Archive | November, 2011

Christmas on a Budget and Christmas in a Glass!

21 Nov

It is the time of year when people start thinking about buying gifts for their loved ones, but the reality is that things are tight all around and with the budget looming we all need to get creative!

When I was in paye employment I spent silly money on gifts for everyone but it was during my first year of self-employment  with Dee’s that all changed!

That year I visited a fabulous charity shop in Kilkenny where I bought my family books, little vintage shops provided unusual gifts for friends and I bought lots of bottles of Rosehip cordials from Forage and Find at the Corn Market Street Farmer’s market every Saturday in Cork.  These made gorgeous gifts and didn’t cost the earth.   People appreciated the gifts just the same as the expensive ones the year before. http://www.forageandfind.com

Meadowsweet and Rhubarb Cordial

The most important thing is being with family and friends and enjoying just having some time off.  However, if you are having family to dinner why not ask one lot of guests to bring the starter and the other to bring dessert or side dishes.  It will ease the pressure and they can bring their washing up home with them too! Just kidding!

Ballyhoura Apple Farm also do a lovely mulled Irish apple juice, it is mulled in the bottle and really is Christmas in a glass,  heat it up and it is perfect to serve to the designated drivers instead of a glass of mulled wine. www.ballyhouraapplefarm.com

So never mind been drawn into the gaudy lights of the Department stores with their endless overpackaged tat  that all comes from far overseas and look around for some real quality Irish goods and support local producers and charity organisations where you can.   Because no matter how badly off you think you are, there is always someone far worse that you.  St. Vincent de Paul do fantastic work and SuperValu are taking toy donations this year.  I’ll bet you know lots of children who got toys last year that are still in boxes.  Root them out, pack them up and donate in your local SuperValu.

Not everything has to cost money either, if you get a chance to walk around Cork City next Friday night there will be a lovely festive atmosphere, as the Christmas lights are being switched on and the English Market is open until 8pm and the Cork Christmas market is taking place also.  All for free!  Unless a hot port takes your fancy on the way home : )

Enjoy your festive planning!   Dee

Vegetable protein – how do you eat yours?

9 Nov

You have all seen the fake meat “sausages” and “burgers” that are in stores, these have a fake meat texture as they are a combination of a textured vegetable protein (soy) and another protein called gluten from wheat.  These proteins are blended with fat, as without the fat present there is nothing to carry flavour which is added in the form of yeast extracts, natural flavourings, salt, sugars and spices and probably a binder that forms a gel when it is heated (called hydroxypropylmethylcellulose or hpmc) I have mentioned previously that hpmc comes from wood fibres.  If there is no hpmc then there is probably some kind of egg in there making a lot of fake meats unsuitable for vegans.  Dee’s  veggie burgers are vegan but do not contain any soy or gluten, egg, binders, fats or salt – which is pretty unique for a vegan burger!

The main issue here is with the soy which is why we have chosen not to use soy in our products- this is not the same soy that is present in miso or natural tofu which a lot of people have been eating for years.  The soy present in these foods is a really processed soy, the protein of which is extracted with a chemical called hexane.  I came across this interesting article on the matter here http://www.naturalnews.com/026303_soy_protein_hexane.html    hexane residues should really be tested for if you ask me.

At the food proteins summit in Holland last year, I posed the question to the Solae representative (the largest soy company) about the negative effects of eating too much soy, he flippantly remarked that people had been eating soy products in Asia for years with no harmful effects, I replied that the soy products in Asia were a result of natural fermentation processes and not extracted with a toxic chemical like hexane.  He went on to the next question.  That kind of response does not enamour me to the soy industry.

If you really want a “meaty” addition to your meal Seitan is a better bet and is a purer “wheat meat” .  This was a staple food among vegetarian buddhist monks in China and has been eaten in China, Japan, Korea, Russia and the Middle East for thousands of years and is made by making a dough with special flour and rinsing until you are left with the gluten which is simmered in a seasoned broth.  It goes great in stir fries.   I made a Seitan Chop Suey last week, the only fresh ingredients are peppers and mushrooms, you could keep the rest in your press for when a chinese craving hits you!

This is easy to make just chop up the seitan and leave in a marinade of corn flour, crushed ginger and soy sauce. Then stir fry a sliced green pepper, half a stick of celery, sliced,  a sliced onion and some sliced mushrooms for 3 mins, add a dash of soy sauce and rice wine and then add in a tin or bamboo shoots and a tin of beansprouts.  Pour in the marinade and seitan and a half cup of vegetable stock and a teensy drop of sesame oil.  This will be cooked faster than you can say “Golden Dragon” and is truly yum!

A Sunny Day in Cork City

6 Nov

Cork is glorious when the sun is shining, especially on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you have time to stop and take in the sights that you normally whizz by on your way from A to B.    The “Bike to Work” scheme has done wonders for the nation’s pedal power and there is no nicer way to see the city.  I love the dockland area on a Sunday; the ships are tucked in tight and the giant cranes have slowly creaked to a silent slumber.  The grandfatherly R & H Hall stands proud over the deep water port and the Art Deco silos can be seen from many vantage points in the city, defining the area and celebrating the long history of trade at Kennedy Quay.

The MV Julia (Cork-Swansea) Ferry is pulled into the docks, normally large ferries are never to be seen in this area – being moved further down to Ringaskiddy. The presence of the Julia adds another dimension and wills us to see the dockland area in a new, more usable light. The citizens of Cork long to get behind the locked Port of Cork gates and use and enjoy the area where the Cork Bonded Warehouses lie.  There is of course a new pontoon for boats and yachts to overnight in the City safely, which is nice to see but surely everybody should be able to enjoy this area which is surrounded by water on both sides.

The area could be developed little by little and not suffer the fate of celtic-tiger type developments like the Elysian – that have contributed nothing to the area.  Imagine if the money that was spent on the Elysian was put into developing the area where the Cork Bonded Warehouses are, a gorgeous terrace where you could sit and enjoy being by the water.  The old warehouses could be filled with artists and craft-workers, silversmiths and textiles – along with book-shops, bars and eateries.   Maybe someday…

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Continuing down the Marina if you take a right where it says “public walk” you arrive in Atlantic pond, this is a lovely sheltered area and even in the middle of November was warm and inviting, lots of people sitting around, reading newspapers and feeding the ducks and swans.

Blackrock Market is a popular place when the sun is shining, O’ Conaills Coffee dock gives free chocolate drops which go meltingly well with the creamy lattes.   Dee’s had a stall here when we started our veggie burger business a few years back and it is a great stop off point for walkers, runners and cyclists to refuel.

Blackrock Castle has been carefully restored and now houses a fantastic restaurant, although I haven’t eaten there, the menu left me suitably impressed and is on the list of places to visit soon.  Himself wanted to look through the telescope in the Observatory but unfortunately it is a research tool, but they do hold Guided evening astronomy sessions in association which take place monthly in the courtyard from September to May.  You can continue to cycle on to Rochestown on the cycle path but darkness was coming so we headed back towards the city lights.

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