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
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