Tag Archives: cheese

Explore Ireland’s Countryside in Style

Irish Countryside Serves Up Local Fare and Active Outings

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It’s the weather that keeps the Emerald Isle so green, the gardens lush and the creamy dairy products so delicious.

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“It’s a soft day,” said Damien Bastiat general manager of Ballyfin hotel, an elegantly restored country estate set in the middle of Ireland.

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Bastiat was referring to a gentle mist of rain calling for a light jacket but not enough to require an umbrella.

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He led us on a tour to explore the walled gardens and expansive landscaped grounds including a climb up a stone tower built as an architectural folly.

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The formal kitchen gardens boast a gourmet grocery of vegetables, herbs, apple trees, and even artichokes.

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“Irish producers are just starting to promote their own,” said Ballyfin executive chef Michael Tweedie.  His ‘garden to plate’ menus star farmhouse cheeses, and yogurt from Irish dairies, shellfish and sea salt from the coast, eggs from the estate and Thomas Salter’s free-range pork from a nearby farm.

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“It’s nice to meet the farmers and hear their stories,” said Tweedie.

Just the right touch of Irish butter or cream adds indulgence to lovely desserts at Ballyfin.

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More local tastes include braised lamb from Kilkenny with wild garlic, mint and peas.

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(Nutrition note: Irish sea salt is very salty so you only have to use a little to add flavor to foods. I bought the adorable little silver butter dish below at the Ballyfin gift shop. Had to have it. Helps you savor butter’s flavor even more.)

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To the Manor!

Step inside Ballyfin’s neo-classical manor house…

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….originally built in the 1820’s, and step back in time for cocktails in the Gold Room overlooking the lake or the library with a secret door that opens into the glass conservatory.

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Guests can time travel to dinner by donning formal wear from the hotel’s collection of period costumes. I felt as if I’d burst into song. Must have been the song bird perched on my head.

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More echoes of history: Ballyfin spent time as a boy’s boarding school.

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The hotel’s serene indoor swimming pool sits in what was the student’s (no doubt raucous then) dining hall. Ballyfin is truly a magical place where you can escape the world and enter your own surrounded by peace and grace.

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Irish Country Estates: Gardens and Guns 

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Clay shooting at Ballyfin. Pull!!!
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Walk this way…with a falcon at Ashford Castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a country estate experience without a few sporting activities?

Now let’s visit dreamy Ashford Castle. 

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Crystal clear waters of Lough Corrib

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At stately Ashford Castle (a member of Leading Hotels of the World) on the shores of Lough Corrib in southwest Ireland in County Mayo guests can golf, fish, learn archery, shoot at sporting clays or try their hand (safely cloaked in a leather glove) at Ireland’s School of  Falconry.

 

 

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Dating back to the 13th century, Ashford Castle with soaring turrets, stone towers and sunken gardens…

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is now brought to life for today’s travelers (who want luxury and technology) with a loving restoration led by Beatrice Tollman of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection. The restoration brought a new roof, new windows and interiors lavish with antique filled guest rooms and a luxurious spa and indoor swimming pool. Details of the decor are a joy to discover such as the tiny tassels on the canopy over the bed in my suite.

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There’s a wine cellar to explore and taste a world of vintages and then join the guests for dinner in the elegant George V dining room where the table is set in luxurious style.

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…..or hide away in the casual and cozy ( yes!) Dungeon restaurant.

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For a taste tour of the Irish countryside, sample woodland mushroom soup or the wild game terrine with plum gel and purple potato chips…and salmon of course!

A full Irish breakfast at Ashford Castle includes the luxury of baked ham served to you from a silver and mahogany trolley.

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Did I mention the ham cart? (:

Good thing there are 350 acres of land to explore on horseback, by bicycle or via running shoes before the next enchanting Irish meal. More salmon please…..

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But perhaps my most precious memories from my trips to Ireland are those of the friendly Irish people who laugh, tell a story and make you feel at home in their home.

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I’ll be back Ireland….or my name isn’t Carolyn O’Neil!

 

 

 

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Comfort Foods Lighten Up!

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Let’s lighten up family favorite comfort foods including mac n cheese, honey grilled pork tenderloin and baked pears for dessert.  Watch the recipes come together on Atlanta and Company.  Watch the video by clicking on the show name.

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Here are the recipes from my Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon. Order a copy clicking here or on the title of the book!

Crunchy Pecan Slaw

 You’ll have slaw left over; keep it covered in the fridge, and serve it within a day or two.

Makes 10 servings

Hands-On 20 min.

Total 28 min.

1 head napa cabbage, cut into thin strips

1 Braeburn apple, cut into thin strips

½ cup sliced radishes

½ cup Sweet-and-Spicy Dressing

3 green onions, sliced

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

  1. Toss together cabbage and remaining ingredients in a large bowl until blended.Serving size 1 cup CALORIES 141; FAT 9.9g (sat 0.9g, mono 5.7g, poly 2.9g); PROTEIN 2.3g; CARB 13.7g; FIBER 3.7g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0.8mg; SODIUM 136mg; CALC 49mg

Sweet-and-Spicy Dressing

Makes 12 servings

Hands-On 5 min.

Total 5 min.

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup honey

2 Tbsp. hot sauce

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 tsp. celery salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 days.Serving size 1 Tbsp. CALORIES 43; FAT 2.4g (sat 0.2g, mono 1.5g, poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 0.1g; CARB 6.1g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 146mg; CALC 1mg

 

 Baked Smokin’ Mac & Cheese

Creamy, cheesy, a crunchy topping, and plenty of carbs: No wonder mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. It’s even made appearances as a side on Southern meat-and-three plates. Not only is this version lighter, it’s got a little ham, too. Use elbow pasta if you can’t find cellentani, cork screw shape!

 

Makes 8 servings

Hands-On 30 min.

Total 1 hour

1 lb. uncooked cellentani (corkscrew) pasta

2 Tbsp. butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3 cups fat-free milk

1 (12-oz.) can fat-free evaporated milk

1 cup (4 oz.) shredded smoked Gouda cheese

½ cup (2 oz.) shredded 1.5% reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

3 oz. fat-free cream cheese, softened

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground red pepper, divided

1 (8-oz.) package chopped smoked ham

Vegetable cooking spray

1¼ cups cornflakes cereal, crushed

1 Tbsp. butter, melted

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare cellentani pasta according to package directions.2. Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Gradually whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and evaporated milk until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Whisk in Gouda cheese, next 3 ingredients, and ⅛ tsp. ground red pepper until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in ham and pasta.3. Pour pasta mixture into a 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Stir together crushed cereal, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, and remaining ⅛ tsp. ground red pepper; sprinkle over pasta mixture.4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

    Note: We tested with Barilla Cellentani pasta and Cabot 1.5% Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese.

    CALORIES 453; FAT 12.1g (sat 6.8g, mono 2.3g, poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 26.8g; CARB 59.9g; FIBER 2.1g; CHOL 48mg; IRON 3mg; SODIUM 846mg; CALC 398mg

 

Honey-Grilled Pork Tenderloins

Tenderloins are one of the leanest cuts of pork with 120 calories per 3-ounce serving—about the same as a skinless chicken breast.

Makes 8 servings

Hands-On 21 min.

Total 3 hours, 21 min.

2 (1-lb.) pork tenderloins

¼ cup lite soy sauce

½ tsp. ground ginger

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

3 Tbsp. honey

2 tsp. dark sesame oil

Garnish: fresh cilantro

 

  1. Remove silver skin from tenderloins, leaving a thin layer of fat. Butterfly pork tenderloins by making a lengthwise cut down center of each tenderloin, cutting to within ¼ inch of other side. (Do not cut all the way through tenderloins.) Lay flat.2. Combine soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a shallow dish or zip-top plastic freezer bag; add pork, turning to coat. Cover or seal, and chill 3 hours, turning occasionally.3. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat. Stir together brown sugar, honey, and sesame oil in a small bowl.4. Grill tenderloins, covered with grill lid, 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145°, turning occasionally and basting with honey mixture.

    Serving size 3 ounces CALORIES 181; FAT 3.6g (sat 1g, mono 1.4g, poly 0.9g); PROTEIN 24.5g; CARB 11.5g; FIBER 0.1g; CHOL 74mg; IRON 1.2mg; SODIUM 337mg; CALC 12mg

 

Baked Pears with Toasted Oat Topping

Makes 6 servings

Hands-On 25 min.

Total 1 hour, 11 min., including topping

 

3 Bosc pears

2 Tbsp. honey

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

⅓ cup toasted almonds or pecan pieces

⅓ cup sweetened dried cranberries

½ cup orange juice

6 Tbsp. vanilla bean 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt

Toasted Oat Topping

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Peel pears, and cut in half, cutting through stem and bottom ends. Scoop out core and some pulp to form an oval hole in center of each pear half. Place pears, cut sides up, in an 8-inch square or 11- x 7-inch baking dish.2. Combine honey and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir in nuts and cranberries.3. Spoon honey mixture into center of pear halves. Pour orange juice into baking dish.4. Bake, covered, at 375° for 15 minutes; uncover and bake 12 more minutes or until pears are tender and thoroughly heated.

    5. Place pear halves on individual plates; drizzle orange juice mixture evenly over pear halves. Spoon 1 Tbsp. yogurt onto each pear half, and sprinkle each pear with about 2½ tsp. Toasted Oat Topping. Serve immediately.

    Note: We tested with Craisins.

    Serving size 1 pear half with 2½ tsp. topping CALORIES 196; FAT 4.5g (sat 0.9g, mono 2.2g, poly 1.0g); PROTEIN 3.6g; CARB 39.5g; FIBER 5.2g; CHOL 3mg; IRON 0.8mg; SODIUM 14mg; CALC 53mg

 

Toasted Oat Topping

Makes ⅓ cup Hands-On 5 min. Total 15 min.

Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together ⅓ cup uncooked regular oats and 2 tsp. light brown sugar in a small bowl; add 1 tsp. butter, melted, tossing to coat. Spread mixture evenly on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 14 to 16 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring after 7 minutes.

Serving size about 2½ tsp. CALORIES 24; FAT 0.8g (sat 0.4g, mono 0.2g, poly 0.1g);

 

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Frozen Food Aisle is Hot!

 

For those who are concerned frozen foods aren’t as nutritious as fresh; I say “Let it go!”

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That’s how we kicked off the segment on Atlanta & Company! Watch the segment here.

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Freezing is “nature’s pause button” and preserves the taste, texture and nutrients in foods. Flash freezing at the time of harvest means fruits and vegetables are picked at the premium point for freshness and great taste. It also means nutrients are at their highest level. In fact studies show that some frozen fruits, including blueberries, are actually a bit higher in antioxidant and vitamin content as compared to fresh.

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Nature’s Pause Button- Easy Frozen Flower Decoration

Frozen Foods Aisle Really Heating Up!

I was shopping recently for my favorite frozen foods staples (chopped spinach, lima beans, sweet peas, and individually quick frozen chicken breasts)  and I was amazed at the selection and variety of frozen vegetables and vegetable blends including vegetable blends with beans and grains. So fast and easy to prepare! You know how long it can take to cook brown rice so I like buying the frozen precooked packages of brown rice to quickly cook up on stove top or in the microwave oven. I love butternut squash and buy it fresh all of the time to roast in the oven, but I also keep packaged frozen butternut squash which is cut up into cubes to add to soups or to prep quickly as a dinner side dish.

Also, a big improvement is that frozen vegetables in cream sauce or cheese sauce seem to be on the wane. And there’s a new wave in chef-inspired frozen entrees such as Lean Cuisine‘s line of delicious and nutritious culinary creations such as Chicken Pecan with white and wild rice, pecans, sweet potatoes, apples and cranberries. One of my favorites is the Sweet & Spicy Korean-Style Beef.  To balance the meal just add some vegetables on the side such as broccoli florets or green beans. #balanceyourplate

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Did you know that Lean Cuisine entrees have been pleasing palates for three decades? And guess what? Chefs and dietitians working together in the Nestle USA Culinary Center in Solon, Ohio have developed recipes to lower the sodium content from 1000 mg of sodium per serving to less than 600 mg per serving by adding flavors from herbs and spices. Now that is a win-win for taste and health!

Let’s Make a Pizza!

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Frozen pizzas are one of the most popular items in the frozen food aisle. I like buying thin crust cheese pizzas and topping with lots of vegetables to create a fabulous and balanced pizza meal. Toss a side salad for even more good nutrition and great taste.  Here are two ideas with DiGiorno Thin Crust Four Cheese pizza. #sponsored

Healthy dining advice on the pizza box tells us that one serving is one fifth of the pizza. Delicious by the way!

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Taco Pizza – top with precooked ground  meat seasoned with chili powder, salt and pepper or a taco seasoning mix, place green pepper slices on top of the meat and bake pizza according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped tomatoes, salsa, avocado slices and fresh cilantro.

Tuscan Pizza– top the pizza with fresh mushroom slices and bake according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped canned artichoke hearts, sliced black olives, thinly sliced deli ham (optional) ,  and lots of arugula.

Here’s a great resource from Nestle USA that reveals 7 Facts why Frozen is Fabulous for taste, health, easy meals, reducing food waste and saving money.

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The Lady of the Refrigerator Thanks You!

There are lots of recipes in The Slim Down South Cookbook that feature frozen ingredients including Tomato-Lima Bean Relish ( made with frozen lima beans ) and Sweet Pea Crostini, which is a hummus like spread made from frozen green peas, olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt and pepper. It’s an appetizing vibrant green color and a hit at parties. Top with feta cheese crumbles. For a holiday look and for vegans, top with pretty red pomegranate arils!

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