Crazy birthday cookies!

This rather obscure photo shows 24 cookies packed into a paper bag for my daughter to take into school and share out for her 7th birthday. I’ve called them crazy cookies…

Traditionally my daughter’s school allow the children to take in a small cake to be shared out amongst the class on their birthday. My daughter has been at the school since she was 2, so we’ve sent a fair few cakes in by now. In her nursery year we made cupcakes with pink icing and sprinkles, for kindetgarten it was pink butter icing again with edible paper flowers on top, for reception I excelled myself and found so-called cake glitter and paper butterflies…only to discover -moments  after I had handed them in – that ‘cake glitter’ wasn’t in fact edible! So I had the painful task of re-calling 30 (it was a bigger class) beautifully crafted cupcakes – luckily moments before they were eaten, comforting my Little Wonder who was confused as to why the cakes had to be smuggled home without the joyful distribution she had anticipated all day, and then of course bake and decorate another 30 cupcakes to go in the next day.

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Cheese and Pesto Wheels

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The summer has come and gone and somehow I let my blog fall by the wayside, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking! The children were home from school for the long summer holiday, so we spent lots of time playing outdoors and packing picnics. So I thought I’d resurrect my blog with some of the recipes we attempted during the holiday.

There are only so many ham sandwiches one can eat, so I was looking for easy picnic food that the children would enjoy and could help to prepare themselves. One of the most popular recipes was my cheese and pesto rolls, which also makes a great snack at a party too.

To make, simply buy some pre-rolled puff pastry, flatten it out and then use a palette knife to smother in good quality pesto, although the jars of pesto tend to work better than very fresh as they are less oily. Sprinkle grated cheese on top and roll up carefully, from the shorter end. Take a sharp knife and carefully cut slices, trying not to squash the pastry too much. Then place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 15 mins. They are cooked when the pastry starts to brown slightly and the cheese bubbles up. Leave to cool and pack for picnics wrapped in baking paper, or enjoy anytime!

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Apricot Tartlets

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I made these apricot tarlets with my two year old son as a dessert to share with his friends when they came for an afternoon play and early supper. I followed the recipe from “I can Cook”, by Sally Brown and Kate Morris, so I will not give all the details here. However, I wanted to share some of our photos so you can see how easy they are to make, and it might inspire you to buy the book.

Cutting up the apricots using scissors
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Rolling out pastry
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Ready for the oven
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This was a fabulous dessert to make with my son as it is more a case of assembly rather than real cooking, which suits his concentration span and kitchen skills…and he had such delight in telling his friends that he made them!

The final, rather delicious product (served with plain vanilla ice cream):
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We of course ended up trying out a few ourselves with a cup of coffee, and my fellow Mums commented that they were as delicious as anything you might buy in a French patisserie. So they could make a lovely dinner party dessert too, if you were ever pushed for time!

Easy Peasy Turkey Burgers

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These turkey burgers are a big hit with my children and very easy to put together. They are also much healthier than beef, and I think equally tasty. I usually serve them with brown rolls and homemade fries, or just with a salad, but this week we broke our own rules and indulged in soft white rolls and oven chips, with a green salad on the side.

Ingredients
400g minced turkey
1 onion finely diced
2 garlic cloves finely diced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon extra fine Matzo meal

Add the minced turkey meat to a large mixing bowl and stir in the above ingredients. Make sure that the onion is very finely diced, ideally using an electric chopper. The same goes for the garlic – ideally use a garlic crusher and then finely chop anything remaining that you can’t squeeze through. If you have fresh herbs then these can also be used, but again they require very fine slicing. I find that the dried herbs mix in better and aren’t picked out by the children, as they are less identifiable! The fine matzo meal isn’t essential, but it helps to hold the burger patties together. It is essentially just crushed up crackers, and can be found in most supermarkets.

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Once the ingredients are mixed together, pick out small balls and flatten them into small burger-shaped patties. You can make them as big or as small as you like, but if they are too thick then it’s hard to cook them through. I cheated this time and pan fried them in rapeseed oil, but with the matzo meal they will hold together well enough to be put on the barbecue.

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Springtime Feta, Pesto and Red pepper Tart

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With the sunshine making a more regular appearance we’ve been enjoying lots of picnic lunches in our garden. I made this tart the other weekend, as it’s so easy to make with the kids and is perfect for an alfresco lunch. The kids even nibbled a bit of it too and enjoyed the cooked feta cheese.

Chop up one large red pepper, a red onion and a handful of cherry tomatoes and put them in the oven to roast, along with a dash of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. You can also use a mix of yellow peppers and courgettes. In the meantime roll out the pastry onto a piece of baking parchment, although I am a super cheat and buy ready rolled puff pastry. Then use a pasty brush to coat the pasty with pesto, and then crumble a block of feta cheese all over. Once the vegetables are partly roasted (approximately 30 minutes at 180 degrees), spread them on top and put the tart in the oven to cook. Remove once the pastry is crispy and golden, then serve in the garden with a cucumber and tomato salad, and relax!

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Nutella Surprise Muffins

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The sun seems to have finally found its way to us, but with the ongoing rain of the last few weeks we had a few ‘kitchen’ afternoons. The kids of course always want to make cakes, but the hardest thing about baking with kids is making sure that the end product is edible quickly, as tasting their wares if half the fun of it. These cakes are very simple and very satisfying (not necessarily healthy!) and perfect for picnics as they have the sweet bit inside rather than on top so are less messy!

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Ingredients:
100g Stork margarine
100g golden caster sugar
100g self raising flour
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 dessert spoon of milk
A jar of Nutella

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Cream the margarine and sugar together, then slowly add the eggs, whisking after each addition. Then add the flour, baking powder, milk and vanilla essence.

Then spoon the mixture into cake cases, putting a teaspoon full of Nutella in the middle of the mixture and then adding a little more cake mixture on top. If you find the Nutella is too hard to spoon then you can put a few serving spoons in a saucepan and heat it gently until it softens.

Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes…they can be eaten as soon as they have cooled!

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Fairtrade Fortnight

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My daughter had some homework from nursery this weekend. Her task was to survey a local supermarket to see how well stocked they are with Fairtrade products. We then had to purchase one of the products to take in the following week, to be used for shopping games as part of Maths Week. She was very diligent in checking for every product and either ticking it off or putting a cross by it, and we seemed to generate a lot of interest from other shoppers too as we traipsed through the aisles on our search.

We discovered that certain supermarkets don’t stock a lot of Fairtrade products and I also realised how idle I have been in looking for the symbol and committing to buying these products. It’s difficult with a family to choose the more expensive options over those better priced. However, having read a little more about the different working conditions and how the Fairtrade branding helps to protect worker’s rights, I have vowed to try and buy these products as and when I can.

I tried to explain to my daughter what Fairtrade was all about, but started talking about buying prices and working conditions and she just got confused. So my husband had a go and summed it up much more succintly:

“When we buy food in the supermarket it comes from lots of different places but it is made or packaged by people who work very hard. If these people are happy in their work then it is Fairtrade, and if they are unhappy, then it’s not”

It’s perhaps a little over-simplified but certainly ample for a 4 year old’s comprehension. I’m not sure I would do it justification with a longer explanation here, but if you’d like to know more, then visit the website: http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/
For information about fairtrade fortnight, look here: http://foncho.fairtrade.org.uk/

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