Sunday, 29 April 2012

Mud pies

This recipe is thanks to inspiration from a recipe on Confessions of a Mumpreneur. It was a great way to use up our easter chocolate. sam and i are not chocoholics but i love cakes and muffins so this made something sitting in the cupboard going mouldy in to a tin of very tempting little cakes. i made a batch of these in muffin cases but found the best ones were actually the ones i poured in to ramekin dishes and ate with strawberries. yum. it is such a simple recipe. i felt totally uninspired for dinner and found myself gazing at the big broken chocolate easter egg in the cupboard, so i made mud pies as a nice pudding to make up for first course of cheese on toast. I put some of these in the freezer and popped them in the oven when friends came for coffee. they were really yummy heated up.
200g chocolate (broken into pieces)
200g butter
3 eggs
75g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
100g chopped brazil nuts (optional)

1. grease a 12-cupcake tin and preheat the oven to 160F
2. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Leave until melted then stir together.
3. sift the flour
3. Put the eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat with a whisk for 5 mins, until light and foamy. 
4. Add the flour and the melted chocolate mixture and fold in gently with a large spoon.

5. Put the mix in to your cases or dishes and bake for 15mins.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

daddy's power breakfast

i went to london for a night out with friends and returned to domestic bliss. Sam & the kids had made healthy sugar-free dried fruit flapjack snacks and an amazing baked banana porridge for breakfast. here's his recipe

1. make porridge by mixing 50g oats & 300ml water/milk per person.
2. simmer & stir for 5 minutes (optional & extra delicious - add pinch of salt, 1tsp vanilla essence & 1 tsp sugar).
3. slice bananas lengthways & place on a baking tray
4. sprinkle the bananas with brown sugar and a small rectangle of butter
5. Grill them under a high heat for 3 minutes or until turning golden brown.
6. Put the warm bananas on top of the servings of porridge.
a sweet way to start the day!

Saturday, 21 April 2012


i did it! i broke the pain barrier. i went for a run. i feel like a totally different person. i have run the last two mornings (for 10 minutes each time). for a sporty fit regular exerciser, this post will seem very strange but i think a lot of us, especially mums, lose our exercise mojo, inclination, ability, and struggle os much ot get it back. i certainly did - about 5 years ago. i have no fitness and feel permanently guilty and moody and glum because i don't exercise. why does it have such a profound affect on us.. on me? i have little self-discipline so i'd rather coffee, wine or cigarettes as pick-me ups rather than exercise. but it was getting me down. after a particularly unhealthy week i felt rough and depressed and deeply lethargic, grumpy, angry and depressed for a week. and it affected my whole family and i hated myself for it. i could not drag myself out of bed in the morning and felt desperate to lie down and sleep all  day. i knew something had to change. a couple of early nights and a couple of morning jogs made all the difference. why does it take me years to get up the courage to go for a 10 minute run? i know it will make me feel fabulous and happy, more patient, energetic and emotionally balanced and yet i suffer such inertia and inability to get on with it... it is an intense hurdle for me to do the first run. it makes no sense when the run is tiny and the benefits immense! well it's done now. and i feel like a different person and i'm thankful i managed to do it. let's see how long i can make it last?

Friday, 20 April 2012

my favourite omelette

apparently Little Mr Z doesn't like mushrooms or leeks. however this is one of his favourite meals and and he will eat mountains of it! my cousin served this and told me the trick is to chop the veggies really small. Mr Z now often asks for "my favourite omelette" for dinner.

to feed 3-4 people, gather:

2 huge mushrooms, 2 small leeks, 8 eggs, 50g cheddar cheese, 25g butter
1. chop the mushrooms and leeks in to very small bits
 2. saute the mushrooms and leek in 25g butter (i sometimes add other vegetable or even chopped cooked potatoes)
3. whisk the eggs with a dash of milk
4. spread the vegetables evenly in the pan and pour in the eggs
5. let the eggs cook over medium heat. i use a spatula to lift the edges of the omelette slightly and tilt the pan so the liquidy bits on top run underneath
6. meanwhile grate 50g cheddar cheese
 7. when the eggs are almost set, sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top and put the pan under a hot grill until it starts to turn golden brown
 8. cut and serve in wedges. yum.
when sam got home, we ate it with a bulgar, spinach, tomato and celeriac salad

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

carrot cake

carrot cake is one of my all-time favourite treats. i'm not a chocolate lover and don't like things that are too too sweet. so carrot cake is perfect. and i adore the rich moist texture. this a great recipe as it is very straight-forward and not fiddly. carrot cake is the ultimate comfort dessert. i actually wanted to make a chocolate birthday cake but didn't have any chocolate or the right ingredients in the house so went for carrot cake instead.  
i realise my kids are growing up - slowly but surely - and i want to grasp these moments with them and not let them go. they are so utterly adorable and this time will pass and they will become teenagers. i want to savour and play and laugh and enjoy and be more patient. rushing the kids in to the car this morning little Mr Z told me i shouldn't hurry him because he was just looking at something. i apologised for being impatient and told him he could tell me to be patient when i'm rushing him, because his pace of life is slow and i'm naturally impatient. i desperately want to be a more patient mummy and to savour and savour and savour these precious days that will pass. today we've been on our own - me, Little Mr Z and Little Miss M - i have loved it - just being us - and having time to be together and savour. i did sob today while Little Miss M screeched herself to sleep at naptime - i felt so worn-down and distressed from being patient with her screeching all morning! i also swore never to take her to the supermarket again - online grocery shopping for us! ants, ants, i'm seeing ants everywhere - yuk - we've come back from holiday to ants in the house.

deelicious carrot cake

175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
200g brown sugar
150ml sunflower oil
2 eggs
200g grated carrot
75g chopped pecans
For the icing
200g soft cream cheese
100g unsalted butter, softened
125g icing sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tsp juice
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (fan-assisted 160C)/350F/gas mark 4, and grease a round cake tin. 
2. Mix the flour, baking powder and spices in a bowl. 
3. In a large mixing bowl, mix the soft brown sugar with the oil and beat with the eggs until smooth. 
4. Stir in the carrots and pecans, then fold through the sifted dry ingredients.
5. Pour the mix in to the tin and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer comes out only just clean. 
6. Cool in the tin. 
7. Beat the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, zest and juice until smooth and spread over the top and sides of the cake.

we decorated with sprinkles and little silver balls and tried to find some blossoms on our way to my lovely sister-in-law's birthday dinner. however we almost drove illegally in to a fire station to pull blossoms from a tree where the owner was gardening. we had to abandon the blossom idea.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

beef casserole

This is a quick simple recipe that you can stick in the oven and then not think about until 2 hours later when you serve it up. i like to be able to put it in the oven and then pop to the playground knowing a hearty meal will be ready for hungry kids (and parents) as soon as we get home. although last time we tried this we went to collect a package from the post office (much excitement) only to be sent away empty-handed because i didn't have the right ID... so frustrating! i think i muttered some foul language under my breath and wanted to plead the case of having two small strong-willed children and every errand being quite an undertaking. we moved on to the playground and after five minutes little Mr Z needed a poo and would only go at home. however he sobbed and yelled the whole way home because i said we weren't going to return to the playground after our trip home to use the toilet. needless to say i was grateful to have a meal in the oven when i got back!

1. gently heat 25g of butter in a casserole dish
2. chop, add to the dish and stir - 1 onion, 1 leek, 1 large carrot, 1 large mushroom, 2 garlic cloves
3. in a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and lightly brown 250g chopped casserole steak (so steak turns to light grey)
4. add the meat to the vegetables
5. add 1/4 cup red wine and simmer for a few minutes
6. add 1/4 cup plain flour and stir until liquid is absorbed
7. add 3 cups of chicken stock, a dash of worcester sauce and a pinch of pepper, stir and then simmer for 30 minutes. meanwhile preheat the oven to 180F
8. cover the pan and place in the oven for 1.5-2hrs (along with your baked potatoes)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

rocket ship cake

for my son's fourth birthday he had a lot of ideas about what he wanted for his party. after discussing who he wanted (and did not want) to invite, we talked about food and games. He listed off some games like musical statues and then said he also wanted to play a game called 'Night Time the Day'. Do you play that at preschool? i asked. 'No i made it up. You have to turn off the lights, pretend we are sleeping and you have to have glowing things so we can see. Then we turn back on the lights and jump and pretend we are camels. then we lie down and be sleeping again. So the girls dress up as princesses [i didn't know he even knew that word?] and the boys dress up as dragons [currently very taken with the book Mr Tickle and the Dragon] and i'm going to have a Dinosaur party and a Rocket cake'. 'What's the dinosaur bit?' i ask. 'That's just the party so we have to hang up dinosaur balloons. and actually the camel game might be rabbits or kangaroos because they can both jump but camels can't. Please can you turn of the lights and i'll show you how it works. and can you get some glowing things?'
i got he and i and Little Miss M torches and we lay in the dark with the torches on and Little Mr Z sang a long song to us and then we woke up, lights on and jumped around the room - repeat...

we didn't end up playing the kangaroo game at his party but we did have a lot of fun and everyone dressed up as dragons and princesses and the rocket ship cake was a hit.

i find it very hard to get my cakes to rise nicely. my mum gave me some advice about beating the wet ingredients really well and then not stirring the cake mixture too much after adding the dry ingredients. it worked a treat with this great easy cake recipe:

  • 100g/3½oz unsalted butter
  • 250g/9oz caster or brown sugar
  • 50ml/2fl oz sunflower oil
  • 25g/1oz cocoa powder 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

    4 eggs

    80ml/2½fl oz milk

    100ml/3½fl oz double cream

    300g/10½oz plain flour

    3 tsp baking powder

  • Method:
1. grease the cake tins and preheat the oven to180C/350F

2. Melt the butter over a low heat in a small pan, pour it into a bowl with the sugar, oil, cocoa powder and vanilla. Beat well until smooth, then whisk in the eggs followed by the milk and cream.

3. Sift the flour and baking powder into the butter mixture and beat until smooth, then spoon into the prepared tin and cover the top of the tin with aluminium foil.

4. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes, or the top is springy and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

 i made one cake in a round tin with a hole in the middle and one round cake. two round cakes could also work fine for this.
i cut the shape out below and filled in the middle
 i used a set of round cookie cutters to make this cake tower
 and then covered it in butter icing (beat unsalted butter and lots of icing sugar - to taste). i added blue food colouring for the rocket legs.
 i then used candy to decorate

happy dinosaur with his new train set

Monday, 9 April 2012


this is my sister's amazing recipe. i love it - it is so easy to whip up and very delicious. i no longer buy endless pizzas on special offer in the supermarket which are always disappointing. i have doubled the recipe and served this pizza at the past two kids parties we have had and it has been gobbled up. you can choose how thick you make the pizza base - we like really thin. we have also made small ones and let the kids roll them out and cover them with toppings - this can be a nice activity if you have friends for lunch - communal pizza making.


1 pack yeast (1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup & 2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup brown/bread/wheat flour
3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. add yeast to warm water in a large bowl
2. add all other ingredients to bowl
3. mix by hand with wooden spoon
4. knead until smooth (approximately 3 minutes) with lots of flour on counter 

5. put ball of dough in large oiled bowl cover with damp towel leave in warmish place for 30 minutes
6. preheat oven to 200C
7. divide ball in 2 and place on trays -- shape into pizzas and add toppings
we spread a thin layer of tomato puree and then add sweetcorn and cheddar cheese - yum!
8. bake pizzas for 12-15 minutes

Friday, 6 April 2012

easter sugar cookies

i foolishly agreed to make 80 cookies for my son's preschool end of term easter event. it was a crazy week and the cookies were a very last-minute affair. however they tasted great and looked sweet. 
Little Mr Z finds it hard to understand the boundaries with preschool teachers and often asks if we can invite them to our house or go to their houses. one day he insisted on sitting outside the preschool until they left so that he could watch them leave. as we sat on the grass waiting i kept trying to think of convincing reasons that we should leave and go home because i was dreading feeling embarrassed as we stared at the teachers walking down the road or getting in to their cars and driving away. none of my reasons felt convincing and Mr Z was insistent so we waited. eventually they appeared - i put my head down and desperately rustled around in my bag trying to find some remnants of food to feed the kids to pretend we just happened to be having a snack break. Mr Z got his glimpse into the private lives of his teachers and walked home happy and curious about their varying modes of transport.

  • gather:
  • 340g/1&1/2 cups butter (softened)
  • 400g/2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 625g/5 cups plain flour
  • 2 tspns baking powder
  • 1 tspn salt
  1. cream the butter and sugar and add vanilla extract
 2. add the eggs and mix well
 3. sift in the flour and baking powder
 4. stir gently until mixed - cover and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight (it tastes so delicious i had an argument with my son because he wouldn't stop eating it!)
5. preheat oven to 200C
6. Roll out dough on well floured surface and cut into shapes
7. put cookies slightly apart on lightly greased cookie sheets
8. bake for 6 minutes and leave to cool before decorating
9. make icing by pouring icing sugar in to a bowl and then adding boiling water until you get the consistency you want. add a drop of food colouring

we spread icing on our cookies and sprinkled decorations on top. Little Mis M loved doing this.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


bedtime can be such a beautiful time of lovely stories, prayer, songs, intimate words, interesting questions about the day, thoughts, feelings, kisses and cuddles .. all very bonding. the other night Little Mr Z said to me " i love your earrings mummy, they are really pretty. when we get home you can have a gold star because your face is so lovely and your earrings are so pretty." he stroked the sides of my face as he spoke and my heart melted. 
other nights are a disaster - when they and i are too tired. the kids won't stop talking and pushing and pushing for more time and more games and more talk and a different book that you can't find and another kiss and the door slightly more ajar and more milk and they have a screaming melt-down if i do anything wrong or try to do anything quickly. i lose my patience and feel claustrophobic and out of control and anxious about it getting so late for the kids and wanting it all to be over so i can have my dinner and my space in the evening. after these bedtimes when i've got desperate and totally lost my temper i feel like a horrible horrible mother - full of guilt and sad that the day ended on such a yucky note. last night i lost it, tonight we just got the giggles because the whole thing got so ridiculous and felt like it would never ever end! i vow to start bedtimes earlier so that Litte Mr Z can talk and talk and talk...
chilli is a lovely comforting meal that you can pre-prepare. it even tastes better after a couple of days in the fridge. here's how i make my chilli:
1. put 2 tablespoons of oil in a strong oven-proof saucepan.
2. heat and add 2 chopped onions, 3 chopped garlic cloves and i chopped green pepper. saute for a few minutes.
3. add 500g lean mince and stir until brown
4. add half a cup of red wine and simmer for a few minutes
5. add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes and bring to simmering point
6. add 1 tin of kidney beans
7. add 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and 3 squares of dark chocolate
8. add pinch of salt and pepper
9. add 1 pint of chicken stock
10. preheat oven to 160C
11. simmer on low heat for 40 minutes
12. put in the oven for 2 hours (stir after 1 hour)
13. serve with rice and grated cheddar cheese