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 🙂

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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.

Vegan Quinoa Burgers

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!
  8. Please let me know if you liked this 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween is only around the corner!

Halloween is fast approaching. My two eldest cubs are at their school’s Halloween party tonight. One as a witch, the other as a Knight in shining armour. Too cute the two!

You might wonder why their school has the party a week away – it’s because the kids here in Ireland will be on mid-term break and are off school all of next week.

It’s always been a fun thing for me to make all sorts of spooktastic food for Halloween. At last year’s party, we’ve had everything from eye balls to witch fingers, jack’o’lantern ice creams and all sorts in between.

For tonight’s party at the cubs’ school, I simply made some shortcrust biscuits in bat form and some as witch fingers. Normally, I’d use a shaved or a whole almond as a fingernail, but due to nut allergies in the school, no nuts at all were allowed (yes, yes, almonds aren’t really nuts, I know, I know! But they’re on the banned list!) So this time, they are tiny pieces of red onion… should give the kids a nice facial expression when they bite into those hahaha!

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To form the fingers, your shortcrust pastry needs to be very cold from the fridge, handled the shortest possible time and best shoved back in the fridge before baking. They easily flow apart otherwise while baking and turn into flat biscuits instead!

Of course, those bats just beg to be decorated with icing, but I hadn’t the time today so they went to the party all nekkid like that 😉

I’ll be putting up more ideas that I’ve used in the past soon; to give you a taster of what’s to come, here’s a pic of our Halloween party food last year:

176663_10151130534126918_1121963627_o So there we have witch fingers in the basket, a tiramisu with creepy crawlies on top, red velvet eyeballs (seriously, they looked so cool on the inside!), broken off fingers on a tray with cheese bugs, toadstools and earthworms on mud… Can’t find the picture of the rotting, amputated foot we’ve had lol

Oh, and in case it’s not obvious, the dish in the middle of the right row… it’s a ‘cat litter tray’ with chocolate poop in crunchy hazelnut litter!

Hungry yet? 😀

Recipes to follow for a great buffet, including a roast pumpkin risotto and the jack’o’lantern ice-creams.

There’s something else I read online today: something called a Switch Witch! Sadly, I cannot remember where I found that link, but it was an interesting idea to take part of the sweet bounty from the trick or treating and leave it as an ‘offering’ near the door. During the night the Switch Witch comes and switches the sweets with a little present. How wonderful to cut down on the awful sweet things the kids get!!

Mind you, ours usually end up giving away half their sweets anyway because: 1) I don’t allow them to keep any sweets that aren’t factory wrapped (so no mix bags of sweets already handled by people!) and 2) a LOT of the sweets they get contain gelatin, which reduces the amount by at least a third each year.

 

Still though, the idea of a present instead of the sweets… can’t help but love the idea! (It was on a blog, so if it was you, please comment and link to it!!!)

 

Tomorrow morning at the toddler play group we’ll have our Halloween party for the little ones. Which means that now I’m off to carve little faces into clementines. A healthy, fun treat for the tiny ones! Try it out, it looks really cool…

 

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… and the smell is delish, too!

 

 

 

Three Days of Madness: Act I

It truly has been a helluva few days!!!

All day Saturday was simply mad. I dared take three of the four cubs into one of the busiest shopping centres around, right smack bang in the middle of the day. Let’s just say, it wasn’t the best of ideas!? Apart from the fact that it was insanely crowded, hard to get through the shops with a double buggy and I’m not a shopper at the best of times… sentences such as, ‘Cub 2, stop rolling around and get off that shop floor NOW‘; or, ‘Cub 2, I swear if you hide in the middle of the clothes racks one more time I will leave you there‘; and indeed, ‘Cub 4, stop eating the clothes off the hangers!‘, were heard all day. Much to the amusement of other shoppers. I failed to see what was so funny about it. I hadn’t had nearly enough coffee for that trip.

But, much to my – and the cubs’ – amazement, we all survived that trip and the cubs have some much needed new clothes to show for it.

However, the trip took a lot longer than anticipated, so by the time we were home and all the cubs in bed, I was so wiped, I couldn’t do another trial run of the vegan, gluten free apple pie I was going to bake for Sunday’s apple pie contest.

Fast forward to Sunday morning:

The current husband took the four cubs out to the seafront where the school had a sponsored walk for all the kids to raise funds for new maths equipment. Mind, during the night I was convinced it wasn’t going to happen, as we’ve had a thunderstorm with downpours of epic proportions. Alas, the weather had changed and even the sun was out! Happy days! They were out in the fresh air and I had peace and quiet to bake my contest entries!

But of course, nothing’s ever straight forward when it comes to me. Be boring anyway, right? Right!?

Problem number 1: my last attempt at the gluten free, vegan pastry hadn’t really worked as it lost its form, and had a funny aftertaste when eaten by itself.

Problem number 2: I couldn’t decide which dish to bake. After all, I have a tried and tested Cinnamon Apple Recipe. Well, when I say I have one – I mean, I bought it. It’s the cookbook that has it, really. Brilliant book though ‘La Dolce Vegan!’ by Sarah Kramer. Look it up guys, it’s absolutely full to the brim with fabulous recipes and then some!

How did resolve the problems? Well…

In order to have some sort of chance, I decided to forego the experimental pastry and simply make the pastry that was on the recipe, which was neither vegan, nor gluten free: it was simply vegetarian. I could live with that though, time was of the essence after all: It was 11am and the entries had to be at the venue before 2pm. Really not the time for more experiments.

Result Number 1:

Sarah’s fabulous Vegan Cinnamon Apple Muffins

(I’m not sure on the copyright of the recipe – can you tell I’m new to this? – so I will possibly share this recipe at a later stage when I found out!)

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I knew I had all the ingredients at hand. I had baked them several times before, and also knew they were quick and fool-proof.

Until I needed the egg replacer. My go-to egg replacer is ground flaxseed and water. I always have ground flaxseed in the house. Except Sunday. I still don’t know what happened to it, because I don’t remember finishing it!!!! No matter, there are other ways to replace an egg. I had bananas, but I didn’t want to put an overpowering banana taste into an apple-centered contest! Apple sauce then. Again, the cupboard came up emtpy!

Man, that clock ticked loudly in my ears!!!

Not one to give up easily, I quickly peeled and de-seeded one of the cooking apples and, with a touch of vanilla and water, made my own apple sauce which turned out delicious if I do say so myself!

The oven door wasn’t quite shut on the muffins when I immediately jumped to the apple pies. You see, it was an apple pie contest, but I couldn’t bring myself to just make a traditional apple pie. I wanted to stand out of the crowd and have people go, ‘Oh wow, look at that!

And what did I do? I did what every person would do these days: I asked Google to give me ideas. And boy did I find one, right here: Apple Pie (in the apple) <- and hers look truly stunning, pity I don’t have such pretty flower cutters!

Which brings us to result 2:

Apple Pie (in the apple)

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I used the recipe given on her blog for her ‘sweet pie dough’ exactly as described (well, besides the fact that I had no baking powder left! Honestly, no idea what is going on with me! So I substituted it with 1/2 and 1/2 of Cream of Tartar and Bicarbonate of Soda!):

Ingredients for the pie crust:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1tbsp sugar
100g butter, cold
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

Put all ingredients in the jar of a food processor and mix only until it forms a ball. If necessary, add a few drops of cold water. Don’t over mix. If you want do do it manually, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and rub the mixture with your hands until you have a crumbled texture. Add the egg and  mix until it comes together into a ball. If necessary, add a few drops of water. Do not over mix.
(This recipe does indeed make enough for 8 lids on small apples, or 5 lids on large apples. I kept the remaining pastry refrigerated, wrapped in cling film, to do mini quiches for school lunches!)

The apples themselves, however I changed a bit to suit my own tastes. Here’s what it looked like in my kitchen:

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INGREDIENTS for filling: 

insides of two Cooking Apples

 1 tablespoon raisins

 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

 1/2ish teaspoon carob syrup (or treacle!)

I cut a thin lid off two big cooking apples and used a spoon to take the flesh and core out, careful not to get break the sides. I then discarded the core, chopped the apple flesh into small chunks and mixed those with a tablespoon of raisins. I then added a teaspoon each of cinnamon and vanilla sugar and just enough carob syrup to coat the lot before spooning it back into the apples.

Pastry lid on top and off into the oven! I baked the apples at 170C (fan assisted oven) for 25-ish minutes. The recipe says 40 minutes but by that time, my apples would’ve fallen apart. I needed them to keep their shape and for my apples, that time was just right, the pastry was just right and all looked well.

In other words, keep an eye on your apples! If the pastry looks done, poke your apples carefully to see if they’re soft to avoid overcooking them.

And here they are, my creations, at their destination: The Happy Pear!

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The creations being judged… the crowds had gathered! And take note of the most rare phenomenon: sunshine 🙂 Who’d have thunk it after the Monsoon the night before!

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To wrap it all up – I didn’t win. Quite happy with the judges’ comments though, they were all-round happy with the baked apples and one told me afterwards that he’s not quite sure why I hadn’t won. Heh. They were all fantastic though, I didn’t envy them their job to chose winners at all.

Best part of it? Besides the fun to enter and having a good time there, we were let loose on the creations after judging and got to taste them all. It was the most delicious Sunday in a long time. I’ll be back next year – and hopefully with a perfect vegan, gluten free pastry!

Of Shards, Trials, Errors, and Porn

Apt, don’t ya think? Another day for the ducks out there… but then, the Irish must’ve lied an awful lot when they were 17. Heh.

Not a bad day at all otherwise today – at least so it seemed. Until, every time I turned around, the little monsters I’m raising got into another thing they weren’t allowed. Like the time I was bursting for the loo and dared to go:

Tiniest man decided he wanted milk. He opened the fridge and brought a glass he had liberated from the clean dishwasher. At least that’s what I’m thinking as no other glasses were within his reach. No matter though, as I only found him when he stood in the middle of the glass shards, shouting, “Oh no! Mami! Glass broken!” 

Shouldn’t have gone to the toilet. *Note to self: Invest in some adult nappies…*

Or the time I went upstairs to get the tiny man out of the bathroom, where he happily played with the running water at the sink – thankfully not overflowing it this time! Came back down within 2 minutes. Did you know that 2 minutes are enough for a 3 and a 5 year old to completely and utterly cover the living room floor with toys? Apparently, she wanted his rocket ship. He didn’t want to give it to her and somehow that meant that all other toys were used as missiles.

Have I mentioned that i had banned all toys to their rooms? Mustn’t have paid enough attention at school during Physics. Only after having children have I realised that living rooms are indeed magnetic. At least where it comes to toys. Those toys might not stick to the fridge, but by golly do they stick to the living room!

And to the bottom of my feet… well, they didn’t stick to them, per se. More into them. Lego, how I loath thee!

At some point during the day between two school runs, I did have a lovely half an hour at a friend’s house, who supplied me with some wonderful chickpea flour – and a delicious coffee before I headed off into the day again.

That chickpea flour was going to be one of the ingredients in my trial for Sunday. You see, I decided to give an Apple Pie contest a go. It’s this Sunday. But, I want to make it gluten free and vegan. Better try it out – and good thing I did!

The pastry I made – didn’t really work the way it was supposed to. Darn tasty nonetheless – besides the funky aftertaste when eaten by itself. Ahem.

Here’s a sneak peek… full details of the final dish, and the recipe, will be revealed on Sunday night 😉 Hopefully, it won’t look like some sort of Halloween Ghost in food form then!

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I have to say, when it came out of the oven, it smelled divine! It didn’t look the part, but hey, I was willing to follow my nose and ignore my eyes. I carefully poked it with a fork, before it even cooled a little bit, and took a bite. Two words:

FOOD PORN

It was delicious!!!! So delicious, I immediately called the cubs to try and rejoice in my creation. First cub up was the 5 year old boy cub. Who immediately pulled a face and wildly gestured for a tissue to spit out the offending food. He then proceeded to claw at his tongue and asked for a drink to get rid of the taste.

Next cub up was his little sister. Same reaction.

Tiniest cub made it a hat trick.

Everyone’s a critic!!

Then, the 9 year old girl cub to the rescue – she took one bite and immediately declared it DELICIOUS and wanted more. So I shared the rest with her.

Is it wrong to have favourites…? *innocent whistling*

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

There’s nothing more wholesome and hugging in the autumn or winter than a nice hot bowl of soup.

And what’s more, with Halloween only just around the corner, there are pumpkins galore to be found in the shops. I like making this soup with a butternut squash, but there’s absolutely no problem to make this with any other pumpkin. So why not use the pumpkin flesh you take out of your Jack-o-Lantern you carve for Halloween?

This soup doesn’t call for many ingredients at all.

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When it is finished, it will be pureed, which means there’s no need to cut everything meticulously into tiny pieces. Saving you time and effort!

You see the big bowl – it’s full of chunky butternut and sweet potato pieces. And see what snuck in on the bottom left? A piece of fresh ginger. It’s actually a lovely addition at this time of year as it gives an extra little warming sensation to the soup. It’s like the extra squish of a lovely hug, in a bowl.

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And there’s my favourite herb trio: Thyme, Rosemary & Majoram. Those three amigos really work well together and make this soup just this little bit more delicious! As a side note: did you know Thyme is incredibly rich in Vitamin K and Iron?

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It only takes 15-20 minutes simmering on low heat to be ready for blitzing with a handheld wand!

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And there it is!!! All its goodness in a bowl. The recipe makes enough for 6 very generous helpings. I usually serve this with soda bread or brown bread (GF bread if you prefer that!) with either an olive spread or hummus.

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Prep time: 10 Minutes
Cooking time: 15 Minutes
Serves: 6

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 sweetpotato, peeled and chopped into chunky pieces
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into chunky pieces
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly diced
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly diced
  • 1 tsp each of dried thyme, rosemary & majoram
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled

METHOD:

  1. In a large pot, heat up the olive oil. Then add both the onion and celery. Fry them in the oil until they get a slight bit soft.
  2. Add the herbs and stir for a few seconds. You’ll get a lovely smell!
  3. Add the chunky vegetables and stir to coat everything in the oil. Then add the lentils and enough cold water to just cover the vegetables.
  4. Bring to the boil, add a few dashes of salt (and the chunk of ginger if using), turn the heat right down to low and put a lid on.
  5. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the red lentils cooked.
  6. Take the soup off the heat and use the handheld blender to puree it. Fill into soup bowls, add freshly cracked pepper to taste and ENJOY!