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.

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! 


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. 

A baby-led staple – Rachel’s Organics Review

I am not really sure where my sanity would have been if Mini Mck had decided he didn’t like yoghurt.

Mini Mck was weaned using a Baby-Led approach, meaning we didn’t purée food or spoon feed him, allowing him to discover and explore different food and textures at his own pace. This pace hasn’t always been to my liking and sometimes I felt he would never do more than throw his food and eat a few firm favourites.

Gradually, thanks to an awful lot of patience most of our meals now pass with little fuss, although I would like it if he ate more protein and tried new things, but I keep putting them on his plate anyway. We are finding that allowing him to be involved in the preparation of the food helps, for example making pizzas and fajitas together is a real winner. I have learnt not to fret about how much he eats. He is a bit of a grazer and so the amount he is eating can seem small, but he is growing and in proportion and healthy.

There have been times though when I have really worried about how much he is eating, but one thing I know is always going to go down well is yoghurt. So, when the lovely people at Rachel’s Organics offered to send us some goodies I couldn’t resist.

We received a pack of My First Yoghurts, which were pretty much what you’d expect from a baby yoghurt, with the added bonus of a banana flavour for my banana addicted boy and a pack of Taste Explorer’s. These were basically the same as the the first, smooth, thick and creamy, but with some different flavour combinations. My only criticism, which applies to most yoghurt marketed at babies, is that they state they are suitable from 4 months and the current up to date health advice is not to start your baby on solids until 6 months. This is really a general food labelling bug bear of mine to be honest, but would love it if organic companies would lead the way on changing this.

Thankfully the Taste Explorer Rice Pudding is labelled as suitable from 6 months and coincidentally Mckdaddy and I had been saying we thought Mini Mck would love Rice Pudding and it would be a nice thing to have in store for a treat or when we fancy a pudding. There were some of these included in our hamper and as it is one of my favourite things, Mini Mck was lucky to get some. However, for the purposes of review and for your benefit dear readers I did share them give them to him. I think it would be safe to say that our Mini Reviewer gave them a big thumbs up.

I think it would be hard to find a baby or toddler household that doesn’t have a supply of yoghurt in the fridge. They are easy, quick, popular and great for little hands to learn how to use a spoon. Just look at how much better Mini Mck has got at this particular skill.

I shall let you know what we created with the adult samples in a seperate post and will include some recipes for you to try out for yourself.


Disclosure: We were sent a hamper of various Rachel’s Organics yoghurts and desserts in return for a review. All the words in this post are my own and represent my (and Mini Mck’s) honest opinion.

Spicy Bean Burgers

I could, absolutely, never be a vegetarian and would never want to be. I love roast dinners, steaks, cold meats, fish and could never resist the smell of cooking bacon. However we have made a conscious decision to try and eat less meat and make at least one evening meal a week totally meat free. 


There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, Mckdaddy felt it would be a healthier to reduce our meat intake. Also, I find I am spending increasing amounts on food each week and frankly we need to reduce our bills. Finally, MM is not a huge fan of meat and I’m hoping that he will be tempted by some of the vegetarian options I’m cooking. 


Mckdaddy already cooks a fantastic potato topped Lentil Bake and we recently tried the Cheese and Lentil Loaf from Thinly Spread’s Meat Free Monday post, but one thing I really wanted to try were bean burgers, as I love them and can only find one bought version that I like, which are quite pricey. 


I found this recipe on-line and they were so delicious and easy to make that I just had to share it: 


Ingredients


2 x 400g tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
100g breadcrumbs
2tsp mild chilli powder
Small bunch of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks
I egg, beaten
200g tub of salsa
Salt and Pepper
150ml natural yoghurt
Juice 1/2 lime
Wholemeal burger buns


Method


Tip kidney beans into a large bowl and roughly mash with a potato masher. 
Add breadcrumbs, chilli powder, coriander stalks and half the leaves, 2tbsp salsa and the egg and mix together. 
Season with salt and pepper
Shape into 6 burger shapes
Either:
Grill for 4/5 mins on each side
or:
Freeze and cook at 200c/180c(fan)/Gas 6 for 20/30 mins from frozen
Mix the yoghurt, lime juice and remaining chopped coriander leaves. 
Split buns and serve burgers in them with the yoghurt dressing and remaining salsa. 


From BBC Good Food Magazine website


I deviated slightly, as read the recipe wrong and thought the salsa was purely for serving and so didn’t buy any. In the recipe I substituted it with a finely chopped small onion and a generous squirt of tomato ketchup. I also only had hot chilli powder and so halved the amount, although we both felt I could have been more liberal with the chilli. 
As we were having some home-made chips with it, I didn’t fancy lots of bread and so we chose grilled pittas rather that the wholemeal rolls. 





It was a fabulous Friday night tea and I have more still in the freezer. Definitely one for our vege meal list.