Or is there life beyond raisins and rice cakes?
I was going to write you a blog post with some ideas for healthy snacks – what to give babies, toddlers and bigger children in between meals that a) aren’t just raisins and plain rice cakes, b) aren’t full of rubbish and c) don’t cost a fortune – but then I discovered that my lovely Twitter friend and co-blogger, and list-maker extraordinaire, Mums Make Lists had already done it. So I decided to nick hers.*
She has created a wonderful list of 50 (yes, 50!) healthy snack ideas, divided into categories e.g. fruit & veg, dairy, cereal nuts & crisps, savoury muffins. There are some splendid ideas on her easy-to-print list, which you can find here. I love the sound of stripey fruit lollipops for hot summer’s days, malt loaf, and cheese and ham muffins! This is a great starting point, as it is packed with inspiring ideas.
One I’d like to add, for babies aged 9+ months, is to give them a little plastic bowl with frozen peas in – yup, straight from the freezer – and watch them practising their pincer grip as they pop them in their mouth, and get a cold surprise!
For other great ideas, including how to get more organised, books for children, and a weekly round-up of parenting blogs around the world, The Friday Baby Shower, I highly recommend Mums Make Lists’ brilliant blog! http://mumsmakelists.blogspot.co.uk/
Happy snacking, peeps!
* In actual fact, I asked her nicely if I could reproduce it. She very kindly said yes.
I know I am a bit late for Shrove Tuesday, but then, given I usually have two kids in tow, I am often late for a lot of things… Anyway, today I bring you pancakes. Who doesn’t love a pancake? Warm from the frying pan, with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of sugar, they are manna from heaven. When I went travelling in Thailand many moons ago (pre-children) banana pancakes made in tiny little pans over a gas flame in the street became almost a daily staple for body and soul – served, as they were, with a swirl of chocolate sauce and a beaming smile.
I was lucky enough to be sent a Pancake Kit by the lovely people at Oxo Good Grips, who produce fantastic kitchen tools, it has to be said. My kit comprised an Oxo Good Grips batter bowl, an Oxo Good Grips Silicone Balloon Whisk and an Oxo Good Grips Silicone Flexible Pancake Turner. I was particularly excited about the batter bowl, because one of the things that is tricky to do one-handed in the kitchen, while holding baby in one hand, is stir something in a bowl because invariably the bowl will move. Not with this bad boy. It has a non-skid base to stabilize the bowl when mixing. Genius. Now, Oxo may not have designed this bowl with the one-handed cook in mind, but boy, is this one-handed cook happy about it!
I made my pancake batter – see below for recipe – using my lovely batter bowl and gave it the one-handed test, with my whisk in my right hand and, not a baby this time I confess, but a cup of coffee in my left. This is how I did it: I put the batter bowl on my platform scale and weighed the flour straight into it, put it back on the kitchen worktop then added the pre-cracked egg and the extra yolk, the pre-melted butter, a pinch of salt, started whisking, and then added the milk bit by bit until I’d made my lovely mixture. The bowl holds 2 litres, and has high sides, making it splatter-proof, too – very handy. The handle makes it comfortable to hold, and it has a wide lip for easy pouring. I can see this becoming my go-to mixing bowl for cakes.
As you can see from my One-Handed Cook logo, I am a big fan of the whisk! The Oxo Good Grips balloon whisk is also a lovely thing to use – for me, what makes it different is the fact that the handle is shorter than most, which actually gives you better control, and the rubbery handle feels really nice and doesn’t slip out of your hand (hence the ‘good grip’ bit – keep up). I also love it because it’s red, and if you know me, you’ll know I like a colourful kitchen gadget. The pancake turner is super-flexible and very thin, so perfect for turning not just pancakes, but anything really, because it’s large and helps prevent things falling apart – you could use for omelettes, fish, burgers etc. Finally, the other good thing about all these Oxo Good Grips items is that they all go in the dishwasher once you’ve finished. Result.
See below for my tried-and-tested pancake recipe and filling ideas. I am a bit addicted to this lovely crunchy sugar from Barbados at the moment – it’s called Plantation Reserve Barbados Amber Sugar, it’s a traditionally produced cane sugar and the crystals provide the most wonderful crunch and contrast beautifully with the soft pancake or soft banana. Honestly, you have to try it – it’s the perfect accompaniment to all sorts of things, such as porridge, pancakes, puddings – in fact, all things beginning with ‘p’…
Make the pancake batter at least half an hour in advance of cooking, and then they can be cooked one-handed at tea-time, I promise. I know, I’ve done it. Note that the first pancake often goes a bit wrong, but once you find a rhythm and your pan’s nice and hot these are a cinch to make. Plus the mixture will keep, covered, overnight in the fridge – more for breakfast! Yum.
What you need
100g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
50g melted butter (I use microwave)
What to do
1. Put all the ingredients bar the milk into your bowl and whisk together with a balloon whisk. Gradually add the milk, whisking as you go. Pour through a sieve into a jug and leave to stand, as above.
2. Using a 15-20cm frying pan, heat a small knob of butter on a high-ish heat, and once it’s sizzling hot, add a small ladleful of batter mixture to just cover the base of the pan. ‘Swoosh’ it round the pan by picking it up and moving it around.
3. Use a pancake turner to lift the mixture away from the edge of the pan a little and once the edges turn pale brown (after 30-60 seconds), use it to flip the pancake over and cook for a further 30-60 seconds.
4. Tip out onto a plate or some greaseproof paper.
5. Serve with lemon juice and sugar. Or sliced banana and Nutella. Or squeezy honey and blueberries with Greek yogurt. Or whatever takes your fancy!
These are absolutely yummy and take me back to my own childhood. Grate some cheddar cheese and chop two slices of decent-quality ham. Once you’ve flipped over your pancake, add the cheese and ham mixture to the middle, in a line, and fold the two sides in and over the mixture. Cook for about 30 seconds and then flip the folded pancake back over for a few more seconds, to ensure the cheese is well and truly melted. Serve.
I am psychologically preparing myself for a bit of a strange one next week. For it will be the first time I will be away from both my children for a whole week. A whole week. It is half-term, and they are going to Granny and Grandad’s (well, actually not Granny, because she is Danish, and therefore she is known as Farmor – father’s mother – geddit?) while hub and I are staying in London. All parties are hugely looking forward to it. As for me, there is part of me that knows I am going to really really miss them, but also part of me that is elated and can’t wait to have a child-free week. We already have dinner booked one night, and cinema another, for example. But I know it will be strange without the Gruesome Twosome. One thing I will relish will be supermarket shopping on my own. No toddler to placate, no whining 6-year-old to buy tat for. Just little old me freewheelin’ down the aisles with a small trolley (sans child seat of course).
Going supermarket shopping with a little one in tow can be one of life’s more stressful experiences, shall we say. I remember when oldest child was a baby, all tucked up in his little MaxiCosi carseat, and off I merrily went to Sainsburys for the first time with him, thinking how hard can it be…? The answer is hard. Very hard. What. A. Palaver. You’ve got to park in the right bay, then find the right kind of trolley to perch the carseat on top of, having found one, you then have to hoist the bloody thing up there, invariably hurting your back …
So how did that day go? Well, once I’d finally got in the store and started shopping, he needed a nappy change half way round (of course) … which mean that I then started panicking about him getting hungry and screaming … by which time it was too late, so I just carried on shopping anyway, blindly throwing things in the trolley in a bid to get it done. Only for him to let rip and scream the place down as I tried to unload the trolley onto the conveyer belt, which the cashier kept moving along, making me even more stressed as I couldn’t keep up.
I was, of course, operating one-handed by this stage, having wrenched son out of the MaxiCosi and onto my hip in a bid to calm him down, and as we all know, pushing a trolley one-handed is nigh on impossible. By this time it was starting to feel like it was taking for ever, with no-one asking me if I need any help (‘Yes, if you could just ask security to escort me from the premises that would be lovely, thanks. No, I insist’), as I cursed while trying to placate puce-faced baby and locate my bank card, all while sweating profusely. ‘Why is it so goddamm hot in here? Oh, please stop crying! Nectar card? What? I don’t know. Yes. Somewhere. Nope, can’t find it,’ as I hurled shopping in to plastic bags in a blind panic (having long forgotten I had brought my own bags with me) and then hot-footed it to the café to breastfeed starving child and, for the first time, properly observe contents of shopping bags (‘Baked beans? I don’t even like baked beans… oh shit, I forgot to get bin liners. Well I’m not going back in there with him. I’d rather give birth again…’)
Fast-forward a few years and it’s easier, but it’s still hard at times. Weirdly, I’ve never fully embraced the online shop, although I do do it very occasionally. I have friends who swear by it, but I dunno, I find it all a bit clinical. I quite like going out, seeing what’s new, browsing the books and DVD department (if possible), the wine aisle … So, here are my five top tips for getting round a supermarket with a toddler. Learnt the hard way, from bitter experience. Sorry, I mean happy times shared together. And if you have twins, and you take them to the supermarket, you deserve a medal.
My top 5 tips for getting round a supermarket with a toddler
1. Write a list, and – this is going to sound really crazy, but please stick with me as it WORKS (and I only recommend things that work, remember) – once you’ve written it, rewrite it and organize it according to the different zones or sections in the supermarket. So you’ve got your fruit and veg section, your meats and chilled foods section, your yogurt, milk and cheese section, your store cupboard section, bakery items, toiletries, baby, drinks, baking goods… etc. It will help preserve your sanity, I promise.
2. Before you begin, set a timer – either mentally or on your phone – you’ve got ONE HOUR to get it done (including the checkout). My motto, ‘get in quick, get out quick, nobody gets hurt.’ Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline. And with your mega-organised list you will be like Supermum getting round that store, I promise you.
3. Always, always, always get your toddler in the trolley before you go into the supermarket. And do up the safety belt thing. Always.
4. Take snacks. Take more snacks than you think you could ever possibly need – rice cakes, squeezy fruit pouches, boxes of raisins, etc. If you run out, go to the cheese counter and get hold of as many sample cubes as possible. Beg if necessary.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are choosing to spend your money in their store (probably quite a lot of money), and supermarkets are all billing themselves as ‘family friendly’ these days, so get ‘em to practise what they preach. Say, ‘Please can someone help me pack the shopping?’ or if you’re in the queue, tell a member of staff ‘I’ve forgotten x, please can you get it for me?’. They always do for me! So speak up, get help, keep moving.
6. (I know this is number six.) Treat yourself to a nice coffee and a biscuit when you’ve finished. You’ve earned it!
Happy shopping, folks. And think of me skipping down the aisles in Sainsburys on my own next week … ooh, and they’ve got a lovely homeware section…
There was an article in the Daily Mail this week which highlighted the fact that us Brits are guilty of buying kitchen gadgets that we think we will use and love, but that in reality just sit in the cupboard gathering dust. As a result, toasted sandwiches, along with homemade panini and coffee, cost us an average of £10.68 each time we have one because these gadgets are so rarely used. Yikes. And you thought Starbucks was expensive…
I confess I do have a toasted sandwich maker, and it does actually come out from time to time, simply because it can make even the most boring cheese sarnie vaguely interesting, and the children like them. But I know there are other gadgets lurking that I never use – paella pan I had to have (used once), pasta machine (used twice), mouli-legumes (hate the bloody thing, wish I’d never bought it – cleaning the thing is an absolute nightmare), brandy glasses (used once since we got married a hundred years ago), miniature nutmeg grater… What was I thinking?
Having said that, I have some hero gadgets I absolutely LOVE and couldn’t live without, many of which I am sharing here on my blog. So far we’ve had my one-handed tin opener (a godsend), my easy-peasy lemon squeezer, super pink tongs (they don’t have to be pink) and the amazing one-handed colander. With more to come (I know!).
So rid yourself of the unnecessary kitchen clutter, reclaim your kitchen drawers, chuck out those novelty oven gloves, pass on the breadmaker you’ve never used, repurpose that ‘hilarious’ guitar-shaped spatula and start afresh. You’ll thank me in the long run.
Your kitchen buddy,
I want to know what gadgets or pieces of kitchen equipment did you simply have to have, and are now lying unloved in a cupboard somewhere, or worse in the loft? Come on, ‘fess up – I want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly!
What a week. I’ve been poorly, both kids have been poorly. Work has been missed. School has been missed. Appetites have been lost. It’s all been a bit topsy turvy, so it was a relief to get back to normal this weekend and do some cooking and baking. Lovely husband bought me Annie Bell’s Baking Bible – woah, now there’s a baking book and a half. I loved it from the moment I saw it, and chose to make Blueberry and Orange Muffins, which were delish, and look, I even managed to find the recipe for you here. I have long been a fan of Annie Bell and this is a super book for the home baker.
Today we caught up with old friends who live out in the countryside, which was lovely. It’s always nice to have a breather from London. Seeing our five (between us) children playing and growing up together is a joy. Seeing my friend’s large and well-stocked larder, however, is not a joy as I am proper jealous.
Macaroni Cheese with Chicken and Rosemary
One of the things busy parents are always on the lookout for are simple pasta dishes for a family meal. We are all huge fans of macaroni cheese, but I started thinking about how it could be tweaked, plus made a bit simpler without having to make a white sauce each time, which can be a faff if you’re just trying to get Dinner On The Table. This recipe just uses crème fraîche – use half-fat if you like – and works a treat.
This rather moreish pasta dish, which you could also make using penne, rigatoni (or whatever really) is a great dish for a Monday night after a roast chicken on a Sunday, because you can use leftover cooked chicken. Which we like.
Note that stages 1 and 2 could be done in advance and left to rest (refrigerate the chicken once it’s cool if necessary) until you are ready to make the whole dish. I’m a big fan of stage-by-stage cooking, and using the windows of time available while the children are occupied, as you know!
What you need
300g macaroni (which you can cook in advance)
Approx 150g leftover roast chicken, or two medium-sized chicken breasts
400ml crème fraîche
½ clove of garlic, crushed
A sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 handfuls of grated cheese – Monterey Jack, strong Cheddar, Gruyère all good
Salt and freshly ground pepper
What to do
- Cook the macaroni or other pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, if you need to cook the meat from scratch, slice each chicken breast into smallish pieces (bite-size for kids), heat a griddle pan or frying pan, add a dash of olive oil and sauté until cooked through. Set aside.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C/180˚C (Fan)/gas 6
- Put the crème fraîche into a non-stick saucepan and set over a gentle heat. Add the rosemary and garlic, stir, and bring to a simmer.
- Add the cooked chicken and the cheese and season (go gently if serving to toddlers). Remove the pan from the heat and add the cooked pasta, stirring it together well.
- Pour into an ovenproof dish, top with a bit more grated cheese (you could also add some ready-made breadcrumbs if you have some, or scatter on a bit more chopped rosemary) and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and bubbling. Nice served with green beans.