What’s a mama to do when the holidays are upon us, there’s a chill in the air, and all of a sudden your entire brood is struck with the sniffles? I was faced with this dilemma last weekend, and the answer was crystal clear to me – time for a cooking bender! I knew that warm, hearty and delicious meals would make my babes feel a little better, it also gave me a chance to test out some new recipes, and truth be told, with Dean aka The Gourmet Dad sick in bed too, I finally got my kitchen back! I went to town…

So here it is – photographic evidence of a mom’s cooking bender!

Artichoke, Spinach and Parmesan Squares


These squares I made Friday night and they were a big hit. I got the recipe from the Christmas 2012 edition of Gooseberry Patch, which has tons of great recipes. They’d make great appetizers at a holiday get together! Try a dollop of sour cream on top and a splash of chipotle sauce! The recipe didn’t call for spinach, but I thought it would make a nice addition so I added a handful of spinach leaves and it turned our great.


• 2 6-ounce jars or artichoke hearts
• ½ red onion, finely chopped
• ¼ cup dry bread crumbs
• 1/3 teaspoon pepper
• 1/3 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/3 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
• 1 ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
• ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
• 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
• 4 eggs, beaten
• Handful of spinach leaves
• Salt to taste

• Drain and slice artichokes
• Sauté onions in artichoke liquid for about 3 minutes or until tender
• Combine the bread crumbs and remaining ingredients in a large bowl
• Stir in artichokes, spinach and onion mixture
• Pour into a greased baking pan, and bake at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes
• Let it cool for about 15 minutes, cut into squares and serve!


Ready to serve!

Steak, Guinness & Cheese Pie with a Puff Pastry Lid

This recipe comes from Jamie Oliver (his recipes are always hearty and full of flavor!), and the second my babes starting sneezing I knew I needed to make one of these bad boys. I made the pie on Saturday and it was time consuming but worth it! Saturday evening was spent with family curled up by the fire enjoying heaping pieces of this scrumptious meat pie!


• olive oil
• 3 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
• 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
• 2 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing
• 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
• 4 field mushrooms, sliced (I used portabellos)
• 2.2 pounds quality brisket of beef or stewing beef, cut into ¾ inch cubes
• a few sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
• sea salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• 1 pint can of Guinness (no larger)
• 2 tablespoons plain flour
• 7 ounces Cheddar cheese, freshly grated
• 1 pound ready-made all-butter puff pastry
• 1 large free-range egg, beaten
*Note: The recipe doesn’t call for it but I added green peas


1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
2. In a large pan, heat a pour of olive oil on a low heat.
3. Add the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes.
4. Turn the heat up, add the garlic, carrots and celery and scatter in the mushrooms.
5. Mix everything together before stirring in the beef, rosemary, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of pepper.
6. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in the Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover.
7. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about 1½ hours.
8. Remove the pan from the oven and give the stew a stir.
9. Put it back into the oven and continue to cook it for another hour, or until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich, dark and thick.
10. Remove from the heat and stir in half the cheese, then season carefully and leave to cool slightly.
11. Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll the pastry out evenly with a floured rolling pin to the thickness of a pound coin.
12. Pour the stew into your dish and even it out before sprinkling over the remaining cheese.
13. Place the pastry over the top of the pie dish and criss-cross it lightly with a sharp knife.
14. Brush the top with beaten egg, then bake the pie directly on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes, until the pastry is cooked, puffed and golden.


Looking delicious already


All ready for the puff pastry lid


And the lid is on!


Baked and crispy


Time to dig in!


Dinner is served


Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Creamy Stilton, Bacon Bits and Country Bread

I made this soup (another fabulous Jamie Oliver recipe) on Sunday and it was so delicious! The bread soaks up lots of the soup so we just kept refilling with some Chicken broth and enjoying this hearty soup for days!


• A dollop of butter (about the size of a walnut)
• Olive oil
• 6 slices of quality smoked streaky bacon
• 2 large onions
• 1 teaspoon Gentleman’s relish (this is spiced anchovy paste which I couldn’t find, so I just used regular anchovy paste
• A small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
• A few sprigs of fresh sage, leaves picked and finely sliced
• 1 large cauliflower
• Sea salt and white pepper
• 2 quarts of organic chicken stock
• 9 big slices of rustic sourdough bread
• A small bunch of fresh rosemary
• 1 ¼ cup of Stilton cheese


1. Put a large pan on medium heat and add the butter and a drizzle of olive oil
2. Thinly slice the bacon and add it to the plan, then peel and finely chop the onions
3. Once the bacon starts to have a good color, throw in the onions, Gentleman’s relish, thyme and sage leaves and stir together
4. Cut the cauliflower in half, then cut off the florets and then cute those florets into bite sized pieces and put aside
5. Finely slice the stalk and any outer leaves, then throw into the pan with a splash of water and a pinch of salt and pepper
6. Cook all of this with a lid on over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for 40 minutes, or until really soft. You’ll want to mash it up a little bit to thicken it up
7. Add the bite sized cauliflower pieces to the plan along with the stock
8. Turn the heat up, bring to the boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes (just until the florets are cooked)
9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees 5, and start toasting your bread slices
10. As each piece is toasted, rub hard on both sides with rosemary.
11. Find a deep dish, pan or earthenware soup terrine that will hold the whole dish together
12. Pour a third of the soup into the pan, and then add 3 pieces of toast over the top and crumble some cheese on top. Repeat this same process 2 more times, finishing with a final layer of toast to cover the whole dish
13. Spoon over any leftover broth and push the top layer of toast down so it soaks up the broth.
14. Garnish with extra cheese, rosemary and little olive oil
15. Place into the oven and let cook for about 25 minutes


Huge loaf of sourdough to start with


Our bread topped with stilton cheese


A close up of the bread piled on top of the first layer of soup


Our first layer




The perfect sick day soup

White Chocolate & Cranberry Cheesecake Bars

These cranberry bars I actually made Friday night but they were the dessert that kept on giving all weekend long! This recipe came from Gooseberry Patch too, and turned out amazing!


Ready to bake!


• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ½ cup long cooking oats, uncooked
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• 1 cup softened butter
• 12 ounce package of white chocolate chips
• 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
• 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
• ¼ cup lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 14 ounce can whole-berry cranberry sauce
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats and brown sugar
2. Cut in the butter until coarse crumbs form
3. Stir in the chocolate chips, and set aside 2 ½ cups of the crumb mixture for the topping
4. Press the remaining mixture into a greased baking pan
5. Beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until creamy.
6. Add condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla, and mix until smooth
7. Pour cream cheese mixture over crust
8. Combine cranberry sauce and cornstarch, and spoon over the cream cheese mixture
9. Sprinkle the crumb mixture that was set aside over the top
10. Bake at 375 degrees F for 34 – 40 minutes, or until golden.
11. Let the dish cool, cut into bars, serve and enjoy!


Baked and ready to cool


Dessert is served!

Hot Toddys and Crafts!


My Hot Toddy

• 1 ounce brandy
• 1 tablespoon honey
• ¼ lemon
• 1 cup hot water
• 1 bag of tea
• 1 cinnamon stick for garnish

1. Coat the bottom of your mug with the honey
2. Then add the brandy and lemon juice
3. Heat your water and add the tea bag so you have a cup of hot tea
4. Pour the hot tea into the mug and stir
5. Drop in one cinnamon stick and serve!


No day spent lounging around the McDermott home is complete without crafts. Liam and Stella made some holiday themed snow globes while my sick hubby and I watched them and enjoyed the Hot Toddys.

There was a ridiculous amount of food (been eating the leftovers all week!), a lot of cuddling, a roaring fire, and some new crafts to display on the fridge. I’d say it was a success!

Do you have any recipes that you like to make for your family when the sniffles strike?


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