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.

Finger Food Friday – Multi use tomato sauce

Oof, it’s been a while since I’ve done a Finger Food Friday for you and I’ve had this one up my sleeve for weeks, but have tended to remember it as I’m drifting off to sleep on a Friday night. However, this week I am being organised and as you read this I am actually catching up with some friends who don’t live close enough to me in a campsite somewhere in The Cotswolds, but I’ve left this absolute winner for you.

Some baking and cooking for children is pretty and indulgent and you do it when you have time and they are in a good mood to help you, some is just about getting something on the table as quickly as possible and I find having a batch of my multi use tomato sauce in the fridge gets me out of some bare cupboard scrapes. 
This sauce is brilliant for topping home made pizza dough, or stirred through pasta, but on this particular occasion I used it on some leftover puff pastry, cut into strips, topped with cheese and then twisted and brushed with egg wash. They were great with veggies for dinner, but made great snacks for both boys. 
Multi Use Tomato Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced thinly

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp dried herbs (oregano, basil or mixed)

Using a sauce soften the garlic, being careful not to burn or colour it.
Add tomatoes and bring to boil
Add herbs and salt and pepper if you wish
Turn down to a simmer and leave for around 45 mins, until it’s a nice thick sludge.
Use a potato masher to mash out lumps and you will have a perfect pizza or pasta sauce. 

Note to self: Do not leave the funpod with the human dustbin in it next to cooling baked goods

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!