Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Day 82: Chicken with basil mayonnaise on toast

The perfect snack according to the high marks today’s recipe scored. As I made Chicken with basil mayonnaise on toast, I was very thankful to have found a snack recipe that was quick, easy and very tasty.

When I read the recipe and it said to toast the bread, I absolutely had to make the point of buying sourdough bread. There’s something about sourdough bread that I really love and although it’s usually synonymous in our house to have it with chopped tomato and avocado, I knew it would be the perfect bread for the chicken and basil mayonnaise. Now, sourdough bread isn’t the easiest thing to come by where I live so I ended up going further afield to get it. Gone are the days when it possible to go into town to get something like that from the local bakery but, like many independent traders, places like that have been killed off slowly over time. In fact, there used to be a bakery in Buncrana called Lynch’s and they used to do their own wee box of half a dozen buns. The buns were a variety but one of them was made of short crust pastry then chocolate poured into it, covered in a hard green icing and topped with a chocolate chip. Many a row was caused in many a Donegal household over who got the green one and our house was no different with four girls. Ah, those were the days…

Anyway, back to the recipe and to make the basil mayonnaise, I chopped up about 2.5 breast of chicken, added two chopped tomatoes, mayonnaise and 6 tablespoons of freshly chopped basil. I seasoned it, mixed it all together and served it on toasted sourdough bread.

The verdict…

Dear Husband gave it 8 marks out of 10 and his friend (DMB) gave it 10 out of 10. It fitted the job perfectly as I made it at about 4:30pm so it kept Dear Husband going until we went out for dinner at 7:30pm. I always imagined that when I made this recipe, it would probably have been a Sunday night as a supper and it would be perfect as a supper but I now know that it’s perfect during the day also or for a Sunday brunch. It’s certainly something different than a plain old sandwich which is probably what I would normally have made. Also, for convenience, I am now at the stage where I am buying a bag of free-range breasts of chicken as I seem to cook so much chicken in our house. Another great thing is that it uses tomatoes which are in abundance at the minute and so delicious because they are in season. One of my favourite things is a chopped tomato with a bit of salt. So good for you – just as long as long as you don’t overload on the salt though!

Overall, this recipe was extremely quick and easy to prepare. I had the cooked breast of chicken in the fridge from yesterday which was extremely handy as I didn’t have to cook today for this recipe at all so I highly recommend this recipe to you and yours.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Day 81: Messes

There are three reasons for me making so many desserts lately. Firstly, until recently, I had made very few and, therefore, did not want to leave it until the end of the Challenge and have to make a heap of desserts. Secondly, I actually have time to make dessert as it’s not the usual crazy madness it is in our house during term-time. Thirdly, it’s summer (allegedly!) and so desserts and summer go hand-in-hand. Now, if only we could have more sunshine, we’d be sorted. We live in hope for yet another Indian summer (!).

Dear Husband got a special wedding anniversary dinner this evening which meant he had his food order placed early this morning – steak (from Grant’s Butchers), onion rings, mushrooms, pepper sauce and potatoes. Oh yes, forgot to mention the ‘discussion’ we had prior to that whereby Dear Husband tried to convince me that tomorrow was actually our wedding anniversary, not today. And yes, I did catch him sneaking back from the shop with a coloured paper bag from the newsagents. No prizes for guessing what was in the bag. For some strange reason, he always thinks it’s the 31st July. Anyway, the deal was that he could have whatever dinner he wanted this evening and then he’s taking me out for dinner tomorrow evening. I was amazed at how many people mentioned to me today that they hoped Dear Husband was cooking for me tonight. I really wanted to say that I really hoped he wasn’t. Beans and toast doesn’t exactly cut it for me when it comes to anniversary dinners.  

When it came to dessert, I wanted to make the remaining two Messes so I made Blueberry mess and Mango and raspberry mess. For the Blueberry mess, I sprinkled caster sugar over blueberries and then added them to whipped cream and crumbled store-bought meringues. I simply folded everything in and served up.

For the Mango and raspberry mess, I fought with a mango again tonight. I tried to dice it a different way though – I sliced it and then cut it away from the skin. A better attempt than I made last night. Just like above, I folded in the fruit to the whipped cream and meringue.

The verdict…

I ate both types. I gave the Blueberry Mess 5 marks out of 10 and the Mango and Raspberry one 8 out of 10. Dear Husband just had the Mango and Raspberry Mess and awarded it an incredible 9 marks out of 10. These two versions of messes were simpler and quicker than the night I made the Banoffee Mess. Of the three, the mango one is probably my favourite with the blueberry one being my least favourite. I just felt like the blueberry one was the blandest whilst the mango and raspberry one had a bit of sweet-bitterness going on because of the mango and raspberries. There is no doubt that the Banoffee Mess is Dear Husband’s favourite of the three while I think it’s just far too sweet for me. Although meringues and cream are a favourite of mine, I feel it will be a while before I have them again.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Day 80: Pan-fried chicken with mango salsa

Day 80

Any time that I’m cutting chillies, I have to get the Latex gloves out. They really are a saviour in my house for various reasons but the main reason is that I don’t end up burning Baby Daughter’s skin after cutting chillies. Plus, if you’ve ever rubbed your eyes with your hand afterwards, you will know what I’m talking about. So when making tonight’s tea, they were called upon once again to make Pan-fried chicken with mango salsa and plain boiled rice.

I made the mango salsa first which was simple but I’m sure it took me nearer to 15 minutes to prepare. I had to dice a mango but that didn’t exactly turn out right. I haven’t worked much with mangoes before. To be honest, when it comes to mango, I automatically think of the clothes shop. Occasionally, when I buy ready-prepared fruit salads, there’s usually some mango in them but I don’t buy them often as I really don’t like papaya. So, to cut the mango, I sliced it in half and then tried to pull the two halves apart – you know, like you would do with an avocado? Except, it didn’t work out that way. I almost had to fight with it and, in the end-up, when I managed to get one half off, most of the flesh stuck to the stone of the mango in the shape of a volcano. Therefore, what I had to do was use a spoon to scoop all the flesh out of both halves and chop up what I had. After that drama, I added in two chopped scallions, chopped salted peanuts, chopped mint and coriander, chopped chilli, lime juice, nam pla and caster sugar. All I had to do then was mix everything together. I then got on with the chicken so I sliced each breast of chicken length ways until halfway down (that makes it cook quicker!). I put each piece of chicken on a griddle pan and cooked until I was sure that the chicken was cooked the whole way through. I served up the chicken by spooning some of the salsa over the chicken and accompanying it with boiled rice.

The verdict…

A very surprising 8 marks out of 10 according to Dear Husband. He said the mango salsa was sweet and sour (which he is a fan of!) and it was something completely different for him. It’s made The List so he said he is definitely looking forward to it again. To be honest, I half-expected him to not like the mango salsa as he absolutely loves the tomato salsa I regularly make but obviously his tastebuds have no loyalty to it.
Overall, it was an extremely simple recipe to make with very little cooking but also a very healthy recipe considering all the fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs that were used to make the salsa. I’m pretty sure that the salsa alone would count for at least one portion of your 5-a-day so that in itself is a very good incentive to make this recipe. Just have a big glass of water to hand as you munch your way through a large packet of peanuts (like I did!) when preparing it!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Day 79: Honey mustard pork chops and broccoli and oyster sauce

I’ve never gotten a zero (in anything) before – until this evening that is. I made Honey mustard pork chops and broccoli and oyster sauce. To be precise, the pork chops got 10 out of 10 but the broccoli and oyster sauce got zero points! Here’s what happened…

For the Honey mustard pork chops, I put two tablespoons of rapeseed oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. I then added the seasoned chops and fried them for about ten minutes. While they were cooking, I mixed runny honey, cream and Dijon mustard in a bowl. When the chops were ready, I transferred them to a hot plate and then added the honey mixture to the frying pan. Once it came up to a bubble, I turned down the heat and let it reduce for just under a minute whilst using a wooden spoon to scrape the sticky pork bits off the bottom of the pan. I added salt and pepper and then poured the mixture over the chops.

Whilst the pork chops were cooking, I then moved on to making the broccoli and oyster sauce. I put a frying pan on a medium heat, added rapeseed oil and added sliced garlic and broccoli. After 3 minutes, I added 100ml of water, covered with a lid and cooked for another 3 minutes. Once it was tender, I stirred in oyster and soy sauces.

The verdict…

Overall, both recipes were easy to prepare and cook and quick. As I mentioned earlier, the pork chops went down well – full marks. Dear Husband absolutely loved the meat and the sauce and, therefore, they have made The List. However, he said that the broccoli and oyster sauce was (and I quote) “disgusting!”. He went on to say that every time he thought of the broccoli and oyster sauce, he felt sick and that the smell of it alone reminded him of an absolutely disgusting ashtray. That’s a totally gross thought in itself. Luckily, I had dessert on standby to try and get him over his experience of the oyster broccoli and, as we’ve learned recently, Rachel’s homemade toffee sauce will most certainly sweeten the taste buds.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Day 78: Banoffee mess

In honour of the London Olympics starting tonight (and what a spectacular Opening Ceremony it was), I themed tonight’s recipe on a dessert that is rather British – Eton Mess. To be pedantic, I actually made Banoffee mess.

This was an extremely easy recipe to make. I was able to use the remainder of the toffee sauce from the other night so that made the preparation time even shorter. If you’ve followed this blog from its inception, you’ll know that me and meringues don’t mix – as in, I can’t cook them so I had the sense to buy a pack from M&S. All I had to do was break up a meringue into a large bowl of whipped cream, add diced banana, fold and transfer to a smaller dessert bowl. I topped it off with a large drizzling of the warmed toffee sauce and that was it.

The verdict…

Dear Husband rated it 8 out of 10 but I’ve noticed that, when it comes to the dessert recipes, it’s rather easy to score highly. However, he said that only for the toffee sauce, it would have been 7 out of 10 and that the toffee sauce recipe is the nicest toffee sauce that he’s ever tasted. I thought the recipe was extremely yummy but, then again, I am a huge fan of meringues and cream anyway. The toffee sauce added another extremely delicious dimension to them though. I’ll definitely make this again and keep the recipe exactly the way it is. Some things are worth keeping the way they are.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Day 77: Easy paella

Dear Husband is a bit of a prankster to his nearest and dearest so when an unknown man phoned me one Saturday while I was en route to do the weekly food shop, I was convinced that it was Dear Husband or someone that Dear Husband had put up to it. You see, one of Dear Husband’s trademark moves is to conduct his pranks by phone. There are too many stories of people he has caught out to remember and, although it has been a good few years since he caught me out, I was convinced that ‘Saucepan Man’ was a prank as it was too much of a coincidence that (a) I was doing the Challenge; (b) I was en route to the supermarket; and (c) who nowadays goes door-to-door selling saucepans???! Plus, he was phoning from our landline so I thought Dear Husband was slipping up and had forgotten to withhold the Caller ID. Seriously, if Dear Husband was in actual fact at home and a salesman did call, then wouldn’t you think that Dear Husband would have come on the phone and said “Hey Lynda, there’s a man here selling saucepans…” etc. etc. etc.?! But no, that's not what happened!

And don’t worry, I have Bluetooth in my car so I wasn’t driving whilst using a hand-held but, there I was, talking to ‘saucepan man’ who had said that he called to one of my sister’s houses ‘up at the top of the road’ and she told him to come down to my house as I would buy them. Now, I always say that if I was an eskimo, you could probably sell snow to me but hey, I just think I feel sorry for people going round houses selling things, trying to make a living through people who don’t want to see them so it's a tough gig. Anyway, Saucepan Man said that he had this ‘amazing offer’ of these chef-quality saucepans and (of course) he only had ‘two sets left’. He ran through what he had and I was ‘hmmm-ing’ and ‘haaa-ing’ and saying how great the offer was – you know, playing along with the prank. However, after about 10 minutes of Saucepan Man going into great detail about these saucepans, I slowly started to twig that Saucepan Man was really and truly a saucepan salesman. Doh! I had to do a serious bit of back-pedalling so eventually when Saucepan Man said to me “Here, I’ll put you on to your husband now”, I started to cringe at my flippant but sometimes over-enthusiastic attitude to him. So, you know by now of course what happened, we bought the saucepans - €400 reduced to €125 for 8 pans, I think. I thought that even if they were completely useless, so what – they would do for a while anyway and if for nothing else but the sheer embarrassment caused to myself and probably Saucepan Man. As I said, you could sell me snow if I was an eskimo…

So what has this story got to do with tonight’s recipe? Well, the recipe for Easy paella said to use a 25cm diameter paella pan or heavy-based frying pan with a lid so what do you think was in the saucepan set? Yes, a 25cm diameter heavy based frying pan with a lid! You see - there was a point to me telling you the story.

Every Friday evening, prior to doing my weekly food shop the next day, I take about 20 minutes to flick through my cookbook. Armed with my pink post-its which are labelled Saturday-Friday, I pick the recipes I intend to make each day so that I can put the ingredients on my shopping list for the next day. I had intended to make the paella dish on Saturday for lunch; however, one of my followers on Twitter asked me had I made the paella yet and I hadn’t so I skipped the recipe forward to tonight. Having returned from a week away on Tuesday, I had to make a trip to the supermarket on Wednesday as we would have surely starved had I waited until the usual shopping day. So, I had all the ingredients I needed and off I set to prepare my latest dish…

There were quite a few ingredients so I made sure on Wednesday that everything I needed was in stock as it drives me crazy when I am mid-way through a recipe only to discover that I’m missing an ingredient. The first thing I had to do was sauté diced onion and chopped garlic with salt and pepper in olive oil for 8 minutes (in my nice new frying pan!). I then stirred in the paella rice (which is now stocked in M&S) and let it pop for 1 minute before adding 200ml of white wine and a pinch of saffron. Once it came up to the boil, I reduced the heat and let it simmer until most of the wine evaporated. The recipe said to slice a red pepper but mine was looking a bit dodgy so it ended up in the bin and I used a nice firm orange pepper instead. I added the pepper into the pan along with the diced pork and let it fry until the raw pink colour on all the bits of pork had disappeared. I poured in a jug of chicken stock, brought it up to the boil and let it simmer for 15 minutes whilst giving it an occasional stir throughout. I then added in the fresh prawns and garden peas, put the lid on and let it all simmer for 3 minutes. Finally, I added the juice of half a lemon and served.

The verdict…

An incredible 9 marks out of 10 was Dear Husband’s verdict! I’m not sure if the high marks were because the dish tasted that good or if it was because he was still recovering from a lack of my cooking over the past week or so. I really didn’t think he would have scored it as highly as he did even though he loves prawns and loves pork in sausages but, as for the larger diced pork, it was one of the few times that I actually cooked with it so I had little feedback to go on prior to this dish. So there you go, a really good dish apparently and I’m glad it scored high to get me back into the Challenge. I’m not doing too bad on that front with my cooking getting a 10 last night and a 9 tonight. But, as the saying goes, what goes up, must come down and somehow, I don’t think my culinary efforts will be able to maintain those high scores throughout the remainder of this Challenge…

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Day 76: Toffee peanut sundaes

I’ll be honest, I was extremely happy that today’s featuring recipe only took 5 minutes to prepare and 5 minutes to cook. Now, who could complain about that? Certainly not someone who hadn’t cooked for a full week. Dear Husband nicely asked if he could have chicken tika massala for dinner so I obliged and then made Toffee peanut sundaes for dessert.

I made the toffee sauce first which consisted of five ingredients – golden syrup, soft light brown sugar, caster sugar, vanilla extract and double cream. All I had to do was put everything in a saucepan, bring it up the boil and stir it constantly for 5 minutes until all the sugars had dissolved and the sauce had thickened. I then poured it into a jug to cool slightly before I used it in the sundaes.

To make the sundaes, I used a mixture of sundae glasses and glass bowls as there were three to make for Dear Husband and his two friends. I put one scoop of vanilla ice-cream in a sundae glass, followed by chopped peanuts, another scoop of ice-cream followed by more nuts and toffee sauce. The ones that I made in the glass bowls, I just put in 3 scoops of ice-cream followed by toffee sauce and sprinkled the peanuts over the lot.

The verdict…

Three resounding 10 out 10s! Dear Husband said it was one of the nicest desserts he’d ever had.  Now, that was surprising because when he asked what was going to be in the dessert and I told him about the salted peanuts, he said something along the lines of “Is that not a bit weird for a dessert?!”. However, I promptly told him that if Rachel has it in her cookbook and is an extremely famous chef known for being a brilliant chef, then he shouldn’t question the recipe. God forbid that anyone should question the workings of the Lady Herself! That was good because he actually admitted afterwards that Rachel had put together an amazing dessert for something that is really so simple.

Without a doubt, I will most definitely make this recipe again and, I totally agree with Rachel, this is the kind of recipe to keep some in the fridge and, even better, it keeps for months. However, there is no way that the toffee sauce could possibly stay in our fridge. To be honest, if it makes to Monday of next week, it will be miracle…

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Day 75

As promised last night, here is the recipe that I said I would post tonight – Parmesan chicken goujons which comes from page 79 of Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home. I know I’m vegetarian but I truly believe that these chicken goujons have to be one of the best, most-liked foods that people like and especially when it comes to children. Also, I would regard these as 50 times better than anything that can be bought in a supermarket (especially the frozen aisle!). Buy organic or free range chicken so that you use good –quality chicken as opposed to the imported stuff which is injected with water! (Eugh!)

600g (1lb 6oz) boneless and skinless chicken
50g (2oz) plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
100g (4oz) breadcrumbs
50g (2oz) Parmesan cheese finely grated
3 tbsp sunflower oil

The goujons can be cooked by shallow frying or in the oven – I use the oven. If you too decide to cook in the oven, preheat it to 200°C and put a baking tray into the oven to heat. Cut the chicken into goujons which are the size of a big finger (about 10cm long). Place the flour in a mixing bowl or in a plastic bag with some salt and pepper. Place the beaten eggs in another bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs and finely grated cheese together and place in a bowl or bag also.

Toss the goujons in the seasoned flour, making sure they do not stick together and then remove. Shake off the excess flour and dip them in the beaten egg. Remove from the egg, letting the excess drip off and toss into the breadcrumbs and cheese mix. Shake off the excess and lay the goujons on a plate.

To cook on the hob, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat. When the oil is hot, add the goujons in a single layer, cook on one side for about 3 minutes until golden, then turn down the heat and flip the pieces over. Cook on the other side for about 4 minutes, until cooked through and golden.

To cook the goujons in the oven, drizzle the base of the preheated baking tray with the oil (I use rapeseed oil!) and lay the floured and seasoned goujons in a single layer. Bake in the oven for about 12-18 minutes, turning the goujons over halfway through or when golden on one side. When they are completely cooked, remove from the oven and serve.
P.S. Tomorrow night, I will be back to the Challenge so I'll be posting a brand new recipe from the Easy Meals cookbook!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Day 74

Oh my God! I can’t believe I totally forgot to tell you about Rachel’s Homemade tomato ketchup. Now, when it comes to tomato ketchup, it has to be Heinz and nothing else will do. That was, of course, until I made Rachel’s homemade ketchup. Now that tomatoes are in season, there is an incredible opportunity to buy locally from your local stall or market to make one of the nicest, nicest, nicest recipes possible!

The recipe is from Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home cookbook and goes like this…

2 tbsp olive oil
225g (80z) onions, peeled and roughly chopped
600g (1lb 6oz) tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
75ml (2¾ fl oz) white wine vinegar
75g (3oz) sugar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp ground all spice
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the onions and toss over a medium heat until cooked and a little golden. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes, until very soft.

Remove from the heat and whiz in a liquidiser or food processor. Pour through a sieve into a clean saucepan and simmer, uncovered and stirring regularly, for another 30 minutes, or until the mixture is thick.

Pour into sterilised jars or bottles and put the lids on. I use Kilner jars; put them through the dishwasher and use straightaway. Alternatively, you can put the jars in a saucepan of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Kilner jars can be bought in a lot of supermarkets and I got mine in Supersavers and Dunelm.

I’m not saying to make this every time you need to ketchup but at least make this once this summer. It is absolutely gorgeous and you will be amazed at how you can make ketchup even nicer than Heinz and that is no easy feat! The first time I made this ketchup was about six years ago when we were having a family over for dinner so I made the children homemade chicken goujons using Rachel’s recipe with the ketchup and they loved the whole lot. Another time I made the ketchup was when Dear Husband had a friend around for dinner and the dinner guest actually asked if he could take the ketchup home. Of course, I said yes and he brought me back the jar when he was finished with it. For all the dishes I have ever made for all the many people who have eaten in our house, that has been the one and only time that anyone asked to take something home so, that alone, will tell you how good this recipe is. Go on, make it! Tomorrow, I am going to post the recipe for the chicken goujons so chat to you all then!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Day 73

Short and sweet is the theme of tonight’s post but continuing on with the theme of ‘health’ from last night, what I’m posting tonight are five simple steps which will make you healthier so here goes…

1. Breakfast
Always eat breakfast. Always. Never skip it. It’s the most important meal of the day. Make sure you eat it even if you never feed hungry in the morning. You need to kicks-tart your metabolism and waken up your body.

2. Meals
Eat five smaller meals per day instead of three large ones. Do not starve yourself as that actually encourages your body to store fat. If your body knows that it’s getting food on a regular basis, it is less likely to hang on to ‘everything’ you eat. Five smaller meals will help keep your energy levels up and, if you must snack, go for foods such as fruit (apples, bananas etc.) and nuts (hazelnuts, cashews, brazils). Trail mix is a good alternative too.

3. Water
Drink 1-2 litres of water per day. Water will not only hydrate your body but will help prevent headaches and making you feel so tired. If you don’t like water on its own, put in some cordial (not the sugar-free ones that are full of sweeteners so avoid anything with aspartame and saccharin).

4. Fizzy drinks
Stop drinking fizzy drinks – especially Diet Coke. Fizzy drinks bloat you, are full of calories and rot your teeth. If you get used to drinking water, you’ll not miss drinking fizzy drinks.

5. Walk
Walk to the shop. Take the long way home. Park the car a bit further away from your destination. Get off the bus/train one stop earlier. Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. Walking will help boost your circulation and help your cardiorespiratory fitness. Aim for 30 minutes every day which can be done all in one go or in shorter sessions. Being physically active will release endorphins which are the chemicals that make you feel happy.

Now, not one of the above steps will be too taxing so starting from the moment you read them, promise yourself that you're going to start doing them NOW - not tomorrow and you'll already be on the road to a healthier you!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Day 72

Considering that I’m at the Olympic conference, much of today was spent listening to world experts talking specifically on the themes of fitness, fatness and physical activity. This is what inspired tonight’s post. These are three very important aspects of our health and each one can change depending on the type of lifestyle we lead. A person can be considered fat. Another person can be considered fit. Obviously, the person who is fit is physically active. But what about fatness versus fitness?

Who do you think has a higher risk of developing diseases and, therefore, an increased risk of dying younger? Is it…

Person A: The thin person who is not fit?
Person B: The fat person who is fit?  

In actual fat, the best person to be is Person B – the fat but physically fit person. I know, it’s new ground on the world stage of health but that’s what all the new research is showing. However, don’t think that if you’re fit, it’s ok to eat yourself fat. That most definitely isn’t the message the experts are trying to communicate. The important message is that if you are overweight/fat, you need to start improving your fitness to start reducing your risk of developing certain diseases and conditions and you will have better health than the skinny person who does no or little exercise 

So, when it comes to exercise or being physically active, how active are you supposed to be? Well, here it is…

At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity preferably every day but at least 5 days of the week. What’s moderate intensity? You know if you’re doing a brisk walk, starting to sweat but you can hold a conversation? Well, that’s moderate intensity. Do you have to do all 30 minutes in one go? The answer is no. If you can’t manage 30 minutes in one go, then break it down into 3 sessions of 10 minutes; then, 2 sessions of 15 minutes until eventually you can manage 30 minutes in one go.

If I could bottle physical activity, I’d be a zillionaire. It’s the number one thing you can do in your life that’s free which will have such a positive impact on your health. As people in the population get fatter then so too do the number of people who develop Type 2 diabetes. Yes, Type 2 diabetes - that condition which used to be called ‘adult onset diabetes’ because it usually only developed in adults over the age of 40. However, it’s now being found in children as young as 12 which is extremely scary.

Not only does being physically active reduce the risk of you becoming obese and developing Type 2 diabetes but it also helps reduce the risk of you developing other diseases and conditions such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, certain types of cancer especially breast cancer, cancer of the colon, prostate cancer etc. Interestingly, being physically active is also incredibly good at helping treat anxiety and depression which are two aspects of mental health that are very much under researched at present. In all the years I worked as a fitness instructor, I always said to people that once you go to the gym, you never regret it. When is the last time you went for a walk and thought “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that!”. Never, I’d say. You probably asked yourself why you don’t do it more often.

When it comes to being physically active, it’s important to find an activity that you actually enjoy. Walking is the best form of exercise for everyone in the population as it’s easy to do, it’s free and it’s the most appropriate form of exercise for people who are starting to exercise. However, it’s also very effective for people who are well-practised walkers who could walk for miles and miles. Another thing I would say is that don’t pick an activity that you don’t like just to get fit. If you hate going to the gym, don’t pick a gym to get fit. If you do go to the gym and you hate, for example, the rower – don’t go on it. What I’m saying is pick something you like doing. It is human nature to avoid things you don’t like doing so, if you don’t like rowing, pick another machine. If you don’t like walking but love swimming, go the pool. Classes are great because you push yourself harder and with all the dancing classes (e.g. Zumba) which are currently popular, enlist a friend to go with you too. Being physically active in the company of others can be as much about the social part i.e. the ‘craic’ as it is about your health.

And if for nothing else, vanity can be a good enough reason to be physically active. Did you know that by exercising, you can actually help slow down the ageing process? Yes, it’s true. I could write on and on tonight about this topic and this has to be one of the longest posts I’ve put on my blog but I have to stop now or I really will be here all night. Therefore, to summarise, put away those expensive anti-wrinkle moisturisers (and that includes you men too!) and get exercising. You won’t regret it so, on your marks, get set, go!!!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Day 71

Rachel always says to use produce that is in season and, being summer (!), tomatoes are in season which inspired tonight’s post. It’s at this time of year that tomatoes are at their nicest. I love tomatoes and so does Dear Father. He grows them in his greenhouse and eats them like apples. Tomatoes are delicious and nutritious; they are also full of antioxidants such as lycopene which studies show help protect against certain types of cancer. Once bought, tomatoes should be stored in the fridge; however, as a consequence, they start to lose their flavour. I know – it’s a Catch 22.  I hate when I eat a store-bought sandwich and the tomatoes taste like the stainless steel fridge they were stored in.

I mentioned before that Rachel’s Tomato salsa is one of the nicest recipes (ever!) – which is the other reason why I chose to write about tomatoes and the salsa tonight. So here goes the recipe…

Tomatoes (I use a pack which is either 4 large ones or 6 smaller ones)
1 teaspoon of fresh coriander (but I probably use closer to a tablespoon of coriander)
1-2 cloves of garlic crushed
2 scallions
½-1 red chilli
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper
Juice of ¼-½ lime

Obviously, wash and dry all the fresh ingredients first of all. Then chop the tomatoes. I absolutely hate the core of the tomato so the way I chop my tomatoes is that I half them on either side of the core then slice on the narrower sides of the tomato and then throw the core in the bin. So, once the tomatoes are chopped, I slice the scallions at an angle and throw them in a bowl with the tomatoes. Next, I add the crushed garlic, followed by the finely chopped chilli, a large pinch of sugar, some Maldon sea salt, pepper, the chopped coriander and then the lime juice. Mix it all together and that’s it.

You can eat this salsa in so many ways – on top of a baked potato, with tortilla chips, with fajitas or with another favourite of mine by Rachel - quesadillas. What I would say is that don’t make the salsa too much in advance – no more than an hour before serving as the tomatoes start to go mushy and definitely don’t use a mini-chopper (as I once did!) to chop the tomatoes or they end up too mushy, also! The salsa is especially nice when you accompany it with crème fraiche and homemade guacamole.

As I’ve said before, once you try this homemade salsa, you will never buy the jarred stuff that can be bought in the shops so apologies in advance – it takes a bit more effort than handing over your money to sales assistant but it’s so worth it…and so are you. Enjoy :)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Day 70

Ten weeks into the Challenge and this blog has reached another important milestone. Once again - thank you for taking the time to read! However, seeing as I’m at the conference for the Olympics, I couldn’t stop thinking about 'it' this evening when gathering my thoughts for the blog. ‘It’ being a major food-related problem which is taking over Western society i.e. obesity. We all know that generally people (and children) are getting bigger which has major health implications now and for years and generations to come. It’s a really tricky subject and although I am not intending to preach to my readers, I feel very strongly about people eating and leading healthier lives – for their own sake. Therefore, for a change tonight, I took a slightly different slant on writing about food. Instead of writing about the Italian we went to this evening, I’m going to offer some tips which are simple ways of making your eating habits that little bit healthier. Remember that you should always eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and should consult your GP about any changes you're considering but here are some food rules on five specific food items according to Lynda to help you eat healthier…

1. Water
Drink 1-2 litres of still water every day. Keeping yourself hydrated will help prevent headaches. Also, if you’re looking to lose weight, your body can’t break down its fat stores if it’s dehydrated.

2. Diet/sugar-free drinks
If a soft drink says it is diet or sugar-free then the manufacturer has taken out the sugar and replaced it with horrible sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin which actually make you addicted to the food/drink and increase your appetite – Diet Coke is a prime example. If you must drink Diet Coke, you would be better drinking the original thing.

3. Butter
Always buy the real thing. Avoid margarines and those spreads which allegedly make your heart healthier. All they will do is cost you a small fortune of money. Remember that saying I mentioned before? Trust a cow before a chemist. Just eat the butter in moderation. Again, the running theme for healthy eating has to be moderation.

4. Mayonnaise and ketchup
It may seem counterintuitive but buy the full-fat versions of ketchup and mayonnaise. Just eat less. Do NOT buy low-fat, fat-free versions. If the food item says it’s low-fat or fat-free, chances are that it’s full of sugar and salt. To make my point, a manufacturer could set a 2lb bag of sugar on your kitchen table and stick a label on it saying ‘fat free’. Is it? Yes. If you eat bags and bags of sugar, will you get fat? Yes. They don’t tell you that though. Without getting too technical, sugar is a form of carbohydrate. Carbohydrate is our body’s preferred source of carbohydrate. All our muscles have stores of carbohydrate which are topped up every time we eat. However, once those stores fill up, the excess carbohydrate is converted to fat and stored in the body. This is partly why carbs get so much bad press; however, it’s not that eating carbohydrates makes people fat, it’s simply eating too much and doing little or no physical activity.

5. Milk
Full-fat milk is actually a low-fat food as it has less than 4% fat. The fat from milk is important as it’s full of Vitamin D and helps the body absorb calcium which is important for bone health. This is especially relevant for women because of the higher risk of osteoporosis in middle age. Interestingly, a study was done on women who take full-fat milk versus semi-skimmed milk in their tea/coffee. Taking full-fat or semi-skimmed milk made absolutely no difference to their waistline.

So there are five things to give you ‘food for thought’. Sorry, I couldn’t help the pun! Even making one change will make a positive change to your eating. Give them a go and see what happens. Chat to you all tomorrow...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Day 69

I’m not going to pretend that I know everything about Thai food because I don’t. What I do know is good food and, in this case, extremely good food. So what if I haven’t eaten more than ten Thai dinners in restaurants but I love my own Thai red curry which I’ve made loads of times! That said, I had to tell you about the amazing dinner I had at Chaophraya (pronounced ciao-pie-a) which is an amazing Thai restaurant in a Grade-A listed building just off Buchanan Street in Glasgow.

If I’m away, I refuse to eat rubbish just out of convenience so it’s so important to me to have a proper dinner. If you’ve ever read any books by Jason Vale (aka The Juice Master), you will know what I’m talking about when I say ‘airport days’. Everyone has them but airport days are ok, just as long as they don’t roll into the next day, the day after that and the day after that. Airport days are characterised by travelling, having limited healthy food choices but trying to pick the healthiest options you can. Therefore, on my way through Belfast International en route to the conference where I’m going to be for the next week, I picked the avocado, cucumber and lettuce wrap and a bottle of water. It was so much nicer than anything I’ve had at an airport before which has always been a limited choice. Normally, when I think airport food, I think stody sandwiches, chips and congealed dinners. If I could give you three nuggets of advice (pardon the pun!) when travelling, they would be (1) avoid fizzy drinks; (2) drink lots of water; and (3) make sure you eat a proper breakfast and dinner every day. Stick to that and you’ll find that you won’t become dehydrated, bloated, snack on junk or have that horrible-wish-you-hadn’t-eaten-it-feeling you get about 10 minutes after eating a McDonald’s or some other congealed rubbish from a takeaway.

Anyway, getting back to my dinner this evening, I decided to go for the Stir-fried aubergine and basil dish with a side of boiled rice. My friend who’s an 800m sprinter decided to go for the same thing except she got a side of coconut noodles. Some dishes just have the ‘wow-factor’ and this is one of two I’ve eaten recently which had exactly that. What the dish consisted of was aubergine which had the thinnest of batter stacked up like Stonehenge and then there were onions, peppers, chilli, carrots and other ingredients which I can’t exactly remember what they were but everything tasted gorgeous! I actually cleaned the plate and so did my friend. The portion sizes were perfect and, afterwards, I felt like I’d eaten a proper, nutritious meal without feeling over-fed.

For dessert (because I can’t pass it when I’m out for dinner!), I had the deep-fried coconut ice-cream. Okay, I know deep fried ice-cream isn’t the healthiest but this was something I really wanted to try as I love coconut ice-cream. A scoop of coconut ice-cream was covered in breadcrumbs, deep fried and then chocolate drizzled on it. Before I go home, I’m going back to the restaurant and I’m going to get photos of it all. The dessert was exceptionally delicious.

The restaurant, as I said, is in this amazing Grade-A listed building and is one of the nicest restaurants I’ve ever been in. If you’re ever in Glasgow, I highly recommend you go here. The staff were extremely friendly and I love places where the staff are like that because those are the restaurants who deserve customers!

I would give the whole dining experience a very impressive 9 marks out of 10 and I forgot to say that it was extremely reasonable price-wise. Two mains, one dessert, bottled water came to £32 before a tip. The price was amazing itself. It was worth double the price. I think they were doing two courses for £14.95 and we were in at about 6pm. The restaurant is in the shopping area in a really nice part of Glasgow too. We hadn't heard of the restaurant and just happened to pass it on the way home and we thought it looked nice so it was a real find for me. I am already looking forward to my return visit so Chaophraya had everything down to a tee - location, friendly staff, superb food, gorgeous restaurant and extremely good value for money. Now, there are five things that other restaurants seem to fall short on so many times but, on this occasion, not this one!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Day 68: Conchiglie with spinach

Every Sunday, when we come home from the swimming pool, there are two certainties: (1) I will be starving with hunger; and (2) after being in chorinated water, anything (even cardboard!) will taste good (not that I eat cardboard or anything!). Therefore, I made the Conchiglie with spinach one Sunday for lunch and I was really looking forward to trying this recipe as I love spinach.

I started off by boiling the pasta in salted water. I used penne pasta instead of conchiglie though. That gave me time to toast some pine nuts in a small frying pan on a high heat for 1 minute. After about 12 minutes, I drained the pasta but left about 50ml in the pan and added in baby spinach leaves. I let them wilt for 2 minutes and then tipped the lot into a large bowl and added crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and the pine nuts and then mixed. I finished the dish off with some freshly cracked black pepper.

The verdict…

Remember I said that after going swimming, anything tastes better – even cardboard? Well, I take that back. I was majorly disappointed with this dish. I gave it 3 marks out of 10. One mark for how easy it was to prepare, one mark for how easy it was to cook and one mark for having healthy spinach in it. Although it was super easy to make, I just found it so bland which was hard to believe when it had spinach and cheese in it which I both love. I also love pine nuts. I just don’t get why I didn’t like it. Having not made The List, all I can say is that if you’re really stuck to make something quick and you have these ingredients in stock, then work away but don’t be expecting any explosion of tastes. And I would really, really love to hear from anyone who has made this dish and ask them what they thought so, if you have, please post a comment below!

On another note, I read somewhere online that there are actually 215 recipes in this cookbook so a bit more than the 180+ it says. Now that I’m on Day 68, it is hard to believe that I am over a third of the way through the book. It’s only when I see the photos in my blog folder that I realise the true amount of cooking which I’ve done so far on the Challenge. Dear Husband certainly isn't complaining - although it's a good job I didn't give him this dish to try! Also, I would really like to thank you all for continuing to read and hope you are still enjoying it. If you’ve tried any of the recipes yourself, please post a comment below and let me know how you got on as I love to know someone else’s perspective! Until tomorrow…

Monday, 16 July 2012

Day 67: Five-minute pea soup

Back home to the Green Isle so that must have inspired me to make Five-minute pea soup. This recipe was ideal in so many ways but mostly because of my “You’ll get fed when I get fed!” rule.

I put vegetable stock, frozen peas, grated garlic and spring onions into a saucepan on a high heat. I seasoned the lot and brought it up to the boil. I then added cream and tarragon and then blended using a hand-blender. I served up with fresh French bread and the good old Kerrygold butter.

The verdict…

I really liked this soup – 7 marks out of 10 which is outstanding for something that took so little time to prepare and cook. I used dried tarragon seeing as the fresh stuff is so difficult to come by but I could still taste it anyway. I have made a similar soup of Rachel’s to this one which is Pea and Coriander Soup. Although the Pea and Coriander soup also has chilli in it, I thought the tarragon version definitely wouldn’t be as nice but it wasn’t far off it. I would regard the pea, coriander and chilli soup as 8 marks out of 10 so today’s contender was good competition for it. If you love chillies then make the Pea and Coriander soup. However, there is no doubt that this soup has made The List and I have already put a post-it on the page that it’s on the work-lunch-list [I’ve now started to sub-categorise the recipes!].

Overall, this was one of the simplest recipes to prepare and quickest yet tasted very healthy and wholesome; plus, it was very filling when eaten with bread. That also reminds me that there was an experiment I read about somewhere whereby they tested which meal would keep you fuller for longer - an ordinary dinner with a drink (e.g. water) or soup and soup won so there's another good reason to make soup for lunch. Getting back to the recipe, all the ingredients would be things that would normally be in stock anyway so this soup would probably be top of the list for lunches that you can make without having to make a trip to the supermarket first. I am already looking forward to having the remainder of it for lunch tomorrow. Speaking of which, I will be officially out of the country (again – sorry!) from tomorrow until 24 July. I most definitely won’t be cooking any this time but will still be posting on my blog each night so thanks again for reading and I hope you enjoy the following week’s posts some of which will be extra recipes I've made and others will be something different…

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Day 66: Poached eggs with bacon lentils

Before I get down to the main focus of tonight’s post, I must tell you about dinner last night at Il Forno in Duke Street, Liverpool. Voted by The Times as one of the top 10 best authentic Italian restaurants in the UK. Our table was booked for 7pm and we were only 5 minutes late. We were seen to our seats straightaway and we had a large rectangular table. The menu had one of the best selections of Italian dishes that I have ever seen. There was something for absolutely everyone. All nine of us were really looking forward to dinner and there was a great spread in terms of what each of us ordered.

For starters, we had garlic bread, bruschetta, squid or tomato soup. The garlic bread and bruschetta were standard enough. The tomato soup was absolutely delicious. Dear Sister No.1 had ordered this (and I had a taste) as did a few of the other girls and it looked like a meal itself. It was a massive bowl although I was glad I didn’t order it or, if I had, that would probably have done me without need for a main course. It was accompanied by lovely croutons and fresh basil. Dear Cousin had squid which consisted of battered squid with two types of dressing and a wee bit of salad.

For the main course, I had potato dumplings in a beautiful tomato sauce with mozzarella whilst the others had dishes such as pizza, chilli pasta, chicken with broccoli and onion, another chicken pasta dish, lasagne etc. The portion sizes were absolutely massive and half of what I got would have been more than enough for me. To be honest, I don’t think there was one of us who actually cleared the plate as the portions were really big. Nonetheless, we were all raving about the food.

Not everyone had dessert but, for those of us who did, we had a Nutella pizza (for me but it was shared round the table!), ice-cream, a knickerbocker glory and then the usual teas and coffees.

From start to finish the meal took 3 hours but the restaurant was extremely busy and as soon as one table cleared, more customers were seated. The clientele consisted of a really good mix of people – different ages, some couples, some families with young children, a hen party (yes, us!), people in eating on their own (they have a large long low-level counter for this too!). Everyone was dressed really well and the restaurant itself was extremely nice – the colours consisted of browns and whites and looked extremely clean and contemporary. The bill between us worked out at £23 which we thought was unbelievable value-for-money. I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you’re going to Liverpool any time. But, for now, it’s back to the Challenge…

So, this time last week, I made Poached eggs with bacon lentils for breakfast. To start off, I poured olive oil into a saucepan and fried diced bacon until it was brown and crispy. I then added Puy lentils, a bay leaf and rosemary in the pan along with 500ml of water. They came up to the boil and then simmered for 15 minutes until the lentils were soft. There was still water left in the pan so I drained it and threw away the bay leaf and sprig of rosemary. I then added in olive oil and seasoned them.

While the lentils were cooking, I poached an egg (for the first time!) so what I did was boil a saucepan of water with a small bit of vinegar; then, I reduced the heat to low and added in an egg. I actually cracked the egg into a small bowl and slid it into the water for fear that I wouldn’t do it right. To serve up, I dished up the lentils, placed the poached egg on top and garnished with freshly chopped parsley.
The verdict…

Well, I’m sure you weren’t expecting a high score for this dish because of Dear Husband’s lack of love for lentils so he scored the breakfast 3 marks out of 10. He actually didn’t finish the dish so that in itself says a lot. Therefore, it most definitely has not made The List and I certainly won’t be in a hurry to make it again. If you don’t like lentils, you won’t like this recipe. Also, I’d say that a poached egg is probably very plain if, like Dear Husband, you really like fried eggs. Just as well then that I didn’t let Dear Husband starve as I then made him two fried eggs and few sausages with tea and toast. Now, there’s a breakfast which always goes down well no matter who’s eating it. Thankfully for Dear Husband, he can always look forward to a breakfast that any Sunday at all and the lentils can stay safely on the shelf!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Day 65

The girls are loving the apartments we’re staying in. Fully equipped. They even come with a chef. Don’t be shocked. You know who that is, of course. Me!!! Remember how I said I was looking forward to a weekend of not cooking, cleaning etc. but I’d somehow manage? Well, I didn’t have to worry about the cooking or cleaning because away I was yesterday evening down to the local M&S to stock up on food for our apartment as Dear Cousin nominated me to make breakfast for them all this morning! So there I was, as usual, on a Saturday, making breakfast. Porridge, scrambled eggs (a la Rachel-style which is the only way to make them), sausages, croissants, tea and toast. But the real focus of today’s post is our dinner from yesterday evening which had to happen very soon after landing in Liverpool as we were all starving! Plus, it has been the one time that I have left Ireland in complete warm sunshine to land in a country where it was absolutely bucketing the rain! Who says only Ireland has wet weather???!

Nandos it was then. Never heard of it before but that’s where we ate. The girls told me that Nandos was a ‘chicken restaurant’ (!) but, according to them also, they did good vegetarian options too. This was the first taste of home for me because at one point I came up to the table and set cutlery down and said with a smile “Hello, my name is Lynda and I’ll be your server for the evening!”. You see, Nandos is a self-service restaurant and, by that I mean everything is self-service. We did get our menus but, from that point in, it was every girl for themselves or, in reality, it was actually me getting for them! As a serial list-maker, I switch between lists on brightly coloured post-its to electronic lists on my Blackberry so I typed in the girls’ orders to my Blackberry, collected the money, went down to the counter, placed the order whereby the host started supplying me with glasses…and glasses…and more glasses but eventually summoned one of his colleagues to bring the glasses up to the table. Why he did that, I have no idea as he then pointed me in the direction of the two drinks machines which meant I had to traipse up to the table at the back of the restaurant, lift the glasses and bring them back down to the drinks machine. He did have the sense however to send the wine up for the girls. So, once I paid, I was running from the front to the back of the restaurant getting drinks, cutlery, napkins, ice, water…em, someone wanted medium peri-peri sauce but, wait someone else wanted the hot peri-peri sauce and then someone wanted the extra-hot peri-peri sauce. What am I? A maid? Apparently so. I think I bring it on myself though. I’m the eldest of four girls and my role has always been to look after them and no matter that we’re all adults now, I still do that and that includes cousins and friends. I am, what I call, the in loco parentis mammy.

So anyway, getting back to the food, here’s a round-up of some of the dishes…
·         Veggie burger with a side of macho peas
The burger was delicious – make of soy and tomato and the side of peas consisted of garden peas with mint and chilli – absolutely delicious. I didn’t have a side of chips as I’m not big into chips so just had a few of Dear Sister No.1’s and they were very nice – frozen but very nice. The bap on my burger was really nice – tasted as if they had made the bread themselves. I really loved the burger and peas – probably 8 marks out of 10 which is exceptional for me to give a restaurant chain.
·         Chicken wraps with chips x 2
·         Veggie burger and chips
·         Chicken pitta with a side of chilli jam and yoghurt
·         Chicken strips
·         Chicken pitta with chips x 3

I asked the host to do all the chicken as medium as in medium hot and the girls said that although most of them like hot chicken, the medium was hot enough. Nandos does the chicken as plain, medium or hot apparently. They loved the chilli jam and yoghurt too.

Definitely a very good dining experience which was helped no doubt by the fact that we were all so hungry. I’ll definitely be back to Nandos again though as will all the girls. For some, it was a repeat experience so that says a lot. I Googled Nandos later and saw that they have over 255 restaurants in the UK and there’s only one I think in Ireland - in Dundrum Town Centre. The restaurant originates in South African which was a real surprise for me as I thought maybe South American but the food is actually based on a Portuguese-Mozambique theme.

So tonight, it’s an Italian restaurant which I’m really looking forward which also means that I’ll be writing up my verdict tomorrow on how it goes so stay tuned…

Friday, 13 July 2012

Day 64: Fruit sundae with strawberry coulis

Greetings from Liverpool! As you know, I’m away this weekend so the following post is about a recipe I made last week. To begin, can I say thank goodness for Wifi! Also, Dear Sisters spotted my pink laptop as I went through security at the airport and I could see them starting to smile. Well, as if I could go without it for a whole weekend!

On a very sunny evening last week, I made a dessert as a treat. It’s not often I make desserts during the week but the weather made the Fruit sundae with strawberry coulis all the more befitting. For the coulis, I used my mini-chopper to blend fresh, hulled strawberries, caster sugar and the juice of half a lemon. I then pushed the puree through a sieve so that I ended up with this beautiful sauce which was the coulis. To put the sundaes together, I put sliced strawberries and diced tinned peaches at the bottom of a sundae glass, followed by a scoop of ice cream and then a few spoons of the coulis. I then repeated it again, added some fresh cream on top and drizzled the coulis over.
The verdict…

Dear Husband gave it 9 marks out 10 and I gave it 9 marks out of 10, also. Dear Son ate some of his ice-cream but none of the fruit. It’s amazing how something so simple could be so delicious. I absolutely loved the coulis and any time I have vanilla ice-cream with fruit, I have to have fresh cream too because I just absolutely love it! Since then, I have eaten vanilla ice-cream, tinned peaches and fresh cream twice on sunny days. That always reminds me of Sunday desserts at home when I was a child. It was either that or fruit cocktail or ice-cream wafers. It's funny how we can get out of the habit of eating something as we get older and forget how good it was! Did it simply go out of fashion or something???! Either way, I'll be sure to make these sundaes again even if Dear Son doesn't like all of his!

Well, I’m just about to head out with all the girls so it’s goodnight from me for now. Tomorrow’s post will be a special feature as I’m going to write up about our dining experience today here in Liverpool so chat to you all tomorrow. Must go see what the other hens have in store for the Dear Hen (hope Dear Sister No.2 likes her new name!).  

Thursday, 12 July 2012

If you would like to nominate my blog for the Irish Blog Awards 2012, click on the icon on the right side of your screen.

My email address is higgsy14@hotmail.com and the blog address is http://theeasymealschallenge.blogspot.ie/

Thanks, Lynda xo

Day 63: Tarka dahl

Some people love butter; others like those awful margarine spreads. Some people like hard boiled eggs; some like them runny. Some people like Tarka dahl; others don’t and I fall into the latter category. Each to their own and all those other clichés but when I made Tarka dahl for my dinner these evening, I was very disappointed. Whilst some people might love it, I certainly don’t. As you can see from the picture below, the fact that I slightly overdid frying the garlic and spices didn’t help. Hey, who am I kidding? I burnt them. There. I said it.

Having been on my holidays for almost two weeks now, I honestly don’t know where I get the time to go to work. Life in our household at the minute goes like this – morning, breakfast, clean up, elevenses, clean up, lunch, clean up, afternoon tea, clean up, dinner, clean up, supper, clean up. One meal runs into the next and it’s only in between meals, that I try to make a super-effort dash to the door with the kids for a walk or they get bundled into the car to go somewhere which will surely make them nod off en route. So within that specific time frame between meals, if I don't go then, it's too late as the next meal time has approached. Another thing is that every house should have its kitchen, living and dining room open plan (which certainly isn’t what I have at the minute) so that despite all the time one can spend in the kitchen, at least the kids can happily play within vision at all times without having to maneouvre high chairs, low chairs between rooms etc. But, ideally, that’s the way it would be. It’s amazing how much time can be spent in the kitchen so it’s not surprising that the kitchen is the hub of many an Irish household. I often experience kitchen-envy from the many I’ve seen on Grand Designs and MTV Cribs to the point that I know exactly how my ideal kitchen would look like but, for now (and probably many years to come), I’ll be doing with my own modest one.

So, getting back to tonight’s dinner (for me), I started off by putting on a bag of boil-in-the-bag rice to cook. I then put red lentils, a bay leaf and sliced ginger in a saucepan of water and brought it up to the boil before simmering for 15 minutes. While they were cooking, I melted butter in a small frying pan and added sliced garlic, cumin seeds and chilli flakes which I stir-fried for a few minutes. I served up the dish as follows – boiled rice, lentils on top, the garlic butter poured over the top and seasoning.
The verdict...
Regardless of the marks which I awarded this dish (which were 2 out of 10), I didn’t even finish it even though I was hungry so that speaks volumes. I know over-frying the garlic and spices didn’t help which resulted in the burnt taste but, at the other end of the spectrum, I had the blandness of the rice. I know the lentils were supposed to feature in between but I found them bland also. Had I cooked the garlic butter properly, I’m sure it could possibly have scored a 4 or 5 but, to be honest, I just didn’t get this dish. So, you’re not exactly surprised when I say that this dish definitely hasn’t made The List. I actually had to have a full glass of pure orange juice to get rid of the burnt taste of the garlic butter and made a light supper instead as there was no way I was starting into another recipe this evening. I just about have time to make myself one dinner in the evening never mind two – not that I could eat two dinners (although Dear Husband could!). As I’ve said before, even when I make a recipe that I don’t like, I don’t fret because at least I know what I like and what I don’t like and if it’s not a hit, then I know not to make it again but at least I tried it.

So that’s tonight’s contribution and I must mention about the forthcoming posts for tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. I will be officially out of the country as I’m attending Dear Sister No.2’s hen weekend in Liverpool. I did say that when I started this Challenge, I was going to make at least one recipe a day unless I was officially out of the country but, not one to let my readers down, I will still be posting on those days. However, the recipes are extra ones which I’ve made over the last few weeks in preparation of being away. Well, you didn’t really think that I was going to cook for all the girls while away did you?! [I did contemplate ways to do that though!]. And I know I’ve been accused of taking everything but the kitchen sink on past trips, but this is one time whereby I wish I could take the kitchen sink (and the oven too obviously) but, alas, I will be doing no cooking whatsoever while away so it’s going to be an extremely peculiar weekend for me. Somehow though, I think I’ll manage rightly…