Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Monster Mash - great for babies, toddlers and older kids

Ok, your kids might be off eating their body weight in sweets tonight, let's sneak in some vegetables before they go...

Quick Mulled Wine (adults only of course!)

This is a quick, one person cup of mulled wine.  The evenings are drawing in and it always seems to me that there is one person who doesn't like mulled wine too much (or insist it's a drink for Christmas only and it's only allowed in December) so this is a quick recipe without feeling like you need to make a full bottle worth.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Mini Pumpkin Pies for the Whole Family

Have you got a pumpkin you're thinking about carving?  What are you going to do with the flesh?  I have made a large pumpkin pie in the past but I wasn't totally happy with it.  I was listening to the Daily Mayo podcast the other day and they had a Mark Hix recipe for pumpkin pie.  Now this recipe is not it.  In fact it's so far from Mark Hix's recipe, it's difficult to see how I was inspired by it but inspired I was, just as I was listening I thought "I'd change that, I'd add vanilla, I'd change the sugar, I'd change the pastry, I'd make smaller versions, I'd add the spice later" so sorry Mark.  I am just someone who likes to tinker (and I wanted to make it as low in sugar as possible).

So this is what I came up with.  I should have made more pastry because I had at least 40% of the mix left so I could have made way more.  My son had his mouth full of his second tart and said "mudemmatofnaous".  

As we are trying to encourage good manners with my 2 year old I explained how he should finish his mouthful before chatting, then I said; "what where you trying to say?"

"Mummy, it delicious!"

Praise indeed!  Now the observant of you will notice this isn't sugar free as many of my baking recipes are but bearing in mind I didn't use a sweet pastry and my miscalculation with the filling there is no more than a tsp of added sugar per tart but they were still very sweet and the muscovado flavour shone through.  Trust me some yoghurts aimed at kids have far more so I don't feel too guilty.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Soda Bread with Spinach and Thyme

Despite the fact I've worked in the bakery industry, I've never made soda bread.  I've made scones which are basically a sweetened soda bread but I have no idea why I'd not made that step.

I mixed it up a bit by adding in some hidden vegetable (spinach, I do like a hidden vegetable) and some herbs.  Completely non traditional so feel free to miss them out.  I also used yoghurt when buttermilk is the traditional ingredient but not all that easy to find, at least not near me.

Soda bread relies on chemical production of carbon dioxide rather than biological methods.  Bicarbonate of soda (sodium hydrogen carbonate) produces carbon dioxide, water and some kind of salt when it reacts with an acid.  As it then cooks in the oven and the structure of the flour around it sets, the holes are captured.  That said, it's not as light as a well made sponge and dough traditional loaf but it is still good and great if you're on a thrifty mission (you can pick up bags of plain flour for peanuts) or if the cupboards are bare.

I have to be honest and say I'm not a fan of the flavour of bicarbonate of soda, I find it gives an astringency which I find off putting but I think I'm just sensitive to it.  That said, I will have a play with this recipe and see if I can reduce the bicarb or hide that flavour.  That all said, it was still pretty yummy and making bread from scratch in 45 minutes can't be bad (you're reading about someone who makes sourdough here so I believe in long bread making processes most of the time!)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

No Added Sugar Flapjacks - kid friendly

I was inspired to look again at my flapjack recipe I posted a while back by Ramshackle Mama.  I was never 100% happy with it, it's far too difficult to blend the dates for a start so I've had another look and tried a few different ingredients.  I think this is an improvement and got the thumbs up from my son and my husband.  A great and filling snack too for people trying to avoid refined carbohydrates.  Also it's possible to make it vegan by swapping the butter for margarine.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Braised Red Cabbage for the Whole Family (sugar free)

Most red cabbage recipes contain quite a lot of sugar, although they are lovely and tasty, I wanted to see if I could make a recipe without using added sugar.  The results, if I do say so myself, are pretty good and a great idea for kids.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

My favourite spinach recipes for kids!

Popeye had it right, spinach is a great and healthy food but getting it into a child is difficult right?  Nope!

I was looking through my blog recently and had a realisation that my son eats a lot of spinach.  This might be a shocking realisation to other mothers of two year olds but I'm not talking about feeding him floppy green mush alongside his sausage and mash, no, I use spinach a lot in recipes and I thought I'd share some ones I've published over the past couple of years and you might have missed.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

"Mac and Cheese" with Vegetables for the Whole Family

My son isn't well.  He's got chicken pox bless him and he's feeling grotty.  So what do I do?  I make spotty pasta with peas in it!  Poor thing.  I hope he didn't think Mummy was taking the mickey.  My thought was comforting food.

Ok, so this isn't macaroni.  I didn't have any, and I didn't have any penne to even make it look like macaroni.  But to be fair, I hate macaroni and my husband has a pathological hatred for mac and cheese.  It's a textural thing I think.  Generally I'm not a fan because it has no real nutritional value and I hate those 'healthy' mac and cheese recipes with sliced tomatoes.  Yuk.

So this isn't Mac and Cheese but it does have pasta, it does have cheese but I've changed it.  Ok, it's more of a pasta bake really but it's not a tomatoey pasta bake so it is different.

Self justification over...

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Fruity Prune Muffins

I have to be honest, prunes had too much of a healthy reputation for me to give them a go but I tried a pack of ready to eat (rehydrated) prunes recently and they are surprisingly tasty and have such big natural sweetness so I gave them a go in a muffin.

I'm not convinced this is perfected yet but my son seemed to like them.  Try to get the prune pieces small so you get a few in each mini muffin otherwise some bites won't be sweet enough.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Great kid's breakfasts

"Breakfast like a king!  Lunch like a prince.  Dine like a pauper."  My mum used to say this proverb when we were young and certainly I would agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  It's important, especially for kids, because it might be 14 hours or so since they last ate.  Kids have growing bodies and brains and that needs fuel.

It is a shocking statistic that some primary schools have 25% of pupils who arrive not having eaten breakfast, not because they are in breakfast clubs but because the home supply of food is erratic.

Some adults skip breakfast thinking they're saving calories but on the days I have done it, I always regret it.  I end up snacking instead not feeling too guilty about it because I've not had breakfast.  It's only at the end of the day I realise how many extra calories I've eaten.

What's even more surprising is if you look at some of the breakfast cereals marketed at children.  We do have some sweetened cereals in our house but a mouthful of chocolate based cereal has never passed my son's lips.  I mean, what is the point in feeding your child something like that?  Even for the cereals which aren't as sugary as you might think, why do you want to train kids to need this?  I've looked at one major brand and of the 85% carbohydrate it contains, 35% are simple sugars which will make blood sugar peak very quickly and crash back down again leaving you hungry late morning.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not always giving my son wholemeal foods but something that sugary is surely not great?

So here is my list of favourite foods for my son's breakfast and mine.  Not all of them are weekday foods, not all of them are all that virtuous but they are all yummy, interesting and made with love.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Wholemeal Apple Pancakes

They say necessity is the mother of invention, well the cupboards are a bit bare but I really fancied pancakes for breakfast so this is what I came up with.  Things are very, very tough in the Mamacook household and in the absence of someone to look after me today, sometimes you have to do a bit of looking after for yourself.

I think half and half wholemeal self raising to self raising is best but do a bit of trial and error.  Also remember wholemeal is more filling than white so you probably won't need as many as you would have had of the old pancake recipe.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Mini Yorkshire Puddings for Babies and Toddlers

Yorkshire puddings (for those outside the UK) are normally served with Sunday lunch (traditionally beef joints) to make the meat go a bit further.  They're made from a simple egg, flour and milk batter cooked in oil or dripping.  Now that might not sound that tasty to the uninitiated but it's like saying a pancake is boring, of course it isn't and it's all about what you serve it with.  I like to serve mine with a good beef stew.  For a start it's way cheaper to make a beef stew than a joint of roast beef but also there's loads of lovely gravy for soaking up with the Yorkshires.  Think about it as the English version of the French obsession of wiping their plates with bread and I think you get the idea.  It's not about the flavour of the pudding itself, it's about what you mop up with it.

Now I'm not Northern.  I can do mighty tall Yorkshires and some people might look at these and think they're a bit disappointing but they are deliberately made toddler sized.  I used a small, shallow fairy cake tin.  You can use one big tin, muffin tins, cupcake tins etc. but all of them will be bigger and so require longer cooking times so keep that in mind.  Probably not the time for silicone bakeware, apart from the fact they are often only stable up to 230oC, the idea of hot fat in a wobbly 'tin' is the stuff of nightmares.

Two rules for Yorkshires:

1.  Get the pan really really hot

2.  Once you put the pan in the oven to cook, resist the urge to take a peak until near the end of the cooking time or they will collapse.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Our Favourite Vegetarian Meals

Anyone who knows me in real life will know I'm about as far from being vegetarian as it's possible to be.  BUT I do like tasty vegetarian food and I seem to attract a surprising number of vegetarians as friends.

So, after having a bout of insomnia and reviewing some recipes there were a few I thought "oh that was great" and "I'll have to make that again" most of which were vegetarian.  So here are my top 10 meals where you really don't miss the meat...

Mutter Paneer.  I first made this for a couple of friends who came round and had a curry night.  I toned it down a touch to make it toddler friendly but a hit with even my meat loving husband.