In a house with four young children it goes without saying that day to day life can be pretty hectic. As usual I have plenty in store for the coming week, something I am really looking forward to is Savour Kilkenny's Food Camp on Friday. They have a fantastic line up of speakers that are dedicated to promoting good food. There are so many amazing foodie events happening around the country, if only there was time to get to them all!!
I'm not the only one with plans for this week, the children are busy with lots of great ideas, as Halloween is almost upon us.  If you haven't seen it yet, I have a Halloween page showing a few of my favourite Halloween party food ideas. This recipe that I'm sharing today is one that I had featured in this month's Easy Parenting.

Nothing quite says Halloween candy more than chocolate covered apples but in a bid to include a few healthier treats at my our Halloween party I also drizzle some chocolate on other fruits. One that is particularly delicious is a chocolate covered satsuma. Once coated with chocolate {a good quality type} they can be dipped in nuts or sprinkled with any favourite topping. I like them best when they are simply drizzled with a second type of chocolate over the coated fruit. These satsumas can then be displayed in the middle your Halloween buffet to make a very pretty centerpiece. 

Chocolate Covered Satsumas

250g/ 9oz good quality milk Chocolate
50g white chocolate
4-6 satsumas

    1. Break the chocolate up into a heatproof bowl. Place over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir once or twice as the chocolate melts.
    2. Cover a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper. Carefully peel the satsumas. Get as much white pith off as you can, but try not to break the skin.
    3. Dip each Satsuma into the chocolate. Turn to coat. Using a large spoon to help. Place each fruit on to the tray. 
    4. Drizzle with some melted white chocolate. Leave somewhere cool to set.

When the evenings are getting darker and a little colder, I find the children are requesting more hot teas and suppers.Pan fried sandwiches, homemade pizzas and quesadillas are all among their favourites. I'm lucky that my kids love their mealtimes and if they had their way they would have me cooking another big meal for them at teatime. I understand their gra for food as I spend most of the day thinking about food myself!! However after cooking full dinners in the middle of the day I like to chose a supper that doesn't require too much effort.
This is one dish that can be rustled up in 15minutes, making it a perfect tea or supper. I love basil and incorporate it into many dishes hence this is a flavour that the children are accustomed to and really enjoy in their meals. A good quality basil pesto is an essential fridge ingredient. It can be added to dishes when fresh herbs aren't to hand, it's delicious drizzled over a salad and it can also be added to roasted or stir fried vegetables. There are endless uses for this little jar of goodness but I find we use it most as a main ingredient with pasta, which comes in very handy as a super speedy supper. For this dish I've added some other convenient ingredients,which are always to be found in my fridge and press. Feel free to leave out some of these and substitute with some of your own favoured ingredients. Cooked chicken, bacon or prawns would make this a more substantial meal however as I'm serving it as a quick fix supper I'm not adding them here. I love the addition of the creamy feta and flavoursome Parmesan which slowly melt when stirred into the pasta and for a little extra crunch I like to add some pinenuts, that I normally toast on a dry pan for a minute to enhance their flavour. Garlic Bread would make a nice accompaniment to this dish but I normally just serve it in a bowl with a fork and a gentle reminder that the kitchen is now closed till 7.30am!

Cheesy Pesto Pasta

300g spaghetti
3tbsp basil pesto
80g feta cheese
50g parmesan cheese{plus a little extra for serving}
100g sun-blushed tomatoes, chopped
100g black or green olives
50g pine nuts, toasted
freshly ground pepper

1. Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the pack.
2. Drain the spaghetti leaving a few tbsp of the cooking water in the saucepan. Return the spaghetti to the saucepan.
3. On a low heat add the pesto, grate in the parmesan and crumble in the feta. Stir well to combine.
4. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the tomatoes and olives. Season with a few grinds of black pepper.
5. Divide into serving bowls. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and top with a little grated parmesan. Enjoy!

I absolutely love to receive edible gifts and this was one of the nicest that I've got in a long time. Nick comes to our family on his holidays every couple of months and is such a big part of our lives. Nick has cerebral palsy and he has lived with the Camphill Community in Callan for the past 21 years. A wonderful group of people live and work in Camphill. Nick is now living at The Workhouse in Callan and the house parents are Stephan and Sara. They are such lovely people and Nick loves them to bits! He's a very happy young man and his good humour is addictive. Our house is always full of laughter when Nick is staying.

The boys love the flavour of Basil and here is Fionn making some pesto.

A couple of weeks back I had a coffee morning in aid of  The Hospice. It was a great opportunity for me to bake lots of goodies, so I tried out a few new recipes, since I knew there would be plenty of willing taste testers. I made a Guinness Gingerbread which was deliciously moist and the addition of the guinness really deepened the spicy flavour of the ginger. A few of the ladies had asked me for the recipe so here it is. It's a recipe from Nigella lawson's Kitchen and one that I had earmarked to try. It's so simple to make and when wrapped in parchment paper and tin foil it will keep for up to a week. The gingerbread can be enjoyed on it's own with a cuppa but if you'd like to serve it as a dessert it marries well with poached berries and cream.

Guinness Gingerbread

150g butter
300g golden syrup
250ml Guinness
2tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
200g dark muscavado sugar
2tsp grounder ginger
300g plain flour
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
300ml sour cream
2 large eggs

Baking tin/tray lined with parchment or greaseproof paper. A greased casserole dish would also work to allow for thick slices.

1. Preheat oven to 170°C/340F/gas mark 4.
2. Put the butter, syrup, muscavado sugar, Guinness, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pan and melt gently over a low heat.
3. Take off the heat and whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. You will need to be patient and whisk thoroughly to get rid of any lumps.
4. Whisk the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug and then beat into the gingerbread mixture, whisking again to get a smooth batter.
5. Pour it into your lined square tin, or into a barbecue-type foil tray, and bake for about 45 minutes; when it’s ready it will be gleamingly risen at the centre, and coming away from the tin at the sides.
6. Let the gingerbread cool before cutting into slices or squares

The weather sure has changed in the past few days. There's talk, from those in the know, that we're in for another miserable winter. All the rain and frost brings such trouble into people's lives so it's good to keep in mind neighbours that are more vulnerable to these conditions. My own Dad found last winter particularly bad for his arthritis, as the treacherous conditions hindered him from leaving the house. I must say that this time of the year is normally one of my favourites. I love the beautiful colours in nature that autumn brings and the children just love Halloween. Last weekend we had a few early Halloween treats as I was photographing some Halloween goodies for upcoming newspaper articles and for my Halloween Page. If you are planning a Halloween party this year have a read through the page for a few ideas.
The recipe I'm sharing with you today is one that I had published with Easy Parenting.

A slow cooked casserole or a hearty stew always make for a delicious dinner. However when you arrive home from work and need to feed many hungry mouths in a hurry it's paramount to have a few handy dinner recipes at your disposal. Everyone is tired after their busy day so the last thing you want to do is whip out a cookbook to start the impossible search of a recipe that can be on the table in 20 minutes, using only what you happen to have in the fridge. It's like putting yourself on one of those cookery shows with your children acting as the clock, with their screams getting louder to reminder you that you are running low on time! To avoid these situations I have in the past found it quite useful to have a weekly meal plan, not that I would ever stick strictly to it but I would use it more as a shopping aid. It's always reassuring to have the makings of a few dishes in the press and fridge. Another important time saver is to have your meat prepared by your butcher, so that it is ready for the pot. There are fabulous butchers around the country who are more than willing to oblige and prepare your meat to suit whatever dish you are planning.
This dish is one of those rescue recipes which ticks all the boxes it's nutritious, time saving, it is perfect served with rice, pasta or potatoes and it's also very tasty. I have added some spinach which I find the children don't protest against as it's inoffensive to their palate. Any green veg would work nicely as an additional vegetable in this dish. This meal can be prepared, cooked and on the table within 20 minutes.

Creamy Chicken with Pesto & Spinach

2 chicken breast, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 cloves garlic, crushed
150g mushrooms, sliced
150ml white wine
150ml cream
1 tbsp basil pesto
Handful of spinach 
25g of toasted pine nuts
Sea Salt and Freshly ground pepper
olive oil 

To Serve

Boiled Rice/ Steamed Potatoes/ Cooked Pasta 


1. Heat a large frying pan and add a glug of olive oil.
2. Add the diced chicken, season with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes until it is browned.
3. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook until they are soft but not coloured. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for a minute.
4. Add the wine and cream. Let that bubble for five minutes.
5. Stir in the Basil Pesto.
6. Turn down the heat and simmer for ten minutes until the chicken is fully cooked. Just a minute before serving stir in the spinach.

7. Sprinkle over the toasted pine nuts. I generally leave these off the children's portion.
8. Serve with cooked rice, potatoes or pasta.

This article was published in Issue 2 of Easy Parenting.

My boys love their school lunches and get so excited when they peep into their box before school and see something they like. Most children are creatures of habit and welcome familiar foods as part of their diet, but I find it is important to vary these items every so often, to keep little ones interested in their lunch. If I am introducing a new snack to the school lunch box I will always try it at home first. Sometimes encouragement is needed when offering something different. If a child won't eat it at home there is little chance of them tucking into it at school.
 For good concentration it is vital to have items in the lunch box that not only leave children full but also nourishes them. There are so many prepared and pre packed lunch box items for sale that are naturally very tempting, as they are so convenient. However there is a price for this convenience, that being the addition of much unnecessary sugar to a child's diet, not to mention how expensive these products prove to be over the year.

A nice alternative to a sandwich or wrap can be quiche or a slice of a Spanish Tortilla. They are equally as good cold as they are hot making them a perfect option for a packed lunch. This recipe makes six slices so it can be made for a mid-week tea and use what ever is leftover for lunch the next day. The main ingredient in Spanish Tortillas are eggs, which makes them a fantastic choice for the school goers. Eggs can be classed as a super food due to their high levels of vitamins and minerals. They are especially high in Iron, which is crucial for a healthy body and mind, it maintains a robust health while encouraging better levels of concentration.
This is one lunchbox snack that my little men love!

Potato & Chorizo Tortilla


25g butter
80g Spanish chorizo sausages, cut into 1cm thick slices or cubes of smoked bacon
4 small potatoes, par-boiled and cut into cubes
1/2 red onion, finely sliced

6 large free-range/organic eggs, slightly beaten together
freshly ground black pepper
50g cheddar cheese, grated

1. Heat a 20cm ovenproof frying pan. Add the butter, and once it's foaming add the chorizo slices, potato cubes and red onion. Toss them around, so as they all become coated with the butter. Fry for about 10 minutes, occasionally stirring.
3. Once everything is lightly golden and crisp, pour over the lightly beaten eggs mixture and seson with a little freshly ground pepper. Then sprinkle over the cheese.
4. Leave the pan on a low heat for 2 minutes, before placing in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, when the tortilla will be cooked through and the cheese will be bubbling.
5. Cut into six and remove from the pan. Eat straight away, with a green salad, or allow to fully cool before packing away for lunch.

Photos & styling by Nessa Robins.
This article featured in the Aug/Sep issue of Easy Parenting.

I'm not a great fan of children's yoghurt drinks as they are generally ladened down with sugar and are quite expensive. However, I know they are a very popular choice with children. One of my boys has a particular love for these drinks. A few months back I had to get him an antibiotic, for a rather nasty cough, and to his absolute delight, the doctor advised me to pick up one of the popular brands of drinks for him to take, while on his antibiotic. Seemingly there are enough 'good bacteria' in these drinks to help out the gut while on an antibiotic. Never was he so happy to take medicine!
If you have a child who loves their yoghurt drinks as a real treat make your own version which will be a lot tastier and a lot more nutritious than a shop bought variety. Irish blueberries are coming to the end of their season so take the opportunity to buy some to have in the freezer, making it very handy to blitz up this delicious shake.

Strawberry & Blueberry Shake

  • 250g strawberries
  • 100g blueberries (frozen)
  • 150g greek yoghurt
  • 2tsp honey
  • 500ml milk

Takes ,
serves four people.

  1. Place all the ingredients into a large jug and combine with a hand blender until smooth.
  2. Pour into a chilled flask for a lunchtime treat.

Photos & styling by Nessa Robins.
This recipe featured in the Aug/Sep issue of Easy Parenting.

My father has a few Bramley apples trees that were planted around 40 years ago and each year we harvest many bags full of fruit. That is of course whatever the wasps and crows haven't already pillaged.
 I can hardly believe that a year has passed since I last went collecting apples with the boys, I think it must be a sign that I'm getting old! I really love this time of year as there are so many opportunities to forage for ingredients. The boys, and now Millie, love our 'nature walks' and the day's problems are often thrashed out and sorted while holding hands, walking through the fields. I just love spending time with the kids in this way. Recently we went collecting apples and when we returned home Tiarnan picked some blueberries from our own garden, so I decided to put the fruits together and use my Mam's trusted bun mixture to make this Apple & Blueberry Cake.

If you have some apples that you would like to harvest, here is a post I wrote last year, on doing just that!

Bramley Apple & Blueberry Cake

225g (8oz) Flora light / butter
225g (8oz) caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
280g (10oz) self-raising flour (sieved)
3 free range eggs

2 cooking apples, cored and sliced
150g/1cup blueberries
2 tbsp demerara sugar
Icing sugar-for sieving over

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C(fan)/390f/gas mark 6.
2. Place the flora, sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl and cream together until it is a pale yellow colour.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time with a little flour- to prevent the mixture from curdling. Mix well.
4. Add the flour little by little then mix well.
5. Pour mix into a lined springform 10in tin.
6. Top with apple slices and blueberries and sprinkle over the demerara sugar.
7. Bake in the oven for 45 - 50 mins or until golden brown in colour. Cool on a wire tray.
8. Dust with a little sieved icing sugar and serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.