Since we moved into our current home, almost fourteen years ago, we've always had many different pets fighting for a little space against the backdoor. Dogs, cats, ducks and hens have all stated their claim over the years. Like all families, some days their personalities have caused them to clash, but overall they live quite happily in the outdoors together. Throughout the years, we've been ever so lucky to have a steady supply of fresh eggs, and somehow the ones gathered from the garden always seem to taste the best. A little fresh egg is also ever so nutritious, and when paired with brown soda bread it's rather filling too. This baked egg recipe, I'm sharing today, only takes minutes to prepare, and makes for a tasty breakfast, lunch or supper.  



Baked Eggs with Spinach & Soda Bread

Ingredients
Knob of butter
4 slices of brown soda bread, without the crust
100g spinach leaves
4 eggs, free-range organic
40g cheddar cheese

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C / fan 180°C / gas mark 6. Grease the inside of four small ramekins with a little butter.
  2. Put the spinach into a colander, then pour over a kettle of boiling water to wilt the leaves. Once cool enough to touch, squeeze out any excess water.
  3. Using a scone cutter, cut out 4 circles from the bread that will fit the bottom of the ramekins. Butter each piece and place one, buttered side up, in each of the ramekins and press into place. From the remaining scraps of bread line the sides of the ramekins to make a thin wall.
  4. Divide the spinach between the four bread-lined ramekins, and press down well.
  5. Carefully crack an egg into each. Grate over a thin layer of cheese.
  6. Place on a baking tray and then into the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. Enjoy.

 


Our NutriBullet must be at least seven years old, and out of all the gadgets we have in the kitchen it's the one most used. Daily juices and post-workout shakes, for the exercise-enthusiasts in the house, are what it's used for most, but I also grab it when I want to whip up a hummus, breadcrumbs or even the odd cocktail. Generally, we don't stick to a recipe when we're making a smoothie, as it's dependent on what is in the fridge, freezer or fruit bowl, but this recipe I'm sharing with you today is one combination everyone in the house enjoys. The creamy citrusy flavour is somewhat reminiscent of an old-style super split ice-cream, making it a deliciously refreshing and nutritious start to the day for the digestive system.


Morning Juice Boost


Ingredients

75g greek yogurt

1 orange, peeled and pips removed

1 banana, peeled and chopped

½ lemon, juice only

Handful of ice cubes 

 

Method

1.     Add all the ingredients to a high-powered blender and blitz until smooth.

2.     Enjoy straight away.

The dawning of a new year normally sparks something within us to begin afresh, whether it’s in the form of a healthier diet, exercising more, altering a career path or taking up a new-fangled hobby. After the year we’ve all experience, I think we can be forgiven for not embracing the whole resolution ritual with as much gusto as we may have in previous years. However, without it even being a conscious pledge, our health and that of our loved ones will most likely be what’s at the forefront of our minds as we apprehensively embrace this brand-new year.

Thankfully, in recent times, press and social media platforms have become less focused on promoting the diets which hold the promise of the illusive, flawless figure, and concentrate more on endorsing the strong body and mind, and along with it an acceptance that bodies do indeed come in all shapes and sizes. If you have suffered from any sort of ill health in the past, I'm sure you'll agree with me, the desire for the body to heal and become stronger will always outweigh those extra couple of pounds on the scales.

Eat less, move more, is a long-standing mantra for a healthier lifestyle, and makes perfect sense for those striving for a little weight loss. Nevertheless, if we’re trying to strengthen our bodies, along with increasing our level of exercise, we also need to eat a little more too, taking particular attention to boost our intake of fresh foods which are nutritionally dense. When adapting to a more nourishing diet it can be helpful to consider, whether a particular dish or food is filled with the sort of nutrients which will help to fuel the body efficiently. With this to the forefront of the mind, we can more often make better food choices. A nutrient-heavy meal need not be extravagant nor costly; a simple poached egg served alongside a slice of wholemeal soda bread is packed with vital vitamins and minerals. Add to it a serving of wilted spinach and a grating of cheddar cheese and it becomes a rather nutrient complete meal. 

It is important to fuel our bodies with delicious wholesome foods, yet still not deny ourselves the occasional slice of cake or treat, when the need arises. Keeping well hydrated and getting a good night’s sleep will also play their part in promoting our bodies into a stronger and healthier state. 

 

 




Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti 


With all the turkey consumed over the festive season, I’d forgive you for bypassing this recipe during the month of January, but as an ingredient turkey is so impressively nutritious it should be celebrated all year round. High in protein and packed with vitamins and minerals, these turkey meatballs are a great addition to this tasty tomato sauce. 

 

Ingredients

For the meatballs

50g oats

450g turkey mince

1 onion, finely grated 

1tbsp sweet chilli sauce

1 egg, lightly beaten

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the tomato sauce

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tin cherry tomatoes

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tsp dried herbs

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1tbsp sugar

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

350g wholewheat spaghetti

100g baby spinach leaves

 

To serve

Parmesan or vintage cheddar cheese 

 

Method

 

  1. Using a food processor, blitz the oats for a few seconds until finely chopped.
  2. Add to a large bowl along with the turkey mince, onion, sweet chilli sauce and egg. Season well with salt and pepper. Mix together to combine. 
  3. With a small bowl of cold water by your side, using damp hands, roll the mixture into about 20 meatballs. Chill in the fridge until ready to cook. 
  4. To make the sauce, heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add some olive oil. Add the chopped onion, turn down the heat and sauté for about 10 minutes until soft and slightly coloured. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for about 30 seconds. Add the tins of tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, dried herbs and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and increase the heat slightly under the pan. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Heat some olive oil in another large frying pan. Fry the meatballs, turning them occasionally, until they are golden brown and cooked through. Check by cutting one in half to make sure there are no signs of any pink meat. Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook for a further 10 minutes. 
  6. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the pack.
  7. Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir through the spinach and add the cooked spaghetti. Combine well with the sauce and the meatballs.
  8. Divide between four bowls, and grate over a little parmesan or some vintage cheddar cheese. 

 

This recipe and introduction were taken from my January 2021 Home Nurse column, in Irish Country Living. 



The run-up to Christmas is traditionally a time for baking delicious cakes to enjoy and share over the holiday season. If someone in the family is a coeliac sufferer or has a gluten intolerance, it makes most sense to make a bake all the family will enjoy. This cake recipe I’m sharing with you is certainly not lacking for the want of wheat flour. It is simply bursting with flavour and will be relished by all at the table whether they need to avoid gluten or not.

This light, but luscious, chocolate cake would be the perfect indulgence to enjoy as a festive afternoon treat. It’s important to beat the eggs and sugar together for ten minutes, as this adds volume to the mixture creating an impressive light bake. The cake will naturally sink in the centre while it is cooling. I’ve simply smothered the top with chocolate ganache, but this crater-like centre could easily be filled in with some softly whipped cream, as cream and chocolate cake marry so perfectly together. 

Chocolate Pecan Cake
Ingredients
150g pecans
200g dark chocolate, approx. 55% cocoa, broken into pieces 
175g butter
200g caster sugar
4 medium-sized free-range eggs
Chocolate Ganache
100ml double cream
200g rich milk chocolate, 35% cocoa, broken into pieces
Topping
½ pomegranate, seeds only

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/Gas mark 5. Thoroughly brush a 26cm springform tin with some melted butter.
2. Place the pecans on a dry pan, over a low heat and toss regularly until lightly toasted. Remove to a board and finely chop. 
3. In a saucepan, over a gentle heat, melt the chocolate with the butter. Stir well to avoid the chocolate sticking. Once melted and well combined, take from the heat and leave to cool.
4. Using an electric mixer on a high speed, whisk the sugar and eggs together for 10 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy.
5. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture and fold well to combine.
6. Fold in the half of the pecans, reserving the rest for the topping.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The top will have set, but the mixture will still be a little gooey. 
8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin.
9. To make the chocolate ganache, place the cream in a small saucepan and heat gently. Once it begins to bubble, remove from the heat and add the chocolate pieces. Whisk well with a fork until combined and the chocolate is completely melted.
10. Once the cake has cooled completely, pour over the ganache and top with the remaining pecans and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. 
11. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Place any remaining cake in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. 


We are well aware this will be a Christmas like no other, but as I hear of cancelled carol services, abandoned school nativities, no visits to Santy and the uncertainty whether or not we’ll be permitted to visit loved ones’ homes over the festive season, it’s difficult not to be a little forlorn for our traditional Christmas celebrations. I suppose the past eight months have prepared us well for honouring important occasions, while still staying within our own home. We’ve all had to become more dependent on home-based activities and making the most of what is under our own roof. Even though baking together with the children was always something I loved to do, I definitely homed in on this as a pastime a little more consciously over the past few months. 

For years, I have taken great joy in baking the cakes, puddings and mincemeat in the run-up to Christmas, and with the help of Millie, since November we had this year’s batch made, wrapped up tightly, and packed into the pantry. Each November, I dedicate a weekend to Christmas baking, and it’s a ritual I really relish. Only recently did I come to realise why I love upholding this tradition so much and it is because these couple of days of baking are always pencilled in and therefore are never rushed. The recipes are in place, the ingredients in the press and all that’s needed are a few Christmas tracks, and maybe the odd hot chocolate, to heighten the experience to something very special. 

Such traditions are what I hope my children will recall when they look back on their childhoods. When I remember my own Christmases past, the memory most etched is that of time spent baking with my own dear mother, when we would be side-by-side with only Perry Como for company on those dark November evenings. 

As a parent, we can sometimes forget, the greatest gift we can give our children is time. They yearn to be by our sides and gain the most pleasure in helping us even with the simplest of tasks. Creating something simple but scrumptious together in the kitchen is a marvellous example of this. 

Normally once December is upon us, crazy season starts, with endless lists to achieve and countless Christmas-orientated activities and dates to attend. In their place, this year, I've decided to start some new traditions which I hope will hold firm even after our busier lifestyles are reinstated. 

I still yearn to see loved ones and pray for a pinch of normality this Christmas, but if this new normal has taught me anything it’s to live more mindfully and appreciate every moment of slowness that comes my way, because within those moments, without even being aware, we are creating memories which have the potential to last a lifetime. 




Cinnamon & Cranberry Cookies

These oaty cookies are the perfect snack to serve alongside a glass of hot milk. I’m using coconut sugar in this recipe, as a less processed sweetener, but light brown sugar can easily be used in its place. 

Ingredients

150g porridge oats

150g wholemeal flour

1tsp baking powder

75g dried cranberries 

200g butter, softened

80g coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

Topping

50g coconut sugar

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon


Method

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/ fan 170°C/gas mark 5. Prepare two large baking trays by lining them with greaseproof paper.

2. Using a food processor, blitz the porridge oats until fine. Add to a large bowl with the wholemeal flour and baking powder. 

3. Using the food processor again, give the dried cranberries a quick blitz until roughly chopped. Add to the flour and stir through to combine. 

4. In a separate bowl, add the softened butter, sugar and vanilla extract, and cream together until light and fluffy.

5. Add the egg and a spoonful of the flour mixture, and mix for a few moments to combine.

6. Fold in the remaining oat, flour and cranberry mix. Combine well until the dough can be gathered together into a ball. 

7. On a plate, mix together the coconut sugar and the cinnamon for the topping. 

8. Divide the dough, about one dessertspoonful for each cookie, making approximately 16 cookies, and roll each one in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the cookies evenly spaced on the baking trays and cook in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, depending on their size, until golden brown. 

9. Allow to cool slightly on the tray before carefully transferring to a wire rack to fully cool. Store in an airtight container for up to three days. 


This recipe was shared in my Home Nurse Column in Irish Country Living November 2020. 

I'm not a huge chocolate fan, therefore I normally bake goodies which aren't exactly chocolate-orientated. However, even as an on-the-fence chocolate admirer, I must admit there is something about chocolate lamingtons that make them rather tempting. I had this recipe in my file for ages. It's one I shared on an old Easy Parenting column, so when I stumbled upon it and suggested to Millie we give it a go, she was pulling the ingredients from the press before I had the chance to change my mind. My slight reluctance was somewhat heightened when I remembered making them last, and just how messy I had found them to assemble, however later that night, when I was tucking into one with a large cup of tea, I deemed them worth the hassle. Chocolate and coconut always work so well together, but they're particularly nice when paired with a slightly chocolatey cake. These chocolate lamingtons are lovely and light, and are perfect with a cuppa or parcelled up to bring along to a winter picnic in the park.  




Ingredients

225g butter, softened 
225g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large free-range eggs
250g self-raising flour, sieved
25g cocoa powder, sieved 

To Assemble 
100g raspberry jam
200g milk chocolate 
100g desiccated coconut 

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas mark 6. Prepare a 20cm x 30cm swiss roll tin with a high lip by greasing with a little butter and lining with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang to help with removing the cake from the tin.
2. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl and cream together for about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time with a little flour- to prevent the mixture from curdling. Mix well after each addition.
4. Add the remaining flour and cocoa powder and mix to combine. 
5. Pour the mixture into the swiss roll tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown in colour. If unsure, test using a skewer - if it comes out clean, the cake is baked. Cool on a wire tray.
6. When completely cooled cut into 24 squares. Then cut each square in half diagonally.
7. Spread one side of each mini cake with jam and sandwich the cake back together. 
8. In the microwave or over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. 
9. Place the coconut into a bowl. Dip each square into the chocolate and then using two forks dip them into the coconut. Turning the squares to evenly coat. Place some kitchen paper under the wire tray and transfer the coated squares back onto it. Allow to set before serving.