We’re gonna PARTY like it’s ya birthday.

I woke this morning to grey skies and heavy, biblical proportions of rain. The dishwasher was making threatening noises to pack its bags and die. My gorgeous ratbag no.3 looked like he’d swam through every puddle on the school run there and back. A full outfit change was needed before continuing onto nursery.

Not the most relaxing start to the day. Faced with the mammoth task of cleaning the house. Trying to do some work and look after a crawling 6m old with a penchant for eating cardboard. I was beginning to feel that perhaps turning 39 was not going to be a birthday to remember. Until I opened a little card from ratbag no.2, the 6yr old.

Completely un-coerced, reminded or bribed he had written on a mini yellow post it note;

“mummy you ar b yoo t ful” and stuck it inside a tiny square envelope he must have acquired at school.

14 years I’ve been designing greeting cards and he nails it on his first attempt. I am the luckiest 39 year old ever.

Happy birthday to me!

Tempting Bunny Tastes

Chicken Pesto Pasta

Now not that one needs a birthday as an excuse to hold a girlie gathering but amazingly most of us were free and we dined on this pasta dish. A winner every time. I have very basic cooking talents and an inability to cook for less than 18 so if I can master this dish anyone can. (It did take me 4 attempts but like I said I’m a bit slow in the kitchen)

Serves 5 to 6 people.

Prep time 15 mins – you can do this earlier in the day to save time later.

Cooking time 30mins -ish

You will need:

1 jar of pesto

2 red onions

2 packs of mozzarella

3 bags of cherry tomatoes

4 chicken breasts

Penne pasta – larger tubes are good but not essential.

Garlic ciabatta bread -2 for those with big appetites

Fresh basil leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 180 C

First cut your chicken into bite size chunks, go for a generous 1.5 inch chunk and place in a large ceramic dish, something like a lasagna dish is good.

Then cut your onions into 1/8 segments (petal shapes) separate and add to the dish.

Next chop all your tomatoes in half, don’t worry if it looks like a lot, you can’t overdo the tomatoes in this is recipe.

Then stir in the whole jar of pesto and mix well to ensure all the ingredients are well coated.If the pesto is a touch dry then add a splash of olive oil.

Next cut your mozzarella into bite sized chunks, hold back about 6 to 8 pieces and add the rest to the dish and give it another stir. Place in the middle of the oven and set your clock ticking.

After about 10mins, half fill a large saucepan with penne and bring to the boil. Unlike the tomatoes, less is more so err on the side of stingy with the pasta as a little goes a long way. When it’s done, drain and put to one side and cover with a lid.

About now is a good time to add your garlic ciabatta to the oven.

Ok, its here where I went wrong on my early attempts. Everyone’s ovens cook slightly differently so at around 25mins start checking your chicken. You want it to look juicy with just the merest hint of rose. It turns from slightly underdone to perfect to overcooked in a blink of an eye. Try and catch it when it’s a fraction underdone, remove for the oven and stir in the pasta ensuring it’s well covered.

Then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella chunks on top and return to the oven for about 5 minutes ish. From here on in don’t feel silly checking often and when the chicken is done, remove from the oven and add your basil leaves all over. About 10 or 12 is enough. The green really makes an amazing difference to the overall appearance.

Place in the centre of the table with a large help yourself spoon and sit back and enjoy the praise but don’t forget your bread.

This is a really juicy dish and the bread is great for mopping up the flavours. Everyone always goes back for seconds and despite my kids being pretty fussy they love this dish, however the onion and the tomatoes always ellicits cries of dismay but focus on the pasta, chicken and bread and they’ll soon come round. We award points for brave triers and advise them to mix a little tomato with a lot of chicken and pasta and that works every time.

Good luck and enjoy x

P.s I’ll take a photo next time I cook it to show you how it’s meant to turn out!