Chicken and Apricot Tagine

Chicken and Apricot Tagine - Fatdebslim.comThis chicken and apricot tagine is a really simple, tasty and frugal Middle-Eastern inspired chicken dish.  It would work in the slow cooker, on the stove or indeed in a tagine for a more authentic flavour.

Ras-el-Hanout is a Middle Eastern spice blend.  Every cook has his or her own version, so whatever you find should work just fine.  I bought mine at Tesco, but if you’re feeling adventurous scroll down on this page for a recipe.  The mix is a lovely blend of sweet spices like cinnamon and cloves with a subtle curry undertone.  It’s a strangely familiar and comforting blend, one that is perfect for this Autumn season.

You could use chicken breasts with this as well, but personally, I find them bland and tasteless, not to mention expensive. Chicken legs or thighs work perfectly here. Lots of meat and more importantly, lots of flavour.  This recipe will serve 4-6 easily.

Chicken and Apricot Tagine

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 60 minutes

Yield: 6

Chicken and Apricot Tagine

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 6 chicken legs
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 small package of dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 inch piece of root ginger, grated
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chick peas, drained
  • 1 heaped tablespoon ras el hanout
  • pinch of saffron
  • 8 fl oz chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • salt and pepper
  • coriander or Italian parsley to garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and brown the chicken pieces on each side.  Remove to a plate.
  2. Sauté the onion in the same skillet until soft, then add the garlic, ginger and apricots.  Cook for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes, chickpeas, stock, honey and spices.
  3. Give it a quick stir to combine everything then put the chicken on top.  Lower heat to medium low and put a lid on the skillet.  Cook for 20 minutes or so until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Salt and pepper according to your taste then plate and garnish with cilantro.
  5. Serve with cous cous or rice if you'd like and top with some greek yoghurt.
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Low Carb Seafood Chowder

Low Carb Seafood Chowder - Fatdebslim.comI had a huge craving for seafood chowder when the weather changed the other day, but I put it out of my head because I knew those luscious chunks of potato would be no good for my waistline.  As usual, I couldn’t get the craving out of my head so I decided to fiddle with my normal recipe and make a great tasting low carb seafood chowder which I served with grain free cheddar muffins, an old standby.

To reduce the carbs, I used no potatoes and used less veg overall, but diced very fine, so you couldn’t really tell and no flavour was sacrificed. Try to use a seafood mix with some smoked fish in it to add a subtle smoky flavour to the finished chowder.

Low Carb Seafood Chowder

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3 bowls

Serving Size: 1 bowl

Low Carb Seafood Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 50g diced celery
  • 50g diced onion
  • 50 g diced carrot
  • 70g sliced leek
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 sprigs thyme
  • 500g seafood mix
  • 100ml vegetable stock
  • 200ml cream
  • chopped parsley, to serve

Instructions

  1. Saute the vegetables in the butter until beginning to soften.
  2. Add herbs, paprika and liquids and bring to a low boil. Add seafood and simmer until cooked through. Remove herbs.
  3. Serve immediately garnished with some fresh parsley.
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Enjoy!


Low Carb Cheddar Muffins

 

This is a fabulous grain-free muffin recipe using ground almonds instead of flour. They are so good I use them even when we are not eating low-carb. You can experiment with flavours, using different herb and cheese combinations.  Roasted red pepper and feta works really well. I imagine this would make a lovely sweet version as well with berries but I haven’t had a chance to play around with that yet.

Low Carb Cheddar Muffins

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8 muffins

Serving Size: 1 muffin

Low Carb Cheddar Muffins

Ingredients

  • 200g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp baking powder (gluten-free if preferred)
  • pinch garlic powder
  • pinch paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp greek yoghurt
  • 4 scallions, diced
  • 2 handfuls grated cheddar

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Saute the scallions in the butter for a few minutes until softened.
  4. Mix the yoghurt, eggs and butter scallion mixture together.
  5. Tip into dry ingredients, mix well and fold in cheese.
  6. Spoon into a greased muffin tin.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes.
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Low Carb Fajita Wraps

Low Carb Fajita Wraps - Fatdebslim.com

Eating low carb is hard in this weather.  You don’t feel like cooking in the heat and the simplest option is just to grab a sandwich. I tend to always have some minute steaks in the fridge for an easy option that doesn’t require much cooking. No it’s not the tastiest or most tender of steaks, but it’s a quick protein boost in a pinch and when sliced thinly it holds its own.

I came up with this the other day as I was craving something Tex-Mex but couldn’t be arsed to go to the trouble of making salsa and guacamole.  Quick and easy, no marinading and almost tastier than regular fajitas due to the crunch of the baby gem. Perfect summer lunch. You could just as easily use chicken, prawns or salmon.

Low Carb Fajita Wraps

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1

Serving Size: 3 wraps

Low Carb Fajita Wraps

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 minute steak
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • pinch of sweetener (optional)
  • handful chopped coriander
  • 3 baby gem leaves
  • Sour cream to serve

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or wok.
  2. Slice the steak into thin strips. Set aside.
  3. Slice the onion and peppers and add to skillet with garlic. Saute for a minute or two until beginning to soften. Add steak, spices and sweetener and cook through. Add lemon juice and toss.
  4. Spoon into baby gem leaves, top with sour cream. Serve immediately.
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Paleo Avocado and Cranberry Salad

Paleo Cranberry and Avocado Salad - Fatdebslim.com

I am not a big salad or sandwich person.  I find them bland and insipid for the most part, but when I do indulge, it needs to be a full-on affair, meaty and full of crunch and varying textures.  This salad absolutely fits the bill.  It’s perfect for this fabulous weather we have been having and makes a great side for a BBQ or stands up well on its own as a hearty lunch.

You could use any greens you want, I happened to use rocket (arugula).  To keep things low carb, make sure you find unsweetened or sweetened with fruit juice cranberries. Some are just pumped full of sugar.   I made quick and easy vinaigrette to go with this cranberry and avocado salad, but any dressing with a sweet and sour sort of thing going on would work well.

Avocado and Cranberry Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Serving Size: 2

Avocado and Cranberry Salad

Ingredients

    For the dressing:
  • 3 tablespoons of avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • salt
  • pepper
  • For the salad:
  • 1/2 bag of rocket, washed
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • Handful of slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Handful of dried cranberries

Instructions

  1. Mix dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to emulsify.
  2. Toss salad ingredients in a big bowl and dress just before serving.
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Salmon Skewers with Spring Onion Guacamole

Low Carb Salmon Skewers with Spring Onion Guacamole - Fatdebslim.com

I had a rather decadent lunch today.  I was absolutely starved and needed protein after a workout, but I didn’t feel like cooking anything complicated.  I had some salmon darnes in the fridge, so I cut them in half and skewered them.  A few minutes on the grill and they were done.  I am fairly particular about my guacamole, which is somewhat time-consuming to be done properly, but I didn’t have the time or ingredients to indulge in that today, so I improvised and came up with a lighter alternative.  The result was a delicious healthy lunch that kept me full for hours.  In fact, I’m still full as I write this and I ate it 6 hours ago. Win.

Salmon Skewers with Spring Onion Guacamole

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 6 minutes

Total Time: 11 minutes

Yield: 4 skewers

Serving Size: 2

Salmon Skewers with Spring Onion Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 2 salmon darnes, sliced in half
  • dried chilli flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 large spring onion, diced
  • 1 handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, diced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Thread the salmon onto skewers. Season with dried chilli, salt and pepper. Sear in a hote pan for 2-3 minutes a side until just under-done in the middle. Set aside while you prepare the guacamole.
  2. Mash avocado and add chilli, spring onion, coriander and lemon juice. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread avocado on plate, top with salmon skewers and garnish with additional coriander sprigs.
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Enjoy!

Salmon Skewers with Scallion Guacamole - Fatdebslim.com


12 Things I’ve Learned in my First Year as a Student Midwife

12 Things I Learned as a First Year Student MidwifeSo with year one just about done, I figured I’d write down a bit of reflection on my first year.  I’m not avoiding studying at all.  Really.

I have learned so much this year. So so much.  I’ve had to challenge my beliefs on many occasion.  I’ve met some incredible people and some unpleasant people and I’ve learned much from both.  It’s been a wonderful year but it’s also been a difficult year.  I knew it would be tough commuiting 2-3 hours a day with three kids and sometimes it gets on top of me, but it’s a good kind of difficult and one that will pay off in the end.  So here you have it, a short list of some of the non-academic things I’ve learned. The good, the bad, the ugly!

  1. Midwives are amazing. They are some of the hardest working people in the country, helping to bring new life into this world and bridge the gap into parenthood. They work in grueling conditions with very little reward and they inspire me every single day.
  2. Like any profession, a tiny minority of them aren’t so inspiring. But such is life.  A preceptor who clearly doesn’t want you there can really make for a long and tough day.
  3. Nothing or no one prepares you for clinical placement. You’re sent off with a shiny new uniform, a few weeks of theory – which may or may not be useful depending on where you are placed – and are expected to know and do lots and have the wherewithal to stand it emotionally.
  4. Clinical placement is emotionally exhausting.  Perhaps this is more the case for a mature student with the reality of commuting, having a family and having a bit more knowledge about what is wrong with the system, but I think all of us were a bit wrecked and shell-shocked afterward – to use one of our lecturer’s favourite terms. It’s grueling and you often see things that you know are wrong and shouldn’t happen and you feel somewhat complicit in some of them by staying silent, which is what everyone tells you to do.
  5. Interestingly enough, with me having a big mouth and what not, I didn’t always follow that rule and nothing bad happened. In fact, it always prompted discussion, change and reflection for both me and others involved.  Bad advice?  Perhaps.  Perhaps it’s more in how and with whom you choose to go about it.
  6. Caesarean births are a big deal.  Truly.  Even though you know logically that it is major surgery – until you physically see the layers of the uterus being cut with a scalpel and the abdomen held open with retractors and the baby being often quite violently removed – you don’t really fathom the scale and severity of the operation.  So much respect for section mamas, it’s not an easy road.
  7. Women are incredible.  They are so strong.  They take things in their stride and grow mentally and emotionally right in front of you.  Their bodies are miraculous and their hearts are huge.  It is such a privilege to be with them at such a turning point in their lives.
  8. The postnatal period is powerful. You literally see people become parents before your very eyes and it is a vulnerable and beautiful process and one that it is an honour to be a part of.
  9. The academic side of a BSc in Midwifery is a bit of a letdown.  It’s very much rooted in nursing and I don’t see that changing any time soon as all advanced practice and academic midwives were nurses first.  Hopefully in years to come as more direct entry midwives further their careers this will change, but in the meantime – for those of us who have absolutely zero interest in sick people who are not pregnant – it makes for a rather tedious program.  A lecture on Alzheimer’s patients is not a good use of a two hour commute for a future midwife.  It’s doubly frustrating because many of the shared modules with nursing students could really be beneficial if they were midwifery specific. Psychology and communications come to mind.  The specifics there for pregnant women are quite important, but were never touched on because the majority of the students were studying nursing.  I imagine next year’s pharmacology will be the same which is a shame because pharmacology is a very relevant concern for pregnant and lactating women which falls within our scope.
  10. Having said that, the midwifery modules are wonderful.  The lecturers are so supportive and really teach evidence-based care.  They truly want us to be the best we can be and it’s so refreshing.  The clinical placement coordinators are the same.  They push us hard, but it’s with good intention.
  11. Respect and choice are huge.  I may not agree or understand some of the choices I see women make, but I respect and support them with those choices and am honoured to be able to do so.
  12. You learn a lot about yourself.  You learn about your prejudices (ones you never thought you had), your beliefs, your personality, your attitudes and you see a strength and temerity you never knew you were capable of.

So that’s about it. There’s probably a million more, but I really should get back to my books! For those of you just here for the food, thank you for indulging me, regularly scheduled foodie goodness will resume shortly! 😉


Low Carb Chicken Satay

Low Carb Chicken Satay - Fatdebslim.com

Ah chicken satay, sweet, spicy, crunchy, delicious.  It’s always been a favourite of mine.  The first time I tried it was at a tiny Malaysian restaurant in Antwerp, where I spent my teenage years.  It was sublime. I have yet to find one that is quite as good and I make a point of visiting any time I’m back in Antwerp for the satay and all the other delights they offer.

I needed a satay fix the other day and knew I had to find a way to make it a Low Carb Chicken Satay.  This is a simple but extremely non-authentic recipe.  Authenticity is great, but so is taste and this tastes fabulous, especially when your palate hasn’t had much sweetness in several weeks.  I served it over a bed of cos (romaine) lettuce and cucumber.  It was glorious, I will make again. Often!

Low Carb Chicken Satay

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 6 skewers

Serving Size: 3 skewers

Low Carb Chicken Satay

Ingredients

  • 500g chicken
  • 1 tablespoon tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece galangal or ginger, grated
  • 5-6 tablespoons boiling water
  • Low carb sweetener of your choice, to taste
  • Chopped coriander, to garnish

Instructions

  1. Dice your chicken into one inch cubes. I prefer to use boneless thighs as they grill well and have more flavour.
  2. Mix the dried spices, salt and pepper together and sprinkle on chicken. Massage into meat. Set aside, overnight, if desired.
  3. Mix remaining ingredients together to make the satay sauce, thinning out with the water to your desired consistency. Add some chillies if you like it spicier.
  4. Thread the chicken onto skewers and grill for 2-3 minutes per side, rotating as needed until cooked through.
  5. Plate onto salad and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with coriander.
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Bulletproof Coffee for People Who Hate Coffee

Bulletproof Coffee for People Who Hate Coffee - Fatdebslim.com

When I left Ireland in 1989 no one drank coffee. When I came back in 2005, everyone drank coffee. We got too posh for tea, the shame! In America everyone drank coffee. It was like a cult. A cult I refused to join. I cannot stand the stuff. I think it smells divine, but it’s hideous to drink – bitter and black – I can get my caffeine kick a tastier way thank you very much.  I’m a tea drinker through and through and no matter how much I try I cannot drink coffee.  When I married a coffee loving Yank, I had to learn how to make coffee.  He’s a coffee snob. No instant or nespressos or any shortcuts. It has to be ground fresh from good roasted beans and brewed.  He can list on one hand the times he’s had good coffee in Ireland, or so he says. Coffee is coffee to me, I just don’t get it, but apparently my training has paid off and I make a mean cup of coffee.

“People seemed to be able to comfortably go hours without eating, just having one of these in the morning.”

The only time I can stomach coffee is when it no longer tastes like coffee.  You know, those frappaccino things at McDonalds or in cake or chocolates.  None of those belong in the LCHF way of eating, so I decided to investigate this bulletproof coffee phenomenon. People seemed to be able to comfortably go hours without eating, just having one of these in the morning. I liked the sound of that.  I did not like the taste. It was nasty. It tasted like coffee. Back to square one.

I was in TK Maxx earlier this week and I found some sugar free coffee syrups. I bought them both as I figured they could be useful for flavouring other things if I got the hankering for something sweet.  My daughter, who also loves coffee (yeah I’m a bad mother, so what) decided to try the Mocha one in coffee the other morning. She raved about it and forced me to try it. I was speechless. It tasted like one of those frappuccino things but warm. Yum! So… I decided to go back to the bulletproof drawing board with the syrup instead. What resulted was a succulent flavour explosion that I cannot get enough of.  And yes, it keeps you full. I had one at around 8:30 the other morning and did not feel physically hungry until 3pm. Madness.

So if you hate coffee, but want the benefits of bulletproof coffee, definitely give this a shot. You could add cinnamon or nutmeg or anything that floats your boat really. It’s a creamy concoction of caffeine-y joy!

Bulletproof Coffee for People Who Hate Coffee

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1 cup

Serving Size: 1 cup

Bulletproof Coffee for People Who Hate Coffee

Ingredients

  • 350ml brewed coffee
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1-2 shots of sugarfree mocha syrup

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Serve immediately.
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Let me know how you get on! <3


How We Paid Off €28,000 of Debt!

How We Paid Off €28,000 of Debt - Fatdebslim.com

I love the postman. There is nothing better than hearing that letter box go and seeing what has come.  I know, I need to get out more, but that is how it is.  There was a time when I hated the post man.  A time when all he brought was bad news. I won’t bore you with the details of how, but in 2009 at the beginning of the recession, we found ourselves saddled with just over €28,000 in debt.

“It was terrifying, it was depressing, it was crippling.”

It was terrifying. It was depressing, it was crippling.  I went through a stage of denial. I would hide bills, throw them away, pretend they never came. There was no logic to my reasoning, but apparently that is quite common in people in financial trouble. The worst part? My husband had no idea. Eventually he was home one day when the postman made his drop of doom and intercepted the bad news for me.  Needless to say that conversation didn’t go too well.  He knew about some of it of course, the managed stuff, but he didn’t know about a lot of things or how bad it actually was.

We knew we needed a plan and that we needed to sort things out. He was working a lot at that time and I was overwhelmed by the phone calls and post.  We tried to deal with some of our debtors but got nowhere, so we got some outside help.  We worked with a company (who no longer exist) that dealt with all the debtors for us.  All the notices and negotiations went through them.  Within a week or two we had an almost manageable single monthly payment that kept most of them happy.  Bank of Ireland were never happy though, they were a nightmare to deal with and treated us like absolute dirt and I will never forget it. I refuse to even use their ATMs today lest they get any sort of cut. But I digress…

“It was tough, there were days when I cried, but we got there.”

Things were very tight.  We had to cut down to one car. We got rid of health insurance and our TV and we never ate out. I went for years without a proper haircut, we cooked budget food and we never went on holiday.  We implemented all of the principles I outlined in my post on how to cut your household spending and then some.  We inched by.  It was tough, there were days when I cried, but we got there.

Budgeting was the most important tool we used.  We have tried all the major software out there and failed.  YNAB is good, but didn’t work with a mid month payday for us. Mint, Pearbudget and some of the other American ones are also good, but they often don’t work with Irish banks or Euro.   We could never get in sync using one either, it always came down to arguments over who didn’t or didn’t track minute spending.

“Budgeting was the most important tool we used.”

We ended up using a paper money envelope system.  I would quite literally withdraw my grocery money at the beginning of the month and put it in an envelope and when it was gone, it was gone.  The same for petrol and other day to day expenses. It was a pain in the ass, but it kept us on track. In my never-ending search for a feasible program, I discovered Neobudget, an online envelope budgeting system.  We tried it and really liked it, but it didn’t have an app, so again we fell behind entering receipts and it got dropped.

We used the Dave Ramsey debt snowball to pay off the debtors through the monthly payment.  That meant paying the smallest balances first.  Some people say this makes no sense and you should pay the debts with the highest interest rates first, but we found the opposite was true. The maths work out, but more important was the psychological boost.  There was nothing better than knowing one debt was paid and we could pay the others more. Eventually when we were down to just a few, we handled it all ourselves.  We continued using the debt snowball and couldn’t believe it when we were down to our last few months.  We rang the last couple of debtors and offered them settlements and just like that it was all over.  That was in 2013.

How things are today…

I’d love to tell you that we’re flushed today, but alas that’s not the case.  We were a lot more comfortable than before, but then I decided to go back to school.  This required a second car and a commute of two hours each day and another hour a day for himself. It also means childcare, so we are essentially back to paying a big monthly payment like we did when paying off the debt. Having said all that, it is much more satisfying paying that, than blank faced debtors and we know it will be worth it in the end.

In terms of managing our money today, budgeting is still the key.”

In terms of managing our money today, budgeting is still the key.  About two years ago, Neobudget got apps. Bingo, we finally had found an idiot proof way of managing our finance.  We avoid arguing over who did or didn’t enter their coffee by allocating us each a discretionary spending amount.  That way we can just withdraw the cash, assign it to our category and away we go, no logging in every coke or magazine!

Both of us have the apps on our phones – him iPhone, me Android – and they sync together with the desktop version which lets us see where our money is, where it has gone and analyse the data.  It allows you to create a budget and then allocates any income to the envelopes (categories) of your budget depending on what you stipulate. If you divide yearly payments by 12, you can pop that much in monthly and watch the envelope grow.

Our envelopes at the time of writing

If there’s a positive balance, it’s because the money allocated there hasn’t been used yet. If it’s zero, it’s been paid out and if it’s negative – well, we screwed up somewhere!  We try and sit down each month and see if anything needs to be adjusted.  For instance, you’ll notice a high amount in the mobile envelope. This is because one of the contracts is up and won’t be renewed but the money has still been allocated there.  I will adjust this and direct it elsewhere in due course.  It on;y works if you fine tune it.  I found it took us a few months to get a budget that really worked for us.

This is something we will continue to do.  Once I finish university, anything I earn as a midwife will go straight into our downpayment fund (which only exists in my head at the moment) to someday buy the house we really should have bought by now according to society’s standards.  If we’re living fine on his salary and all my school fees and diesel costs, then it shouldn’t be an issue.  Bottom line, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We still live month to month, but we know where our money is going, we have no debt and we know it will all be worth it in the end.

How do you manage your money? Do you find budgeting difficult? What tips and advice do you have for others? I’d love to hear!