Thursday, 28 May 2015

Frozen yoghurt drops (or pieces)

A big fave in our family are frozen yoghurt drops (or pieces).
Master & Miss Chief think they're getting frozen sweets and I'm happy they're not being filled with sugar.

So very easy, all you need is some yoghurt or fromage frais, a freezer, and a tray or plate that can be frozen.

   The first time I did this I used a plastic plate and dolloped bits of yoghurt onto it so they were more like drops, this time I used a plastic tray and poured the yoghurt in.

Then I spread it out a bit so it was fairly flat and put it in the freezer.

Voila! Frozen yoghurt.  I broke it up into pieces and put it in a lidded tub in the freezer.  I'd like to tell you how long it would last for but in this house that equals 10 minutes after I open the tub!

Things like this that make the children happy and make me feel like I'm doing a good job are important, sometimes you need the boost.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Gingerbread Elephants

Master Chief wanted to make Gingerbread Men.  This seemed like a really good plan until I realised a vital flaw - I don't have any person shaped cutters.  I rummaged around in the baking drawer, discarding square and round cutters and managed to unearth an elephant shaped cutter.  With some trepidation I suggested we could make gingerbread elephants.... to my delight this suggestion was met with approval from the world's harshest judges - my children.
So gingerbread elephants it was.  Master Chief helped me weigh and measure the ingredients while Miss Chief had an almighty tantrum because I wouldn't let her put her hand in the toaster (yes, we're going through that stage!)
We used a recipe that I found in an old book of my Mother's, unusually I didn't have to make any substitutions as I had all the ingredients.


350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g butter
175g light soft brown sugar
1 egg
4 tbsp golden syrup


Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon together into a bowl.
Add the butter and mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
Lightly beat the egg and golden syrup together (don't worry, it will work even though it seems that the golden syrup will never leave the sides of the bowl when you first put it in).
Add this to the flour mixture and mix it until the whole thing clumps together and looks like a proper dough. 

Tip the dough out, knead it briefly until it's smooth.  
Wrap the dough in clingfim 

and leave to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. 
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Roll the dough out to a half centimetre thickness on a lightly (or thickly if you're Master Chief!) floured surface. 

Using cutters, cut out the gingerbread elephant shapes and place on the baking tray, leaving a gap between them.

I would recommend leaving a bit more of a gap than I have here as my elephants got very friendly with each other in the oven!

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. 
Leave on the tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

They were delicious, and the first ones didn't even get decorated before they were devoured.

Maybe I'll buy some people shaped cutters too, but our elephants looked really cute.

I've had a good few days, been making some decisions about life (the universe & everything).  I don't want to miss out on my babies while they're so small, I want to be there for them, I want to be at the school gates when Master Chief finishes school.  I've been running around trying to sort out breakfast club and after school club for him and what I want to do is be there to pick him up myself.  I've got a lot of thinking to do but I had my first session with a counsellor today and it's helped to clarify some things in my mind.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Beef stew - a down day recipe

It was hammering down with rain today and it seemed like it was one of those rainy autumn days again.  So, the slow cooker made another appearance.  Beef stew this time.
It was one of those "what have I got in the fridge/larder" dinners.  On this occasion I had beef, tinned tomatoes and mushrooms.  I also had half a tin of baked beans from Miss Chief's lunch of beans on toast so I thought I'd chuck them in too - it worked well!
This is the final result and it was devoured by Mr Chief, and also explored with interest by Master and Miss Chief.

Beef, cut into bite sized peices
Mushrooms (I had huge ones so I just quartered them)
1 tin of tomatoes (I used chopped toms)
Baked beans (as said, it was what was left over)
Plain four
Garlic (crushed or cut into small pieces)

What to do
Mix the flour in a bowl with some paprika (or any other herbs or spices you fancy using) and then mix the beef in until it seems coated.
Fry the beef in a frying pan for a few minutes to seal it and then bung it in the slow cooker.
Add the tin of tomatoes, the mushrooms, the beans and the garlic.  Cook on low for 6 - 8 hours (depending on your cooker).

I served it with mashed potatoes which worked well.  You could add any vegetables that you have, it'll work well but obviously taste different.

This dinner was made while I was at home, as I've recently been signed off sick due to what the doctor calls stress - I call it exhaustion but it's still being looked at.  Basically, I'm having a really hard time dealing with the constant rushing around that comes with two jobs and tow children - it's really tough at the moment.  I know there are people out there who are dealing with so much more and that makes me reluctant to face it but it would seem that I am suffering from some sort of burnout.  
I plan on writing about this honestly while sharing time saving, realistic recipes that I am serving to a very real family, I hope that it might help someone and who knows?  That someone might even be me.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Poor Man's Eggs Mornay (or diet Eggs a la Laughing Cow!!)

A quick and easy lunch/supper (which Mr Chief thinks is weird but I love) is my Poor Man's Eggs Mornay.  Eggs Mornay is a spin on Eggs Benedict using Mornay sauce (a cheese sauce) instead of Hollandaise.
I don't use Mornay sauce - I use a cheese triangle.  Classy huh?  To be exact, I use a Laughing Cow Extra Light cheese triangle.  They're only 19 calories each and if you ignore the fact that I slathered my toast with butter then it's low cal, right?

It's so easy, especially as I've got those rubber egg poacher things (I've never got the hang of the swirly water technique).

One point to remember is to oil the poachers (otherwise the egg doesn't come out and it all goes a bit wrong).  I use spray oil because I find it easier to coat the inside.  Get a pan of water boiling and then crack the eggs into the poachers and lower them gently into the water.  You don't want the water to be boiling too vigorously or the egg poachers will get flooded.  You'll know when the eggs are done as the white will turn from clear to, well, white.  While the eggs are cooking you can make the toast.  Upturn the poached eggs onto the toast and then you can add the cheese.  If you want to go for presentation (ie if you're making these for someone else!) then you could mash the cheese up a bit an dollop if on top of the eggs - as you can see, I went for the "balance the triangle precariously on top" method.

It may look a little odd but I assure you it's delicious.
I made this for myself and found that I was swatting the kids off my plate - maybe I'll make it for them too!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Orange cake

  Mister Chief is four now.  Far too grown up for my liking.  We had a conversation the other day about growing up.  He informed me that he was going to grow bigger and.

  That's how he said it, 

  "I'm going to grow bigger and".

  "And?" I said.  I expected him to say taller, or stronger, or something.

  "And bigger"  said he.

  "And?" I said.

  "And bigger"  said he.

  "And?" I said.

  "And bigger"  said he.

  "And?" I said.

  "And POP!!" he said happily.

  Still small and gorgeous then.  :-)

  A birthday party necessitates an extra special cake - but one that is pretty foolproof.  I made this cake for the first time and it worked out brilliantly.

1 thin-skinned orange (except I didn't have any oranges so I used three small "easy-peelers" instead, not sure if they were satsumas or clementines but they didn't have any pips)
275g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
275g caster sugar (except I used normal granulated sugar 'cos that's what I've got)
275g butter/marge
4 eggs (I used 5 because three of them were small, one of our chickens has only just started laying)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice (or nutmeg or something you like if you don't have mixed spice)

What to do

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 (fan 160C).
Grease and line an 8in sandwich tin (or whatever cake tin you want to use) with non-stick baking paper. 

Place the whole orange (or satsumas) in a small saucepan, cover with boiling water and boil for 30 minutes, or until soft. Leave to cool. When the orange is cold, cut in half and remove any pips.  I actually didn't leave them to cool but held them carefully and cut them as quickly as possible to try not to burn my fingers.
Roughly chop the orange and blend, including the skin, in a food processor.
Cream together the sugar and butter, then add the eggs and mix well.  Add the blended orange.
Sieve in the flour, spices and baking powder and stir until it's all really well mixed and looks smooth.  Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30-40 minutes. 
Leave to cool for a couple of minutes and then transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool down properly, peel off the baking paper when it's cool enough to handle.

Then, when it's cooled, it's time to decorate!  I let Mister Chief go crazy with some pre-shaped icing decorations in the shape of vehicles.  I was probably fooling myself to think that there would be any left - of course he used both packets.  Why wouldn't he?  I also melted some chocolate and poured it into little heart moulds, so the cake was well and truly decorated!

I forgot to get a picture of the finished cake before it was cut, but managed to snap this pic before it was all scoffed.

  And it was really yummy!  I'm planning to make another cake like this for Christmas except maybe using more spices.  I'm not going to use raisins, currents or sultanas though - they are evil ex-fruit.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Cauliflower cheese

It's half term soon and I'm making plans for keeping everyone sane.  The usual venues tend to be ridiculously crowded (which, quite personally, is filling me with dread for next year when Master Chief will be at school and the only time we can go to Sealife, soft play, etc will be the busy times) and also we're pretty skint.  It's the end of October so trips to the park are possible but not for as long as in the summer.  Wet woods walks are always a winner, followed by a bath and hot chocolate.  Mmmm.  Lovely idea.  The reality is sharing a bath with two wriggly splashing toddlers and either necking the hot chocolate so quickly it burns my mouth or finding it cold an hour later!

The colder, darker days are also luring me to comfort food.  So I remembered an old family favourite that I haven't made for months.  Cauliflower cheese, easy to make, a hit with the kids, hurrah for that then.

1 large cauliflower
500ml milk
4 tbsp flour
50g butter
100g cheddar, grated

What to do
Heat the oven to 220C / Gas Mark 7.
Take the cauliflower leaves off and break the white bits into pieces.
Get a large saucepan, half fill it with water and heat it on the hob until it's boiling.  Put the cauliflower in and boil it for about 5 minutes.  Drain the cauliflower and then put it in a large ovenproof dish or tray.
Put the milk, flour and butter in the empty saucepan and whisk while heating until it's really well mixed and is bubbling nicely.  Turn of the heat and stir in most of the cheese (leave a small handful for sprinkling over the top).
Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower and scatter a bit of cheese on top.

Then stick the dish in the oven for about 20 minutes.  When it looks done take it out and sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top, it'll melt on and give a really cheesy smell and taste.

Eat.  I'd recommend waiting until it cools a bit but I often burn my mouth because I don't wait so who am I to preach?  You'd think I'd learn.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Really easy bolognese

So, I used to write about stuff here, in this blog.  Then, the summer holidays hit us and I found I was overtaken in a world of holiday activities, trying to keep sane, soothing a teething toddler (those ghastly molars!) and dealing with loads of other stuff.  We lost a family friend, she was taken from us by cancer.  It hit us hard.  Maybe I'll write about that some other time.
I have also been involved a lot in a local funding bid to bring a lot of money into the area for pregnancy and the early years, really exciting stuff, so that's involved time and effort.
Excuses, excuses.  I'm back now and hoping to get going again.
So, teething.  How unfair is teething?  Lots of pain, lots of tears and sleepless nights.  I'm still breastfeeding and that seems to be the only thing that comforts Miss Chief.  I am trying to eat healthy and lose some weight but I need to focus more on cooking and not just groaning "Let's get a takeaway" as we sink into the couch after the ninth trip upstairs.
I've been using the slow cooker a lot more, both Master and Miss Chief seem to accept these meals as edible.  I don't like mince but I've been making some meals for the rest of the family and they are going down well.  Here's a  very simple bolognese recipe that can be made quite quickly and was yummed up.  This would feed four adults or make a lot of portions for small people. 

The pirate plate is optional.  This is Mr Chief's portion because he's trying to stay off carbs but I made pasta to go with it as well.

Mince, any type (I used a 500g pack minced beef but turkey or lamb will do just as well)
Peppers, chopped (I used a yellow pepper because that's what I had in the fridge)
Onions, chopped (I used 2 red onions)
Mushrooms, chopped (I used 3 large ones)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Mixed herbs

What to do
Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan.  Bung in the mince and stir it round, breaking it up, until it's all browned, then add the peppers, onions and mushrooms.  Stir round for a bit until they seem a bit softer and then pour in the tomatoes.  Stir until everything is really well mixed and then sprinkle on some mixed herbs and stir them in.
That's it really.  Just leave it bubbling gently away for a while, stirring it occasionally .  A while can be ten minutes while you make tomorrow's lunches or half an hour/an hour while you persuade the children that sleep really IS an option.  As long as it's on a low, gentle heat then it should be fine.
Alternatively, you can fry up the mince and veggies and then chuck them in the slow cooker with the tomatoes and herbs and leave it to do it's stuff.
Cook some pasta and then serve it all up with an enormous glass of wine.  Or water, whatever's your poison.