temperatures leave a little extra room for the good stuff 😉

I served mine with a few handfuls of spinach leaves and a drizzle of balsamic which went really well as a side. There’s loads going on in this dish though so it can be served on its own too if you want.

A lot of the recipes I was researching included eggplant but I’m not a fan so I didn’t use it but if you want to mix it up a little, there’s plenty more vegetables like eggplant you can use.

Whatever way you decide to make it, this dish is going to taste great and leave you feeling warm and full – enjoy!

 

Ingredients

2 Red onions, chopped into large wedges
1 Red Pepper, chopped
1 Green Pepper, chopped
1 Yellow Pepper, chopped
2 Zucchini, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
500 ml Tomato Sauce*
500 ml White / Bechamel Sauce*
225 grams Lasagne Sheets
50 grams Parmesan, finely grated
Salt & Pepper to taste
Dash of Olive Oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 220 Degrees Celsius.
In a large oven dish, mix all of the red onions, peppers and garlic with dash of oil and some seasoning.
Place the dish in the middle shelf of the oven and cook fr 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
Add some oil to a hot pan on the hob and fry the zucchini for about 4 minutes or until browned.
Transfer the fried zucchini to some kitchen towel and set aside.
After the 30 minutes, remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and add the zucchini.
Lower the oven to 200 Degrees Celsius.
If you are making your own tomato and white sauces from, do so now.
Here are the links to my own homemade sauces if you want to give them a try (the jars are usually OK too so whatever suits!)

Tomato Sauce:

https://clodaghscountertopblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/clos-bolognese-sauce/

You can just leave out the chopped veg – mushrooms, carrots and peppers. This will make a delish tomato 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/


 

When both lasagne sauces are ready, remove half of the vegetable mix from the oven dish and spread the remaining veggies in one layer in the dish.
Pour half of the tomato sauce over the first layer of veggies and add a layer of lasagne sheets.
Add half of your white sauce mix.
Add the remaining veggies and repeat the step of adding tomato sauce, lasagne sheets and remaining white sauce.
Sprinkle the lasagne with the parmesan.
Place the lasagne in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown.
Serve your delicious vegetable lasagne with some side salad or on its own, whatever way you want – there is so much going on in this dish!

 

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!

 

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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 😉

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Metabolic Monday – Mexican Bean Chilli

This Bank Holiday Monday was about getting super productive in the kitchen for me. Trying to find the time and energy to cook up all the yummy ideas that have been swirling around in my head the last few weeks has been next to impossible so I promised myself I would take this Halloween Day and dedicate it to my darling little Countertop that I love so much.

It’s funny, I’ve missed being able to post fun photos and yummy recipes the past couple of weeks and I have had the best day just cooking away in the kitchen today, splashing sauce everywhere and stirring in all this love I have for cooking into the big pot on the hob.

It’s so great to enjoy something so good for you this much, I really do love creating and cooking these meal ideas and I especially love sharing them with you all. I’ve felt so guilty the last couple of weeks about how little time I could give to the Countertop so today really was a good day. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend the day off.

I wanted my theme of recipes today to keep us all hot and fired up now that “Winter Is Coming” 🙂 My grocery shop this morning had lots of chillis and peppers and metabolism-friendly vegetables and there was an array of yellows, oranges and reds covering my trolley – the perfect colour scheme for the last day of Autumn and of course, Halloween.

A cheeky weekend of fun and food requires a sincere apology to my gut-health and I thought what better way to say sorry but with a nice, spicy vegetarian chilli. Lots of plant-based goodness combined in a large pot with lots of spice and flavour – the digestive system’s dream!

If you fancy a meat free feast that will leave you all fired up then give this baby a lash!!

Ingredients

1 large Brown Onion, chopped
½ Red Chilli, finely sliced
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
50 ml Vegetable Stock in Water
½ tsp. Chilli Powder (personal preference here)
1 Tbsp. Tomato Puree
1 Tbsp. Paprika
1 400g tin of Chopped Tomatoes
1 400g can Red Kidney Beans
1 400g can Cannellini Beans
2 Carrots, sliced
1 Red Pepper, sliced
1 Yellow Pepper, sliced
Salt & Pepper to taste
Method

Heat the stock water in a large pot on the hob.
Saute the onion, garlic and fresh chilli in the stock water for about 5 minutes.
Add your tomato puree, paprika and chilli powder to the mix and stir for about two minutes.
Pour in the tin of chopped tomatoes, rinsed and drained beans and sliced vegetables.
Stir the whole lot until all the flavour are combined together.
Add some salt and pepper to taste to your liking (add more chilli if you’re like me and cant get enough).
Lower the heat on the hob, cover your chilli pot and let the mix simmer for about 20-30 minutes – until the veggies are tender.

This dish is absolutely packed with fiber and carbohydrate (don’t worry, it’s the good kind you get from your veggies) so I haven’t served it with anything – just chomping down on a nice big bowl of chilli here while I type this but if you do want to add a little something, I would recommend serving it with some brown rice.

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!


 

Bangin’ Blackbean Burgers

The idea for this recipe came from a few different sources over the past couple of weeks.

My sister and I visited The Happy Pear café in Greystones, Co. Wicklow a few weeks ago where they were being served and although I didn’t order one on my visit, I saw plenty of other people get them and they didn’t last long on their plates.

I’ve also been looking into ways to introduce new sources of protein other than chicken and turkey onto my plate and plant-based proteins and legumes kept popping up in my research.

This research also ties in with the new list of foods I can and can’t have due to my extensive food allergies and it ticks all the boxes!

Several Food Bloggers that I admire and take inspiration from have also tried their hand at this recipe so I figured I’d review several versions of this recipe and create my own.

 So I had the packet of black beans sitting in the pantry for the last couple of weeks and just couldn’t seem to find an appropriate time to try these bad boys out. The last few weeks and especially weekends have been pretty hectic for me with work and social plans and I wanted to dedicate my whole self to this experiment. The perfect opportunity came up at the weekend when a long lost friend made last minute plans for a flying visit and I decided to treat her to something special and homemade instead of heading out for dinner. I spent most of the Saturday morning prepping and tasting and setting and they were ready to cook just in time for my dear friend to arrive.

 We enjoyed the burgers with a lovely spiralized salad, sweet potato fries and a cool, crisp glass of white wine while we caught up with each other.

They were absolutely delicious if I do say so myself and I had a really strong feeling of fullness when I was finished, which is always a good sign!

IMG_1389

Ingredients

200 grams dried black beans, rinsed and strained
1 Litre of boiling water
Dash of Olive Oil
1 medium – large brown onion
1 clove Garlic
2 Carrots
½ cup almond flour, rolled oats, breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1 Tsp. Ground Cumin
½ Tsp. Ground Coriander
½ Tsp. Chili Flakes
¼ Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste

To Serve:
Sliced tomato, grated cheddar, gem lettuce leaves, red onion, burger bun or whatever other condiments you like to serve with a burger patty.

Method

Add rinsed black beans to a large pot on the hob, add water and cook the black beans according to the packet instructions.
While waiting for the black beans to cook, chop the onion and garlic very finely and place to one side.
Shred or grate the carrots and also place to one side separate to the onion and garlic.
Combine herbs and spices in a small bowl and mix together.
Heat olive oil on a frying pan and once hot, add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper.
Once the onion is translucent, add shredded carrots and spice mix and cook until carrots are soft.
Remove pan from the heat.
When the black beans are cooked, rinse and drain and pour into a large mixing bowl.
Mash the black beans using a potato masher and add the contents of the frying pan.
Also add the soy sauce and almond flour/rolled oats and combine the entire mix thoroughly and evenly.
Create 4-6 burger patties depending on how big you want them by taking a large chunk of the mix and forming the patty in your hand.
Wrap each patty in cling film and place in the fridge for about 1 – ½ hours or in the freezer for 30 minutes to set.
When ready, heat some oil on a frying pan again and cook each patty for about 4-5 minutes each side.
Once cooked and heated through, remove from the heat and serve as desired.

Innocent Ice Cream

I know this post is a bit late to the party as the weather has already begun to change on us but ice cream is nice no matter what time of year, let’s be honest!
I am a big ice cream fan, it’s one of the only deserts I actually considering ordering if I’m out for dinner and have any room left.
I have also been trying to brainstorm fun ways to get my 5 a day and to also adhere to my restricted food allowance.
As most dairy is now off limits for me, I thought I would use almond milk and banana as an alternative to yoghurt and regular ice cream and I was pretty chuffed with the results.
I am presently obsessed with pineapple and find myself buying a fresh one almost every week to snack on.

Pineapple is virtually fat free with 1mg of fat per 100 grams of pineapple and only 50 calories.
It is also high in fibre and Vitamin C which makes it an all-round good fruit to have.
When you combine it with banana and almond milk, you’re creating a pretty healthy and guilt free treat that tastes like it should be far naughtier.

So if you have 5 minutes to spare, why not give it a crack?

Ingredients

½ Sliced Banana, frozen
2 cups chopped Pineapple, frozen
½ cup Unsweetened Almond Milk

Method

Take banana and pineapple out of the freezer and let it soften slightly for about 20 – 30 minutes
Pop all 3 ingredients into the food blender, Nutribullet or use your hand blender (a recent phenomenon for me).
Combine all the ingredients until smooth and creamy – or until it resembles ice cream.
Scoop into a desert bowl and enjoy.

Image result for pineapple ice cream

Simple, quick and tastes amazing!!