An Invitation To George’s Tea Party

This week George and I hosted a tea party; a tea party for his teddy bears. Four teddies were invited and much time was spent finding a collection of toy cups, saucers and plates. George made an excellent waiter and enjoyed trying out the plastic cakes! Here are the pictures:

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A Gingerman

Whenever I go to the bakers my son loves to have a gingerbread man. Last week I decided to try making them at home. It was fantastic, George and I had great fun, and they tasted delicious, I could add my own mix of ginger and mixed spices to make it just right for us. I was particularly proud as this was my first time decorating biscuits and I think it turned out quite well.

I’ve called these ‘a gingerman’ as that’s George’s name for these biscuits, he says “Have a gingerman Mummy”. George loved his gingerman and when I went out into the garden to take some pictures for the blog he created his own photo set up; he sneaked off to the bottom of our garden, where an old church pew makes for our garden bench, and made his own scene with a handful of ‘stolen’ gingermen:

Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 390g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (or more to your taste)
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 160 ml golden syrup

Method:

  1. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy in a food mixer.
  2. Add the egg and golden syrup and beat until well combined.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture beating until incorporated.
  4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line 2 baking tray with baking paper and set aside while you roll out the dough.
  6. Lightly flour a clean work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Use a gingerbread cutter to cut out the cookies.
  7. With a spatula gently lift the cookies onto the baking tray, placing the cookies about 2cm apart.
  8. Bake for approx 8 – 12 mins depending on the size of the cookies. Small ones need 8 minutes, larger cookies approx 12 minutes. They are done when they are firm, golden, but still slightly soft.
  9. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking tray for about a minute. When they are firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Store in an airtight container.

Lemon Icing:

Ingredients:

  • 8oz/225g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp tsp lemon juice

Method:

  1. Add 1tsp lemon juice to sugar, mix until smooth, adding more lemon juice until the icing is thick and pourable, but not runny. Add extra sugar to thicken the mixture if it becomes too runny.
  2. Scrape into a piping bag with a fine tip and pipe onto cooled cookies.
  3. Allow to set for at least 30 minutes, until firm, before storing cookies in an airtight container.

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Speedy Golden Cupcakes

When you have friends coming over at short notice, but you want to serve some homemade cakes try this recipe out. My delicious speedy cupcakes can be made in 30 minutes. The ‘golden’ in my ‘golden cupcakes’ comes from using light muscovado cane sugar, which gives the cakes a great taste and colour.

Makes 12 small cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz soft butter
  • 20z light muscovado cane sugar (sifted)
  • 20z self-rising flour (sifted)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2tsp milk

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180ºc.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar (it is important for butter to be very soft before you begin mixing).
  3. Add half the flour, all the baking powder and the egg, fold gently together.
  4. Add remaining flour and milk, again fold gently.
  5. Spoon into cupcake cases, filling the cases a little under half way (I used brightly coloured silicone cupcake cases).
  6. Bake for a little 15 – 20 minutes – check the cakes by touching the top of one, if is done it should bounce back up and not leave an indentation.

Icing:

Ingredients:

  • 1tbsp icing sugar
  • 2tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1tbsp of warm water
  • tub of hundreds and thousands

Method:

  1. Sift icing sugar and cocoa powder in a small bowl.
  2. Add warm water a few drops at a time, whisking quickly until you have a smooth mixture that is liquid but not too runny.
  3. Drizzle icing on top of each cake and sprinkle with hundreds and thousands.
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What’s Happening In You Kitchen?

This week I’d love to hear from anybody who meal plans. What are you cooking this week? Here is our* meal plan:

  1. Pot Roast Chicken
  2. Jacket Potatoes with fillings
  3. Frittata
  4. Bacon Pasta
  5. Prawn Stir-fry
  6. Risotto
  7. Shepherd’s Pie

Please share your meal plans or feel free to use mine.

*For all of you who know I’ve been ill lately this meal plan is only what Daddy and George will be eating.

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Matt’s Gnocchi

My big brother Matthew cooked this meal for my family a couple of months ago. It was the first time we had all eaten gnocchi, but Matt is a big fan of it since he visited Italy earlier this year. He loves to cook gnocchi not only because it is delicious, but he can buy a prepared packet cheaply and it only takes 3 minutes to cook!

Since Matt introduced us to gnocchi I found out you can serve it with a wide variety of sauces and have been trying them out at  home for a speedy supper. Matt cooked his gnocchi with a ragu sauce roughly the same as my recipe below.

Matt is one of the biggest supporters of my blog. This week, as if he doesn’t do enough for me, he visited, played with my son, and cleaned George’s playroom carpet with a steam cleaner for me – now wouldn’t everyone want a brother like him?!!!

Here’s the recipe:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 500g pack gnocchi (2 packs if you are extra hungry)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 500g steak mince
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tub passata (500g)
  • (optional – 1 glass red wine)

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan, add all ingredients except the passata and cook for roughly 3-5 mins or until soft.
  2. Add steak mince and fry until browned.
  3. Add passata (wine if using) to frying pan, simmer for 15-20 mins.
  4. Serve on gnocchi with ground pepper.
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Jamie’s Food Revolution

I’ve been avidly watching Jamie Oliver’s new show on channel 4. It is addictive and very eye opening. If you haven’t been watching it you can catch up on youtube here.

Just like the channel 4 show Jamie’s School Dinners, Jamie visits school canteens, but this time in America. He wants to see exactly what food kids are being served. The results from both shows are quite shocking. Pizza for breakfast – yes pizza for breakfast – you have to watch this show to believe it.

Jamie makes us realise that we all need to consider what we are eating; consider the hidden fats, sugars and salts in our shop bought convenience foods. He also emphasises how important it is to get kids involved in home cooking – luckily since I love to cook and have a teaching degree I find it easy to get my little boy involved – but Jamie’s project is great because it shows others, who may feel less confident in the kitchen, where to get started. Teaching children about basic food ingredients is one place to start and in one of the youtube clips below you can see just why it is so important.

As a Mum one of the most interesting sections of the show so far was to see how Jamie Oliver tried to show children how bad foods like chicken nuggets can be for them, and regardless they still wanted to eat them – watch the clips from the show below they will really get you thinking! Watch Jamie today channel 4 10pm.

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Garden Pasta

Our campervan has been off the road for about 3 years and last week we finally got it serviced, taxed and working again! However, on the night we had to pick it up from the garage the traffic was terrible; when we got home I didn’t have time to cook my planned meal before my little boy’s dinner time, so I improvised and made up this Garden Pasta. Basically I knew anything with olives would be a big hit with George, he may be only 2 but he loves olives! The meal turned out to be a huge hit with us all and got George eating lots of vegetables. Try this recipe out, it is super healthy, super quick, super colourful and super tasty.

Ingredients:

Serves 2-3

  • 75g spaghetti per person
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sliced garlic clove
  • 1 sliced courgette
  • 1 sliced yellow or orange pepper
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp fresh or dried oregano
  • ground black pepper
  • 50g halved cherry tomatoes
  • 50g sliced green olives
  • fresh grated Parmesan
  • handful chopped parsley

Method:

  1. Cook spaghetti according to instructions on packet.
  2. Heat oil in a large frying pan, add courgettes and peppers, cook on a medium heat for approx 5 mins.
  3. Add herbs and ground pepper (as much as you like) to frying pan, turn heat down and place a lid on, cook for a further 2-3 mins on a low heat.
  4. Add olives and cherry tomatoes to the pan, stir, and replace lid for a further 2 mins.
  5. Pour cooked and drained pasta to the frying pan, mix well.
  6. Top with plenty of grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Our campervan; three years on our driveway; needs a lot of work; mobile kitchen. Excuse my hat, but the aviator is in this year!

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Lidl Voucher

Just a quick post for all UK readers.

The Daily Express and The Daily Star have a £5 discount voucher for shopping at Lidl. If you spend £30 or over £5 will deducted from your bill. The voucher is available in the two newspapers all next week and the voucher is valid until Sunday 3rd October 2010.

I love Lidl. I think it is great value and they sell lots of good products from the continent. Their yogurt is delicious, their olives and sun-dried tomatoes very good value, their free range eggs are 6 for 99p and I think it is the cheapest place to buy a free range chicken. I also buy all my cleaning products at Lidl too; if you haven’t shopped there before you will be surprised by how much you can save on your weekly shopping bill.

I bought a Daily Express yesterday for my voucher, it cost 70p. Look out for the voucher – happy shopping!

*If from time to time you find special offers please email info@ilovemealplans.com, or post details on my facebook page, so I can share them with other readers.

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Quick Homemade Pizza

My 2 year old and I made Daddy a pizza. He came home from work to a delicious pizza we had made from scratch. Dinner was made and my son was entertained at the same time! Normally I try to make dinner while he hangs on my leg, or shouts for me to play with him; sometimes he tries to help, but there isn’t always something he can do. When we made this pizza he was kept busy and useful; we are having pizza for dinner more often!

One reason that this pizza recipe is so good for kids is that it does not use yeast. Yeast requires the dough to rise which means waiting time, something kids are not good at. It is also important to control any spillage of yeast or it can grow (and smell!) on your kitchen surfaces; since cooking with kids always creates a lot of mess it is best to use a yeast free recipe. The final point to consider is that kids put things in their mouths and putting a spoon covered in dough containing raw yeast is not a good idea! Anyway I’m a bit fussy when it comes to yeast, I think it is over used and put in unnecessary products – you can even find it in crisps! Too much of anything is not good for you, but I stop here as my husband says this subject is boring!

Moving on, the other plus side to this homemade pizza is that by making it yourself pizza becomes the healthy option. So often shop bought or delivered pizzas have too many calories, hidden salt and sugar, but when you make it yourself you know exactly what the ingredients are.

Here is my extremely easy recipe:

Serves 4 for dinner (with a salad)

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz self-rising flour (sifted)*
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 200ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g passata
  • 1 ball mozzarella (or 2 if you like cheese!)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • toppings of your choice (egg, ham, olives, chorizo, spinach, peppers)
  • greased large rectangular baking tray

Method:

  1. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, water and oil until a smooth dough is formed.
  2. Make dough into a ball and place on a clean floured surface; using a rolling pin roll dough into a rectangle.
  3. Lift dough onto baking tray and stretch to fit the whole of the tray, push dough into corners to make a thicker crust.
  4. Spread passata onto pizza base using the back of a spoon.
  5. Add sliced mozzarella evenly over the pizza, add herbs and toppings**.
  6. Cook in a pre-heated over at 180°c for 25 minutes.

*Add a pinch of salt to the dough mixture if you wish.

**If you wish to use eggs as a topping as I did they should not be placed onto the pizza until later. Cook the pizza until there is 5 minutes remaining and then crack the eggs onto the pizza to cook.

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Student Meal Plan

I’ve been thinking for sometime that a meal plan for students could be useful. Now everyone is getting back to studying again I thought I’d publish this new meal plan.

When I went to university and had lots of studying to do it was hard to get meals organised. I thought it was really only since I was a Mum that it was most important for meals that to be healthy, cheap and quick, but when I think back that’s how I cooked at university.

Now my cousin Joe, who is at university, expressed an interest in a meal plan that could help him with his shopping and cooking. I’ve consider my university days and put together this plan. The funny thing is it always seems to me only a short time ago I was a student, but it was nearly 10 years! Let me know what you think about my meal plan and please leave ideas so I can keep on improving.

  1. Chilli con Carne or Spaghetti Bolognese
  2. Tuna or Bacon Pasta
  3. Quick Jacket Potatoes with cheese and beans
  4. Chicken Curry
  5. Fry up (may seem unhealthy but is quick, full of protein and can add grilled tomatoes as a vegetable)
  6. Chicken or Prawn Stir fry
  7. Battered fish (or fishfingers!) with wedges, peas and sweetcorn.

As I remember students seem forever hungry, so I’ve added a few filling snack ideas which can be planned into a shopping trip.

Snacks:

  1. Beans on toast
  2. Cheese on toast
  3. Cereal
  4. Bacon sandwich
  5. Soup
  6. Toasted ham and cheese sandwich
  7. Crumpets with jam

If you like my meal plan, you can see a basic shopping list to help here.

Recipes will be updated on my Student Meal Plan page so keep checking back!

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