Baking for After-School Snacks

My children always come out of school wanting a snack and in order to try and avoid some of the post-school ‘let it all out’ meltdowns, I arrive at the school gate well prepared. It used to be a small cake or biscuit or a small chocolate biscuity bar thing, bought with  the weekly shop. 

 About eighteen months ago I had been noticing that whenever I baked, the children would still choose the shop bought treat, if they could. This coincided with a news story regarding the trans fats in snacks and how they make everything taste yummy and a penny dropped. This, together with the extra sugar in shop bought treats was why they were choosing them over my efforts and so I made a commitment that I would no longer buy biscuits and cakes, I would make everything instead.

At first this seemed like a commitment I wouldn’t keep. Where would I find the time? However, with both the boys in school and Lady Mck now at an age where we could make it into a activity to do together, I found that baking a couple of times a week soon became quite normal. I told the children it would be home made treats or nothing and they’ve become quite used to it. I also found the added bonus of eating less of them myself. When I know I will have to be the one to restock the tin, it makes it much easier to limit myself to just one. I posted about this on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and loads of you asked what kind of things I make, so I thought I would give you a run down here.


A couple of things to start with. I find it’s a good idea to keep some unsalted butter out of the fridge, so that it is soft enough for baking, although I do have some ideas that use melted butter for emergencies. I would recommend a couple of books as well. The two I use most for this small, bite size baking are Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake book and the classic How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella. Finally, I like to keep portion sizes quite small. These treats are just enough to satisfy hunger kids after school and keep the car peaceful for five minutes.

Sinckerdoodles

These are our absolute favourite bake. They are a small biscuity/cake thing, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, to give a doughnut type flavour. They don’t have a huge amount of sugar and are just the right size for a small snack. My children would probably be happy if I made these or their sister snack, Chocodoodles every week. I use Nigella’s recipe, but there are many more on-line. My tip is to use a tupperware when coating them in the sugar and roll them around by shaking the box. Much less messy.

Flapjacks

These are great if the store cupboard is a little bare and you’ve forgotten to get any butter out of the fridge. They take about 10 minutes to mix up. However, they are packed with sugar and so I cut them up really small. I’ve tried loads of flapjack recipes and have found this River Cottage one to be the best. It still needed some experimentation to get the perfect tin, oven temperature and timings, but now I have, they are a firm favourite.

Chocolate fork biscuits

These are also in the Nigella book I mentioned earlier. They are basically, butter, sugar, flour and cocoa powder. The recipe makes loads and they last a week in the tin….well, they get eaten before that, but they would last a week.
Heather’s Oat Biscuits

My friend Heather lent me this recipe and so they will always be known as Heather’s Oat Biscuits. These are quite similar to flapjacks, but with the addition of an egg and flour they become lovely chewy biscuits. I’ve reduced the sugar in the recipe and got no complaints. These also use melted butter, so are great if you’ve forgotten soft butter.

Cakey Buns

I don’t so these very often, but they use margarine, straight from the fridge and everything is just bunged in a bowl, so they’re super easy. I tend to avoid things with icing and you only get 12 out of this recipe, which doesn’t last long in our house.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

My friend Sarah says she has the recipe for the best Lemon Cake ever. I’m not so sure about that, maybe we should have a bake off one day. For after school snacks I bake the ingredients for a loaf tin, in an square cake tin and then cut into small rectangles. This makes it last longer, as you can get at least 18 portions out of it.


Scones

I love scones. They aren’t packed with sugar and just need a little smear of butter and jam. Again, I use a small cutter and they are then the perfect size for a little treat.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ll be honest I still haven’t perfected these. Sometimes they are amazing, sometimes quite average. I also think they’re a bit sweet, so I am still tweaking. However, I like that you can make the dough into a log, wrap it in cling film and take out and slice before baking. They’re great to make double quantities and keep some back.


So, these are just a few ideas for your weekly baking. I’ve added some links here, but you’ll also find ideas over at my Pinterest Board After School Snacks. I’d love to hear which ones are popular in your house and how you get on with the no shop bought treat challenge.

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Weekend cooking

I cook food a lot. I feed myself and two small people all day, every day and cook a meal for the whole family every evening. That is an awful lot of breakfasts and lunches and about a million snacks every week. Day in, day out. It’s the monotonous, get it on the table and hope everyone likes it and eats it, type of food and it can become a drag.

Then there is the kind of cooking that soothes my soul. It is done uninterrupted while listening to a play on the radio. The jam needs watching as the sugary bubbles fiercely cover the top, hiding the fruit. The cake must have it’s ingredients carefully measured and mixed to ensure it comes out at just the right texture. The chutney requires therapeutic, but seemingly endless amounts of chopping. Herbs and spices need adding, sauces need constant stirring and everything needs tasting and checking. I call it weekend cooking.


Having an allotment forces a certain amount of weekend cooking. Nothing comes in easy to deal with specific weight packages. Allotment produce comes with mud and gnarly bits that need dealing with and it come in gluts. Using it all, in different ways, before it spoils is part of the challenge and it forces me to indulge in the kind of cooking that I truly love. 


Rhubarb and strawberries were the order of the day last weekend, providing us with a perfect teatime rhubarb polenta cake, spiced rhubarb sauce, to serve with roast pork and a plain, no-nonsense rhubarb crumble. The strawberries sang in the simplest, but most delicious ice-cream and my very first and may I say, perfectly set strawberry jam. 



My spirits, as well as my belly, were well fed.

Written as part of The Gallery over at Sticky Fingers as part of the theme food

and here are a couple of little outtakes for you, featuring my photographic assistant! 


The everyday magic

Whenever you speak to someone who doesn’t ‘get’ social media, one of the first things they query is why you would want to tell the world you have made a cup of tea or see what someone is having for their dinner. These are the things that I love about it. I love the minutiae of life, the details, the small things.

I am an everyday sort of girl and I am grateful for this. Birthdays, holidays, Christmas and family celebrations are all lovely and enjoyable, but they are rare and it is finding the good in the everyday things that make a life and a life that is rich and full.

If you just take a moment to really see then you will find all manner of things in the everyday. Here lies beauty, laughter, peace, joy and most of all love.

There is so much everyday magic in my life that I simply couldn’t narrow it down any further than these from the last few weeks:

It’s the stillness and quiet of an early morning run…
…baking cakey buns with your kids…
…and the perfect home made iced vanilla latte.
It’s finding fifteen minutes for some sneaky hooky and a cup of tea…
a Sunday roast outside…
a rare glimpse of a light sleeping baby…
and ending the day with some soothing cables and a box set of The West Wing.
The everyday is where life is, in all it’s wonderful guises. 

This post was written as part of The Gallery. Click of the lens cup for more glimpses of ‘The Everyday’ 

What to do on a 1st birthday when you are trying to ignore a 1st birthday

Regular visitors amongst you will know that I don’t do well with change or milestones and my children’s impending birthdays are a sure fire way to make me anxious. First Birthdays are particularly difficult for me. The baby stage speeds past in a blink and it is all such a tired, busy blur that you feel you have missed so much of it. Thank goodness that this time I have had the blog to record some of it, but still, I find it hard.

This melancholy tends to manifest itself in a lack of desire to do anything for the day and a total lack of enthusiasm and this time was no different. As the day approached I just wanted to put my fingers in my ears, shut my eyes tight and shout “LALALALALALALALA”

However, a conversation with a couple of friends made me realise that we spend an awful lot of time doing about what we think we ought to do, rather than what we want to do and that first birthdays are really as much about the parents as the baby, because, let’s be honest they don’t have a clue what is going on.

As I walked around the supermarket, filling it with kid’s style party food I realised I didn’t want a children’s party and that I didn’t have to have all the family over at the same time, something which just makes it all work for me and so I changed my plans.

Inspired my the many Jubilee preparations and also my default cake and scone mode, I decided that what I wanted to do by way of celebration was an old fashioned afternoon tea, with just Nano, Mini and my Dad and Step-mum. No stress, no other children just lots of nice, simple food and a big pot of tea. There was the odd nod in the direction of a child’s tea party with a proper jelly and some party rings, but there was also lots of nice china, a simple cake, with no garish icing and home baked scones.

I also realised that this wasn’t what Mckdaddy wanted to do and that he would like to join end of term drinks with his friends. I decided that I was fine with his choice and actually would rather go out for dinner, with just him to celebrate the fact that we had survived the last year.

I am so glad that I took a moment to really think about what I wanted and that I forgot what I ought to be doing, it was such a relief to have a quiet day. I can’t say there weren’t moments in the day when I felt wistful for the passing of my baby’s first year, but mostly I had fun and so did he.

Long time, no see

Hello little blog, I’ve missed you. Unfortunately, not only have I not had the brain space to get posts onto the page, I haven’t even had the actual time. With Nano’s Baptism on Saturday most evenings have been taken up with lists and little jobs and most days have been used to shop and bring together food for fifty people. Of course I got very caught up in the little details, but honestly I like the details. I like to put thought into what the tables would look like and what music would be the best choice, but all of that can be time consuming and just a little bit exhausting.

It was all worth it though and the details plus lots of lovely food, many cups of tea and lots of bottles of sparkly stuff helped make Saturday a really special day with most of our most important people there to share it with us. Nano charmed everyone, as I expected. He was more than happy to be passed around, smiling and twinkling at all the right moments.

It was a lovely finish to a month that has been a little too busy and a little too stressful, where the unfortunate casualty was this little space and the people that visit it.

We have also had a birthday in the family with the obligatory over iced cake and of course a party. This was quickly followed by the start of nursery, which has been far more stressful for me than it has for Mini Mck, exactly as it should be.

All of this has been done while the rain has continued to fall, almost every day and another week of rain is forecast this week. When I had a career that involved every bit of me to be there for too many hours a week I never noticed the weather and now I live by it. I know that June is the best month of the summer and that April is when I start wearing my Birkinstocks and we go to the park without our coats. Not this year though. As I stare at the rainy window I do try to remember that it is good for the growing, but I really am over it now and long for warmth and sunshine or frankly even one of those things would do right now.

Gosh, I think I’ve just managed to write a rambling, general update blog post. I hope so, I love reading them on other blogs, but have never been able to get the hang of them. Insightful, meaningful service will be resumed shortly……maybe.

The Gallery: I Love Tuesdays




This post is part of the The Gallery at Sticky Fingers. Follow the link to find more ’24 Hours’ posts.






The thought of Tuesdays always makes me a little nervous, but I am beginning to realise that I love Tuesdays. We have nothing to do on a Tuesday. We don’t go shopping, or go to any groups, or tend to meet up with friends and so Tuesdays can be lived by our own schedule. We don’t have to be anywhere at a particular time and we have nothing that we have to do. 


Obviously, this leaves a full day to fill, which is not always easy with a toddler, but it pushes me to make an effort, for both our sakes. Today, we were blessed with the most beautiful, sunny day, meaning that being outside was top of our agenda. 


On Tuesdays we have time to take a walk down the track to watch the trains and a boy always needs his cat on such adventures….

….We have time go to the park



and because Mini Mck can now do the slide completely on his own I can…

…sit on a bench….

….and lift my face to feel the warmth of the sun.

On a Tuesday, no-one is watching us so we can 

have lemon curd sandwiches for lunch, 

make cakes…

…and, of course, eat them.


At 5pm the sky was still light and I could rush outside to catch the pink glow on the cottages.

The usual bedtime routine….


….is over in time for The Archers

and a well earned rest….



So you see, having nothing to do is great and Tuesdays really are brilliant.