Pumpkin Mac and Cheese and Pilates

It’s been a minute! If you been following on my Instagram(the social media I post on the most, find me @cookinwithcarmel), you know I can now call myself a FITNESS INSTRUCTOR! It was this time one year ago I started out my own transformation, and what a year it’s been! SO much sweat, a few tears, lots of doubt, but I can say I am in a VERY happy place since I made the choice to give my life a makeover. And now I’m helping people with their own transformation!

Since moving into fitness I get asked A LOT if I’ll ever become a chef again, and this was a question brought up many times at my high school reunion this past weekend. I’d still call myself a chef, just a former commercial kitchen chef/at home healthy chef. I’m focusing more of the nutritional side of food when it comes to eating and cooking, how we can use food as fuel. So if you need a little help in what to eat to help you get through a workout, I’m here to help! And that might actually be my next blog post!

Anyways, this past weekend was Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday! Not just because of all the food, but because it’s a time for family. And with my large family, the holidays are always a blast! Back to the food, we had a SPREAD: pumpkin donuts for breakfast; dinner was turkey, ham, two bowls of stuffing, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, more veg, and PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE!

The recipe was highly requested, and I highly recommend it this time of year! Such a cozy dish! It’s really easy and quick! There is dairy in it, those following me for a while know I cut dairy out for a little bit. But this is a HOLIDAY dish, and during the holidays you’re allowed to indulge a little! I cut back on cheese and added nutritional yeast. That way I was going even a small amount of benefits, without losing that cheesey flavor. I used 3/4 of a cup of cheese, but you can even experiment and cut it down o 1/2 of a cup and add 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast.

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Here’s what you’ll need: 

1 can of pureed pumpkin

1 cup of milk (I used dairy; alternative: use unsweetened/unflavored almond or soy milk)

2 tablespoons butter (alternative: Smart Balance vegan butter)

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

3/4  of a cup cheddar cheese

1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Pinch of salt and pepper

Elbow/macaroni pasta or spiralized zuchinni

Method:

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally, bring to the boil. Stir until cheddar has melted and ingredients are combined through. Add a little more salt and pepper to adjust. Cook your choice of pasta and mix it with your sauce!

This recipe makes about 3 1/2 cups of sauce. Store in a mason jar and use within three weeks!

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A New Direction

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There’s been a little radio silence on my blog, as I have been making somewhat of a big transition! I’ve always been a ‘foodie’, but in recent years, I haven’t had the healthiest relationship with my meals, snacks, and drinks(alcoholic and non). I ate when I was tired, out of boredom, or simply because something looked good. I broke my ankle in June 2015, and my health, physically and mentally, spiraled out of control. I reached my heaviest I’ve ever been (I’ve always been a little chubbier, and never an athlete, and even in my slim days I wasn’t treating my body right) weight wise. Even though it seemed my blog was taking off in Ireland and that I was happy, I was actually pretty miserable.

I moved back to California with a goal in mind: gain back my happiness and confidence(as well as lose a few lbs for my sister’s wedding in fall 2017). I hired an amazing personal trainer, and since December have been working out with her twice a week, as well as doing at home and other gym workouts. I’ve also cleaned up my diet- I avoid processed sugars and white flour and I’ve cut WAY back on my alcohol intake. I’m feeling so much stronger, happier(food has such a bigger role on mentality than I realized), and much more energetic! I’ve also gone FROM A SIZE 14 TO A SIZE 6(ROUGHLY 25 LBS)!! I haven’t focused so much on the number of the scale as much as I have about my level of confidence/how I look in those jeans.

Being much fit and healthier has pushed me to have much more of a direction/have a sense of clarity with what I want my role to be in the food industry. I look at food as fuel nowadays, instead of a stress buster/to pass time.

With that, from now on, cookin’ with me will be MUCH HEALTHIER, CLEANER; and I’m hoping to offer tips and tricks of fitness (like proper form) that I’ve learned so far!

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-Chia puddings have been one of my pre-workouts!

 

Double Champagne Cupcakes

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I call these my Double Champagne Cupcakes, there is champagne in the Cupcakes and Frosting. These are great for ringing in the New Year, a birthday, or an anniversary–pink champagne would be great for a hen party! Quite easy, but show-stopping for a celebration!
For the Champagne Cupcakes:
-3/4 cup salted butter, at room temperature.
-1 cup of white sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-3 egg whites
– 1 2/3 cups of flour
-1/4 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 cup of sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
-1/2 cup of champagne
For the Frosting:
– 1 cup of butter (salted)
-1 tablespoon vanilla extract
-4 cups icing sugar
-5-6 tablespoons of champagne
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. In a small or medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
3. In a larger mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
4. Add the vanilla and eggs whites and mix.
5. Then add the flour, but not all at once! You’ll add about half of the flour, then add the sour cream, and mix. Then add the rest of the flour.
6. Fold in the champagne and mix until smooth. Don’t overmix!
7. Fill the cupcake liners a little more than half way-or about three heaped tablespoons of batter. (This batter will make about 14). Bake for about 20 minutes.
While the cupcakes are baking, make the Frosting:
1. Beat butter and vanilla extract until smooth.
2. Add half of the icing sugar and mix until smooth.
3. Add champagne, and mix until smooth. Then add remaining sugar, and mix.
4. Add more champagne if you wish(I added a 2-3 more little splashes!)
Ice the Cupcakes once cool. Decorate with edible pearls or sprinkles.

Let them Eat Cake!

It’s been birthday season in my family-my Dad’s birthday was earlier this month; my Mom’s birthday was exactly a week prior to his(Halloween); and my brother’s was exactly a week prior to hers. It’s great being around family after these last couple of years abroad. Dinner is our household (about 12 adults and 6 grandchildren!) is a time to: catch up, reminisce, gossip, celebrate; it’s loud; chaotic…BUT I really wouldn’t have it ANY other way! And there’s no shortage of food or wine…ever!

I’m really looking forward to cooking Thanksgiving dinner this month. I’ll be in charge of the main bird itself, as well as the stuffing, the gravy, and the pumpkin pie…but I also have two little recipes up my sleeve for the Day. Last Christmas I cooked the turkey and a few good sides, so I’m not feeling too nervous about cooking the turkey…it’s just deciding what flavors I want to include…

While I brainstorm new recipes, here’s a look at some of the cakes I’ve been making in the San Francisco/family home test kitchen: (Who needs/wants a cake in San Francisco??)

 

 

 

Wild Berry Lemon Bundt Cake

This Lemon Bundt is a total crowd pleaser! It’s a big hit with kids, as you can call a Bundt a Castle Cake due to the shape.

I dressed the cake with the perfect Lemon Drizzle, raspberries and wild mint. There’s mint that grows in the field behind my parent’s house in West Cork-it’s such a perfect topping for summer desserts. Crystalizing the mint leaves adds an extra special touch to the cake. It’s an easy project-a little bit messy, but a beautiful result!

I ended up using zest and juice from TWO lemons, to really deliver that punch of flavor. And major bonus with this recipe, it’s made in one bowl!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup mixed berries: strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries

Garnish: berries, mint, and Lemon Drizzle (see below for recipe!)

Method:

Preheat oven to 130C. Grease and flour a bundt tin. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then the vanilla. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Don’t over-mix though! Pour HALF of  batter into tin, and scatter berries. Top with the rest of the batter,  and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean.

Take the cake out of oven, and let rest in tin for about 5 minutes. Then remove and let cool. While it’s cooling, make the Drizzle.

Lemon Drizzle Icing:

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Simply whisk the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl, until a smooth consistency!

To Crystalize Mint Leaves:

Wash mint leaves, and pat dry. Beat one egg white in a bowl until foamy; pour half a cup of caster or granulated sugar on a plate. Dip the leaves in the egg white, then the sugar. Set to the side for at least two hours.

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COOKING DEMO NEXT WEEK

In West Cork next week?! I am giving a cooking demonstration on Bere Island! It’ll be at 5pm in the Community Center.

There’s a lot of fun activities on Bere Island happening over the next week, check out the line-up:

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Soy Honey Marinade AND Lime-Chili Butter

I used this Marinade on some ribs yesterday. But it would go on any cut of chicken, beef, pork, etc. I oven baked the ribs, but throwing them on a BBQ would be fantastic!

But before baking the ribs, I marinaded them overnight-which I highly suggest, to really get all the elements of flavor!

It is SSSOOO good! And so easy to put together!

Soy Honey Marinade:

1/4 cup Soy sauce

3 tablespoons Honey

2 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced (I added a little extra to give it that extra kick!)

1 tablespoon parsley leaves, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon , each, of poppyseed and sesame seeds

Large sandwich bag.

You simply toss all the ingredients into the sandwich bag, along with your meat. CLose tightly, and shake. Leave to marinade anywhere fro 4 hours, to overnight.

Bake or grill your choice of meat (or chunky veg, like aubergine/eggplant or courgette/zucchini)! Sprinkle with more seeds and parsley. Can easily be doubled.

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Now time for the second recipe~

I slathered this on corn, but it can go on anything. Even use it in frying(or butter your toast with it and make fancy toast!). It’s so simple but adds that extra WOW factor to any dish.

Lime-Chili Butter:

1/2 pound of butter (about 1/2 a stick)

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped red chili (or use chili flakes)

1 teaspoon lime juice

In a mixing bowl, use a wooden spoon to soften the butter. Add the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle with roughly chopped parsley and sea salt. This can easily be doubled. And what you don’t use, just store covered in fridge. Think I’ll use my leftovers on a shrimp dish this week!

 

 

 

 

 

Coming soon…RECIPE EBOOK

One of my goals is to have my own cookbook. I’ve just started a baby/junior cookbook…well a RECIPE EBOOK! AAHHH! I’m a little scared, excited!

It will be available for your Kindle come August!

I’m really excited, and have been working on it quietly the last while.

More details to follow in the coming weeks, so if you aren’t already subscribed, GO DO IT NOW…and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Here it is-my FIRST WEDDING CAKE!

This is my proudest culinary moment And most special. This past spring I made my brother’s wedding cake. It was my first wedding cake, and I am pretty happy with the result!

The silver and white pearls are edible, the second tier has a marbled effect to it, and the flowers were picked that morning.

The wedding was an absolutely fantastic time-couldn’t be happier for you two!

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