Food Prep

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“Fail to prepare or prepare to go hungry!!”

20170801_093019.jpgWell that’s my motto in life anyway! Of course you won’t starve as there are shops, cafes and restaurants in abundance only ready to soothe your hunger but also deplete your wallet.

Every day can be tough when living on a budget, travelling frequently, juggling a hectic schedule or just trying to make improved food choices for you and your family. This is where planning and preparation come into play. We plan and prepare ourselves everyday for a variety of tasks and activities. Sometimes to the outside world we can display ourselves as extremely organised but behind closed doors and particularly in the kitchen it can be chaos.

This is normal life for many and can be easily altered by following my top tips for each mealtime of the day.

Breakfast

I love breakfast and kind of can’t understand how people can leave the house without something eaten or a meal packed to eat on the commute. My favourite breakfast options can all be prepared in advance and take only minutes.

Top my homemade granola with some yoghurt and fresh fruit. Prepare an overnight oats pot the night before to grab and go in the morning. Freeze a batch of cupcake quiches for a quick protein hit in the morning. Blend a colourful juice or smoothie to get your day off to a colourful start. Overnight oats, bircher muesli, meal prep, Delalicious

Lunch

Depending on the time of year and my plans for the day my go-to lunch options are leftover dinner, salads and soups. Soup is a great option as it can be frozen in batches and defrosted quickly in the microwave. Have the soup on it’s own or add a slice of oat bread on the side. Salads can be eaten everyday, all you need to do is rotate your fillings. Store your salad contents in a jam jar to stop it going to mush with the more delicate items like salad leaves on top and the juicer contents like beetroot and tomato on the bottom. Here are my favourite combinations:

Dinner

You arrive in late from work, starving and don’t have the energy to cook, this is where your freezer becomes your best friend! Batch cook a big curry, lentil stew or risotto at the weekend, then simple portion and freeze. All you need to do is allow it to defrost in the fridge during the day or when you get home in the microwave. Revitalise this dish by adding some fresh leafy vegetables or adding a grilled protein source to a vegetable dish. Tinned fish is another great protein option to add to a frozen vegetable dinner. Here are some of my tried and tested batch cooking options:

Snacks

My mother used to describe me as a “grazer” at home and unfortunately I haven’t changed. Snacking is important for everyone but ensure you are eating correct portions.

Nuts are such an easy option, pop a bag in your car, handbag or desk drawer to always have them on hand. A whole bag of nuts can disappear before you know it so check out this great infographic for nut portions.

Vegetable sticks and hummus I find are great for travelling. Snacking before exercise, I tend to eat a plain banana or some of my Banana & Nut Bites made ahead. Homemade muffins baked in advance, frozen and defrosted are perfect for outdoor adventures.Nuts, snack, meal prep, DelaliciousAs you can see, there are plenty of recipe options for each and every mealtime. Now it’s over to you. I challenge you to make one thing on this list and freeze or store it for later. Schedule some time during the next week or month to plan what meals you need to prepare in advance, what you would like to cook and the ingredients you need to purchase. By writing these things down, you formulate a plan and consciously make decisions about your mealtimes.

Before you know it, a healthy habit will be formed. Not only will this habit reward you with a full belly but also save time and money, keep you well nourished and in control of your mealtimes!

Keep an eye on my Instagram story where I often share the contents of my lunchbox.

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The Argentine Experience Review

Reviews

As I am lucky enough to be travelling across the world at the moment, it is undoubtedly a luxury. Not only to have the time to do it but a luxury to discover new places, meet new people and experience new flavours. The Argentine Experience is a unique dinner party which may appear on the outside like a fine dining venture but actually is a very relaxed dinner where you get to meet like-minded people in a very informal and fun setting. They offer two venues in Buenos Aires and Iguazú Falls. As I was travelling to both areas of Argentina, I chose the Iguazú Falls venue as it had just opened and it offered a more intimate space compared to the larger Buenos Aires venue. The kitchen endeavours to showcase some of the finest Argentinian national dishes including empanadas, chimichurri, dulce de leche and of the course the famous asado steak paired with a glass or two of Malbec wine so this was an experience I was really looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint. 15826060_381499625532637_8219063446784551646_n.pngFrom the minute you arrive to the dinner party venue, you are aware that this will be a very unique experience. One of our hosts for the night Tatiana greeted us in the venue entrance which has a few surprises that distracts your mind from the everyday and immediately excites your sense of curiosity. The other great beginning to the night is a beautiful cocktail in the form of a chilled Malbeca expertly created by Richard, our bartender for the night, which combines Malbec wine, apple juice, lime and Pisco….you need to try it!

As I love to cook and of course eat, this dinner marries the two uniquely as once you are seated each diner gets their own apron and chef’s hat which is perfect for the empanada making class and to protect your clothes in the case of messy eaters!! The dining room can accommodate a maximum of 20 diners but on my night there was only eight – which was a comfortable number to get to chat to everyone and share travelling stories and tips.15991515_10211757782005902_1763687935_oNext our second host, Paola – talked us through the eight-course mouth-watering menu from our welcome cocktail right through to the traditional Mate to finish. To kick start the eating we were served a beautiful fish ceviche which married a local fish called Sarubi (similar to trout), lime, red onion and passion fruit – a firework of flavours which was served with a white wine – Zuccardi Serie A Torrontes.

Now it was time to roll up our sleeves and flex our creativity for the empanada making master class. Empanadas can be found on every street corner in Argentina and like anything that is plentiful, quality wavers dramatically and there are many possible pitfalls from the contents to the pastry. We used the thinnest puff pastry sheets to provide crisp, flaky pastry once cooked with beautiful fillings of marinated slow-cooked beef, spiced fish and a caprese mix of slow roasted cherry tomatoes, herbs and mozzarella. Empanadas have a unique folding technique depending on the filling so we learned how to master each with some teething issues along the way. After the trial run, things heated up as now it was time for the empanada making competition. I had looked at the Empanada Wall of Fame a few days previous and you should see some of the creations….my butterfly didn’t quite make it to the wall of fame but it tasted spectacular!!

Argentina is famous for their Asado – which is basically a barbeque but takes hours to not only prepare but also to cook and typically don’t kick off until 11pm if you are attending one….my advice would be to eat well earlier in the day. Thankfully The Argentine Experience don’t make you wait that long for your main course but they also provide a beautiful Picado as means of a starter. Our picado, a mezze style starter course, included: lightly toasted country farmhouse bread, Spanish style chorizo in onions and cider, baked provolone cheese, slow-cooked pork belly, blood sausage rolls, black olive tapenade rolls and salsa criolla (red and green pepper, onion, parsley, white wine vinegar and olive oil) all paired with a light red – Zuccardi Brazos de los Andes Blend.15991918_10211757713364186_600478239_oWhilst we digested all that beautiful food, Paolo taught us some of the famous Argentinian hand gestures not all polite but great fun!! This may come in useful when taxi-drivers go the wrong way. We also learned how to order our cooking preference for the much awaited steak…believe it or not Argentinians like their steak cooked well done or “Bien Cocido”! Lomo – tenderloin was the steak cut we were served, all cooked to perfection with some guacho-style roast vegetables (carrot, red onion, potato, sweet potato and pumpkin) drizzled in a rosemary and garlic alioli …… food heaven!! The meat was so tender and juicy that the much-adorned chimichurri and salsa criolla were left untouched. The non-meat lovers amongst you need not worry as The Argentine Experience also offer salmon served with a zesty lime and salt crumb or a roast vegetable stack. Needless to say, not a morsel was left on my plate and it was nicely washed down with a Zuccardi Q Malbec.

After all that feasting, things began to wind down as we sampled some unusual cheese and sweet offerings of pumpkin and edible wood bark from the Yacaratia tree which tasted similar to fig. Then, it was time to get creative again to make the traditional dulce de leche filled Alfajor cookie and Mate tea. Mate is not just tea to the Argentinians but a way to socialise and share in the laughter, conversation and silences that it evokes. There are numerous rules involved and typically it is drank four times a day, you will encounter people walking down the street sipping from a cup or carrying large flasks of water everywhere they go and I thought the Irish were mad about tea! I am not the biggest tea drinker and not even the numerous health benefits of mate could convince me to convert to the fan club. However, the Alfajores were delicious as the shortbread biscuit was literally melt in your mouth!!15991713_10211757696683769_1409036252_o-1All in all, it costs a bit more than a typical backpacker dinner but compared to a nice dinner out at home in Ireland it is great value and the quality of ingredients, wine and experience that the hosts provide is well worth it!! It is also a brilliant way to round off your trip or adventure, celebrate a special occasion or birthday or just treat yourself to a true Argentinian food experience.16003000_384717305210869_2131124929287486165_n

 

 

 

 

Christmas Dinner Recipes

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I’ve decided to help take the hassle out of your Christmas dinner by sharing some of my favourite recipes for the day. The secret to cooking for a large number or just cooking a lot of dishes for one meal is preparation. My top tips would be:

  1. Prepare all the vegetables the night before and store in ziploc bags in the fridge.
  2. Most desserts can be made in advance and stored in the fridge or frozen.
  3. Ask for help in the kitchen, having someone on hand to do wash-up is a Godsend.
  4. Breathe and enjoy the occasion, sometimes you can get caught up in trying to make everything perfect that you miss out on enjoying having all your favourite people around.

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Dinner Starters
IMG_4644Honey and Cider Roasted Sproutsimg_7302

Roast Hasselback Potatoesimg_7310

Christmas Dinner TrimmingsIMG_4687

Christmas Dinner Dessertscheesecake

Honey and Cider Roasted Sprouts

Dinner

Brussel sprouts are generally loved or loathed but I think this recipe will convert most haters fairly quickly. The secret is par-cooking the sprouts by blanching and refreshing them in ice cold water so that they roast really quickly in the honey and cider sauce. Some pecan nuts would also be delicious added in with the bacon and cranberries to add a little Thanksgiving-esque touch to your Christmas dinner feast. I’ve used carrots and turnips here but parsnips, squash, sweet potato or any other root vegetable would also work great.

Serves 5.Roast Brussel Sprouts

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
  • 250g turnip, peeled and cubed
  • 400g brussel sprouts
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 100g bacon lardons or 3 rashers, cubed
  • 3 tbsp dried cranberries
  1. Preheat an oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F. Melt the coconut oil in a large roasting tray.
  2. Once the coconut oil is melted, add the carrots and turnip and coat in the oil. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until soft through, stir regularly to ensure they evenly colour.Roast Brussel Sprouts
  3. Whilst the carrots roast, prepare the sprouts. Remove the outer leaves of the sprouts and rinse.
  4. Bring a large saucepan of water  with the salt to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the sprouts. Allow to blanch with the lid on for 5 minutes before straining and refreshing under cold running water.
  5. Whisk the honey and vinegar together and stir through the sprouts, bacon and cranberries until well coated.Roast Brussel Sprouts
  6. Once the carrots and turnip are soft through, add the sprout mix and combine together.Roast Brussel Sprouts
  7. Increase the oven temperature to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F and return all the vegetables to the oven. Continue to roast for 10 minutes until crispy.Roast Brussel Sprouts
  8. Remove from the oven and serve.

Roasted Hasselback Potatoes

Dinner

Christmas dinner just wouldn’t be the same without some roasted spuds!! Hasselback potatoes are basically sliced whole potatoes roasted with butter that results in the perfect crispy, golden potatoes. You can add herbs, crushed nuts, spices and anything else you can imagine to add a little twist to your potatoes. Here I’ve given you the recipe to my favourite variation but don’t be afraid to experiment – your guests will love you with the results!!

Serves 5.Christmas Trimmings

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 10 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  1. Preheat an oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F.
  2. Place the unpeeled garlic cloves in a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until soft through.
  3. Place the peeled potatoes in a large bowl with the salt and cover with water (this can be done the night before as it will stop the potatoes from browning and remove the starch resulting in crispy potatoes).
  4. Place the butter and coconut oil into a large roasting tray and melt in the oven. Once melted, squeeze the centre of the roasted garlic out and mash together.Roast Hasselback Potatoes
  5. Remove the potatoes from the water and pat dry with a towel. Place each potato between two wooden spoons and slice width ways down to the spoon – leaving a section of un-sliced potato at the bottom keeping the potato whole.Roast Hasselback Potatoes
  6. Roll each potato in the garlic butter and oil mix.Roast Hasselback Potatoes
  7. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Regularly spoon any liquid over the potatoes to ensure a really crispy finish.Roast Hasselback Potatoes

JUST EAT – The Alternative Christmas Dinner Party

Reviews

It’s December, you have Christmas party nights coming out of your ears – the usual four course meal, tacky band and entertainment, seated into long tables beside twenty other groups where it’s a military operation to get to the bathroom and you may forget about the bar. You try change things up this year, reserve a restaurant instead and still end up with the typical “Christmas Menu” (there’ll be enough turkey on the 25th – do you really need to be eating it in the run up to the big day?). My Mam does the best Christmas dinner ever so there’s no point in even trying to recreate such a plate in a restaurant as it just will never be the same!

So, instead I’ve decided this year to give my house a quick hoover, set the kitchen table, light a few candles, invite over some of my closest friends, tell them to bring their favourite booze and simply order a festive feast online. You’re going to order them pizza and chips…that’s very festive isn’t it?? Think again, online takeaway food isn’t just all about fast food and there is a wide choice of restaurants also available so read on and you’ll be re-scheduling your Christmas dinner party in no time!the-alternative-christmas

Starters: There’s something about seafood and in particular shell-fish that signifies Christmas and a touch of luxury for me. Crabshack dining is how Klaw like to describe themselves but a shack is far from the standard of food they deliver. They have a wide variety of seafood on offer from oysters, crab, smoked salmon to whole lobster – they are also famed for their lobster rolls so I decided to create a sharing platter for starters. I included Klaw’s Signature Smoked Salmon served with melt in your mouth buttered toast, Atlantic Prawns served with a brandy spiked Marie Rose sauce and of course the Lobster Rolls. I think the picture speaks for itself and of course it didn’t stay looking that way for long, the festive feast was off to a flying start.
Mains: Now I am a farmer’s daughter so the The Farm restaurant is obviously something that pulls on my emotions whilst the food will leave you longing for more. The Farm’s menu is perfect for a Christmas feast as it is filled with plenty of warming, hearty, comfort food incorporating locally sourced and organic ingredients. The restaurant is collection only but it ensures you get the freshest food as they literally cook any protein right there whilst you wait to collect your order. They also carefully separate hot from cold food allowing you to re-assemble your dish which means you don’t have a soggy mess on your hands by the time it reaches your guests. I decided on the Organic Beef Burger, Grilled Organic Irish Salmon served with baby potatoes and a light green pea and pancetta sauce and Organic Chickpea and Quinoa Cakes served with julienned vegetables. Believe it or not the chickpea and quinoa Cakes were the winners among my festive guests with the salmon a close second.img_7182

A relative new kid on the Dublin restaurant scene is Platform 61, self-described as “one of Dublin’s best kept secrets” and I can see why! They have a large menu to choose from and as I had a few vegetarians amongst my diners, I chose the Konnyaku Noodles with wild mushrooms, spinach and toasted hazelnuts – it mightn’t sound like much but it was ravaged within seconds (I just about got a picture before my Christmas guests dived in!). It’s a very generous portion too so I’d recommend the regular size unless you want to feed three!! xmas-mains-1They also have a large choice of sides – as it wouldn’t be a Christmas feast without some type of spud, I chose the Roast Baby Potatoes with Chorizo and the Buttered Greens – a perfectly cooked mix of asparagus and tender-stem broccoli.img_7185

Dessert: After all that food, a time-out was called for in true Christmas dinner style and the kettle was put on to boil!! But by the time the kettle started to whistle, the question came “So, what’s for dessert?”. Each of the aforementioned restaurants have plenty of dessert offerings but instead I opted for a Berry Cheesecake from Bread & Bones which was a very adequate portion after all those delights.xmas-dessertI selected a  Cheese Board again from Platform 61, which included a selection of blue, Brie and cheddar with a delicious pear chutney. Similar to the seafood platter, it added a little touch of luxury and a festive feel.xmas-cheese

If you want a bit more of a blow-out Christmas feast or just want some comfort hangover food after your festive night out then I would highly recommend the Monster Kimchi Fries from Bread & Bones. It incorporates french fries, seared steak, BBQ pulled pork, a fried egg and kimchi – a traditional fermented Korean vegetable dish which is sure to help your immune system after all the late Christmas nights.xmas-hangover

As you can see there are plenty of options available online in Ireland for an alternative Christmas party; so get ordering! Be sure and let me know what you think in the comments section below and I hope you all have a very Happy Christmas!

 

 

Almond & Basil Pesto Chicken with Veg Spaghetti

Dinner

This is the possibly the quickest dinner to russle up that delivers on taste, nourishment and style! Making your own pesto is an added extra but shop-bought works fine too. Prepare the chicken marinade the night before so all you have to do is pop it into the oven when you arrive in the door starving from the day. The pesto should keep fresh for at least 5 days in an jar in the fridge.

Serves 1.

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • 1 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 courgette
  • 1 medium carrot

Almond & Basil Pesto:

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves & stalks
  • squeeze fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • thumb length piece of Parmesan
  1. For the pesto: roast the almonds for about 20 mins at 180°C until the colour darkens but doesn’t burn! Add the roasted almonds, basil, garlic, lemon juice and 2 tbsp oil to a food processor and blitz until the almonds have broken down considerably, slowly adding the remaining oil. Grate in the Parmesan and continue to blitz until smooth. Add more oil if it is too dry. 
  2. To marinade the chicken, simply place the pesto and natural yoghurt into a resealable bag, add the chicken, close the bag and mush it around until the chicken is well covered. If the night before, leave the chicken in the bag in the fridge. 
  3. Otherwise, pour the chicken and contents into an ovenproof dish. Bake in the oven at 180°C for about 20 mins until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Using a spiraliser/Julienne peeler/edgy knife, create thin long strands of the courgette and carrot. 
  5. Place a large frying pan over a high heat, ensure the pan is hot enough by adding one veg strand and it should hiss once it hits the pan. Add the remaining veg and continuously toss ensuring they don’t stick. 
  6. Reduce the heat and stir through some of the pesto juices from the chicken. Add more pesto and natural yoghurt if you want a more creamy sauce. 
  7. To serve: slice the chicken into generous slices and serve on a bed of vegetables.

Chicken Quinoa Bake

Dinner

This dish is a twist on Derval O’Rourke’s version. The sauce also works great as a gratin base to make a healthy cauliflower cheese type dish. Serve it alongside a green leafy salad, steamed vegetables or a baked sweet potato. The recipe includes the weight of cooked quinoa, just half this weight to get the uncooked equivalent.

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Serves 4-6 depending on hunger levels.

  • 300g cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 300g broccoli florets
  • 200g cauliflower florets
  • 300g yoghurt (natural or Greek)
  • 100g creme fraiche
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • handful of flaked almonds
  1. Gently steam the broccoli and cauliflower florets until tender and set aside to cool.
  2. IMG_2630 Prepare the sauce by mixing together the yoghurt, creme fraiche, mustard, flour, curry powder, spices and lemon juice. IMG_2617
  3. Evenly spread the cooled quinoa over the base of a large oven-proof dish.
  4. IMG_2628 Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and gently brown in a frying pan with a little coconut oil.
  5. Place the browned chicken pieces in a large saucepan, add the broccoli and cauliflower and mix through the sauce until everything is well coated.
  6. Spoon the chicken and vegetable mix over the quinoa. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and bake in an oven at 180°C for 30-40 mins until it begins to brown.

Chickpea & Ginger Chicken Curry

Dinner, Lunch

Curries are great for feeding friends, freezer dinners and as a simple lunchbox filler! Simply swap sweet potato, butternut squash or parsnip in place of the turnip as you wish. I tend to serve this curry on a bed of quinoa, bulgur wheat or steamed green vegetables.

Serves 6.

IMG_2422

  • 1 medium-large turnip
  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch length of fresh ginger
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tsp vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato relish/chutney
  • 2 heaped tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 5 chicken fillets
  1. Peel and chop the turnip into bite-sized chunks. Finely dice the onion, garlic and ginger. Chop the carrots into semi-circles. 
  2. Heat 2 tsp coconut oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and gently saute until softened.
  3. Add the carrots and turnip and stir through the turmeric and curry powder. 
  4. Pour in the coconut milk, chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to a gentle simmer with the lid on for 20-30 minutes until the turnip is soft through.
  5. Chop the chicken fillets, brown in a pan over a medium heat, season with some pepper and add to the vegetable mix. 
  6. Drain and rinse the chickpeas before stirring through with the relish/chutney to the saucepan. Gently simmer for 10 minutes with the lid off to cook the chicken through.
  7. Serve as you like.

Burrito Bowl

Dinner, Lunch, Salad

This bowl makes a great last minute dinner and can be varied a number of ways. Substitute rice/quinoa/bulgur wheat/couscous for the roast veg mix; use any leafy greens; add some cheese, guacamole or salsa on top; add some extra spices or beans to the mince and either exclude or use any minced meat.

IMG_1693

  • 100g minced meat
  • handful spinach leaves
  • 1/4 of a cucumber
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 tsp creme fraiche
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/2 small sweet potato
  • 1/2 aubergine
  • 2 medium sized pre-cooked beetroot
  • black olives
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • pepper
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Chop the sweet potato, aubergine and beetroot into bite-sized chunks and add to a baking dish with the melted coconut oil. Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender.IMG_1689
  3. Place a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and gently brown the mince. Once all browned set the meet aside whilst you gently fry the quartered cherry tomatoes and finely chopped spring onions. Once tomatoes are soft, add back in the mince and stir through the paprika and pepper to taste.
  4. IMG_1686
  5. Create the bowl with your spinach and cucumber acting as the base layer. Create a well and add 3 tbsp of the roasted veg mix, next add the mince and finally sprinkle with the chopped avocado, creme fraiche and olives.

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