Recipe: Low Carb Lasagna

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Well have I got a tasty surprise for all of you! If there was ever a dish that I was forced to choose to eat everyday for the rest of my life, this would be the dish I would choose. I give you my version of low carb lasagna which I lollipopped without any of the guilt I usually have when eating normal lasagna.

Now as some of you may have already perceived, I am quite a low maintenance cook. What I mean by that, is that I try to make things as easy as possible for myself. I won’t, for example, include high end ingredients in my food that came from super high end health food shops because lets be realistic here, it’s a) downright expensive to do that on a daily basis and b) I neither have the time or the energy to be slaving away in the kitchen following long winded recipes.

So bearing that all in mind I can gladly inform you all that this recipe was made from cheap and tasty ingredients coming from my favourite grocery store: Aldi. Nothing in this dish is too complicated to make or too expensive to buy, I am just not that kind of cook. Also if I’m going to the effort of healthy eating, it has to be something that’s easily achieved in my books anyways!

I have researched so many different variations of low carb lasagna, but there was none that I outright liked. Instead I decided to create my own recipe that suited my taste buds. Most lasagna’s do have a white sauce at the top of the dish, however most low carb versions feature this as a Greek yogurt or cottage cheese creation and neither appealed to me. As a result I decided to use a firm cupboard favourite in its place: Basil Pesto. I’m one of those that thinks pesto makes anything taste better! So what better ingredient to use as an alternative to the heavy in carbs white sauce then this green goodness!

I used my own family recipe for the bolognese sauce but feel free to play around with your own sauce as I know very well, that everyone has their favourite sauce. That’s the beauty of this recipe, anyone can play around with it to suit their own particular taste. Please find below a step by step guide to the recipe with pictures also to demonstrate just how simple this recipe is.

Also if you have any queries or comments please contact me below or on my social media pages.

Enjoy!

The Busiest Bee. 🙂

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Recipe: Low carb Lasagna.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

Bolognese Sauce

900 grams of Mince Meat (whatever meat you prefer e.g. beef, turkey etc.)

One onion

4 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of Olive oil

One red pepper and one green pepper

3 tins of chopped tomatoes (you can also get low sugar tins in some grocery shops)

salt and pepper

Teaspoon of cinnamon

3 teaspoons Sugar substitute (usually I would put in a spoon of sugar for each can of tomatoes but with the low carb diet this obviously can’t be done so use a sugar substitute instead)

herbs (again whichever you prefer, I used oregano and mint)

Jar of basil pesto.

2 packets of buffalo mozzarella (ball form)

Grilled Courgettes

4 large courgettes sliced

salt and pepper

Olive Oil drizzled over them.

 

Method:

1) Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a good sized pot. Then add the chopped onions and crushed garlic and saute on a medium heat stirring constantly until onions are soft.

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2) Add the meat to the pot, ensuring that all the clumps of mince are broken up and tossed around in the oil/onion/garlic juice.

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3) Add your seasoning, salt, pepper and herbs, I use a good bit of herbs as you will see in the picture but again this is to your own taste what you would prefer.

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4) Once the meat has been tossed around in the herbs and seasoning, allow to brown completely on a low/medium heat, stirring every so often.

5) Add the cans of tomatoes to the mixture and turn the heat up to bring the mixture to a boil but reduce heat again once it has.

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6) Once the tomatoes are stirred into the meat, more seasoning will be required such as salt, pepper, sugar and the cinnamon. Leave the mixture to simmer away on a low enough heat for about ten minutes.

7) Add the peppers and leave to simmer further for twenty minutes mixing every few minutes. It will be done when the peppers are soft.

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8) For the grilled courgettes, slice 4 large courgettes at least 1 cm thick as seen in the picture below. Place on a baking tray and drizzle them with Olive oil, a lot of oil is needed but don’t panic at this because you will be wiping it all off again once courgettes are grilled. Once covered in oil, season with salt and pepper and place in a pre-heated oven @ 200*c (mine is a fan oven, I turn it up high but when they are in oven I turn it down to 180*c).

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9) It is important to check your courgettes every few minutes and turn them over regularly as they can burn quite easily. By slicing them thick, it will ensure they do not break apart when cooked.

10) While waiting for courgettes and sauce to cook, slice your two balls of mozzarella.

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11) Once courgettes are done, place them in a bowl that is covered in kitchen paper. The kitchen paper will soak up unnecessary oil and you can dab at the rest on top with more kitchen paper.

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12) Once sauce is done, you can begin layering your lasagna in a oven dish. One layer meat, one layer courgette, another layer of meat, another layer of courgette. On the top layer you spread out the jar of green pesto. Over this place the slices of Mozzarella. Place in oven and cook for about 10 minutes @ 180*c or until cheese has fully melted.

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13) Once ready leave to the side to cool and set for 10 minutes and then you’re good to go.

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WARNING: This dish will not be as firm to serve as normal lasagna so beware it will be sloppy but the good kind of sloppy

**Top Tip**: Throughout the cooking of the meat sauce, you may find some of the fat off the meat will melt to the surface of the sauce. This can be easily skimmed off with a spoon.

 

 

 

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Recipe: Lemon Water

Imagine this, a sweltering hot day outside and you are stuck in a badly air conditioned fully packed room for a conference. This is exactly what happened to me recently at a conference I was attending. Stuck inside on a beautiful day is generally not anyone’s cup of tea and needless to say the experience is not one I would like to repeat anytime soon.

However this horrible experience was saved by a rather large jug of iced lemon water that was placed on the table I was sitting at. My mind was blown. I’m an avid water drinker, I drink two litres plus every single day, but I am quite picky when it comes to water. I regularly turn my nose up to tap water, instead spending a small fortune on the bottled variety. Yet this glistening jug of iced lemon water saved the whole day for me. The condensation dripping down the side of the jug was enough to cause my mouth to water. However this was tap water in the jug, I couldn’t possibly like it.

I was wrong. As I mentioned above my mind was blown. Regularly when I dine out at fancy restaurants I usually try to have at least one glass of the tap water given to me in jugs at the table, usually with one measly slice of lemon in it so I wasn’t aware of the true genius of its addition to tap water. Fast forward to last week where this lonely iced lemon jug of water sat on my table, filled with at least 10 slices of lemon. I just had to try it out. Mind blown!

Since this fateful day, lemon water has become a staple part of my daily drinking routine. So long to the bottles of iced water, there’s a lemon in town! Each night I drink about a litre of water in pint glasses with half a lemon in the them. I always take the time to squeeze a few of the slices of lemon also to give the lemon water a super kick!

Not only is lemon water extremely refreshing, but it has loads and I mean loads of added healthy benefits. Did you know lemon water can curb your food cravings? I certainly didn’t and usually I’m always nibbling on something in the evening but since beginning to drink lemon water, not a craving have I had! Honestly!

Lemon water also is a magnificent detoxer full to the brim with antioxidants and various vitamins including the old reliable vitamin c, wonderful for healthy skin and general well being. Lemon water also is extremely good for your liver and its function to get rid of all those pesky toxins in our bodies. Have a sore throat? look no further! With lemon water you will be adding anti inflammatories to aid those irritating sore throats. I could go on to tell you its aided benefits for cancer fighting, toothaches and heartburn but I would assume you are all getting the idea that this stuff is amazing and I need not say anymore!

Go ahead and give this juice of the Gods a try! It’s the perfect refreshing beverage to take a liking to coming up to this warm summer months. Also just a reminder I use half a lemon in a pint of water and top up the pint glass until I’ve had a litre or so of water, it might sound daunting but believe me you’ll be slurping this drink as fast as you’ll be pouring it!

As always if you have any queries leave a comment below or contact me on my social media sites.

Enjoy!

The Busiest Bee 🙂

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Recipe Alert: Low Carb Grilled Aubergines

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Lately I have become obsessed with grilled vegetables, which is lucky since the low carb health kick I’m on calls for them on a daily basis. They are super easy to make, and super quick too! My boyfriend who used to be a veg hater, is wolfing them down so it really is a miracle!

I oven grill these aubergines using olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s it, no more ingredients necessary. Just ensure they are thoroughly coated in oil, I usually coat the bottom of the tray in the oil and then place the aubergines on it before flipping them over to ensure that both sides are covered in oil. For those on an even more super health kick then me, I would advise a different type of oil, perhaps coconut oil or rapeseed oil depending on your own personal preference.

Once oven grilled on a baking tray for 20 minutes, you should achieve a lovely golden brown colour to your aubergines. Once I take them out of the oven I place them on kitchen paper to soak off all the oil, because there really is nothing worse then biting into a grilled vegetable and getting a mouthful of oil! By dabbing them with kitchen paper, carefully so as not to burn yourself, you will be rewarded with deliciously flavoursome grilled aubergines!

Anyway below I have included the full method and ingredients list to achieve this wonderful side dish for any low carb dinner or even as a snack, whichever you prefer.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Any comments or queries do not hesitate to contact me by commenting below or on any of my social media pages.

The Busiest Bee 🙂

Ingredients:

One whole Aubergine (does about 12 thick slices-6 per person)

Olive Oil (or oil of choice)

Salt and pepper to season.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200*c (mine is a fan oven)
  2. Cover bottom of baking tray with the oil, enough to cover all 12 slices of aubergine.
  3. Place aubergines onto oil, then gently flick over to coat the opposite sides of the slices.
  4. Place baking tray into oven once it is preheated.
  5. After ten minutes take out aubergines and flip them over gently to ensure cooking on both sides.
  6. After 20 minutes check aubergines again, if they are slightly golden in colour and soft to touch with a fork, then proceed to remove them from the oven.
  7. Place the grilled aubergines onto a good few pieces of kitchen paper and dab them to remove excess oil.
  8. Enjoy!

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Recipe: Low sugar/carb berry smoothie.

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So yesterday I had a cheat day, it was impossible not to. First of all I attended a conference in a hotel that had a carvery for lunch so I treated myself to roast beef with gravy, cabbage and a medley of vegetables, it was delicious! However after the conference I decided to pop in and visit my aunt who lives near enough to the hotel where the conference was on. I of course ended up staying for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed a carb hearty feast of Chicken, leak and mushroom pie with pastry and roast potatoes galore! I wolfed it down to say the least.

Consequently I awoke this morning intent on getting back to my normal routine starting with this yummy smoothie! This is one of the easiest smoothies to make in the world. It only contains 3 ingredients: Natural yogurt, frozen berries and coconut water.

That’s it! Simple right. I literally throw all of the ingredients into the blender and turn it on and a few seconds later I’m pouring myself a delicious, thick and tart smoothie. The sugar substitute I use in this smoothie, is the coconut water. Now yes guys the first few sips you have will be much more bitter than say if you were using honey to sweeten your smoothies, but you need to give your taste buds time to adjust. Once you give up sugar you begin to start noticing the natural sweetness in food, honestly it’s amazing! The coconut water is so natural and it gives the smoothie a wonderful flavour.

What is even better is the fact that all my ingredients are sourced from the cheap and cheerful supermarket Aldi. The frozen berries cost €1.89, the yogurt costs €0.55 and the coconut water costs €2.99 for a litre. The coconut water goes a long way so it is worth the cost in my opinion.

So there you have it, a quick, super easy, super cheap and nutritious snack that can be made in seconds with the simplest ingredients. Below I will leave the measurements I use of all the ingredients to create one glass of smoothie.

As always if you have any queries or comments to make please leave them below or contact me on my social media pages.

Enjoy!

The Busiest Bee 🙂

Smoothie Recipe

4 heaped tablespoons of frozen berries

3 heaped tablespoons of natural yogurt

small glass of coconut water

Method:

1) I usually begin by putting the berries in first

2) I pour the coconut water up to the top level of the berries (about a small glass worth)

3) Then the 3 tablespoons of yogurt goes in

4) Then you blitz the mixture for a few seconds and voila you will have a yummy berry low sugar/carb smoothie!

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To low carb? or not to low carb?

So since my boyfriend and I have returned from Orlando after a fantastic holiday over Easter, we decided that after all the over eating and drinking we’d done in the US, it was time to get ourselves back into good shape. Let me start by saying I’m not a great dieter, I hate dieting in fact! I love my food way too much to ever give up all the good things. However in my own opinion healthy diets are all about eating things in moderation, and obviously exercise, can’t escape that unfortunately! 😦

My aim really was just to cut back on all the goodies and introduce more healthy foods to my diet. I researched and researched until I finally found an eating plan that suited my needs and my lifestyle. I’ve completely cut back on carbs during the week as a result. No more spuds, no more pasta, no more white rice, only brown rice and only a tiny portion of it. At first I’m not going to lie, it was a daunting task, anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a huge pasta lover, so much so that I’m convinced I was Italian in a former life 😉

Despite all this I’ve found that I don’t miss the hearty carbs. I feel much more comfortable in my body. I used to go to bed every night with cramps from eating so many carbs, it used to keep me up at night but now I feels less bloated and within a week I started noticed a more toned aspect to my body. I’ve also increased the amount of proteins I eat a day so this probably helps. So basically  my day in a nutshell includes the following: I aim to eat regularly throughout the day, but small portions e.g. carrots and hummus for snacks, high protein soups for lunch with no bread just packed with lots of good vegetables, boiled eggs for snacks, I also nibble a lot on salami and ham and all this before a dinner that is packed full of vegetables such as green beans, grilled aubergines, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mangetout etc. as well as a grilled chicken breast or stewed mince or steak, or a dish of chili con carne with double the amount of kidney beans and just a small portion of brown rice.  It’s delicious.

Now I know some of you might be going yeah, yeah whatever lady! But this diet just suits my lifestyle so I would always recommend researching a lot and getting to know your body first before setting out on a new diet regime. I also like to add that at the weekend it is party time in regard to food, I eat what I want, when I want and there maybe bottles of wine involved 😉 I am only strict on what I eat during the week and this coupled with 5 days of dance workouts and ab workouts 3 days a week, mean that I take my weekends off to go eat wherever and whatever I want. Only this past weekend I went out for lunch and just had chocolate fondant and a glass of wine! Plus on Sunday I treated myself to an ice cream with the flake and all because the weather was so nice. When I do go out with friends for dinner at weekends I order burgers, pasta and rice dishes without even thinking about it. My weekends are fun!

The point I’m trying to get at, is that I don’t want to spread a message that dieting low carb is the way to go, I’m trying to show that everything can work in moderation. This eating plan just happens to work for me. I’ve also started thinking that I might start including some of the recipes I use, on this blog to show you all what kind of yummy low carb dinners/snacks etc. that I make and are so easy to do. Finally I’d like to point out that I do my weekly shopping in Aldi, which means I’m not one to be found at the expensive health food aisles of supermarkets or in health food shops searching for the latest dieting food. That is all just so impractical to me. Instead I just shop at my regular supermarket and just use whatever is available to me there.

I hope this blog post spreads a good message, this is just my personal journey with low carb foods, it might not suit everyone but it suits me at the moment. In a year I might be on to something else!

As always if anyone has any queries or comments, please comment below or contact me on my social media pages.

The Busiest Bee 🙂

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Restaurant Review: Union 8 Kilmainham Dublin

Literally just back from trying out this trendy neighbourhood restaurant that has recently just opened up in Kilmainham. It is located near to the tourist attractions of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and also the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). As it is really the only fine dining eatery around this area, it has become a huge success.

Today I decided to skip the busy lunch hour and dinner hour on a Saturday and instead went in at 3.30 between sittings. On entering the establishment you are at once greeted by a friendly waitress who shows you to a table. Granted the tables at the walls are quite close together so you undoubtedly feel like you are eavesdropping into other people’s conversations, however this is possibly due to the fact the restaurant space isn’t that large, so they make the most of every possible nook and cranny. Once you get over this fact it is quite enjoyable.

The honest truth, I really just came here for the chocolate fondant! I have heard manys a rumour about this particular restaurant’s chocolate fondant, I just had to try it out. And so I persuaded by boyfriend to come along for his lunch (my dessert in the middle of the day). I also had a glass of the house white wine which was pleasant and light. The boyfriend got the soup of the day which was a tomato soup and it came with beautiful homemade brown bread and real Irish butter. It was yummy if not a tad expensive (€6 for a bowl of soup always feels ludicrous, but it was good soup).

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Who are we kidding here, I know all of you probably only want to know about the chocolate fondant so here goes…..It was epic!! Firstly I must do a special shout out to our lovely waitress who sadly informed us at first that the fondant was not on the lunch menu but once she say how disappointed I was, she immediately went and asked the chef if it was at all possible to prepare one for me just this once. It’s not often you come across such helpful and willing staff so I must give them a special thanks!

Back to the fondant, at first when it was placed down in front of me, my first impression was that it was tiny! It was served on a huge white plate however so this was probably why. It was accompanied by homemade (delicious) pistachio ice cream on a bed of shortbread crumbs. Yes it did have that moment where you cut into it using your fork and the chocolate inside just flows out…..my mouth is watering again just thinking about it! Below I’ll attach some images for your aesthetic enjoyment 😉

Overall the soup, the dessert and the glass of wine cost €18. Warning alert, prepare to spend a lot of money here, the average item on the lunch menu costs €10. The dinner menu also could be a bit cheaper. The early bird costs €23.50 for two courses everyday from 5-7pm Sunday-Thursday and 5-6:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. If dining off the a la carte menu, the cheapest starter is €7 and that’s for the soup! Main courses will set you back €16.50-27.50. Desserts are €6.50/€7. A bottle of house wine will also cost you €24 red or white.

So is it worth this cost? well they have no other competition in the area and the food is quite good and did I mention everything on their menu is gluten free!!! (as it says on their menu). The food is really good from what we experimented with anyways and Kilmainham has been crying out for a fine dining restaurant for quite awhile so its not a surprise to see it abuzz with activity. What I’ve learned about eating out in Dublin, people are willing to pay good money for great food and I think this is the perspective you need to have in your head before you walk into this quaint restaurant.

My score? 10/10 for the fondant! That’s for sure. The service is great and I love their jugs of tablewater with shreds of cucumber and springs of mint. If you are in the area definitely try this place out, I was quite impressed!

As always if you have any queries leave a comment or contact me on my social media pages.

The Busiest Bee 🙂

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Restaurant Restaurant: Moycarn Lodge and Marina

Score: 3.5/5

Yesterday I decided to pop home to my hometown of Ballinasloe, which is located about a forty five minute drive away from Galway City. Ballinasloe town is probably most famous for it’s October horse fair held annually in the town and rumoured to have been the fair in which Napoleon himself bought his horse. Our only claim to fame I would assume. Anyways one of the biggest issues with Ballinasloe town is the lack of dining options. There are plenty of bars (maybe too many) and not one but four Supermacs chain fast food restaurants, as it is also the hometown the the fast food chain. However despite all this my family and I continually find ourselves travelling to the nearby town of Athlone to go out for dinner. It is a shame but that is the reality. The only closest thing to a dining out at night option we have, is the bar/restaurant of the Shearwater hotel or pub grub.

However yesterday I discovered a little gem hidden just outside the town of Ballinasloe with easy access off the motorway. This gem is called the Moycarn Lodge. In the past I have frequented this establishment only when there was a big event on, such as 21sts, communions, retirement parties etc. However I failed to realise that they actually are a pretty impressive restaurant also. In fact one would assume as it hosts guest accommodation that it would just be a bar with simple bar food. However I am glad to say this is not the case and in fact at nighttime they have a separate room for their dinner time.

We arrived for an early dinner at 5pm and to be honest on catching sight of the bar I guiltily assumed not to expect much. Once handed the menus however this opinon quickly changed. The menu had a great variety of meals. From starters such as deep fried brie to main courses such as beef stif fry. There is literally something for everyone on this menu. I also couldn’t get over the reasonable prices of the courses. A side dish is only 2.95!

My mother and I decided to share a starter and settled on the deep frie. It came out in four segments served on a bed of lovely house saled and some kind of raspberry relish which complimented the bitterness of the brie brilliantly. Unfortunately we ate the starter so quickly because it looked so good that I forgot to take a picture! Take my word for it, it was yummy.

For the mains I chose an old reliable: Chicken goujons with a side salad and homemade wedges. Now I did have to pay extra for the wedges as the dish actually came with normal fries but I prefer wedges so I was a bit disappointed to pay extra but they were still quite tasty, in my opinion they were more like oven cooked chips not wedges at all but they were delicious. They are usually served with sweet chili sauce but I prefer garlic mayonnaise which was fantastic.

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My mother ordered the house chicken curry which to be honest just tasted like the tin of McDonald’s curry sauce so it wasn’t homemade but it still was tasty. Her only complaint was that it had coriander through it, which in my family is a big no-no because it’s quite fragrant and tastes like perfume and it’s an odd complaint I know, but we all can’t stand it! So after doing an autopsy on her dinner for a good 10 minutes picking out the coriander, she was finally able to enjoy the meal. It was served really nicely as you see below, with plenty of vegetables which we both love.

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With a glass of wine and a glass of cider the total of the mean came to €34 which was decent enough. The staff were friendly and very laid back so the experience was very relaxing. We stayed for another half an hour even after finishing our meals and could go up to the bar to pay the bill.

Overall Moycarn Lodge is definitely a place I’ll go back to for food. You would get more of the fine dining experience after 6pm I would say but for what we got I was very pleased. The only drawback was the inability to swap fried for wedges for free but despite this I still enjoyed my meal. I would definitely recommend it to those interested in a laid back venue with beautiful scenery and a friendly family atmosphere.

As always if you have any queries or opinions, please feel free to comment or contact me on my social media accounts: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

The Busiest Bee 🙂

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Restaurant Review: Il Folletto Galway City

Ok so I’m quite a fan of Italian restaurants, so much so that I would think I’m quite competent to know what good quality Italian food is. This place did not produce good Italian grub. I did really want to like it, it’s location is perfect down near the Spanish arch, the street is buzzing outside with lots of atmosphere, however this ends when walking into the restaurant. It was dead.

I should have taken this as a sign of things to come, but the €19 value menu really drew me in, plus a free glass of wine with your meal! Why not!

We were placed literally at the door to the kitchen right in front of the bar where we were listening to every conversation between the staff. It was my own fault for not asking to sit elsewhere. They also had a fan or something on in this area which meant not only were we freezing but our food became cold within seconds of serving.

On to the food. Well where to start. I ordered the bruschetta classic, I literally order this in every Italian restaurant I go to, that’s how crazy about it I am! But this bruschetta was completely flavourless! No garlic flavour at all, and it was served on what was basically a slice of toasted bread. My boyfriend, who eats everything, even tasted it and commented how bland it was.

For the main I made another error and ordered the pasta arrabiata. This dish is literally one of the easiest Italian dishes to make, chicken pieces in a spicy tomato sauce with slices of chillies through it and lashings and lashings of garlic. That’s it. What I got was literally fusilli pasta (not homemade) in a soup like sauce (convinced it was the leftover soup sauce that day) with only 2 slices of chillies (I counted) and the chicken definitely wasn’t cooked fresh. What was even more unnerving was that there were strings of spaghetti going through my fusilli pasta, which means that it was either the minestrone soup that the spaghetti strings were in or worse they never cleaned out the pot they cooked my pasta in. What made matters worse was half way through the dish I discovered a piece of chicken that still had a vein or capillary attached to it. Yuck!

When I informed the waiter of my unhappiness with the dish, he went in to the kitchen to question the chef on the chicken piece. The reply I received was that it had been a bit of hard chicken! Now in all my years of cooking and eating chicken I have never come across a bit of chicken like that before and I’m very sorry I didn’t take a picture of it to attach to this review so anyone reading could understand the utter disbelief to this ‘hard chicken’ statement I received

Having said all this, my boyfriend had a nice enough meal. He got the meatballs to start and the chicken escalope for the main and he only complained that the portions were too small.

So overall I would definitely not recommend this restaurant to Italian cuisine lovers and I personally felt I wouldn’t serve this food to my dog. I’ve never ever had to leave such a negative review in my entire life so for those thinking I’m being harsh, it’s all the gods honest truth! I’m quite a foodie so I was really really disappointed by this experience.

The only thing going for this restaurant is the great value of the menu price wise and the free glass of wine, but my strong advice is to go elsewhere!

Restaurant Review: Cactus Jacks Galway

 

Cactus Jacks is one of those restaurants that can actually be described as doing exactly what it says on the tin! This is one hipster restaurant you do not want to miss. It provides tasty Mexican cuisine at a totally reasonable cost (€19.95 for the early bird menu and a bottle of house wine for €12 during this time makes for a truly economic dining experience).

Cactus Jacks is tucked away down a quiet side street just off Quay street and one would worry that this would mean the atmosphere would be dead, however upon entering the restaurant the opposite was true. This restaurant is quite hipster smart, laid back in decor but this added to it’s appeal. A pleasant waiter greeted us on entry and quickly seated us at a table to our liking. He was very efficient and provided a lot of useful information regarding the menu and what not.

We actually arrived into the restaurant after early bird hours, but our waiter having noticed we ordered a bottle of house wine was quick to point out that next time we should come before 7 so we could avail of the €12 bottle of wine but that he would do us a deal and give us a second bottle for that price. Which was quite generous and had we been out with friends, it would definitely have been an option, however as there was only the two of us, we had to decline. It was still quite nice of the waiter to offer all the same.

Onto the food, it was truly a delight. I ordered the cheesy nachos for my starter, I was not disappointed, Cactus Jack’s signature chilli is to die for, with a hint of chocolate in it too so what’s not to like. It was served with nachos on the side which I also liked because often when you serve chilli on nachos they become quite soft and icky. There was also a little tub of sour cream to complement the dish. My boyfriend ordered the chicken skewers, which he said were lovely, if not a tad bit dry so maybe serving it with a dip sauce might be an idea? Just a thought however.

For the mains I ordered the Moroccan lamb burger. I was one of those picky customers where instead of regular fries I wanted sweet potato fries and instead of the hummus I wanted the relish and so on, but the waiter took all of my demands in stride and was quite easy going about it. The burger was amazing, and so deceptively filling! I was struggling to finish it half way through.

I also had ordered a side portion of the grilled Mediterranean vegetables, these however were the only disappointment with my main meal. They were covered in the herb thyme, which is ok in small doses but this was literally thyme overkill! Thyme is quite over powering in my books and less is more is always the key in my opinion and another herb could have been better suited e.g. oregano or in less is more terms, it would have been nicer just lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. However these are all just my own personal views and I realise my taste buds may not appeal to others, but again I will say it was a hell of a lot of thyme so I challenge anyone not to react the same way.

My boyfriend ordered the chicken supreme, he enjoyed it although it did advertise it as a large chicken breast and it was maybe a medium sized fillet. Again this is just a minor thing. Following the meal we weren’t rushed out of the restaurant like you would be in other restaurants, we were able to enjoy the rest of our wine in peace listening to the fantastic playlist of music they played in the restaurant, I did mean to get the name of the album but completely forgot, but it definitely added to our lovely experience.

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience and look forward to dining in Cactus Jacks again hopefully in the near future. The food is wholesome and flavorsome and the early bird menu and wine offer is definitely a deal breaker that would make me want to return again! It’s also quite a nice place for all sorts of crowds: families, couples, tourists etc. so there is something for everyone.

Restaurant Review: Rosa Madre Temple Bar

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Rating: 4/5

A group of friends and I dined in Rosa Madre quite recently. From the get go the staff were so attentive, catering to our every need. I readily admit I’m very picky when it comes to food so it takes a lot to impress me but having said that I would definitely recommend this restaurant to Italian food lovers, as it truly is the real deal.

On to the food: For a starter I had the bruschetta and it was so flavorsome, it was quite a big portion, three bruschettas topped with homemade mozzarella served with a rocket salad and drizzled with the restaurants signature olive oil, which if they ever start selling would make a fortune it’s that amazing!

For the main I ordered a pasta dish as I wanted to check out the homemade pasta. It was a pappardelle pasta dish which looked tiny when it came out but it was quite filling. Now I had assumed because it was described as a sausage dish that there would be slices of sausage in it but I was a bit disappointed in the end to discover that it was basically a glorified blolognese sauce. Also I love having vegetables in my pasta dishes but as this dish didn’t come with vegetables in the sauce, I ordered a side of the grilled vegetables (peppers, courgettes and aubergines) and to be honest they were much nicer than the actual main. They were grilled and seasoned to perfection and I honestly would rather have been eating a plate of them by themselves.

I was too full for dessert but one of our party ordered the Tiramisu which looked fantastic and it was a good sizes portion also.

For wine we had two bottles of the house white (€52 in total), and two bottles of red also (€64 in total). I only had the white which was quite pleasant, it almost had a fizz to it, and it complimented our meal perfectly.

The most impressive thing we found about our experience was that we weren’t rushed out of the restaurant after our meal was over. Too often in Dublin restaurants you’re hounded out as others may be waiting for your table, but we had booked in for 7:30 and we didn’t leave till after 11pm. Meanwhile the staff were so attentive, filling up our wine glasses when they noticed they were empty, also bringing more bread out in case we wanted some with our mains. Our waiter was also extremely knowledgeable wine informing us what went well with particular meals, and also answering whatever query we had regarding the menu quite efficiently.

Overall one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in Dublin City to date, and only for my disappointing main I would have given it full marks. I would thoroughly recommend this restaurant to all fellow foodies and cannot wait to visit it again in the near future.