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

Finger Food Friday – Cakey buns

I was going to post a terribly healthy and earnest, low sugar recipe for Finger Food Friday, but this is what we’ve been baking this week and so in the interests of full disclosure, this is what you are getting. I’m a firm believer in treating us once in a while and not making foods more attractive to my children by making them off limits. I do have some rules with cake, well one really, I don’t buy ready made cake. If we are eating it, then we have made it.

These are brilliant cakes to make with toddlers as they are so easy that they can be very hands on. Everything is just chucked in the bowl and beaten together and of course they can be very involved with the icing and sprinkles. These aren’t really suitable for small babies, but now that Nano is over a year I would let him have a little, especially without the icing. The use of margarine instead of butter means they can be made with no prior warning, as it can be used straight from the fridge. So, a great emergency rainy day activity, to be scoffed while watching Pixar films.

I am so in love with our particular choice of white icing and primary coloured sprinkles, they put me in mind of Pudsey, something I shall no doubt need to remember when Children in Need baking rears it’s head.

Cakey Buns 


100g caster sugar
100g margarine
100g self raising flour
2 eggs
1tsp baking powder


Icing


75-85g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice (I mix with a little water, so it’s not too lemony, but you can use whatever combination you prefer, depending on your own taste)
food colouring (optional)


Preheat the oven to 200c/GM 6
Put all the cake ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat until pale and smooth
Spoon mixture in to 12 paper cases
Bake for 15mins or until a tester comes out clean
Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool


Mix icing sugar and lemon juice/water together and add food colouring if using.
Spoon a little icing on each cake, once cooled and add sprinkles


Don’t eat too many. 

Finger Food Friday – Baby quiches and Polenta chips

I can’t believe I haven’t done any Finger Food Friday posts since I started baby led weaning with Nano. It’s probably due to the fact that all the old favourites are have been cooked time and time again. However, there are a few additions and some of the good recipes deserve a second outing.

As I was preparing yesterday’s dinner I decided that it was perfect for Finger Food Friday. A perfect combination of some perfect finger food to keep on stand by and a normal family dinner that we can all eat. I was making Leek Tart for us and Nano tends to find the chopped leeks a little difficult to deal with so at the same time I made a batch of baby quiches which he could have for dinner, with some left over for snacks and lunches.

You’ll find the recipe for the Baby quiches here. You can use packet pastry if you wish and if you do, you would have enough for Chris’s Leek Tart and a batch of quiches.

The polenta ‘chips’ go perfectly with this and are a great alternative to potatoes. Why I didn’t start eating polenta years ago I don’t know, but now I’ve discovered it I love it. The recipe is taken from the River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook, which I highly recommend for all kinds of weaning.

Polenta Chips


100g Polenta
500ml Chicken or veg stock or water (if you are worried about salt content for younger babies then just use water, I tend to use a weak solution of stock or water)
25g Parmesan cheese
Olive oil


In a saucepan, gradually add the liquid to the polenta, stirring all the time to prevent lumps. 
Heat and stir until bubbling and then continue to cook for 4-5 minutes. It will bubble like volcanic mud. 
Take off the heat and stir in the cheese. 
Turn out onto a cold plate or a piece of marble or glass (I use the glass tray that I keep the teapot on!)
Spread to about 1.5cm thick and leave to cool. 
Once cooled cut into chips
Preheat oven to 220c/Gas mark 7
Brush the chips with oil and bake for about 20-30mins


They come out crunchy and gorgeous – great for adults and babies to enjoy together. 




Finger Food Friday – Oat Biscuits

For a finger food recipe to be worth making it has to tick a number of boxes. Of course it must be tasty to eat, but it also has to be better or cheaper than the shop bought variety and it must be quick to make, because as parents to babies our time is precious. 


This week’s recipe meets all the criteria. I wish I had timed myself making these but I would guess it took only 20 minutes and that includes cooking them. 


Biscuits are really handy things to have, especially if your child is a snacker, as mine is. However, I don’t like to buy them with too much stuff added so tend to stick to the organic type that are aimed at babies and sweetened with fruit juice. These are very expensive though and my shopping bill was suffering. These are a great alternative, and rather nice for Mum with a cup of coffee. 


The recipe makes quite a small batch so it is worth making double as they keep quite well in an airtight container. 


Oat Biscuits


from Finger Food by Jennie Maizels


100g wholemeal flour
25g porridge oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt (optional)
2 tbsp golden syrup
50g unsalted butter


Preheat the oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.



Stir in the syrup and then rub in the butter using your fingers to form a soft dough.



Flour the work surface and pat the dough into a flat shape about 5mm thick. The trick with this recipe is to make sure they are not too thin or cooked for too long. Mine are more like 1cm thick, but with these it’s better to be too thick that too thin. 


Use an 8cm cutter to cut out the biscuits (I think mine was a little smaller, more like 5cm)





Place the biscuits on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10mins or until slightly browned. Leave to stand for 5mins and then cool on a wire rack.


Finger Food Friday – Fruit Gums

We struggle a little with getting Mini Mck to eat fruit and vegetables. Actually, who am I kidding, we struggle alot. He will eat certain fruit for a few days and then completely go off it, so we then go through the trial and error of discovering something that he will eat. 


So, I was delighted when we found this recipe for fruit gums. It is so easy and they last in an airtight container for weeks so you can do a big batch and keep them for emergencies. We found that Mini Mck would eat these nearly always so a great way of making sure he’s getting some fruit. They are also great for taking out and about, because they are less messy than fresh fruit. 


Dried Fruitgums


from Happy days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver


Ingredients


Dried Fruit ( I used a 250g bag of mixed prunes, pears, apricot and pineapple)

Whizz the dried fruit in a food processor until it forms a smooth paste.  Add a little water if it doesn’t easily form a paste.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and lightly grease it.
Spread the mixture on the paper about 0.5cm thick.

Cook this in a low oven, either 70 degrees centigrade overnight or 160 degrees for a couple of hours. It really depends how moist the fruit is to start with. I cooked this batch for about 5 hours at 70 degrees and just took a bit of the edge to check it was a gummy consistency.
Turn onto a board and peel off the paper.
Cut into shapes either with a cutter or scissors. (I’ve found scissors to be the easiest way)

Give them a try, they are great for babies and toddlers and can be wrapped in bundles in greaseproof paper for lunchboxes.

Finger Food Friday – Cheese Scones

It’s week two of Finger Food Friday and I was really pleased with the enthusiasm that the home-made rusks were met with last week. If you thought they were good you must try these cheese scones. They are lovely and tasty enough for adults to polish off any leftovers, if you’re lucky. 
They are great for taking out and about for a snack or a picnic and can be used to dip in soup for older toddlers or made into sandwiches as an alternative to bread. Mini Mck loves them spread with cream cheese or nut butter or preferably both. 
They are really simple and quick to make and just as with the rusks they can be frozen after they have been cooked and reheated in a moderate oven to defrost. 


Cheese Scones


from Finger Food by Jennie Maizels


100g self-raising flour
50g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt (optional – I don’t bother as the cheese gives plenty of flavour)
25g butter
100g grated cheese
1 egg
2-3 tbsp milk



Preheat oven to 200 degrees/Gas 6
Mix the flours, baking powder, mustard and salt in a mixing bowl
Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
Mix in 75g of the grated cheese.



Mix the milk and egg together in a separate bowl and add to the flour mixture. Combine to make a dough.
Roll out the dough to a thickness of 2cm. Use a 5cm to make around 12 scones or simply mould the dough into a cake shape and cut into slices.



Put the scones on a greased baking sheet, brush with milk and sprinkle each with some of the remaining cheese.
Bake for around 10-15mins until risen and golden



That is it and they are absolutely delicious. See……