Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Simple Supper

We had a simple supper tonight, thanks to planned leftovers!

Yesterday I made some mashed potatoes and cauliflower with herbs.
I used rooster (red) potatoes, leaving the peel on, cubing them and placing them in a pot along with some chopped cauliflower (about half a head). I covered with water and boiled until tender. Then I drained the veggies and mashed with a fork, adding in a little butter and milk. Then I snipped some scallions, garlic chives, and curly parsley from my windowsill plants and mixed them in with a bit of cubed extra mature cheddar cheese. We sprinkled with black pepper at the table. Yum! I made extra so we could have leftovers today.

I cooked a chicken in the slow cooker the other night, so I made chicken salad with some of it. To the chicken I added black pepper,diced cherry tomato, diced red pepper, and started snipping the plants on the windowsill again, adding scallion, garlic chives, parsley, and celery and I mixed in a bit of mayonnaise. I toasted some brown bread to put it on.

For breakfast, I made some porridge and tossed in some of the blackberries we picked yesterday along with a sliced banana and some almonds--that was really good. For lunch we had eggs and sweet potatoes that I'd cooked in the slow cooker with the chicken. Very handy to have stuff in the fridge and ready to go--and with electricity costs being what they are here, I try to cook extra whenever I have the stove or slow cooker going, so I can use less energy. The slow cooker is particularly nice because I can turn it on overnight, during off-peak hours. I still have chicken left and will probably make some soup with it. I poured the drippings into jars and stuck them in the fridge. I'll scrape off the fat and use the rest in the soup, I think. I will stick the soup stuff in the slow cooker tomorrow night and let it cook overnight. Tomorrow I'll probably make some bean burritos so I can use the avocados we have. Don't want any waste!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Backberries and Budget Road Food

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the blackberries were starting to ripen. I would see a few here and there that were ready to be picked, but I kept forgetting to stick a container in my backpack. Finally one day I remembered and when we went out last Monday, we went back toward the river and saw a bunch ready for picking. By the time we were done, the container was just about full.
A little further on, we saw a few more and those filled the container.
We came home and I washed the berries and put them in a pot. I cut up a couple of plums and added a sprinkle of sugar and a little bit of water--just a tiny bit. Then I cooked the fruit until I had a nice sauce, stirring frequently. I had a little bit of an apple/plum sauce I'd made the night before, so I added that to the pot and let it heat through.
We had leftover sourdough pancakes from supper the night before and we had those topped with the fruit sauce for lunch.

The next morning we headed off for a few days in Letterkenny in County Donegal. We'd booked a few nights at a B&B there. We'd made sandwiches for lunch on the bus. We ate one at our break at the Sligo bus station, but still had one each left when we arrived, so we saved it for supper. There was an Aldi (grocery store) just down the street from the B&B and we passed it every time we walked into town or back from town, so it was very convenient. After leaving our bags in our room and having a cup of tea and some biscuits, kindly provided by the owner, we headed out to explore a little. After a couple of hours, we headed back and stopped in Aldi for some fruit to go with the sandwiches. I had a craving for a salad, and I found a pretty good one ready-made, so I got that, too. Aldi ended up being our food supplier while we were there. I think we spent about 40 euro on food for the 4 days we were gone--and some of that was food that came home with us. I discovered that flaked almonds (sliced almonds in the US) were less than half the price in Aldi that they are in Tesco, so I bought a couple of bags to bring home. We also brought home other stuff that did not get eaten while there. That stuff probably amounted to about 10 euro, so we fed ourselves on 30 euro over 4 days while on the road. That's not bad! We did not really plan on that and we expected to eat out once or twice while there, but we looked at restaurants and menus and nothing seemed all that appealing--we could get better food at Aldi, so we did!

The breakfasts provided at the B&B were quite substantial. We were offered a full Irish breakfast every day, which consisted of an egg, a couple of sausages, a couple of rashers (kind of a ham-like bacon thing--not nearly as fatty as bacon), tomato, a piece of flat potato bread like Norwegian lefse, and a slice of black pudding. Black pudding is made from pig blood and oats and it is something I was sure I would never eat. But there it was and I didn't like to throw it away without trying it, so I did and it was pretty good, but very rich. Oddly enough, it reminded me of the original Gardenburgers that I used to get back in the late 1980s. I had my slice the first day, but the second day my stomach and head were a little off at breakfast time, so I skipped it. On our last morning, we split one slice. In addition to the Irish breakfast, she had other things available--a few kinds of cold cereal, yogurt, fruit, breads (and a toaster), she'd make porridge if you wanted, and of course, jams, coffee and tea. Needless to say we did not eat all of this, but it was there if people wanted it! We had the Irish breakfast, a piece of fruit, and a piece of bread and we were stuffed. Breakfast was our main meal of the day. For lunch we would buy a container of yogurt at Aldi and split it and we bought peaches (on sale 4 for 39 cents). Our lunches cost 1.38 euro for 2. For supper, we bought cherry tomatoes and cucumber, grapes, a package of tortillas, cream cheese, and smoked salmon. We made smoked salmon wraps. We liked these so well the first night we had them that we repeated this the following night--we had some of the stuff left from the day before and I picked up a small container of red pepper hummus to use in my wrap. We bought biscuits and Jaffa cakes for dessert, but only had a few of the latter and the rest came home with us. We stopped one afternoon and had coffee and a cookie in a little coffee shop. I'm sure there are good restaurants in Letterkenny and there were a lot of different kinds, from takeaways to fine dining places. None of them seemed as appealing as a simple meal on the porch looking at the flowers and the red ivy! It seems like I have less and less desire to sit in crowded places at small tables waiting for overpriced food that ends up being pretty ho-hum. I have to be in the right mood to go out and eat and even then, I prefer a simple kind of place. Fancy table settings, white tablecloths and swirly sauce food isn't my thing. I was glad to have the grocery store so conveniently located so we could have a quiet, simple meal outside in the fresh air!

While we were there, I saw that Tesco had chickens on sale again, so now that we're home, we went and got a couple yesterday. I did some rearranging in the freezer and fit one in there and cooked one overnight in the slow cooker. I cut up a couple of onions and a few cloves of garlic and stuffed that in the chicken. I had enough room on top to put five small, wet, and poked sweet potatoes. I turned it on high a little before midnight and let it cook. It smelled wonderful in here!

My windowsill herb garden is doing great! I drenched everything last week before we left and I got back to a lot of new growth. I'd used most of the scallions and garlic chives and a good bit of the curly parsley, but everything has shot up again. My celery is growing new stalks, too. To use some of this, I decided to make some mashed potatoes with cauliflower and add scallion, garlic chives, and parsley, along with a little cheese and black pepper. We'll have that tonight with some chicken.

We picked another container of blackberries this afternoon--they are starting to really come on now and I've put a larger container in my backpack. It took us just a few minutes in one spot to fill the yogurt container I had in there. I will make a sauce with them and freeze it for the next time I make pancakes. These would also be good in porridge. There are a lot of them out there!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tortilla Pizza

I tried some of the seeded tortillas we found at Tesco last week when I used them as a pizza crust. They are quite good! I'm glad I got three packages--it's handy to be able to just take out as many as I need and leave the rest in the freezer. Each package contains 8 tortillas.

When I use tortillas as a base for a pizza that will have a lot of toppings, I usually use two with a little bit of cheese between them for a sturdier base. When the pizza is baked, the cheese melts and holds the tortillas together. In this case, I folded each tortilla in half with a thin slice of extra mature cheddar in between the layers.

I used sliced tomatoes instead of sauce and sprinkled that with oregano. Then I added mozzarella, sliced red onion, chopped  bell pepper and garlic, and some sliced pepperoni. Yum.

I was thrilled to realize the other day that it was cool enough for me to make chowder. I used smoked coley this time. I have made quite a lot of smoked fish chowder since we got here, but I always used the smoked mackerel that we buy frequently at Super Valu--it used to be that I always had a package or two in the fridge. The coley was purchased when we found it on clearance and I stuck a bunch in the freezer. This time the mackerel was frozen too, so I decided to use the coley. It was delicious--similar but slightly different than the chowder made with the mackerel. I had never even heard of it before we got here and I saw it prominently displayed in grocery stores. I had to google it!

I do love soup weather. There was enough chowder left over for lunch yesterday, too. Yay! It's still warm here, and summer has not released its grip, but there is a hint that autumn is on its way. As I do every year, I look forward to its arrival. Bring on the soup weather!!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

New Favorites

There's plenty of familiar food in the grocery stores here, along with stuff that you wouldn't see as frequently in the US. I have not seen frozen steak and kidney pies in the freezer case at stores in the US, for example, but there they are in Tesco. Lamb is more popular here than in most of the US. They also tend to highlight different things here. Parsnips are obviously popular and are often a featured sale item, usually paired with carrots. I have seen rutabagas on sale and featured prominently. These are called swede here and pronounced like "swayed," at least by someone I heard on the radio--not sure if there are dialect differences. Just for the record, I have not tried the steak and kidney pie and have no plans to do so. Parsnips, swede, and the also popular turnips are things that I tried in Maine and feel no desire to purchase here. Bill has bad memories of these vegetables (and lamb) from childhood.

There are some things that we tried here and loved and now we buy them all the time. The very first day we were in the country, we dropped our bags at the bed and breakfast and walked into town to get some lunch and coffee. After that, we knew we would not want to go back out for dinner, so we went in search of somewhere to buy stuff to take back to our room. Happily, we discovered Tesco just down the street, so in we went. We discovered their rolls--there are several different kinds, but we got the triangular brown rolls with the seeds on top. I don't even remember what we got to put on these rolls, but we bought more almost every day we were there, I think, and we've been buying them ever since! Last week, they only had a few of the traingular rolls, but they had a new oblong brown roll with seeds and oatmeal, so I bought some of each. Now we can have some variety, because they are equally good! Yay! When we are lucky enough to get there and get some while they are still warm, it is a real treat--we have been known buy a couple extra and eat them on the way home!
There is a lot of seeded bread here and stuff I had not seen before--you can see the seeded wraps in the photo above. I went to look at the clearance bread to see if there was anything I could freeze for future pizza crust and I found these. I got 3 packages (66 cents each) for less than I would have paid for one at full price, so it seemed like they were worth trying. When we got home, I stuck them in the freezer. I can take them out as needed for pizza (we'll be having some tonight), wraps, burritos, quesadillas, etc. Very handy!

Another thing we love is Tesco brand milk chocolate digestive biscuits. As you can see, there are none in the photo above. We ate the last ones we had that night, so we went back while we were on our walk the following day to get more!
When we first got here, we started buying different kinds of biscuits to try them. It was several weeks before we discovered these and we've hardly bought any others since. They are not overly sweet and are vaguely reminiscent of a graham cracker with a light chocolate coating on one side--they are so good with a nice cup of strong black tea!

There is also an Irish brand of yogurt that we found while still at the bed and breakfast--it's Glenisk Organic Vanilla. It is really, really good. We were buying some the other day and an elderly woman was waiting behind us in line. She had some Greek yogurt from a French company (in Ireland--food certainly is a global industry these days). She pointed out her choice of yogurt to us and almost seemed to be trying to talk us out of what we had as she went on and on about how good it is and how anything that comes from France is really great. I was kind of amused at the thought that while I am always trying to buy Irish, she looks to France.

I made some hot pepper relish the other day. My daughter sent me the recipe. It called for a certain kind of chili (spelled "chilli" here) pepper, but I just used what is available here. They come in a bag of mixed peppers, so I grabbed a couple of those. This week some red ones are on sale, so I will have to go get more. I already had a bunch of garlic, because it was on sale last week. I will definitely be making more of this stuff--I love it! It was reminding me of something and I couldn't think what, until Bill mentioned this stuff we used to buy in Maine called, "Wickles," which is a spicy pepper relish. Making this could not be easier. I cut 6 or 7 chili (chilli) peppers in half and took the seeds and ribs out of some of them. For a hotter relish, leave them in. I cut them in chunks. I peeled and roughly chopped 6 cloves of garlic (you could add more or less as you wish). The peppers and garlic went into a pot of boiling water and I let them cook for a couple of minutes, until the peppers were really bright. After draining the water out, I added 3 tablespoons of vinegar and used my hand blender to chop it up. I didn't add salt, but you could if you like it. I've had it on a seeded roll with cream cheese and on a seeded roll with kielbasa and it was excellent!

Last week I found out that there's a farmers' market here in town, so this morning we went to check it out. It was underwhelming. First of all, there was a sign outside with a strange arrow that pointed somewhere, but not to the market! The only reason I knew this is because someone told me where it was, but not that it was inside. I saw the door open and decided to look. There was a table of veggies and one table of hand knitted and crocheted baby items. Nothing had a price on it and there was no sign listing prices. This is a peeve of mine--I do not want to have to stand there interrogating a seller about how much each item costs, so I usually will just not buy something if it's not marked. One woman was in there filling a box with produce, though, so good for her! I just turned around and left. I went into the Country Market store where signs clearly indicate the prices for things and I bought the lettuce I was looking for and picked up a cauliflower and a jar of plum jam while I was at it! We were out for a walk, so I didn't buy the 10kg bag of rooster potatoes, but I will make a special trip for those next week.

There was a nip in the air as we left today and although the sun was out, the black clouds soon rolled in and it started to rain. This makes me happy! Soon it will be soup weather--yay!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Potato Salad and Omelettes

I had a craving for an omellette with salsa, of all things, so I planned to have that for supper. I beat the eggs with a little water and added them to the pan. I snipped in some scallions and proceeded to let it cook, adding salsa, extra mature cheddar, and on mine, pickled jalapeno slices before folding it over and sliding onto the plate. We had some of the seeded rolls from Tesco which I wanted to use. It's humid here and between the humidity and the seeds I knew mold was possible. Don't want to waste those rolls! I'd made some potato salad earlier in the day by cubing some baby potatoes, boiling them, draining them, and placing them in a shallow bowl. I diced a red onion, a yellow bell pepper, and a few carrots before adding the to a puddle of olive oil in a pan. I also put in a few cloves of minced garlic and a couple of slices of diced pancetta. I stirred all of this around until the veggies were crisp-tender and added to the potatoes. I made a dressing by pouring a little bit of cider vinegar into a jar and topping with twice as much olive oil. I added a bit of coarse stone ground mustard and a bit of oregano and basil and shook it well. I added some parsley from my plant on the window sill when I served it.
It was quick, easy, and yummy. That omelette really hit the spot. Funny how the simplest thing can taste so good!

Monday, July 14, 2014

1 Chicken, 2 People, 6 Meals

Last week, Tesco had whole chickens on sale. Chicken is one of the few things here that is more expensive than it is in the US. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts go on sale 5 for 5 euro. The package is 500 grams (about a pound). There are no bulk packs or anything like that. We can get two or possibly 3 meals for both of us from a package. My oven is not very good and it’s quite small, so things tend to take a long time to cook in there. Electricity is expensive as well--those two facts result in me rarely using the oven. I’d been looking for a slow cooker and had only been able to find a 3 litre one, which I finally bought, figuring that it’s better than nothing.  I’d planned to keep my eyes open for a larger one, but as it happens, this one works fine for us and I’ve stopped thinking about getting a bigger one.

Since I had the slow cooker, I could take advantage of the sale on whole chickens--a 1.7 kg (3.74 pounds) chicken for 3.79 euro. I got one for the freezer and one to cook. I wondered whether I would have any room left in the crock for veggies once I put the chicken in it, and it wasn’t a lot of room, but it was enough. I put the chicken in first and halved an onion, which I put inside the bird. I had a few small sweet potatoes left from when I’d stocked up during a sale a few weeks ago, so I scrubbed and poked them and tucked them in. I then had enough room across the top to add carrot chunks, so I did that. I turned the slow cooker on high and went to bed. When I got up, everything was cooked--and all during off-peak electricity hours, too!

I mashed the sweet potatoes and we had them with lunch. I put the carrots in a container before removing the chicken from the bones and sticking that in a container, too. I poured the liquid from the crock in still another container and stuck it all in the fridge.

The first night we had chicken sandwiches on seeded brown rolls with cheese, peppers, and onions.

The following day I cooked a courgette (zucchini) and onion in some olive oil and added some of the carrots and pieces of chicken. We had this over leftover rice/wild rice.

The next day I really wanted soup with pierogies, and was thrilled that it was cool enough to make soup in July! I used carrots, onions, potatoes, and frozen peas. I added some of the remaining chicken. The liquid from the crock was nicely chilled and the fat had risen to the top and hardened, so it was easy to scrape off, before adding the rest to the soup. It made a nice broth. I got out my jar of ground chilli (chili) and generously ground a bunch onto my soup. I love this stuff and I put it on a lot of things--pasta, soup, eggs, hummus, and more. It’s a mix of dried chilli, mustard seeds, dried onion, red pepper, garlic, and black pepper. You can grind it coarse or fine. It adds a nice bit of spice and a good flavour.
Finally, on the last day, I chopped and cooked a courgette, a red onion, and a white onion in some olive oil before adding the last of the chicken and a bit of hot chilli powder. I stirred it up well and the chicken shredded. I added a jar of salsa and then rinsed the jar out with a bit of water and added that to the pot, too. I turned off the heat and stirred in small cubes of extra mature cheddar and some smoked cheese with red chillies. I spooned this over pasta. We still have soup and the MexiMac, so there are two more meals there.
One chicken, 2 people, 6 meals.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ice Cream and Salsa

Ice cream is not as abundant here as it is in the US and there are a lot more pre-made kinds of frozen treats than there are flavors of ice cream in a carton--at least that's the case at the stores in Ballinrobe. They have several different kinds of frozen ice cream cones (like Drumsticks in the US) and lots of ice cream on a stick with some kind of coating on it. There are things called ice lollies, which I think are like those Flav-or-ice things they had in the US when I was a kid--a plastic tube with brightly colored liquid in it that you froze and ate by cutting off the end of the plastic and pushing the icy stuff up from the bottom. There are ice cream sandwiches, but I have only seen one brand of those and they are called "icebergers." When someone first told me about these, I thought it was "iceburger," but I later saw it in the store and saw my mistake. The icebergers are 2.50 euro for 4 of them, which, since there are 2 of us, would be two nights of dessert. We decided to do it ourselves, so we went in search of some plain ice cream in a tub. We already had our Tesco digestive biscuits in the cabinet.
We could have chosen the sliceable ice cream we got once before, which is good and comes in one flavor--raspberry swirl.
Our other options were a 1 litre plastic tub of vanilla or chocolate. We chose the chocolate.
Bonus--I will get to keep and use the container when the ice cream is done. I am having a hard time finding larger food storage containers. This is understandable when you consider how small the fridges and freezers are here. I was saying to Bill on the way home that the gallon buckets of ice cream we used to get once in a while are definitely a thing of the past!

So I made us open faced ice cream sandwiches. For the same 2.50 that we would have paid for 2 nights of dessert, we will have 4 nights. And these taste quite good. Bill had his plain and I sprinkled coconut on mine.

Went to Tesco this morning and stocked up on salsa. They had jars of salsa with new labels on them, complete with new UPC codes. They also had some jars of the salsa with the old labels and codes. I looked at the labels of each and the ingredients are exactly the same--they include the percentage of each ingredient on the label here. The difference (other than the labels) was that the jars with new labels cost 1.95 euro and the jars with the old labels cost 85 cents. We bought the last 6 jars of old label salsa this morning and had bought a couple the other day (we had a bunch of other stuff and were limited in what we could carry). Since avocados are also on sale as are jarred jalapenos, we're having nachos for supper! And we have a good stock of salsa in the cabinet--yay!