Books are bought, bags are packed, uniforms are washed and for the first year ever we are actually organised and ready for the new school year. I think this mainly comes down to the fact that the children are older and now all are well able to label their own books and allocate their own uniforms. I feel like I'm approaching a new chapter in our lives, as we are completely finished with the baby stage. My little lady has her very first day of playschool tomorrow. I find this new phase a little bitter-sweet. I'll appreciate the few hours to myself, to properly concentrate on upcoming projects, however I will so miss my Millie's company when the house is otherwise quite. This is also Jack's final year in primary school. I find it sometimes difficult to face the realisation that my babies are getting so big, however I'm ever grateful that each of them have their health and as they grow older there are new and different things that we can enjoy together. 

Last weekend I was invited to give a 'back to school lunchbox tips' demo in Glenisk's pop-up store on Dawson Street. I included dishes that my children really do enjoy to find in their lunchbox. This hummus is a real favourite of theirs. If you weren't able to attend the demo, but would like a copy of the recipes I demonstrated, just pop me an email to and I will forward you on a copy.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus & Crudités
The main ingredients in hummus are chickpeas, which are a protein-rich food. Therefore this hummus makes for a very nutritious and filling lunchbox treat. The roasted red pepper, along with the sprinkling of a little sugar, adds a sweetness, which perfectly balances the bitter lemon. Some crudités made from carrots, cucumber, celery or radishes, sent in a little zip-lock bag, would work very nicely as an accompaniment. My boys also especially like a few breadsticks alongside their hummus. 

I roasted red pepper, from a jar
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp Glenisk greek yoghurt
1 tsp sugar
50mls olive oil
Carrot, cucumber and radishes, washed, peeled and cut into ready-to-eat slices

1. Place all the ingredients for the hummus into a mini chopper or a food processor. Blitz until smooth.
2. To serve, place in a bowl or a transportable container and drizzle with a little extra olive oil & sprinkle over a dusting of smoked paprika. Serve alongside some crudités and breadsticks.

My Red Pepper Hummus; one of the recipes included in this Saturday's demo.

This Saturday I'm delighted to be teaming up with Glenisk for a 'back to school lunch-box ideas' demo at their Dawson St store from 12.30-2pm.  I've a few tasty sandwich alternatives as well as lots of healthy nibbles, that will have your little ones rather excited about their lunch-time. At the demo you'll have the opportunity to taste all the dishes that are being prepared.
This demo is free of charge and anyone who attends also gets a goodie bag, packed with Glenisk products. How brilliant is that! 

If you're about Dublin that day, call in, however places are limited so to book your place on this free demo, please email and put 'Nessa's Lunch Box Tips' in the subject line. I'm looking forward to seeing you there.

I'm sure that I can't even recall one Sunday growing up that we did not have the big roast dinner each week. The meat would mostly vary between lamb, chicken, pork and beef. However for me what made the Sunday Roast so special were all the accompanying side dishes. My favourites would include fresh herb stuffing, Yorkshire puddings and roast vegetables, which would all be quite suitably smothered in lashings of gravy. My own children also love the Sunday Roast dinner, however I don't make it nearly as often as my mother did. Even without going over-board on the side dishes it's inevitable that many pots and pans will be left for the washing, well after the delights of dinner have been enjoyed. It sometimes seems that I can spend as long at the kitchen sink as I did preparing the meal. Of course this will all change in a few years when my little men and woman are older. They'll be only delighted to take over the reigns to give their mother a break on a Sunday afternoon. Well at least that's what I'm telling myself {all those with teenagers can mock now!}. I will always opt for a free-range chicken and when the budget allows an organic bird would be my choice. The taste of the better quality bird is certainly noticeable. Along with the additional nutrients it's worth spending the few extra euros.

Roast Chicken

Little is needed to enhance the flavour of a roast chicken, but I find butter is a good addition. It lends not only a buttery deliciousness to the flavour but also promotes a beautiful golden glaze to the cooked bird. Lemon and rosemary partner wonderfully with chicken. In this recipe I've added them to the butter and then gently pushed the zesty, herby butter underneath the skin, of the uncooked chicken. This adds such flavour to the chicken as well as leaving the meat wonderfully succulent. 

1 large free range chicken
150g soft butter
2 lemons, zest then quartered
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary
150mls white wine
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
2 red onions, quartered
1 bulb of garlic, cut in half 

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC fan /390ºF/gas mark 6.
2. In a bowl combine the softened butter with the zest of lemon and the finely chopped rosemary.
3. Carefully loosen the breast skin, of the chicken. Gently push the zesty, herby butter under the skin, taking care not to tear it.
4. Place two or three quarters of the lemon into the chicken's cavity, along with two sprigs of rosemary.
5. Drizzle over the white wine, then season well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
6. Add the remaining lemon pieces to the roasting tray, along with the red onion and garlic. 
7. Place in the preheated oven for 20 mins per 1lb/454g of meat plus 20 minutes over. Remove the foil, for the last 20 mins of cooking, to allow the bird to brown. To be sure that the chicken is cooked insert a skewer into the leg and the juices of the chicken should run clear.
Once cooked, let the chicken rest on a plate, for 15 mins, to allow the juices to settle.
Carve the chicken and serve it alongside some roasted lemon, onion and garlic. The juices remaining in the roasting tray are perfect for drizzling over the meat as a flavoursome gravy. 

Unfortunately the weather in Ireland has taken a turn for the worse. After a July of record-breaking temperatures, the rain has finally returned. However hopefully the sun will reappear before the summer's end. We are busy as ever here and for the past past week we've been enjoying a very lovely 'staycation'. Trips to the swimming pool, cinema, bowling, Glendeer Pet Farm, Tayto Park, Birr Castle and lots of ice-cream have all featured. The children loved heading off each morning and I think appreciated returning back to their own bed each evening. We're also planning a fun weekend here, as my good husband and I will be married thirteen years this Monday. I can hardly believe it's been thirteen years..time flies! 
Here's to a great bank holiday weekend.  Nessa x