Every now and then I come across a kitchen gadget that I just LOVE. It’s not often I stumble upon three. Three gadgets that this busy mama loves – and why? Because they Make Life Easier. Which we like. I recommend you get your hands on these, and quick.
Wooden toast tongs
Utter genius for anyone who likes toasting awkwardly shaped bread-related items with a tendency to get stuck in the toaster, or else be finger-searingly hot once they’re done: think hot cross buns, bagels, waffles, odd crusts and so on. So how do you get them out? You need slim, bamboo tongs with a cunning magnet on the side TO STICK THEM TO THE TOASTER SO YOU DON’T LOSE THEM (yet more genius) – and enable you to make toast one-handed – of course. Get through breakfast with panache. Buy them Lakeland for just £1.99.
Spice jar measuring spoons
Frankly, I can’t believe I’ve lasted 39 years without a set of these. Slimline measuring spoons that fit into narrow spice jars. They will actually help make cooking quicker, easier and less messy, I promise. There’s not much more to say really, other than these are completely brilliant and I consider them essential! Available from Amazon, John Lewis and Lakeland and made by the brilliant guys at Oxo Good Grips.
Sparkling wine opener
I’ve never been a fan of opening prosecco or champagne bottles – I have an innate fear of the cork literally exploding out of the bottle and causing a major incident. So I tended to always get a friend to do it. No longer with this little gadget, the Sparkling Wine Star, brought to you by Le Creuset (www.lecreuset.co.uk) – simply remove the foil, attach star to cork and twist. Pour and relax. An absolute must for every knackered parent out there.
Happy New Year, peeps! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas break and have come back refreshed. I have to say, I was quite delighted to get back to the routine… and then I got back to the routine and decided it wasn’t that great after all. Hey ho.
So what does 2015 have in store? Most excitingly a trip to New Zealand is in the pipeline this December. Yup, Christmas 2015 will be spent on the South Island with Husband’s brother and his family, which is something to look forward to, and a motivating factor in my quest to get fit and healthy.
So, time permitting, I am getting back into running and have already been several times during the last couple of weeks. Of course, it’s fitting it in around the family and work that’s the issue, especially given that it’s dark in the morning and the evening, which I don’t find very motivating. But I have also built more walking into my daily commute, which is good for my health, and has the added benefit of being cheaper, too. I have been listening to the (very gripping) Serial podcast as I walk, which helps pass the time.
We’ve been making lots of delicious smoothies and healthy breakfasts, including overnight oats, here at OH HQ, too (more to come on this soon!), and both Husband and I have been doing loads of cooking from various cookbooks – new and old, which has been lovely.
I am LOVING our new KitchenAid, and so Littlest and I spent the afternoon making a chocolate cake because, well, just because really! She loved cracking the eggs, sifting the flour (although she did get bored half way through) and stirring and mixing. A great way to pass a winter’s afternoon with a little one.
Come on, it’s time to fall off that sugar-free wagon in style. Just a small slice…
Moist Rich Chocolate Cake
This recipe is slightly adapted from The Guardian’s ‘Guide to Baking’, which was given away with the newspaper way back in 2007 and this chocolate cake is simply incredible. The icing is from Nigella’s Feast, and is the icing she uses on her Chocolate Guinness Cake. Nothing healthy here, I’m afraid, it’s pure indulgence!
You will need:
375ml boiling milk
100g dark chocolate, chopped (I just broke into chunks tbh)
275g caster sugar
225g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder
¾tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 large free-range egg, plus one yolk
75ml sunflower oil
25g golden syrup
2tsp vanilla extract
What to do:
- Heat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) and line the base of a 20cm diameter, 9cm deep round cake tin (or the closest you have to this) with baking parchment.
- Melt the chocolate into the boiling milk and allow to stand and cool for 15 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile, weigh and sift all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl (I used the KitchenAid bowl).
- Whisk together the eggs, oil, golden syrup and vanilla and then beat into your milky-chocolate mix from step 2.
- Whisk this liquid into your dry ingredients for 30 seconds (this is where I used the KitchenAid) until smooth, and pour the batter into the tin.
- Bake for approx. 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Allow to cool before topping with the below.
For the topping you will need:
150g Philadelphia cream cheese
75g icing sugar
60ml double cream
Cocoa powder for dusting
What to do:
- Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth – I used the KitchenAid to do this (because I love it).
- Sieve over the icing sugar, and then beat both together.
- Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Spread over the top of your cake and sprinkle with cocoa powder from a fine-mesh sieve.
It’s that time of the year again – when I wish I’d started Christmas prep in September… But hey ho, I’m just not that organised. If you are feeling the strain slightly, here are my Top Five Tips for a Great Christmas Day for busy mums, dads, grannies, grandpas – and everyone else.
- Do not panic. Get organised by thinking through the entire menu in advance and the various pots, pans and other dishes you will need on Christmas Day – check you know where they are, they are clean and they are ready to go.
- Delegate. If your child is old enough to carry cutlery without falling over and accidentally stabbing themselves then they can help set the table. Get your dad to serve the drinks. Uncle Geoff can wash up. Small children like tasks too – you need everyone on board here. Your new mantra is, ‘Remember, there’s no ‘i’ in team, folks!’
- Preparation. Check now you have the following essentials at home: batteries, coffee, black bin bags, number for local taxi firm, corkscrew that actually works, kitchen roll, loo roll, matches, copious amounts of sparkling wine 😉
- Get outside. It is very easy to get very hot, quite stressed and cooped up in the house on Christmas Day. Get outside for some fresh air – you and the children will appreciate it! Stretch your legs with a little walk – you will come back to the hectic household feeling refreshed (and maybe even ready for more cheese…).
- Music. Everyone likes a festive tune to help gee things along; line up a great Christmas playlist now (or better still, delegate this to husband/boyfriend/teenager– see point 2) – from carols to Bing Crosby, a good old family singalong as you dry up the dishes together can be one of those bonding moments you never forget!
Enjoy your Christmas Day!
It’s been an amazing year for me on lots of fronts, but of course, like any working mum of young children it’s had its stressful moments too, so I am really looking forward to a break from the routine. We are spending Christmas day with my lovely mum and dad, which we are all looking forward to. (Mum – make sure you read my handy tips!)
Thank you everyone for reading my blog, for sharing your stories and for supporting The One-Handed Cook in 2014. Thank you to the brands I’ve worked with for your support, too. Here’s to more in 2015.
Have a lovely Christmas everyone!
Regular readers will know I am a *little bit* obsessed with storage containers. I know, sad but true. But they’re just so practical. And varied in shape. And with interesting little sections and snap-on lids. Who needs the Tiffany diamond department when you’ve got Robert Dyas’ plasticware section??
Recently the lovely folks at Joseph Joseph caught wind of my love of storage containers and sent me this beautiful nest of coloured containers to test. Well, obviously I love them. They don’t only look stylish, they work really well. The lids are colour coordinated with the container part via a little coloured dot so there’s no risk of mixing them up, and for those who are tight on space, the lids snap together for almost-flat storage, and the containers stack inside each other, making for a neat and tidy cupboard.
The containers are air-tight with silicone seals, see-through (handy) and über stylish. Look!
So it’s bye-bye to the sad old Tupperwares inherited from my mother, and the shambolic cupboard full of plastic boxes with missing lids (or never the right lid…), and hello storage heaven… The corner cupboard in my kitchen has never looked so smart. At £40, it’s the perfect Christmas gift for any stylish foodie!
Disclaimer: I was sent the Joseph Joseph Nest Storage 6-piece container set for free to try out.
It’s time to reveal another of The One-Handed Cook’s all-time favourite bits of kitchen kit. This week my hero gadget is the cafetiere.
I love coffee. I love coffee made at home in my cafetiere, and I love coffee in cafés. When my children were babies, it was such a treat to pack up their little tubs of food and bags of rice cakes and retreat to the warmth of a cosy café with another mum for a chat and a coffee THAT SOMEONE ELSE HAD MADE FOR ME. Such a joy. It almost made the lack of sleep worth it, just for that first sip of dark bitter liquid enlaced with creamy milk. Oh yes.
At home I always use a cafetiere for my coffee. It’s an absolute must-have for any tired parent in need of a coffee to keep them going at home, and has four key benefits:
- It’s cheap to buy (take note, Nespresso fans – you’ll soon get bored of forking out for those pod things).
- It makes decent coffee. Experiment with the amount of ground coffee you put in; you can make a really good cup. Trust me.
- You can make a cafetiere of coffee one-handed; simply just boil the kettle, add scoops of coffee (how many depends on what ungodly hour your little one clambered in to your bed in for a cuddling/wriggling/head-butting session), wait for a bit, and then push down the button, and pour into favourite cup.
- You can buy little cafetiere jackets to keep the coffee in your cafetiere hotter for longer – an essential purchase for all parents – you’ve made the coffee, but who knows when you are actually going to be able to drink it? When you do get to it, you want it to actually be hot! I got mine on Amazon, and it really works.
Enjoy your coffee this fine November morning. Even better, enjoy it with a friend 🙂
If you can think ahead when it comes to preparing meals –whether for the children, to eat together as a family, or for two invariably tired parents, then you have already won half the battle in the kitchen, I find. It’s taken a while, but I have learnt that cooking ‘stage by stage’ is a great way of helping me feel like I am (kind of) on top of things. By ‘stage by stage’ I mean using little windows of opportunity when the little ones are asleep/occupied in their high chair/at school to get ahead – so, for example washing and chopping vegetables in advance and storing in the fridge, or pre-roasting root veg to stir into a salad or pasta dish – this helps make prepping supper one-handed with baby on your hip a breeze!
Being a spontaneous kind of girl, at first this notion of planning and doing meal prep in advance really went against the grain, but I have persevered, and now I find it an incredibly useful approach to cooking, especially given the hours I work, and the precious weekend time that I want to spend with the family.
If you can get into the habit of being organized, planning meals, and cooking in stages you will feel calmer and more in control in the kitchen. You will also find you spend less time trying to rustle up meals on the fly and cooking when it’s reached ‘tipping point’, i.e. when the children are hungry and whiny, which can, let’s face it, be very stressful. And no-one likes to be stressed in the kitchen!
To help you feel less stressed and more calm and in control in the kitchen, here are my top time-saving tips for busy people:
- Use the windows of opportunity available to you throughout the day to get ahead: prepare vegetables, make a white sauce, prepare the couscous – even just 5 minutes used well can help you cut down on cooking time later on.
- Keep a well-stocked store cupboard – this is one of the secrets to success in the kitchen. If you have a selection of ingredients to hand then you will always be able to prepare something quick, easy and interesting.
- Put aside some time to plan the week’s meals. Having an overview of who is eating what and when will help you plan the shopping and reduce waste.
- Don’t be afraid to take shortcuts if you are pressed for time and your week is going to be madly busy: no-one else is going to know (or likely care) if you buy ready-prepared vegetables. Don’t judge yourself either – do it and move on.
- Stock your freezer with practical things (bags of frozen veg, homemade stock for later use, prawns etc.) and also interesting bits and bobs so that even the most unexciting prospect can be transformed. A tin of tuna and some sundried tomatoes can suddenly look quite interesting served with some posh bread from the freezer and a drizzle of olive oil. (A tub of fancy ice-cream can go a long way, too…)
- Make double and freeze half for another meal. Stocks, curries, stews, pasta sauces and soups all freeze really well. Feel smug as you get it out the freezer next time 🙂
Let me know your time-saving tips!
Hope these help.
With special thanks to Jenny at The Gingerbread House for letting me reproduce her wonderful Playmobil clock photo to illustrate this post!
Ah, holidays… some see holidays as a chance to spend time together as a family, peacefully reflecting on the meaning of life, passing days quietly doing relaxing activities together… Hmm, not in this household. More like a chance to spend 24 hours a day together in a place that’s hotter than the sun (Spain), jump in swimming pools, eat far too many crisps, and cope with whining children who ‘just want to get this one thing’ from the tacky souvenir shop….
Ho ho. But seriously, Spain was great. We spent two days in Barcelona followed by eight down near Valencia, combining pool time with visits to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, the waterpark in Cullera (fantastic fun) and, er, the local Carrefour. Yup, one of my holiday highlights was browsing the aisles in the local hypermarket – I spotted unusual bathmats, some lovely wicker baskets, some great clothes, and as for the kitchenware – there were gadgets I’d never even seen before (I didn’t think this was possible).
Frankly, you can’t beat a European supermarket. And what did I come home with from Spain? Yup, three mini storage containers in orange, yellow and green, ‘para las frutas’ – I couldn’t resist them, as I loved the bright colours. Truly rock n roll, baby.
Hasta la vista,