Monday, 26 November 2012

Lemony Pasta

Lemony Pasta

This simple pasta dish is top class, the freshness from the lemon with a light creamy sauce really makes it a light refreshing lunch. I serve this with little lemon teardrops (see 'Tip'), now this is not for everyone as 'raw' lemon can be quite bitter but I think it gives a sharp freshness that makes you want more. It's one of those moments where the mind and senses inquisitiveness take over an says "ooh... try that again"!! 
This is another dish without the addition of meat or fish and I am really getting used to that. I will by no means become a vegetarian because I love meat and fish too much but I have been realising lately that you don't need it to feature in ever meal... nor for it to even feature daily. 

Tip: To make lemon teardrops, simply 
cut a lemon into slices, cut the rind of
the slice then carefully nip out the 
lemon flesh in between the membrane
with the tip of a sharp knife.
Serves 2:
Wholewheat pasta/spaghetti
A handful of green beans
A handful of frozen peas
Juice of half a lemon 
Grated zest of half a lemon
2 tablespoons of creme fráiche
Sea salt and black pepper
Half a bag of baby spinach
Parmesan cheese to serve


  • In a large lidded saucepan cook the pasta (with a good pinch of salt) to the packets instructions. In the meantime trim the ends of the green beans. Add these and the peas halfway through the cooking time of the pasta.
  • Once the pasta, beans and peas are cooked strain them into a colander but reserve some of the starchy water. Place the pasta, beans and peas back into the saucepan, pour in a good splash of the starchy water along with the lemon juice, zest and 2 tablespoons of creme fráiche, season with a good pinch of ground black pepper.
  • Give this all a good stir around and place back on a medium heat, pour in half a bag of baby spinach leaves and cover with the lid while it wilts down, shake the saucepan now and again to stop it catching. Once the spinach has wilted give it all a good stir around again and split between 2 bowls, top with lemon teardrops if using along with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Fruity Oats Chicken

Fruity Oats Chicken

If you can afford it, then I would suggest getting chicken fillets from your local butcher for this recipe. They will generally be plumper and definitely fresher. I think that, if you have a good local butcher, it should be used more often. For certain things it may be a little more expensive but normally the quality will be better plus a butcher is there to advise you on different cuts of meat and to do some of the work for you if you are a little unsure how to prepare a particular cut of meat. It really is sad to see a lot of local butchers having to close down because of the big dawgs (supermarket chains) and our own want for convenience.

  Chicken fillets when roasted in the oven, the flesh can go quite leathery and can dry out quite easily, this is why they are normally wrapped in parma ham or bacon, or they are coated in breadcrumbs, this protective layer will help prevent the breast getting dry in the cooking time. While this is a good thing, those 3 options can be quite fatty so this is my alternative... a healthier approach to succulent chicken fillets with a flavoursome kick. Serve with some steamed or roasted vegetables.
Calories 500
250 per portion
Serves 2:
15g porridge oats
A sprig of rosemary-leaves chopped
Grated zest of 1 orange
60ml of natural fat free yogurt
1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
1 egg-beaten
30g plain flour
Sea salt and black pepper
2 large chicken fillets
2 teaspoons of cranberry sauce


  • Preheat your oven to 180c.
  • In a medium bowl combine the oats, rosemary and orange zest. In another medium bowl beat together the yogurt, mustard and egg. On a small plate place the flour and season with salt and pepper, set aside.
  • Place the chicken breasts on a chopping board and make a deep incision through the side of each breast, being careful not to cut the whole way through, so you make deep pockets. Delicately push a full teaspoon of cranberry sauce into each of these pockets and evenly distribute it. You can use a cocktail stick to 'stitch' the opening if you like-just remember to remove it after cooking!
  • Now carefully roll a stuffed chicken fillet in the seasoned flour, then into the yogurt mixture making sure that the coating has stuck to the flour. Then finally roll it into the oats ensuring a good even coating of the oats mixture. 
  • Lightly oil an oven tray and place the fillets on it, give them a very light drizzle of olive oil and bake for 35 mins.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

Healthy eating doesn't have to mean boring and tasteless food... not by a long shot!
This soup recipe packs a flavour punch that will land you on your ass. I have really gotten into making soups and experimenting with their flavours. I think that a good homemade soup should be part of everyone's week, it makes a great lunch, it is a great source of getting fresh vegetables into your body, it keeps well for a few days in the fridge and it freezes well. This time of year especially, a good homemade soup with some fresh wholewheat crusty bread is pure comfort food, I love it!
Most soups can be made up in about 20-30 mins... from scratch-to bowl. And trust me when I say, it doesn't take much skill to make it either, when I first got into cooking, soups where at the forefront of my cooking. They give a novice cook a great opportunity to get used to chopping vegetables with the comfort of knowing that, when blended up they wont be seen (well, providing the recipe calls for being blended-but most do). As I am always saying "do the simple things well and you can't go wrong".
This soup has a curried background with the use of 3 spices... Cumin, Coriander and Turmeric. Now this soup will work just fine without using these spices if you either don't have them in your cupboard, or if you don't want a curried flavour... so don't let that put you off trying it. But like everything, if you don't experiment with flavours then you wont realise what you are missing, it took me a whopping 28 years to figure that out! If I could go back and tell my younger self something it would be to be more open to food... and maybe the lotto numbers!!!

Calories 1061
265 per portion
Serves 4:
A teaspoon of cumin seeds
A teaspoon of coriander seeds
A teaspoon of turmeric
Olive oil
1 large onion-chopped
1 eating apple-peeled, cored and sliced
3 cloves of garlic chopped
A thumb-sized piece of ginger grated
600g sweet potatoes
1 litre of stock
100g red split lentils
300ml semi-skimmed mild
The juice of one lime
Creme fráiche to serve

  • Place the 3 spices into a large saucepan over a medium heat to toast them for a few minutes, this enhances the flavours. Then add in the olive oil and stir around as the oil sizzles.
  • To this add in the onion, apple, garlic and ginger and allow to cook whist stirring frequently for about 5 mins.
  • In the meantime peel and cube the sweet potatoes into small cubes. Add these to the saucepan along with the lentils, stock and milk. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 mins.
  • Allow to cool slightly then blend with a hand blender or in a jug blender (it is best to do this in a few batches to ensure a smooth consistency and to not overload the blender)
  • Return the soup to a medium heat and stir in the lime juice. Serve with a dollop of creme fráiche.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Quinoa-Super Food

Curried Quinoa and Vegetable Soup

I have only gotten into eating Quinoa recently, pronounced 'Kee-no-wah, for me it is a super food. It is readily available in most supermarkets and definitely in all health food shops so don't be thinking you have to trek too far to get it... put the passport down and calm down!!!

It originates in the heights of Bolivia and other places in South America, The Incas referred to it as "the mother of all grains" and said that it was a sacred gift from the gods. Well if its good enough for the Incas its sure as hell good enough for me! 

It is thee most nutritious grain out there, rich in protein... 18%, it is also high in polyunsaturated fats (remember that a good thing) AND contains less carbs than most grains. it is gluten-free and contains loads of vitamins as well as calcium, magnesium, zink, iron and antioxidants. OK I think I've sold it enough... oh what the hell one more juicy one.... IT'S A PROVEN SLIMMING AID.... BOOM!!! Now I'm done..

Tip: Quinoa should be soaked in cold water 
15 mins before cooking, drained and
rinsed again with cold water. This 
removes an outer coating of saponin 
which has a bitter taste.
Serves 4:
1 onion
2 carrots
2 red peppers
1 handful of green beans
4 tablespoons of curry paste*
200g quinoa
800ml chicken/vegetable stock
Olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper

*to make your own quick curry paste: teaspoon of the following, garlic powder, turmeric, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, paprika, a splash of soy and red wine vinegar- mix all in a mortar and pestle.


  • Prepare the vegetables. Dice the onion and carrots, de-seed and dice the peppers and chop the green beans in 3.
  • Gently heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the onion for a few mins until softened but not coloured. then add the vegetables and saute for a further few mins.
  • Add in the curry paste and a splash of water, bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer and reduce slightly, stir frequently for about 5 mins.
  • add in the prepared quinoa followed bu the stock, bring to the boil then turn down to a gentle simmer for about 10 mins until the quinoa is cooked. Check the seasoning and add if required.

If keeping some for the next day, you will find that the quinoa will have absorbed all the water, this makes for a great addition to a salad or as a side dish served warm or cold.

Chicken Stir-fry with Peanut Sauce

Chicken Stir-fry with Peanut Sauce 

Stir-frys are a super way of getting vegetables into you, I know that the word 'fry' is not normally associated with healthy eating but, if done right, there is no harm in it. A tablespoon of Olive oil or Rapeseed oil contains fats, yes, but they are the 'good fats' they contain monounsaturated fats which help lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart disease and aid the breakdown of food. 

That's the science bull over with now back to the food... Don't over cook your stir-fry, leave the vegetables al-dante that way they wont break them down into a soggy mess. The vegetables should still have a slight crunch to them. The sauce for this can be used as a marinade first for the chicken or just poured in towards the end of cooking, either way works just fine.

Have your stir-fry with egg noodles or brown rice... or whatever you wish but don't go nuts with the carbs otherwise its not going to be too healthy, portion sizes are something I need to reduce myself... I have come from eating 5-6 huge carb filled meals while training for my marathons to now cutting seriously back. But willpower is like a muscle-the more you exercise it the stronger it gets!!!

Serves 2:

2 chicken fillets
1 fat clove of garlic
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
1 onion
1 small head of broccoli (or some frozen florets)
2 carrots
2 peppers (any colour)
Green beans
Frozen peas
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper

1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of oyster sauce
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of honey
2-3 teaspoons of peanut butter


  • To make the sauce place all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together. If using it for a marinade, cut the chicken fillets into bite sized pieces and place into a seal lock sandwich bag along with the sauce. Allow to marinade for at least an hour before cooking.
  • Prepare the vegetables, peel and finely chop the garlic and ginger, peel and slice or dice the onion, break the broccoli into smaller florets, peel and baton the carrots, de-seed and slice the peppers and finally chop the green beans in 2 or 3.
  •  If not done already, cut the chicken fillets into bite sized pieces, season with a little salt and pepper. In a hot wok add a tablespoon of olive oil, add the chicken and fry off until lightly coloured then remove onto a plate and set aside.
  • Carefully wipe the wok with kitchen towel and place back on the heat. Add the second tablespoon of oil and add to this the garlic, ginger and onion. Allow to fry for a minute, continually stirring to stop it catching or burning. Then add in the rest of the vegetables including a handful of frozen peas. Fry these off for a few mins until they have all slightly softened.
  • Now its time to add the sauce, the heat can be turned down slightly and the chicken added... incorporate all ingredients well and cook for about 2 mins making sure the chicken is cooked through, check seasoning and add if needed. Serve with noodles or brown rice, and most of all... enjoy! 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Chicken Kashmiri

Chicken Kashmiri

This is moist and tender chicken at its best in an aromatic, spicy yogurt sauce. It can be a one pot wonder or, to bulk it up for a crowd served with brown rice. Also feel free to add in some more veg like peppers, carrots, broccoli etc. It is yet another healthy meal brimming with flavour.

Calories 812
203 per portion
Serves 4:
4 medium chicken fillets
200g baby potatoes
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 inch piece of root ginger
300ml chicken stock
300g low fat natural yogurt
1 chilli
1 teaspoon of ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Seeds of 2 cardamom pods
Bunch of fresh coriander
Half a bag of baby spinach
1 lemon
Sea salt & black pepper


¨ Cut the chicken fillets into cubes. Quarter the potatoes. Finely chop the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger.

¨ Heat a large lidded pan with a splash of olive oil on it. Stir fry the chicken for a few min’s insuring it’s golden on the edges and white all over.

¨ Add in the potatoes, onion, spices, garlic, chilli and ginger and fry for a further 3-4 minutes.

¨ Add in the stock and bring to the boil, put lid on and gently simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the chicken is super tender and the sauce has thickened.

¨ Stir in the spinach and season. Take off the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Pour in the yogurt and stir until blended in.

¨ Serve with a scattering of coriander leaves and a wedge of lemon.

Healthy Smoothies


I personally think that Smoothies make a great breakfast; they can be really healthy (depending on the ingredients) and super quick to make if you are in a rush in the mornings. When I make them for breakfast they normally fill me up until lunchtime which beats that mid-morning craving. Here are 3 of my favourites

Breakfast of Champions
This has a great balance of carbs, Protein and good fats to kick start your day.
1 glass of skimmed milk
1 ripe banana
30g porridge oats
1 tablespoon of drinking chocolate powder
1 tablespoon of peanut butter
1 tablespoon of honey
A sprinkle of cinnamon
Blend until smooth

 Pomegranate Punch
Pomegranate is packed full of anti-oxidants and along with the almonds it couldn't be better for you.
3/4 glass of pomegranate juice
¼ glass of milk
1 ripe banana
2 ice cubes
 2 tablespoons of flaked almonds
1 teaspoon of honey
Blend until smooth

 Popeye’s Tipple
A lot of people are put off by spinach, don’t be, you can’t even taste it in this but reap the health benefits.
1 glass of water
1 handful of frozen berries
1 handful of spinach
1 teaspoon of honey
¼ inch piece of ginger grated
Blend until smooth

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Calso Cooks On The Run- Last Days

Last days: 11 & 12

Day 11: Day 11 was due to start off in Kilkenny city, but with the car acting like a wee cry baby I didn't want to chance extra miles than was needed so we just crossed into the border of the county and done the miles out in the countryside. I had wanted to see the city but that will be an excuse for a weekend away sometime in the new year. It was a gorgeous sunny day, after all it is known as the 'sunny southeast' and it really lived up to the name. Again I was eager to try running but just couldn't, even springing off the ball of my foot was leading to sharp pains right up my shins... 'Give it up Paul' I know!! But I really had hoped for a strong finish, not the finish of an old beaten man... Between myself and the car it was interesting to see which was gonna pack in first!

Then we headed off to Waterford City... again a city I had always wanted to visit, I was impressed... then again anything on the water front does it for me! The sun was out in style as Ciara came with me again, it was a very laboured walk, between the shins, achillies and now my calves being as hard as the road I was pounding we clocked up slow painful miles... but miles none the less! Then it was off to Cork to rest up for the LAST day halle-frickin-lujah !!!

Final Day-12: The last Morning saw me meet up with fellow food blogger Sheila Kiely who has a fab blog Gimmetherecipe and who has her first cook book out of the same name. We met up in Douglas just outside Cork City and took off for a few miles together, discussing food (shocker), books etc. I was so glad she could join me and was great company to kick off the last day... Thanks again Sheila!! 

Then we headed off to Kilarney in Co. Kerry. I was in the Kingdom but didn't feel kike a king... more like a muppet walking around with seized swollen ankles and a face like thunder. Again Ciara came with me to clock up the miles, then we had a quick lunch and a well deserved coffee and muffin... face like thunder even managed a smile! We finished up where we started passing the Nike outlet store where a few weeks back I had bought a load of running gear... running... the word was even pissing me off! Anyways..........
Then it was off to Limerick, it was great to be back on familiar roads again although I didn't really need the shitty diversion half way down the road!!
I parked up outside The South Court Hotel and relaxed a while, I knew I had back up coming in from West Limerick to finish out the last leg. And so the troops arrived, first Ciara's mum Marie with her aunt Noreen and Noreen's husband Tom... then arriving was Ciara's cousins Glenn, Stephen, Linda, Raymond and Edward... the troops had come out in force. We all suited up and took off on the final hobble with Marie and Noreen as car support... something about being dosed with the cold.. excuses excuses!!! ;)

The walk was painful and cautious... not to get pelted with eggs that is but it was completed... and that they say is that!!!
Done, finished... complete... nothing went to plan, injuries held me back, but I finished on schedule all the same, Every county felt my foot print and my legs felt every county.

A massive thank you to all who supported, donated, ran, walked etc.. but a special thank you to Ciara.. unreal support and commitment!!! xXx

The End

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Calso Cooks On The Run Days 8, 9 & 10

Days 8, 9 & 10

Day 8: Day 8 started off from a very cold Cavan. I was to meet a friend there but unfortunately she couldn't make it so I just went on ahead. As I say it was cold cold cold... I was wrapped up like an onion and was still freezing, I didn't warm up once throughout the miles on the road and was a very happy bunny getting back into the car with the heat blasting out. we then headed in the direction of Drogheda where the Louth leg was to take place. we got parked up and headed for a bite to eat to warm the systems. Drogheda was having a laugh... hills galore... cheers Drogheda I appreciate that!! Although the leg was helped with the company of Ciara who came with me.

 My shins where inflamed and very sharp pains throughout the whole walk, it was still freezing and I don't think that was helping with the aches. The route took us through Drogheda center so we called into the Cathedral where the head of St Oliver Plunket is on display, creepy but fascinating stuff. I got some bad news in Drogheda regarding the bucket collection that was to happen the next day in Grafton St in Dublin, the bad news being that it wasn't organised at all... was not happy whatsoever!

After we finished up a very sore route in Louth we headed for Meath where I was meeting another Friend Sean Stagg, I pre-warned him that I wasn't in good shape to be doing many miles but fair play to him he came to meet up anyway. We experienced some car problems along the road to Navan but think it should be sorted now... as far as me and engines go, I may as well be trying to understand the stock exchange!!! So I met up with Sean and we took off hobbling around Navan, the route was short and sweet but it was all I was fit for! Then we left for the hotel, I was never so glad to see the inside of a hotel in all my life.

Day 9: Dublin was the destination where the bucket collection was due to take place but wasn't organised...!! 
We parked up at the Luas stop at the Red Cow and took the Luas into the City center. It was bunged as usual but probably even more so due to the fact it was the Saturday of a bank holiday weekend AND the Dublin City Marathon is on the bank holiday Monday... hence the reason I wanted a bucket collection to take place... anyways rant over!!
Ciara again came on the Dublin leg and was well needed company, Pain factor wasn't as sore as the previous few days but still even walking wast was flaring them up. After the miles were complete we got the Luas back to the car and then headed for Kildare.

We started out in Newbridge and I gotta say I grew very found of the place... It just seemed buzzing and full of people for not being a major city. The sharp pains were back accompanied my very inflamed Achilles in both ankles and full of fluid.

Next up was Co. Laois, not much to report here due to the fact it was all out in the country and full of pain, the mood was not good... The End! :(

Day 10: Today started off in Carlow, it was wet and miserable.. and so was the weather (jokes) my route took me from the Kilkenny road in through the town and back out to where I started from. It was a relatively flat route and I even ran a few short bursts convincing myself that it was possible for me to get back running full routes again... I was wrong!

Next up was Wicklow, I was due to go to Arklow but behind time I didn't get that far. I took to the road out in the gorgeous countryside and again, not giving up on the idea of running I tried again, and again... and again... time to give up on it and just frickin' walk!!
Then it was on to Co. Wexford and to Ciara's cousin Elaine and her boyfriend Bill's house. Bill then came out with me to do the final leg of the day. He showed me all around his home town of Enniscorthy, a lovely town but riddled with hills... AGAIN. It was good then just to relax that night at theirs and I was nodding off to sleep before 9pm so hit the hay early in preperation for my penultimate day on the road.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Calso Cooks On The Run Days 6 & 7

Days 6&7

Day 6: On day 6 I started out from The Firr Trees hotel in Strabane. I was very sore this morning and was relying on the crutches again but the right leg was very painful too and I was putting all my pressure on that too. Ciara came walking with me today as I knew the miles wouldn't be massive with the pain I was in. Poor Co. Tyrone only managed to get just over a mile out of me. Then we were back at the car and moved onto Derry. To say I am gutted and very disheartened by the injuries is a major understatement, I just keep thinking where I would be and how I'd be feeling if I was still running!!! 

We drove to the far side of Derry where I was determined to clock up more miles which I did, 5 in total... most of which was up hill but the views were amazing. By the time I had finished I was hurting all over, legs, hips, sides, lats, shoulders, hands etc etc. I fell back into the car and was glad of a wee snooze on the way to Belfast. We got as far as the M2 and then I took over driving as I was used to driving through Belfast from when I lived in it for a number of years. I drove right into the center and parked under the new shopping centre Victoria Square.

 We went and got a quick lunch then took off on foot/crutch. I showed Ciara the sights and took her up around Botanic area and The Holy Lands to show her the houses I used to live in, then we came back down into the city centre where we finished up after doing over 6 miles. I was feeling slightly better, still in pain but the codeine in the painkillers had kicked in so was smiling!!
extremely swollen
I decided to do the catch up on the county number that was missed due to the hospital so we headed for Newry Co. Down where I managed about 3-4 miles... the end of a long and frustrating day. We then headed for my mothers house in Armagh where we could unwind and have some home comforts!!!

Day 7: Day 7 started out from my mothers house, I had my sister Michele and local man Conor O'Reilly coming with me from Armagh. A friend Roisin Pearson came up to see us off as well and brought a goodie bad each for myself and Ciara which was greatly appreciated. We took off from the Newry rd and headed out the Keady rd, I was moving a bit faster today without the crutches  but by the time Keady came I was in agony and had another huge blister to walk on. Conor left us in keady and was going running back to Armagh... the big tease!! Another sister of mine Majella met us in outside Keady church and Roisin also came out as driving support. We marched on towards Derrynoose where we finished outside the church, it was fitting as my father is buried there and it was on the 15th anniversary of his death.

I went down to the Primary School where I met up with the Lord Mayor of Armagh Sharon Haughey. The principle Introduced me to the kids including my niece Niamh and nephews David and Michael and he told them what I was doing. Then he presented me with a cheque of £200 to go towards the fundraising. We then got photographs taken for the local papers.
Afterwards we went to my brother Carl's house to rest up for an hour and half before the next county, blisters were treated, legs where rubbed and complaining was done.. that was just from my sisters!!

Carl came along on the Monaghan leg along with Michele and Majella and we also had another with us, my good old friend Michael McNeaney who I used to play football with for Derrynoose and is a much sought after barber in Keady. I still come up to him for haircuts when I can! Myself and Mickey had a great catch up along the route and we all finished a tough uphill walk in Monaghan... I was aching by the time we got finished... but it was another day down and another 2 counties to stroke of the list! I was so glad to have family and friends with me on a tough day emotionally, mentally and physically.

pit stop

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