Happy Chinese New Year to all my friends from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines! As today marks the start of a new year for a lot of Chinese countries, I thought I might join in on the fun and cook some traditional chinese festive foods. There were a lot of possibilities, but I ended up choosing dumplings! I’ve only eaten them once and never made them before so it was quite a risk but luckily, I got some great tips from my friend Shao-Chi and his mom!
Lately I’ve been getting really into trying these new things that I usually just buy in the store, and one of those things is rye crackers to snack on during work (and have my entire desk covered in crumbs.. oops)! Now I had never used rye flower before so I didn’t want to make it too crazy, just basic crackers with loads of healthy seeds on it. Unfortunately, the first batch failed miserably! I think I actually chipped a tooth trying to bite them.. Absolutely horrible! But I wanted to try it again right away and went right back to my kitchen table which at that point was completely covered in flour because I was having a clumsy day and kept tripping and tipping everything over that was in my surroundings. Anyway, the second batch turned out perfect! I’ve been snacking on these for weeks now and they still taste great, so you can keep this for quite a while.
But why rye? Well it has quite a lot of health benefits for being a grain product. Rye flour actually usually retains a large quantity of nutrients, in contrast to refined wheat flour. The world’s healthiest foods: “Rye is a good source of fiber, which is especially important in the United States, since most Americans do not get enough fiber in their diets. Rye fiber is richly endowed with noncellulose polysaccharides, which have exceptionally high water-binding capacity and quickly give a feeling a fullness and satiety, making rye bread a real help for anyone trying to lose weight.
Discovering new products, ingredients and flavours is pretty much my day-to-day life ever since I started this blog. Not a day goes by that i’m not either thinking of new flavour combinations or trying out something new in my own kitchen, down at the market or in a restaurant. So I’m very excited to share with you all a new product by Ballmaloe Foods: Pickled Beetroot.
Pickled Beetroot holds a place in many an Irish person’s heart. A jar of this dark purple vegetable bathed in sweet vinegar evokes feelings of nostalgia and images of hard boiled eggs, butter head lettuce and chunky homemade chips. No tea table is complete without some! Now there is finally an Irish grown, cooked and packed pickled beetroot available; Ballymaloe Irish Beetroot.
I’m sure most people will think of the Pixar movie when someone mentions ‘Ratatouille’, and I must say that it’s the movie as well that inspired me to make this recipe today as I never used to eat ratatouille at all. Now what is ratatouille exactly? It’s a traditional French provencal stewed vegetable dish originating in Nice. It’s only made of vegetables so it’s suitable for both vegans and vegetarians but I assure you that as a meat-eater myself I did not miss meat in this at all! It’s an extremely popular meal to eat around the Mediterranean coast as it’s such an easy dish to make.
There are a few main ways of cooking this recipe: you can either stew them all in a big pot, some prefer to stew only the aubergine and courgette and layer them in the oven afterwards. I’ve gone for a third approach however: we only make the layer of sauce in a pot and then slice up all the other veggies and layer them in a casserole to be cooked in the oven.
As a food blogger I have an insane amount of plates in my home, really insane! Yet I still feel like I am missing a lot of great pieces, and one type that I really don’t have enough from is bowls. It’s undeniable that food in bowls has become a massive trend as it’s not only nice to look at, it can help you get the perfect amount of food and not over-eat by, for example, using big plates. There is something so beautiful about food in bowls as well, if you can find a great recipe of course and that is exactly what Nourish bowls is all about. Nourish Bowls is the ultimate guide to creating your own bowl, which is quick and easy to prepare on top of giving you an idea of how to present it if you want to impress people. The book provides 60 original hearty and photogenic recipes with all the elements you need for a delicious meal. Follow these or mix and match the key components to your own taste – the combination possibilities are endless!
Nourish Bowls is more than a recipe book, it’s a guide to creating your own unique and beautiful bowls. The key components for building the perfect nourish bowl are explained, with recipes split into ‘Breakfast Bowls’, ‘Light Bowls’ and ‘Full Bowls’, so you can enjoy this wholesome new way of eating at any time of day.
“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”.. Well in my case it’s flowers, I love having a beautiful vase in the hallway so it’s the first thing I see and smell when I go home. I don’t have a particular favourite flower though, but there is one flower I always associate with my home in Flanders: poppies! No matter where you go in Flanders, in Spring you will always find beautiful poppies along the roads. As beautiful as they are, these poppies often remind people of the First World War, with the most famous reference being this poem by Major John McCrae.
But poppies have a lot of other, often less known symbolism as well. “Poppies have been grown as ornamental plants since 5000 BC in Mesopotamia. They were found in Egyptian tombs. In Greek mythology, the poppy was associated with Demeter, goddess of fertility and agriculture. The origin of the cultural symbol was probably Minoan Crete, because a figurine known as the “poppy goddess” was found at a Minoan sanctuary in Crete. People believed they would get a bountiful crop if poppies grew in their fields, hence the name ‘corn poppy’.”
Leaving all symbolism aside though, poppies make a lovely addition to any home and can bring something special to your interior if you add just a few elements with them in your home.
Not sure where to start? Here are 4 of my favourite finds in Irish stores: a retro recipe tin, a beautiful painting to hang in your dining room, organic bowls to serve your food in and adorable poppy eggcups!
When I went home to Belgium for the holidays to spend some time with my family, I wanted to try out some new recipes I had in mind, and one thing I had been dying to try was sweet potato fries. I had them in restaurants before and as I absolutely love sweet potatoes, it had been at the top of my ‘to make’ list for a very long while. The first time I made them, I made the big mistake of trying to use raw sweet potatoes, like most chefs seemed to be doing. It took me ages to get them all chopped and needless to say, my hands and arms were killing me afterwards! It wasn’t until after that, that I decided to parboil the potatoes first, to soften them up and make them easier to slice: best idea ever.
Green green green! That’s all I could think and see when I was making my dinner. I was craving my first green asparagus meal of the season and as I was shopping for more ingredients, I somehow ended up with nothing but green ingredients, so I added some mushrooms to have some extra flavour and colour at the same time. As you can see there’s no meat or fish in this recipe, making it a very lean and healthy meal as we are not combining loads of carbs with high amounts of protein but are focusing on veggies.
There are a few ingredients to me that live and breath spring and green asparagus is one of them. You can buy them all year round, but keep in mind that in Ireland the season runs from April until July, so if you buy them outside of the season you should be aware that there’s no way it comes from Ireland/UK or Europe in general.
I’ve always been a bit afraid to try out Thai food because I always thought it would be extremely spicy or would have a lot of ginger in it, which is a flavor I do not like whatsoever, but about 1,5 years ago someone introduced me to the Thai cuisine and it turns out I’ve been missing out on something truly delicious! Granted, some dishes are too spicy for me, but there are a couple of dishes I’m very fond of, and the one I like the most is Kai phad med ma muang or Thai chicken with cashew nuts. The best one I’ve had so far would be in Yam Thai in Antwerp and the second best was Mini Thai in Wavre, cause both these restaurants had a really nice sauce to go along with it. Ever since I had the one in Yam Thai, I’ve been trying to come up with a recipe that comes close to the one they serve and I’m very pleased I finally managed to come up with a good combination of flavors. It’s not exactly the same sauce as they serve but I do like it a lot cause it has all these amazing Thai flavors, without being too spicy. Let me know what your favorite Thai restaurant and Thai food is and I’ll look for it on the menu the next time I go out for Thai food!
When it comes to incorporating wooden elements in your interior or dinner table, there are just so many items you can use. Some scented candles to bring the outdoors in your home, using bowls finished off with a bamboo touch or gorgeously cut wooden coasters and candlesticks. You can go for light coloured woods or rough and deep vibrant looks.
I’m not a diet girl, I’m sure you know that by now if you have been following my blog a bit. But I do like healthy treats and one very easy thing to do after those heavy unhealthy Holiday meals, is to treat myself to a superhealthy juice in the mornings and eat light but balanced and nutritious meals during the rest of the day, with the help of my cookbooks and favourite chefs like Pascale Naessens. When I posted a preview of my first 2016 ‘let’s give your body a bit of a healthy boost’ recipe on Instagram, people seemed so excited about it, I ended up spending all weekend editing my photos and writing up the recipe, well to be fair, there wasn’t much writing involved in this one as it’s just blending and sieving so the preparation part is very short!
Now I have to set the record straight on one thing: this is not a detox juice. “What? Why?!” Because detox juices are a scam. Shocked? I was when I discovered this thanks to my Swedish colleague Daniel. Drinking a juice won’t detox your body because detoxing or the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean is a hoax! He linked me up to a very interesting scientific article about cleansing and detox diets with only juices at the center of it, with the conclusion that “Any approach that leads to healthy long-term success is a good one. A fast done correctly can lead to many positive outcomes such as improvements in blood lipids. If a glass of juice or a cup of tea can direct a person away from too much alcohol or unhealthy food options that is certainly a step in the right direction. However, it is important to remember that nutrition is one part of a healthy lifestyle- not the center of it. Other areas in life must be balanced, such as stress management, and it is crucial to find foods and lifestyle adjustments tailored to your internal biochemistry. One size almost never fits all.”
While I’m enjoying the blistering heat in Corsica, France, there’s only one thing on my mind: cool & refreshing healthy drinks! Of course watermelon is delicious just as it is, but if you have to drive for a while or simply want to sit by the pool in 30°, it really is a true delight to be able to sip on some fresh, cool watermelon juice. It takes barely no time at all to make and by adding some ice cubes just before heading out, you’ll have a very cool drink that’s healthy for you at the same time. But why stop there, when you can make a cheeky and bolder drink with just one extra ingredient? Champagne!
Poor ‘aul champagne may not be the healthiest choice of your day, but you can easily shut down any haters by focusing on the health benefits of the other half of this fabulous drink: watermelon.
What makes watermelon so healthy? According to Whfoods.com: “Alongside of tomatoes, watermelon has moved up to the front of the line in recent research studies on high-lycopene foods. Lycopene is a carotenoid phytonutrient that’s especially important for our cardiovascular health, and an increasing number of scientists now believe that lycopene is important for bone health as well.”
Medical New Today adds: “Despite popular belief that watermelon is made up of only water and sugar, watermelon is actually considered a nutrient dense food, a food that provides a high amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for a low amount of calories.Watermelons have become synonymous with summer and picnics, and for good reason. Their refreshing quality and sweet taste help to combat the heat and also provide a guilt-free, low maintenance dessert for kids and adults alike to enjoy.”
These 4 little words to me symbolize the most important parts of my life as a foodie and in general, it's all about learning & discovering new ways of cooking an, new ingredients, new products and new places and bringing all that inspiration back into your cooking and way of life.
In 'Cook' it's all about recipes, all created and photographed by myself. If you are looking for great new book tips, you can have a look at 'Learn'. In 'Discover' I share all kinds of tips: from new products to kitchen tools, as well as travel tips and interviews (soon!) with local producers in Ireland. Last but not least: Interior inspiration to spruce up your home can be found in 'Enjoy'.