Monday, 17 March 2014

Quick Failsafe Chocolate Brownies

Several years ago I printed out a chocolate brownie recipe that worked a treat.  Only problem was that I lost the print-out.  I tried other recipes, including some from tv chefs, but none were as good as my 'original' recipe.

To my complete delight I found the recipe about 6 months ago, and after making these twice over the weekend for my birthday Princess and assembled family members, I must now post the recipe on my blog so as never to lose it again.

Makes approximately 12 slices

100g dark chocolate
110g butter
100g sugar
100g chopped walnuts or white chocolate drops (I used white choc above)
2 large eggs
50g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven 180°C.

Line a small high sided flapjack/baking tray with greaseproof paper. 

Snap the dark chocolate into squares into a small microwave proof bowl. Add the butter and microwave for 30 seconds on high.  Stir, then microwave again for up to 30 seconds to melt the chocolate and butter.  Leave to one side.

In a larger mixing bowl, weigh out the flour, sugar, and baking powder.  Whisk with a fork then add the chopped nuts or white chocolate.

Beat the eggs thoroughly into the chocolate and butter mixture then pour this into the larger mixing bowl with the dry ingredients.  Stir in well with a spatula then scrape out into the baking tray.  Spread the mixture into the corners with the spatula.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  Turn the tray round then bake for another 10 minutes.  Take out of the oven to cool.  You can flip this out to cool by placing a clean chopping board on top of your baking tray with the hot brownies in, then carefully flipping this over.  Peel off the greaseproof paper, then put the wire cooling rack top of the upside down brownies on the chopping board and flip this back over to get your brownies back up the right way on the cooling tray.  DO NOT try to pick the brownies out of the baking tray by picking up the greaseproof paper.  I learnt to my cost that you that the brownie just crumbles into the middle!

10 minutes cooling should be enough so as not to scald the mouths of small children.



Monday, 3 March 2014

Simple Sage & Butter Pasta Sauce

I've called this a sauce, but it isn't really.  More of a coating.  But it give a lot of flavour for a little sauce!

I have seen chefy types melt butter in a pan and fry sage leaves in it.  But this is how I do it.

1 tsp dried sage per person
1 tsp salted butter per person

Melt the butter in to the hot pasta as soon as it has drained.  Crumble the sage over the pasta and mix in well.  Tuck in.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Instant Noodles with Added Leftovers

After a week of entertaining, we ended half term with a visit to my niece for her third and final party for her 7th Birthday.

The kids, all seven of them, aunts, uncles and grandma all gorged themselves on baked potatoes, a buffet lunch, and birthday cake.  So not surprisingly we weren't that interested in making dinner on Sunday night.

For just such occasions, we have instant noodles from a nearby Asian supermarket in the back of our cupboard.  Usually they are just eaten as they come, but last night Dad was concerned this might not be enough to keep him going, so he decided to extend them with some slivers of pork fillet leftover from Jamie Oliver's Seared Pork Fillet & Catherine Wheel Sausage we'd made Friday night (we gave the kids the leftover sausages with pasta for a quick Sunday tea), together with some finely sliced broccoli stalk.  These were added at the last minute,  just giving them time to warm through.  Just add extra chilli to taste!

Essentially any pack of instant noodles can be improved upon with a few vegetables and some leftover meat if you have any.  If using plainer noodles e.g. chicken or vegetable instant noodles you could add a little ginger, garlic and soy to the mix.  Or Thai curry paste.  I am reminded now that we survived a year of backpacking in our early thirties regularly eating noodles with a bit of fresh veg thrown in.  Not sure I'd care to read the ingredients on some of these packs - but don't think it has done us any harm.

Just Fennel Coleslaw

We love fennel, but I fear we are very unimaginative with it.  Until this weekend it was either blanched then grilled with olive oil and garlic, or put into a tomatoey fish stew.

But this weekend Dad suggested we did something different with it.  So I googled 'fennel recipes' and read out some of the titles.  At the third - coleslaw - he stopped me and said that was it.

I had thought we'd add a few more ingredients to our slaw, but as I entrusted all the shopping to him I was found myself making it with just fennel, and our now traditional slaw sauce taken from Jamie Oliver's Best Winter Veg Coleslaw

Serves 4 as a side

1 bulb of fennel
1 heaped tsp french mustard
1 heaped dessertspoons Greek Yoghurt (I used my homemade yoghurt!)
2 dessertspoons olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Very thinly slice the fennel.  I used the slicing attachment on a food processor.  Add the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Season to taste.

This simple coleslaw was delicious and very moreish and will feature in our eating a lot more now on!

Super Thrifty Slow Cooked Rolled Breast of Lamb

Just going into the slow cooker
Dad bought these on Friday last week as an easy evening meal for us, having catered for family and friends pretty much all of half term.  He says they were about £1 a roll, ready stuffed from our local butcher. So a Sunday 'roast' for 5 of us, with a about 1 roll left over was only £5 - and dead simple.

1 breast roll per person (more than enough)
Glass of white wine or water
1 bay leaf

Place the breast rolls end up in a slow cooker.  If you've got the time or the inclination, you could brown the outside of the rolls in a frying pan before putting them in the slow cooker.  Add a glass of liquid of your choice, put the lid of the slow cooker on and cook on High for 6-8 hours.

At the end of the cooking time, pour off the cooking juices and separate off the fat.  You can either use this as a gravy as it is, or thicken it in a sauce pan with a heaped teaspoon of cornflour mixed with a 2 teaspoons of water.  A teaspoon of redcurrant jelly would go nicely in the gravy if you have it.

As the cupboards were running a little bare from all our entertaining, we had this with large grain bulgur wheat and frozen peas.

The lamb leftovers destined to be turned into a Mediterranean Lamb and Bean Stew,  and the bulgur wheat & peas have just been put into a Moroccan Tomato Soup for my lunch for the next two days.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Adding Calories or Making Every Mouthful Matter

I am told every parent worries at some point whether their child is eating enough.

We did.  Our eldest daughter was born a very healthy 8.5lbs, but after being left blind with severe cerebral palsy within hours of birth by Group B Strep, she would scream minutes into feeds with reflux.  Her weight dropped from 75th in the Red Book at birth to 2nd around 18 weeks, and then round about 2 years old it went off the bottom of the scale.

We were advised by a Dietician at the Children's Hospital to wean her at 3 months, and get to protein as quick as we could as quite frankly fruit and vegetable purees would not give her the calories she needed. At 2 1/2 years, her consultant matter of factly said that she'd hadn't been unduly worried by her weight until now as it had at least been following it's albeit low line, but now we had to consider a gastrostomy or feeding tube - a tiny plug fitted into her stomach for us to to drip high calorie milk feeds into her overnight.

We stalled the feeding tube and redoubled our feeding efforts.  Thankfully, I enjoy cooking (although it is soul destroying to have a child reject a meal you've made 5 helpings of) and together with a photocopied sheet 'Tips for Adding Calories for Poor Feeders' I racked my brains and the supermarket shelves for high calorie ingredients for child friendly meals.

It's been slow process.  At 3 1/2 she appear back on the bottom of the chart in the pink zone, and two weeks away from the date for fitting the gastrostomy that consultant had finally insisted we make, we learnt she had put on enough weight not to need the tube.  At 5, by another cruel twist of fate she was diagnosed with Type 1 insulin dependent diabetes, so the need to keep her food intake up even when she is sick is doubly important.  But at 10 she is now 25th weight and average height for her age, and I would even dare to say my best eater.

So, three kids later, here is how I think you can add calories to even the fussiest of feeders:-

1.  Kids need Calories
If you remember one thing, remember this.  Children under 5 need calories.  Whilst 5-a-Day is a lifesaving habit to get into them as young as you can, children need fatty/high calorie food NOT 'diet' or 'low fat' meals.  But beware false friends - needing calories is not a license to let your darlings gorge themselves on sugary cakes, puddings & sweets.

2. Kids have small tummies, small appetites
Somewhere in all the reading I did on fussy eaters I remember reading that a portion size is the size of your (both child and adult) fisted hand.  Clench your fist and look at it.  It's not big is it?  Now look at your child's hand.  So, realistically a toddler only needs a heaped tablespoon of say macaroni cheese.  Not a bowl full.   I would cook a batch and freeze kiddy sized portions in shallow cream cheese tubs, yoghurt pots.

Aim to give three meals a day with small snacks (biscuits, cheese, raisins, yoghurt, crackers & butter) in between.  Spread the meals and snacks throughout the day, and don't let them fill up on juice or water 1/2-1 hour before a meal if you expect them to eat everything up.  And by all means give a snack in the evening such as a bowl or cereal or slice of toast, but if they aren't eating well in the day you will probably want to make this a really dull but filling option (Later post planned - Don't Feed the Fussiness!)

3. Make Every Mouthful Matter
So if kids need calories but can't eat that much we need to make every mouthful matter and load every spoonful with calories.

Here are some ideas to add calories:-
  • Learn to read nutritional labels on food!  Looking at the per 100g column, supermarket greek style yoghurt has 9.2g of fat per 100g meaning each spoonful is 9.2% fat.  Petit Filous is only 2.3% fat!
  • Starchy foods/Carbohydrate - For a balanced diet you should give at least one starchy food eg chapatti, pitta bread, potatoes, chips, cereals, rice or pasta at each meal.  Try also to give some starchy foods as in between meal snacks; sandwiches, crackers and breakfast cereals are useful snack foods.
  • Dairy - Try to give at least 1 pint of full fat milk, or even better Jersey or Gold Top, every day (give breast or formula milk until your child is at least 1 year old).  This can be given as a drink, on cereals, or in puddings and sauces.  Make cheese sauces or add grated cheese to savoury dishes eg omelettes, scrambled eggs, mashed potato, jacket potatoes, vegetables, beef burgers, baked beans, spaghetti etc.  Add cream or cheese to sauces, soups, cottage pie, fish pie, puddings.  And you can just add it it their portion, not yours!
  • Think fat! All fatty foods are high in calories.  Do not remove fat from meat.  Fry or roast meat, fish, fish fingers, chicken nuggets in oil to add extra fat.  Buy tinned fish eg sardines or tuna in oil rather than brine.  Avoid low fat spread.  Add butter or margarine to vegetables, potatoes or pasta.  Spread thickly on bread, toast, crackers
  • Add nuts and pulses, which are high in fats & protein, such as baked beans, lentils or tinned red kidney beans to soups and casseroles.  Puree them if needs be to hide them.  I used to add a teaspoon of ground almond to almost anything my daughter was eating - porridge, bolognaise, yoghurt, curry, fromage frais, puddings
  • Fruit & Vegetables - these are not high in calories, but are an important source of minerals and vitamins.  Give at least two portions a day.  Fruit can be served with custard, yoghurt, double cream, ice cream etc to add calories
  • Sugar - biscuits and cakes etc are high calorie because of the flour and fats used but they are also high in sugar. These are best saved as a reward or snack.  And don't forget you should be brushing your child's teeth twice a day.  The dentist reminded me last week that children shouldn't be doing it themselves until around 7 or 8 years old!
I began this blog to record what my children eat, and record 'good' food for kids.  Here is a list of meal/recipe ideas.  Some are on my blog, some aren't.  And you might want to take a look at the following labels; baby/toddler, beans & pulses, cheese, family, fussy eaters, pasta, stews & casseroles.  I post recipes my blog every week, and have a 'Fussy Eater' series of posts to do!

High Calorie Recipe Ideas

Breakfast
- Porridge
- Mashed Banana or peanut butter on Toast
- Egg & Toast Soldiers
- Banana Smoothie.  Use this recipe as a base and play around with their favourite fruits
- Homemade Pain au Chocolat
- Pancakes

Lunch
- Cheese, sardines or beans on toast
- Sandwiches; egg mayonnaise, cheese & mayonnaise 
- Baked Camembert
- Homemade Sausage Rolls
- Homemade Focaccia
- Baby & Toddler Minestrone Soup

Dinner
- Savoury Pies; Cottage Pie, Shepherd's Pie, Fish Pie, Turkey & Leek
- Cheesy Risotto
- Homemade chips with extra cheese
- Creamy Curries; Toddler Curry
- Sausages with Onion Gravy.  Serve with buttery, creamy mash
- Toad in the Hole
- Beans & Meat Stews. Try Cassoulet, Boston Baked Beans, Chilli con Carne with extra cheese (doesn't have to have chilli in)
- Cheesy creamy pasta dishes; Tortellini/Capeletti in Brodo, Creamy Tomato Sauce,  Carbonara Sauce (bacon or smoked salmon), Macaroni Cheese, Bolognaise Sauce with extra cheese, Pesto, Tuna Pasta, Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Pasta Sauce (or spread it on toast).  Try it with smoked mackerel, kippers, or sardines instead of smoked salmon. Or just plain pasta with grated cheese.
- Pizza with creme fraiche and extra cheese
- Jacket Potatoes with butter, baked beans, cheese, mayonnaise, tuna,
- Noodles & Sweetcorn

Pudding
- Rice Pudding
- Bread & Butter Pudding
- Banana with Custard
- Apple & Almond Pudding Cake 
- Sticky Toffee Pudding
- Hot Cross Buns
- Nutella Muffins
- Soft Muesli Bars

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Baby, Toddler, & Kids Cheesy Green Risotto

Making risotto in our house is man's work.  Dad always makes risotto for me and him after the kids have gone to bed, but after a risotto experiment with leeks and leftover turkey just after Christmas I thought I'd try it on the kids myself.  I did have to text Dad for weights and measures.

It helps that my kids love, what is known in this house as, Green Cheesy Rice.  So my plan for this risotto was to use the food processor to make the vegetables almost unrecognisable but with a familiar tinge.

Serves 3-4 kids

1 head swiss chard, spinach or kale
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
180g risotto rice
80g mature cheddar
100ml white wine (optional)
700ml hot stock or boiling water + stock cube
2 large knobs butter
1 tbsp olive oil

Mince the onion and garlic in the food processor and start to fry over a medium heat with the olive oil and a knob of butter.  Whilst the onion is cooking cut off the white stalk of the chard and blitz in the food processor leaving the green leaves for later.

When the onion starts to go translucent stir in the rice, and then the minced chard stalks.  When all stirred in add the wine and stir regularly whilst it bubbles away. When the wine bubbles away and the rice is in danger of sticking, add about 100ml of stock and stir and top up with stock again and again.  This process takes about 20 minutes.

Blitz the chard (kale, or spinach) leaves in the food processor.  Test the rice after about 20 minutes to check if it is cooked through and not crunchy and uncooked in the middle.  You are aiming for a slightly loose porridge texture - sticky enough to help it stay on a spoon wielded by a toddler but not so sticky it could be used to make a sand castle!

If the rice is not cooked through keep on adding hot water from the kettle and stirring and bubbling away as before, checking the rice from time to time until it is done.  When the rice is cooked, stir in the chard, cheese, and last knob of butter.  It takes a few minutes to wilt the chard and cheese and then the risotto is ready.