18th May 2018 Helen 3Comment

Last week my only daughter – the one I call Yoda, turned 7. It’s a lovely age really. Young enough to still believe in both yourself and everyone else, and old enough to look for a little extra independence at every turn. I can remember when I was her age. 1983. The pinnies and itchy acrylic tights. The homemade haircuts. Getting my ears pierced in Dunnes Stores in Cornelscourt and fainting, only coming round long enough for them to do the second one.  And I also remember that year for the referendum on the 8th amendment. I remember the horrific…

17th May 2018 Helen 2Comment

Saturday the 26th of May 2018. What kind of day will it be? While everyone is concentrating on the 25th – the day we vote to repeal (or not) the 8th Amendment (that infamous provision that affords absolute protection of life to the unborn – regardless of viability, the pregnant woman’s wishes, or a threat to her health), my mind wanders to the day after.  The day the results will be announced. The day we prove what kind of people we are. My nearest touchstone is the day after the Marriage Equality Referendum three years ago. We were mid-house renovation…

10th February 2018 Helen 1Comment

Serving up great food is the fix for most things – and when you’re trying cutting something as every-present as sugar, ready access to sugarfree treats is a must. My go-to favourite of the moment is this Sugarfree Banana Bread – or more accurately these three variations on Sugarfree Banana Bread: plain, with walnut or with chocolate. All are fab – as tried and tested by my kids – and me! A few thoughts on the ingredients The real sweetness in these recipes comes from over-ripe bananas which I routinely pop into the freezer (in their skins straight in a ziplock…

Sugarfree Banana Bread - Three Ways
Print Recipe
Fast recipe for three types of Sugarfree Banana Bread - plain, with walnut or chocolate. A nice way to use up left over ripe bananas - fresh or frozen.
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf (2lb) 5 minutes
Cook Time
75 - 90 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf (2lb) 5 minutes
Cook Time
75 - 90 minutes
Sugarfree Banana Bread - Three Ways
Print Recipe
Fast recipe for three types of Sugarfree Banana Bread - plain, with walnut or chocolate. A nice way to use up left over ripe bananas - fresh or frozen.
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf (2lb) 5 minutes
Cook Time
75 - 90 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf (2lb) 5 minutes
Cook Time
75 - 90 minutes
Instructions
  1. Preheat the over to 140 C (fan) or 150 C (conventional). Line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof / baking parchment or a liner. Prepare your ingredients.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients - the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, into a large bowl and stir to mix.
  3. Making a well in the centre of the mix, add the wet ingredients - the coconut oil, eggs and syrup / nectar if using. Stir to combine.
  4. Add the bananas and raisins / sultanas - and the walnuts and / or cocoa. Mix to just combine being careful not to over-work the mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared bread tin. If making the walnut loaf and looking for a super pretty effect add a little line of walnuts along the top. Alternatively you can add a long slice slice / smaller slices of banana - like I did here - http://thebusymamas.ie/chocolate-and-banana-bread/.
  6. Bake for 75 to 90 minutes or until a skewer into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Remove and cool on a wire rack before turning out. Enjoy slathered with butter and a large cup of tea.
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30th January 2018 Helen

It wouldn’t be January without some sort of purge going on, would it? To be fair, I haven’t made any resolutions or joined any gyms (as if), but in my ongoing pursuit of a waist, and with a little encouragement from my friend and fellow cake maker and eater Emily over at The Nest, I am kicking the sugar – or at least cutting back. And, as everyone knows, misery loves company and, as this house isn’t actually a democracy, whatever goes for mama goes for everyone else. So, the good news for anyone who is equally inclined to cut…

Sugar-free Pancakes and Fruity 'Jam': a fast and (secretly) healthy family favourite
Print Recipe
A two-minute fruity and easy alternative to jam. Perfect on cakes, breads or pancakes - or mixed with natural yoghurt. Recipe works (so far) for strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.
Servings Prep Time
1 bowl / jar 3 minutes
Cook Time
2 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 bowl / jar 3 minutes
Cook Time
2 minutes
Sugar-free Pancakes and Fruity 'Jam': a fast and (secretly) healthy family favourite
Print Recipe
A two-minute fruity and easy alternative to jam. Perfect on cakes, breads or pancakes - or mixed with natural yoghurt. Recipe works (so far) for strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.
Servings Prep Time
1 bowl / jar 3 minutes
Cook Time
2 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 bowl / jar 3 minutes
Cook Time
2 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: bowl / jar
Instructions
  1. Prepare your ingredients.
  2. Put the fruit (frozen or thawed) in the pot with the water and heat gently until the fruit softens (c. 2 minutes).
  3. Add the vanilla, chia seeds and agave syrup (if using) and bring the mixture to the boil. Stir constantly.
  4. Blend using the stick blender until the berries are pureed. Return to the heat and - stirring constantly, allow the mixture to thicken (c. 1 minute).
  5. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. The jam is ready to use straight away or can be stored in a clear, sterilised tub / jar in the fridge for a week.
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26th January 2018 Helen 2Comment

This is the most moorish and delicious blade steak casserole. With minimal prep and a long, slow cooking time, it’s perfect for any day of the week – as easy to walk into after work on a weekday as it is to tuck into after a weekend walk.  Serve up with crunchy bread (go for my old reliable lazy homemade option), mash (potato or celeriac), green veg – like wilted kale and carrots. I tweaked an old steak casserole recipe I found years back in the midst of a maternity leave when I needed to feed a large and hungry…

Braised Blade Steak Casserole
Print Recipe
A gorgeous winter stew - best served up with mash, thick socks and a glass of red wine.
Servings Prep Time
4 adults 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
3-4 hours 3.5 hours
Servings Prep Time
4 adults 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
3-4 hours 3.5 hours
Braised Blade Steak Casserole
Print Recipe
A gorgeous winter stew - best served up with mash, thick socks and a glass of red wine.
Servings Prep Time
4 adults 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
3-4 hours 3.5 hours
Servings Prep Time
4 adults 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
3-4 hours 3.5 hours
Ingredients
Servings: adults
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 160 C. Prepare your ingredients.
  2. On a chopping board, season the beef lightly on both sides and gently run.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy bottom pot or frying pan, on a medium heat. Add the beef steaks and cook for 2 / 3 minutes until browned. Remove steaks from the heat and transfer to a casserole dish.
  4. Reduce the pan to a low heat. Add the remaining oil, onion, celery and carrots and fry until golden brown ( c. 7 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer to the casserole dish.
  5. Put the pan back on the heat and deglaze it with the red wine, gently scraping any 'bits' from the pan so they dissolve into the sauce. Add the stock, tomato puree, mustard and stir to combine. Bring to the boil. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Add the thyme and bay leaf to the mix.
  6. Cover the beef and vegetable mix with a greaseproof paper / baking parchment, tucking it in around the edged. Cover with a lid. Cook in the oven for 3 to 3.5 hours occasionally skimming any fat from the surface but otherwise not stirring.
  7. Gently remove the beef from the casserole and place onto a warmed dish and cover.
  8. Pour the liquid from the casserole through a sieve removing all of the vegetable pulp. Add back to the pan casserole dish (or pan if the dish isn't suitable for the hob) and bring to the boil. Reduce for c. 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beef.
  9. Serve up with greens - sautéed courgette, wilted kale or spinach are best, and - for extra winter deliciousness, with baked potato, creamy celeriac or potato mash. And wine.
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23rd December 2017 Helen 4Comment

With two sleeps to go to Christmas morning I’ll never get my act together for any Pinterest style Christmas posts! As usual I never managed to work through an advent calendar – frankly I’m still patting myself on the back for turning three pillowcases and half a roll of tinfoil into one angel and one shepherd outfit.   But – if you’re looking for some last-minute handy (read: easy) ideas to make Christmas your own, here’s a few of our own little traditions that might work in your family. 1. Put up some homemade decorations We’ve made a stack of homemade…