A picture paints a thousand words.

Words like betrayal, disappointment and shame…

Has your child ever asked you loudly in public why that man has such a big belly or why that lady has a beard? Yes? Well then you will understand how I felt when my child brought this home from school the other day.

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Baba Ganoush, Baba Ganoush Can You Do The Fandango?

What a start to the school holidays! Rain, rain and more rain. 

 I love aubergine and my favourite way to prep it is just brush with olive oil and put it under the grill. No salting it, no shallow frying it in batches, and no need to turn on the oven especially to roast it.IMG_6851

I chopped one big aubergine in 3 lengthways pieces and stuck it on. It took about 10 minutes on each side with the grill on a medium heat. At this point I had no idea if I was making some sort of pasta with aubergine and tomato sauce for dinner or what. But it was bucketing rain so I decided to bring the warmth, middle-eastern style. We enjoyed Baba Ganoush with Fennel, Carrot and Apple Coleslaw served with Quinoa. Catchy name eh?

Aubergine cooked, it was time to settle down with my boys while it bucketed rain outside and have a Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back viewing. That’s two hours of PEW-PEW PEW-PEW PEW-PEW, a few very mild double entendres, and a shocking paternity reveal. Y’know; in case you haven’t seen it.

I looked at about three baba ganoush recipes and decided they were all different enough for me to just chance my arm with the basic ingredients. Also, some of them involved draining the aubergine of water for ages and sure I’d no time for that with the movie-watching and creme-egg-eating.

I lashed all the below into the blender and crossed my fingers.

  • Flesh of 1 grilled aubergine
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup of Glenisk Natural Yogurt
  • 1/2 tablespoon tahini (you can leave this out, but I love the taste)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of dried mint (I have fresh mint in the garden most of the year, but I’m reliant on the jars right now)

Baba Ganoush is just the fancy name for a smokey aubergine dip. I lacked the smoke (barbeque or naked flame) but it came out great; nicely smooth and flavoursome. Pomegranate seeds on top would really set it off visually and give a sweet crunch. (That would only happen if I managed to meal plan though.)

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Finished his dinner, then finished the Baba Ganoush.

I cooked us up some quinoa (1 cup uncooked fed four) in Marigold stock and set about making a carrot, fennel and apple coleslaw for the side. This is a super healthy coleslaw – it’s a simplified version of a Winter Veg one that Jamie Oliver does – the dressing uses yogurt rather than any mayonnaise. My mum always made lovely fresh coleslaw when I was growing up, but somehow horrible claggy deli counter versions seem to have become the standard offering.

When I’m in charge it’s not dinner unless there’s a load of toasted seeds or nuts involved so in went the toasted sunflower seeds in with grated apple and carrot and chopped fennel.

The dressing is just these four, all mixed quickly with a fork.

  • A good glug of olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup of Glenisk Natural Yogurt

I gave the boys the apple and veg with some plain yogurt as the dijon is quite hot.

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You too can conjure up Arabian nights on a rainy spring evening in Dublin with a little help from Glenisk! But maybe add some gauzy veils rather than Penney’s pyjamas to really get the effect right.

Glenisk Paneer Tikka. Yum.

See over there on the left (or down the bottom on yer mobile)? Yeah that, the Irish Parenting Blog Awards! I’ve gotten a couple of nominations, and excitement is building in the IPB community. I don’t get out much and now I’ve a glitzy awards ceremony to look forward to. Eep!

One of the awards sponsors is the fabulous Glenisk – who I’m on record as loving already in case you think I’m sucking up. I’m gonna represent on behalf of vegetarians and show how we use their products outside Go-Yo’s in the lunchbox. We use them a lot.  So, me and the boys had a little think about dinner while we indulged in a breakfast smoothie…

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Bitta brekkie

We decided on curry. This particular one is a real treat meal, but still lacks the guilt of a takeaway. I dunno about you but I love curry. I have eight million herbs and spices but sometimes I want some shortcuts. I don’t like using jars so the compromise option for me is to buy a spice mix from Green Saffron (another great Irish company). As usual, the packet recipe is for a meaty curry, so I adapted it to suit us.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 tbsp coconut oillf nat big pot
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 pack of paneer
  • 1 pack Green Saffron Tantalizing Tikka Spice Mix
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 a courgette
  • 75 mls Glenisk low fat yogurtImage courtesy of Green Saffron
  • 75 mls Glenisk creme fraiche
  • 1/2 lemon, juice & zest

To garnish:

  • 1/2 cup of cashew nuts
  • Some coriander
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Jamie Oliver has a paneer recipe. But it comes in a pack too!
  1. Heat 1.5 tbsp coconut oil in a large pan. Sweat the onions, garlic & ginger with the lid on til they’re all nice and soft.
  2. In the meantime, chop the paneer into cubes. Melt the other tablespoon of coconut oil at a medium-high heat in a non-stick pan, and toss in the paneer cubes. It takes about 6 minutes each side to crisp up a bit. A spatter guard will come in handy. You’re frying cheese here people, you’re frying cheese. Mmm, fried cheese…
  3. Back to your oniony mix. Add half the spice mix, and stir for a minute or so. Yes! Good news, I find half of the 25g is enough to feed two adults and two kids, so you can get two full meals out of one packet.
  4. Add your tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes.
  5. While they simmer away, chop up your veggies nice and small. You want them to cook through in the sauce and you don’t necessarily want the kids to notice huge chunks of veg. Get your lemon zest done now too. Quick! The kids’ tv show is nearly over and you set up Netflix not to automatically play the next one in a fit of good parenting.IMG_6822
  6. Move the pan off the heat and blend the tomato sauce. I really recommend a stick blender in your kitchen gadget arsenal.
  7. Put it back on the heat, add your veggies along with the Glenisk yogurt and lemon juice.
  8. Let this simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  9. Add the cooked paneer, Glenisk creme fraiche and lemon zest, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Ta-da! Done.
  10. Toast the cashew nuts on a dry pan for a few minutes. Keep a really close eye, they can burn very easily.

Now, in case you think “ah here, I’m never going to get through all this lark the kids will be all over me looking for their dinner” I like to chop up extra veggies and just leave them on the side as if they’re an ingredient, and then, just watch them disappear. They sneak in and grab them, thinking they’re hilarious. Joke’s on you kiddo, you just ate raw veggies.

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He thinks he robbed these from me.

Serve up your curry on a bed of brown basmati rice with a sprinkling of coriander and the crushed up toasted cashews scattered on top for a protein boost.

I made an extra serving of yogurt with some dried mint and more lemon zest mixed in. My kids are generally ok with a mild curry, but I often add yogurt to their dinner just to cool the temperature when they can’t wait to get stuck in.

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Dinnertime!
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Hungry after a good run about outside.

During dinner prep we even managed to make a bit of dessert. Lime (veggie) jelly with raspberries and blueberries. I stuck it in the freezer so it would be ready after dinner. The colour of the fruit ran so it wasn’t as pretty after. Never fear, it was eaten, but we had run out of yogurt to serve with it.

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Pack shot images courtesy of Glenisk & Green Saffron

The Wind Is Howling. Eat Up.

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Horizontal sleet means two things in my book. Light the fire and have comfort food. Lilly Higgins has a great ‘Give Me Five’ series in the Irish Times – recipes with just five ingredients – and because I love her attitude to food I always look it up.

It’s usually not veggie but last weeks was, and coincidentally, I had put it on the meal planner for today.  I mean, I’d only filled in Monday and Wednesday so that’s not really much of a plan, but look, it’s a start.

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The Happy Pear Cookbook: Us Four Give It A Go.

I’m a big fan of The Happy Pear, the grocers and cafe run by a pair of handsome man-twins seen being optimistic and cheery and wearing unseasonal shorts all over the media late last year. That was shortly before my birthday and the reason they were so ubiquitous was that they released a book, so I sat on my hands to avoid purchasing it and waited. With not a hint dropped my BFF turned up with the goods and I don’t quite recall but I probably snatched it from her in a my preciousssss style.

The book hasn’t let me down. Though their food is my style – vegetarian, hearty, unpretentious – I will preface this by saying I’m not entirely on board with all their methods. I’ve pretty much halved or cut out the salt in the recipes I’ve made from it, and have been more liberal with my oil use: olive, rapeseed, sesame and coconut are my fats of choice. The guys are not fans of oil use at all as they explain in the book. However I heartily agree with the main thrust of their philosophy, which is:

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Silly Fancy Bottom Pizza.

Twelve full seconds of silence. Watch them.  See the contented chewing and nodding and not hitting each other.  This could be your house too.  Read on! Continue reading

Goulash. Yes, really.

Well I can tell you now for nothing, that goulash with boiled potatoes is the single most traditional dinner I have ever cooked. I’m not sure that I’ve ever cooked a stew of any kind in fact, even a beany one.  Well, I’ve gone and done it now.

Goulash-Dominic
Lego threat, incoming!

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Where we’re at. Superfoods and Bambi.

Did you think I’d forgotten about you?  I hadn’t at all, but it’s fierce hard mammying two young fellas, working full time outside the home and writing for deadly new Irish parenting website parent.ie (See my cute tree over there on the left)  I’m very proud of it, and my association with it, but with all that going on I’ve been neglecting my own little space over here.

My boys are flying. Doing too well almost, if we stay in the house for the day the endless requests for snacks just grinds me down.  These snacks can be bananas and mandarins now, it’s not necessarily rubbish though “noooo, something from the red box” is the most common refrain. Obviously this old biscuit tin is where   I kept my biccies and chocolate undisturbed by small sticky hands til they wised up to me.  For years I got away with having the balance of power food wise in the house.  Now the eldest is very forthright about what he does and doesn’t want, and true to the nature of second siblings, his younger brother is showing single mindedness in every regard at a younger age.  We have a rule with the elder, you can’t say you don’t like it if you don’t try it, inspired by these crazy Yo Gabba Gabba guys (it’s on Netflix, Season 1 Ep 1 – Eat!)

And though I don’t always get my way, we’ve hit a happy medium.  Tonight we were having some ‘smashed’ roast potatoes (broken slightly with a potato masher half way through cooking), roast veggies and then some quorn fillets (fillets of what! The name weirds me out a bit, but if I’m going to eat fake meat I can deal with it I guess).

I stuffed the ‘fillets’ in the manner you would with a chicken breast, so you can do the same with that if you like.

Supercharged cream cheese & pesto stuffed quorn fillets with panko breadcrumb coating

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4 quorn fillets

2 tablespoons fresh pesto

2  tablespoons cream cheese

1 tablespoon flaxseed.  

Mix these 3 up in a bowl.  I used Linwoods Milled Flaxseed Almonds Brazil Nuts Walnuts & Co-Enzyme Q10.  That’s quite a mouthful eh?  I love the crunch of the nuts through the flaxseed. 

Defrost your quorn fillets either in the fridge overnight, or with a little water in a bowl in the microwave for a few minutes – low wattage, 5 minutes.

Cut the fillets in half and spoon the filling in, close the fillet again.

For the coating:

50g of panko breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon flaxseed

Mix these 2 together.  I get the panko breadcrumbs in Tesco, €1 for 150g.

 Brush the stuffed fillets with olive oil, and coat in the crumb mixture.

Bake at 200c for 25 minutes.

Now, here’s the rub.  I had a willing audience for these in the form of the 22 month old and 4 year old.  But dear reader, my veggie ways hold no sway with my husband when he decides he is going all roar, caveman and eating meat. He decided nothing would do him but to cook bloody venison steak on the griddle pan.  Both little beggars pushed their plates towards his and pleaded in their unique ways for a share.  They ate their flax-laced veggie dish, and they ate some medium venison steak.  “Eat Bambi” I hissed resentfully at the toddler, “go on”.  And he did, and then he pushed his plate to me and said “more!”, indicating seconds were required of the first course.  Truly a mix of both their parents, and happy healthy eaters to boot.  I know I can’t complain.

Jumping the kale bandwagon: healthy fried rice with kale & spring onions

Just call me Gwyneth, the high priestess of worthy eating herself.  I bought 2 bags of kale last week, for the first time in my life.  I went to trusty twitter to find out what to do with them, forgetting to mention I don’t have a juicing contraption so green smoothies and juices are pretty much out.  I learned that it can take the place of spinach in most things, so that set me on the right path.   But also, kale crisps.  Crisps is an overstatement, but I ate a 250g bag of kale in 2 days that way.

Then I go to write up this post only to find that this very weeks Irish Times magazine has a write up on the Superfood Du Jour.  The health benefits are outlined as below, pretty impressive I reckon you’ll agree:

A single cup of chopped kale is estimated to contain 134 per cent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C – and 206 per cent of the recommended intake of vitamin A. That’s not quite as impressive as the 684 per cent of vitamin K. So kale delivers vitamins A, C and K, copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorous and lots of alpha-linoleic acid, which is good for the brain. The same cup of kale contains just 33 calories. 

I couldn’t just buy kale for snacking, and there was no selling them as ‘crissups’ to a 4 year old boy so I found this lovely Gwyneth Paltrow recipe on the Red website – Healthy Fried Rice with Kale & Spring Onions

So the original article declares that the Paltrow-Martin children call this green rice, which I think is stating the obvious on their behalf, and they couldn’t really claim any copyright to what is just in essence a statement of fact rather than some sort of creative naming on their part.  In fact I’d say give my 1 year old another couple of months and he’ll come up with that one himself.

Image:  Ellen Silverman/Red Online
Image: Ellen Silverman/Red Online

Scoffing at celebrity children (or rather the media portrayal of) aside, this really is delicious.  It packs a punch as a light meal in itself, but I served with with some quorn pieces baked in pesto and creme fraiche. To be honest I was afraid the rice would be entirely rejected.  It was eyed with suspicion by Dominic who doesn’t like you to tell him he’s having something he knows and likes (rice) and then fill it full of something else (kale). But he ate it happily enough after a fashion.  Teddy attacked it with gusto, and was the recipient of the leftovers for lunch the next day too.

I would say that kale is a little faffy to prepare.  So if you can at all trim the leaf from the stem during nap time/before work/while kids are at school/the night before.  You do not want to be doing it with a small child screaming for their grub.  After you’ve worked through a bag with a  kitchen scissors (way easier than a knife), then it just works like spinach but takes a little longer.

If you’re worried about offering your children something you don’t think they’ll eat, here’s how I approach it.

  • You’re not allowed say you don’t like something if you haven’t tried it.
  • There isn’t alternatives offered.  I may, in this instance, give the tricky customer a serving that has a bit more plain rice, and a bit less kale, to entice them in.  Or in an easier scenario than this, keep the new ingredient a bit separate so it can be just sampled then eaten around.
  • Nobody has to clear their plates.  If you say you’re full or done, then I believe you if you’ve eaten any reasonable amount.  I cannot be doing with a half hour of cajoling.
  • Re: the above, I am a reasonable adult and realise that even if there’s food left on your plate and you say you’re full there’s always room for ‘something nice’.  That’s how I operate, so I get that you do too.

Of course this has worked on the elder child for the most part, but come back to me in a couple of years to check the toddler isn’t living on just orange food.

Meanwhile, kale FTW!

Jill