Most Saturday’s I’m left on my own with the children for the afternoon whilst hubby goes off to play rugby. Yes, it is quite annoying especially when I have been looking after the kids all week, but I know he really needs to do it. He works hard with long hours and a fair bit of stress so an afternoon of rugby is the perfect tonic for him. He comes back in such a good mood, even if he is injured or they lost the game which, even though I hate to say it, does make being a rugby widow worth it. Now, I know what you are all thinking…what a wonderful wife I am! And I have to agree with you all there 😉
I digress, back to Saturday afternoons! I don’t normally take the kids out because I think after a hectic week, it’s good to have a bit of time at home, plus with three of them to organise, a whole stack of energy is required to get out the door. So I look for something we can do at home and quite often we will get our aprons on and prepare to create a baking masterpiece…well that’s what my girls like to think anyway. This week we had the baking activity already planned because thanks to my new twitter pal Iris from Baked By Me (@bakedbymeuk) I had a Easter cookie jar on the side waiting to be used.
Baked by Me is a new business set up just a month ago. Iris tells me that she loves baking and wanted to share the joy with everyone and so Baked by Me was born. I greatly admire people who have the energy and courage to turn their dreams into reality, and I am thrilled that we got to try out some cookie mix.
The jar arrived in a cute little box and when I opened it up I was impressed with the look and feel. There were some nice touches too, a little hand written note, a fluffy Easter chick and gorgeous ribbon around the jar.
The first job for my four year old was to dig out all the mini eggs, and I could tell that she really enjoyed doing this. It was like a little treasure hunt digging in the sand for gold.
I thought there would maybe be 10 or so eggs hiding but they just kept on coming until we had a whole bowl full!
Then we needed to mix up some egg and butter, which was the only two ingredients I provided. Next, another good job for my four year old, we had to tip the dry ingredients from the jar into the mixing bowl.
After a couple minutes of mixing, we had the most delightfully smelling chocolate cookie dough. In fact I had to pause the proceedings whilst my girls filled their airways with chocolate.
As soon as they come out, the mini eggs go on, another enjoyable part for the girls, and then they are ready to eat. And what a lovely treat they were. Especially nice still warm and gooey from the oven.
It was a super activity and great for me not to have to weigh everything out. If you are looking for an alternative Easter gift this would be a fun option to consider. I might order a job lot and have them on standby for birthday presents. My girls seem to go to a party almost every weekend!
Take a look at the IBaked by Me website to see the whole range. The cost for a cookie mix jar from Baked By Me is between £8.80 and £9.80.
I wish Iris all the best with her new venture.
Disclaimer- I do not work for Baked By Me nor did not get paid to write this review.
After a very exciting day filming Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard yesterday, I came back to earth with a bit of a bump this morning. The school run was freezing, the washing mountain piled high and my baby boy not well at all. I still have a big smile on my face though and am so pleased that I went for it and enjoyed the experience. I feel even more inspired about my baking, which is amazing really given how much I loved it before. So today, to help with the reality blues I decided that a bit of baking was in order .
On Australia Day last week one of my Australian friends posted a picture of her lamingtons on Twitter and ever since I have been thinking about them. I have made them quite a few times before, but not for a while. If I had a Pinterest account I might have posted pictures of lamingtons on there, but I don’t (yet) so I made a mental note instead.
Lamingtons are essentially a plain sponge cut into squares, covered in chocolate and sprinkled with desiccated coconut. It’s not just any old sponge though, it is a sponge that is mostly eggs and flour, with a little bit of sugar and butter. The result is a sturdier sponge, (needed for the cutting into neat squares and then dunking in chocolate) that tastes amazing. A bit like a sponge/biscuit combo. The only thing that I can think of that compares is those little sponge fingers you can buy to make the base of your trifle with, except this sponge is not as crunchy as those by a long way.
There is no getting away from the fact that decorating lamingtons is a messy affair. Once dunked they need somewhere to ‘drip dry’ and the best place is on a cooling rack. My eldest daughter helped me with ours this evening. We had a lot of fun. It’s a great interpretation of messy play. As long as you don’t mind the licking of fingers, which will happen, my advice is to get stuck in and enjoy.
I should also mention that I have a special friend who moved to Australia last April for 3 years. I’m so proud of her for getting stuck into the Australian lifestyle and coping amazingly well with the change. So these cakes and this post is especially for Emily. I hope she makes some and can enjoy them too.
The recipe I use for reference is from Tanya Ramsay’s cookbook, Real Family Food’ (pg 224). I have made a few alterations for example, less chocolate icing because I had a fair bit left over when I made it to Tanya’s recipe, but that’s just my opinion. For tea time treat life saver, try making double the amount of sponge and freezing the extra squares until needed and icing them once defrosted.
What you will need
- 3 eggs
- 75g caster sugar
- 125g self raising flour
- 25g cornflour
- 3 tbsp hot water
- 25g unsalted butter, melted
For the chocolate icing
- 250g icing sugar
- 40g cocoa
- 7g unsalted butter, melted
- 110ml milk
- 25g desiccated coconut for sprinkling on top
Makes 16 squares
- Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
- Lightly grease a medium rectangle shaped tin (approx 18cm x 23cm) and line with greaseproof paper
- Mix the eggs together in a large bowl until thick and creamy and then add the sugar and mix until dissolved
- Sieve in the flour and cornflour, then add the water and butter and mix with until smooth
- Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 30 mins. Place on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Trim off any golden edges and then cut into medium sized squares. Though you might want to cut into smaller squares if you are making this mostly for kiddie consumption, or even use a cookie cutter for fun shapes, (although there will be some excess sponge with this option)
- For the chocolate icing sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl, add the milk, water and butter and stir together until smooth. Then, put the bowl over a pan of hot water and stir again until silky and glossy. Add a dash more milk if you think it is looking a bit thick or stiff.
- Use a fork to hold the sponge squares and dunk into the chocolate icing until completely covered. Pull out and let it drip for a few seconds over the bowl and then place on a cooling rack and sprinkle with the coconut. Leave to set and then tuck in. These are best eaten on the day you make them but can be kept for up to 3 days in an airtight container. As the letter for the first ever AlphaBake blog challenge is ‘L’ it would be rude not to enter this blog post. The Alpha Bake challenge is hosted this month by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker blog. Ros shares the hosting of this challenge with Caroline from Caroline Bakes blog. Looking forward to seeing all the other entries.
This week has been quite exciting. The people at Bakingmad.com were looking for food bloggers to take part in a new year healthy baking challenge. Always up for a challenge, especially a baking one I got in touch and they sent me a list of low calorie baking recipes and asked me to choose one to make and review. So I picked low calorie blueberry muffins because I was interested to see if a low calorie version would be just as good as the real thing.
A link to the recipe I used is here.
A few days later the postman knocked on my door and gave me a little cardboard box. Inside was a packet of Allinson’s nature friendly flour and packet of Silver Spoon half spoon sugar. When reading the small print on the packs I was pleasantly surprised at the reasons why the flour is branded nature friendly. It uses conservation grade wheat which is where farmers actively manage their farmland to promote bio-diversity and conditions where wildlife can flourish. I like the sound of that. But reading the back of the silver spoon half spoon sugar pack I was a bit disappointed to see that it contained artificial sweetener. Not something I really like to use if I’m honest, but then there is half the sugar required in this recipe to a normal blueberry muffin recipe (I checked) and so that is quite a bonus especially if you are on the dreaded new year diet.
So today was the day I decided to complete the challenge. I set everything up and called my 6 year to see if she wanted to help. There is no electric mixer involved, just a little whisking and stirring, so she could pretty much do everything, which I think she found very rewarding. She took ages putting the batter in the cases and it was lovely to see her take care to do it properly and really get into the task.
They came out of the oven looking beautiful. Nicely risen with a few gorgeous purple blueberries bubbling at the surface. And I have to say they tasted pretty good too! They would certainly hit the mid afternoon ‘snack attack’ spot and I definitely did not feel quite as guilty eating one of these in comparison to a normal muffin or slice of cake. Might even pack one in my gym bag tomorrow as a treat for afterwards. I’m going to freeze a few too as I think they would be nice as an alternative to breakfast at some point in the week, especially if I’m running late and need breakfast on the go. My 6 year old loved them! She came through to the kitchen after eating one and said they were delicious! This is quite a compliment as she has a sweet tooth, so I guess she did not notice the fact that these had a lot less sugar in which is great.
Overall, I would say these are a quick and easy muffin recipe which is certainly worth a try. Next time I’m tempted to swap the flour to wholemeal self raising and to try it with the same amount of normal sugar to see how that tastes and turns out. Anyone gets there before me let me know.
Disclaimer- I do not work for Baking Mad nor did not get paid to write this review.
So it is back to school tomorrow for my eldest. I have loved having all of my children at home throughout the holidays and not having to do a school run is bliss, especially in the current windy and rainy weather. However, I think we are all ready to get back into the school routine. My girls have been bickering more than usual the last few days and I think it is because they have seen rather a lot of each other recently.
I’m lucky in a way because I don’t have to think about packed lunches at the moment. My eldest daughter has school dinners and my middle daughter is home from pre school in time to have lunch with me every day. This does not save me the chore of cooking a hot meal for them in the evening though because I know that the school dinner is not consistently eaten and I have to do a hot meal for the rest of the family in any case. So the norm each day is for my eldest to come home pretty hungry. I can tell within 5 mins of collecting her whether or not she has eaten well at lunch time or not by the mood she is in. It’s quite simple:
Bad = little hot lunch or sandwiches eaten
Good = most of hot lunch eaten (normally only on a Friday when its fish and chips)
I can’t say I blame her. I get in a bad mood too if I am hungry, so when we get home an after school snack is most definitely needed to save the otherwise inevitable melt down. I want to try and provide something relatively healthy and avoid anything loaded with sugar or other baddies as this ends up making matters worse. Over excited children after school – not good. One of their favourites is a chocolate and banana marbled loaf cake that is so easy to make you could probably do it with your eyes shut, and that is no exaggeration! It is also an excellent way to use up over ripe bananas or indeed half eaten bananas (with mushy end cut off obviously) which always seem to be hanging around my house. The list of ingredients is simple too, and I’d be surprised if you needed to buy much. I normally get at least one child involved in the making too. It’s a very good kiddie friendly recipe and they will be pleased as punch with the result. It is easy to eat, beautifully moist and perfect just by itself . When I give this cake to my children I feel good for two reasons; a) it has fruit in it, b) I made it, so I know exactly what they are eating. I should also mention that after a long day with the kids, this tastes amazing with a cup of tea.
What you will need:
- 225g self raising flour
- 100g butter, room temperature and cut into small cubes
- 100g caster sugar
- 350g (peeled weight) banana, mashed
- 2 large eggs
- 20g cocoa powder
- Small loaf tin, greased
How to make:
- Pre heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
- Put all the ingredients apart from the cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl and combine with an electric mixer until a thickish cake batter is formed
- Put half the mixture into a separate bowl. Sieve the cocoa powder into one half and fold in with a large metal spoon
- Pour the chocolate cake batter back into the first bowl and fold the two batters together very gently, just 3-4 turns should do it so that a marble effect is created.
- Transfer the batter into the cake tin, gently smooth over the top and place in the oven for about 50 mins until a knife comes out cleanThis loaf cake should also do nicely for Karen and Kate’s January Tea Time Treats Challenge, which this month is sweet pastries and bread.
I’ve got a really good feeling about 2012. It’s a gut feeling, and I know to trust those so its quite exciting. The last couple of years in particular have been quite hectic with moving house, having baby number three and all the usual family of five shenanigans! But this year I’m planning on enjoying my gorgeous little family without any major upheaval (I hope) and focusing on settling ourselves further into our new life in Kent. This might also be the year that I can spend a bit of time doing something for myself. Wow, did I actually just write that?! Having spent the last six years either pregnant or with a newborn attached to me I’m just not used to this idea. But with my girls getting increasingly busy social lives (even at 6 and 4) and my youngest entering the world of toddler independence I see a small space opening up for me. So what are my goals/resolutions/plans for 2012? Here is my list:
- Exciting plans for my blog – seems appropriate to mention my blog first. It has quite simply been amazing for me. I have my brother to thank really as he sent me the following quote when I was considering whether to start it or not. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.’ Steve Jobs. Planning, baking and writing for my blog has become such a highlight to my week. I’m starting to make friends with other bloggers which I did not expect but is a fantastic bonus. I have also been totally inspired by other blogs. Truffle trees, mincemeat bread and butter pudding and blog challenges to name a few. So my plan is to continue writing and build up more readership in the process. This might be a good time to ask you my readers for a bit of help. If you enjoy my blog do consider sharing a link to it on your Facebook page, liking my Facebook page, telling your friends about me or tweeting a link to my blog. All these small acts make a massive difference to me, and I will send you a virtual hug in return. Thanks to all those who have done this already. The great news is that I have lots of exciting ideas planned for my blog (with help from family and friends) and I look forward to sharing these with you throughout the year.
- Spend at least 30 mins a day playtime with my children – need to put my blinkers on to everything else around me (e.g. huge pile of never decreasing washing) and play, or it will be too late and they will be off with their friends and it will be seriously uncool to play with their mum.
- Regular date nights and at least one weekend away with my hubby – at times we are like ships in the night both exhausted at the end of the day. But we are soul mates and could not do what we do on our own. I’m looking forward to this one.
- Keep up current fitness – I like being fit and have worked hard to achieve it, so just need to keep on booking those spinning classes!
- Continue to work hard on my counselling course – something that I have been working at for the last 18 months and about the same to go again.
- Get green fingers – my Mum helped me grow some vegetables last year and this year I want to do most of it myself and grow lots of new things. Going to be out in the garden loads!
- Add three feathered friends to our family- just got to encourage hubby to finish the pen and then we can provided a home for three lucky ladies. Picture shows construction of the hen house last year.
- Curb the sweet tooth – OK maybe a bit ambitious especially as baking is my thing, but at least think of ways to reduce sugar where possible.
No added sugar fruity flapjacks. Fabulous way to use up any dried fruit or nuts you have lying around after Christmas. Feel free to substitute any of the fruit and nuts in my recipe other than the dates (as these are what help to stick it together). I had a good old dig around in my cupboard and found all the ingredients already there. This is a great mid morning snack for you (oats = low GI) and they will fill you up nicely. They are also excellent for your children’s lunch box or after school. These are beautifully soft and chewy in texture. Mine were a bit crumbly around the edges, which I think adds to the appeal. But do make sure you wait until tin has completely cooled to get them out and do so quite carefully.
What you will need:
- 150g reduced fat butter – I used Lurpack lighter
- 150g ready to eat, soft stoned dates
- 5 tbsp apple juice
- 50g roasted chopped hazelnuts
- 50g raisins
- 50g dried cranberries
- 3 dessert apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
- 225g porridge oats
- 17.5 cm square tin greased and lined with baking paper
How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
- Put dates and apple juice in food processor and whizz until mostly smooth. It does not matter if there are a few lumps
- Put all of the dry ingredients plus the chopped apple into a mixing bowl
- Melt butter in pan over heat and add the date mixture
- Add butter and dates to the bowl of other ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until nicely incorporated
- Spoon mixture into the baking tray and press down either with your hands or the back of the spoon. Bake for 20-25 mins
- Once out leave to cool for 10 mins, then cut out squares with knife whilst flapjack still in the tin, then leave until it has completely cooled before you take your flapjack squares out. I used a fish slice to get under them and lift them out
- Enjoy without any guilt what so ever!
Well, as my current bit of male eye candy Michael Bublé likes to say, ‘it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!’ As I write it is snowing, the children break up from school later and we are off to see a Christmas movie this afternoon. I’ve been preparing for Christmas this year since October, but it still seems to have come round very quickly. I’m feeling relatively under control though. My list for the next week is long but manageable. I’ve only got the truffles to make for my Christmas hampers and then I can wrap them up and make them look pretty with lots of ribbon and sparkle. Looking forward to that. Also, my freezer is now full of yummy seasonal treats and dinners. It has certainly been a bit of a mission to achieve this but one I have thoroughly enjoyed.
For this recipe I got my children totally involved. It lends itself perfectly for the assistance of little ones. I baked the biscuits and then one day after school this week I melted the chocolate, got all the sprinkles out of my cupboard, and let them decorate. My girls have now proudly dispatched their biscuits to a number of lucky recipients. I love to watch their little faces as they get thanked for their thoughtful gift.
Lebkuchen is a traditional German biscuit and I see it as the ‘adults gingerbread’. It is just a little bit more sophisticated than its child favoured cousin. Children will still love this but adults especially might enjoy lebkuchen. Something different to have with a mug of steaming mulled wine maybe?
I have taken the basis of this recipe from the book ‘Gifts from the Kitchen’ by Annie Rigg, but as you might expect, have added a couple of little extras. The main one being a larger quantity of orange zest to give these a lovely citrus kick. I have also covered mine in chocolate rather than an icing glaze. The reason for this is because I think melted chocolate is a bit easier for the children to use and because we just love chocolate in our house.
What you will need:
- 3 tbsp clear honey
- 4 tbsp black treacle
- 50g unsalted butter
- 75g dark muscovado sugar
- 225g self raising flour
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- pinch ground allspice
- 50g ground almonds
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- zest of one orange
- 50g of dark and white chocolate for covering the biscuits
- 1/2 tsp orange essence
- Selection of sprinkles
Makes about 30 biscuits but depends on size
How to make:
- Melt the honey, treacle, butter and sugar in a pan over low heat. Stir until smooth and leave to cool
- Measure all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, make a well and add the orange zest then add the egg and the melted mixture
- Stir briskly with a wooden spoon until a dough forms
- Wrap dough in cling film and chill in fridge for about 2 hours until firm
- Preheat oven to 180c/350f/gas 4 and line two baking trays with parchment paper
- Lightly dust your work surface with flour and roll out dough to about 1cm thickness. Cut out Christmas shapes and place on baking tray a little distance apart
- Bake for between 10-15 mins until firm and even in colour
- Cool on wire rack
- Melt both dark and white chocolate in separate bowls over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the orange essence to the dark chocolate to make it chocolate orange flavour
- When biscuits are cooled, ‘paint’ on the chocolate. We used a silicone pastry brush and it was really easy for the children to use and also for me to clean afterwards – LOVE the silicone pastry brushes!
- Sprinkle what decorations you have over the biscuits and cool in the fridge
The final thing to say, but by no means least is that this blog post with the inclusion of chocolate and orange makes it a perfect entry into the “We Should Cocoa” blog challenge run by Choclette from the blog Chocolate Log Blog and Chele from Chocolate Teapot.