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Christmas Food Inspiration 2013

There’s only a few more sleeps until Father Christmas comes and if you’re in need of some inspiration here are some cute (and easy) ideas you can still make.

And if you still need more inspiration, check out my ideas from last year.

Cute Food for Kids' Santa BelliesSo simple yet instantly recognisable, Cute Food for Kids created these very jolly Santa bellies from babybels. Check the link for other cute ideas.

Gourmet Mum's Chocolate Truffle Christmas PuddingsThe lovely Gourmet Mum’s Chocolate Truffle Christmas Puddings are so sweet and would also make adorable edible gifts.

Mummy Mishaps' Malteser Rocky Road Xmas PudOn a larger scale, Mummy Mishaps’ Malteser Rocky Road Xmas Pud would be a wonderful alternative to Christmas pudding.

Annabel Karmel's Baked Potato SnowmanAnnabel Karmel’s Baked Potato Snowman is a very cute kids’ meal you can easily adapt with your little one’s favourite filling.

Annabel Karmel's Mini Hot Dog Christmas Wreath

The Mini Hot Dog Christmas Wreath is another Annabel Karmel creation and would be perfect for a Christmas or Boxing Day buffet.

Smoked Bacon and Courgette Pasta

This quick and easy pasta dish, ideal for the whole family, is another recipe from Annabel Karmel’s latest book which I reviewed a little while ago.

Annabel Karmel macaroni, bacon and courgette pasta

The original recipe uses macaroni, but any short type of pasta such as penne or farfalle would work well. It also uses crème fraîche, which can easily be substituted with Greek yogurt or even soured cream if you don’t have it on hand.

The book says this dish is suitable for freezing. It’s not clear if it means you can freeze the whole dish or just the sauce. Either way I’m always dubious about freezing crème fraîche or yogurt when mixed with other ingredients as they have a tendency to separate (the water from the dairy product separating when frozen). I’ve never thought about freezing pasta (and I think Italian hubby would be horrified!). Has anyone tried it?

Nicholas is thankfully going through a slightly better period with vegetables (fingers crossed it lasts!), but he still picked out a lot of the courgette/zucchini. If you’re feeding this to a fussy eater, dice the veg as small as you can.


Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes 1 adult and 2 toddler servings

150g pasta (any short type like penne, macaroni, farfalle or orecchiette)
3 thick sices smoked bacon, diced
2 small courgettes/zucchini, diced
1 tomato, deseeded and diced
2 tbsp snipped fresh chives
3 tbsp crème fraîche (or Greek yogurt)
50g parmesan, grated
salt and pepper (optional)

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling lightly salted water according to the packet instructions. Drain, reserving 150ml of the cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, dry-fry the bacon for 2 minutes in a non-stick frying pan. Add the courgettes and fry for another 5 minutes until they are soft and lightly golden, then add the tomatoes and chives.

Add the pasta to the frying pan with the reserved water, crème fraîche and parmesan. Toss together over the heat for 2 minutes (be careful not to let the crème fraîche split by heating it too much).

Add seasoning if desired, then serve.

Quick Chicken Nuggets

This is another recipe from Annabel Karmel’s new book, ‘Quick and Easy Recipes for Toddlers’, which I recently reviewed. These are a much quicker and easier version of the Chicken Nuggets which feature in her ‘Top 100 Finger Foods’ book. This time she uses store-bought red pesto sauce and smashed up cornflakes.

Annabel Karmel quick chicken nuggetsWhat children don’t like chicken nuggets? Well I’m sure there must be some, but put a plate of nuggets with some tomato sauce for dipping in front of fussy eaters and you’re most likely going to have a stress-free meal. Now if only we could get some veg in there too…

To be honest, I wasn’t sure about the use of ready-made red pesto, which is a pesto made from sun-dried tomatoes rather than the traditional green basil pesto (it can also be made from roasted red peppers/capsicum). But I’ve made these nuggets a few times now and this recipe’s speed is definitely a winner! It’s also easy enough for your little ones to help you make them. They can have lots of fun bashing up the cornflakes and it’s also fairly mess-free.

If you have a bit more time or if you’d prefer not to feed your little one ready-made sauce, red pesto is quite easy to whip up, basically throwing the ingredients into a blender and whizzing them to a paste. Marthe at The Baking Bluefinger has a very easy recipe. The pesto will keep in the fridge for about a week, but it also freezes very well (freeze it in ice cube trays so you only need to defrost a small portion when you need it).

The original Annabel Karmel recipe adds seasoning to the chicken pieces before covering them in the pesto, but for me there’s well and truly enough seasoning in the pesto itself without adding more, even if you’re serving these to older family members. I’ve also added the preparation time as unfortunately this is lacking for all of the recipes in Annabel Karmel’s new book (that’s a super important piece of information to know for busy mums and dads!.

The nuggets are best eaten immediately as the coating loses some of its crunchiness as they cool down. However, they’re still yummy cold and leftovers can be popped into the next day’s lunch box.

I’m still thinking about how to get some vegetables into a chicken nugget. I’m eyeing up some pea puree left over from a scallop and chorizo starter I made hubby and wondering if it would work instead of pesto. Hmmm… I’ll get back to you!


Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 25 nuggets

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp red pesto
50g cornflakes
15g Parmesan, finely grated

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan and line an oven tray with baking paper.

Slice the chicken breasts into small cubes (you should get 10-12 pieces from each breast). Put the chicken into a bowl and mix in the pesto to coat the chicken.

Put the cornflakes into a plastic food bag and bash them with a rolling pin to make fine crumbs. Add the cheese and half of the chicken to the bag. Shake the bag to coat the nuggets, then transfer them to a plate. Add the remaining chicken to the bag of crumbs and repeat.

Lay the nuggets on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10 minutes.

What foods do your fussy eaters always eat?

Orange and Soy Sole

As promised, here is one of the recipes I tried from Annabel Karmel’s new book, ‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’, which I reviewed in a previous post and which is out today.

I’ll definitely be making this again. It’s very quick (under 10 minutes!), very tasty and perfect to make for the whole family. Even if your little one isn’t a huge fish fan, give this a try as the sweetness of the orange juice might change their minds. You could cut the fish into more manageable ‘fingers’, before dusting with flour, for little hands to feed themselves.

orange and soy sole

Serve with a side salad for adults and some raw vegetable sticks for toddlers (prepare a stash of these to keep in the fridge for a few days to save you some time).

Annabel’s recipe says two lemon sole fillets makes 1-2 portions which is confusing to me as the serving sizes throughout the book seem to be a toddler portion. For me, allow at least one fillet (one half of the fish) for each adult and 1/2-1 fillet for each child.

You don’t just need to use lemon sole with this orange and soy sauce; any white fish (cod, plaice, haddock, etc) would go well with the sauce. Next time I’m going to try it with salmon chunks for Nicholas.


Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 3 mins
Feeds 1 adult and 1 toddler

2 lemon sole fillets, skinned
Salt and pepper
Plain flour, for dusting
A knob of butter, for frying
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp soy sauce

Season the fish fillets and coat them on both sides with the flour, shaking off any excess.

Melt the butter in a frying pan until foaming, add the fish and fry for 1 and 1/2 minutes. Turn them over and fry for 1 minute more.

Mix the orange juice and soy sauce together, pour it over the fish and let the sauce bubble away for 30 seconds.

Serve immediately.

Review: Annabel Karmel’s Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes

Annabel Karmel, the saviour of many parents when it comes to feeding little ones, has a new recipe book coming out this week, and I’ve been very lucky to be able to try out her new recipes over the past month.

I know many mums (me included) who found Annabel’s ‘Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner’ a godsend during those initially challenging weaning months. So no surprise then that since it’s publication in 1991, it’s remained the number-one bestselling book on food for children. Her new recipe book, ‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’, is a great follow-on from it.

Annabel Karmel's Quick & Easy Toddler Recipes

‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’ has the same look as Annabel’s other books with lots of lovely photographs of the recipes and also some cute drawings scattered throughout. It’s a lovely book to look at with an excellent index and useful chapters (Breakfasts and Snacks, Pasta, Fish, Poultry, Meat, Vegetables, and Fruit).

The recipes all have easy-to-follow instructions with ingredients either already in your cupboard or easily bought. The number of portions each recipe makes can be seen at a glance, although as the book’s aim is feeding the whole family with one recipe, adult serving sizes would be useful too.

‘Breakfasts and Snacks’ include buttermilk blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs with tomato salsa, ideas for sandwich fillings and quick snack ideas (although the inclusion of popcorn as a toddler snack is a worry – see why here).

Annabel Karmel's buttermilk bluleberry pancakes

All the ‘Pasta’ recipes would be suitable for the whole family plus there are some quick sauce ideas. The recipes also include pasta bakes and pasta salads.

The ‘Fish’ chapter includes some pasta recipes as well as the tasty-sounding orange and soy sole, teriyaki salmon kebabs and lemon sole goujons.

Annabel Karmel's lemon sole goujons

‘Poultry’ recipes, the biggest chapter of the book, also has some pasta dishes, as welll as ideas for wrap fillings, soups and meatballs.

It’s great to see a veal recipe (schnitzel) in the ‘Meat’ chapter. There’s also sticky lamb chops, pork fillet stir-fry, and sweet and sour pork, just to name a few.

There are a couple of soup recipes in the ‘Vegetables’ section along with some risotto recipes, pasta recipes, fritters and a frittata recipe.

The most disappointing section for me is ‘Fruit’ and this is where I have to admit I have an issue with Annabel Karmel’s recipes. The one issue I have across all the recipes of hers I’ve tried and perused (and not just in her new book) is the lack of sugar-free sweet recipes. Every single recipe in the ‘Fruit’ chapter, as well as her fresh fruit salad in the opening ‘Breakfast’ chapter, has sugar. Every single one. And this worries me.

Scattered throughout the book are time-saving tips for hassled parents which is a nice addition. Advice includes buying ready-grated cheese, using just boiled water from the kettle to cook pasta, putting dinner leftovers in your little ones’ lunchboxes the following day and buying frozen vegetables (although this last one isn’t reflected in the recipes with several asking for just a couple of spoonfuls of tinned corn!). The suggestion to reorganise your kitchen so you have easy access to the equipment you use the most is good advice, but how many of us would actually do it?

My biggest gripe about this book, especially when it’s being marketed at busy mums and dads who need quick and healthy meals, is the lack of timings. There aren’t any cooking or preparation timse given for any of the recipes. Being able to see at a glance how long each recipe takes would be really helpful for hassled parents.

It’s also a shame there aren’t more suggestions or advice for getting toddlers to help you cook, in fact I can only see one which encourages them to blitz fruit. While you can certainly have your munchkin make her or his own wraps (although do you need a recipe for that?), it would’ve been good to have some recipes that just involved measuring and mixing to fully engage a toddler. For instance, the apple and sultana muffin recipe needs the butter and sugar to be creamed rather than including a muffin recipe where the butter is melted and cooled then all the remaining ingredients just mixed in, which is very do-able for a toddler.

It states there are “tips and tricks to encourage fussy eaters” which I was very enthusiastic to read considering my recent confession to you, but I found no real advice for frustrated parents. Reading the book from cover to cover deciding which recipes I’d try out first, I dismissed many thinking Nicholas would just pick out the vegetables or just not want to try them because of the size of the chunks of vegetables. Yes, you can dice up vegetables so the pieces are tiny and keep your fingers and toes crossed as you serve it up, but I think exasperated parents would welcome even the simplest practical advice to be explained.

However, for the many mums and dads out there who are stressed, tired, often catering for the multiple culinary demands of their family, battling to get their little ones to eat, and in need of help, Annabel’s new book will definitely inspire. There are plenty of easy recipes that can be quickly whipped up (130 to be exact!), saving many of us tearing our hair out not knowing what to feed our family this evening.

Look out for some of Annabel’s new toddler recipes over the next few weeks as I share some of my ‘tests’ with you!

‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’ will be published by Ebury Press on 20 June 2013 (RRP £9.99).

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of Annabel Karmel’s ‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’ to review. My opinions are honest and my own.

Cupcake inspiration

It’s the last day of National Cupcake Week. I haven’t managed to make any more worth blogging about, but wanted to share some inspiring ones (and they’re super cute too!) that I can’t wait to try when Nicholas is just a teeny bit bigger.

The Mini Mes and MeSpace Cupcakes

Check out lovely Emma’s blog (I love the title!) for her fizzy flying saucers and edible glitter sitting on chocolate ganache. What kid (little or big) wouldn’t love these?!

Cindy Littlefield’s Squirt Happy Turtles

A few jelly sweets turn ordinary cupcakes into something super cute.

Annabel Karmel’s Piggy Cupcakes

A few marshmallows and some writing icing are all you need to create some piggies (and don’t forget the curly tails!).

Baking Bites – Rainbow Cupcakes

By dividing up the batter and colouring it different rainbow colours, you can easily create the happiest cupcakes.

Daily Dish Blog – Mummy Cupcakes

Shari at Daily Dish Blog found the perfect cupcakes to make  for Halloween (there aren’t any directions, but a few lines of white icing and some mini MandMs are all you need).

Update (22 Nov 2012): I finally found the original source for these cute mummy cupcakes and what’s even better is they’re low-fat! Gina at Skinny taste has detailed instructions, so now there’s no excuse not to make them!

Martha Stewart’s Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes

Melting a marshmallow into the top is a super simple and super yummy way to finish your cupcakes.