Ice Lollies

July 5, 2011

We have been making these for a few years now, they are particulary popular in summer but my kids will eat them all year round, I like them as it increases their fruit intake and is a sneaky way to get the BBB (Beyond the Best Before) fruit eaten.

I got the moulds a few years ago from Ikea, I assume they still do them, I like these as the shape makes it pretty easy to release the lollies from the moulds (just warm them in your hand and give the ‘stick’ a wiggle) and are a pretty good size (not too big) also the shape of the ‘stick’ holds the lolly even when good and melty, so no hysterical children crying over a pile of fruit slush on the floor!

I basically make a fruit smoothie to freeze into lollies and use whatever I have to hand but they all have a banana as a base fruit (they make the lollies less ‘ice cube solid’) and apple juice to thin out the mix. Today we used up some strawberries that were past their firmness, but I ususally keep some frozen mango and raspberries in the house and use them from frozen. (I quite like sainsbury’s basics frozen fruit salad for good value.) The girls get involved by putting the lolly moulds in the holder, peeling the banana, tasting the fruit, helping to hold the bender and popping the sticks into the poured mixture.

The banana, soft/frozen fruit and a good glug of apple juice all go in a measuring jug and get blitzed up with the hand blender, with the secret ingredient – a splash of undiluted no added sugar squash. This makes the mixture super sweet and the finished lollies more like the bought ones, (have you ever drunk melted calipo?) but without the sugar.

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Hot Cross Buns

April 20, 2011

We are off to my mum’s for Easter Weekend and to contribute to the festivities I thought we could take along some homemade Hot cross Buns. I have made them before but this year I tried a new receipe, its in Nigella’s Feast book. It starts off with melting 150g butter with 150ml milk (I popped this in the microwave for 1 and half mins) with a clove (I used 4) 2 cardamom pods (I didn’t have any) and zest of one orange (I didn’t have any oranges in either so substituted this for a few dried orange peels – my aunt made these and gave them to me ages ago, I usually use them in paella) When this has cooled to blood temp, I popped it in my breadmaker with 400g bread flour a sachet of dried yeast, a tsp cinnamon, some grated nutmeg (probably another tsp), a pinch of ground ginger, 125g sultanas and an egg and set the whole lot off on a dough mix. Nigella mixes hers by hand and leaves it to rise in the fridge overnight.

When it was done, I knocked back the dough and by halfing the mixture again and again made 16 roughly equal balls and laid them on greasproof paper in baking tins. In retrospect they stuck pretty badly to the paper and when I have done these before I have just greased and floured the tins and they came out fine! Then  I cut crosses into the tops of the buns and left them to rise again – they didnt do much. But after 45mins I brushed them with egg yolk and made a paste with plain flour, water and sugar and ‘drizzled’ the paste into the cross shape grooves in the buns.

I baked them at 220 degrees C, then took them out – spending some time prizing them off the paper, then brushed them with a 50/50 mix of vanilla sugar and boiling water, Nigella doesn’t specify vanilla sugar but I popped an empty vanilla pod (after you have scraped out the seeds for another receipe) into a jar of golden sugar, a couple of weeks ago.

I have had a taste and they are pretty good, but a bit dense, I think I preferred the recipe I used last year but I’ll wait another year before making them again and will probably forget. Martha did try and help me with these, her job was rolling the little balls, but she remembered that she doesn’t like Hot Cross Buns and disappeared leaving me to do them on my own.

Happy Easter!

Star Chart

February 9, 2011

In the post-christmas and birthday come down, Martha in particular has had the naughties, I have tried to guide her need for attention onto a more desirable path but that does not seem to be working, so its time for a new star chart. We have used these before to help encourage better behavior so am giving another one a go.

We have always sat down and made our star charts, this way we can discuss the reasons for it, and decide together on visual representations of the good behaviors and what treat she can have after her set number of stars (10 in this case, and she wants go swimming!). Alice is included in this one for the first time, I am quite sure she hasn’t got a clue whats going on, but I don’t want Martha to feel singled out and Alice loves anything to do with stickers.

I use a big piece of lining paper and we draw out a big square with a black wax crayon, then subdivide it into the relevant number of boxes. The things I would like Martha to do at the moment are; trying to be polite, by remembering to say please and thank-you, so this is represented by the words please and thank-you and a smiley face. Listening to mummy, (I find myself repeating the same questions on a loop at the moment), so we drew an ear. Not pulling an angry face and stamping her feet if I say something she doesn’t like (if looks could kill I would be 6 feet under by now), so we drew an angry face and two feet in a circle with a line through it – Martha is slightly obsessed with signs at the moment and tells me the rules for everywhere we go, at the petrol station for example, I am told that I can’t use my phone and children cannot use the petrol pumps. I want her to start doing things quickly when I ask her to do them, like put on her pajamas at bedtime, or her shoes so we can get to nursery, so we drew a clock. And finally we drew two open hands to represent sharing – particularly with her sister. Then we got out the little solid paints and coloured it all in. I don’t worry about the quality of my drawing, she remembers what all the pictures mean anyway, sometimes we decorate around the star chart with pictures to remind her of her chosen treat. The watery solid paints do not cover over the wax crayon. When it was dry we stuck it up on their bedroom door so we can stick star stickers (bought from Ryman’s stationery shop some time ago) in the appropriate boxes at bedtime.

We are three days in already and although she has a few stars for doing things quickly and saying please and thank-you she still needs to work on listening and sharing, but it does look like I’ll be fishing out my swimming costume at the weekend!

Butterfly Cakes

January 20, 2011

Martha saw Mr Tumble had a butterfly cake on cbeebies this morning and I was asked if we could make them, here they are. Complete cheat, of course. I had a pack of sainsbury’s basics sponge mix, in the cupboard (22p!) we followed the instructions on the packet, adding the water and the egg, then we put them into my new silicone cake cases (thank- you Father Christmas) and baked them for 15mins.

When they were cool, we mixed some cream cheese icing – New Year healthy lifestyle means I didn’t have any butter for buttercream, but did have a tub of light Philadelphia. We mixed this with icing sugar, a couple of drops of vanilla and  some pink food colouring (my other colours are starting to get a bit dusty!). The we cut small discs out of the top of the cakes and filled the hole with the cream cheese icing, cut the cake disc in half and put the 2 pieces back in as butterfly wings and then sprinkled the icing with some pink glitter sugar. Much more girly than Mr Tumble’s, but properly tasty!

Princess Birthday Cake

January 12, 2011

It was Martha’s birthday at the end of last year, 4 years old, its unbelievable how quick its gone! So it was birthday cake time – just what we needed 3 days after christmas. The doll came from a charity shop for the purpose of becoming a cake decoration so I didn’t feel too bad about snapping her legs off and giving her a good wash. I made a good old ‘Betty Crocker’ Devils Food Cake in two different size cake tins, one was 15cm cake tin and the other 23cm, when cool I sandwiched them onto of one another, with vanilla buttercream and carved it into a dome/crinoline skirt shape (although to get the skirt shape you could always use the flower pot trick from my ‘sandcastle cake’ post and trim off the sharp edges). I covered this in more buttercream then cut a small hole to sit my doll torso into the cake. I rolled out some sainsbury’s ‘ready to roll’ icing, dyed pink (of course) with some pink food colouring, into a large circle and cut a hole in the middle and sliced the icing from the hole to the edge to allow me to wrap the icing round the skirt with the hole for the doll to stick out and neatened up the seam of the skirt at the back. I trimmed the icing from the hem of her skirt, and with the trimmings covered the dolls chest to make a little strapless bodice for her dress. Then using a piping bag an nozzle decorated the dress with the buttercream coloured slightly darker pink. I gave her a bracelet and necklace with the buttercream too, and 4 blobs of icing on the cake plate stuck the candles down.

Martha was very pleased with her pink princess cake and even though we ate loads of it we still had so much food left over from Christmas that the leftovers were given to the staff at her nursery for a teatime treat.

Advent Calendar

November 30, 2010

Its the 1st of December tomorrow! So its time to get the wooden, little drawer, advent calendar out from the loft. Its kinda cute, I got it from Great Little Trading Company a few years ago (http://www.gltc.co.uk/). I like that I can fill it with whatever takes my fancy, although its really the Christmas fairies that put the treats in! Previous years have set up the expectation that each drawer has at least a chocolate coin and a sticker each. In previous years I have made the stickers by printing free online, Christmas clip art onto address labels. However this year I was super organised, last Christmas I picked up some discounted stickers in Early Learning Centre (http://www.elc.co.uk/) and packed them away with the calendar for this year- I know I even impressed myself.

However the night before I know we are going to do something like making Christmas cards or decorations I might pop a tube of glitter into the drawer for the girls to find in the morning.

We also usually keep the chocolate coin foil and use them to decorate a painting of a Christmas tree, adding a few pieces of foil a day until its all covered and sparkly – I will make a post about this soon.

Gingerbread Family

November 29, 2010

This week we made gingerbread. We have quite a collection of cutters these days, some came in baking kits, some were hand-me-downs and I think I bought the classic ‘man’ shape, anyways we now have enough that Martha can choose what she wants to make and this week she decided to make ‘daddys’, ‘mummys’, ‘little girls’ and ‘babies’, just like her family. I use a tweaked Delia Smith reciepe for the dough, as it is very tasty, easy to make and work with and fluffs up enough in the oven to hide all the little finger dents.

Put 75g Dark Brown Sugar, 3 tbsp golden syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 or 2tsp ground ginger into a saucepan. (I like them quite spicy so I use 2tsp ginger.) Bring all this to boiling point stirring all the time so that all the sugar has melted and its a smooth ‘sauce’. Add 95g butter cut up into cubes, this should melt easily into the hot sugar mix. Then add half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda and 225g plain flour. Mix it all up until in comes together as a dough, this is easy enough to do by hand as its all hot and sticky. Spread out a piece of clingfilm on a surface and tip the very soft dough mix onto it and wrap it up, then put this in the freezer for  15 mins. Chilling it down stiffens up the sugar and syrup again making a manageable dough. I have also made up large quantities of this dough and frozen it at this stage taking out lumps of it as required.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Roll out the dough to about 5mm thick, adding more flour if its still a bit soft making sure you have plenty of flour on the surface and the rolling pin. Then cut them out and place them on a lined baking sheet, I use ‘bake o glide’ re-useable non-stick sheets. We decorated our gingerbread family with some raisins and cut up glace cherries, but you can use whatever you want/have in the cupboard dried fruits, smarties etc, or decorate them with icing when they are cooked. Bake them for 10-15 mins or until they start to colour slightly at the edges, you don’t want them to brown too much as they are best when still slightly soft in the middle. Let them cool on the trays and stiffen up to proper biscuits before taking them off to cool completely. Make a cup of tea/cup of milk and enjoy!