On Monday, December 18th, IMRAM (Irish Language literature festival) are delighted to join forces with bi-lingual poetry and spoken word club REIC, for a special evening curated by Ciara Ní É.
Where do you shop?
I’m living in Philadelphia at the moment and at first the huge supermarkets here were bewildering! I managed to find an Aldi though, so I went there once and literally bought trays of boxes of cereals, cans of beans, and jars of sauces. From looking at my basement you’d think I’m a doomsday prepper!
Can you list the contents of your weekly shop?
I couldn’t be without potatoes, bread, milk, yoghurt, and fruit and veg for the week. I also seem to be constantly buying raspberry jam, peanut butter, and butter, and was delighted to discover that most shops here sell Kerrygold! I’m only cooking for myself, and I hate throwing out unused food, so I try to be realistic about what I’ll get through. I won’t pretend I don’t buy gunge.
Describe your typical breakfast
Full fat Greek yoghurt and granola (the low fat stuff tastes awful to me!), with some fruit if it’s there. At the weekend I’ll have any manner of elaborately cooked eggs and bread. I always have a cupán tae.
Describe your typical lunch
I often make extra dinner so that I can have leftovers the next day for lunch. I work in a university, so if I’m buying on campus it would be whatever’s going: burritos, pizza, or chicken and chips!
My standard fare is quite formulaic:
Carbohydrate base: pasta, rice, or couscous,
Protein: canned beans of some kind, tofu, or haloumi,
Veg: whatever’s handy,
Flavour: depending on what I’ve thrown together it usually ends up being either a wannabe Asian or Italian dish.
Cereal bars; proper ones with loads of nuts and deliciousness in them, not those flimsy ones that are akin to a rectangle of cardboard in both weight and taste! I need to snack because otherwise I get hangry and you won’t like me when I’m hangry…
Is there anything you won’t eat?
I hate mayonnaise and ketchup! Life is hard.
What would you cook to impress someone?
I love cooking and can follow a recipe so I’d find out what the person likes and make it. Crowd pleasers of mine are decadent desserts like caramel shortbread or chocolate biscuit cake; and for savoury dishes I live by the principle that there’s no such thing as too much garlic!
What is your guilty food pleasure?
Anyone who knows me could tell you that I’ve got a sweet tooth, but it’s just pleasure, no guilt! The chocolate here in the States is not up to much unfortunately, so my mother kindly sent me over a few kilos of Cadburys!
What is your ultimate comfort food?
Any form of potatoes are well received.
What is your favourite takeaway?
Oh god, this questions a bit of a Sophie’s Choice for anyone who loves food as much as me! I’ll give you a top three: pizza, veggie spring rolls, a lovely creamy korma. I especially love whatever you ordered…
Have you tried any diet fads in the past six months?
Nope. Fad diets are against my religion.
What would be your Death Row dinner or Last Supper?
In fairness to my parents, our Christmas dinner is something to behold! We always have turkey and ham, but it’s the trimmings that make it for me: stuffing; goose fat potatoes; potato gratin; marrowfat peas; honey roasted vegetables and sweet potatoes.
It’s great to hear that Ciara managed to find a familiar supermarket for her regular shop as it can be daunting to navigate your way through new brands and products, especially when time is limited. Stocking up well is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle and being well prepared with a variety of snacks and meal components can mean it’s much easier to make positive choices.
Ciara’s weekly shopping list represents a good combination of foods for simple home-cooked meals, and I’m happy to see that fruit and vegetables make an appearance too. Particularly when you lead a busy lifestyle, eating a minimum of five servings of fresh, colourful fruits and veggies each day can help to support energy levels and immune system health. As animal protein foods are devoid of dietary fibre, eating plenty of plant-based foods each day can help to ensure normal digestive health and even contribute to a flatter stomach and less of a tendency to suffer from bloating.
While not mentioned as part of Ciara’s shopping basket, quality sources of protein do appear in her meals. Complete protein includes eggs, beans, lentils, fish and poultry. It’s a good idea to include a source of protein with each meal and snack, even something like a handful of almonds and a piece of fruit as a mid-morning snack can help to keep levels of essential amino acids topped up throughout the day.
Protein help to keep you feeling fuller for longer, stabilises blood sugar levels and amino acids are needed for normal everyday functions, including muscle repair and the production of hormones, enzymes and antibodies.
Ciara mentions that she frequently buys jam and peanut butter. While together they make a tasty treat and enjoying occasional treats is an important part of following a balanced lifestyle, traditional jam can be very high in refined sugar. An alternative is to make your own chia jam at home. It’s a simple combination of gently heated berries, a small amount of maple syrup for sweetness and chia seeds stirred in and left to swell in the moisture. It creates a delicious and healthier jam.
For breakfast, Ciara opts for Greek yoghurt with granola and fruit. Greek yoghurt is a super choice as it’s higher in protein and more satiating than regular yoghurt, plus generally unsweetened but it’s still best to check individual brands. Granola can be an excellent breakfast choice when it’s low in or free from refined sugar and naturally sweetened with a small amount of honey or maple syrup. It can be packed with oats, nuts and seeds to boost its fibre and nutrient content and homemade granola is simple to make.
Lunch for Ciara is usually leftovers or whatever is on offer at work. My advice is to ensure it contains complete protein, veggies and a complex carbohydrate to support energy levels for the afternoon. Quinoa, brown rice, butternut squash and sweet potato are all good quality options. A green salad on the side would help to boost her intake of fresh, raw greens to help support energy levels.
Ciara’s evening meal is a super balance of protein with a carbohydrate, protein and plenty of vegetables. She mentions couscous as a favourite but quinoa is actually richer in amino acids and essential minerals, including manganese, phosphorus, copper and zinc. Beans and lentils make an excellent plant-based protein source, rich in fibre and are extremely versatile too.
Snacks for Ciara include cereal bars packed with nuts. These can be a good option once they’re not packed with refined sugar or sugar syrups, so best to read nutrition labels well. Alternatively, a handful of raw unsalted nuts make a filling and nourishing snack.
Ciara’s overall diet contains a great variety of different foods and a good balance of the key macronutrients. My advice is to ensure she’s not eating excess refined sugar in snack foods and to include plenty of veggies with her lunchtime meal. Well done Ciara.