Saturday, January 13, 2018

Wen's Chow Mein - Slimified!

So my cousin married the most amazing woman, Wen. She has become a good friend and a couple of years ago they came down to visit so she could give me some Chinese cooking lessons.  Her chow mein is out of this world, better than any takeaway and to watch her cook is such a joy.  She uses chopsticks for almost everything and has a natural instinct in the kitchen.

The recipe she gave me is so wonderful and versatile that it will really work with just about any meat and veg.  The version I post here is fairly true to Wen's method, only I remove the oil and the fried onions on top (moment of silence for the onions please...). I do add half a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil at the very end for the flavour of it, which is what really makes Chinese food. That is one syn for the whole recipe, which should easily serve 5-6 people.


  • Cooking spray
  • 250g medium egg noodles (dry weight)
  • 500g chicken fillets (sliced into thin strips)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin slives
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Beansprouts, half package
  • Mange Tout, half packet
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 tbs dark soy sauce
  • 3 tbs oyster sauce
  • sweetener (optional) to taste
  • white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
Cook noodles according to package directions, cut into smaller pieces, set aside to cool.

Spray wok with cooking spray and cook chicken slices until cooked through. Remove from wok.

Re-spray wok and cook carrots for a minute or two then add onions.  Cook until beginning to soften.  Add mange tout and beansprouts. Cook for a minute or two.  Add garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or two. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce and sweetener. Season with white pepper.

Add chicken and noodles to wok.  Stir fry and ensure the noodles are all coated in the sauce. If you need to, add a bit more soy and oyster sauce (equal parts).  Once ready, stir in sesame oil and serve. 

Slimming World 1/2 Syn Blueberry Muffins

I have a confession. I can't stand blueberries. Horrible tart little feckers that are creepy looking on the inside. No thank you. If I'm gonna eat fruit, it had better taste and look sweet and delicious. Blueberries do not fit the bill. However, put them in a big sugary muffin and it's another story altogether. I adore blueberry muffins and I make the best ones ever with a crispy sugary lemon topping. I wanted some of that and wondered could I adapt baked oats to suit.

I played around and came up with this recipe which was both filling and delicious. It serves one, makes two muffins and counts as your Healthy Extra B for oats. I do not syn the blueberries, because I don't feel this is a tweak... tweaks generally mean fecking around with ingredients to create something they're not meant to be, resulting in you overeating. Perhaps if I'd made a massive batch of these I would have syned the blueberries, because the propensity is there to overindulge, but I made two muffins with a handful of blueberries so feck it. I won't use all my syns today anyways, so they'll fit in regardless.  Do whatever you feel is right. A handful of cooked blueberries will probably work out between 1-2 syns. I did syn the sweetener.


  • 40g porridge oats (about a teaspoon reserved)
  • 4 tablespoons 0% fat Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 tsp sweetener*
  • Zest of one lemon**
  • Dash of lemon extract (optional)
  • Handful of blueberries
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Cooking spray
Preheat oven to 200C/400F

Mix the oats-less the reserved portion, yoghurt, lemon juice, eggs, 1 tbsp sweetener, lemon zest, extract if using, and blueberries. 

Spray two muffin cups with cooking spray.  Spoon in the mixture.

Mix the reserved oats with the remaining sweetener and sprinkle on top of the muffins.

Bake 20 minutes or until risen and golden. 

* I used Sukrin available at Holland and Barrett in Clonmel

** To get perfect citrus zest without rind, every time, I use a microplane grater. I've had mine almost 20 years now. It's brilliant, wouldn't be without one.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Syn-Free Beef Stroganoff and Wild Rice Pilaf

So… in case you hadn't gathered...  I joined Slimming World again, because why not? It’s the only program that lets me cook the same meals for the whole family and no one notices that it’s healthy and I’m allowed pasta. Nuff said. The challenge now is finding a way to cook normal food but in a healthier manner. We love beef stroganoff in this house and I daresay I make a mean one, full of butter and booze and gloriousness. I didn’t think a “healthified” version would make the grade, but nobody seemed to notice the difference, myself included.  I left out the flour and allowed the sauce to reduce, which as any chef will tell you, always results in much more flavour.
I served this Slimming World Beef Stroganoff with Wild Rice Pilaf, another family favourite that always brings me back to Michigan. In terms of Slimming World, this entire meal is syn-free and so delicious you will wonder how. I recommend filling up the plate with some steamed greens like asparagus, broccoli or broccolini.  Hope you enjoy and stay tuned for loads more SW-friendly recipes!
Slimming World Beef Stroganoff

  • fry-light
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 packet of mushrooms, sliced
  • 400g thinly sliced lean beef steak, thinly sliced*
  • salt and pepper
  • 250 ml beef stock (made using two stock cubes)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 tablespoons 0% fat Greek Yoghurt
  • Parsley, chopped, to garnish
  • Salt and pepper

Heat a large skillet and spray liberally with fry-light.
Add onions, garlic and shallot and cook down until onion is just softened. Add mushrooms and cook until liquid is cooked off, stirring to ensure nothing sticks.
Season steak liberally with salt and pepper.
Add beef and fry until just browned. Add stock and Worcestershire sauce. Turn up the heat and allow to reduce by half or more until slightly syrupy. Stir occasionally scraping the bottom of the pan, where all the flavour is. This can take awhile if the mushrooms are still releasing liquid.
Once sauce is thickened, stir in 3-4 tablespoons of the Greek Yoghurt and cook for another minute or two, longer if you prefer a thicker sauce. Stir in some fresh chopped parsley and serve immediately.
You can use fillet for the leanest option, but sirloin or round steak is more flavourful and if sliced thin enough, you can’t tell the difference. If you throw the steak into the freezer for 30 minutes, it’s easier to slice. Just be sure to trim all the fat.
Slimming World Wild Rice Pilaf
Slimming World Beef Stroganoff -
  • 1/4 cup dried wild rice*
  • Fry-light
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 cup of basmati rice
  • 250ml chicken or vegetable stock (made with two stock cubes)
Heat a small pot and bring some water to a boil.  Cook wild rice for about 30 minutes, or according to package directions.
Meanwhile, spray a pot with fry-light and add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened. Do not let brown.
Add the basmati rice with a few tablespoons of stock and cook for a few minutes to coat rice until stock is gone. Stir in the now cooked wild rice. Add enough stock to barely cover the rice. Put a lid on the pot and turn down to the lowest heat. Leave for 15-20 minutes until rice is cooked through.
Remove lid and fluff rice with fork and season with salt and pepper.
* Can be obtained from most health shops, alternatively use a wild/long-grain mix

Healthy Hashbrowns with Sauteed Spinach, Eggs and Tomato Confit

I miss blogging and people keep asking for recipes, so here I go again!  This is a pretty simple recipe that results in a fairly gourmet breakfast and it's healthy to boot, what's not to love?

I made the hashbrowns, topped with sauteed spinach and tomato confit and then topped with poached eggs. You HAVE to try my poached egg trick. Small mug, fill halfway with water, crack egg into it and microwave for 1 minute with a saucer on top. Perfect poached egg every time! You may need to play around with the cooking time a bit, but one minute seems to be the trick for all the microwaves I've used.

So first up... hashbrowns. Who doesn't love a good ole greasy hashbrown? Well I daresay these homemade ones are not only better, but greaseless and good for you. They could easily be made with a mix of root vegetables or even sweet potatoes.  I make a kilo of potatoes worth and freeze the ones I'm not eating right away.  They can be thawed and reheated in a pan with some cooking spray later.

Syn-Free Hash Browns


  • 1 kg (2lb) potatoes, peeled
  • 1 white onion
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cooking spray
Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F

Boil the peeled potatoes until partially cooked, about 8 minutes.  Set aside to cool until you can touch them.

Grate potatoes into a bowl. Grate onion on top of potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and mix.

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray and spoon 4-5 inch patties of potato mixture on top. Spray patties with cooking spray.

Bake 20-30 minutes, turning 2/3 of the way until they are as brown as you like them.

Serve immediately or allow to cool and freeze separating patties with parchment paper.

Piccolo Tomato "Confit"

This is my new favourite side, it goes so well with eggs and breakfast foods but also works wonderfully with chicken or fish.  So simple yet tastes divine.  Aldi do beautiful piccolo tomatoes on the vine that are sweet and delicious.  Any cherry tomato will work, but you will always get better flavour from tomatoes still on the vine.

  • 1 package of piccolo or cherry tomatoes
  • cooking spray
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • pinch sweetener/sugar
  • salt and pepper
Halve the tomatoes.  Heat a frying pan and spray with cooking spray. Add tomatoes and cook for a minute or two, add vinegar and sweetener. Cook for a few minutes until juice slightly thickens but tomatoes are still visible and not cooked down. Season to your taste.

Sauteed Spinach

Another ridiculously easy yet delicious healthy staple.  Great with eggs, or fab with sweet potatoes or as a dinner side. Can also add onions and lemon zest for even more flavour.


  • 1/2 package baby leaf spinach, washed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Cooking spray
Heat pan, spray with cooking spray and add spinach and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until spinach wilts. Season with salt and pepper.

Let me know how you get on! <3

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Salad for Breakfast: Layered Tex-Mex Salad

I just ate salad for breakfast. Because I can. Isn't being an adult wonderful? I've gone wheat-free and quasi-paleo of late and am loving it, feel like a new woman and this salad fits in well!

This isn't your average salad, it's salad I've been dreaming about all night because it is just that good. The combination of flavours and textures added to the aesthetic appearance is just fabulous. It's a whole meal and a healthy one at that, which would be perfect for dinner or to bring to picnics, potlucks or parties. It keeps well overnight and doesn't get soggy. I used grilled Mexican seasoned pork chops as the main protein, sliced thinly, but you could use a layer of seasoned taco beef or ground turkey, or some sliced grilled chicken or just leave meat out entirely! You may notice you don't see the corn in the pictures that the recipe calls for, but that's because when I went to get the corn, it turned out I had none. Although this was excellent without it, I think the crunchy sweetness would have added another fabulous layer of flavour.


For the salad:

  • 4 little gem lettuce, thinly sliced
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large white onion, finely diced
  • handful chopped coriander (cilantro)
  • 2 avocados, thinly sliced
  • lime, juiced
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 can black or kidney beans
  • 1 can sweetcorn
  • 4 roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 2 cups meat choice (see intro)
  • 1 cup sliced black olives
  • 1 quantity of dressing (recipe below)
Mix the onions and coriander and add half the juiced lime. Season with salt and pepper.  Use the remaining lime juice to coat the avocado slices to ensure they don't brown.

Get a large glass bowl and begin assembling. Start with a big layer of lettuce, reserving about 1/4 then layer the rest of the ingredients in whatever way seems appealing to you, with the dressing on the top. Top with another thin layer of lettuce. You can add a bit of cheese and green onions and olives on top as a garnish if you'd like.


For the dressing:

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chill powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Warmers: Italian Wedding Soup

When I lived in New York state, I worked for a major bank. During my training I was sent to a different part of town to work in a corporate branch in the business district. I hated every second of it, except for lunch time on Wednesdays.  I smelled it before I saw it, rich, warm, flavoursome and I asked what it was. Italian Wedding Soup they said.  Every Wednesday they had Italian Wedding Soup. It was so good, the only way I got through my few months in that job was knowing that every week had a Wednesday!

The whole family, even the picky ones have inherited my love for this soup and often beg for it after a long hike in the mountains. It really is a full meal in a bowl with protein, veggies and carbs all covered.

I've tried many recipes over the years and nothing has compared to that little canteen. Eventually I had to reconstruct my own version. Some recipes use kale, some use spinach, either would work fine, I use spinach because it's easier to find here, but go with whatever works for you.  If you can't get Italian sausage, use normal sausage and add some ground fennel seeds, chilli and Italian seasoning to the meatball mix and you will come pretty close! A perfect meal for these cold wintery days.


For the meatballs-

  • 1 lb Italian sausage meat (remove casings from alb of sausage)
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • handful parmesan
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt, pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and form small one inch meatballs. Brown in a 200C/400F oven for about ten minutes. 

For the soup-

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3-4 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3-4 litres chicken stock
  • 1 cup small pasta shapes (orzo or risini work well, broken spaghetti is fine too)
  • 2-3 handfuls torn spinach
  • Meatballs
  • Salt
  • Black and white pepper
  • Parmesan cheese to serve

Saute the carrots, onion and celery in the butter and olive oil until soft. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or so until fragrant. 

Pour in stock and add pasta, cook for about ten minutes then add meatballs. Allow to cook for another 5-10 minutes until pasta is cooked. Stir in the spinach and allow to wilt. Season with the salt and two types of pepper. Serve in big bowls with lashings of freshly grated parmesan.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Perfect Buttered Popcorn

This weather is enough to depress the heartiest of souls. With the torrential rain, howling winds and icy temps, I suspect there is many a "duvet day" going on around the country.   I know personally we've found ourselves curled up with Netflix, a fire and a big fat bowl of buttered popcorn much more often than would be normal.

Popcorn in Ireland is one of the reasons I rarely go to the cinema. Because well, quite frankly the popcorn sucks and considering you have to take out a second mortgage to even get enough for the whole family, that's just not on.  Not to say that the popcorn in America is any better.  I mean, it is, it's delicious - they ask if you want butter. The most ridiculous question ever. OF COURSE I want butter, LOTS of butter.  And then they go pump hot butter all over your popcorn.  Sometimes you get an especially good popcorn server, who'll fill it half way, butter then repeat.  BLISS!  Now I'm under no delusions that this is real butter and not some butter flavoured soybean oil derivative, but whatever, it's delicious and it makes the movie experience for me.  Here the popcorn is dry and over salted. Blergh.  
Maybe you buy microwave popcorn?  Well, it's slightly more flavourful than it's Irish cinema cousin, but have you read the ingredients!?  And the price of the stuff is insane. A year or two into our Irish adventure I knew I had to figure out the popcorn situation.  I seemed to always burn the microwave stuff (I never get along with microwaves) so I experimented for awhile with air poppers and pots and pans and woks and butters and salts and oils and combinations thereof until I finally managed to figure out the perfect formula! 

So here you go... I recommend eating it with a two litre of diet coke to cancel out the copious amounts of saturated fat.  Ok not really, but we can pretend right!? 

You will need:
  • 1 large stock pot with a lid
  • 1.5 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels*
  • 8oz butter
  • Table salt
  • Tongs
  • A big bowl or three!
  • Napkins or paper towels!!!
First things first, get your stock pot on the highest stove setting. If you have a gas stove, do the butter first, if electric, get your pot on.

While it starts to heat up, put your butter in a microwavable container and melt it on a low to medium heat. Do not let it bubble. Once it's fully melted, immediately remove and pop in freezer.  Yes, you heard me right. Don't ask questions, just do it! We're working on a tight schedule here peeps!!

When the pot is pretty hot add the oil and four kernels of popcorn.  No I haven't lost it, there's a method to my madness.  Put the lid on and wait until you hear four pops.  When all four kernels pop you know it is hot enough to pop the rest. 

Toss in the popcorn and put the lid on. Using a tea towel if the pot handles are hot, swirl it around gently every ten seconds or so, to ensure all the kernels keep moving and are coated in oil. Continue swirling as it pops. When the pops slow down to where there's more than 4-5 seconds between pops, remove from heat. Do not remove lid. 

Get butter out of the freezer. You will notice it's separated, congratulations you have just made clarified butter! Cold clarified butter gives the popcorn all of the flavour with none of the sogginess! At this point you can pour off the liquid gold and leave the solids in the bottom, or if you're lazy like me you just be careful not to get any of the solids on your popcorn.

Pour half the popcorn into your bowl and drizzle butter all over it. Toss with tongs as you pour to ensure even coating.  Sprinkle with salt and toss again.  Repeat with remaining half. 

Serve with plenty of napkins to go around! 

*I like the Kelkin brand. Do not buy the cheap stuff at the Asian shops, I made that mistake once and it's awful, doesn't pop right at all!

Tip Junkie Handmade Projects

Wen's Chow Mein - Slimified!

So my cousin married the most amazing woman, Wen. She has become a good friend and a couple of years ago they came down to visit so she co...