Courgette muffins

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Soooo, how have you been? (and by you, I mean the two people who will read this!)  I’m sorry I haven’t been around in a while…can we still be friends?  I have a really good excuse, or series of reasons, for why I haven’t blogged in a while.

  • Reason number 1: We moved to our new apartment and had no internet for a very long time.
  • Reason number 2: I got a job!

So here’s an update on our married life.

1. Married life is still splendid and Nathan has yet to sleep on the couch even once! Here’s a picture of us in our new apartment the night of my postgraduate graduation.

2.Youth group is going amazingly well.  We are so privileged and blessed to serve these kids, hang out with them and share the foundations of our belief and faith in Jesus with them.  Above is a poster they made.  I think my favourite is the God is…’alright’ statement that someone wrote and then changed their mind about!

3. Thank God I finally have a job!  I am working in a secondary school in Galway city as a learning support, Spanish and SPHE teacher and I am really enjoying it!  It’s only temporary but so far it’s been great!  One of my students even made me a little basket of sweets

4. Finally, I have become obsessed with making food healthier.  I’m adding yogurt and vegetables instead of butter and oil, molasses instead of sugar and wholewheat flour instead of regular flour!  That doesn’t mean that I don’t still regularly enjoy things like this, but I can also enjoy treats that only have 110 calories and still copious amounts of sugar to keep me buzzing like these courgette muffins!

Courgette muffins (make about 30 small muffins)

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups wholemeal flour
  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Wet ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup low fat or fat free yogurt
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp molasses (optional)

Other ingredients:

  • 2 cups grated courgettes
  • 1/2 cup sultanas
  • 3/4 cup dessicated coconut

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. In a large bowl mix all of the dry ingredients together and in a medium bowl mix the wet ingredients and sugars.
  3. With as little stirring as possible (the more stirring, the tougher the muffins get), mix together the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until just incorporated.
  4. Add the courgette, sultanas and coconut to the mixture and stir to incorporate.
  5. Spoon into cupcake cases or whatever you have and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
  6. Leave to cool in the tray for 5-10 mins.  Remove from tray and leave to cool for an additional 10-15 mins.
  7. Enjoy knowing that you won’t have to spend an hour at the gym working the mouthfuls of joy off!

Enjoy!

Jenna x

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Sweet and spicy!

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Sweet and spicy tastes, how you make life so much better.  Sweet things like chocolate, sugar and fruit all delight my taste buds (and give me a sugar high!), while spicy food is exciting, exhilarating and it has tonnes of health benefits, from lower blood pressure to increased serotonin to keep you in a better mood.

Add these together and I’m just a really happy person all the time!  Is it any wonder I love chilli chocolate so much!

So, here is my attempt at a sweet/spicy fusion – sweetcorn soup.  This is a sweet, creamy soup with a bit of a Mexican kick to it.  It is at it’s best sprinkled with some cheese and tortilla chips.

SPICY SWEETCORN SOUP

  • Splash of olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried coriander leaf
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1 tin sweetcorn (326g can)
  • 1/2 chicken stock cube (or vegetable stock cube if you’re vegetarian)
  • 2 cups boiled water
  • 1/2 cup milk/ cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat about a tsp of oil in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Chop the onion and add it to the pan.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes or until the onion begins to brown and becomes translucent.
  3. Add the herbs and spices and fry for an additional 30 seconds, stirring continuously so that they do not burn.
  4. Take the pan off the heat.  Add the 1/2 stock cube to the 2 cups of just boiled water and add to the saucepan with the onion mix.
  5. Place the saucepan back on the heat and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the sweetcorn (drain first) and milk and bring back to the boil.
  7. Blend using a handblender or in batches in a blender.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. If you prefer a thinner soup add more water or milk.

Variations:

  • Add more chilli powder or maybe some chopped fresh chillies if you can handle the spice
  • Top with smashed up tortilla chips and cheese
  • Top with some chopped fresh coriander

Enjoy!

Jenna x

Dinner date!

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Last week, my dear friend Emma came over for dinner.  With sunshine making a rare appearance, we decided to eat outside in the garden.  I love dining outside, probably because it reminds me of the time I spent living in Spain.  The sweet Ramiro peppers that we had for dinner also made me reminisce about my time in Espana, as did the Spanish white wine that accompanied them.

Because I had been at summer camp all day, this dinner was simple – Ramiro peppers roasted and stuffed with cous cous smothered in pesto and topped with grated cheese.

Dessert however, was the highlight of the evening.  Delicious decadence, we made our own sundaes, piling icecream, crushed cookies, chopped nuts, raspberries, chocolate cake, homemade fudge, chocolate sauce and chocolate sprinkles in giant glasses.  Needless to say, it didn’t take us long to scoff it all down!

Try them out sometime!

Enjoy!

Jenna x

Sunny afternoon lunch

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At the moment, I’m helping out at a sports camp at our church.  The camp is on in the primary school beside my house which makes it very easy for me to nip home for a speedy lunch.  I’m heading to another camp next week, so I’m trying to use up all of the vegetables that I know Nathan (my husband) won’t use next week.   It’s also really sunny today so I wanted something light but filling enough to keep me going for the afternoon camp.

I settled on these avocado sliders.  The grilled courgettes supply a warm base for the cool guacamole and the contrast between the crunch from the courgettes and melt-in-your-mouth smoothness of the guacamole create a winning combination.  Here’s the recipe.

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AVOCADO SLIDERS

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 courgette
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 tomato
  • 1/4 tsp garlic
  • 2 slices red onion
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  • sprinkle of grated cheese
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • 2 tsps sour cream (optional)

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Method:

  1. Slice the courgette lengthways and grill two slices on a medium high heat for about 2 minutes.  Each side should be fully cooked through but still crunchy.  Alternatively, you can use a griddle pan to get those great lines on your courgette.
  2. Meanwhile, mash the avocado with a fork.  You don’t want the guacamole to be completely smooth.  It’s nice when it’s a bit chunky.
  3. Deseed and finely chop the tomato and add it to the avocado.
  4. Finely chop the red onion and add it also.
  5. Season with a squeeze of lemon juice, the garlic and some salt.
  6. Pile the guacamole on top of the sliced courgette.  Sprinkle the cheese on top and the paprika.
  7. Take a picture to post on your blog…oh wait, that’s just me!

Variations

  • Add some sour cream and salsa on top.
  • Sprinkle some sweetcorn on top.

Enjoy!

Jenna x

Chocolate chip cookie cake

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Sorry about my lack of posting over the last week.  I was at camp.  So, now I am very tired…but it was worth it.  Camp was an amazing week of waterslides, mango chicken (yum!), bonfires, chooooocolaaaate, Oreos, Dorm 9 (woop!), games, photo hunts and most of all encouraging one another, sharing with one another and learning from one another more about God.

After camp our friends James, Sandra and Josh came over to experience Galway and eat even more food!  For our dessert I wanted something quick and easy, but incredibly tasty.  I wanted something packed full of sugar to give me energy after an exhausting camp.  I wanted chocolate chip cookie cake!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake (serves 6 large servings) adapted from thatssoyummy.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1-½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • ½ cups Butter, Unsalted
  • 1 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 whole Large Egg
  • 1-¼ cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or a mixture of dark, milk and white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit or 180 degrees celcius and grease an 8 inch round tin.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, using a freestanding mixer or hand mixer, cream together the butter, light brown sugar and vanilla for about 1 1/2 minutes on a medium speed, until well combined.
  4. Scrape down the sides, add in the egg and beat until combined on a medium speed (about 30 seconds).
  5. Add the dry mixture and mix on a low speed until almost combined.
  6. Add in the chocolate chips and coconut and stir with a spoon until combined.
  7. Place in the prepared dish, making sure the batter is smooth and even, and the dish put in oven.  Cook for 18-22 minutes or until it is lightly golden and starting to crisp around the edge.
  8. Allow to cool before removing from pan.

Variations

  • Serve with a scoop of icecream and some chocolate sauce
  • Why not add some chopped nuts to the mixture

Enjoy!

Jenna

DAY OF FUN!!!

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Kinvara, Co. Galway

Yesterday, Emma, Léan and I went roadtripping!  Both Galway girls, Emma and Léan wanted to revisit some familiar haunts they had seen as children and discover a few new ones.  I wanted to explore the sites of the western coast.  We all wanted to eat cake…

Our first stop was Kinvara.  After a Chai Latte to get us started and a meander to admire the sea view, we headed (rain jackets at the ready) to the Farmer’s Market where we were greeted with an abundance of fresh/ homemade/ homegrown produce from goat’s cheese pesto to live hens, or my personal favourite, pizza bagels!  As if the food wasn’t enough to lift our spirits, a lone tin whistle player delighted us with a few jigs as we drifted from stand to stand.

Olives at the Farmer’s Market

Hens at the Market

Pizza Bagel…yum!

After Kinvara, we embarked further along the Clare coast with no real plan as to where we were going.  With the prospect of homemade fudge tempting us, we eventually decided to stop at the Ailwee caves.  Here, we indulged on vanilla-caramel, honeycomb and malted milk fudge as we wandered around a slightly bizarre forest walk, and stumbled through burren rock to admire the beautiful landscapes.

On our forest walk

View from our mountain walk

When we had eaten our supplies from the Kinvara farmer’s market, we moved on to the Burren Perfumery.  After an interesting drive through ‘the Corkscrew’ and some typically horrendous Irish roads we arrived – our lives and the car still intact thanks to Emma’s crafty driving!  We enjoyed the alluring scent of mingled fragrances over a cup of ‘cleansing tea’ in the adjacent tea room while sitting outside to enjoy the ‘marvellous’ Irish weather.

Burren landscape

Asparagus and salmon quiche

‘Cleansing’ Tea at the Burren Perfumery

Homeward bound, our last stop was at Coole Park, made famous by Yeats, for some cake I had packed as an ‘essential supply’.  After finally finishing the cake, we could go home fully satisfied, our day of discovery completed.

Emma and Léan at Coole Park

Cornflakes are the new Rice Krispies daaaahling!

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This one’s for Joannie!

Peanut butter causes nothing but controversy in Ireland.  People either love it or hate it.  Although it is popular with some Irish, they just have not embraced it like Americans have.  Thankfully, my husband is half American and LOVES peanut butter.  PB and J sandwiches are a staple part of our diet, or even better PB, honey and banana.

Well, I must be spending too much time with Americans because I am constantly looking for new ways to eat PB and these little treats are one of my best PB creations yet.  I was going to make rice krispie squares and decided that the addition of peanut butter would make them just delightful.  Then I realised, cornflakes in all their golden glory, are way tastier than rice krispies! (Plus, I remembered that we had no rice krispies).  <<Drum roll>> And….Chocolate Peanut Butter Cornflake Squares were born!  Okay, that name is too long so let’s just call them peanut butter squares or deliciousness in square form.

PEANUT BUTTER SQUARES

  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup (I actually used maple flavoured golden syrup and it was yum!)
  • 200g (7oz) milk chocolate, cut into chunks or in chocolate chips
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups cornflakes

METHOD

  1. Place a layer of cling film inside an 8″ square pan.
  2. Over a low heat, melt the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and golden syrup in a medium saucepan.  Stir continually so as not to burn the mixture.  When all the mixture has melted and it is starting to bubble slightly, remove from heat.
  3. Stir in the chocolate until it has all melted.
  4. Add 3 cups of cornflakes and stir to combine.  If you feel it needs more cornflakes add the remaining half cup.
  5. Spoon into the pan and smooth with the back of a spoon.
  6. When cooled, place in the fridge to set for 2-3 hours.
  7. Remove from fridge a half an hour before cutting.

Variations

  • Cover with a chocolate ganache (mix 200g (7oz) dark or milk chocolate with 2 tbsp butter and melt over a low heat.  When melted stir in 1 tbsp milk.  If you’re afraid you’re going to burn the chocolate, melt it over a bain marie.  A bain marie is when you melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan with simmering water.  Make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.)
  • If you prefer dark chocolate, replace the milk chocolate with dark.
  • Replace the golden syrup with maple syrup for an extra special taste.

Enjoy!

Jenna x

Spinach and cheese bites!

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Spinach and cheese together make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  A feeling of contentment washes over me when I indulge in lots of cheese, knowing that I am also getting all the nutritional value of spinach.  It cancels out the cheese, right?

Anyway, I made these bites for church last Sunday and they were the perfect combination of buttery, cheesy green goodness.  Oh, and they’re good hot or cold.

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Spinach and cheese bites (adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

  • 130g fresh spinach (double if frozen)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 onion, chopped finely
  • 100g grated cheddar

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F or 190 C and grease an 8″ inch square oven dish.
  2. Wash and chop the spinach, place in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about two minutes or until spinach is limp.
  3. When the spinach is cooked, strain all of the water.  If the spinach is still very wet, you may need to pat it dry with some kitchen paper.
  4. In a bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder.
  5. Stir in the egg, milk and melted butter (make sure the butter has cooled and will not make the eggs cook).
  6. Mix in the spinach, onion and cheese.
  7. Place the mixture in the greased dish and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean (be aware that cheese may stick to the toothpick even when the dish is cooked).

Variations:

  • Add 1/2 tsp chilli flakes to the bites for a spicy treat.
  • Why not add a few deseeded chopped tomatoes?!

Happy Tuesday!

Jenna x

How I gained 4 pounds in 4 days!!!

I love Galway summers.  In my book blog, Galway is always an amazing place.  Sure, you have to brave torrential downpours or gloomy drizzle the majority of the time, but its vibrant energy, diversity and heritage constantly lures crowds to the ‘city of the tribes’. Image

During the summer, Galway is inundated with festivals and events.  These kicked off last week with the Volvo Ocean Race.  As the ships came in, they brought with them reams of tourists (both Irish and international), street performers, funfairs, fireworks, concerts and most importantly, FOOD!  As we approached the docks on Tuesday afternoon, the alluring smells of international cuisine, barbecuing meat and good ‘ole fish ‘n’ chips were overwhelming.  Upon arriving at the docks, our sweet teeth were tempted by even more pleasing treats.  There was artisan ice-cream, gelato, nutella crepes and chocolate fountains (which I have always steered clear of since I learned that they add copious amounts of oil to the chocolate to make it flow)!

My cousins and little sister in tow, we ate our way through Galway.  After all, they were on holiday and it would have been rude for me not to join them!  So here’s where we ate this week:

Sweet Pies: Sporting a retro 50’s vibe, this is the place to go for cupcakes in Galway.  My personal favourites are the red or blue velvets!ImageDouble chocolate cupcake at Sweet Pies

McDonagh’s: Known for their award winning chips, it’s actually the fish that brings me back to this place.  The variety and freshness is mouth-watering.  If, like me, you love a meaty fish, try the mackerel.  Be warned portions are huge so you might want to share!

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Viva Espana

An Cupán Tae: Everyone who knows me is familiar with my confessions of undying love for this place.  Serving a variety of tasty teas (as well as coffees and hot chocolate), beautiful cakes and buttery scones as well as scrumptious salads, soups, baked potatoes, quiches and breakfasts, this is one of my favourite stops for breakfast, lunch or just a nice treat.  I especially love the decor: pastels and mismatched china create  a cute and girlie haven.

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Fat Freddy’s: Although my cousins weren’t mad about their carbonara, my vegetarian lasagne was layers of deliciousness.  With layers of pasta, pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel, the odd vegetable and enough cheese to give me a heart attack, this was indulgence defined and definitely contributed to those extra pounds!  Try the nachos too!

The stands at the Ocean Race:  Barbequed hot dogs, banana, strawberry and nutella crepes, Oreo ice-cream…oh how we indulged!

ImagePromoting Roscommon???!!!

Bread in a jiffy!

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What is ‘a jiffy’?  Now that I’m ‘a lady of leisure’ living in Galway surburbia baking my way through life, I’m on a bit of a 50’s vibe.  I have a polka dot apron, I have cravings for milkshakes and Eddie Rocket’s (50’s style diner), Nathan used super glue yesterday (this may seem random but apparently super glue was invented in the 1950’s) and I bought a hula hoop.  Okay, so I’m lying about this last one.  I once had a hula hoop and as much as I tried to hula hoop my hardest I couldn’t; so, now hula hoops create feelings of resentment, failure and shame in me.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I can get on with this bread recipe.  This bread is moist.  The raisins make it sweet enough to indulge on, drizzled with lemon curd or smothered in jam, yet it’s savoury enough to enjoy dipped in a hearty soup.  It is a multi-purpose bread…like a multi-purpose cleaner but edible.  Oh, and it’s low fat.  Win!!!

Homemade Bread

Ingredients:

  • 330g wholemeal flour
  • 120g porridge oats
  • 40g raisins
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 250ml milk (semi-skimmed or full fat)

Method:

  1. Mix the flour, oats, raisins, walnuts, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Mix the water with the milk in a separate jug and stir into the dry mixture.  The mixture should have a porridge-like consistency.
  3. Grease a 2 pound loaf tin (900g) and pour the mixture into the tin, levelling it with a spoon.
  4. Place in a cold oven at 120 degrees celsius and leave for 35 mins.  Then, increase heat to 180 degrees and cook for a further 45-50 mins.
  5. Take bread out of the oven.  The loaf should have separated from the sides of the tin and should be removed quite easily.  Tap the bottom of the bread.  If it sounds hollow then the bread is done, if not stick it back in the oven for another 5-15 mins.
  6. Allow bread to cool before serving as it will continue to cook a little bit more once out of the oven.
Variations:
Smother this bread in PB, jam, cheese, chutney, butter, leftover cake icing (not that I did that or anything…cough).
Replace the raisins with cranberries and eat with Wensleydale cheese on top.
Infuse the bread with herbs and other bits…I like thyme and lemon zest basil and sundried tomatoes or olives and garlic.
 
Enjoy!
 
Jenna x