Lemon Meringue Traybake

I love the tang of lemon. Citrus fruit is so very yummy and lemons are one of my favourite ingredient to bake and cook with. I do love a good lemon meringue pie, but the time between embarking upon the bake and finally getting to sample it often puts me off baking it with the kids. Enter this Lemon Meringue Traybake; a yummy, tangy moist lemon cake with loads of smashed meringue covering its top. It is completely yummy and quick to make. It also involves smashing meringues which my kids think is amazing. I think it must be that I am giving them something to destroy on purpose!

Yes Ophelia, you may smash the meringue!
Picnic ready!

We took this traybake to a picnic with friends and not only did it travel well, but Seb managed to polish off 3 pieces. He tried to get away with stealing a fourth, but was stopped! This is certainly a sign of good cake!

Ingredients

  • 4 ready made meringue nests
  • 3tbsp ready made lemon curd
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs (separated – I did this bit for the kids)
  • 225g Greek style natural yoghurt
  • grated rind of 2 lemons
  • 175g self raising flour
Swirling in the lemon curd.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°c fan and grease and line a brownie pan.
  2. Beat the sugar, butter and egg yolks together.
  3. Add the yoghurt and lemon zest and mix together.
  4. Sift in the flour and fold it into the mixture.
  5. With electric mixers, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and then gently fold into the other mixture.
  6. Pour into the brownie pan.
  7. If your lemon curd is quite thick, you may need to loosen it in the microwave for a couple of seconds. Take small amounts of the lemon curd and dollop onto the traybake in random places.
  8. With a toothpick, gently swirl the curd in a squiggle to create a pretty pattern.
  9. Crush the meringues, but make sure there are some slightly larger pieces in there too.
  10. Sprinkle the crushed meringue all over the traybake.
  11. Cover with foil, ensuring that it doesn’t touch the mixture.
  12. Place in the oven for 35-45 minutes (oven dependent – in my mum’s oven it only takes 35, but in mine it needs closer to 40). The cake is cooked when it is springy and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  13. Leave to cool completely in the tin before removing and cutting into squares or slices.
  14. Enjoy with friends or refuse to share!

This traybake is delicious, but to prevent the meringue going too soft it is best eaten on the day it made or the following day. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge, but if you want the meringue to retain a crispier texture, it is best to eat it sooner!

Date & Walnut Cookies

You know it is going to be one of those days when you are up before 7am with the kids in the school holidays. You know it is going to be longer than you want when in order to retain your sanity, you start baking before you would normally be leaving the house for the school run. Before you start yelling at your screen that I am crazy, my theory that over the summer it is cooler earlier in the morning and therefore easier to have the oven on without turning the whole house into a sauna and turning your children into little dragons set to breathe fire at each other and at you.

Snipping the dates

We made this recipe as we have a lot of dried fruit and nuts in the house – it seems I always put them in the trolley regardless of the quantity that I already own. So if you see me anywhere in the vicinity of a supermarket until the new academic year, please do feel free to remind me that I don’t need anymore of the aforementioned item or even remove them from my trolley unless I can tell you their exact date of use and purpose.

It was another baking in pyjamas session!
Cracking the egg into a separate bowl to whisk means it is easier to retrieve any stray bits of shell!

These cookies are ridiculously moreish; I managed to polish of significantly more of them than necessary for a healthy diet (after successfully completing a spin class, but still….) and the batch lasted under 24 hours from when they were made. The kids loved these and enjoyed bashing the walnuts and cutting the dates with scissors. I did also catch Atticus squeezing honey into his mouth directly from the jar. I was so surprised that I admonished him and he was so surprised that he dropped it. Luckily in this instance the jar was plastic. It is also a rather good thing that I wasn’t planning on sharing the honey with anyone outside the family.

The finished product!

Ingredients

  • 150g dates
  • 100 walnuts
  • 25g melted butter/margarine
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1tbsp honey

Method

  1. Place greaseproof paper or silicone baking mats onto a couple of baking trays.
  2. Using scissors, cut the dates into small pieces.
  3. Using a pestle and mortar or a rolling pin gently bash the walnuts into small pieces.
  4. Crack the egg into a small cup or bowl and gently beat it.
  5. Place all the ingredients apart from the flour into a bowl
  6. Sift in the flour and mix until fully combined.
  7. Take tbsp. of the mixture and either roll into balls (beware it is sticky!) or just dollop onto the baking tray.
  8. Depending on the size of your cookies, you will have between 12 and 15.
  9. Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden.
  10. Leave on the tray to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
  11. Scoff the lot with or without the kids!

Frozen Raspberry Drops

Simon’s gardening philosophy is very simple; if you can’t eat it, he would prefer not to plant it. This has led to him creating a fruit patch in pretty much every single house in which we have lived. He also grew courgettes for me despite despising them – yes it must be true love. My summertime memories with the kids in our current house are saturated with harvesting fruit and vegetables from the garden and trying to persuade the kids that if the berries are still green then they are unripe… As they get older this is obvious, but to a one or two year old it is somewhat confusing!

The fruit patch doesn’t only produce fruit, it turns out it is also a wonderful for igniting the children’s imaginations. It has been a forest to explore; to look for Gruffalos or bears. I think it has also been a kelp forest during the Octonaut obsession each of our kids seems to have had!

Back to the subject of this post – raspberries. I wanted to use them in healthy recipe for summer with the kids and a bit of contemplation this was the outcome. These will definitely feature prominently in our summer kitchen and I hope they do in yours too.

Ingredients

The nearly 3 year old managed this recipe completely by herself.

With only 4 ingredients, this is a speedy recipe that children will love making. As an added bonus, it is perfect for working on fine motor skills with younger children and is a welcome treat in the summer months.

  • 150g fresh raspberries
  • 200g Greek-style natural yoghurt
  • 1/2tbsp honey
  • Milk chocolate chips

Method

  1. Wash your raspberries and allow to dry.
  2. Line a baking tray or container (that will fit in your freezer) with greaseproof paper or a silicone baking mat.
  3. Measure out the yoghurt into a large bowl and add the honey and mix to combine.
  4. Count out the raspberries and the same amount of chocolate chips (and maybe a couple of extra for hungry tummies!)
  5. Place a single chocolate chip inside each raspberry.
  6. One at a time, gently put the raspberries into the bowl of yoghurt and cover completely using a spoon.
  7. Fish the yoghurt-coated raspberries out with a fork and gently place them on the lined baking tray.
  8. Repeat until all the raspberries are covered.
  9. Place in the freezer until frozen and leave there until you want to serve them.

This recipe features in Soar Valley Life Magazine, July/August 2019

Vegan Choco Nutty Biscuits

Caught you!
Cookie scoop, she needed help to operate it, but was determined to give it a go!

We are not vegan, but I don’t think that vegan treats should be only for those who are following a vegan diet. Sometimes they are just far too tasty not to want to gobble them up. These biscuits are an example of a vegan snack that I could easily eat my weight in. Why did we decided to make a vegan biscuit though? As part of my seriously epic spring/summer clean, I have been double checking the ingredients I have stored in my pantry. My baking supplies always tend to overflow out of their allotted shelf space. I have come to conclude that I am a baking magpie. What I mean is that I am drawn to baking ingredients in the same way that a magpie is drawn to shiny things. So I buy things that I don’t have space for with plans in mind that may or may not materialise. During this stock take I discovered half a jar of maple syrup. So this meant vegan cookies were on the menu. Luckily for me, I have a little bit more left so I can make another batch!

Squishing to make the lattice pattern. Dunking the fork in water helps to prevent the cookie dough sticking to the fork.

This was another mummy-daughter baking session. She was her usual chirpy self and absolutely delighted with the fact that we were making cookies as they are one of her favourite snacks. It was lots of fun scooping the peanut butter out of the tub and dolloping it into the mixing bowl and licking the spoon.

Ingredients

  • 75g ground cashews (we did this in food processor)
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 100g smooth peanut butter
  • 65g maple syrup
  • 50g vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Place all the ingredients except the chocolate chips in to a large bowl and mix to bring together.
  2. Add the chocolate chips and knead with hands to distribute the chocolate chips evening in the mixture.
  3. Using a tbsp., measure of balls of the dough and place on a baking tray.
  4. Dunk a fork into a cup of water and then push down on the top of each cookie to create a lattice pattern (both directions).
  5. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 150°c fan.
  6. Cook for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and allow to cool before eating.
I could definitely do with another batch of these!

Chocolate Dip

I love it when I plan to make something with the kids and I actually get round to making it the week I planned to. I know it sounds crazy, but I have list upon list of ideas that I want to try in the kitchen with my little chefs. Some make it to the top incredibly quickly, but others linger for a while before they have their turn in the limelight. I may have made this one the week I planned to, but writing it up to share with you all has taken another week or two. I am placing the blame for this one firmly in the court of the house spring clean. Yes I am still trying to sort our house – it is a job of epic proportions. I should maybe be calling it a summer clean now as despite the changeable weather, not even I can deny that it is in fact summer. I find myself continually distracted and I am at the stage where I find any other activity more interesting than the one at hand! Do I sort through a pile of mismatched toys or plan a list of baking activities?! Yup the latter tends to win. Oh and I am very good at planning, it seems finishing a task is my downfall.

Top; chocolate dip spread on pancakes, bottom left dolloped in cereal and bottom right as a dip for strawberries. All totally yummy and considerably less sugar than regular chocolate spread.

This recipe is essentially a chocolate hummus. We decided to call it dip as the kids had fun dipping strawberries into it. We have also discovered that it works remarkably well with pancakes and dolloped into a bowl of cereal for added protein at breakfast. I am fully aware that it is not a usual thing to make with kids. I know this because when I informed my husband what Ophelia and I were going to be making in the kitchen, a glazed expression crossed his face. He was probably thinking something along the lines of why doesn’t she just make a batch of cookies or cupcakes?!

Ophelia had fun looking at the ingredients and pouring them into the food processor. She took great delight in helping me push down the side with a spatula to ensure it was fully mixed. The best part, once again was licking the bowl. She asked to do this pretty much from the start. I am pretty sure she figured that baking on her own with me meant she wouldn’t have to share the treat. Her brothers were referenced a couple of times.

Ingredients

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 140g 0% fat Greek-style natural yoghurt
  • 5 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 50g Sweet Freedom Chocolate Shot
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Method

  • Add all of the ingredients to the food processor and blitz until smooth. Stop the food processor every so often to scrape down the edges to ensure that it is all mixed.
  • Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Spaghetti Carbonara

What you can’t see the concentration on her face!

I am not sure if your kids have a favourite dinner. For ours it has to be pesto pasta. This is completely fine by me as it is a quick fix, perfect for evening when they have after school activities and we are pressed for time. Now the kids don’t seem particularly fussed whether it contains chicken, bacon or even tuna, but it always gets gobbled up without any questions or complaints.

It took a couple of attempts to get the cloves out.

Now you might question; ‘if they have their favourite pasta dish, why mess with a good thing?!’ Well I am always on the look out for new pasta recipes which are just as simple to make and are as well received as pesto pasta. I dislike getting stuck in a rut with meal times and resorting to the same weekly meal plan.

The recipe below is easy to make and received the thumbs up from all the kids and their dad. As the resident vegetarian, I would have eaten it had it not contained the pancetta! Maybe next time we shall make a vegetarian one and have one of the rare evenings when we all eat the same meal!

Dinner time!

Ingredients

  • 350g of spaghetti, broken into half – this makes it easier for little people to manage.
  • 100g chopped pancetta
  • 100g grated parmesan
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1tbsp butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to the packet’s instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a jug and beat with some pepper.
  3. Add the parmesan to the beaten eggs and mix and put to one side.
  4. Gently bash the garlic cloves with a rolling pin and peel them.
  5. Put the butter in a small frying pan and add the garlic and pancetta. Fry together stirring often. Remove the garlic cloves with a tongs once the pancetta is cooked.
  6. Drain the pasta reserving a small amount of the cooking water.
  7. Take the pan of the heat and place on a heat proof mat.
  8. Pour the egg and cheese mixture and the pancetta into the cooked spaghetti.
  9. Mix together while still in the saucepan and ensure that the spaghetti is fully coated.
  10. Add some of the spaghetti water to the sauce to loosen it if required. We needed to add 1tbsp.
  11. Serve immediately.

Roasted Chickpeas

It is the season for spring cleaning. I am not a huge fan of spring cleaning. Don’t get me wrong, I love the results, I just hate the sheer volume of work we always have to do to make the house look uncluttered. The reason we are in this mess is because we all seem to be hoarders. I am going to make a concerted effort to prevent our house becoming a nest of items with vague memories attached to them once we are done. But, I will probably be writing a very similar post this time next year!

Over half term, we all managed to escape our decluttering project and go to visit my mum. It was lovely not to have to think about sorting out our house and decide what we should keep and what should go. But it seems that we must have missed the process as we spent a significant amount of time helping her declutter. I have discovered it is much easier to sort someone else’s space rather than your own. So if I end up inviting you over for cake or under any other pretence, before accepting, it may be best to check that I am not going to put you to work!

Anyway, between moving boxes and hunting in the loft for other boxes, the kids and I managed to roast some chickpeas. I never thought I would be posting about roasting chickpeas, but the kids discovered that they liked crunchy chickpeas over Christmas when I bought some salt and vinegar ones for me. I was so surprised that they liked them, that I neglected to feel frustration at donating my treat to them! It seems sharing can be just as hard for grown up as their small charges! They have also been known to request them rather than a chocolate biscuit as an afternoon snack. Strange children; I don’t think I would ever make that choice!

This recipe was made with the younger two (five and two). The younger one enjoyed counting out tsp of the spices to add. The elder one trying to read the labels. They both had a good sniff of all of the ingredients. The scent of cinnamon is the one they seem to remember the most – probably because we seem to use it in savoury and sweet bakes. They do often associate it with chocolate though…

Ingredients

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
  • 1/2 tsp onion salt
  • 1tsp lazy garlic
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1tsp mixed herbs
  • Spray oil of choice

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°c fan and line a baking tray with a silicone baking mat or greaseproof paper.
  2. Put the chickpeas into a large bowl.
  3. Add all the herbs and spices in with the chickpeas and either mix or gently move the bowl from side to side to ensure that the chickpeas are fully coated in the spices.
  4. Pour or spoon out onto the baking tray and generously spray with oil.
  5. Place in the oven for 40 minutes turning half way through.
  6. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely before storing.
The finished product.

We didn’t have any left from this to store for another day as my youngest two really seem to enjoy them! They served as a substitute for crisps in one of our half term picnic lunches and their wasn’t a single complaint about the lack of crisps from any of the kids!

Herby Garlic Butter

When the boys interest in cooking began, I read about how you can make butter by vigorously shaking double cream in a jam jar. We did try it to make a small quantity of butter at the time. The boys were delighted when it turned to whipped cream and then the buttermilk separated. It was a very labour intensive way to make butter and considering all the butter that we use in baking, I decided it would be easier to just buy butter!

Cutting parsley.

While thinking about what we could make for a bring and share lunch with family, I remembered the butter I made with the boys. Ophelia never having seen it and the boys now being a bit older meant it was now time to make it again. This time we decided to make it with crushed garlic and chopped parsley for added flavour. This activity is really one in which the whole family can get involved. We took it in turns around the table to shake the jar. It also seemed to become a competition as to who could pull the funniest face and do the silliest actions while shaking the plastic jar. Yes folks, these are the activities which make up the funny stories and enrich memories!

Ingredients and equipment

  • 150ml double cream
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Small handful of fresh parsley
  • Jam jar (we used a plastic one)
  • Marbles (washed and we used one per child). The marbles help you to tell when the mixture is turning from cream to whipped cream to butter and buttermilk.
  • Rolling pin
  • Garlic press
The buttermilk separating from the butter.

Method

  1. Pour the double cream into the jar and allow each child to put a marble in.
  2. Gently bash the garlic clove with the side of a rolling pin to loosen and remove the skin.
  3. Crush the garlic cloves with the garlic press. My children needed help with the press, but were ever so determined to give it a go.
  4. Add the garlic to the jar of cream.
  5. Cut the parsley into small pieces using scissors and add them to the cream jar.
  6. Firmly secure the lid of the jar and start to shake it. This process will take around 15 minutes depending on how vigorously you shake the jar. It will turn from cream to whipped cream and then to butter and buttermilk. When it is turning to whipped cream the marbles will start to move slower and when it has become butter and buttermilk you will hear them clatter against the sides again more frequently.
  7. Pour off the buttermilk and then shake again and pour off any further buttermilk.
  8. Put in the fridge until ready to use.

We used this butter into two partially baked baguettes to make some homemade garlic bread. This was enjoyed by the whole family at our bring and share lunch. To make the garlic bread you will need to:

Placing the butter inside the cuts.
  1. Remove the butter from the fridge around 20 minutes before starting.
  2. Take the baguettes and make small diagonal cuts the whole way across each baguette taking care not to slice them fully.
  3. Take small amounts of the butter and place inside each of the diagonal cuts.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in the microwave and paint the baguettes with it to get a yummy crispy shell for your garlic bread.
  5. Place in the oven according to the packet’s instructions and remove when golden.
Wonderfully crunchy and buttery garlic bread.

Chocolate Muddy Puddles

Ophelia had a Muddy Puddle walk for Save the Children at nursery today. By the sounds of it, grown ups and pre-schoolers alike had fun and managed to get drenched! In anticipation of this event, I thought it would be fun to make some muddy puddles of our own to get into the spirit. She had lots of fun spooning, mashing and squishing, mixing, dolloping and sprinkling. It has to be said that you do have to use your imagination when looking at them, because they could be described as looking a bit like cow pats. This was the reason for adding the leaf shaped sprinkles to make people realise their true nature!

This recipe is essentially a truffle made with only 3 ingredients (4 if you include the sprinkles!), but instead of rolling them into truffles, we dolloped teaspoons of the mixture onto greaseproof paper and flattened with the back of a spoon. To make these you will only need 1 small ripe avocado, chocolate and some vanilla extract. We used only dark chocolate as that is what I had in the house, but I would recommend using half dark chocolate and half milk chocolate if you are making this recipe for small children so that it is a little sweeter. To make them dairy free or vegan, you just need to ensure that your chocolate is dairy free/vegan.

Ophelia was rather intrigued by the large stone in the middle of the avocado and after several attempts managed to get it out. I loved the fact that she tried several times to get it out and didn’t give up until she had achieved it. I feel the need to add at this point, that this is the only way the boys will eat avocado! Ophelia seemed to like it on its own, but the boys have turned their noses up at it several times in salad and homemade guacamole. To my delight, Atticus asked for a second and as he was consuming avocado, I was happy to let him have another!

Ingredients

  • 1 small ripe avocado
  • 175g chocolate of choice (see above paragraph for further advice on chocolate choice)
  • 1/2tsp of vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles of choice (we used autumn leaves ones which I managed to get on offer at TKMaxx, but anything, would work such as chocolate or coloured strands, etc)
Adding the sprinkles.

Method

  1. Adult slice the avocado in half.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
  3. If sufficiently ripe, ask your child to pull out the stone. They may need encouraging to hold the avocado with one hand and to pull the stone out with the other hand.
  4. Scoop out the flesh of the avocado and put it into a bowl. Mash with a fork until smooth. You may want to use a stick blender to ensure that it is completely smooth.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate to the mashed avocado and mix to combine fully.
  6. Take tsp amounts and spoon onto a greaseproof lined baking tray and gently press down with the back of the teaspoon.
  7. Add the sprinkles to the top and store in the fridge until you want to eat.

I thought these were really yummy and the kids enjoyed them too. They felt less naughty as they contained avocado rather than double cream. So two thumbs up from our family and a big yippie as they contain a hidden vegetable!

Neapolitan Coconut Ice

Do you have a go to treat that makes you feel better no matter what the world (or the nearly pre-schooler) may decide to throw at you? There are some days when we our smallest small displays all the world’s emotions within the space of a couple of hours. This goes some way to explaining why toddlers throw tantrums when these big emotions burst out even if it doesn’t make it any easier to cope with them! Anyway back to treats. The combination of chocolate and coconut transports me to my happy place from where I can cope with any new obstacles that our little monkeys may decide to hurl at us next. Needless to say it is also one of the children’s favourite flavour combinations too!

Coconut ice wasn’t a treat of my childhood, it seems to have featured more prominently in Simon’s. When brainstorming for this recipe, I was wondering how we could put our own stamp on it. It didn’t take me long to conclude that adding chocolate and raspberries to it would be the perfect way to do so. Practically everything is better with chocolate! Unless you are thinking along the lines of cheese then I would have to disagree.

Patting it all down.

The kids loved pretty much the whole of this recipe from decanting the condensed milk into the bowl, blitzing the raspberries, measuring the chocolate syrup and patting a layer in the tin each. Having three children may also have contributed to my conviction that this recipe needed a third layer so each child could have a go on their own! So just a way of reducing my stress levels and increasing my chocolate intake at the same time!

Ingredients

This recipe was featured in the May/June 2019 Soar Valley Life Magazine

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 400g desiccated coconut
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 75g raspberries
  • 1tbsp Sweet Freedom Coconut Chocolate Shot (or chocolate syrup of your choice)
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

To make:

  1. Allow the raspberries to defrost a little bit.
  2. Put the condensed milk, and 340g of both the desiccated coconut and the icing sugar in a large bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon. When the mixture becomes stiff and difficult to mix, use your hands to bring it fully together.
  3. Divide the mixture equally between three bowls.
  4. Add 1tsp of vanilla extract to one bowl and mix or knead to combine.
  5. Add 1tbsp of chocolate syrup to another bowl and mix or knead to combine.
  6. With a hand held blender, blitz the frozen raspberries until smooth. You could also do this with the back of a fork or a food processor. Add to the final bowl and mix. Add enough of the remaining desiccated coconut and icing sugar to make the raspberry layer the same consistency as the other two.
  7. Grease and line a tin with greaseproof paper (we used a 16cm square tin).
  8. Dollop the vanilla layer into the bottom of a tin and flatten with the back of a metal spoon to reach all the edges. Pat even with fingers.
  9. Spread the raspberry layer on top of the vanilla layer and spread a pat down.
  10. Add the chocolate layer a spread to cover the raspberry layer.
  11. Put in the fridge for at least 3 hours to set (we left ours overnight) and then cut into small squares or rectangles.
The article in print.

This treat graced our lunchboxes when we visited Legoland over the Easter holidays and it was a most welcome addition. We did receive some rather envious looks from other children queuing for the same ride while the kids were enjoying this! The icing on the cake for me in this instance was to see this recipe in print in Soar Valley Life Magazine.