20 Sep

Roasted Tomato Pasta Recipe

It feels weird, to be writing recipes with a big race looming over me. I am obsessing about food in the days of the lead up to the race. I’ve found that easing off meat protein does help my stomach a little bit so I’ve started moving towards a more plant-based diet and move away from meat. Without my gallbladder I struggle to digest fatty proteins and certain sauces so it’s important for me to be careful with my meals so that I don’t end up in a bad way on a race day. This is one of my easy dinners because it’s so simple to make with minimal mess. Pasta and rice are my favourite carbohydrates the day before a race anyway so it fits the bill!

Saturday will mark my second half marathon this year and I’m hoping that I can at least better my first-ever time of 3:15:48. Even if I shave 48 seconds off that time I’ll come in under the cut-off time for the Dublin City Marathon. I’ve been training very hard the past couple of weeks, despite being laid low with a bad ear infection so I’m praying it all pays off on the day.

I’ll keep you posted!

Roasted Tomato Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The sweetness of the cherry tomatoes makes a delicious sauce and as an extra bonus, there’s no chopping in this simple vegan dish.

Ingredients

  • 300g cherry tomatoes
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 300g spaghetti

Method

Preheat your fan oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Take a heavy roasting dish and fill with the whole cherry tomatoes, cloves of garlic, and olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper, then stir. Roast in the oven for 20 mins, then turn the heat off but leave the dish in the oven while you cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the roasting dish with the tomatoes and garlic. Stir well so that the pasta is coated in the oil and roasted tomatoes. Serve immediately with fresh thyme or basil.

If you prefer a meat based protein with this dish you could top with fresh mozzarella or grilled chicken. For a vegan option roast the chickpeas with the tomatoes (this is my personal favourite).

13 Aug

Simple Chicken Tray Bake Recipe

Trying to eat healthily when you’re short on time is difficult which is why I have come up with this recipe. It only takes 18 minutes to cook in the oven, tastes even nicer the second day for your lunch, and is packed full of colourful vegetables that will make you feel incredibly virtuous. The key to this recipe is not to stint on the herbs. Increase the quantities if you’re serving more than 3 people for a meal or if you want to batch cook for work or school the following day. The great news is I have a very simple recipe video for you to follow!

Note: Most of the ingredients here are roughly chopped. Don’t worry about fine knife-work, just make sure you have generous chunks for roasting. Read More

06 Aug

Wholemeal Honey Buns Recipe

The beauty of this recipe is that, once made, the buns will freeze for up to a month in advance. They are perfect for lunchboxes as they contain no refined sugar and also no nuts (just in case your school has a nut-ban). By adding wholemeal flour and oats, the buns are low-GI which will prevent dreaded sugar spikes. If you’re a teacher with a class of over 30 pupils, sugar spikes and subsequent crashes, are your enemy.

If you decided to make muffins instead you’d get 12 from this recipe but I prefer to make buns. We always ate buns in our house when we were growing up, not massive muffins so I’ve gone back to the traditional size. The regular bun is just the right size for a lunchbox or after school treat anyway.

Read More

30 Jul

Quick Pickles – Quickles Recipe

My Nana was the first person I saw make quickles. I remember one day she had set out a platter of vegetables for a Summer Salad and she’d made some quick pickles with some button mushrooms on one side, cucumber on the other, and finally onions. My Grandfather was a divil for the pickles and strong flavours. He loved pickles and fresh peppery scallions with his salad for tea and Nana loved to make people happy with her food.

It’s only now I can appreciate how economical quick pickles are. Whatever you don’t eat is perfectly preserved and can be eaten over successive days cold from the fridge. I love my pickled vegetables with a crunch so this is the ideal burger topping I think. The secret to perfectly melty cheese on top of a burger (by the way) is to put the slices of cheese on top of the burger then cover the pan or grill for 1 minute before serving.

Here’s another simple video so you can see how simple they are to make and enjoy, messing optional…

Read More

21 Jun

Beetroot and Feta salad

My biggest battle with food at the moment is finding a dish that’s simple to prepare and light to eat. The life of a freelancer can be a bit unusual in that I have to roll with the work when it comes in. The past couple of weeks has been particularly jam-packed in terms of jobs-on-the-go, and while I always have a slow cooker meal underway for the kids, eating a full meal after 8pm at night is always going to be a challenge for me.

In the past 7 days I’ve worked with 2 separate TV crews, and there’s more to film this evening with TG4. Tune into Nationwide on Monday evening for a peek at the allotments and my tiny kitchen (yes it is that small, and yes that is where all my recipes are developed). The work with TG4 I’ll let you know when the airing date is confirmed! Read More

16 Aug

Leaving Cert Results Day

Being ancient (according to my children) means that I remember this day in crystal moments, not as a full day. Driving my mother mad by not collecting my results until later on in the day. Crying bitter tears as I missed my number one choice on the CAO by 5 points. Going to another school with friends to get their results. Standing in a local pub with a drink in my hand that evening not knowing how to celebrate as I felt like I’d failed. Read More

19 Jul

Opinion: Food Headlines Worth Banning

Let’s ban the urgency of headlines when talking about food when talking about food

OMG if you read one thing about food today, read this, quick. Before everybody else reads it.

Does this sound familiar to you?

It certainly does to me, and I’m tired of it.

A quick trawl through articles published in Ireland by bloggers, online magazines, and newspapers in the past month reveal the following headline samples: Read More

15 Jul

Potato Corn Soup Recipe – Ad

Potatoes are a staple part of our family diet, and so when Potato.ie aka “Potatoes More Than A Bit On The Side” got in touch to see would I be interested in designing a new recipe for all the family to enjoy it wasn’t a hard decision to take.

The past two weekends, while I’ve been doing cookery demonstrations with Lidl Ireland on the road, I continuously say that if you have a bag of spuds (potatoes) and a tray of eggs you’ll never go hungry. I say this because I’m trying to explain what it’s like to live as a family on a tight food budget and yet try to pack as many nutrients as you can into your daily diet.

That’s how essential potatoes are to planning my family’s meals for the week. At the moment there’s a bag of Pat Moore’s beautiful new potatoes in the kitchen which I used for this recipe. There’s also plenty of spuds at the allotment to be dug but there is no greater storage spot than nature’s larder (the ground) at the moment so they’ll stay there for a while longer.

Read More

12 Jul

July 2017 Allotment Update

It’s been a while is becoming my catch-phrase this past couple of weeks.

I sat down at my desk on Monday and started to go through all my recipes on the blog. There are now over 550 published articles on the blog. It’s taking me some time to go through them all, dust them off, and start sharing them again. I hadn’t done that in months. Since the middle of May in fact when life (and death) got in the way of having time to do anything other than blog and work.

The longer I continued to focus on work and family, the more difficult it became to sit at the desk and write a blog post, or go to the allotment to garden. Especially because visits to the allotment have been bittersweet.

Those onions are just about ready to harvest:

It kind of reminded me why we love growing with the kids so much when I saw the first-time joy all over again through their eyes.

The peas, the peas are taking over 2 raised beds, they are everywhere at the moment in a giant tangle of pods and climbing tendrils. I will have to do a big collection in the next couple of days and then set about podding and freezing the peas themselves.


Of course that depends on being able to get the peas home safe and sound. It can be a bit of an issue when they are the most delectable treat eaten freshly picked, particularly when you’re 5 years old.

The sweetcorn and tomatoes are also thriving, plus there’s a new baby aubergine fruiting away in the polytunnel. Nevermind all the berries, garlic, courgettes, pumpkins, and much more.

All of this sounds like a really bountiful allotment and it is. However, we have struggled with time for the past 2 months or so. It’s the one thing that will always sabotage us. The allotment has become very overgrown and choked with weeds. We never did get to finish the last couple of raised beds and have to make do with what we’ve got this year.

For now I’m going to count my blessings and move forward. I can’t change the fact that the weeds have grown but I hope to get down there later on today with my trusty gloves.

You’ll find more regular updates over on my Instagram account which is WholesomeIreland and I’m trying to keep my Insta-Stories updated everyday. I’d love to connect with you over there if you’re interested.

In other news:

  • The Leaving Cert is over, we all came out the other end in one piece. College applications and grant forms are filled in and all we can do is wait and hope that the 17 year old gets the course she hopes towards the end of August.
  • The kids are all now on holidays, bringing new challenges around working from home. I’m very grateful to have some help in this regard though.
  • Last weekend I worked with Lidl Ireland* on their LGFA Future Stars Roadshow in Cavan and Galway. There I worked with Tom Dalton of TD Fitness on some cookery demonstrations and chatted with other parents about feeding their families on a budget, fussy eaters, and how to find time out for themselves in a busy lifestyle. This weekend coming I’ll be on the Roadshow again in Dublin and Cork.
  • I’ll have a new recipe with one of my favourite ingredients on the blog later on this week.
  • The wash basket refuses to empty, no matter how many washes I put on, and the socks still haven’t learned to sort themselves.

Finally, for those wondering about the bank situation…

Nope, no change there. We got another non-update letter today, the first since the beginning of April, telling us that the review is ongoing. Apparently we’ll hear again from the bank within 60 days, when I fully expect to get another non-update. It’s now been over 6 months since they first admitted their error. Although we have been returned to our tracker rate they still insist we owe them €40,000 more than we should. No redress (restoring the account to the way it should be), no compensation, and no meaningful engagement with us.

*Disclosure

I mention Lidl Ireland as I’m the Lidl Ireland Full Shop Ambassador and you’ll find me writing about my full shop every week on their website.

You’ll also find me popping up in their weekly brochures!

14 Jun

How To Visit Taste Of Dublin On A Budget

Updated for 2017! For ten years I managed to avoid Taste of Dublin, I knew it was on, I knew where, and convinced myself that it wasn’t worth visiting and not to bother. However, in year 10 I was invited along as a guest of the organisers to check it out. This gave me the opportunity to head on in and see if it was worth the admission price, what’s on offer, and to figure out if it’s worth your while to head along this year (year 12).

The Ticket Price

The cheapest tickets you can buy directly online are €17.50 per person and these are available for the Thursday and Friday afternoon sessions. I have to say I found these afternoon sessions to be the most enjoyable, especially when the weather is good. Regardless of which day or time you elect to visit the Iveagh Gardens, make sure you buy your tickets online. It’s far more expensive at the gate on the day. Read More

02 Jun

Bloom 2017 For The Family In Review

I go to Bloom in the Phoenix Park every year, have done since it opened. I applied for media accreditation this year and Bord Bia were kind enough to grant me a pass. With the boys on a day off school today we packed up the boys and headed for the city centre early in the day to put the festival to our family test. Read on for more top tips on how to make the most of Bloom this year from a family point of view. Note, we didn’t have the elder lemon who is studying for her Leaving Cert (starts on Wednesday).

It’s the 11th year of this extremely popular garden and food festival organised by Bord Bia in the largest city centre park in Europe. Bloom is always extremely popular with visitors. I’ve a gallery of images from our day at the bottom of this post.

What I like about the festival is that they really take on board feedback from the previous years. So it means that each year there are improvements to the schedule and layout that make your visit more comfortable.

In 2017 the notable improvements include: Read More

31 May

Crying Over Onions

It was the onions. The blasted onions. Everything up until I started watering the onions was manageable. I had kept my emotions relatively in check. Then as I started to water the onions the memories flooded back and I started to cry.

There was a glass of water on the table at tea time in the Summer. We’d invariably have fresh salad for tea. Home cooked ham, tomatoes, lettuce, a slice of homemade brown soda bread, but not cucumbers. Grandad didn’t particularly like cucumbers. In the glass on the table would be fresh baby onions or giant scallions, peeled but still in one piece. Eye-wateringly peppery in taste. Grandad used to eat them with relish, sometimes dipping them into a spoon of mayonnaise, but they were always part of the tea time menu.

He grew them in the back garden, in a sunny area beside the patio. The garden was on a slope and the patio was bounded by little walls which he built himself with love and pride. When we were small he used to grab an old piece of gutter from the shed, lean it on the patio walls, and we’d have dinky car races down the self-made chutes. Always being mindful of the beautiful flowers (and onions) that were growing in his wonderful garden.

People always ask me where I got my love of growing food from. Grandad was a huge influence on me. He did get to visit the allotment once; he pronounced it lovely. This was high praise indeed. I know that he loved the pork from the pigs that we rear, and said that it was how pork used to taste when he was growing up. That made me very happy to hear it.

Last night on the way home from his funeral, I realised that we had neglected to water at the allotment, so in our finery we traipsed up the path and turned on the tap. I had busied myself the previous few days by helping out with the arrangements. When I got the allotment there was no more opportunities to hide from the reality that he was gone; there was just me and those darn onions.

James Pearse Shortall, 1916-2017, aged 100, lived life to the full, and we have celebrated him over the past few days. I’ll be reminded of him everytime I step onto the plot.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Cxxx

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