Spicy Pumpkin Soup

PumpkinsIngredients

2 pumpkins, halved & baked

3 Tablespoons oil

2 medium yellow onions

6 cups chicken stock

1/2  cup heavy whipping cream

freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp granulated sugar (to caramelize the onions)

1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped

salt & pepper

Topping/Garnish : Freshly grated Kerrygold Skellig or Aged Cheddar Cheese.

Begin by preparing your pumpkin.

Scoop out flesh and seeds. I put the seeds aside for later as I also roast those to keep for snacks and for adding to my granola recipes (yum)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place your pumpkins face down on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes. This will vary depending on your oven. You just want them to be cooked until soft when tested with a fork or sharp knife.

If you aren’t using fresh pumpkins then you need to use one large can of pumpkin puree. I believe these come in 28oz sizes so use 1 can.

Heat oil in a large  cast iron pot and add chopped onions. Stir over a medium heat and then sprinkle sugar. This will bring out a lovely flavor in the onions.

Cook for about 10 mins, or until softened nicely.

Add stock , salt & pepper , jalapeno and pumpkin.

Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Pour in cream and stir.

Using an immersion blender, puree until you reach desired consistency.

TIP: If you like you can reserve your scooped out pumpkins and serve the soup in them. Just make sure you do not score the skin too deeply with your sharp knife !

Today’s Photo of the day ~ Do you know where this is ?

Over the last few months, I have been posting  photographs on my ‘Facebook Page’ of the many places I have visited in Ireland. I have been amazed at how many people know where these beaches and off road locations are.  Today, courtesy of ‘Tourism Ireland’ I am posting yet another photograph.

Courtesy of Tourism Ireland

Courtesy of Tourism Ireland

Test your geography here. Do you know where this is?  More will be posted and  I will be asking people to submit their photos, culminating in a competition for Irish goodies ! stay tuned… Good Luck

Things you need to know when visiting Ireland

I returned this week  from 3  wonderful weeks in Ireland. Since my return I have already heard from people that are planning their trips over and indeed plan on going over in 2014.  The many questions I get have prompted this tip sheet. I hope it helps you.

1) Weather ~ What Should I wear?

Layers. Bring plenty of layers. Ireland has a temperate climate, which also means plenty of showers. Don’t go to Ireland for the weather and you will not be disappointed ! Go to Ireland because you want to visit and if you get good or great weather, then that will be a bonus !

2) Money ~ Currency

Euros. This is the currency in the Republic of Ireland but as soon as you cross over into the Northern part of Ireland you are now in the United Kingdom and therefore need to use sterling. Also please remember to make sure you have a coin purse with you as there are a lot of coins.   2 Euro Coins, 1 Euro Coins, 50 cent coins, 20 cent coins, 10 cent coins, 5 cent coins, 2 cent coins, 1 cent coins.

Euros

Euros

3) Car Hire ~

Cars are expensive in Ireland and as a result car hire is more expensive. However, that being said, I rented a car this last visit and it was amazing. I had a Citroen Diesel and as a result only spent  130 Euro for the entire visit.  Diesel is much cheaper in Ireland than in the UK. Remember to drive on the left hand side of the road.

4) Public Transport ~ Trains & Buses

I took the train from Killarney to Dublin. This was wonderful. Free WiFi is available on the train. I booked my train ticket in advance.  I discovered it is cheaper to purchase and prepay online rather than purchasing at the ticket counter. My ticket from Killarney to Dublin, First class cost me 44Euro. My ticket from Dublin to Cork, whenI purchased at the ticket counter was 75Euro and this wasn’t even First Class ! I was told I could walk back out to the lobby and purchase online but there was a 90minute cut off window and wireless  service was bad so I just purchased the ticket. Forewarned is forearmed.

http://www.irishrail.ie

Travel by Train

View from an Irish train

5) Tipping

Tipping in Ireland is not the same as tipping here in the USA.  It is customary to tip but people tend not to be as generous as they are here in the U.S. One girl in Baltimore, West Cork told me she had a great week as when they divided up all the tips after a week she received 48 Euros ! It is hard to say what the percentage was but at least 10% to be fair.

6) Free Refills ~ there are no free refills for sodas

When you purchase a soda. That’s it. If they ask you if you would like another, remember you will be paying for it ! Generally speaking this applied to coffee and tea also.

7) Lingo & Terms

I was with a woman from the USA who ordered coffee. The waitress asked how she would like her coffee. “Cream please” was the reply. I should have said something but did not. They waitress handed her a bowl of freshly whipped cream ! You need to specify milk or pouring cream.

~ Minerals are sodas !

~ a ’99’ is an ice cream cone with a chocolate flake. (Not to be missed !)

~ Brown bread in restaurants generally refers to brown soda bread.

~ If someone says “It’s grand” then that simply means it’s ok, it’s all good !

~ Chips are french fries

~ Crisps are potato chips

~ Biscuits are cookies

8) Cell Phones

Be very careful here. This is where it gets really pricey. You need to contact your provider before you leave informing them of of your travel dates. They will explain how you need to turn off your cell phone data and use wireless as much as possible. Ask if you can get a passcode in as many places as possible for wireless.

9) Tax Free Shopping

~ If you reside outside the EU (European Union) then you are entitled to tax free shopping. You can get a flex card and register that card in the store. I did this at ‘The Kilkenny Store’ . Most stores are not equipped for this, so you need to tell them you want tax free and they will issue you a receipt and envelope.

https://www.shoptaxfree.com/

FEXCO HORIZON CARD

10) General Tips

~ If you purchase something in a petrol station (gas station) or grocery store and they ask if you would like a bag then you are expected to pay anywhere from 15cent to 25cent per bag. Bags are recycled much more here.

~ I did not encounter any gas stations where you can pay at the pump. You had to go inside to pay.

~ Don’t forget to bring your travel adaptor for your electrics. I purchased a good one in ‘Best Buy’ and another one at ‘Brookstone’.  If you bring anything with a heating element, like hairdryer then you need a converter or else you will fry your electrics and the fuses ! The voltage is higher there. Before you panic, when looking frantically around your bathroom for a hairdryer, please check the dressing table or drawers in your bedroom.  Shavers are only permitted in bathrooms due to the higher voltage. Some of the newer hotels are installing hair dryers in the bathrooms, but most are found in the bedroom.

Travel Adaptor

Travel Adaptor

~ I did not get Euros before I left. I always have a little for when I land or for the first day but I just withdraw Euros from the ATM’s wherever I am visiting.

~ One other very important task is to contact your bank and/or credit card company prior to departure. They will also need to know your travel dates and places, even if you are only stopping in London for a few hours on your way to somewhere else. Otherwise your card will more than likely be denied for security reasons.

Ramblings from an Irish train

When I was growing up, my father used to say that those who lived next door to the church were nearly always late to mass, by this he meant we can take living in certain locales for granted.  This statement is true for me. I arrived back in Ireland on Friday, August 1st and I am taking in my surroundings with a different set of glasses than I did when I lived here. They are by no means rose colored.  Some think I am the typical immigrant coming back and romanticizing but this is not true. I am well aware or recession, and unfortunately terrible service in restaurants. Yes, it rains and prices are high and people hate the banks. I have been reminded frequently about them, people volunteering their opinions freely and unsolicited. That being said, I am an Irish woman and a Cork woman to boot.  As I write this, I am on the train from Killarney, Co Kerry to Dublin. The sky is grey, with patches of blue far off on the horizon, but every time I think we have reached the horizon, the blue patch just seems further away !  This is not new to me. I spent many a day or hour chasing that patch of blue as a child. Holding on to that hope when we were shivering  at the beaches in Ardmore or Schull that the grey would  disappear and  eventually clear up completely ! Now at the age of 43, I am still chasing that blue patch.

View from an Irish train

View from an Irish train

This describes the Irish people very well for me, at least it describes me and people that I like to associate myself with very well.  Rude and negative people are everywhere. In life, there are those that you meet that simply make you tired. I choose not to be around them as much as possible and when I am , I simply let what they say wash over me. The Irish people are a creative people. Creativity comes in all forms, it is not exclusive to crafts, cooking and music.  Getting yourself out of a situation, creative thinking, strategizing , bartering and wheeling and dealing are all forms of creative thinking. Some, it is true are not put to good use.  You can have the type of mind that can be used one of two ways. When my now 15 year old son was in pre-school, his teacher said to me “He has the ability to do two things, he can rule the world or ruin the world, how he does it is up to you” That was quite a statement coming from a teacher about a 4 year old but almost 12 years later is still as impactful today as it was then. You see, you can have the type of mind that is so creative and so brilliant that you can become a world class chess player, become CEO of a major corporation or you can end up in prison. You may well laugh or scoff at this statement or opinion but the prisons are indeed full of people with gifted minds, they just took the wrong path or detour somewhere back along in their lives. This is what my son’s teacher meant all those years ago. Harnessing that potential is the responsibility of every teacher and probably more importantly, in my opinion every parent.

Ramblings from the train !

Ramblings from the train !

I now understand with the benefit of hindsight , experience, knowledge and time how I felt in school. I did not understand but I do now. I was by no means a bad student but was not an exceptional student. I am referring to grades. They ambled around in the C’s and B’s for math and sciences but A’s for English and Irish. I could not get enough time with my grandmother knitting and sewing and was always hanging out in kitchens. I constantly asked questions and was never satisfied with a little information.  Today we have a lovely label for me and indeed for my son. ADD & ADHD.  Namely attention defecit disorder and attention defecit hyperactivity disorder. These names are indeed very beneficial for health insurance companies and doctors but once you have that label, there is a slight stigma associated with it in school. It is most unfortunate that they have to use the word disorder.  People with ADD & ADHD have the magnificent ability to multi task and  hyper focus under pressure. My husband has frequently asked me why I leave things until the 11th hour. Does this resonate with you? I do not plan or intend on leaving it until the 11th hour but quite simply when the pressure is on, my brain works in a way that I cannot get it to work when I have  months of lead time.  On the other hand, with absolutely no disrespect to accountants or engineers or people who work with ‘processes’ they are not labelled as LTD, linear thinking disorder. (This is my description of people who do not think like creative people !) They are simply linear thinkers. We need both in industry and commerce to succeed, the dreamers to think, dream, create and innovate and the other to implement and ensure success.

IMG_6805

Views from my train window

This week, I have traveled around Ireland   with some clients from the States and it was never so evident that we are indeed a nation of ADD people. We chatter and multi task and offer new and creative ideas and suggestions.  People  talked  in somewhat confusing circles to these people but I knew they were going to reach the point eventually ! I felt at home again. They are indeed my people ! I know how they think and how they create.

Brendan O’Carrol was born in Finglas , Co Dublin in 1955. He is well known in Ireland and the UK for his production skills and for his comedic genius . He is becoming somewhat of a sensation in the States on Facebook and YouTube also for his portrayal of the scandalous Irish mammy, “Mrs Brown”.  Brendan left school at the age of 12. He has an IQ of 156 and is a member of Mensa, reminding us that grades are not a measure of intelligence but mere guidelines.

The beginning of this post talks about taking your area for granted. I rambled for a few paragraphs but like the people we met this week, I am getting back to the point.  After all this time abroad, it takes many visits home to really appreciate and love what I had growing up in Ireland.