Posted in Recipes, What's for Dinner Mom?

Spaghetti with Pesto, Bacon & Broccoli – Quick, Simple & Cheap

Spaghetti with Pesto, Bacon and Broccoli

Easy Food

What do you want to eat? Maybe the question should be what do you want to cook?  At this time of year with the seasons changing and a chill sometimes seeping in through any gap it can find, you may be looking for comfort in a bowl.  This particular bowl of comfort also has the added benefits of being quick, simple and cheap.  The latter of course depending on how in-season broccoli is for you, whether your pesto and parmesan are gourmet or own-brand and yes the humble rasher of bacon too could veer towards expensive if you are wont to artisanal produce.  Well each to their own on that front, only a food snob would judge you by your choice of ingredients and boy do they exist.  Regardless of provenance I guarantee that the end result will be delicious.
(Perfect for any students of any age in your life.)
Easy food

Spaghetti with Pesto, Bacon and Broccoli

You will need: (serves 4–5)
400g broccoli (1 small head)
2 garlic cloves
300g cherry tomatoes
400g dried spaghetti
10 rashers (approximately 300g)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp basil pesto (see next page for home-made recipe)
Grated Parmesan cheese to garnish
Fill up a large saucepan with boiling water and bring it back to the boil.
Prepare the broccoli by giving it a quick rinse and breaking it up into florets and set aside.
Peel and crush the garlic and set aside.
Rinse and slice the cherry tomatoes in half and set aside.
Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water for 6* minutes, while gently frying the rashers in a frying pan in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Occasionally stir the spaghetti so that it does not stick together.
After 6* minutes, add the broccoli florets to the spaghetti and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the other tablespoon of olive oil to the rashers and add in the crushed garlic and halved cherry tomatoes.
After a total cooking time of 8* minutes drain the spaghetti and broccoli, retaining about a half a cup of the cooking water.
Roughly chop the rashers in the pan and then stir the rashers, garlic and cherry tomato mix into the spaghetti and broccoli.
Stir in the pesto and enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten.
Serve hot with some extra pesto and grated Parmesan.
*you may need to adjust the cooking time depending on cooking time of your spaghetti so check the pack
Enjoy! Sheila.

Posted in Dinner Party

Roast Aubergine Dip & Pita Chips

Roast Aubergine Dip with Paprika Pita Chips

Simple, simple, simple.   Plus healthy and tasty.  This dip is made with only two ingredients and great served with any dipping chips you can get your hands on or even some good crusty bread.

Aubergine Dip & Pita Chips

I often have left over pita breads that haven’t been used for school lunches and these home-made chips have a lovely crunch that make them a perfect accompaniment to the creamy dip.
Roast Aubergine Dip
You will need – for the Roast Aubergine Dip:
2 aubergines
1 tbsp tomato pesto
Pre-heat the oven to 200C  / Gas Mark 7.
Place two whole aubergines straight onto an oven rack.
Leave to roast until the aubergines are charring on the outside and tender when poked through with a knife – approx. 20 mins
Remove the skins from the aubergine – they peel off very easily and squeeze out any excess moisture from the pulp.
Blitz the aubergines in a food processor along with 1 tbsp tomato pesto until smooth.
Serve with dipping chips or pita chips

You will need – for the Paprika Pita Chips:
Pita breads
Rapeseed oil
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/ Gas Mark 7.
Use a kitchen scissors to cut the pita breads into dip sized chips.
Scatter the chips on a baking tray, drizzle with rapeseed oil and sprinkle over with paprika.
Toast in the hot oven until nicely coloured and crispy – approx. 10 mins.
Chips best served hot and great with the aubergine dip.
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in What's for Dinner Mom?

Cannellini beans in classic basil pesto with roast cherry tomatoes & griddled courgette ribbons.

Cannellini beans in classic basil pesto with roast cherry tomatoes & griddled courgette ribbons.

This is what I’m all about, tasty food that’s easy to make and with ingredients that are easily obtainable from your supermarket because, let’s face it, that’s where most of us shop.
Cannellini Bean & Pesto Salad
Tinned beans are a superb standby and I highly recommend stocking up on a few different varieties.  If these are in your store-cupboard and you’ve a handy jar or squeezy bottle of pesto in your fridge then you’re always within reach of a super tasty and nutritious lunch.  Here I’ve upped the flavour stakes with cherry tomatoes that are bursting out of their skins with goodness and griddled courgette ribbons that are quick and easy to prepare.
Handy hint: when you’re rooting around in the utensils drawer and cannot lay hands on the speed peeler a cheese slicer makes an excellent substitute.
Cannellini Bean Pesto Salad
You will need:
250g cherry tomatoes
Rapeseed oil
2 courgettes
400g tin cannellini beans
2 tbsp classic basil pesto
Heat the fan oven to 200C / Gas Mark 7.
Place the rinsed cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with rapeseed oil and roast in the oven until beginning to burst their skins – 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile use a speed peeler or a cheese slicer to make courgette strips/ribbons.
Heat a splash of oil in a large griddle or frying pan on a medium/high heat and quickly fry the courgettes to lightly brown on each side.
Set aside to drain excess oil on kitchen towel.
Drain and rinse the cannellini beans under cold water then place in a bowl and gently mix through the 2 tbsp of basil pesto.  Stir through the cherry tomatoes and courgette ribbons & serve.
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in What's for Dinner Mom?

Roast cauliflower with basil pesto, parmesan & pinenuts

Roast cauliflower with basil pesto, parmesan & pine nuts.

After a lovely get together with some fellow Irish food bloggers and the lovely ladies of Sacla UK I came away with my newly packaged squeezy bottles of basil & tomato pesto eager to have a go at being inventive.
Roast cauliflower was something that was on my mind.  Now I’m a huge veggie fan at the best of times and will easily pack away half a head of cauliflower at one sitting.
Roast Pesto Cauliflower
I like to keep it firm and bitey and usually serve it simply boiled but this time florets entered a hot oven simply drizzled with a garlic olive oil to roast until tender.  Still hot they were liberally covered in a tbsp. of the basil pesto and served with a dusting of grated parmesan and some toasted pine nuts for extra texture.
You will need:
1 head of cauliflower
Olive oil or rapeseed oil
1 tbsp basil pesto
Handful pine nuts
Parmesan for grating
Pre-heat the fan oven to 200C (Gas Mark 7)
Break the cauliflower head into florets and place on a baking tray.
Bake in the hot oven until tender – a knife can push through – approx. 15 – 20 minutes.
Once done place the hot cauliflower in a bowl and stir through the pesto.
Quickly dry-fry (no oil) the pine nuts until lightly toasted.
Scatter the pine nuts over the cauliflower and serve topped with finely grated parmesan.
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in What's for Dinner Mom?

Pesto Quesadilla, The Weather, Out-Mothering & The Truth about Teens

Close-Up Quesadilla

With itching fingers I eventually make it to the keyboard to blog.  Recipes and ideas are plentiful but with 6 kids to be occupied in the school holidays along with ‘real’ work, time to write has taken a bit of a dive.  When I say 6 kids I tell a lie, what we currently have in our charges is 4 monsters teens and 2 kids.  As many of you will know, for us Irish the topic of weather is a bit of a preoccupation.  (As I type I really should go to investigate what the screaming and banging doors is all about but oh I don’t have to, I can hear one of the monsters teens wailing their approach……..I’ve investigated, it’s 10 minutes later and no her arm is not broken so where was I?)
Yes, the weather.  On our particular patch of the island we’ve been stewing in a misty, stickily wet yet warm fumid fug.  (Yes fug, not quite a fog and a little ugly. Fumid? Well that’s just humid with the f-word in front of it.)   Cloying weather and unoccupied kids/teens are far from a pretty pairing.  With them in such close proximity and there not being enough tvs and remote controls to go around I am an unwilling observer of human nature at its most selfish.  Tempers are short (mine included) and spats are frequent so I call on you to close your eyes and wish me some sunshine.  Just a little sunshine, please.
Out-Mothering & The Truth about Teens : (ignore this diversion if irrelevant)
Cheered I was to read Eilis O’Hanlon’s piece in The Sunday Independent Life magazine last weekend. Yes cheered.  Here was another parent telling the truth about children and it was the most, in-fact probably the only, honest piece that I have ever read on this topic.  I also chuckled yesterday when I read a twitter comment where a guy was questioning whether a mother and baby group  out to lunch was ‘really enjoyable’ as it looked like ‘so much hassle!’ and observed that ‘it seems like they are trying to out-mother each other.’  I love words and ‘out-mothering’ is an expression that I have never heard before and it says so, so much, doesn’t it?  With that in mind and the tone of Eilis’s piece I do think that more truth-telling and less out-parenting could be rallying to those who are struggling under the misguided aspiration to do it all according to the text books and child-psychologists (no apologies but I always change the channel when they come on with their sugar-coated dispensations) in replication of the imagined super-moms/dads out there.  They don’t exist and as a true friend observed, people who say their kids never fight are liars!
So from where I’m at right now I will give you my truth on my experience to date with teens.
Accept it.  You dear parent are an embarrassment.  I mean just look at the state of you, straining your eyes as you fumble, clumsily fat-fingered on your i-phone.  But you’ll be given the odd nod of approval or grunt of acknowledgement until you’ve turned out the insides of your pockets and there’s no more straggling cents stuck to the bottom of your handbag.  There will be stand-offs and silences peppered with profanities.  There will be cracked plates and unhinged doors.  Socks – they will greet you, odd and discarded at every turn; under cushions, couches, pillows, mattresses, they will be everywhere and always dirty.  Attitude, more attitude, unmade beds, unopened curtains, spiralling electricity bills (obsessed with turning on but not off every light in the house, probably because they have petrified themselves by watching an unsuitably rated horror movie).  There will be no orange juice left in the morning (just the tease of the empty carton) and the blender will never be washed after use.  But then there are the good bits…eh, hello there aren’t any.  No wait, if you have girls there will be sporadic baking, particularly brownies and cupcakes, and if you have boys they will want to mow the grass – once anyway.  Sexist? Maybe, but true.
Tempus Fugit one hopes and for now I’m clinging to that and surviving on the one sound piece of advice I’ve been given on parenting to date and that is (if there are two of you) ‘stick together’ – even if you totally disagree with what your partner happens to be preaching, back him/her up in front of the mob for if you divide they will conquer.
Actually there’s a second piece of advice that I was given too, passed on in wisdom from that particular mother’s granny and it was ‘Step over them – if they’re fighting, step over them.’
Another classic from one of my own grandmothers was ’twill all end in tears’ but that’s not advice, that’s a seasoned observation.  She also used to mutter  ‘another day over Thank God.’
If you’d care to share any sage words yourself please do leave a comment.
In the knowledge that hunger will eventually win over a sulk let’s move on to the recipe.
A quesadilla is a traditionally Mexican invention but lets give it an Italian twist and a taste of sunshine.  With the fragrance of Italian fields of fresh basil now a real memory (see last blog post) I chose to relive it with a generous smearing on one side of a tortilla with basil pesto and the other with sun-dried tomato pesto.  Inside was filled with sliced salami and grated cheese.  As visitors to my house will know these are my emergency crowd feeders and a favourite of mine for lunch too.  Completely versatile, stuff them with what you will.
Selecting a Quesadilla
Pesto Quesadilla
Serves 1 hungry person or stretch it to 2 served with a side salad.
You will need:
a little olive/rapeseed oil for frying
2 flour tortillas
basil pesto
sun-dried tomato pesto
slices of salami
handful grated cheese
Generously smear one side of a tortilla with basil pesto and one side of the second tortilla with sun-dried tomato pesto.
Top with sliced salami and then the grated cheese and sandwich the tortillas together.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium/high heat.
Cook the quesadilla in the frying pan for a minute or two on each side until golden brown, gently pressing it down with a spatula to encourage the heat to penetrate and melt the cheese.  Cooks quickly so be careful not to burn/blacken.
Til next time, Sheila
P.S. At time of eventual posting, the sun has emerged, there are blue skies and the house has emptied of teens 🙂