We love a good Halloween party in our house. This ghoulish feast is one of the easiest parties to cater for, as really anything goes, and the gorier the food can look, the better. When there are faces to be painted and a house to be decorated, I never put myself under too much pressure where the food is concerned. Once there are a few spooky looking treats, which I generally prepare a day or so in advance, and a large bowl of some kind of punch, for the children to self-ladle into goblets, the party is in full swing. This could be why Halloween is my favourite holiday; with a little imagination, and even less expense, an evening filled with magical memories is ever so easily achievable.

Halloween is quickly approaching so, over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to share with you some of my favourite Halloween treats to make with little ones. First up, Mummy Cookie Cake Pops!

Mummy Cookie Cake Pops

These Mummy Cookie Cake Pops are so visually impressive that you’d be forgiven for thinking that they are simply for show and may not deliver on taste. I must tell you, however, that even the adults fight over these when I make them. Using just a few simple ingredients, there is little to do to create these wonderful treats. The method is straightforward, however, I must stress the importance of refrigerating the pops in between each step, to ensure they set properly. The white chocolate sets perfectly over the refrigerated pop, giving a satisfying crunch of thick chocolate when bit into, before being met by the soft truffle-like centre. They are deliciously irresistible to both children and adults alike.

Makes 20 
300g Oreo biscuits
150g cream cheese
20 cake pop sticks or wooden sticks
Sprinkle of icing sugar
50g ready-to-roll icing
200g white chocolate
40 candy eyes

  1. Using a food processor, blitz the Oreos for a few minutes, until they resemble crumbs. Add the cream cheese and continue to blend for a minute or so. The Oreos and cream cheese will combine to look almost like a ball of dough.
  2. Scoop out into a bowl, cover with cling film and pop into the fridge for an hour to stiffen up.
  3. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Take the Oreo mixture from the fridge. Take a spoonful of the mix and quickly mould into a ball using your hands. Insert a stick into the top of the Oreo ball and place on the prepared tray. Place in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
  4. Meanwhile, sprinkle a little icing sugar on a worktop and thinly roll out the piece of ready-to-roll icing. Cut into small thin strips, which will act as the mummy’s cloth wrapping. Place on a plate along with the candy eyes, ready for assembling the pops.
  5. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of just boiled water. Take the pops from the fridge and dip each one into the melted chocolate. Allow excess chocolate to drip off. Then immediately stick on the two eyes and add a few strips of icing. Place upright to set, possibly in a glass filled with sugar. They will set in a few minutes. Once the chocolate is hard, place the decorated pops back onto the greaseproof paper lined tray and refrigerate for a further few hours before serving.
  6. These pops can then be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Don’t leave these pops sitting out of the fridge for too long, as they may begin to melt a little.

In Ireland, we're very fortunate to have potato growers, on our doorstep, who are passionate about producing the best of potatoes for our dinner table. Potatoes have always been immersed as a part of our history and this long standing merit should be celebrated. When better to honor our potatoes, and the people behind them, than on National Potato Day, which happens to be taking place today, October 7th. It has been reported in recent years the sale of potatoes have decreased, but with a new campaign, being driven by Bord Bia and AHDB Potatoes, things are hopefully looking up for our spuds. As consumers we greatly influence what stays on our supermarkets shelves, so our support is needed for the humble spud and all the jobs they create in Ireland.

I was really thrilled when asked to come on board to help promote the potato campaign. I'm not sure if there is any other ingredient in my kitchen that is as versatile as the humble spud. Soups, salads, casseroles and pies are all on the cards once I've a stash of potatoes in the veggie box. A simple potato soup, packed with fresh herbs from the garden, is my go-to lunch when there is little in the larder and time is limited. This chowder recipe I'm sharing with you today is basically a creamy soup, but it is packed full of goodness with the addition of locally grown potatoes and nutritious fresh fish. Potatoes are especially rich in potassium and are a great source of fibre, and they also boast of an impressive vitamin C level. Even though they will loss a little of their vitamin C through cooking, potatoes are still rich in this vitamin. So, stocking up on the spuds over the winter might just help to prevent those seasonal sniffles.

Fish, which is bursting with omega-3 fatty acids, is a great choice for all the family, as it will help to keep bones healthy. This chowder is deliciously indulgent but, in fact, once the cream is omitted, it isn't terribly high in calories. If preferred, simply substitute the cream at the end with a little additional milk. For the fish in the dish, I'm using a mixture of salmon, smoked haddock and cod. Most fishmongers will have no problem preparing the fish for you, but many will have a similar mixture already prepared and ready to use. A bowl of this potato seafood chowder is a meal in itself, but it also pairs perfectly with some traditional Irish soda bread.

Potato Seafood Chowder

Pre time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 -25 minutes
Serves: 4 - 6

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
2 medium carrots, diced
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
25g butter
1tbsp flour
300ml milk, hot
700ml fish or vegetable stock
450g any potatoes in season, peeled and diced
150g salmon, skinned and diced
150g smoked haddock, skinned and diced
150g cod, skinned and diced
100ml cream
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, over a medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots. Season with a little salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes until softened, stirring regularly.
  2. Add the butter. Once frothing, stir through the flour and cook for 1 minute. Continuing to stir, little by little add the hot milk.
  3. Bring to a gentle simmer and pour in the stock. Add the potatoes. Simmer for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are almost cooked.
  4. Add the salmon, haddock and cod into the saucepan. Simmer for 7-10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.
  5. Stir through the cream, parsley and half of the chives. Check the seasoning and simmer for one more minute. Ladle into deep, wide bowls, sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve with a few slices of buttered brown bread.

If you are looking for a little potato-based recipe inspiration head over to www.potato.ie where you will find many delicious and interesting recipes.

To keep up to date with the Potatoes: More than a Bit on the Side campaign, follow their Facebook page Potatoes: More than a Bit on the Side, on Instagram at potatoes_morethanabitontheside and over on Twitter at TastyPotatoes using #TastyPotatoes and #NationalPotatoDay.

Disclosure: All views are my own, but I was commissioned by the people behind the Potatoes: More Than a Bit on the Side campaign to create and share this delicious potato-based recipe with you.

As a child I loved coffee, and to this day I still adore it. Even though it wouldn't necessarily be a drink of choice I would offer to my own little ones, one of my boys is particularly drawn to coffee-scented treats and cakes. As a traditional tiramisu recipes calls for raw eggs, alcohol and strong coffee, I decided to try out a child-friendly version. The result was delicious, and it turned out to be a great hit with my coffee-loving young man. This tiramisu can be divided between six glasses or alternatively assembled in one large bowl. It would be the perfect dessert if catering for a large gathering, when you are hoping to please both old and young palates, or maybe just make it as a weekend treat. 

2 tbsp decaf coffee granules 
1 tbsp brown sugar 
300ml recently boiled water 
50ml cream 
250g mascarpone 
1 tbsp vanilla extract 
50g icing sugar 
120g sponge fingers 
2 tsp cocoa powder 
25g milk chocolate 

  1. To a jug, add the coffee granules and brown sugar. Top up with 300ml of recently boiled water. Stir to combine and place to one side to cool completely before using. 
  2. Place the cream, mascarpone, vanilla extract and icing sugar in a large bowl. Whisk together until well combined and the mixture has the consistency of whipped cream. 
  3. Add a spoonful of the creamy mixture to the bottom of each of the glasses. 
  4. Place the cooled coffee into a shallow dish. Break each of the sponge fingers into four and quickly dip them into the coffee, allowing some coffee to soak in, but be careful that the fingers don't get soggy. Add a layer of soaked biscuits to each glass. Add some more of the creamy mixture. Dust over a thin layer of cocoa powder. Repeat with another layer of sponges and finish with a layer of the creamy mixture. Dust generously with cocoa powder. 
  5. Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight. Before serving, roughly grate a layer of chocolate over each tiramisu. Enjoy!

These buttery, crumbly cookies contain gluten-free flour, making them a tasty treat for coeliac sufferers. However, even if you’re not following a gluten-free diet, I would recommend you give these easy-to-make cookies a try. They're perfect for enjoying with a cuppa.

Gluten-Free Lemon & Almond Cookies
Makes 15 

100g butter 
50g caster sugar 
zest of 1 lemon 
1 egg 
150g gluten-free flour 
25g ground almonds 
1 tbsp chopped almonds 


  1. Preheat the oven 190°C/fan 170°C/gas 5. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. 
  2. Using an electric mixer, or by hand with a wooden spoon and bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest. 
  3. Add the egg, with a spoonful of the flour and beat together until well combined. 
  4. Sieve in the flour and ground almonds and bring together gently to form a ball of dough. 
  5. Take dessertspoonful of the dough and place on the baking tray, press down a little with a fork and sprinkle each cookie with a few chopped almonds. Make sure to leave some space between each cookie. 
  6. Place in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, when the cookies should be golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

For the past number of years, to my absolute delight, we’ve successfully grown deliciously, sweet tomatoes in our tunnel. They are never nicer than when simply sprinkled with a little sea salt, but when I’m faced with a glut of them I tend to use the tomatoes in recipes where I would normally use the tinned variety. A sausage and bean stew is so easy to throw together, on a busy evening, and the results are always so tasty. As much as I’m a fan of bringing a dinner together from whatever is in the press, using fresh tomatoes in this recipe really turns it into something special. This tasty stew pairs perfectly with pasta, but when serving on a warm summer’s evening, I like to serve it with a simple salad and lots of crusty bread.

Sausage & Bean Stew 
Serves 4 

454g good quality sausages 
1 tin cannelloni beans 
650g cherry tomatoes or 2 tins of cherry tomatoes 
1 onion, roughly diced 
1 yellow pepper, cut into strips 
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped 
1tsp smoked paprika 
1tsp sugar 
1tbsp balsamic vinegar 
1 tbsp olive oil 
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper 

To serve 
Crusty bread 
Green salad


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°c/gas 6. 
  2. To a large roasting tin, add the sausages, beans, tomatoes, onion, pepper and garlic. Sprinkle over the smoked paprika and the sugar. Drizzle over the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and season with a little salt and a few twists of black pepper. 
  3. Combine all the ingredients well and position the sausages on top of the tomato mix.
  4. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 25 minutes. After this time take out the tray and give the contents a good mix, squashing a few of the cherry tomatoes. Place back into the oven for a further 15 minutes. 
  5. Take from the oven and serve straight away with a green salad and some crusty bread.

Once the summer holidays are here my kids think daily ice-pops are obligatory. In a bid not to spend a small fortune on summer ice-creams, I like, when time prevails, to keep a stash of the homemade variety in the freezer. Ice-pops are ever so easy to make. If you haven’t the little ice-pops moulds, a disposable cup and an old, clean, lollypop stick will give the same result. Throughout the summer months the boys and Millie tend to take over at least one shelf of my freezer, and pack in their own homemade ice-pops. These are normally made with simply water and a drop of cordial. They’re a real novelty for the hot days, and I’m always glad the children are getting an extra bit of hydration. At the moment, I’ve an abundance of strawberries in the tunnel, so a few handfuls are often used to make these strawberry yogurt pops. They're made in minutes, taste great and they're considerably more nutritious than a shop-bought variety.

Super Simple Strawberry Ice-Pops 
Makes approx 6 pops 

200g strawberries 
50g icing sugar 
200g Greek yogurt 
1 tsp vanilla extract 


  1. Using a blender, blitz the strawberries and icing sugar until smooth. Add the Greek yogurt and vanilla extract and blitz until combined. 
  2. Divide the mixture between six ice-pop moulds. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight, when the pops will become solid.

At the age of ten, I had a life-changing (for a ten year old anyway) talk with a lorry driver. A herd of cattle, many of whom I was rather fond of, were being transported away from our farm. As I always imagined, like many before them, they were about to embark on a trip to a nice farm in another town. However, to my horror, this lorry driver disclosed to me that there was no farm or happily ever after at their final destination. Now, I did realise where meat actually came from, however I somehow never considered my beautiful bovine friends were amongst those destined for someone's dinner table. I cried for hours that day and the only consolation I could give myself was that never again would I eat meat. That evening, I declared myself to be a vegetarian. I was rather proud of myself, but it was a decision which left my mother with a bit of a dilemma. In 1980's Ireland, dinner options were few and far between when meat wasn't taking the leading role on the dinner plate. I had always been an avid mushroom fan, but their versatility really took charge when my mother needed some dinner inspiration for a fussy pre-teen. From mushroom omelettes to mushroom vol-au-vents (posh nosh in the eighties), mushrooms became a reliable stable in my house. To this day, I still embrace all the goodness of the simple mushroom. My weekly shop wouldn't be complete without a sufficient supply in my trolley. And even though I'm not dealing with any cow-loving vegetarians, many of our weekly dishes happen to be meat-free, and the addition of mushrooms always add a certain amount of cost-efficient meatiness. Mushrooms are rich in vitamins, a good source of protein and a portion of mushrooms also count as one of our 5-a-day, so they really are a champion ingredient to be celebrated all year round.

BBQ Mushroom, Cashew & Sun-dried Tomato Stuffed Mini Peppers 

When there is the chance of sun and the barbecue is hot, one of my favourite ways to cook mushrooms is simply smeared with a combination of butter, garlic and fresh herbs, popped in a little foil pouch. They're prepared in minutes and utterly delicious especially when placed on slices of buttery brioche, which have also graced the heat of the barbecue for a few seconds. When entertaining a crowd alfresco-style, I try to keep the menu simple and have as many of the dishes prepared in advance, ready to serve or cook on the barbecue.These mushroom stuffed peppers are ideal, as they can be prepared early in the day and stored in the fridge ready for popping on the barbecue whenever needed. They can be served as an accompaniment to barbecued fish or meat, but they have enough gusto to hold their own when served with a simple green salad.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4


2 tbsp olive oil
250g chestnut or closed cup mushrooms, finely chopped
Sea salt
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
75g raw cashew nuts, roughly chopped
50g sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto
12 mini peppers


  1. To make the filling, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan. Once hot, add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for 3-4 minutes. 
  2. Reduce the heat, season with a little sea salt and add the thyme leaves. Add the cashew nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto. Stir to combine and take from the heat. 
  3. Prepare the mini peppers by slicing through two-thirds of the top, leaving the rest of the top and stem in place to form a cap over the filling. Gently, scoop out any seeds. 
  4. Stuff each pepper with the filling and secure the cap back in its place. 
  5. When the barbecue is hot and you're ready to cook, lightly brush the outside of the stuffed peppers with a little olive oil. Place the peppers on the hot grill and cook, depending on the heat of the barbecue, for about 8-10 minutes turning regularly. 
  6. Serve with some other tasty dishes from the barbecue and salads of choice.

If, like me, you're mad about mushrooms, there are many more tasty recipes to be found over here: www.justaddmushrooms.ie

To keep up to date with the Just Add Mushrooms campaign, follow them on their Facebook page More To Mushrooms and over on Twitter at MoreToMushrooms using #MTMSummer.

Disclosure: All views, and memories, are my own, but I was commissioned by the people behind the Just Add Mushrooms campaign to create and share this delicious mushroom recipe with you.