So, Littlest has started nursery school and has settled in a treat, thank goodness. She has got her little group of friends, old and new, and I hear about them every day, and the games they get up to. Because of work I don’t get to pick her up every day, but on the days I do collect her, I noticed she was very thirsty at the end of the session. She’s grown out of her Tommee Tippee beaker, but whenever I gave her a normal plastic water bottle, half of it would end up down her front. I needed a solution for my thirsty girl!
Thanks to the lovely folks at Oxo Tot who make gorgeous colourful products, we have found the answer! The all-new and super-stylish Twist Top Water Bottle – designed especially for children aged 2+. It’s just the right size, at 350ml, so it fits nicely into small hands. When you turn the top, the straw pops out – perfect. My little one cannot manage to twist the top herself though – I have to do that for her – but she can close it. The top is nicely rubberized, there is a handy carrying loop, it is leakproof (yes!), easy to wash, and all in all is a good quality bit of kit – as you’d expect from this family-friendly brand.
Those same lovely folks at Oxo Tot have given me three to give away on the blog – one in Aqua, one in Green and one in Raspberry! So, if you’d like to win one, please comment on this post. To be in with a chance of winning a Water Bottle, you have to a) follow @onehandedcook on Twitter AND b) RT my tweet about the giveaway!
THE DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES HAS NOW PASSED AND THE WINNERS HAVE BEEN SELECTED! THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED.
The small print:
1. Entry in to the prize draw will be deemed as acceptance of these rules.
2. The prize draw is open to any UK resident, aged 18 or over, who follows the @onehandedcook Twitter account AND retweets the tweet about the prize draw referencing the prize of an Oxo Tots Twist Top Water Bottle.
3. The competition ends at 09:00am on the 25th November 2013.
4. One winner will be drawn at random from all valid entries.
5. One entry per person.
6. The prize is one Oxo Tots Twist Top Water Bottle.
7. The prize is non-negotiable, non-transferable, and there is no cash alternative.
8. The draw will be made by random selection within seven days of the competition ending and the prize posted to the winner’s home address within 30 days.
9. The winner will be notified by direct message on Twitter if they have won.
10. If a response is not received by the winner within 30 days they will forfeit their right to the prize.
11. No purchase necessary.
12. This prize draw is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Twitter and Twitter shall not be liable in any way whatsoever to the Users.
Ah, pudding. Who doesn’t love pudding? Especially when it’s fruit. And especially when it’s fruit in the shape of a loveable animal! My children love mango hedgehogs. And while I am not really one for making such things as miniature edible sailboats with cheese sails, or fruit faces with blueberries for eyes and grapes for the nose (you get the picture), these are so easy to do, and bring such joy I cannot resist sharing with you here, lovely blog readers.
Admittedly, mango hedgehogs most definitely cannot be created one-handed, however they are quick to do and will keep your child quiet and happy for between 5 and 15 minutes. For younger babies (9m+) remove the cubes of mango, and serve in a little plastic bowl, or – even easier – straight onto the tray of the high chair.
You will need
A very sharp knife. I have this Global knife (it was a gift, I had no idea it was this expensive) which is just wonderful because it has a sharp point so you can score into the mango flesh to make your lines.
A cutting board
What to do
Take your mango and, using your sharp knife, slice off one side. Turn it flesh side up, and using your sharp-pointed knife, score 5 or 6 lines in one direction (from top to bottom), and then the equivalent number from side to side, creating a criss-cross pattern in the flesh. Now press your thumbs into the skin side and push out the little ‘cubes’ created by your artful cutting. Add two raisins for eyes, and voila, a mango hedgehog.
Here is my daughter devouring her mango hedgehog. (She ate three that day.)
In other news, I have been nominated in the Mad Blog Awards Best Food Blog category for 2013, which I am completely thrilled about. I feel very honoured to have been put forward by some of you lovely people. I started this blog in October 2012, and it is an incredible feeling to have been recognized by my peers, some of whom are writing such incredible blogs, they put me to shame (I still don’t know what a linky is, and I am not on Facebook). But I am on Twitter! It’s a start.
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…
Christmas is always a big deal in our house because it’s my son’s birthday on Boxing Day, and so we enter a New Year with him a year older, which always makes me feel older. My daughter is growing fast, too, and starting to exhibit a new level of enterprise and cunning; her latest trick of an evening is getting out of her Grobag and catapulting herself out of the cot with a wicked cackle of glee. I am in denial – she’s my baby – she can’t grow up. I won’t allow it.
So, anyway, 2013 has been quite busy for me already, what with one thing and another, and I haven’t had as much time to cook as I would like. Thankfully, the good old weekly Riverford box has come into its own, and I have been throwing together such things as aubergine curry, minestrone soup and cauliflower cheese. It’s amazing what you can rustle up without having to leave the house, if your store cupboard is fairly well stocked and you have some cheese knocking about (one of my store-cupboard faves is this Gia Sundried Tomato Purée, incidentally – it’s brilliant in so many dishes).
One thing I seem to have had a glut of is bananas. And so I made my quick and very tasty banana bread this week, and thought I’d share the recipe here. Not strictly one-handed, although some bits could be done with a baby perched on your hip, it can be whipped up in no time at all. It is really delicious, and what with snow allegedly coming, I can’t think of anything nicer than sitting inside, all cosy, eating a slice of this warm from the oven with a dab of butter, while the snow falls outside. Yum.
Nutty Banana Bread
Mashing bananas to make this always reminds of mashing bananas for the babies when I was weaning them: plate, fork, ripe bananas, tiny spoons, puckered lips, flat refusal, banana on the floor, banana in their hair, banana in my hair, banana absolutely everywhere – ah, happy days.
This is dead simple, so it’s perfect if you have a few overripe bananas lying around that you can’t bear to see going to waste and someone is coming for tea. If you don’t have walnuts, macadamia nuts are good too. Chopped medjool dates are nice stirred in, although they are very sweet so you could reduce the sugar a little if adding those. You could also try sprinkling poppyseeds on top.
3 ripe bananas, mashed up
75g soft butter (get it out the fridge in advance or soften in microwave)
160g soft brown sugar (100g soft brown + 60g dark brown sugar also works well)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
170g wholemeal flour (50:50 wholemeal & plain flour works well, too)
small pinch ground cloves
50g walnut halves, chopped, and save a few halves to go on top
What to do
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C/160˚C Fan/Gas mark 4 and grease a small loaf tin (7½” x 3½”), or use some Lakeland quick release spray.
- To a mixing bowl add: the mashed bananas, butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract and mix.
- Mix in the baking powder, the salt, the ground cloves and finally the flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and decorate with a couple of walnut halves.
- Bake for 45 mins and check. Insert a skewer; if it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool in the tin a little, and then… dig in!
Look what Santa’s got in his sleigh! It wouldn’t be a party in our house without these biscuits. They are perfect with a glass of white wine (or two) and just the thing for any Christmas do. I make a batch whenever we are entertaining, be it a grown-up party or a kids’ one – they are universally adored.
They are deliciously cheesy and savoury, and the semolina lends them a fine crisp texture and extra bite. They are so easy to make, that once you’ve got your ingredients together all you really need to be capable of doing is pressing the button on your food processor. Ta da!
Warning – they are melt-in-the-mouth delicious and very moreish.
Makes about 30–40 biscuits
100g butter, very soft
85g self-raising flour
75g parmesan, grated
A good pinch of dry mustard powder
Salt and pepper
Pistachio nuts to top them with
What to do
- Preheat oven to 180˚C (160˚C Fan).
- Use the grater function on your food processor to grate the parmesan (takes seconds). Add the rest of the ingredients, except the nuts, to the food processor. Work together until combined to a soft dough.
- Remove the dough, and roll into a big ball. Roll the dough into small balls about 3–4cm in diameter and flatten each ball between the palms of your hands. (They are quite rich, so I usually make them smaller rather than larger.) Lay each biscuit on a greased baking tray.
- Top each biscuit with a pistachio nut. Walnut pieces, peanuts pinenuts and poppy seeds work really well, too.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for approx. 12 minutes until pale golden brown. Keep an eye on them – you don’t want them to burn. Cool on a wire rack and serve cold. Try not to eat the lot before your guests arrive.
Preparing ahead: they freeze brilliantly, just defrost them – you don’t even need to reheat them or anything. They can also be made up to a week in advance and kept in airtight container. Alternatively, make the dough in advance, freeze it, defrost it overnight in the fridge and make them when it suits you.
A steaming hot bowl of soup is, for me, the culinary equivalent of a big hug from someone wearing a Nordic Sarah-Lund-style jumper. Cosy. I love the ritual of making it – sautéing the onion, adding the vegetables, the stock, seasoning, simmering, stirring, ladling it into pre-warmed bowls (if I’m organised), and finally dipping my spoon in and devouring it, preferably with toast slathered in butter on the side.
Luckily for me my family shares my love of soup, so Saturday lunch is more often than not soup for all; even when I was weaning the little ones, I’d just omit the salt and liquidize the soup in batches, leaving some as thicker purée, perfect for babies and toddlers.
This soup is really easy, and a brilliant one to make in stages as there is a bit of prep involved (although you could always cheat and buy ready-prepared butternut squash – who’ll know?). Roasting the vegetables first is a bit different, but gives them a sweet, almost caramelized flavour, and the sweet potato gives the soup a silky smooth texture.
Perfect for a chilly November or December day, and the sweetish flavour usually goes down very well with babies, toddlers and older children. It also freezes beautifully – hurrah. Why not make double?
Roast Butternut Squash, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup
1 butternut squash peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped and cut into chunks
3 or 4 carrots, peeled, chopped and cut into smaller chunks (they take longer to roast)
Sprig of rosemary
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
Knob of butter
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (I like Kallo chicken stock or Marigold veg stock)
What to do
Peel and chop the squash, sweet potato and carrots when you have a 10-minute window of time, such as when baby is happily sitting in her bouncy chair, or having a nap. You can then put your pre-prepared veg in a container in the fridge, or on the side until you are ready to make your soup. If children happily occupied, carry on to the next stage.
Stage 2 (another self-contained step)
- Pre-heat your oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/400°F
- Line a decent-sized baking tray with foil (to save scrubbing it later – yay!) and add your pre-cut vegetables, then drizzle with olive oil and season. Add the rosemary, and toss the vegetables with your fingers.
- Roast the vegetables in the hot oven for around 30 mins, turning halfway. You want them to be soft. Remove from the oven, remove the rosemary sprig and set aside.
Again, if at this stage you need to pause, you can. It doesn’t matter if the roasted veg go cold as you just reheat the soup at the end.
Stage 3 (to be done while the veg are roasting, or as a separate stage)
- Heat a dash of oil and a knob of butter in a heavy-based pan (I use a Le Creuset), and add the onion. Sauté over a medium to low heat for a good 10 minutes; you want the onion to be nice and soft. Stir occasionally.
- Blend your roasted vegetables, softened onion and stock together in a liquidizer. Reheat in the saucepan and serve.