The kids went to stay with their grandparents earlier in the summer. It seems they were, much to our relief, delightful. We were informed upon our return that Atticus had taken a liking to his grandmother’s lunch one day and had eaten quite a lot of bulgur wheat. This was surprising on a couple of counts; firstly in the past he has shown no interest in any of the grains I have offered him and secondly he seemed to eat all the vegetables that it came with including leeks. It was one of those moments when I had the feeling that another child was being described!
We should have taken advantage of this interest in a new food stuff sooner as by the time we had got round to purchasing more bulgur wheat a couple of days later, Atticus had become less enthusiastic. Maybe we didn’t cook or present it the same way his grandparents did. Or maybe he secretly wants to keep us on our toes and eating certain foods for grandparents and not for us is his way of doing so. Speculation aside, his reaction to the bulgur wheat that he previously professed to love now seemed to be tepid at best.
A couple of years ago I made a strawberry and cucumber salsa and I remembered how odd I thought the combination was and then after eating it how happy I was with how it turned out. With this in mind, I decided that strawberries and cucumber would make a nice addition to a bulgur wheat salad along with basil, orange zest and orange juice. It may well sound like another crazy combination, but it does work and makes a lovely summery salad. Other additions could include dried apricots or raisins and if you want a bit of crunch some sunflower or pumpkin seeds. But having eaten too much cake recently, I decided that I should really try and make a slimming world-friendly recipe that the whole family could enjoy.
250g bulgar wheat cooked according to packet instructions and cooled
10 basil leaves
Zest of 1/2 an orange
Juice of 1 orange
1tbsp white wine vinegar
Cut the cucumber and strawberries into small pieces.
Count out the basil leaves and chop or tear into smaller pieces.
Add the cucumber, strawberries and basil to the bulgar wheat.
Zest half the orange (I generally need to help the kids with this) and add to the bulgar wheat.
Juice the orange. The kids enjoyed using the juicer with a bit of help. Mix 1tbsp of white wine vinegar with the orange juice and add to the bulgar wheat and combine well.
Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until you want to use it.
This salad was enjoyed with both fish and chicken. It has to be said, Atticus picked all the strawberries and cucumber out and only ate some of the bulgar wheat. Ophelia happily gobbled the whole lot up and so did I! It definitely did make a change from a potato salad or coleslaw with our lunch.
Ophelia’s favourite story is Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. She will wander around the house saying any combination of the title fruits and often I think she is asking for a snack and she wants a story instead and vice versa! In all fairness, I think she decides that she wants the opposite of whatever I suggest and does it to fluster me… She can be quite contrary. Just reading that back makes me think I have become cynical in my old age. I never used to have a cynical bone in my body, but since having children there are times when I find myself thinking something and I end up questioning where the cynicism came from. But that is another story…
Seeing as my daughter loves the aforementioned book so very much I thought it was about time it was incorporated into our baking repertoire. My initial thought was that a lovely big pie would be really yummy. But the kids really do enjoy stamping out pastry circles and placing them in the bun tray so much that little pies won out. That and it meant we could top them with stars which is always well received. As the children (yes Atticus I am talking about you) are very hit and miss with cooked fruit, I decided that we would mix in honey, flaked almonds and chocolate chips in as all the little people in our house love them.
For the pastry
400g plain flour
100g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
For the filling
1 peach (stone removed)
1 pear (cored)
1 plum (stone removed)
25g flaked almonds
50g chocolate chips
In a bowl, squish and squash the butter until it is soft.
Sift the icing sugar into to it (to make it snow!)
Rub the icing sugar with the butter with your fingers or mix together with a wooden spoon.
Add the egg yolk and mix it well with a wooden spoon.
Add the flour and gently mix with the wooden spoon.
Use your hands to bring the dough together.
Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge while you make the filling and put the oven on to heat at 180° fan.
Chop the fruit with and put in a bowl.
Add the honey, flaked almonds and chocolate chips and mix.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to the thickness of a pound coin.
Grease your shallow bun tin. Cut out circles to fit inside your shallow bun tin and gently press in.
Spoon around 1tsp of filling into Each Peach Pear Plum Pie (Simon was adamant that this line had to appear in this post!).
Choose a cookie cutter (shape of your choice – we usually use stars or hearts) that will fit across the little pies. It doesn’t matter if some of the filling is exposed.
Brush the sides of all the pies with milk to stick the top on and then brush the tops with milk.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
These little pies were really yummy and as they were small I could eat a whole pie without feeling guilty. I can see us making little pies like this nearer Christmas potentially with a more festive filling. I can’t believe I am thinking of mince pies in August! Oh well.
I have included an aftermath photo earlier in the article so that you know that it isn’t all perfect in our kitchen when I cook with the kids. It isn’t always this messy, and yes it does take time to clear it all up, but in my head, the memories we all make outweigh any trouble. Also my kids do quite enjoy helping with the washing up, wiping the surfaces and trying to sweep the floor. I have my own little army of helpers in training.
In my head, scones are the epitome of fancy snacking. I imagine more civilised and refined people than me sitting down in their finery and well coiffured hairstyles and perfectly made faces for high tea with a cup of tea and a perfectly proportioned scone with lashings of clotted cream and jam.
In my world, the closest I am going to come to having high tea in my schedule is me offering the kids scones after collection from school in order to fuel our 25 minute walk home. This helps them and me survive the inevitable tiredness to which they are likely to succumb without immediate sustenance and preventing me from saying something I may well regret on the return journey.
It has to be said, I do get bored of the same snack and treats so we do tend to mix it up a bit. This was the reason behind the carrot and coriander scones. I would say that carrots and sweetcorn are in tied first place for the kids’ favourite vegetable. They are all familiar with ground coriander as it frequently appears in our meals. I think Seb was somewhat flummoxed by the fact that coriander leaf and ground coriander look so different. The boys both did have a good smell of both types of coriander before we started making these scones. Discussions about colour, scent and appearance occurred.
Making these scones worked really well with them as they took turns so beautifully. They also successfully listened to the instructions and made these with minimal intervention from me. This makes me very happy!
Makes 15 scones with a 6cm cutter,
250g self raising flour
250g wholemeal self raising flour
130g grated carrot
1 small garlic clove
20g fresh coriander (chopped)
1tsp ground coriander
Egg (for egg wash)
Sesame seed (to top)
Preheat the oven to 200°c fan.
Mix both the flours together and add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Bash the garlic clove with a wooden spoon to loosen the skin and peel the skin off. Crush the garlic and add to the breadcrumbs.
Chop the coriander (adult help may well be required at this stage – mine manged to cut a bit. I went over it again for smaller pieces, but we did still have some large pieces of coriander present!) and grate the carrot.
Add the grated carrot and the chopped coriander to the mixture.
Add the milk and squish and squash together with your hands until a dough forms.
Flour the surface and put the scone dough on it and flatten with hands or rolling pin until it is about 2.5cm thick.
Cut into rounds and place on a lined baking tray. Do this until the dough is all finished. You may have to consolidate the dough to be able to cut more rounds out.
Crack the egg and gently beat.
Brush the top of each scone with the egg wash and then sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
Leave to cool on the baking tray for a couple of minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack.
Seb in particular enjoyed these with cheese or ham for his lunch as well as a snack while walking home from the playground one afternoon. It seems the other two are more partial to fruit scones.
We currently have two weeks left of the summer holidays 2018. Don’t get me wrong, we have had a wonderful time as a family together creating memories, but I am ready to get back to more of a routine. My really long list of ideas at the beginning of the holiday has only been partially completed. However, my list was stupidly long and contained things that we were really never going to attempt to do. For example, bullying Simon into constructing a Wendy House out of all the wood scraps we have accumulated in the garden. Funnily enough this hasn’t been done yet!
I was looking for a wallet-friendly way to spend my Wednesday with the kids. An activity that I could fit around a trip to the park with Seb’s school friends and Ophelia’s swimming lesson. Then I remembered the slow cooker. We haven’t used it in a while and it would be perfect to fit around all the other little bits we had planned for the day. As I was racking my brain for a recipe idea, I realised our supply of tomato ketchup was perilously low. This made me realise that we could in fact make tomato sauce in the slow cooker. Yes it is a rather labour intensive way to get a jar of tomato sauce, but the kids would have fun chopping vegetables and then mixing it all up.
This recipe was excellent for improving knife skills for all the kids. The boys did a really good job with various knives for chopping different vegetables. Their confidence has really improved with frequent practice over the past 6 months. Ophelia, age 2, stuck with a table knife for chopping tomatoes and she is even holding the knife the right way around now!
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
3 sticks of celery
1 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
Fresh ginger (about an inch long), peeled and grated
1 bunch fresh basil
2tsp ground coriander
200ml red wine vinegar
70g soft brown sugar
Chop the vegetables and place into the slow cooker.
Grate the ginger and add to the vegetables.
Gently bash the garlic cloves with a wooden spoon to loosen the skin and remove it, then slice and add to the slow cooker.
Add the tinned tomatoes.
Pull the basil leaves off the stalks and add them to the pot.
Measure out the red wine vinegar, brown sugar, and ground coriander and add to the mixtures.
Season to taste and mix well.
Turn the slow cooker on low and leave uncovered.
After around 5 hours turn the cooker to high to help it fully reduce.
Turn it off when the sauce looks very thick with little liquid remaining. This took ours around 3 hours.
Allow to cool fully and then blend. (We blended it the following morning.) We found that a stick blender didn’t make it as smooth as we wanted it so ended up using the food processor to achieve a smoother ketchup.
This tomato sauce will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer. My recommendation would be store it in batches in the freezer if you don’t think that you will finish it all in 2 weeks as it really is too yummy to waste.
Ophelia is the tomato lover of our children. She loves them nearly as much as I do. The surprise was how much Atticus enjoyed the tomato sauce. As our resident ‘fussy eater’, he will often refuse tomatoes and will try and sneak them to his sister when I am not watching. But he devoured the ketchup on his homemade burger and chips and even asked for more!
Isn’t the expression ‘play gooseberry’ strange? Despite its meaning, it evokes images of a game kind of like sardines or even looking for small things in the garden in the summer. Or is that just me?!
We didn’t eat many gooseberries as children as my grandmother gave them to my mum quite frequently and it seems they were not always appreciated as she never added sugar to them. As such I am the first to admit that I am not overly familiar with gooseberry recipes. When I realised they were in season (I absolutely love using seasonal fruit and veg!), I remembered a recipe that I tore out of the Good Food magazine from June 2014 to try, (yes I did have to look the date up, my memory is not that good) but never got round to making. Simon is forever trying to get me to cull my recipe collection. This suggestion is generally met with disdain as if I chuck them I can never make them and you never know when you may well need a random recipe removed from a magazine over 4 years ago! Well that is my argument anyway.
As I was looking at it, I found that my mind was thinking about how I could alter the recipe to turn them into muffins. In this house, individual cakes tend to be more popular than large cakes that need to be sliced. After adding in oats and swapping self raising flour for wholemeal self raising flour and choosing light brown soft sugar, I decided that Seb and I were ready to make these muffins.
Preheat the oven to 150°c fan and put 12 muffin cases into a muffin tray.
Squish and squash the butter and the sugar together until fluffy.
Crack in the two eggs and beat them in.
Add in the wholemeal self raising flour, desiccated coconut, oats and coconut yoghurt and mix until fully combined.
Gently stir in the gooseberries.
Divide the mixture evenly between 12 muffin cases.
Place in the oven for 10 minutes
Mix the melted butter, sugar, coconut and oats. Remove the muffins from the oven and share out the topping between the 12 muffins.
Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes until they are golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
These muffins were enjoyed as part of a picnic as well as snacks and even breakfast one morning (oats, wholemeal flour and fruit is what I told myself when I allowed it). It turns out Seb quite enjoys gooseberries and Simon appreciated them more than he thought he would! The gooseberries provide a nice tart contrast to the sweetness of the cake. Do let me know if you make them and what you think.
A couple of days ago while Simon was sorting out the plumbing following our downstairs bathroom’s cosmetic makeover, I had to get the children out from under his feet. Simon had let the boys ‘help’ him with the painting, but our mutual feeling was that they would definitely be a significant hindrance rather than a help during the plumbing process.
The kids don’t tend to react well when I attempt to take them away from daddy when he is around. I am sure that as I am the permanently at home parent, they see me as the boring parent as most of the disciplining falls to me. After persuasion, everyone agreed (with varying amounts of complaint at the situation) to accompany me and we left the house with tubs.
They were all rather excited about the tubs and I got asked what the tubs were for. As we approached our destination, the boys guessed our purpose which was blackberrying. Finally they seemed happy! Lots of fun was had by all on the trip. We collected nearly 800g of blackberries. I am sure Ophelia ate quadruple what she collected. She only seemed to find it necessary to store the blackberries which were still red that she had collected in her pot. The rest ended up in her tummy and all over her face and clothes! Maybe next time she will understand the task at hand a bit better! I am now feeling very grateful for the new washing machine that we had to buy last month because the old one finally gave up the ghost – something it had been threatening for around 18 months!
Lots of blackberry recipes immediately came to mind. Initially I intended to make a chocolate and blackberry tart, but Simon suggested it was time that I made something slightly healthier for the blog. After a bit of thinking, I decided that some of the blackberries would go nicely in some cereal bars. As a nod to my love of using herbs and spices in my baking I decided to pair them with some fresh mint. The aim was to achieve a hint of mint so that they tasted fresh rather than an overpowering wow that’s a lot of mint flavour! If mint isn’t your cup of tea, by all means, leave it out of the recipe all together.
Makes 12 bars, store in the fridge eat in 2-3 days.
For the cereal bars
15 fresh mint leaves
1 egg white
1tbsp melted coconut oil
50ml Greek-style natural yoghurt
For the drizzle
1/2tbsp Greek-style natural yoghurt
3-4tbsp icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 170°c fan and grease and line a 16cm square pan.
Count out the mint leaves and tear or chop into tiny pieces
Squash the blackberries with a fork and add the mint and mix around.
Add the rest of the ingredients for the cereal bars into a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
Add the blackberries and mint to the oat mixture and fully combine.
Put in the cake pan, spread out so it reaches all the corners. Use the back of a wooden or metal spoon to flatten the mixture in the tin.
Put in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until firm to the touch.
Leave to cool in the tin for around 15 minutes before turning out and putting on a cooling rack to finish cooling before slicing. If you have difficulty slicing them, put them in the fridge for 5-10 minutes first.
Once cooled, make the yoghurt drizzle by mixing the Greek-style natural yoghurt with the icing sugar and then drizzle it over the bars. I put a tea towel under the cooling rack while we were drizzling the icing as I didn’t want to have to clear up a sticky mess from the counter. I learn from the doughnut glazing experience that that was best!
These cereal bars had a beautiful purple colour and are sweetened with just honey and the icing sugar for the yoghurt drizzle. They make a perfect snack for little hands and Seb enjoyed them even more as he helped me make them without his brother or sister. Let me know if you have a try as I love to hear and see pictures if you create any of my recipes.
I am a linguist at heart. I advocate using big and complex words with children with smaller words to explain their meaning. This means that my children, Seb in particular, will often come out with some rather grown up sounding phrases and sometimes in completely the wrong context! I am also that mum who will speak to her children in Spanish as I want to broaden their horizons. Unfortunately with everything they seem to want to do and learn, formal instruction is lacking (I do seem to take a rather haphazard approach with it), but all the children do understand certain instructions in Spanish.
Owing to my half-hearted attempt to teach my little people Spanish, I pounced on the paella rice in the supermarket when I found it. I normally grab risotto rice on autopilot as going to the supermarket without any ‘help’ is a luxury! I tend to walk around the supermarket revelling in my child-free status and barely looking at the shelves, just grabbing the usual. My hope was that the rice would reignite my efforts to immerse my kids in Spanish and provide them with a yummy, hands on and stress-free dinner. Stress-free because rice is a universally accepted carbohydrate in our house and doesn’t elicit the horrible reaction that certain forms of potato produce.
The paella rice got me thinking and made me eager to experiment with an oven-baked recipe to get the kids fully involved. In addition, I thought this dish’s sunny colour as well as the different types of meat and fish would make this an attractive meal that they would be eager to eat. I know using the oven does not create an authentic paella, but the traditional flavour and colour were both present and as an added bonus everyone cleared their plates. The latter in particular makes this dish a winner in my book.
Makes 4 adult portions
300g paella rice
1 litre water
2 chicken stock cubes (opt for low salt for young children)
100g small prawns
300g fish pie mix
300g chicken pieces
100g frozen peas
100g frozen sweetcorn
If you are doing this recipe with children over 4, you may want to let them have a go at chopping the chorizo, chicken and fish with supervision and help as required. Otherwise, you can chop in advance for them or buy pre-chopped. With the chorizo you could buy slices and have the children tear it up instead. If you are using stock pots rather than stock cubes it is easier to make them dissolve with boiling water so your children may require help pouring it in. If you are using stock cubes they can crumble them into cold water.
Preheat the oven to 170°c fan.
Chop the chorizo, chicken and fish if needed.
Put the rice in a large ovenproof dish and crumble in the stock cubes and add the turmeric.
Add the water and mix.
Add the chorizo, chicken, fish pie mix and small prawns and mix well.
Add the frozen vegetables and mix.
Cover and adult place in the oven and cook for 40-50 minutes (stirring halfway through) until the rice and all the meat and fish are fully cooked.
The kids had big smiles when this came out of the oven and as it is the summer holiday their dad was around to enjoy it with them. The kids had lots of fun pointing out all the different elements form the dish that they were eating and Atticus even managed a second portion. Cue me doing a crazy dance around the kitchen in celebration when everyone had left the table!
I have had a packet of pistachios in the pantry for about 3 months. Every time Simon tried to go near them for a snack, I would angrily fend him off them citing that I intended to put them in an imminent cake. At each request to eat them the cake changed as I could never quite choose what to make with them. I am not sure if he noticed this or not, but I am guessing that he did and he chose to keep his silence. The cake excuse seemed to work to my advantage in this instance, this is not always the case!
Well I finally got round to using them with Ophelia when the boys were busy enjoying Holiday Bible Club. Now Ophelia loves pretty much all fruit. I am always having to share whatever fruit I have just tucked into with my daughter. Not that I am complaining, I am absolutely delighted that she loves fruit. I do, however, sort of begrudge having to share every single cherry with her: half for mummy, half for Phe. With this love of fruit in mind, I decided to combine the pistachio with dried apricot in a traybake.
This traybake doesn’t rise a great deal; it has a low flour content. Despite that, it is beautifully moist and the coarsely ground pistachios and desiccated coconut give an extra nutty depth to the flavour. The chocolate was added as chocolate goes with pretty much anything right?!
We had a lot of fun preparing the ingredients. I did, however, forget how much mischief a 2 year old can get up to when I don’t have her older brothers entertaining her. We had sugar and coconut all over not only the surface, but her too her. Oh and there was also her half-eaten apple which she refused to relinquish. She was so enthusiastic with every step of this recipe. She did, however, need help finishing off some of the steps and doing the more challenging bits.The 5 and 4 year old would have managed it with minimal help.
150g dried apricots
115g golden caster sugar
65g desiccated coconut
30g self raising flour
100g dark chocolate chips
50g white chocolate
Preheat the oven to 160°c fan and grease and line a brownie tin or other shallow baking tin.
Slice the dried apricots with a table knife or chop them with scissors (we used a table knife, but upon reflection, the scissors would have been easier).
Put the pistachios in a food processor and blitz until coarsely ground. It is nice to have some larger pieces in the mixture.
Cream the butter and golden caster sugar together until light and fluffy (you can use an electric hand mixer for this, but we used wooden spoons).
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
Fold in the flour, desiccated coconut, coarsely ground pistachios and the dried apricots.
Add the chocolate chips and mix.
Put the mixture in the brownie tin and then gently flatten with the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula.
Cook for 20-25 minutes until golden and a skewer (not inserted into a chocolate chip!) comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes and then remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack. This is quite a fragile cake so this will need to be done carefully.
Once fully cooled, melt the white chocolate (we did this in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time, mixing after each 10 seconds). Drizzle over the cooled cake and allow to set before cutting into 16 squares.