With the recent start of the new GBBO series, baking season is in full swing. We love baking in our house and it’s great to be inspired watching the brilliant bakers… Even if that isn’t so great for our waistlines! The kids love baking too, especially Monkey, so it is often a family affair in our house. Which is why I was super excited to receive this gorgeous new bowl from House of Fraser recently and couldn’t wait to try it out.
The design is gorgeous, with a real country kitchen feel. Apparently Hubs’ Nana had a similar one growing up, and I’m sure mine did too actually so it conjures up lots of memories of yummy smells and delicious food. I’m sure I saw a very similar one in the Bake Off tent recently too!
The kids and I put it to the test with a simple biscuit recipe from the Queen of Bake Off herself, Mary Berry. As LM is mainly in a play and explore mode she had her own little bowl of ingredients to, erm, have fun with, while Monkey and I got on with the serious baking in our gorgeous new bowl.
The bowl was perfect and once the dough was ready I rolled it out and the kids helped make some biscuits in the shape of stars and, um, stormtroopers. Haha, probably not quite the shape Mary Berry had in mind when creating this recipe!
Once they had baked it was time to decorate with simple water icing and sprinkles. I was pleasantly surprised how LM did with the sprinkles actually and some actually made their way into the biscuits! By this point Monkey was far more interested in eating the ingredients than helping any more!
I love baking with the kids but it can seriously stress me out at times too trying to actually end up with something edible by the end haha. Hence keeping it simple with the recipe, but don’t be fooled by the seemingly perfect serene images, I was definitely irritable by the end. The clean up too, argh!
One of my favourite things about our new bowl though is that it can be washed in the dishwasher! Hooray! That is such a must for me these days. Even though Monkey had basically licked it clean it went in the dishwasher with all the other bits meaning I could give the kitchen itself a good clean up without leaving the kids to their own devices for too long.
Thanks House of Fraser, our new bowl is the perfect addition to our kitchen!
Disclosure: we received this bowl foc in exchange for this review, however all thoughts, opinions and images are my own.
This last week since we came home from our lovely holiday has been all about preparations. Mainly, preparations for a little party as our gorgeous Monkey turns 4 this weekend! I will write a more specific post about our gorgeous boy but for now I can’t believe I have been a mummy for 4 years! This weekend we are celebrating. After a lot of uhhming and ahing about what we should do, we decided on a fairly simple and small party at the local community centre with some of his closest friends. We are having a pirate theme as he loves pirates and we have some really simple activities planned that I hope go well. I have spent a good chunk of this week getting ready for said party. I have party bags and favours and sweets and I need to wrap up a pass the parcel game.
Even LM has gotten involved in the preparations today by “helping” me bake Monkey’s birthday cake. By this I mean she had a great time getting in a good old mess with flour and sugar while I baked as she isn’t really much of a help at the moment.
There is still quite a bit to sort even for our “simple, low-key” party so I am glad we didn’t try and plan anything more extravagant. Monkey is so looking forward to his party though, which is why we are doing one, and I really hope he enjoys it and it all goes off without a hitch.
There have been other preparations also underway this week. A while ago Hubs dislocated his knee, and after an MRI scan and hospital visits we discovered it was due to some torn cartilage which would need an operation to repair. We didn’t know when this would happen but suddenly received a call this week with a cancellation meaning he would have his operation next Thursday! It is good to get it out of the way but we have had to cancel and rearrange a few things and have been getting ready for that really. Reading up on the procedure and what the recovery will mean etc. Hopefully it on’t be too bad as it is pretty minor surgery really, but I am nervous as to how it will go and how much less he will be able to do with the kids for a bit. Only time will tell I guess!
Anyway back to the party prep for me. How has your week been?
For me the best thing about easter isn’t the chocolate, it’s spending time with family and celebrating the arrival of spring by spending a lot of time outdoors. So that is primarily what our our Easter has been all about… With a few treats thrown in.
After all the illness we’ve had lately with both kids having chicken pox, and Monkey and I suffering with tummy bugs we were a bit worried it was going to be a bit of a washout but thankfully we were all miraculously well and able to enjoy the weekend.
We kicked off with a day out with my family to one of my favourite National Trust places, Belton House near Grantham. The weather was incredible and we had a wonderful day.
It was seriously busy and sadly my older brother and his wife got stuck in traffic getting in, but they did eventually arrive and even though it was so so so busy, because it is such a huge site it didn’t feel too busy. Other than the queues for the restaurants! We were pretty lucky in that I had been to the play and ride cafe as soon as we arrived and got a timed ticket to get in, then a big enough table vacated as soon as we walked in which was really fortunate.
We had plenty of space to explore, climb trees, run around chasing bubbles and playing aeroplanes. We sat and had ice cream in the sun and partially completed the easter hunt, though gave up when we saw that the queue to collect the egg afterwards was absolutely ginormous and in our mind the chocolate wasn’t worth the queue!
Oh and yes the place is seriously stunning so I had to get some pretty shots too.
That night my aunt, who had come up from London for Easter, stayed with us and we had a lovely evening. The next day we took her to the local farm that we are members of. It could not have been a more different day weather wise and was windy and bitterly cold! Still we had a lot of fun completing the easter hunt there and we even met the easter bunny! Not that the kids were too sure about him haha. We had a bit of fun in the soft play then headed home for lunch.
After lunch it was time for a bit of a team effort making some easter nests. It’s a proper easter tradition for us and the first year LM could take part, though she was shattered and needed to go for a nap before we had finished. Monkey really enjoyed it though.
While LM slept that afternoon Monkey had some fun with some of the crafts and activities pound land kindly sent us to try out, and I was very grateful for something to keep him busy as I was shattered! We had already done some of the other crafts earlier in the week and I was impressed at all they have for a pound! *
Easter Sunday itself was a bit more of a normal day for us. We went swimming in the morning and then our neighbour popped in with her kiddies for a bit. After lunch we did a the other of our Easter traditions and we put on a little easter hunt for the kiddies. Because Monkey loves treasure maps I made a simple map of the back garden and made a trail for him to follow before having to dig for his treasure! He loved it!
LM sort of went along for the ride but didn’t really get what was going on I don’t think!
After LM’s nap that afternoon we headed over to hubs’ brother Andy’s house for a roast to celebrate his birthday and easter. It was lovely to get together all of hubs’ family too and we had a lovely time. Hubs bought his brother some star wars lego which the boys all had great fun building that. LM had fun with all of her relatives too and very much enjoyed a ride in Aunty Julie’s wheelchair while she rested having cooked us all a yummy roast.
Monday was the most relaxed day of all and we pottered in the morning and made a roast for lunch. My little brother aka Uncle Marky joined us (sadly Aunty Fran was poorly and missed out) and played with kiddies and had a good catch up. More like a normal Sunday I guess, with laundry and little jobs that needed doing etc. Just what we needed after a busy few days.
I’m painting a picture here that is filled with sunshine and smiles and to a certain extent it is true and we have had a happy weekend. But it has also been difficult with toddler tantrums from LM and major threenager meltdowns from Monkey. They have been overexcited over tired and over chocolated (not a word I know but seems to fit :)). We barely buy any treats (only for the nest making and treasure hunt) but our lucky kiddies have lots of adoring family who have given them lots of treats. I have drafted a post about the over commercialisation of Easter (as I was having a rant moment) but I am not sure about sharing it. I am instead choosing to remember the happy moments of a lovely easter spent with our lovely my.
I hope you had a wonderful easter too.
*Poundland provided the craft materials free of charge for our use over Easter.
I remember making chocolate easter nests year after year as a child and it is a tradition we have carried on with Monkey, and will with LM as she gets older. It is such a great fun, quick, and easy make that kids of any age can join in with.
Monkey did it first 2 years ago at about 10 mths old, then last year at just under 2 and again this year. He still needs quite a bit of help but I imagine he will less and less help as he gets older.
Monkey is a fussy eater. He wasn’t until he was about 13 months old then almost overnight everything changed. I’ve talked at length about it before and we have ups and downs with how fussy he is. We have been going through a very fussy patch lately. As he has been so poorly over the recent weeks he really hasn’t had as much of an appetite so we have been happy when he has eaten anything really. I am planning a seperate post about this but it is so difficult to be strict with them when they are poorly, especially with food as he needed to keep his strength up and things can taste really funny when you are poorly.
I’ve been watching “Junk Food Children who’s to blame?” on TV too recently, and well I think it is pretty obvious the documentary makers are laying the blame squarely on the parents. I think they are probably right, as they are the ones who buy the food for their children, but I can also see how it is a slippery slope and none of these parents do it with intentions of harming their children. Far from it, they are probably too soft on them and that isn’t always good for them.
Anyway it has made me think a lot about Monkey. He has a pretty good diet anyway, hardly ever has crisps, chocolate etc, BUT we could do better. He doesn’t really eat any fresh fruits (we get him eating dried, cooked, frozen pureed but no joy with fresh really) and we struggle with lots of vegetables too, and most things actually. Pasta, sausages, chicken, pretty much everything depends on his mood. Most dinner times are spent with Mummy and Daddy pretending to be the voice of a toy (postman pat, a bus, an owl, any toy really) as he is much more likely to eat something when a toy suggests it! Not ideal but we go with what works.
One great way to get kids interested in food is to get them to help with preparing and cooking food. Monkey does love cooking but after catching himself with the peeler a few months ago he has been more reluctant to get in the kitchen. He has expressed more of an interest though lately, and with poorliness and chicken pox meaning we have spent a lot of time at home, rather than out and about, I have grabbed the opportunity to get him back in the kitchen. We do a lot of baking, which is great, but there is no reason cooking can’t be fun too.
We love Annabel Karmel’s recipes, her veggie burgers are a firm fave and we make them regularly in big batches so there is always some in the freezer. Another regular is her hidden veggie pizza sauce, which again we make in big batches and freeze. I know not everyone is into hidden veggies and I would prefer Monkey ate vegetables without having to hide them, but while we work on that I don’t think there is anything wrong with getting them into him any way that we can.
We tend to double this and make a big batch (because so many of the ingredients are halved etc.) which gives enough sauce for 20 pizzas, so this would do about 10 pizzas.
Monkey helped me prepare the veggies, washing them and grating which is good as at least he knows there are veggies. He even announces that he loves leeks and courgettes – without tasting them. I love his enthusiasm though even if I don’t believe him for a second!
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion, leek, carrot and courgette and saute for 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured.Add the garlic for one minute than remove from the heat. We have hard anodised pans and a hand blender so I add the remaining ingredients in the pan and blend in there, but if you have non stick pans, or if you prefer, you should move the veg to a blender or bowl at this point.
Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.Return to the pan and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool and then it can be frozen in batches.I usually spoon off a couple of ladles full into a tupperware which can then be got out to use with 2 pizza bases as and when. I would love to make our own pizza bases, but don’t have the time or energy at the mo – hopefully we will one day though!
The pizza sauce is great, but with the small amount of veg in there I doubt it would count as one of your 5 a day, and we really want to work on getting other veg into Monkey. Homemade pizzas are a great way of doing that, as cheese can help mask the veg, and you obviously get control of the ingredients. We use a half fat cheese, because it happens to be our fave and does help with our diets.
This is the fun bit that kids can really get involved with. We bought Monkey a child safe knife – which has a rounded tip and a fairly blunt serrated edge. It still cuts veg so you still have to be very careful around it, but the thought of Monkey cutting with it terrifies me a heck of a lot less than helping him use our big scary kitchen knives would! It means he can join in with the chopping safely and without giving me heart failure. (Yes he is wearing his PJs in these pics, I indulged him with a PJ day when he was poorly :))
So he helped me chop up the mushrooms and yellow pepper and had great fun doing it. The amounts and size of the bits I guess depends on your kid and their fussiness level. We are going for not too much, and fairly small at the moment as if they are big he will either eat round them or refuse to eat them at all. Even some of these size bits have been a challenge to get him to eat! Monkey is seriously stubborn and often goes to bed without eating any tea when he doesn’t like what is on offer (or at least he has decided he doesn’t like it even when we know it is something he does actually like!).
So anyway, yes our chunks are quite small. We also use some flavoured turkey meat for the most part, though do use other meats too sometimes to shake things up a little :). Monkey helped spread the sauce onto the pizza bases and then sprinkle the meat, veg and of course cheese on top. Yummy pizzas made :). Now I won’t say it was plain sailing. We make variations of this quite often and it depends on his mood and like I say at the moment he really is quite fussy. He did eat some though and moaned more about the chunks of meat than the veg and with him it really is all about seeing something he doesn’t like. If a mushroom or pepper is hidden under cheese he eats it no problem. If he can see them he doesn’t want it. So it is a work in progress but for my part, I thought they were blimming lovely and it is a good way to get him involved with cooking and vegetables so got to look at the positives!
Monkey loves baking, he would do it every day if he could and I do love doing it with him but I don’t have the energy to do it with as much at the moment. Last weekend as we were having a bit of a quiet weekend I thought it was a good opportunity to try and do some with him. With 2 parents it meant one could bake with him while the other could look after LM.
Hubs loves baking, he was the one who got me interested in baking when we met and he really loves baking with Monkey. He has more patience than I do too so they are a great little team. So it was an easy decision for them to spend some time together and do some baking! one of Monkey’s favourite programmes at the moment is Bing Bunny and there is an episode where they make Ginger Bunny biscuits. He loves it so I wanted to find a recipe where you can roll it out and cut out shapes as most of our biscuit recipes are for just free-formed biscuits really. Neither hubs or I like gingerbread very much though so we though either a plain or chocolatey one would be great.
So I found this lovely, simple, recipe to make lovely simple chocolate biscuits.
225g Self raising Flour 100g Caster Sugar 3 tbsp cocoa powder 100g Margarine 5 tbsp Milk A few drops of vanilla essence.
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C and grease 2 baking trays.
Mix the flour, sugar and cocoa in a bowel and rub in the margarine.
Add the milk and vanilla essence and mix in well. Bring together with your hands and knead lightly on a floured service. (Ours still felt really gooey at this point but soon firmed up with some kneading in the flour).
Roll out to a thickness of 0.5cm and cut shapes. The recipe we used 7.5cm rounds and baked the biscuits for 8 – 10 minutes. We gave Monkey the choice out of all of our cutters and ended up with Star and Rhombus biscuits and only baked ours for 7 minutes which was perfect.
Monkey is so good at baking now – a far cry from the early days where all he wanted was to eat the raw ingredients, even the flour, now he is so good at measuring everything out and so careful with it all, and only ate some of the dough when we said it was ok to.
He was less keen on getting his hands really mucky when mixing the dough, but loved kneading it and helping daddy roll it out (he hasn’t got the hang of rolling it out himself yet).
Then of course was the important job of cutting out the shapes ready to bake!
You can decorate these biscuits however you like, the recipe used a Chocolate Glace Icing but we used some little icing tubes we already had in the cupboard and again I was pleased to see how precise he was. Even since the baking we did at Christmas he has got a lot more precise and was great at putting dots and patterns on the biscuits.
The finished biscuits! Obviously Daddy helped with some of the patterns but Monkey did a lot of them by himself.
These chocolate biscuits are super quick and simple to make although obviously baking them with a toddler takes a little longer but just adds to the fun. Monkey adored making these with daddy and actually they were really, really tasty!