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!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Veggie Sandwiches with Chorizo (Or Not)

Had several courgettes (zucchini) in the fridge as we'd found bags of it reduced to clear at Tesco last week. The regular price for these is 2.99 per kg and we got at least that amount, if not more, for 65 cents. I bought a couple of bags and planned to make stuff that contained courgettes. I used a few in the white bean veggie chili last week and I planned to use more last night. We also had some sliced chorizo left from the pizza the other night. I decided to make some veggie sandwiches.

I cut up a red onion, half a green bell pepper and half a yellow one, and a couple of zucchini. I minced a couple of cloves of garlic and sauteed everything in a bit of olive oil.
When the courgettes were crisp-tender, I added a bit of the chorizo that I'd cut into strips. In the meantime, I'd cut up and boiled some baby potatoes, which I roughly smashed and to which I added some snipped scallion. The bottom bulb part I sliced and added to the veggie pot. The root ends got planted in the waiting container of dirt on the windowsill.

I placed a piece of the smoked chili cheese we'd gotten in Claremorris the other day on each roll and spooned the veggie mixture over it.
It was quite good! I'd meant to add some herbs, but forgot until it was too late. Happily, we liked it anyway. This is a good improv meal because you can use whatever veggies you have around and add whatever herbs you'd like.

It can be vegetarian if you leave out the chorizo. Add some smoked or crumbled tofu or a meat analogue instead, if you want. If you don't want, it'd be quite good with veggies alone.

If you don't want a vegetarian dish, you could add leftover cooked meat or some cubed boneless, skinless chicken or ground turkey, chicken, or beef. Just add these things at the beginning of the cooking time so they are thoroughly cooked. Cut up salami or some other deli meat and add that instead of the chorizo at the end. I might even try this sometime with some crumbled smoked mackerel.

We used rolls we had, but you could use flatbread or a tortilla and roll up like a wrap or burrito. Spread with hummus or cream cheese first, if desired. Or roll up, enchilada style, place in a pan and top with enchilada sauce and cheese and bake until cheese is melted. Use the veggie mixture to stuff pita breads or use to top pita bread pizzas.

The veggies would have been even better if they'd been cooked on the grill. We did a lot of grilled veggies last summer and they would be perfect for this--grilled onion, peppers and courgettes. I cut the courgettes in half, brushed with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with herbs. They were great on the grill. If you grill extras, you'll have your sandwich fixings ready to go when you're ready to eat!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Windowsill "Garden"

Yesterday was a very relaxing day for us. After a month of dealing with a bunch of nonsense and misinformation regarding getting my passport stamped with the necessary visa stamp and signature, it was mostly done on Wednesday night, although I will still have to go pick up a card that will be printed in Dublin and sent back to Claremorris. I got the necessary stamp on day 90 of my 90 day entry visa. Whew! After a month of stress around that, it was so nice to wake up yesterday morning knowing that it was done and we could think of other things. We were both feeling like we didn't really want to do too much, although we did venture out to go to the library. We stopped at SuperValu on the way home, thinking we'd get some of the salmon that is on sale this week. It was gone. Apparently it is a very good price because it gets snapped up within 10 minutes of the store opening. We'd been told to check back again today and when we did, we were told it was gone again. Another shipment is definitely due Tuesday, so I guess we'll try again then! It's on sale for 10.99 euro per kg, which the ad says is half price. A kg is a bit over 2 pounds. If I can get some next week, then I'll get a kg and freeze most of it. The offer is good through Wednesday.

We were unsuccessful with the salmon, which I thought I might cook for supper, so I asked Bill what he felt like having. We threw out ideas and nothing seemed appealing. Then I remembered the pita breads I had in the freezer--got them reduced at Tesco and threw them in there for use in future pizza. I had tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and tomato puree (paste) at home as well, so we picked up a bag of shredded cheddar/mozzarella combined and a package of sliced chorizo and with that I made pizzas.
On one I put sliced tomatoes and sprinkled with oregano before topping with cheese and onions. I spread the other pita with tomato puree (paste) and sprinkled with oregano before topping with cheese, chopped bell pepper and chorizo strips. They were both really good! Still have a couple of pitas left in the freezer, too.

Today I rewarded myself after the visa stamp hassle. Things had gotten to a pretty deep level of frustration on my part--we'd reached one point where I told Bill that I wasn't sure it was worth staying here if things didn't work out on Wednesday. I was tired of the BS and the wasted time and money. I wanted to make a decision while we still had a good portion of our savings left and had more options. He even started looking at possible places for us to move. I said that I was willing to stay if things went as they should on Wednesday and that if we did stay, I would get myself a bag of dirt and a mint plant. I'd hesitated before when I thought about doing this because we always knew that Ballinrobe would be a temporary stop for us. We will move to a different Irish town next spring and then hopefully we will not move again for a while! Because I knew we'd be moving, I was holding off on buying stuff that would have to be moved. We needed pillows, sheets, and towels, so I didn't mind buying that. The flat came completely furnished, including pots, plates, silverware and all that kind of stuff. I did buy a slow cooker because I will use it a lot and it is small enough that it would fit in our largest suitcase--we had room in there when we moved to Ireland, but no available weight. Plants could be cumbersome to drag around, though. Then I found a parsley plant reduced to clear at Tesco and I bought it. A few weeks later, there was a basil plant in the same place. I brought them home and put them in the kitchen window--we have very wide windowsills as the walls here are at least a foot thick. I've used the plants and they grow--and outgrow--their pots. They needed to have more space. I finished a bunch of celery and couldn't help sticking it in water to regrow it--it was growing roots like mad.

I wanted to plant cloves of garlic so I'd have garlic chives. I couldn't bring myself to buy scallions, because I knew it would bug me to throw away the ends instead of sticking them in dirt so they could re-grow. And I wanted to have some mint to use for tea. Since we're staying, we went and bought a bag of dirt this afternoon--they call it compost here. We got it at a home improvement store just a bit down the road--we needed to get it nearby because the 56 litre bag was heavy to carry. Bill carried it halfway and I carried it halfway. I stopped in a garden store near Tesco and checked to see if they had a mint plant. They had a chocolate mint plant, so I got that. The landlord has an agreement with the owner of the flower shop around the corner so that we put our trash in her can for weekly pick-up. One evening when Bill was putting our bag out there, he spotted a large flower pot on top of their can, so he brought it up for me. I planted the chocolate mint plant in there--it needed to get out of the tiny pot ASAP. I re-potted my parsley and basil, got my celery and a few garlic cloves planted, and filled a container with dirt so it's ready for scallion ends. Scallions just happened to be on sale this week at Tesco, too.  Since most produce here comes prepackaged, I have several plastic containers that fruit came in--they already have holes in the bottom for drainage. I used those. Now I have my little herb "garden" on the kitchen windowsill.
I regularly use the parsley and basil and it will be nice to have the fresh green stuff--the herbs, scallions, and garlic chives--for salads in summer and through the winter. The mint will be great for tea. I have found a very limited selection of teas around here and it's nice to have some variety.  If it proves to be too much of a hassle to get the plants moved, then I can pass them along to my neighbor who has pots and pots of flowers (and a mint plant of her own) out on the deck. I'll probably have a lot of compost (potting soil) for her, too.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

White Bean and Veggie Slow Cooker Chilli (Chili)

Made some white bean veggie chilli (chili) in the slow cooker overnight Sunday into Monday. I got everything chopped and in the crock while I was making supper--then I forgot to turn it on at 11 or midnight as I’d planned! I went to bed at about 1 and was up 5 minutes later to turn it on. No matter--it was cooked by 7:30 Monday morning when I got up and checked it.

I chopped up an onion, a few carrots, and a couple of courgettes (zucchini). I minced a few cloves of garlic. I’d been soaking some white beans for 24 hours or so--I drained these and added them. Then I poured in water to within half an inch of the top. When I did remember to turn it on, I put it on high--this slow cooker does not get as hot as the ones I had in the US.

In the morning when I got up, I added a can of tomato puree (paste), some chopped fresh tomato, dried oregano, and chill (chili) i powder. I had some cooked brown rice in the fridge so last night I heated up rice and chilli (chili) in the microwave, added some extra mature (sharp) cheddar, and crushed up the chip crumbs in the bottom of a bag of nacho cheese tortilla chips and sprinkled them on top. It was quite good.
We went for a walk yesterday afternoon--no specific route in mind when we left, so we just meandered around. We stopped at Tesco on the way home because we needed some bread and I found out that there’s a “reduced to clear” section in the bread aisle. Sure enough, I found a couple of loaves and I also found a bunch of produce and some smoked mackerel coated with peppercorns in various “reduced to clear” sections in the store. Here’s what we bought for 11.79 euro ($16.14).
I used some of the pears and apples to make a sauce for pancakes. I’ll use the rocket on sandwiches along with some sliced tomato and onion that I already had. I will use some of the courgettes in a pasta dish. I stuck one of the loaves of bread in the freezer, because we bought some seeded rolls, too. We usually buy some rolls when we go into Tesco--if they have them. They don’t always and when that happens, it’s a disappointment! I also usually grab a roll of milk chocolate digestive biscuits. Tesco has their brand for 53 cents and we both really like them. The biscuit part has a vaguely graham crackerish flavor and they are not too sweet. There’s a thin layer of chocolate on one side. They are quite good and I figure if I grab a roll when I’m in there, I’ll have a stash in case they ever stop making them :-)
Plenty of leftover chili, lots of fruit and veg, and now we have the fish, cream cheese, and seeded rolls, so we have lunches and suppers sorted for the next couple of days. Yay!