2014…

Happy New Year to you all ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been on here in weeks. Life has just got in the way in many inventive ways!

However, I’m quite determined to be back!! I have recipes aplenty that I have tried, tested, re-discovered and even though most of those happened over Christmas, they are usable for other occasions and completely adaptable.

Currently though, I’m having a slightly (where is that sarcasm font!?) mental time organising my daughter’s 10th birthday party. It will happen this Friday night and it will be CSI – Crime Scene Investigation. Body, fingerprints, DNA lab and all! Found it online here and so far, it is absolutely fabulous – and they weren’t lying when they said 8-10 hours prep time! The kids better enjoy it, because my sanity has already been murdered and I want justice served for that haha.

Anyway, I hope all of you reading this had a wonderful time over the Christmas holidays and that 2014 started off on a good note for you and will continue to do so for the remainder of the year!

Slรกn!

Virtual Vegan Potluck: Quinoa Burgers

I’m really excited about being part of the vegan potluck!

This recipe has become a family favourite so I’ve decided to use this past recipe for it.

These burgers are the result of me needing to use up a few veggies in the fridge. I had to use up a pepper, celery and carrots and felt like trying something I don’t usually make.

So I made these burgers, and had mine in a pitta bread with hummus, lettuce and a very hot Masala Chili sauce:

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The burgers were incredibly easy to make and are totally adjustable to your own tastes in spices. Today, I’ve flavoured them with thyme, oregano, paprika and pepper. Next time, I might try making these with curry, cumin and coriander.

But first things first – the quinoa. All hail this wonderful, gluten-free, whole protein power house of plant goodness. It’s my She-Ra of the grains! (if you don’t know who She-Ra is, you’re either under 30 years old or have somehow slept through the 80s hehe)

Anywhoo… at first, toast the quinoa. It effectively does the same thing as washing it really, really thoroughly, only you keep it dry and the aroma of toasted quinoa is just divine. Much preferable, in my opinion, and definitely the right thing to do for this recipe.

Quinoa before the toasting:

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To toast, simply put it into a very hot, dry frying pan and stir gently. You will hear little popping sounds that indicate it’s doing its thing. When it’s all nicely coloured, it’s done! Not to forget the wonderful scent that wafts around. Quinoa after the toasting:

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Once that’s done, set it aside until you need it again and get busy preparing the vegetables. I had to use up some things, but you could use anything that tickles your fancy – from sweetcorn to leeks and courgette – so long you cut it up really small or grate it, you’ll be perfectly fine! Once your vegetables are ready, fry them in a little oil, then add the quinoa and the stock and simmer them on low.

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When all the stock has been absorbed, the quinoa mix should look something like this:

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By the way, that’s really tasty by itself, so be careful not to munch too much in the name of ‘tasting‘ before you get to the ‘burger making‘ part! In order to form burgers successfully though, it needs something to turn it into a more doughy mass. I used oats. Make sure you use gluten free ones if making these for gluten intolerant people. Adding the oats while the mixture was still hot did the trick very well here:

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After the mass had cooled down enough to be handled, these were easily formed:

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And in the name of science, I fried half and grilled the other half in the oven. Both versions turned out well, although the oven-grilled ones were lower in fat and held together better on top of that. I would recommend the oven version. In this pic, they are all cooked through, the darker ones are the fried ones… the casualty in the middle was the result of my 2-year-old being faster than me and having a not-so-sneaky taste! One’s missing because it fell apart in the pan… and got gobbled up by me.

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For the cubs, I put these into wholemeal pitta breads with some hummus (and ketchup in cub 3’s case) and served them with carrot sticks and cucumber slices. Obviously, the addition of the bread doesn’t make it gluten free anymore, so if you want to keep it that way, serve it on a bed of mixed salad with some pine kernels or sunflower seeds strewn across.

Vegan Quinoa Burgers (makes 10 small burgers) by Cubs’n’Coffee

Ingredients:

  • 100g Quinoa, toasted
  • 1 carrot, finely grated
  • 1/2 pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery, grated
  • 50g peas
  • 300ml vegetable stock (if you use stock cubes make sure they’re gluten free!)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil for frying (plus a little extra for baking tray)
  • 1tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1 tsp paprika, generous dash cracked black pepper
  • 50g oats

Method:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot, fry the pepper and the celery in the oil until a little softened.
  2. Add the other vegetables, herbs, spices and toasted quinoa. Give it a quick stir to mix it all together.
  3. Pour in the vegetable stock, stir and cover pot with a lid. Set it to simmer on low to medium heat until all the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through.
  4. Take the pot off the heat and add the oats while it’s still hot. Let it stand until cool enough to handle.
  5. While it’s cooling, pre-heat the oven grill. Once the mass has cooled, form 10 little burgers.
  6. Place the burgers on a non-stick oven tray which is lightly greased with oil. I spray oil onto it as it uses less with the same effect. Spray (or brush) a tiny amount of oil onto each burger and grill until lightly browned. Turn and repeat on other side.
  7. Serve on a salad bed with pine kernels and sunflower seeds. Alternatively, serve it in a pitta bread with salad and hummus or even in a soft flour tortilla wrap. The possibilities are endless!

There are so many wonderful recipes in this Virtual Vegan Potluck!

Why not check out the course preceding mine, here.

Or check out the next course after mine, here!

To go through the whole Virtual Vegan Potluck 2013 from the very first recipe, start here!

Our house is shrinking…

Meet the new addition to our family. Her name is Cassie and she’s just over a year old.

Mind you, her living with us is only temporary until we find a forever home for this gorgeous lurcher girl.

She arrived yesterday and we’re fostering her until such a time comes! All our cubs love her (and have already requested we adopt her for life!) and even the cats are nice to the dog! She’s a joy to have around.

Creature comforts; she sure knows what she likes! Such a couch potato! She’s probably thinking ‘not her again with that blasted camera‘ hehe.

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Tell you what though, she’s keeping me fit with the extra walking I’m doing now!

Hot Whiskey – for medicinal purposes, naturally!

It’s nearly there, the season to be jolly… and with it come the horrible days of colds and flu and coughs. Bleugh.

The cough’s what’s got hold of me in the last few days. Well, and cub 4, the poor wee mite. Worse at night, of course, when lying down and trying to finally get some rest.

What else was I supposed to do but to reach for a traditional medicinal drink…!?

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What can I say? It’s delicious! Of course, made with Irish Whiskey. Here’s what you need to do if you want to make your own (and, please don’t serve this to persons under 18 (or whichever the drinking age is in your country!):

Rinse a glass with hot water to pre-heat it a bit.

Two teaspoons of brown sugar into the glass, then add a generous helping of Irish Whiskey to it and fill up with hot water. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add fresh sliced lemons and cloves, stir and enjoy.

Tonight, I also added a small teaspoon of honey to mine. Medicinal, see? Right there ๐Ÿ™‚

Vegetarian Lentil Bake

This lentil bake has been a family favourite for goodness knows how many years now. Most recently, my 5 year old boy cub declared this to be the ‘most delicious dinner ever‘. Yay!

At this time of year when it is cold outside, this is comforting, warming and all-round wonderful. But that doesn’t stop at the taste – it’s also fantastic to prepare in the morning or even the day before and then quickly heated up just before dinner: which makes it great to feed guests without having to disappear into the kitchen for long periods of time while trying to entertain!

I’ve made this dish with a myriad of different vegetables, and they all worked well. Depending on what is in season, or indeed hiding in your fridge, you can use anything at all, and still this dish never fails!

Successful vegetables used in the past include: leeks, mushrooms, sweetcorn, peppers, peas, carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, courgette… see? There really are no limits!!

Being the time of year it is though, and having a husband whose list of contraband foods includes mushrooms, peas and courgette, I went with earthy pumpkins and sweet potatoes this time.

Many of our friends have asked me for the recipe before, and ususally were met with the same answer: ‘I just cook it, there is no recipe.’ย Which is true – I cook these things as I go along. There is a pattern though and it’s always cooked the same way, so I’ve written down what I put in and how much the last two times and even though the vegetables slightly varied, the rest stayed the same.

Here we have the chopped up vegetables, where I snuck the end of a broccoli head into (which doesn’t feature in the ingredients list, so don’t panic, I just used up something and the amount of pumpkin by weight is same as my pumpkin/broccoli together) As you can also see, this was all chopped rather small so it’s all perfectly bite-sized.

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I’m getting ahead of myself though. The first thing you do, is set the lentils to boil in a small pot. You can use either green or brown lentils. I like to use the brown ones as they keep their shape after they’re cooked as you can see here:

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While the lentils merrily do their thing in their pot, peel and roughly chop the potatoes and boil them in a separate pot. Once boiled, set aside for making the mash. The mash will top this lentil bake and is best when it’s quite firm. I used a little milk and nutmeg to make it and it’s still quite firm.

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I used nutmeg that I grate myself. Hard to give estimates on how much, but I would say roughly 1/4 teaspoon. Best to taste it yourself while making this, to be sure you like it.

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Mmmmhhhh love the smell of fresh nutmeg โค

While both the lentils and the potatoes were cooking I chopped all the vegetables. In a large frying pan, I then first sauteed the onion/celery/garlic until a little softened, then added all the dried herbs and vegetables. I stirred them up well so everything was coated in the now flavoured oil and let it cook like this for a couple of minutes while stirring constantly.

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Only then did I add the stock to the pan, and as you can see here, the stock will not cover all the vegetables. If it did, you’d be left with much too much sauce at the end. Don’t worry though, your veggies will still cook through perfectly, without being turned into mush. All will keep its shape ๐Ÿ™‚

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Then I turned down the heat and let it do it’s thing, stirring it occasionally. While it does it’s thing, I made the above featured mash out of the potatoes, before adding a few more bits and bobs to the vegetables in the pan to make the sauce out of the stock.

Once this was done, the lentils are added and everything mixed through before transferring the whole lot into a large oven-proof dish.

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Then I topped it with mashed potatoes, finished it off with a thin layer of grated cheese and done! Now you could leave this dish until you need it, even overnight (keep it refrigerated after letting it cool down if you are keeping it for the next day) and when you’re ready, bake it in the oven for approximately 30-40 minutes to re-heat it and brown the cheese on the top!

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If you are using it immediately, you could just stick it under a hot grill to brown the cheese as the dish is completely cooked through already.

I was going to have a lovely picture of the finished and out of the oven bake, but… well… we were hungry.

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Oops! This dish fed 4 very hungry adults and 3 hungry children. It normally feeds 2 hungry adults, 4 hungry cubs and we still have leftovers for the next day. It all depends on the appetite, but I’d say it easily feeds 6-8 people. It could also be vegan – simply make the mash with vegan margarine or substitute milk of your choice and use vegan cheese substitute or simply leave the cheese out! ๐Ÿ™‚

Vegetarian Lentil Bake (6-8 portions), by cubs’n’coffee

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentils – boiled in 2 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 750 g potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped – for the mash
  • a little milk and ground nutmeg for the mash
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 350 g pumpkin, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed/finely diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp each of rosemary, thyme, marjoram (all dried)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp vegemite
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • black pepper, freshly ground

Method:

  1. In a small pot, add 2 cups of cold water to 1 cup of lentils. Bring to the boil and then let simmer on low until all the water has been absorbed and the lentils are cooked. Set lentils aside.
  2. For the mash, boil the peeled and chopped potatoes in water, drain and use a little milk to make a firm mash, season with nutmeg to taste.
  3. While the lentils and potatoes are cooking, chop and prepare the vegetables.
  4. In a large, heavy pan, heat the olive oil, then sautรฉ the celery, onion and garlic for a couple of minutes until softened.
  5. Add the dried herbs and stir for another few seconds to flavour the oil before adding all the vegetables. Stir thoroughly to coat all the vegetables and keep stirring for another couple of minutes.
  6. Add 2 cups of vegetable stock to the pan. The vegetables will not be covered. Turn down the heat to a simmer and let the vegetables cook through, stirring frequently to ensure they all get to be in the stock.
  7. At this point, the lentils should be cooked and ready to be set aside. Same with the potatoes – at this point I usually finish them off to make the mash.
  8. Once the vegetables are softened (this usually takes 10-15 minutes in the pan, depending on how small you cut the veggies), add the soy sauce and vegemite and stir until the vegemite has dissolved. Then add the tomato puree to thicken the sauce; again, stir until the puree has dissovled.
  9. Add the lentils to the pan and mix with the vegetables.
  10. Transfer the lentil-vegetable mix into a large oven-proof dish, cover with the potato mash and sprinkle over the cheese.
  11. Bake in the pre-heated oven (200C) for 30-40 minutes until the cheese has browned and the bake is heated through thoroughly, if you’re re-heating it at a later date. If you are serving this bake immediately, simply grill the cheese on top under a hot grill and serve.
  12. Best served with a crisp salad and a lovely glass of red wine ๐Ÿ™‚

Onion to the rescue!

There are nights where I wish I could do magic. Real magic. The kind of Harry Potter magic. A wave of a wand or a magic potion and all is well again.

Tonight is one of those nights. Cub 4, who is two, was howling in pain, telling me that his ear ‘hurt, in there’. Poor thing was absolutely miserable with his ear ache.

So I did the next best thing to real magic: I baked an onion. A whole one, skin and all, for about 20 minutes. After letting it cool down, I cut it open and squeezed it to get the onion juice out. Which I then carefully dribbled into his ear. Just a few tiny drops.

Instant relief.

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I had already given him ibuprofen for babies but the whining only stopped after the onion. So… Onion wins! He’s now asleep and hopefully will be better in the morning.

And maybe, just maybe this means there is just a little bit of real magic in the world, if only in form of onions.

You know you should be in bed when…

… your kids are asleep in bed and half an hour later, you realise you’re still watching Jungle Junction on Disney.

I think that is justification enough to declare it vodka’n’coke o’clock on a Wednesday night. Just a small one, for medicinal reasons, you see.

After all, I survived another soft day. The cubs were a bit like caged tigers, fighting and arguing all day over the little things. Crimes like, ‘he looked at me‘ (cub 3 about cub 2) or, ‘stop making that noise‘ (cub 2 to cub 3) and even, ‘don’t fall into my dust pile!‘ (cub 1 to cub 4 when she was sweeping the floor while he twirled to get a dizzy buzz)

Nothing quite surpasses the moment of the monumental crash though, followed by dead silence and then cheeky giggles which quickly faded to ‘oh fiddlesticks mami doesn’t think it’s funny‘ when I walked into the room. I had washed cushions and their covers after the recent illnesses and lice and whatnot and had the clothes horse up with them drying flat on the top. Naturally, cubs 3 and 4 took that as an invitation to climb up it and try to lie down on top. With the result that the whole thing bent crooked, and both fell off and over – thankfully only the clothes horse got injured.

I am knackered though. I went on a run this morning. Only 3km but boy did that wipe me! Suppose that’s what happens when you haven’t really run since beginning of June (a charity ‘mini-marathon’ 10k race) – but I figured I have to get back to it if I want to make it across that Half Marathon finish line in March; and I’d really like to still be running while crossing that line and not crawl across it before collapsing. I’m hoping to do it in under 2 hours 30 minutes. We shall see! I think the main problem is that the training plan is 12 weeks… so no pressure yet to do it. Might just have to find another goal closer to Now to get my arse in gear!

Another thing bugging me is that this month is NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. It’s about the nth year in a row that I had great plans on finally doing it and keeping up. Usually, I manage well enough the first week. After all, just over 1600 words/day is doable. This year however, well it’s day 6 and my word total is a gigantic ZERO. Do I really want to catch up 10,000 words? Want? Yes. But as soon as I even think about sitting down to do it, I’m rather efficiently putting the Pro into procrastination.

Now, before I forget I shall have my little vodka/coke and while I’m at it to get the ice, I might as well take a rat out of the freezer and defrost it overnight for our snake. She is a lovely, gentle corn snake. What does the snake do in our household, you might ask yourself. After all, didn’t I say I live in Ireland? Didn’t that bloke St. Patrick take care of that?

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Well, we found her slithering in the ivy on our shed in the back garden. Take that, St. Patrick. We made the mistake to let the kids name the snake (Snakey! Inventive, huh?) and added the St. Patricia bit on as she’s a girl and it’s so fitting! It is true though that there aren’t any snakes at home in Ireland (only a slow worm!) and she is an escaped (or purposely let loose?) pet. As we couldn’t find the owner, we’ve kept her and she’s now with us for over 2 years! Here she is on the day we found and captured her:

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Snakey St. Patricia. She’s about 4 ft long now and very gentle – all the cubs can handle her (strictly under my supervision that is) and love having her around.

And now, to all a good night!