Chilled Mud Pies

My children seem to be magnets for mud and dirt and grime and I seem to spend my day telling whichever child or children I am with to go and wash their hands or face. This request is generally met with furious indignation and the retort that they are clean and how unfair mummy is.

When Atticus’s nursery brought my attention to the fact that Friday 29 June is International Mud Day I was really happy. In our house,  playing in the mud equates to the boys in the unassigned flower beds digging for treasure and worms and Ophelia trying to climb undetected closer to the raspberry canes (regardless of season) to steal the fruit! I have three little explorers set on conquering my garden, having a good time in nature and with each other so it is a win-win in my book.

My original plan to mark this muddy occasion, had been to make a deliciously decadent dark chocolate torte and let the children decorate it. Then I figured that the kids would probably prefer this recipe as it involves biscuit crushing and super speedy whisking Angel Delight with the rotary whisk and sweetie worms, so from their perspective what’s not to love?! This recipe is definitely more child-friendly and less of a chance of me having to exert super-human will power to prevent myself from eating a whole chocolate torte!

I have been making this recipe since Seb, now 5, was about 18 months. This was the first time that Ophelia had a chance to try out the rotary whisk. I have to admit she was a bit puzzled and needed help, but there were shrieks of delight coming from both her and Atticus as she started learning how to operate it. We also found that this recipe gave Atticus the opportunity to use fun adjectives  to describe the mixture, words used include: frothy as well as bubbly and fluffy. He also said; “bash the biscuit to smithereens” as he was crushing the biscuit.

Ingredients

Makes 4 puddings or 3 big ones. We serve these in small glasses so the kids can see the layers.

  • 4 Bourbon biscuits (essentially 1 per pudding)
  • 1 pack of chocolate Angel Delight
  • 300ml cold milk
  • The Natural Confectionary Company Jelly Snakes (we called them worms though!)

Method

  1. Put the Angel Delight powder into a medium-sized bowl and add the milk. Whisk and mix around until the powder has dissolved in the milk and it is all frothy like a thick milkshake. Place the bowl in the fridge until it is next needed.
  2. Put the Bourbon biscuits into a ziplock bag and bash and crush them with a rolling pin or wooden spoon until they are fine crumbs. It is ok to have some bigger bits too, but you may struggle to convince your child to stop crushing them!
  3. Put a tablespoon of the crushed biscuits into each glass.
  4. Take the Angel delight out of the fridge and divide it equally between the glasses. With my children, this involved many spillages and requests to lick the spoon.  They were allowed to do the latter once we had finished.
  5. Divide the remaining Bourbon biscuits between the glasses and decorate them with the worms.
  6. Place in the fridge until ready to eat.

Needless to say, these puddings were really welcome after a long day; nice and cold straight from the fridge in this exceptionally warm weather we have been experiencing. I think the glasses were cleared in record time for a pudding! I hope your little explorers have as much fun with this recipe as mine do.

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Cheese and pickle biscuits

The kids are all cheese fiends. Whenever I get the cheese out of the fridge in their vicinity, it turns into a stealth mission so I can use it for its desired purpose without having to dole out bits of cheese to the children who have spotted me. Yes, it does end up being all three as the first one who sees it tends to squeal: ‘cheese!’ at such a volume that it brings the other two running complaining of hunger pangs as if I never bother to feed them. I promise you they are most definitely well fed and watered.

I decided it was time that we used cheese as the main ingredient in a bake again. After the success of the Rosemary and Parmesan Quinoa Muffins, it seemed like a good choice. Cheese and pickle is a long-term favourite flavour combination of mine. Incidentally, a bit of cheese and pickle sandwich was the first solid food that both the boys decided to steal off me when I wasn’t quite ready to admit that they were ready for weaning. Ophelia on the other hand decided to go for chocolate!

Ingredients

Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food

  • 120g plain flour
  • 100g butter/margarine
  • 120g  grated cheddar
  • 2tbsp small chunk pickle

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºc fan and put silicone baking mats or greaseproof paper on two baking trays.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and squish and  mix together with your hands until a dough forms.
  3. Place the dough on a floured surface and roll out until it is thin (we aimed for 5mm, but some bits of ours were thicker).
  4. Use a small biscuit cutter (we used a star) to cut out biscuits and cook in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden. You may need to move the trays around in your oven to ensure an even bake.

 

I didn’t manage to photograph these quite how I wanted as the kids had started munching on them before I remembered to do so… Oh well, maybe next time!

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Strawberry and Rhubarb Flapjacks

We got some reduced strawberries and rhubarb from the supermarket and my initial thought was this would make a really tasty crumble. However, then I remembered that the boys really don’t get on with it so I started thinking of other options to use the ingredients. My little grey cells got on it and my brain jumps as it so often does to flapjack. Have I mentioned before that my love for flapjack runs deep and true? Well I can tell you right now that it does.

It has to be said that Simon was somewhat confused at my making flapjacks instead of crumble (he really loves crumble and was expecting a crumble!). However, after having tried one he told me they were delicious. Seb and Ophelia loved them. Atticus, after eagerly devouring the remnants left in the bowl decided he didn’t like them. Contrary child. It isn’t at all frustrating when a child will happily lick the bowl and then refuse to try the end product said no mum ever! He did end up gobbling one up later and declared how yummy it was…

These fruity flapjacks were made with coconut oil so are dairy free. The oats could easily be substituted for gluten-free oats. I love it so much when a recipe can easily adapted to make it suitable for everyone!

Ingredients

  • 175g coconut oil
  • 175g golden syrup plus 1 tbsp to coat the rhubarb
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 350g oats
  • 250g rhubarb
  • 250g strawberries
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 50 flaked almonds

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºc fan and grease and line a brownie tin.
  2. Slice the rhubarb (Atticus needed help with this as it is very hard before cooking) and mix with 1 tbsp of golden syrup and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
  3. Slice the strawberries (pay close attention to the kids at this point, as if yours are anything like mine they will try to sneak copious amounts of strawberries and you may well have to replenish your stock!)
  4. Measure out the coconut oil, golden syrup and sugar and place in a sauce pan and put over a low heat and mix until melted and stir to combine.
  5. Put in the oats, desiccated coconut and flaked almonds and mix well. Add the sliced strawberries and the rhubarb. Please beware as the golden syrup coating them will be very hot. Atticus carefully slid them in with the spoon while I held the hot baking tray.
  6. Cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool completely in the tin before removing them and slicing. The result is a beautifully moist and sticky flapjack, with a fruity flavour!
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Nutella Cheesecake Strawberries

We got some big and beautiful strawberries last week and they were such a vibrant colour and smelt just like British summer time that I decided they were too pretty to just eat. I wanted the kids to showcase them and put them centre stage in our pudding one evening.

It seemed natural to combine them with Nutella. As we are a house with small children, we take Nutella pretty seriously; no small jars thank you – always the 1kg jar for us! I do say due to the children, but if I can tell you a secret, I had a jar of Nutella on my desk at work for when I was having a bad day, so maybe some of it is me too… We shan’t dwell on that one though!

Enter the idea of Nutella cheesecake stuffed strawberries. This is a recipe that I adapted after seeing a recipe on another website (see link below). I have to admit part of this recipe is a bit intricate and the kids didn’t do that part, but that said they had a lot of fun with the rest as an after school and nursery activity and they were a really tasty treat for a midweek pudding.

While the boys were at their respective daytime activities and Ophelia was eating lunch I went about removing the centre of the strawberries. Yes it is a weird concept and it was a bit fiddly. I had to pay a strawberry tax to my daughter so she took the tops I had sliced of and the couple which went wrong at the beginning. She then had a tantrum as I wouldn’t let her eat the rest of them!

Ingredients

Recipe adapted from Pinch of Nom

  • 1 pack of large strawberries (it is easier to remove the centre of a large strawberry)
  • 3tbsp Nutella
  • 3tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 digestive biscuit

I didn’t add any sugar as I concluded that the Nutella would make it sweet enough. It is a bit of a gloopy mixture so they do need to be kept in the fridge. If you need more filling, just add more of the Nutella and cream cheese in equal amounts. The children enjoyed eating the bits which didn’t fit into the strawberries!

Method

  1. Adult in advance: slice the top off all the strawberries and carefully score around the inside of the strawberry in a circle. Carefully with the tip of the knife or a teaspoon scoop out the middle of the strawberry. Be careful not to make any big tears in the wall of the strawberry. Some of ours had little tears and they survived OK. Either eat the middle bits or
    All join in!

    save them for the kids (here is where I admit that I ate them all!). Place in the fridge until you are ready to use them.

  2. Measure out the Nutella and cream cheese into a bowl and thoroughly mix. Fill the strawberries with a teaspoon and return to the fridge until you are ready to eat them.
  3. Crush the biscuit in a zip lock bag and sprinkle crushed digestive over each strawberry just before serving as the biscuit will go soft in the fridge.

The children were kind enough to share these yummy creations with both mummy and daddy. I did have to watch them like a hawk so they didn’t try and eat more than their share! There is no denying that they have all inherited my love for both strawberries and Nutella!

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Parmesan and Rosemary Quinoa Muffins

So this will be the last recipe with rosemary in it for while I promise. Otherwise I would have to consider renaming the blog Just Add Rosemary. I can report that the rosemary bush in the garden is now looking somewhat smaller – please don’t misunderstand me, we still have more rosemary than any family would want to eat in a year, but I seem to have banished the need to use it all up.

Whenever we use herbs and spices, I am always letting the kids have a smell so they can get a feel for the flavour before we use it and therefore be more likely to enjoy it or barely notice it in the recipe.The children now recognise the scent of rosemary and are happy when we use it. Atticus is in fact always offering to go and get me more for the cooking projects that we do. This is even for projects which don’t require it, and as I have been using it is all sorts of things recently this isn’t really surprising! It is not as if we are running low on the stuff so I see no need to complain if he is enjoying himself.

I have been wanting to try quinoa in muffins for a while. Initially I had in my head to use them in something sweet, but then after eating a quinoa salad I changed my mind and decided that savoury muffins would be really tasty. That is how these rosemary and parmesan quinoa muffins came about.

Ingredients

  • 150g uncooked quinoa
  • 450ml water
  • 200g finely grated parmesan
  • 3 large sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Place the quinoa and the water in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until the quinoa is tender. Allow to cool. I did this bit for Atticus and Ophelia.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170°c fan.
  3. Grate the parmesan with or without the help of your little people.
  4. Wash and dry the rosemary. Take the rosemary off the stalks and chop. Atticus enthusiastically pulled it all off the stalks and then helped with the chopping. This will need quite a sharp knife, so there was discussion about sharp knives, being careful and paying attention and not getting distracted.
  5. Put the cooled quinoa in a big bowl. Add the chopped rosemary, the parmesan and a small amount of salt and pepper.
  6. Crack the eggs in and mix thoroughly.
  7. Evenly distribute between the 12 muffin cases and cook for 25 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

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Rustic Hobnobs

Who doesn’t love a good biscuit? (cookie for my non-British readers). Homemade biscuits make a wonderfully decadent addition to your morning brew whether it be tea or coffee. They are great as a treat or a snack for children as part of a balanced diet. Yes, I did say that full well knowing that one of Seb’s first words was biscuit. I was initially concerned it was a poor reflection of my parenting ability, but I soon figured I wasn’t always allowing him one so best just relax. He was even tricked into thinking that apple slices were biscuits at one point! As long as they were the right shape!

Seb’s love of biscuits is most likely inherited from me. Before we were married Simon was rather fond of pointing out that; ‘biscuits do not constitute a meal’. I had been known in my student days to consider missing a meal in favour of three or more biscuits and chocolate hobnobs were frequently my biscuit of choice.

National Biscuit day passed me by this year without me having a chance to make any biscuits with the children so I decided to rectify that by making these rustic hobnobs with Atticus and Ophelia. I call them rustic as they are not perfect, made with little hands and big excitement in the kitchen and ingredients all over the counters and the kids.

Between them they managed all the steps pretty much themselves after being shown how to do it. The only thing I would say is that Atticus needed a little help to spread the chocolate on the back of them. You could leave the chocolate off the back of them or just use 100g of chocolate chips in the biscuits as that would be easier with smaller children (i.e. under 3). Atticus at 4 did like trying to spread the chocolate and really enjoyed making wavy lines with a small fork over the unset chocolate.

Ingredients

  • 125g butter or margarine (if you use a salted butter or margarine reduce the salt to 1/4tsp)
  • 80g light brown sugar
  • 2tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g oats
  • 100g wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g chocolate (we used milk) for coating

Method

Makes around 14  large biscuits

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºc and line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale. The kids did this by hand, but you could equally use an electric hand whisk if you prefer.
  3. Add the golden syrup and stir until fully combined.
  4. Add the oats, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and mix until it is all incorporated.
  5. Take blobs of about 1tbsp and roll into a ball. Place on the baking sheet and then pat out to make flat. After trying several ways in both hands, putting it on the baking tray and just letting the kids squish them under their palms, we discovered that the best way to flatten them was to do so gently with your fingers. Atticus at 4 understood this quickly and followed suit. Ophelia at 23 months was more reluctant to do so… Atticus and I did rectify the situation.
  6. If you want more of a chewy cookie style biscuit, cook for 12 minutes (rotating biscuits for an even bake if required) or if you want a more crunchy one cook for 16 minutes (rotating if required). They both taste delicious so either is fine.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes on the trays and then carefully remove with a palette knife and place on a cooling rack.
  8. Once the biscuits have cooled, melt the chocolate on a double boiler or in the microwave and spread it on the underside of the biscuit.
  9. Make lines gently with a fork (if you want I did for one batch and not for the second) and allow to set.

Recipe adapted from Butter Baking

These really did smell like hobnobs when they came out of the oven. The kids made one batch and then I made another for Simon to take into work. Simon, who normally doesn’t eat hobnobs actually liked these. This meant I had to share them not only with the kids, but also him! I shouldn’t grumble as it did mean that I wasn’t given the option to eat the whole batch!

 

 

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Spiced Brownies

We love cooking with chocolate. Every time I make a batch of brownies, I wonder why I don’t make them more often. Then after eating quarter of the batch in less than 30 minutes I remember why I don’t! I have no self control when it comes to baked goods containing chocolate.

Before I had to remove Atticus to supervise handwashing!

It seems I have also passed this on to Atticus as I had to snatch the bowl from him after he had licked it clean after making them and practically frog march him to the sink to wash his hands and face. I did not want any of the mixture on my walls or furnishings!

These brownies were a really tasty experiment and are my latest creation with the rosemary from the garden. We paired the rosemary with olive oil and some ground coriander to balance the flavours. The olive oil makes me think they are healthier than they really are and alleviates some of the guilt that I can assure you came about after eating as many as I did! I also did a spin class the following morning to balance the binge! Using olive oil in this recipe also means that if you use dairy free chocolate these brownies would be dairy free.

They sort of reminded me of the spiced chocolate Christmas cake (hence the name) I made last year, but without the fruit and the rum. I was in two minds whether I should post this now or wait until nearer Christmas. Then I decided that I would make them anytime so why not?! They are definitely on my list to make again before the winter. I must add I cut them into 12 large brownies. You could easily cut them smaller, but I am always worried I will eat loads more without noticing if they are small whereas at least I realise what I am doing when I eat more than one of these!

Ingredients

  • 80ml olive oil (we used extra virgin)
  • 185g dark chocolate
  • 85g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 100g dark chocolate chips
  • 3 large eggs
  • 275g golden caster sugar
  • 3 sprigs of washed and dried fresh rosemary (You should have around 3tbsp of rosemary once it is off the stalks)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°c and grease and line a brownie tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate and the oil in a glass in a double boiler (on the stove in a heat proof bowl over a pan with a small amount simmering of water in it which doesn’t touch the bowl). and put to one side to cool.
  3. Put the sugar and the rosemary (not the stalks) into a food processor and blitz until the rosemary is smaller and distributed throughout the sugar. (You can do this step in advance to allow the rosemary flavour to infuse more).
  4. Whisk the egg and rosemary infused sugar with an electric hand whisk until thick and creamy. Think about a bubbly milkshake and then you will have the right consistency. It will end up double the size.
  5. Gently fold in the cooled melted chocolate mixture with a metal spoon.
  6. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and ground coriander and fold again. You will probably need to hold the sieve above the bowl rather than resting it on it as the whisked eggs will have increased in size and you don’t want the sieve touching them.
  7. Add in the chocolate chips and fold.
  8. Pour the mixture into the brownie tin and spread out. Level it with a spatula and cook for 25 minutes. If the brownie is still wobbly in the centre, return it to the oven for another 5 minutes.
  9. Remove the brownies from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin before removing them and slicing.
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Coconut Baked Vegetable Tempura

In my head I categorise vegetables into three categories: ones which everyone in the family will eat, ones which some of the family will eat, and ones which the grown ups will eat.  Carrots and broccoli fall into the first category as do sweetcorn and peas. Tomatoes fall into the second category and vegetables like Pak Choi into the third. Courgettes seem to defy my attempts to categorise them as at the moment I am the only one who enjoys them. As I learnt in my studies (particularly French grammar), there is always an exception to the rule. Unfortunately, I can offer no  explanation, and just share my general frustration at French grammar and the complexities of my children’s vegetable preferences (please just don’t mention potatoes to Atticus).

As I have previously mentioned, when vegetables are dressed up (otherwise known as fancy vegetables) the children are more likely to have a go and even enjoy them. On the undercover mission were: cauliflower, green beans, button mushrooms and carrots. Their disguise was ginger and soy sauce egg underlayer for a desiccated coconut and breadcrumb coating.

These fancy vegetables could be used as a snack or accompaniment to a main meal. The kids and I ate them as a snack and dipped some in peanut butter and Simon had his with some steak later in the day.

Ingredients

You can use whatever vegetables you want. Vegetables like parsnips, cauliflower and carrots will take longer to cook than button mushrooms, green beans or baby corn.

We used:

  • 1 carrot
  • 6 florets of cauliflower
  • 12 button mushrooms
  • 12 green beans
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tsp crushed garlic
  • 1tsp grated ginger
  • 100g dried breadcrumbs
  • 50g desiccated coconut

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°c fan and line a couple of baking sheets with silicone mats.
  2. Wash and dry the vegetables.
  3. Chop the ends off the green beans (the kids did this with table knives).
  4. Slice off  or break off the cauliflower florets (Seb did this by breaking some off and with some help with a sharper knife cutting some off) and cut the carrot into batons (I did this). To make this a quicker activity you could prepare all the vegetables for the kids.
  5. Crack the two eggs into a shallow bowl and whisk them. Add the soy sauce, the garlic, ginger and some salt and pepper. Atticus had a go grating the ginger, and they all had a good smell of it.
  6. Measure out the breadcrumbs and desiccated coconut and mix them thoroughly together and put them on a plate.
  7. Dip each bit of vegetable in the egg mixture and then roll in the breadcrumb-coconut mixture. My kids also enjoyed throwing the breadcrumb-coconut mixture at the vegetables (this may well explain the mess they made! See the last picture at the end.)
  8. Put the mushrooms and beans on one baking sheet and the carrots and cauliflower on the other as they have different cooking times.
  9. Place in the oven and remove the mushrooms and beans after 20 minutes and the carrots and cauliflower after 30 minutes.
  10. Serve as a snack or an accompaniment to a main dish.
The messy aftermath of the activity!

I was so very happy when all the kids ate the green beans and the mushrooms. Both are usually no goes with our kids. Since making this recipe, they have also all eaten green beans with their traditional Sunday roast, so I am pleased to announce that we have a vegetable which has moved category! When watching them eat, I was trying my best to contain the urge to dance around the kitchen with delight; I may be wrong but this would have distracted them from the task at hand and stopped them eating them!

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Mini Toffee Popcorn Chocolate Cheesecakes

Popcorn is fun. My kids tell me it is fun with their squeals of delight when I suggest we have a film evening complete with popcorn. We have a popcorn maker which I tend to use because the popping sound it generates when it is working makes me smile and I find it mesmerising watching the recently popped corn spilling out of it.

After reading the previous paragraph I guess you can probably picture the enthusiasm and excitement oozing from my children when I announced that I had an idea for a recipe that included popcorn on top of it.

Now I have had this recipe idea in my head since I started the blog, but I am not a huge fan of cheesecake so I had been putting off making the recipe. That was until I saw Seb inhale a slice of cheesecake at lightning speed at a friend’s house and then I thought it should probably make its way up to the top sooner rather than later. As it happens, we had the grandparents round on Bank Holiday Monday (our front garden is looking a lot less neglected now thank you!) and I thought it would be a good opportunity to try the recipe out and spread the calories around and as a thank you for the manual labour (because essential that is what gardening is) they did. It would have been rude not too, especially when they babysat in the evening too!

Ingredients

Unsurprisingly it was the boys’ choice to include chocolate into these mini cheesecakes you could always omit it if you prefer plain cheesecake. This recipe will make 12 mini cheesecakes.

For the base

  • 85g digestive biscuits
  • 45g melted butter/margarine
  • 1tsp cocoa powder

For the cheesecake

  • 325g cream cheese
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 50g soured cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g grated chocolate (this will give the cheesecakes a speckled appearance)/chocolate chips.

For the popcorn topping

  • 40 plain popcorn
  • 40g melted butter/margarine
  • 2tbsp golden syrup
  • 1tbsp dark brown sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°c fan.
  2. Place the digestive biscuits into a ziplock plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. We also used the rolling pin to roll over the bag of biscuits to ensure that they were all reached. You could also use a food processor, but with kids where’s the fun in that?!
  3. Put the crushed biscuits into a bowl and add the melted butter and the cocoa powder and mix thoroughly.
  4. Put 12 silicone cupcake cases into a muffin tin and evenly distribute the crushed biscuits between them and then gently press down with the back of a spoon.
  5. Mix the cream cheese and the sugar together and then add the soured cream and eggs and beat until combined. Add the grated chocolate/chocolate chips and mix again.
  6. Divide the mixture between the 12 cupcake cases. This may make a mess, it always does in our house and I really have to fight the urge to step in and take over and correct when they are doing their best.
  7. Put the cheesecakes in the oven for 10 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile melt the butter, golden syrup and brown sugar in a saucepan over a low heat. When they have melted add the popcorn and stir until the popcorn is fully coated in the mixture.
  9. Remove the cheesecakes from the oven and put some popcorn on each one and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes until they are set and springy to the touch.
  10. Remove the cheesecakes from the oven and cool in the tin. Then place in the fridge before removing from the silicone cupcake cases. I have found it is easier to remove them without casualties once they have been in the fridge for a little bit.
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