Posted in What's for Dinner Mom?

Spiced Cranberry Christmas Couscous

Spiced Cranberry Christmas Couscous Having a bowl of flavoursome couscous on stand-by in the fridge over the Christmas holiday period is a very quick way of producing an emergency snack or meal.
Spiced Cranberry Christmas Couscous on spoon from topSpiced Cranberry Christmas Couscous
Add some salad leaves and some left-over cooked meat such as turkey, ham, spiced beef or whatever it is that you enjoy and spruce it up with a good old blob of cranberry sauce.
Spiced Cranberry Christmas CousCous
As in my recently posted winter salad the recipe itself makes good use of leftover cranberry sauce by heating it up in the microwave with some water – a great standby too for when you run out of gravy.
Spiced Cranberry Christmas CousCousThe quantities here should yield about 8 generous portions and it’s so quick and easy to make you’ll have a bowl of this ready in less than 15 minutes.  Lovely served either hot or cold.
Spiced Cranberry Christmas CousCous
Spiced Cranberry Christmas Couscous
You will need:
250g couscous
150ml cranberry juice
150ml water
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
Large handful (80g) dried cranberries
1 tsp ground mixed spice
Large handful (25g) flaked almonds
Handful fresh curly parsley
1 tbsp left-over cranberry sauce & 2 tbsp water
Method:
Place the couscous in serving bowl
Heat the cranberry juice and water together in a saucepan – just bring to boil.  Pour over the couscous and cover with a lid or clingfilm for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile heat 1tbsp oil in a small frying pan, add the dried cranberries and mixed spice and stir together over medium heat until cranberries are warmed through and plumped up (2 mins).
Dry-fry the flaked almonds in a small frying pan until lightly toasted (1 min).
Rinse and finely chop the curly parsley.
Remove the covering from the couscous and fluff it up with a fork.  Stir in the cranberries, almonds and parsley.
Heat 1 tbsp of cranberry sauce & 2 tbsp water together in the microwave (1 minute) and stir this into the couscous.
Enjoy.
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in What's for Dinner Mom?

8 minute pizza

I love my weekends.  I especially love Fridays and Friday evenings in particular.   That kick off your shoes and unwind feeling with days of freedom stretching out before you.  Routine goes out the window and while every weekend is relatively busy with kids activities etc., still I have so much more time for me.
Here I am on a Saturday morning finally writing the blogpost that has had to wait a couple of weeks and I’m loving it.  One of the 12 year olds is adjacent to me munching into a bowl of chocolate weetos and I can hear his enjoyment in every crunch, now he’s telling me why most famines are preventable.  Next he’s opening up his gear-bag and discovering soaking football boots which are going for a spin in the dryer before his rugby match while he goes off to cook some rashers for himself and requests a poached egg from me. It’s just me and him in the kitchen and while I’m typing this I’m also tuning in to him, it’s nice to have time for one child on their own as it rarely happens.  Ah, I typed too soon, his twin has joined him and is throwing more rashers on the pan and he requests a poached egg too.  Their older brother is being picked up from his morning class in the city by his Dad, their eldest sister is sleeping at a friend’s after seeing Ed Sheeran in Dublin last night – the lucky girl – and the twin girls are still in the land of nod.  If I were to look into the girls’ room I know I would see dishevelled hair and a foot or two sticking out from under the covers probably still wearing yesterday’s socks.
Pollo e Patata pizza
Over the past number of weekends I’ve been making these  delicious and incredibly  quick pizzas and doing my bit to stop food waste in the process.  At the end of the week there’s always bits and pieces of cooked ham and chicken, salami, the odd mushroom or pepper and odds and ends of cheese hanging around the fridge that instead of hitting the bin can come together to create the most amazing pizzas.  Having jars of olives, jalepenos and pesto in the fridge provides plentiful opportunity to up the flavour stakes and the heat.
Pizza slice
For these 8 minute pizzas I’ve been using pizza bases from my local Italian deli. Pane e Vino in Ballincollig.  As you can see two large bases come vacuum packed together at just under 5 euro and 2 fully loaded pizzas feed the eight of us.
Pizza Base from Pane e Vino
I find the trick is to preheat the oven good and high with baking trays already in the oven so that when the loaded bases hits the hot trays they start to crisp up immediately.
Simply smear the pizza base with a tomato puree or passata and then add your toppings finishing off with some chopped and grated cheese.
When cooked serve with a scattering of torn rocket leaves or basil or parsley if you have some.  Scrumptious.
Stop Food Waste Pizzas

Despite my efforts at clearing my fridge in an edible way and being pretty good about composting vegetable peelings and apple cores etc. there has always been some food waste shamefully hitting the bin – the cooked food scrapings from the plate that the dog won’t eat, the left-over contents of the lunchboxes, the crumbs from the kitchen table.  Up until now.
Recently we were sent leaflets from our waste provider about their obligation to provide us with compost or ‘brown’ bins and our obligation as householders to segregate our waste.  According to European Union Household Food Waste and Bio-Waste regulations 2013 there is a ‘duty on waste collectors to have a separate collection of household food waste’ and there is a ‘duty on householders to have segregation of household food waste’.  It is also prohibited to ‘use purpose built mechanical devices to shred or hydrate or otherwise alter the structure of food waste for the purposes of facilitating its discharge in waste water to a service connection, drain or sewer.’
Obeo Food Waste Box_opt

So how does one handle all of this smelly stuff.  My solution is a plastic box with a removable drawer that lives under my kitchen sink and a toughened brown paper ‘Obeo’ box that lives on top of the kitchen sink.  Into the plastic drawer goes the vegetable peelings, the egg shells, the banana skins etc. and when that’s full I (or a child) takes a trip to empty it out in the composting bin that lives in the corner of the garden – it’s amazing how this breaks down and it’s satisfying to use it when planting and growing.  Into the ‘Obeo’ box goes all the other stuff – the scraps of uncooked fat that you’ve cut off meat, the cooked food scrapings from the plates, the crumbs from the table, the out of date coleslaw, the ‘nobody’s going to eat that’ remnants of various food dishes like egg-fried rice, smelly takeaway etc.  My ‘Obeo’ boxes are filling up in two  or three days and this neat little package is then taken directly to the waste collectors ‘brown’ food waste bin for disposal – my kids tell me that this food waste is being used to make dog food, I don’t know if there’s any truth in that but I can see that what looks like tiny amounts of food very quickly add up.
So who or what are ‘Obeo’ boxes and why am I promoting them?  Well you can find all about Obeo the company and product here and I’m promoting them because I read about them, I ordered them, I like them and they work for me.
I’ve told Obeo that I like their bags and as a growing Irish business they’d like more people to try them out and have offered a 2 months supply – if you’re interested I’m posting details on how you could win these on my facebook page (click here).  If you’re in Ireland you’re likely to see these Obeo boxes popping up in supermarkets and many other outlets.  They’re a nice and simple home-grown solution to tackling Food Waste disposal in your kitchen.
‘Til next time, Sheila. (Saving the planet one discarded apple-core at a time)

Posted in What's for Dinner Mom?

Chorizo, bean and pasta soup – from Apron Strings

Nessa Robins, a fellow Irish food blogger, has just launched her cookery book ‘Apron Strings’ with the byline of ‘Recipes from a family kitchen.’  Here is very honest writing and robust home-cooking.  With a cover that is inviting you into the heart of her home to sit around the table and share precious time with her family, you slip inside and find yourself at ease.  A book that you can dig into at your leisure with each time you visit it you will find something new, eventually realising that a huge amount of work has gone into Apron Strings.
Apron Strings Cookbook by Nessa Robins
It genuinely made me gasp when I perused the book first.  You’ve the wonderful recipes and photographs that we have come to expect from modern cookbooks but there’s more.  Just flicking through it again there now, it’s almost like a home economics manual, with sections such as ‘Thrifty Tips for Running a Household’, ‘Lining Tins’, ‘Baking Tips’, ‘In the Family Way’, ‘Breastfeeding’, ‘Children’s Birthday Parties’, ‘Home Nurse’ & ‘Life Beyond the Kitchen Window’ which covers keeping hens, jam-making and composting amongst other things.  It really is a tome of a book, an investment book without an investment price. {You can buy Apron Strings here}
There are recipes here to please everyone and for a midweek family meal I chose to cook up Nessa’s ‘Chorizo, Bean & Pasta Soup.’  As Nessa herself says in the opening ‘Housekeeper’s Cut’ section of the book : ‘Often the leftovers from a meal can taste better the next day’ and that holds true for this dish.  While deliciously tasty day one, my husband was raving about how it tasted re-heated day 2, I think the chorizo must like the extra time to bequeath its flavour even more.
Apon Strings Chorizo bean & pasta soup
Chorizo, bean and pasta soup {from Nessa Robins book Apron Strings}
You will need:
200g chorizo
2 onions
1 carrot
1 red chilli
3 garlic cloves
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 yellow or red pepper
1 tsp tomato puree
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
500ml vegetable stock
1 x tin mixed beans
400g cooked pasta
Method:
Cut the chorizo into chunks and fry over a low/medium heat in a large saucepan for a couple of minutes until its oil has begun to be released.
Remove the chorizo pieces from the saucepan and set aside on a plate.
Peel and finely chop the onion, crush the garlic and add to the pan.
Peel and dice the carrot and add to the onions.  Allow the onion and carrot to gently cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the chopped red chilli, ½ tsp cumin and 1 tsp paprika, stir to combine and leave to toast the spices for a minute or two.
Deseed and chop the pepper and add to the pan along with tomato puree, tinned chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock and mixed beans.
Simmer for 25-30 minutes.
Add in the cooked pasta and the chorizo chunks to heat through for a couple of minutes before serving.

Enjoy,
‘Til next time, Sheila

Posted in What's for Dinner Mom?

Moroccan Beef or Lamb with Couscous & Broccoli

Even in summer we can enjoy our stews using cheaper cuts of beef or lamb to render very tasty dishes that are economical and lightened with an accompaniment of couscous.
Moroccan beef stew with couscous
If you bring everything to the table in large bowls and dish out according to appetite it means that leftovers do not have to be scraped from plate to bin and wasted but instead can be frozen in portion sizes or simply kept in the bowls in the fridge for reheating.  I recommend dishing out small portion sizes with the proviso that if you’re sill hungry that there is plenty more but good food is not going in the bin.
Moroccan Beef Stew in bowlsMoroccan Beef or Lamb with Couscous & Broccoli
You will need:
1 medium onion
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
500-600kg diced stewing lamb (or beef pieces, e.g. shin)
3 garlic cloves
3cm thumbwidth piece of ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
100ml water
2 tbsp runny honey
250g couscous (half pack)
Knob of butter
250g hot chicken stock (made from half stock cube)
Half head of broccoli
Method (Stew):
Preheat the fan oven to 150oC/Gas Mark 3.
Peel and finely chop the onion.
Heat the olive oil in a large casserole pot and gently fry the onion for 5 minutes over a low heat.
Raise the heat to medium, push the onion to the sides of the pot, add the meat pieces, and brown for 2 minutes.
Peel and crush the garlic and finely chop or grate the ginger and then add it to the centre of the pot to cook for 1 minute.
Add the ground cinnamon and ground coriander and cook for 1 minute.
Add the tomato puree, canned tomatoes, 100 ml water and honey and mix well.
Cook the casserole in the oven for 1and a half hours with a lid on. Check it after an hour and if there are any signs of it drying out, add some more water.
Method (CousCous & Broccoli):
(Cook just before serving)
Melt a knob of butter in a medium sized saucepan on the hob, add the couscous and mix with a wooden spoon to absorb the butter for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat.
Make up 250g hot chicken stock with boiling water and pour this over the couscous.  Cover the saucepan with a lid and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile break the broccoli into florets and place in a saucepan of boiling water ,return to the boil and cook until just tender, drain and keep warm.
Remove the lid from the couscous and fluff it up with a fork

Enjoy,
‘Til next time, Sheila