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Tag Archives: cooking with kids

Crispy Rice Christmas Trees

Today I’m sharing a last minute, super easy Christmas treat that kids will have lots of fun helping you make.

After our school Christmas Fair, the chair of the PTA handed over an almost full 1kg bag of mini marshmallows, saying she was sure I could use them for the last school bake sale of the year. I asked Instagram for ideas (popcorn snow balls, rocky road, chocolate brownies, marshmallow nougat…) but to save time, I settled for the rice krispie and marshmallow classic.

crispy-rice-marshmallow-christmas-trees

A lesson learned from making crispy rice treats in bulk: don’t double the mixture!!! It was hard (and very sticky work). Instead of saving me time, it slowed me down. So, my advice if you want to make these in bigger quantities would be to make one batch at a time. That way you avoid the marshmallow and butter mixture quickly cooling down and setting before you’ve completely mixed it through the crispy rice.

CRISPY RICE CHRISTMAS TREES

Prep Time: 15 mins (plus decorating)
Cook Time: 0 mins
Makes 8 large treats

35 grams butter
250 g mini marshmallows
150 grams crispy rice cereal (e.g. rice krispies)
sprinkles or edible glitter
4 candy canes

Grease a round cake tin (mine is 23 cm in diameter) with butter or cooking spray.

In a large, heavy-based saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat.

Add the marshmallows and stir constantly until they’re completely melted and combined.

Take off the heat and immediately add the cereal, mixing until all the cereal is completely coated.

Press the mixture into the greased tin. Use the back of a spoon or a spatula that’s been warmed in a mug of hot water to make it easier as the mixture is very sticky. Flatten the top and scatter over the sprinkles or edible glitter.

Let the mixture cool completely before cutting into eight equal slices (as if it were a cake).

Cut the curved tops off the candy canes (you don’t need these) and cut each straight piece into two. Gently push each piece into the bottom of each crispy rice wedge.

Merry Christmas!

 

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Frozen fruit pops

Frozen fruit pops

Summer has come and gone in the UK. It wasn’t a bad one at all this year, in fact I got a tan during a British summer for the first time! However I’d be lying if I said I was anything but ecstatic that we’re finally away on holiday enjoying a very hot sun on a wonderful beach.

During our summer at home, Nicholas and I got into a regular habit of going to a park a little way from home that’s much bigger than our neighbourhood ones. For warm days its paddling pool was perfect. Our ritual was paddling pool followed by a lie in the sun, moving to the large sand pit followed by all the other playground attractions. Then we’d go find the ice cream man and have a run round the park before coming home.

Of course a British summer wouldn’t be a British summer without some rain, and not just a summer shower but days of torrential rain! (I wrote my cheeky views of the summer in the UK here.)  When we couldn’t go outside and enjoy an ice lolly, we’d improvise a picnic inside and eat frozen fruit pops to make the day sunnier.

There really is nothing simpler than frozen fruit pops. Well you could just throw some fruit pieces into the freezer, but then you’d be missing the fun aspect of the stick. Why does putting food on a stick much it so much better?!?

You need plastic cake pop sticks or wooden ice lolly sticks. Don’t use wooden skewers as these can be dangerous for little ones and they’re not as easy to hold on to.

Next chop up some fruit into bite-sized pieces. We used strawberries and grapes. You can also use banana, watermelon (cut in chunks or balls), raspberries, blueberries and mango.

Thread your fruit onto the sticks, put on a freezer-proof plate or tray and put into the freezer for at least 2 hours. Once they’re frozen you can keep them all together in a freezer bag.

A healthy fun treat for summer days, or when you’re wishing for the return of summer days.

What were your favourite things to do together this summer?

Cheesy spinach crackers

Week two of the Great British Bake Off was all about biscuits and this was the perfect excuse for me to revisit making savoury crackers.
the crackers say it all!

I don’t make these Wholemeal Wheat Thins nearly enough, especially when we’re all big cracker fans, and since I first made them I’ve wanted to try adapting the recipe to use olive oil instead of butter to be a bit healthier.

I’ve made these crackers using both fresh and frozen spinach with the same great result. If you’re using frozen spinach, run it under cold water for a minute or two to defrost and then squeeze as much liquid out as you can before putting it into your food processor.

The preparation is super quick and easy – just throw everything into your food processor! What will take up most of your preparation time is rolling and cutting.

cheesy spinach crackersThe secret to getting a lovely crisp cracker is to roll out the dough as thinly as possible (2-3mm is ideal).

Nicholas and I had lots of fun cutting out different shapes – small letters, circles and wavy rectangles. Small fiddly shapes can be time-consuming (although kids will love them), but even cutting random straight lines across the dough will give you some fun shapes.

If you get sick of rolling and cutting, the dough freezes very well!
cheesy spinach crackers

CHEESY SPINACH CRACKERS

Prep time: 15-20 mins
Cook time: 5-10 mins (depending on the size of the crackers)
Makes about 120 Ritz-size crackers
Store in an airtight container for up to a week

100g spinach
200g grated cheddar
150g wholemeal plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
60ml extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oven to 200C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

Put the spinach into a food processor and blend until evenly broken up.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until the mixture comes together into a ball.

Take the dough out of the processor and divide it in half. Roll out one half of the dough as thinly as you can (I put the dough between two pieces of cling film to avoid it sticking to the bench or rolling pin, which saves on cleaning up time!). The thinner you can roll it, the crisper your thins will be.

Cut out shapes using a cookie cutters or a pastry wheel.

Place the shapes close together on your prepared tray and use a skewer or toothpick to poke some holes into each one to stop them puffing up.

Bake for 7 – 10 mins until golden brown and crisp (keep a close eye on them as they cook quickly).

Variations:

  • use white plain flour for a lighter textured cracker
  • omit the cheese for a dairy-free cracker
  • add onion or garlic powder to the mixture
  • add some dried herbs such as thyme, sage or rosemary to the mixture

Tip: if your stored crackers start getting soft, pop them back into the oven to crisp up for a couple of minutes.

To join in the Great Bloggers Bake Off or to see the other baking efforts, visit Mummy Mishaps.
gbbo-badgesmall

I’m also linking up to Supergolden Bake’s #CookBlogShare party.
cookblogshare

 

Refined sugar-free Easter nests

Nicholas’ preschool has had an Easter display up for a couple of weeks now so Nicholas is already getting excited. We had lots of fun making these simple nests together and even more fun eating the eggs that unfortunately wouldn’t fit in the nests!

AAA1

The nests are based on a recipe all Australians know. Honey Joys were pretty much a prerequisite at birthday parties when I was growing up and now they give me a wonderful feeling of nostalgia.

The standard Honey Joy recipe uses butter, sugar and honey, which are melted together and then stirred through cornflakes. I wanted to make a slightly healthier version, and so replaced the sugar and honey with Sweet Freedom (a natural sweetener made from 100% fruit). You could also use agave nectar, or even honey (as you’re still cutting out the original refined sugar). The end result is just as sugary sweet as I remember but with fewer calories. And I believe that means you can eat more of them!

I’ve also successfully made a dairy-free version of these, using a dairy-free spread instead of the butter. They turned out just slightly softer than using butter, but otherwise I was very happy with the result.

Sweet Freedom nests

SUGAR-FREE EASTER NESTS

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 12 nests

45g butter or dairy-free spread
2 tbsp Sweet Freedom (or agave nectar or honey)
2 cups cornflakes
Some small chocolate eggs

Preheat oven to 150C and line a cupcake tray with paper cases.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and Sweet Freedom over a low heat until the butter is frothing a little (if using a dairy-free spread, just melt as it won’t froth).

While you’re waiting, put the cornflakes into a medium-sized bowl.

Pour the melted sweetened butter over the cornflakes and quickly mix to combine.

Spoon the cornflake mixture into the cupcake cases, making nest shapes by leaving a hollow in the centre of each.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Cool a little and while the nests are still sticky, push in some small chocolate eggs.

Cool completely.

Baked Tortilla Santa Crisps

Baked tortilla crisps or chips are a healthy and very easy snack to make, and something your little ones can help you make.

I was inspired to make these Christmas-themed crisps after seeing Grace’s snowflake tortilla crisps on Eats Amazing.

We added some tomato puree to make our Santas jollier, but they’re just as yummy without it. For adults you could add some red by sprinkling on some chili powder, paprika or cayenne pepper.

These would be great for Christmas parties as well as popping into lunchboxes. You can eat them on their own or use them to scoop up dip or salsa (we also like to dip them in soup!).

Christmas

BAKED TORTILLA SANTA CRISPS

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cook time 5-7 mins

Tortilla wraps
Tomato puree

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Cut out shapes from the tortillas and lay them in a single layer on non-stick oven trays. Using the back of a teaspoon, smear on a little tomato puree for Santa’s hat and jacket.

Bake for 5-7 minutes (keeping a close watch after 5 minutes) until the edges are starting to brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool and crisp up more.

ChristmasWhat Christmas shapes would your munchkins love to eat?

Gingerbread

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without gingerbread. Whether it’s gingerbread men, a gingerbread house or other gingerbread shapes, the mix of spices and the smell of it baking makes me feel all warm and Christmas-y!

Making gingerbread with your little ones is a wonderful activity to do (and not just at Christmas time). It’s easy to make, immense fun to make shapes out of and cooks quickly so you can start decorating sooner.

If you’re cooking with toddlers, you could make the dough yourself beforehand (the dough keeps in the fridge easily for a day) and get your munchkin involved from the ‘cutting out shapes’ stage. Older kids can help make the dough from scratch and while it’s chilling in the fridge, they can start choosing cookie cutters and think about how they’ll decorate them.

Gingerbread keeps wonderfully (in an airtight container) for a couple of weeks. It’s also a lovely present your kids can make and then give to friends and family. We’ve just finished decorating some Christmas trees to give to the staff at Nicholas’ preschool.

Gingerbread Christmas treesThis recipe has been the only one I’ve used to make gingerbread for the last few years. It’s slightly adapted from a Waitrose recipe. If I remember correctly, I just reduced the amount of bicarbonate of soda, as I really don’t like it when I can taste it in the finished product. There’s still enough of it though to puff up the gingerbread a little.

To make cleaning up easier, I like to roll the gingerbread on a piece of baking paper rather than on a floured surface, with a piece of plastic wrap on the top so the rolling pin stays clean too. This also means that your gingerbread won’t accidently stick to your work surface.

Christmas

GINGERBREAD

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 9 mins
Makes about 30 medium-sized biscuits

125g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
325g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 190C. Line at least two baking trays with baking paper.

Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir in the melted ingredients to make a stiff dough. Shape into a ball and refrigerate for 10 mins (if you’re not going to cook your gingerbread immediately, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge).

Roll out onto a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 3-5mm. Cut out shapes and place on your lined baking trays. Bake for 9 minutes until golden brown.

Leave on a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Tip: before measuring out your golden syrup, rub a drop of oil over the spoon; the syrup will easily slide off.

What sweets are your favourite for decorating gingerbread?

Super quick cheat’s pizza

I’ve already talked about hubby’s quest to find the perfect pizza dough, and my Anglo-Saxon efforts and cheats. Here is my biggest cheat of all which hubby happily eats – use a bought tortilla as the base!

For those evenings or weekends when you have no desire or energy to cook, these are perfect and yummy. Use what you have in the fridge, get your littlies to help or just get everything out, turn on the oven and go back to the sofa while the rest of the family make their own!

tortilla pizza

I always have a tube of tomato puree in the fridge and this is perfect for spreading on these pizzas. You could also use pasta sauce or leave it out entirely and have a ‘pizza bianca’. Then the other toppings are completely up to you and your fridge/cupboard. For fussy veg eater Nicholas, I often add some finely grated carrot and he loves it. If you have your own fussy eater, cut the ingredients up small, focus on the lovely colours and use some veg to ‘draw’ pictures on the pizzas.

A drizzle of good olive oil over the top of even the most mundane ingredients makes everything taste better. I like to add a drizzle before cooking and also after ;)

Tortillas come in different sizes. The ones I used for the photo were slightly smaller than a dinner plate and usually enough for one adult or two toddlers. It never hurts to make too many though as they’re also tasty the next day in lunchboxes.

Why not try using some other type of flat bread for your base?

SUPER QUICK CHEAT’S PIZZA

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: approx. 5 mins
Makes 2 adult and 2 toddler servings

3 tortilla wraps (plain or wholemeal)
3 tsp tomato puree
Extra virgin olive oil
Your choice of cheese (eg. shredded fresh mozzarella, grated cheddar, crumbled feta, etc.)
Your choice of toppings (eg. sliced cooked ham, diced cooked chicken, sliced tomatoes, grated carrot, sliced mushrooms, fresh basil, etc.)

Line an oven tray (a heavy-based one if possible) with baking paper. Heat oven to 220C and put the prepared tray inside to heat up (this helps crisp up the bottom of the pizzas).

Put your tortillas on a cutting board. Drizzle each with a little olive oil and 1 tsp of the tomato puree. Use the back of a spoon to spread the puree and oil fairly evenly over each tortilla.

Add your other desired toppings and finish with another drizzle of olive oil.

Open the hot oven and pull out the tray enough so you can slide the pizzas on to it.

The time it takes to cook your pizza will depend on how many toppings you added, but they shouldn’t take much longer than 5 minutes (just keep a close eye on them).

Finish with another drizzle of olive oil and some torn fresh basil if you have it.

What ingredients do you normally have in your fridge or cupboard that would be great on this pizza?