October Foodie Penpal Reveal Day

I hadn’t realised it had been so long since I last posted on here. October was a hell of a month. I was very happy to see the end of it. About three and half weeks ago, our house was burgled. Some opportunists struck lucky and made off with a brand new Trek bike, a laptop, hard drives, jewellery and quite an amount of vouchers. It could have been a lot worse, as we were asleep in the house. Thankfully, nobody was hurt and they didn’t come near our bedrooms. I suppose unfortunately these things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. And the worst thing is, these guys will probably never be caught and they’ll get away with it time and time again. But as I said, it could have been a lot worse! It’s just quite unnerving to realise that someone was in your house while you were there unbeknownst to us. It felt like quite a violation.

Then couple days later, I was struck down with a severe case of tonsillitis and spent the guts of the two weeks in bed trying to recover. October has not been a good month.

Foodie Penpal

So as a result of these little mishaps, I was a little late sending my Foodie Penpal package to Rachel at FoodNerd4Life – apologies once again Rachel. And apologies I’m late with my Foodie Penpal reveal day, but I haven’t had a chance to update the blog to date. I received my package from Rachel at Silver and Green.

My foodie penpal package from Rachel

Wow. What a little box of tricks 🙂 Thank you so much Rachel for the package, it was so generous and thoughtful. I really loved everything in it!

A little box of goodies 🙂

I really wasn’t expecting so many lovely things. I was like a child on Christmas day unwrapping the box! Rachel, and her partner, run a food business producing and importing Mediterranean delicacies such as olives, olive oil, antipasti and tapas. If their website is anything to go by, they are passionate about food and are definitely worth checking out here: Silver and Green.

So my package included a lovely jar of orzo. I’ve never really used orzo before, but Rachel has included a yummy recipe, which I hope to try over the weekend!

Jar of Orzo

She also included some garlic. Rachel must have psychic powers, because I love garlic!

Garlic

Rachel also included some yummy local delicacies such as Cumberland sauce (which I love!), flavoured salt (will be perfect for a roast chicken) and honey mustard!

Yumminess!

A little treat also in some salted almonds. Which I’ve been advised are a perfect accompaniment for a couple of drinks, so I think I’ll try those this evening seeing as it’s Friday and all! 😉

Salted Almonds

Thanks so much again Rachel, once again a very generous package! 🙂 If you’d like to sign up to Foodie Penpals and are in the UK or Europe check out this blog thisisrocksalt.com or if you’re in the US check out theleangreenbean.com.

Looking forward to this month’s Foodie Penpal shop already! 🙂

Edit: I have just learned that The Lean Green Bean and This Is Rock Salt are both organising a Foodie Penpals for charity in December. Regular Foodie Penpals will resume in January, but for December penpals are being asked to donate to charities helping victims of Hurricane Sandy. A very worthwhile cause in the run up to the festive season. To signup or learn more details see here: Foodie Penpals for Charity

Roast Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Following on from my post about making chicken stock, I used some of my stock to make a delicious carrot and sweet potato soup. I made this up basically as I went along, but it was lovely – sweet and tasty.

For this recipe, I used:

1 medium sweet potato

3 carrots

1 tin chickpeas

1 onion and 2 cloves garlic

1 tsp cinnamon

1.2 litre stock

1 cup water

Firstly, I roughly chopped the carrots and sweet potato and roasted them in the oven for about 30 – 35 minutes at 175 C.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

Meanwhile, I gently sweated the onion and garlic in a saucepan. After about 15 minutes, I added the roasted carrots and sweet potato, as well as the can of chickpeas. Add 1 tsp of cinnamon for flavour, stir well to combine flavours.

Next add the chicken stock and cup of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes, then remove from the heat. I then blitzed in the food processor and voilla…a yummy soup was made!

I had a bowl myself right there and then and bagged the rest to be frozen. These Pour and Store bags from Aldi are so handy!!!

Savory Muffins

I’ve been out of my fitness regime now for quite a while. I haven’t been to Spin in almost two months, but I’m booked in to go on Monday evening. The fear. It’s going to be horrendous getting back up on that bike, but all the worthwhile afterwards. So with the fitness regime, comes the healthy eating and diet again. I decided today instead of baking sweet treats, I’d make some savory muffins as healthy snacks. Pop them in the freezer, ready to reheat when needed.

I found this recipe on the internet. These muffins were hassle free and took literally minutes to throw together. This time I made chorizo, cheese, tomato and chilli muffins, but there are so many variations you could try: chorizo and spinach; ham and cheese; cheese and onion; spinach, feta and roasted pepper; courgette and lots lots more. I’m looking forward to making more variations.

Ingredients

  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup good cheese, grated
  • 2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 sp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup soy milk (or regular milk)
  • 125 g melted butter, cooled

Preheat your oven to 200 C. Line a muffin tray with cases and leave to the side.

Fry off the chorizo, chilli and tomatoes

Melt the butter and leave aside to cool. Gently fry off the chorizo, chilli and cherry tomatoes for about five minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

Old Irish Creamery, Seaweed Cheese

Meanwhile sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in the cooled chorizo mixture, as well as the cheese. I picked up a lovely seaweed flavoured cheese from the Old Irish Creamery at my local market (Limerick Milk Market) this morning and decided to use this for some extra flavour.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, milk and cooled butter together. Make a well in the dry mixture and pour in the wet mixture. Fold until it just comes together.

Muffin mixture

Pour into muffin cases and bake for 20 – 25 minutes. As I mentioned above, I’m going to freeze most of this batch and reheat as needed as a filling snack – better than a bag of crisps or chocolate bar! 😉

Savory Muffins

 

Roast Chicken and Stock

Cooking for one, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned on occasion before, can sometimes be a bit of a nuisance. I often find I either cook too much or too little, it’s a rare occasion when I get it right. But I think maybe that’s more a case of my eye’s are bigger than my stomach more often than not.

I did my shop in Lidl this week. I got to say, I love Lidl. They do great deals and you actually really do notice a difference in price, a big difference in price. I got quite a lot, meat for the week, some vegetables and some baking ingredients with some change from €25! I always used to do a big shop in Tesco every fortnight, once a month, but I have to say in recent months, I’ve noticed things have become very expensive. I’d have very little in my trolley, but would have to hand out €60!

I decided to go with a whole chicken this week. Excellent value at €3.69 for a free range chicken (medium sized). I roasted the chicken on Tuesday evening, lathering the bird in a herby garlicy butter first off. Check it out. Yum!

Roast Chicken

The main reason I bought the chicken was to make my own batch of stock. I wanted to make a couple of soups and have some stock on standby in the freezer for risotto’s and such in the future.

So as I’m living in a rental house, we don’t have everything to hand. After messing around between saucepans for a while, trying to find one big enough to hold the carcass, vegetables and plenty of water. Then I found an old pasta saucepan that my mom pawned to me a couple of years ago. While not so good for cooking pasta, I find the pasta sticks to the basket, it was perfect for making stock. I placed the carcass and plenty of vegetables and herbs (red onions, carrots, garlic, meat juices, rosemary, oregano, thyme) into the basket and filled the saucepan with water.

Stock

I allowed the broth to simmer slowly for 2.5 hours. Then once ready, it was as easy as lifting the basket out of the saucepan and binning the remains. Then strain and restrain the stock until it is a smooth liquid.

I poured some of the stock into freezer bags, to be used again.

Strain the liquid

Then made a soup with the remainder of the stock.

The finished stock

A Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup, which was sooo good! I don’t have the images of the soup on me right now, but I’ll share those in the next post!

Foodie Penpals

This morning I came across a very interesting post by This is Rock Salt‘s blog about Foodie Penpals. It’s an exciting concept. Basically, the idea originated with theleangreenbean.com in the US and Canada. Lindsay at theeanbeangreen.com thought up the concept as a way to connect bloggers with fellow bloggers and readers! The concept  but has recently spread to the UK & Europe, with This is Rock Salt co-ordinating UK & European pairings.

I’m actually quite excited about this already and am thinking about fun and quirky items to include in my foodie package. I’m thinking if the person I’m matched with is overseas, I’ll include some typically Irish food produce….if they’re within Ireland, maybe some local delicacies or organic artisan foods. Hmm…this is exciting! I already can’t wait to get to my local artisan store to pick up some goodies! This is going to be a fantastic way to meet fellow bloggers and hopefully get lots of inspiration for future recipes.

I’ve received a confirmation email back from Carol at This is Rock Salt pretty speedily and will hear who I’m paired with on Friday. I’l keep you updated! 🙂

Basically an explanation of the progam below:

Foodie Penpal

-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you can choose to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
***If you’re in the US or Canada, contact Lindsay at theleangreenbean.com 

***If you’re in the UK or Ireland, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at rocksalt@thisisrocksalt.com to get involved!

Obviously there are a couple terms and conditions to the program, which are detailed below:

“By signing up to participate in Foodie Penpals, you are hereby agreeing to the following terms and conditions:

Condition 1: You will contact the person you are matched with withing 72 hours of receiving your match to discuss dietary needs, allergies and food preferences.

Condition 2: You will make an effort to meet the dietary needs of your penpal- ie not sending animal products to vegans, dairy products if your match tries to avoid dairy or junk food if they ask for healthy snacks.

Condition 3: You will mail your box by the 15th of the month. It is HIGHLY recommended that you purchase delivery confirmation/get a tracking number for your package. It is very inexpensive and can be used to prove that you sent your package in the event that it gets lost.
If your match does not receive a package for the month, you will receive a warning. If it happens two months in a row, you will no longer be able to participate in the program

Condition 4: In the event that you do not receive a package, Lindsay and The Lean Green Bean blog cannot be held accountable. By agreeing to participate in FPP, we cannot 100% guarantee that you will receive a package. The mail gets lost occasionally and your partner may fail to deliver.

-Condition 5: Using the foodie penpals email list to send out personal or spam emails promoting your blog, giveaways, etc is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Doing so is grounds for immediate dismissal from the program as it is a violation of the other participants’ privacy.

Failure to comply with these terms and conditions is grounds fordismissal from the Foodie Penpals Program.”

Thing 5: 365 Day Photo Challenge, Week 1

I used to be great for taking pictures. I was known as the one to always take a camera on a night out and snap away on day trips at home. But over the past couple years, sadly, I haven’t been using my camera as much as I should. Recently I started on a project of scanning all our old family photos and negatives into digital format (a timely, but worthwhile project!) and it got me to thinking that I really should be using my camera and capturing memories more often.

I decided to complete a 365 Day Photo Challenge as part of my 101 Things to Do. I started it last week over my holidays, so here is the product of the first week of this challenge.

While on the trip up Northern Ireland, we stopped off in Belfast for a night. I visited Shankhill Road on my last trip, this time we visited Falls Road. If you don’t know the history of Northern Ireland: the Falls Road is a main road running through West Belfast and its name is synonymous with the Republican communities in the city. The neighbouring Shankhill Road is a predominently Loyalist area of Belfast. During the Troubles both areas endured sectarian violence and were famous for their murals depicting the fight and struggle of each area.

Falls Road, Belfast

It’s nice to chill out with a cocktail Happy Hour every so often….it’s a hard life! 😉

Cocktail Hour

Our poor miniature dachshund Bobbie was a little ill last week. He’s 19 and is very frail at the moment. He’s back to his normal self now, so hopefully we’ll have him for a little while longer.

Bobbie

Limerick city, and a view of King John’s Castle.

Limerick

The first signs of Autumn….

Autumn

Planning a surprise 60h birthday for my dad in a few weeks…

Surprise

Coffee Cake Muffins

This isn’t the easiest of recipes, there are quite a few stages to it, but the end result was good. I don’t like cinnamon, so I substituted with cocoa for the topping. I think cinnamon is one of those things you either love or hate. This recipe makes 12 muffins – happy baking! 🙂

Ingredients

  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee (combined with 1 1/2 tbsp hot water)

For the Topping

  • 3 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or cocoa powder)

Preheat oven to 175 deg C.  Line muffin pan with paper liners.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Melt and cook down the butter until little brown bits appear in the pan.  The crackling will subside and butter will begin to brown fairly quickly after that.  Keep a close eye.  Remove from heat.

Brown the butter

Whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl.  Add the brown butter and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add the wet mixture all at once, and whisk gently to combine.

The mixture was quite thick at this stage

Divide half of the batter among muffin cups.  Stir the coffee and water mixture into the remaining batter.  Divide the coffee batter between the twelve muffin cups.

To make the topping combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over the batter in the cups.

A messy muffin tray before baking

Bake until golden and crisp until a skewer comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The finished muffins!