Ireland – All The Food!

I just returned from a whirlwind 12 days in Ireland. Two of those days were primarily travel days; the other 10 were crammed full of as much as possible. It was an absolutely incredible trip! I rented a little Ford Ka and drove all over the country on my own – something I never thought I would be brave enough to do! I visited Doolin, Galway, Dublin, Kilkenny, Cork, Killarney, Dingle, and Ennis. The whole country is beautiful, the people are wonderful, and I totally fell in love with Ireland.

Some highlights from the trip:

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Clockwise from top left: The Cliffs of Moher, the Gap of Dunloe, a beach along the Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula, kissing the Blarney Stone, St Finn Barr’s Cathedral in Cork, and the Killarney National Park.

So. Beautiful. I took so many pictures.

And, of course, one of my goals was to eat all the food! It can be so challenging to travel with food sensitivities. One of the best things I did was buy groceries and cook in my hostels. It saved me money and it saved me from getting sick – who wants to spend their vacation feeling crappy?! I did dine out a fair amount and from what I gathered, the signature dishes are:

1. Irish Stew. Duh. Made with beef or lamb, potatoes, and maybe some Guinness.

2. Soup and Brown Bread. You could find vegetable soup and brown bread everywhere!

3. Salmon. Some of the freshest salmon I have ever had was in Ireland.

4. Quiche. Again, almost every cafe I walked into had a quiche option. Soup and brown bread and a quiche.

5. Fish and Chips. Traditional pub food at its finest. Since most of the cities I stayed in were close to the coast, the fish was so fresh. I was so happy to find gluten free fish and chips in Dublin!

 

All the things I ate (and drank)!

Guinness! Duh.

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Almond milk latte and gluten free, dairy free donut from Antoinette’s Bakery in Dublin. I have nothing but great things to say about Antoinette’s. The food was great, the staff was great, and the cafe itself is really cute. I would go back in a heartbeat!

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Gluten and dairy free crepe from Lemon Crepe and Coffee Co. in Dublin. Great start to my last day in Dublin! They were so accommodating to my food needs… and they brought out a piece of chocolate with my coffee! So wonderful.

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Gluten free fish and chips from Beshoff Bros. in Dublin. I was so excited to be able to partake in such a classic dish!!

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Gluten-free (but not dairy free 😦 ) brownie from the Fig Tree in Kilkenny. They had a nice selection of gluten free meals and the atmosphere in the restaurant was great. I regret eating the brownie, but it was delicious!

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Amazing salmon from the Cornstore in Cork. The Cornstore is one of Cork’s best and has won several awards. Cork is very much a “foodie” town and I wish I would have spent more time there!! Anyway, this salmon was some of the best I ever had!

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Delicious coffee and gluten-free almond orange cake from the Garden Cafe in Dingle. So delicious. One of the best cafes I have been to! They have a great garden seating area, good coffee, and the staff was awesome!

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Gluten and dairy free crepe from Creme de la Crepe at the farmer’s market in Dingle. Made with rice milk and buckwheat and delicious!

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Gluten and dairy free honey bread from a farmer’s market in Kenmare. It made for the perfect afternoon treat after spending the day driving all over Co. Kerry.

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I didn’t eat here, but this is definitely how I prefer my food! I got a great cup of cold brew and some great advice from the folks at Suas in Ennis. They have been named one of Ireland’s top 10 coffee shops and they have only been in business for 10 months! IMG_4299

So much coffee. I probably drank my body weight in coffee and Guinness. I was also introduced to a “flat white” which is similar to a latte but uses less milk. The emphasis is on the espresso and it’s awesome.

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And after all that deliciousness, I got some questionable airplane food and a little bag of peanuts. Totally disappointing. But I don’t feel too terribly jet-lagged and I remembered what side of the road to be on, so all is well 🙂 Now it’s back to work in the kitchen to bust out some deliciousness!

I bet you didn’t know you could make this at home!

I have been pleasantly surprised by how many things are actually really easy to make at home. So many things sound super intimidating to make and I think people are very put off by that, so they don’t even try. I have found that making things from scratch is ultimately cheaper and healthier than store bought alternatives. And once you get the hang of them, they really don’t take very much time!

Here is a list of things that sound intimidating but are actually not hard.

1. Almond milk. Can you operate a blender? Perfect. Can you strain liquids? Excellent. You can make almond milk (or any other nut milk for that matter).

2. Nut butter. Can you operate a food processor? Can you be somewhat patient? Then you can make nut butter. Mine usually takes 15-20 minutes, depending on what nut I am using.

3. Cold brew coffee. If you can combine coffee and water and then strain it, you can make your own cold brew!

4. Barbecue sauce. Got a stove? You’re all set. Making your own BBQ sauce means avoiding all the nasty stuff that is in commercial ketchup:

And all the nasties they put in barbecue sauce:

5. Mayo. If you have an immersion blender, this is pretty much foolproof. You can make it in a regular blender, it’s just a little trickier. Mayo in a blender.

And you don’t have to eat all these:

6. Jerky. This is super simple if you have a dehydrator, but I have found a method for making it in the oven as well. Marinate your meat in whatever you want… I like to mix up ground beef with sriracha and make that into jerky. Seriously just beef and sriracha. I smash my beef between pieces of parchment paper, cut it into strips and throw them in my dehydrator. No jerky gun needed.

7. Flour. Oat flour is probably the easiest thing on the planet to make. Put it in a food processor and pulverize until it is a flour consistency.

8. Whipped cream. Got a mixer and a little patience? For those of us who are dairy free, this is a great option using canned coconut milk.

9. Hummus. Can you put beans in a blender/ food processor and turn it on? Too easy. You can sub almond butter or peanut butter for the tahini – it will affect the taste a little, but not significantly.

 

There you have it folks – 9 things that sound intimidating, but really aren’t! Give one a shot this week and let me know how it goes!!

 

I suck at rope climbs. But I’m awesome at making food.

So it balances out, right?! There was a day this past week where I looked at the workout and my first thought was profane. There are exercises that are hard but still doable… the ones that kick my ass and slow me down and make me want to curse and then there are things that are just on the edge of my physical abilities…. like rope climbs. Last time I tried them, I made it all the way up once and then proceeded to just struggle and struggle. I was so frustrated I was on the verge of tears.

I hate learning new things because I want to be good at them RIGHT NOW. I have very little patience for the learning process. I am learning that the struggle makes things sweet – the more it costs you, the sweeter the reward. And sometimes being brave just looks like showing up and getting your ass kicked by rope climbs. The more I physically challenge myself, the more humbled I am. The more I realize what I can’t do, where I have room to improve, and the more I realize that my ego needs to keep itself in the car. And that the struggle won’t be forever. With time and practice, things will get easier. Just because today is hard doesn’t mean tomorrow will be. This mile is hard, but that doesn’t mean the next one will be. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but the struggle isn’t forever. It only feels like it. And my struggle looks different than your struggle. I am where I am in my journey and that is okay. I can’t do a pullup to save my life but I have run marathons. I know people who could kick my ass at pullups and muscle-ups, but can’t run a mile at what I consider an easy pace. And that’s okay.

Anyway, I met a guy once who owned a martial arts studio. He talked about how he coached his students. Instead of criticizing them when they made an error, he would ask them, “what’s RIGHT with you?” (as opposed to, “what’s wrong with you?”) and the student would say something like “my attitude” or “my effort” or whatever. I thought it was an awesome approach. Most people already know where they are falling short. He was approaching it in a way that built his students’ confidence and made it a totally positive learning environment. There is a lot of failing involved in learning and people don’t need to dwell on that.

So in the spirit of positive learning environments, what’s RIGHT with me?? I am getting faster at running – I set a 10 minute half marathon PR on a hilly course. I deadlifted over 200 pounds for the first time in who knows how long. And I did 8 complete rope climbs, which is way more than I did before! I am surviving my marathon training…. it doesn’t feel like I’m getting any faster, but I ran 20 freaking miles on Sunday, which is something I haven’t done in almost two years.

Aaaaaaaand I make good food. Sometimes it’s fancier, and sometimes it’s super simple. But simple is good. Especially on long run days when it hurts to think. Plus, sometimes a girl just needs some salad. I have been craving salad lately… maybe because it’s hot. At any rate, this is delicious and takes minimal effort.

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Strawberry Spinach Salad

4-6 cups of greens (I used a mix of spinach and arugula)

1/2 pint strawberries

1/2 cup of pecans

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (or feta, if you prefer)

 

 

 

 

 

Dressing

1/2 pint strawberries, chopped into quarters

1 small white onion, diced

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tsp rosemary

1/2 tsp sage

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp honey (optional)

2 tsp Dijon Mustard

 

Make dressing! 

Add 1 TBSP olive oil to a small saucepan and saute the onions until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add your balsamic vinger and strawberries and cook over medium-low heat until they are soft (even mushy). Add all your seasonings, the honey, and the mustard and mix well. Simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes.

Carefully transfer dressing mixture to a blender or food processor, add 1 TBSP of olive oil and puree until smooth. Cool before serving.

This dressing is pretty thick – you can thin it to your liking with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or water.

For the salad –

Add your greens to a big bowl. Slice up your strawberries, chop your pecans, and throw them both in the bowl. Add cheese and mix well!

Add a grilled protein if you like – chicken, ahi tuna, or steak would be delicious!

Top with dressing and consume!

 

 

Carrot Cake “Clif Bars”

I’m fairly certain that Clif bars are the only reason that my brother hasn’t starved to death. Clif bars and rice. Between not having time to cook or a lot of grocery money, grad school can make life complicated. In addition to the actual school part. My staples were lentils and quinoa. Probably cooked in curry of some sort. I think I ate some version of curried lentils and quinoa at least 4 days a week during my first year of grad school.

I got to hang out with my brother this weekend for the 4th of July and some things still haven’t changed – the man loves his Clif bars and his rice. And spicy food, which was all fun and games until we ordered roasted jalapenos at a bar in Virginia beach and it burned both of our faces off. It almost brought me to tears and it wouldn’t go away. It burned for a solid 10 minutes. Jalapenos are tricky – some of them are more mild and some of them will ruin your life. These ones were life ruiners.

Anyway, bars are super convenient – but like most things, they are cheaper and healthier when you make them yourself! All it takes is a few minutes and a handy dandy food processor!

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Carrot Cake “Clif Bars”

Ingredients

1 cup pitted dates (about 8 medjool)

1 cup rolled oats (certified GF if necessary)

1/2 cup almonds (or 1/2 cup almonds and 1/2 cup hazelnuts or 1 cup of any nut/seed you prefer)

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut flakes

1/8 cup honey

1/3 cup flax meal

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup water

 

Directions

If dates are dry, soak them in warm water for a few hours – it’ll make life so much easier!

Preheat oven to 325.

In food processor, pulse oats, almonds, and hazelnuts until crumbly. Add dates and pulse until mixed in.

Add in raisins, 1/2 cup carrots, honey, flax, and cinnamon. Pulse together until the mixture becomes thick and sticky. Add up to 1/3 cup water as needed.

Mix in the coconut and remainder of carrots by hand.

Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper, leaving enough on the edges to pull bars out. Press mixture into the pan.

Bake for 20 minutes or until bars are set. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan.

Cut bars into whatever size you like and store in the fridge for best results.

Tri-Color Slaw and Maple Bacon Gel. Yummmmm.

I love an adventure. I love trying new foods. As long as it won’t make me sick, I will try just about anything. Including maple bacon flavored carbohydrate gels.

 

It was really not all that good. It wasn’t the worst one I’ve ever tried, but it was really not that good. And I couldn’t get the packet to open… so when I did, it exploded all over my hands. Gross. While it wasn’t something I want to have as a snack when I’m not running, I am impressed with Vfuel. Their ingredients are not anything terrifying (they explain what everything is on their website), there isn’t a bunch of junk in them, and they didn’t make me sick. So that’s all a big win in my book. I have their fudge brownie flavor to try next. We’ll see how that goes. I’m also trying Huma gels … the first ingredient is fruit puree, which I think is awesome. I hear they also taste good, which is even better.

I have also had good experiences with Hammer products. Namely the Montana Huckleberry flavored gel. I might even go as far as to say it tastes good, which is saying a lot. I have a pretty sensitive stomach, especially when I’m running and I have never had an issue with Hammer gels, even if the taste isn’t my favorite. No one is paying me for this (I wish!), so this is just a shameless plug for a few of my favorite things. As much as I love real food, it is so much more convenient to carry gels during a race. So I have been incorporating them on my long runs so I can find out what I want to race with.

Anyway, after my morning with sugar in a packet, I was more than happy to eat some real food! I made curry roasted butternut squash with chicken breast as my post-run lunch and it was amazing. I’m pretty sure I could eat an entire butternut squash this way. So. Good.

Dinner was a barbecue with some of my favorite people. Burgers, kale salad with cranberries, quinoa, and almonds, and this Tricolor Slaw from The Kitchn. Super easy and super delicious. I used the slicing blade on my food processor and I made an obscene amount of slaw in less than 15 minutes. I used olive oil instead of peanut or safflower oil. (There is some really good info on cooking/ eating fats here and here.) My slaw did not come out nearly as pretty as this picture, but it was still delicious. Which is definitely good because I made enough to feed a small army and I will be eating it every day this week.  It would also be great for a 4th of July BBQ!

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(image courtesy of Faith Durand at The Kitchn)

I love slaws. They are so adaptable, so easy, and so tasty. What are your go-to side dishes?