Baby in one hand, wooden spoon in the other

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"Come on, Bill, there's Macaroni Cheese to be made"

“Come on, Bill, there’s Macaroni Cheese to be made”

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.

Tootle pip,

TOHC x

Macaroni Cheese with Chicken and Rosemary

Serves 4

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

  1. Cook the macaroni or other pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
  2. 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.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C/180˚C (Fan)/gas 6
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Macaroni Cheese with Chicken

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How many soldiers can you fit into fit a scoop colander?

The minute I saw this, I knew I had to have it – it was gadget love at first sight. Some of you may remember I went shopping in Selfridges a couple of months ago, which is where I found this beauty. A Joseph Joseph Scoop Colander – the large one, not the small one, I must clarify. I know! How exciting!?

Now, I realise some of you may be less than giddy about a colander, but hear me out. This is a seriously stylish bit of kit, which not only looks nice in your kitchen, but is really useful. Remember, I am here to try and make life easier for you.  I only recommend good things. And I bring you the one-handed colander! Yes, you can drain things one-handed. Whatever you, as a busy parent, might be doing with the left hand while trying to cook with the right* (holding baby, jabbering on the phone, wiping a toddler’s snotty nose (eeew), making a packed lunch – ok, that one might be overstretching it a little… or perhaps not) you can still drain the pasta or the vegetables, without having to stop everything and carry cauldrons of boiling water to the sink and the colander, risking life and limb while doing so.

The blurb says:

–       Scoop and drain directly from the pan

–       Ideal for straining pasta, vegetables and fried food

–       Heat resistant for deep frying to 240˚C

–       Dishwasher safe

Frankly, what more could you want? This is a great gadget for the busy cook – it means you can strain and serve, and is particularly useful when you’re in a hurry or just cooking a smallish amount of pasta, say for the children’s tea.

Here is an alternative view of the colander:

Joseph Joseph colander

You don’t have to go to Selfridges to buy one either, you can get one on Amazon, or from Debenhams. Just make sure you get the large one as it is more capacious and you can fit more soldiers in. (I took the photo to give you a sense of scale; I knew you’d understand the soldiers!)

Happy cooking,

TOHC

x

*I am obviously making the assumption that most of you will be left-handed. Lefties, please don’t take offence, none is meant. I am a solo rightie in a family of lefties.

P.S. If you want to know how many soldiers, you’re going to have to tweet me a guess


Pretty in pink

Is this the most useful gadget for the one-handed cook? Just think, with baby in one hand and tongs in the other so many tasks are possible. For example, with the aid of your trusty tongs you can remove hot toast/pitta breads/crumpets from the toaster without scalding your fingers, turn bacon on the grill, remove hot vegetables from their roasting tin, move hot scones/muffins/cupcakes onto the cooling rack, flip burgers on the barbecue, rescue lost Lego men from behind the microwave, and last, and perhaps most importantly of all, pretend they are pecking off your nose, which is guaranteed to make even the grumpiest baby smile.

If you have a whinging toddler who’s driving you a bit bonkers while you are trying to cook, sit him in his high chair with a pair of tongs and some pieces of cooked pasta and see if he can pick up a piece. This frustrating challenge is tougher than Mastermind for an 18-month-old and should hopefully keep him occupied for at least five minutes. (During which time you will, of course, be without tongs, but your sanity will remain intact as you will actually be able to think straight – hurrah!) I LOVE my tongs.

Tell me what you use your tongs for in the kitchen!

You can buy the gorgeous Colours pink silicone tongs (I do love a colourful gadget) pictured here from Waitrose for £8 at selected stores or online here or here. These ones are particularly good because you can close them neatly when not in use.

Happy cooking.

TOHC

x



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