chicken & vegetable minestrone…..

I love this recipe, it’s perfect for using left-over roast chicken and is a real winter warmer. I made a big pot of it recently for a family lunch and it went down a treat. I used fresh chicken stock which does make a big difference to the taste but with today’s busy life-styles that’s not an option for most so I often use Kallo organic stock cubes and they do the job nicely. You can use  any vegetables you want and I often mix it up by using a soup pasta instead of the potato so basically do whatever you want:)

what you need:

olive oil

1 courgette chopped

2 carrots chopped

2 celery sticks chopped

3 potatoes diced

2 cups frozen peas

2 sprigs of thyme

flat leaf parsley

1tr chicken stock

left-over roast chicken

sea salt and black pepper

what to do:

heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a pot

add your onions, celery and carrots and cook over a low heat for about 10-15 mins until soft but not coloured

add your courgettes and thyme and cook for 10  mins

add your stock, potatoes and peas, season and cook for 30-40 mins until the veg is soft

add your chicken and flat leaf parsley and heat through

serve and enjoy the praise:)

ciao

Lxx

Advertisements

baby courgettes with pink garlic, thyme & parmesan….

So my little rant last week caused quite a stir, I never in a million years expected the reaction that it received. It went crazy over on twitter and I got such a positive reaction over there and on here. I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who took time to comment on the blog, twitter and Facebook, it obviously hit a chord and it’s great to know that others feel and think the same. There is so much shouting from political circles, unions and special interest groups that the ordinary person on the street never gets heard and we are the ones getting on with it. The internet has become the voice of the people I suppose as no one at the top cares to listen to what we have to say, we are just told what we are supposed to do and get on with it, I really hope things start to change going into 2011 as there are lots of us out there who want it to and see the need for it to happen. I have a lot more ranting inside but I’ll keep it under wraps for today and give you a lovely little recipe instead…..

This is very simple but one of my favourite ways to eat courgettes, I pick up baby courgettes in Superquinn all the time even though they are not in season anymore and they aren’t Irish, even though I think courgettes need sun and the Irish courgettes tend to be a bit bland anyway so I always try to get Spanish or Italian courgettes. I find it very difficult to eat veg in season here as I’m not a carrot, parsnip or turnip lover, I don’t really do root vegetables, I prefer baby broccoli, courgettes, spinach, garden peas, asparagus and aubergines. I don’t really like Irish floury potatoes either, I much prefer a waxy potato, it’s just personal taste but I think I may live in the wrong country:)

what you need:

courgettes – baby cut in half or regular sliced

pink garlic

1 sprig of thyme

olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

grated parmesan cheese

what to do:

pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees

place your chopped courgettes in an oven dish

sprinkle some chopped garlic and thyme on top

season with salt and pepper and drizzle some olive oil over your courgettes

cook for 15-20 mins

sprinkle your grated parmesan cheese over the top for the last 5 mins

serve with a smile….

ciao

Lxx

a rant & a recipe…..

Times are very strange here in Ireland at the moment as you all well know! To be honest I knew it was going to come to this sooner or later, since the recession began all I heard in the shop was ” ah sure it will come back again”, this seems to sum up everything about where we are at the moment “ah sure”, it’s this attitude that has got us here. I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks over the last couple of years because I have been quite vocal in the shop disagreeing with the “ah sure” attitude. It was never going to come back again, things just don’t happen unless you make them….

If I took this attitude when business started to go down when the recession hit and sat waiting for it to come back again we would probably be closed down by now. I decided not to wait and have fought tooth and nail for the last 2 years to improve my business and survive this recession and no it’s not a blip, it is going to take a long time to come out of this. I cut costs, I improved staff performance, I improved customer service, I improved quality, we sold our car because the bank wouldn’t give us money and put the money back into the business by renovating it, I found new ways to advertise and promote the business without spending a penny through social media, I reduced our prices a lot, I gave great deals (€10 for a pasta & glass of wine). I took responsibility for MY business and it has paid off, we have been busier in the recession than we were during the boom times, I run a small business but it is no different to any other business including running a country, the same principles apply! We were very cautious through the boom times and never expanded, we did try once but pulled out in the end which was the best decision we made but I always got the impression from auctioneer’s etc that we were foolish and wasting their time by not entering into long leases with massive key money and rents, I always felt they looked on us as young and naive and hadn’t a clue what we were doing. Well if we were young and naive at the time I’m glad, I like to think we were clever…

Nothing is going to change here until the attitude does, nothing has changed for the small business, everything I have done I have done myself with no help or incentives, by making these changes we employ more full-time people now, it was a very hard slog to get here and I more or less missed out on a couple of years of Mini Italian Foodies life as we had to work so much, there were weeks where Mr Italian Foodie worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day and didn’t see Mini Italian Foodie for days but I’m not complaining as this is what had to be done! Now I WANT to develop my business but I can’t, everything is still too expensive and the same red tape is still there, nothing has changed! All I hear is “the small businesses is what will bring us into the future, well if I can’t expand my business which is established with a very good brand and customer base, what hope is there for a new business? Now I could open a 2nd shop in the city centre but I refuse to work 80 hours a week to pay high rents, rates and everything that goes with it and probably take no wages for the first year or two and then a bare wage after that. Something has to give even though I don’t hold out much hope! Everybody says they are sick of the doom and gloom but unfortunately it’s the “REALITY” at the moment and I for one find it very frustrating that it’s not changing….

I have to say the food industry isn’t much better, there seems to be no fresh thinking there either! We are open 7 years and have never been reviewed in any newspaper, we are never mentioned in any food article or magazine article, we weren’t even listed in this years Food & Wine Eat Out magazine even though we won Best Casual Dining in Ireland in the Restaurant Awards and have a massive customer base and loyalty! The one group that have always included us are The Bridgestone Guides, they seem to be the only ones getting out there and seeing what is going on out in the field!  Nobody else seems to go out and find the “new faces”, it is always the same ole, same ole! I’m sure there are lots of young ambitious food businesses around the country that never get mentioned or acknowledged, if you are outside of Dublin forget it, the rest of us don’t exist. Thats why I love watching the English food channels and reading the English food magazines, they find the new food bloggers, the best local restaurants, the upcoming chefs, the best farmer, the best cupcake etc etc. I recently picked up a beautifully packaged Glenilen Farm butter in Superquinn recently, it caught my eye straight away and presumed it was English because it was packaged and marketed so well like a lot of food products in the UK, they do local food so well. I couldn’t believe when I saw it was from Cork, now I am fairly well up on what goes on in the food industry as I read a lot and try to keep up to date as well as I can and I had never heard of this husband and wife team from Cork, I read through their website and they are now supplying Sainsbury’s and Waitrose in the UK, wow, what a success story but I hadn’t read a thing about them anywhere and why not?

I obviously travel to Italy a lot and can’t help but compare the two countries but I also visit my sister a lot in Canterbury which would be a better comparison to here especially in relation to the food industry! We spent a week there in July travelling around the area sampling the local food delights and what struck me was the amount of farm shops at every corner. It’s all about the local food and the local community, we visited one farm shop in the middle of nowhere and it was the coolest little place ever, we sat out the back in a make-shift garden on the farm which had been cornered off and had home-made milkshakes with local ice-cream and home-made doorstep sandwiches, so simple but so damn delicious, the owner served us, everybody had a smile on their face, they had recently opened a deli with all the produce from the area supporting the local farmers, it was fabulous! Do you think that could happen here? not a hope with all of our planning laws, health and safety laws, laws for paying for tables and chairs outside for the 3 sunny days we get a year. My sister is in the process of opening her own wedding shop in Canterbury, a very affluent and wealthy place, she’s taking a premises the same size as mine for a lot less rent than me PLUS and this is where the big difference is her rates for the first year should be 2k+ but because it’s her first year in business she pays just £57 and the second year she pays 50% and so on, now that is forward thinking. This is actually the difference of her opening the business or not, she’s got a 3 year contract with a breakout clause after 1 year. This type of thinking is evident everywhere in the area, you drive out to the local seaside town and it’s buzzing, it’s full of independent small niche businesses, a cupcake shop, a little wine shop, the smallest ice-cream shop you’ve ever seen, a tiny Oyster cafe(which I had read about in Olive magazzine) small places like these wouldn’t last a week here becausse you need such a high turnover just to survive and pay the bills. Limerick city centre is dying, actually it’s dead, something innovative like this to encourage people to open little small businesses in their craft where they can make a decent wage and employ 1 or 2 people is where the future is plus it would bring some culture to the city and a better sense of community. I can dream I suppose…..

I contacted the Enterprise Board recently looking for help for my new business idea as I haven’t a clue where to start, I might aswell have rang my local Fire Station for the amount of help I got. I also sent an email recently about entering the Local Enterprise Awards and never even heard back from them, not a word! I’ve approached Bordbia now and sent my first email the other day and got a very postive response and I’ve been promised somebody will come back to me, I hope this time I will be surprised but I’m not holding out much hope. We will see….. There is a lot of positive things happening out there though and food business owners along with the likes of the Bridgestone Guides, Bordbia etc etc are becoming  more creative , the Kilkenny Food Camp was a great success and shows great creativity, this is the kind of thinking that we need! It’s not just a case of “if we build it they will come”, no they won’t…..

There’s a lot of begrudery and bitterness in Ireland and some don’t like to see others do well, this starts at the top,  there is no support from the government to help and encourage businesses and want to be entrepreneurs, all they do is punish you with new rules and regulations and make it harder and harder to do business, if we are to get out of this mess this needs to change, small businesses need to be supported, encouraged, helped, nurtured, acknowledged, incentivized! The amount of negativity I have come up against down through the years as I am quite ambitious makes me wonder why I ever stayed here and I probably wouldn’t have only for I met Mr Italian Foodie(damn him:)) I do struggle with the mentality that exists here and somedays I can’t stand living here but I just get on with it and try harder…

 To be honest I don’t hold much hope for Ireland for the future as there seems to be no one in Government with the “cop on” to change this attitude and catch the country by the horns and change it, we need a radical change, they go on “Oh Ireland this, Oh Ireland that, the Irish people are this, BLA BLA BLA BLA!!! I’m sick of listening to it and the thing that makes me most angry is that even with a general election there is no alternative that gives me any hope and I will be sitting here this time next year saying the same things. On a positive it has made me think outside the box and I am now looking into another avenue of developing the business which doesn’t involve opening more shops, I won’t be beaten by this crazy “ah sure” attitude and will continue to try to grow even in these crazy times…..

Anyway rant over, time for a recipe seen as this is a food blog:) Another low carb recipe today, very simple and delicious, does require a bit of washing up though for such a simple dish but worth it…

what you need:

  • 4 large mushrooms
  • 400g spinach
  • 2 shallots
  • 20g butter
  • 150g gorgonzola cheese
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • olive oil

 

what to do:

pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees

season your mushrooms and drizzle with a little olive oil and cook for 15 mins

heat a tbsp olive oil in your pan and cook your shallots until soft but not coloured, add your butter towards the end

cook your washed spinach in a hot dry pan, when cooked squeeze out excess moisture

add your spinach to your buttered shallots and season

heat a dry pan and cook your pinenuts until coloured

fill your mushrooms with your buttered spinach, toasted pinenuts and top with your gorgonzola cheese

cook for about 10 mins until your cheese has melted and serve…

ciao xx

chocolate roulade with chocolate amaretto cream….

We made this cake a couple of weeks back and it was amazingly good, it’s a lovely cake to make coming up to christmas and you could decorate with little Christmas goodies. I found the recipe in Olive magazine and we followed it to the letter so there is no point in me giving it you here, I’ll just give you the link instead! Yes I am feeling a bit lazy:)

ciao

L xx

mackerel with sage butter….

You may have noticed I’ve got back into my blogging stride, I always did 2 posts a week back in the day but with time pressures and life in general I’ve just accepted that one post is enough and it’s all I have time for. I’ve allocated Sunday afternoons to the blog so I’m happy to say you should see a new post on a weekly basis. Since I started my new way of eating which I discussed in my last post I’ve incorporated a lot more fish into my diet, I always felt guilty about not eating enough fish so at least the diet has helped me overcome that.

I have to come clean and confess I had never eaten mackerel before,  I was a bit of a mackerel snob if I am to be completely honest, I thought of it as a cheap and unappealing fish even though I always loved the colour of the skin. Well, how wrong I was, I have it a couple of times a week now and find it so quick and easy to cook with, I can’t believe how cheap it is too, €1.86 for the 2 pieces in the photo PLUS the big positive about mackerel is it’s not farmed, it actually comes from the sea which is a rare occurence these days:(

I served this with green beans in a shallot dressing, I’ll post the recipe next week….

what you need for 2:

4/5 mackerel fillets

30g butter(I think, I never weigh anything)

6-8 sage leaves

plain flour(if you are low carbing don’t use any, it’s still lovely)

olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

what to do:

heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan

coat your mackerel in seasoned flour

cook with skin side down until the fish has begun to turn white half way from the bottom, takes about 3-5 mins

turn the fish over and cook for only 1-2 mins, remove fish from the pan

add your butter and sage and cook for 1-2 mins until butter has melted

serve your fish with the sage butter on top and a sprinkle of sea salt

buon appetito xx

scrambled eggs with spinach….

 

So I mentioned recently I have become a low-carber……

It was a shock to me too given the name of this blog and the amount of pasta, pizza, bruschetta, focaccia I would consume in any given week! I’ve never really been overweight but I’ve always been one of those people who carried a few extra pounds which if shifted would result in a pretty skinny lady. I’ve always eaten well but suffered from extreme cravings which I knew myself was my body not me if that makes sense, I wasn’t eating emotionally or anything like that, it was like my body needed sugar and it needed it now, it was impossible to fight it but I did my best and kept my weight fairly in line BUT there was always the issue of the “fat around the middle”!!

There is 14 on my mom’s side and all 14 of them have fat around the middle with 10 of them having diabetes so I knew it was in the family so I put it down to genetic as I stuffed another slice of pepperoni in my mouth washed down with a peroni. It wasn’t until one day passing my local health shop I spotted a book in big block writing FAT AROUND THE MIDDLE, I thought what the hell I might aswell have a read of it and see what it says. I never buy any books like this, the only books I buy are cookbooks and that’s the truth but the title caught me and made me think a little. I started the book that evening and stayed up until 3am reading it, nodding away in agreement at all the questions asked and genuinely felt like the book had been written for me personally!

I’m not going to go into all the boring details of the book but basically it’s all about insulin, cortisol etc so I decided the next day that this was the way forward for me and I started on the diet immediately. It’s basically a low carb, low GI diet involving no refined carbs, eating lots of fish and veggies(no potatoes and carrots) fruit(no bananas or grapes), lots of water, no beer only wine and an occasional treat of dark chocolate. The premise is the more refined carbs you eat the more your apple-shaped body craves them so they had to go and they did. Did I struggle?? Nope not a bit, I couldn’t believe it, after a couple of days I felt better than I had in a long time, my bloated belly had disappeared, I had more energy and wasn’t as tired in the afternoon, I felt like a new person.

 I’ve been following it now since Aug and I’ve lost a stone exactly, I have another 7lbs to go and I will be very slim then, I’ll be at my perfect weight for my height, a little lighter even. I’ve allowed myself the occasional pizza slice and focaccia but haven’t had pasta or a slice of toast now in nearly 2 months! I do allow myself a dessert at the weekend and Lindt and Green & Black’s dark chocolate have become my best friends. The diet has spurred me on to investigate other aspects of my life that have been giving me trouble and have helped me identify a couple of medical issues that I never knew I had and diet is very important in managing them so it has helped me in more ways than one! It is now more about my health than weight loss and how I look.

As a result I’m cooking a lot of no carb meals which I have no problem with anyway as I think this type of diet is actually very easy when you love cooking from scratch anyway. Eggs feature quite a bit and I’m always trying to come with new ways so I tried this recipe the other day and it was very tasty, it’s very simple and just makes a change from regular scrambled eggs plus it gets some greens into you…

what you need:

6 eggs

250g spinach

8 basil leaves

1 shallot chopped

20g grated parmesan

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

what to do:

heat a pan, wash and cook the spinach until wilted. Squeeze out as much water as possible and chop

beat the eggs, season and add the parmesan, spinach and basil

heat the olive oil in a pan and cook your shallot for about 5 mins until softened

add your egg mixture, cook over a medium heat stirring constantly

serve with some grated parmesan and basil leaves on top

p.s This blog is not going to become a low carb blog as the rest of the family are eating as much carbs as ever but I will feature recipes from time to time..

chocolate & honeycomb pots….

I rarely make desserts, I just never seem to have the time. Whatever time I do have it’s spent cooking and being mamma, I don’t know how many times I’ve promised mini Italian foodie that we’ll make cupcakes etc but then the day passes us by going to the park, drawing tinkerbell, making lots of sparkly pink things and it’s dinner time before we know it! So while looking through an Olive magazine chocolate supplement recently and after lots of “oohing and aahing” and great plans to make everything in the book we decided on this simple little recipe.

 This recipe is perfect to make with smallies as it includes everything they love – chocolate and crunchies, it won’t be the most mind-blowing, taste bud tantalising dessert you’ll ever have and I doubt it will make it to the kitchen of a Michelin Star restaurant but it’s simple and can be made in minutes with your little one,  and most importantly it involves lots of spoon licking, chocolate covered mouths, half eaten crunchie bars and lots of mammy fun….

what you need:

150g chocolate! I used 100g of Lindt milk chocolate and 50g Green & Black’s dark chocolate.

3 x 40g crunchie bars – 2 for the recipe roughly chopped and 1 for the chocolate covered mouths…

224ml double cream

250ml tub mascarpone

what to do:

 – melt the chocolate, then stir in most of the crunchie pieces

 – gently stir the cream into the mascarpone

 – stir in the chocolate

 – spoon into small glasses or espresso cups

 – top with the remaining crunchie pieces and grated chocolate

ciaoxx

 –