Thursday, 27 December 2012

Turkey Hash

Aren't we all trying to find ways to use up the turkey right now?!  This is a take on a Nigella recipe - last year I followed it to the letter and while it was delicious, I had many more roast potatoes left over this year so added some of them in and I have omitted the black olives she suggests.

Ingredients (serves 2 adults, generously)
50g flaked almonds
1 onion, peeled & chopped
2 red peppers, deseeded & chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled & crushed
200g cold turkey, chopped or shredded
6 cold roast potatoes, chopped
2 tbsp soured cream
2 tbsp turkey stock
1 egg
Generous dash of Tabasco
75g grated Parmesan
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Heat a frying pan but don't add any oil - put the flaked almonds in and toss until toasted.  Remove and set aside.

Heat some oil in the frying pan and add the onion and red pepper.  Stir until soft then add the garlic, shredded turkey and roast potatoes and cook until piping hot (around 5-10 mins).

In a bowl, whisk together the soured cream, stock and Tabasco sauce then pour it into the pan, giving everything a thorough stir.  Add the Parmesan, toasted almonds and fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Father Christmas Cone

Another of my dodgy craft attempts for you to laugh at!  But these were super easy and fun for the kids to make without too much help.

You will need:

Red card
Pink paper
Cotton wool
Googly eyes (optional!)

First, cut a semi circle out of the red card for the cone body and an oval / circle for the face out of the pink card.

Next, draw on the face.  We used googly eyes and red glitter glue for his nose but you could just as easily draw on the features using a pen.

Stick the face on to the middle of the red card.

Next, glue the cotton wool around the bottom of his face for the beard.

Now tape the cone together at the back and add cotton wool to the top of the cone for his hat.

Add glitter around the base of the cone for extra Christmas sparkle!

I think mine looked more like one of the wise men!  

This is the best one by a mile...proudly made by DS, aged 4.  

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas Biscuits

I know most people bake gingerbread at this time of year but my kids love it all year round so it doesn't feel especially Christmassy to me.  Orange however does!  We had fun making these biscuits this week, with the added bonus of being able to hang them on the tree as ornaments.  You could of course ice and decorate them to make them look even more appealing.

140g caster sugar
1/2 tsp orange extract (I used orange blossom water instead)
1 egg yolk
150g butter, cut into small cubes
375g plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Grated zest of one orange

Put the sugar, orange extract, egg yolk and butter into a food processor and "whizz" until combined.  Add the flour and cinnamon and whizz again until it becomes a dough.

Remove and knead in the orange zest, bringing the dough together into a ball.  Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for around 1/2 hour.

Roll out onto a floured surface and cut out your desired shapes - we used fir trees, baubles and angels.  If you intend to hang the biscuits, use a skewer to make a hole in the top of the biscuits at this point.  

Place on lined baking tray and cook at 190 / 170 fan for 12 mins.

Paper Gingerbread House

I keep seeing posts of fabulous gingerbread houses baked by inspirational blogger mums but I haven't been brave enough to attempt one yet so this paper house from Bora is the perfect substitution.  

I printed one each for the kids, cut them out and put an LED tealight inside before setting it beside their bed last night.  They loved it!

I printed mine on regular paper but they would be a little more robust if you used card.  These would also look cute hanging from your tree!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Everything Fried Rice

We've been dashing around this week & having easy snacks but as we were home today I wanted to make sure the kids had some goodness so I made this for lunch.  You can basically chuck anything you want in here - leftovers, hidden veggies, you name it!  It's a quick & easy throw together dish but still super tasty.

Ingredients (serves 2 adults & 2 kids in our house!)
175g rice
1 small onion, peeled & diced or 2 spring onions
Half a red pepper, diced
1 egg (beaten)
Cup of peas
Cup of sweetcorn
1 spring onion
1 chicken breast, diced or cut into strips
1 cup of frozen cooked prawns
1 tbsp light soy sauce

Cook the rice, drain & set aside.

Heat some oil in a frying pan.  Add the onion & red pepper and cook for around 5 mins.  Add the chicken, prawns, peas & sweetcorn (my peas were frozen, my corn wasn't - they were both fine) and the spring onion.  Cook for around 4-5 mins, or until you are sure the chicken is cooked through.  Add the egg and stir through.  Do this on a high heat but keep it moving - it will become like scrambled egg.  

When everything is cooked, add a large knob of butter, the cooked rice and the soy sauce, and stir everything together for 2-3 mins, still on a high heat & again keep it all moving. 

Serve immediately. although I can confirm this is just as tasty reheated the next day!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Cheese Straws

I made these for a little Christmas party with DD's friends today and they went down very well with the kids as well as the mums!  It was really a trial run for xmas day at my house...I sat & planned my menu last night and these are going alongside the canapes I'm serving.

Puff pastry - I used 1 rolled sheet from a box, around 300g
30g Parmesan cheese
60g cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons English mustard
Egg yolk
Dash of milk

Grate the cheeses and mix together in a bowl.

Unroll the pastry sheet and cut in half.  Roll one half out to around double its size (but not too thin).  Spread a teaspoon of mustard on and sprinkle half the cheese over, leaving a little space around the edges.  

Beat the egg yolk and milk together then brush the edges of the pastry, before folding it over in half and sealing it.  Cut it into strips and holding either end, twist each strip twice before placing it on a baking tray.  (You'll do yourself a favour if you line the tray with baking parchment, as the cheese oozes out and sticks!)

Bake at 180 for 12-15 minutes.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Father Christmas Fruit Snacks

I made these for the kids last night as we were putting up the Christmas tree - hubby was busy putting the lights on, and they enjoyed these while waiting for their turn at the baubles!

If you haven't checked out Creative Kid Snacks before, they have some fabulous ideas to make food fun.  Mine are not quite as good as the original design but the kids loved them all the same ;)

You will need:
White marshmallows
Chocolate chips

Slice a chunk of banana, keeping it as straight as you can.  Cut a marshmallow in half and place one part sticky side down on a plate.  Put the banana chunk on top.  Add the other half of the marshmallow on top of the banana and put a strawberry on top.   (I used cocktail sticks to hold them up if they wobbled, and just removed these after the kids had looked at them and before they started eating!)

Melt the choc chips in the microwave, and dot on two eyes and a nose.  Add a tiny strawberry piece for the nose on top of the chocolate dot.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Christmas Decoration

I have been looking for a decoration to go on top of my dresser cupboards in the dining room but everything was either too expensive, or not large enough to be noticed at that height so I thought I would fashion something myself.  

I started saving empty boxes of all shapes & sizes...boxes that contained shoes, meringues,  cereal, biscuits & cookware.  Within a few days, I had enough (wow, thank goodness we recycle!)  

I wrapped each box in different Christmas paper and tied them with coloured ribbon.  I wrapped a toilet roll tube and tied the ends with ribbon to make a cracker.  I didn't need to buy anything - I used scraps of wrapping paper from last year (it does pay to be a hoarder sometimes!) and pieces of ribbon from my sewing box.  

I arranged them on top of the cupboard and hey presto ;)  I didn't want them somewhere within reach as the kids would not be able to stop themselves tearing them open, even if I explained the boxes are empty!  But I think they look quite nice.  They are the first decoration I've put up this year, and now I'm feeling quite festive!

Strawberry Meringue Ice-Cream

I first made this for DS a few years ago after seeing it on I Can Cook (you see...*some* good can come of watching so much CBeebies!) and it was so delicious it became a staple in our house.  I serve it as dessert when we have guests, it is by no means just a kid's dish!  It is beautifully creamy and unmistakably homemade ;)

125ml double cream
2 heaped dessert spoons of natural yoghurt
2 level dessert spoons icing sugar
4 large strawberries
1 meringue next

Whisk the double cream until fluffy.  Add the yoghurt and icing sugar and whisk together until well combined, & set aside.

Mash the strawberries with a fork and remove any of the green stalks.  Add them to cream mixture.

Holding the meringue nest over the bowl, crush & crumble it with your hands into the cream & strawberry mixture - leave some larger pieces, you don't want it finely crushed.

Stir gently and transfer to a lidded Tupperware and freeze overnight.

Take the ice-cream out of the freezer around 10-15 minutes before you want to serve it.  Spoon into glass dishes and top with fresh berries.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Beautiful, Magical, Amazing BALLET

If you have a little one besotted by ballet and everything about it, then this is one for them.   Beautiful, Magical, Amazing BALLET by Mary Lee is one of three stories in this range about a little girl called Mia and her adventures, and is available in paperback or in a Kindle version.

The story follows Mia as she attends her first ballet lesson.  She can't wait to get there - she already knows everything there is to know about ballerinas and is sure she will be good at it.  But when she sees the girls already in the class practising their moves she feels a little self conscious and an attempt to impress them goes wrong.  The girls rally round Mia making her feel included and by the end of the lesson, Mia cannot wait to go back again next week.

I really love the illustrations in this book - the colours are very appealing - and DD loved them too.  This is a lovely little story to share while snuggled up together on the sofa during these cold afternoons.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Jumbo Jacks

I found this recipe on a scrap of paper torn from a magazine when I was looking through my recipe file for something easy to make with DD earlier today.  Its a good one for kids as it only involves stirring - no creaming required! - although you obviously need to do the part of melting the butter & syrup.  They turned out really tasty - DD and I enjoyed them warm from the oven while we watched The Gruffalo for the 78th time, and DS got them for his after school snack and gave his seal of approval too.

175g self-raising flour
175g granulated sugar
75g porridge oats
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
175g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup

Mix the flour, sugar, oats, bicarb and baking powder together in a bowl.

Put the butter and golden syrup into a small saucepan and heat until melted.  Stir into the flour mix until combined.  You might need to use your hands to bring the mixture together a little.

Take small balls of mixture, roll and press down onto a greased baking tray.  Bake for 180 (160 fan) for 12-15 minutes.

Warning: These spread massively so keep your balls small - see how DD's ones turned out!

Friday, 23 November 2012

German Style Gnocchi

I have no idea whether this is German style or not (I doubt it very much!) but when we visited our friends in Hamburg recently, we were served this for supper one night and it was delicious.  I sneaked into the kitchen afterwards to check out the recipe book and was delighted to find it was easy enough for me to remember and recreate in my kitchen back home the next week!

Half packet of small tomatoes (cherry, vine, any kind will do)
1 courgette
Packet of fresh gnocchi
Tub of creme fraiche
Handful of Ritz crackers (4/5)
Half block of feta cheese 

Halve the tomatoes.  Slice the courgette however you like - I did mine in ribbons but you could equally chop it up.  

Put the tub of creme fraiche into a jug and crumble in the feta cheese.  Crush the Ritz crackers in too then blitz with a hand-held blender for just a minute, and stir well.  (If you don't have a blender, this would work fine just crushing & crumbling - would perhaps be a little more crunchy, that's all).

Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the gnocchi - you don't need to boil it first.  Cook, ensuring you keep stirring, until it starts to brown.  

Add the tomatoes and courgette at this stage, and cook for around 5 mins until everything is brown / cooked through.

Stir through the creme fraiche mix and serve immediately.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Little Red Bus Craft

Those of you who have read my previous posts will know that I am hopeless at all things child-craft related but this sinks to new lows.  I was in two minds as to whether to post it but I figured you could all do with a laugh!

To be fair, the kids had fun making it and that's all that matters...right?!

You will need:

Empty box (tea bag box size)
Red paint
White stickers
Bottle tops

First you need to paint your tea bag box with red paint.  Despite 3 coats, the box still showed through on ours but I think that was due to the cheap paint!  You need to leave this to dry thoroughly so you may decide to do this part yourself if you have impatient little people.

Next you need the "people" to go in the windows of the bus.  I printed off shrunken down photos of our friends & family (hence the pixellation!) but you could equally use magazine cuttings of the right size - obviously they need to be pretty small.  

Stick your white labels (white cut paper would work equally well) on to the box to make the windows.  Then get the kids to glue on their people - this part was quite interesting to watch, as DS chose all his friends and family members but DD only wanted to stick on photos of herself!  

Once the people are stuck on, you need to stick on your wheels.  Glue didn't seem to hold ours (but again, could just be the cheap brand I bought!) so we ended up putting tape on to stick them.  

DS asked if he could make a hole in his and attach string so he could pull it along but I was pretty sure it wouldn't survive so talked him out of it!  Nevertheless, we now have two red buses sitting on our table awaiting daddy's inspection when he gets home.

Christmas Table

Have you started thinking about Christmas yet?  Last night, I attempted the Christmas card photos - DS dressed up as an Elf and DD as a fairy.  I gave up after about 20 photos of ridiculously cheesy grins, none of which were great so I'm going to have to see if I can photoshop some together!

There will be 11 (possibly 12!) of us around my table this year so I'm trying to organise in advance.  I've been buying one Christmas item each time I visit the supermarket, not only to try and spread the expense but also so I don't have a huge load all in one go!  My utility room is fast filling up with mince pies, paper plates and crackers ;)

I'm planning to give the kids a few things at the lunch table to keep them occupied, either while waiting for the food to be served or when they are finished eating but the adults are still going.  In Sainsburys this morning, I found some wonderful Stacking Crayons for £1.99 a packet - way cheaper than Amazon - which I'm going to pair with some Christmas colouring pages.

My presents are very nearly all purchased, and I can't wait to get our tree fact, this year, I'm really looking forward to Christmas!  Not quite at the counting-down-the-days stage but still...

Monday, 19 November 2012

My Big Shouting Day

DD is having lots of protests right now about a variety of things so when I saw this book, I knew I had to buy it for her.   

The story is great - it goes through the day as Bella lists all the things she gets cross about, and her reaction to them.  At bedtime, she finally calms down and says sorry to her mum for shouting all day and her mum tells her that it's OK, we all have days like that sometimes but perhaps she will be more cheerful tomorrow.

DD absolutely loves reading it, and asks for it constantly.  When the melt downs are coming, like this morning in the supermarket, I keep reminding her that she doesn't want to behave like Bella and it seems to be working - fingers crossed!

This is a great book with a lovely perspective - if you have a two year old, or thereabouts, I would thoroughly recommend this.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Lollystick Puzzles

I have seen these on Blogs lots of times before but when a post I read featured them last week, it reminded me to give them a go.  They are great for keeping in your handbag - take up no room, and easy to whip out when you need to keep fingers busy for 5 minutes! 

Here is what you'll need:

Lolly sticks
Sticky tape
Although you can use regular size lolly sticks, these jumbo lolly sticks are easier to work with and as they are quite handy for other crafts, I thought I could afford to splash out at less than £2.50 a pack!

First lay the sticks side by side and tape them together.

Next, spread glue on the reverse of your picture.  Make sure it is evenly spread - use a brush if necessary.  Flip the lolly sticks over and stick the picture on the opposite side to the tape.

Now you need to leave it to dry.  I placed mine under a large heavy cook book to help it flatten out whilst it dried.  When it is dry, remove the tape from the back.

Next you need to cut the picture along the lolly sticks.  Obviously this would work better with a craft knife but I found a sharp kitchen knife wasn't too bad.  It was a little easier to cut if I bent the lolly stick towards me first, then scored it along the line before cutting it.

There you have it!  An easy puzzle, adapted to whatever picture you like.

Although this was quick and easy, I'm not sure I would use this for ordinary picture puzzles (especially when you can get puzzles so cheaply) but I do think it would be great for family photographs - I plan to make DD a set with family members to reinforce her family in her mind.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had to bake a contribution for the school Christmas fair this week and as I remembered that last year there was an abundance of cakes, I decided to make biscuits instead.  DD loved helping me to make these, and enjoyed eating them even more!

125g butter (at room temp)
125g light soft brown sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
1 egg
225g self-raising flour
100g chocolate chips (I used a mix of white & milk but you could adjust to your taste)

Cream together the butter & sugar...if your butter is too hard to work with because you forgot to get it out of the fridge early enough (ahem...), pop it in the microwave for just a few seconds.  

Next, beat in the golden syrup & egg, and then stir in the flour.

Take teaspoons of the mixture and roll it between your hands into walnut size balls.  Squash each ball gently down on a baking tray and pop the chocolate chips on top - pressed lightly into the ball so they stick but not far enough so they are buried.

Cook for 10-15 mins at 180.

All ready to sell at the PTA Christmas Fair!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Chicken & Potato Balls

I usually make these on a Monday after we've had a roast chicken for Sunday lunch to use up the leftover meat.  You don't need to be precise with your measurements - just use roughly the same amounts of chicken, potatoes and parsnips.  The kids love these little balls of goodness, and I usually serve them with a side of veg.

Cooked chicken breast or any left over chicken meat off the bone (around 125g)
2 potatoes, peeled & chopped
1 small parsnip, peeled & chopped
Knob of butter
1 carrot, peeled & grated
1 small onion, peeled & chopped

Boil the potato and parsnip for around 10 mins until soft, then mash well with the butter.  Set aside to cool.

Heat a little oil in a pan and add the onion and carrot, cooking for around 5 mins without colouring.  Allow to cool for 5 mins then add it to a food processor along with the cooked chicken and blitz until finely chopped.  

Add this mixture to the mashed potato & parsnip and combine thoroughly.  Take spoonfuls of the mixture and roll into balls the size of walnuts.  Toss them in a little flour until they are covered.

Heat some more oil in a frying pan and add the balls.  Cook for around 5 - 10 mins until browned and serve immediately.

NB. If you want to freeze these, do so before you coat in flour then you can defrost and continue the recipe when you need them.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


A few weeks ago, I got hold of a leaflet for a new playgroup in Haslemere and Grayswood called Hasletots so DD and I headed along to the Georgian House Hotel on Monday to check it out.  Despite being nearly 15 minutes early, we were greeted enthusiastically by Emi who has set up the venture after moving to the area from London a few years ago.  

There was plenty to capture DD's attention when we entered - the area is large and spacious with a bouncy castle, climbing apparatus and a mini trampoline to name a few things for the toddlers as well as lots for babies too including a ball pit and age appropriate toys.  

There are tables around the edge of the room where mums can sit and have a coffee and a chat, or read a magazine, and if the little ones want to join you there is colouring, play dough and books at the table for them. 

The entrance fee (dependant on the child's age) included a juice and a biscuit which DD enjoyed while I had a coffee. 

It's a perfect place for a wet and windy day, as it was on Monday, and they also run the group on a Saturday morning so you can enjoy breakfast while the kids play.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Spaghetti Bolognese

Everybody loves spaghetti bolognese, right?  It is a staple in our house, and one I can always be sure the kids will eat without complaint.  I use the chance to slip some extra veggies... usually carrot but courgette sometimes too - use the smallest section on your grater if you can.  I prefer to use the extra lean steak mince as I can't bear to see the fat floating on the top of the sauce as it simmers but that's just a personal preference ;)

Need to work on my photography...but trust me, it tastes better than it looks!

500g lean minced beef
1 onion, peeled & chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled & chopped
Large carrot, peeled & grated
Courgette, peeled & grated
Tin tomatoes
100ml milk
Pinch dried thyme
Bay leaf

Heat some oil to a pan and add the onion, garlic, carrot & courgette.  Cook for a few mins then add the beef mince and stir well, until cooked through (i.e. no more pink bits can be seen).  

If you have a handheld blender, blitz the tomatoes before adding them to the pan as it gives the sauce a smoother consistency.  Add the tomatoes along with the milk, bay leaf and thyme and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil your spaghetti then drain and mix with a dollop of butter, and grate some Parmesan ready to sprinkle over the top of your assembled dish.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Travel Activities

We spent last week driving through some of Europe - we were headed to Hamburg in Germany to visit some friends and decided to stop at a few places on the way.  When DH and I talked about the visit initially, I assumed we would be flying so when he suggested we drive, I was quite reluctant.  Although the kids are pretty good in the car generally, I didn't know how they would fare for long stretches at a time.  Eventually, DH convinced me so I set about making up a travel pack for them each.  Some things worked better than others but here are my ideas.

DS is obsessed with maps at the moment (must be a boy thing!) and is always asking to look at the map in the car so I thought I would make him his own one, customised to our journey.  I plotted our journey using Google maps, with the overnight stops we were making marked on it, and printed it off.  I folded it like a real map, concertina style, to add to the authenticity!  He loved getting it out periodically and telling DH where to go next.

Lacing Cards 
I got DS lacing cards but thought these may be a little tricky for DD so I got her a Wooden Threading Mouse & Cheese instead.  I hoped this would keep them busy for a while at least and it had the added bonus of helping to improve their motor skills.  The cards were one of the biggest hits, with both of the kids!  Long periods of time went by in relative peace while they were busy working on these in the back - DS loved "sewing" like he's seen me do, and DD managed to thread some of them too.  The cheese wedge was more of a fun distraction for them both but still good.

Travel Bingo
I Googled images of generic things I thought we would see on the way (road signs, coloured cars, state vehicles, etc.), not forgetting a clipboard & pencil so they could tick off things as they go!  Remember to save some sheets for the return journey if you are making one.

Colouring Sheets
I printed out a stack of free colouring sheets I found on the web, each tailored to their current obsession - Spiderman for DS and Peppa Pig for DD!  I also made up a small pack of crayons & pencils for each of them too.  Another use for those clipboards!

Felt Travel Mr & Mrs Potato Head
I'm quite proud of this I made it myself (separate post on how to make it coming soon!)  This didn't work in the car like I anticipated but it was a good distraction at restaurants when we were waiting for our meal.

Funny Faces Sticker Book
I liked the fact that this was reusable so my idea was that they could take turns with this one.  After buying one on-line, a few days before our departure I found them for half price in a local toy shop so they ended up with one each...good job seeing as how DD stuck all the features onto one face and they ended up sticking to each other so they weren't reusable!

Magnetic Drawing Board
Although I did pack colouring pencils and paper for them, I put these in as a quick & easy scribbler for them...again tailored to their current obsession!  I picked them up in a local £ store & toy store.

Toy train & track
This was more for them to play with in the hotel rooms but it was still a goodie!  If you have a small / packable thing they love that won't work in a moving car, take it anyway and buy yourself 10 minutes of peace while you are unpacking.

50 things to do in a plane
I bought this earlier in the year for our plane ride to Spain but didn't end up using it.  I packed it in my bag for this journey rather than theirs, mainly due to the fact that it has a reusable marker that I could imagine would be used to draw all over the car!  Most of the cards were too old for DS at 4 years but there were a few that kept him busy with supervision during our crossing on the Euro tunnel.

I also included some "pocket money" toys that I found in ELC and The Entertainer stores.  These were some of the biggest hits with the kids - small robots with positionable arms & legs, erasers in the shape of snacks, and a tiny tea set inside a teapot the size of a walnut!  


And of course not forgetting our passports!   

We drove 1,494 miles in total from England to France, Belgium, through Holland and into Germany and I am surprised to hear myself now telling people it was painless but it really was!  Each night, DH gathered up the contents of their bags from the car floor and I tidied and repacked them all so they had a fresh bag to start the next journey with.  Before our longest stretch on the way home, I added some additional items (a magazine each, new colouring sheets, etc) so there was something new to hold their interest.

I would love to hear of any ideas you have to keep your kids entertained during long journeys!