A couple of weeks ago I was in one of those I want to bake moods. This happens quite a lot as baking takes my mind off everyday worries and is pure escapism from my busy job. When I have times like these I love to bake cookies. They are quick and simple to make and taste fab too. Not that I’m allowed at the moment. I’m doing Slimming World and I can’t even begin to think about how many Syns are in some of my baking creations.
I was in one of those moods where I wanted to try out something new so I went online and came across these stunners. Hilton Doubletree Cookies. Now, if you have ever stayed in a Hilton Doubletree Hotel they give you a fresh and warm cookie when you check in. I stayed at one in London near Tower Bridge about five years ago with my family and my son for one thought this was amazing to get a cookie. We had set off early down to London from Yorkshire and were just checking in late in the morning so the cookie staved off the hunger pangs until we could stop for lunch later.
From what I remember of my Hilton Doubletree Cookie, it was soft and chewy inside, just how I like a cookie. So when I saw the recipe online, I wrote it down and attempted to have a go at making some. The recipe was in American measurements so I got out my set of baking cups. I’m always nervous of adapting American recipes as I’m worried they won’t be as accurate because I’m not used to them. Especially as this recipe called for a cup of butter. I had to scoop up the butter and put it into the cup which was quite messy. Usually when I bake cookies you just weigh out the butter!
The cookies also asked for chopped walnuts in the mixture. I added pecans to mine as I didn’t have any walnuts in at home. Of course due to nut allergies, etc. you can omit the nuts. I used chopped chocolate chunks as well.
It was torture not being able to eat a cookie. Why do I do this to myself? I don’t like cooking Slimming World friendly cookies. The one time I did this I was not impressed at having to use artificial sweetener and low fat spread in my baking. All those chemicals and the bake felt wrong. So it’s better to abstain and give the baking to someone else who can indulge. And this is exactly what happened here…. until the following day when I’d been so busy I’d not had time for lunch and got home from work. Who wanted a banana or an apple then? Oh no, not me! I ate one and very gorgeous it was too. Now a few months back I would have eaten another and another but guilt stopped me. So I stuck at one!
Now if you want to try baking the DoubleTree Hilton Cookies yourself, then this is where I found the recipe. Head over to fabulous The Little Kitchen blog and you will find it there:
Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I’m a primary school teacher. I do supply now as it fits in much better around my family and home life but I’ve always loved teaching and working with young children. Although the teaching profession isn’t what it used to be, I feel I have the best of it doing supply. I don’t get all the stresses that permanent teachers have.
Before I did supply teaching full time I worked in a local primary school for eight years. I did a lot of supply there but also worked as a teaching assistant in the KS1 class. I loved that job, but sadly TA’s are very poorly paid for what they do. The money didn’t bother me, what I got out of it was a lot more than a pay cheque. I got job satisfaction and a lot of laughs, giggles and happy memories to treasure along the way.
I had only been working at the school a couple of weeks when the class teacher asked me if I wanted to cook with the children. I was so excited when I got asked to do this and we thought about a recipe we could use which fitted around the topic of Ourselves. I thought about some recipes we had and apart from the obvious, making gingerbread men I remembered a great recipe I had in one of my Nigella Lawson books. In Feast, there is a recipe called Cheesy Feet! This gave us all a big laugh because I said to the children, sometimes cheese can be smelly and so can people’s feet if they are hot and sweaty. This started the children laughing and saying their Dad’s feet smelled! I told them they hadn’t smelt Mr SmartCookieSam’s feet after he’d been wearing trainers!
I had a foot shaped biscuit cutter but we couldn’t make pairs of feet as you couldn’t turn it the other way round. So all of our cheesy feet biscuits were left feet!
Although it was ten years ago that I baked the Cheesy Feet with the children I worked with, we regularly cooked or baked in school. I also ran an after school Cookery Club for three years as I am passionate about getting kids cooking and learning life skills. Sadly the same school has just closed down and I was reminiscing about activities we had done in the classroom. Several former pupils remembered my cookery club and said they loved my cheesy feet! In fact it had been such a hit, several parents asked for the recipe!
This last weekend I was feeling in a very nostalgic mood. My daughter has just gone off to uni for the first time and my son has started college. I wanted to bake something and thought back to the Cheesy Feet. I just had to bake them again for old time’s sake!
The Cheesy Feet are simply like savoury biscuits and they taste just like cheese straws. You can make them in a food processor or by hand. I can’t give the recipe here as it’s not my own, it’s Nigella’s but I can give you a link to it.
I didn’t use a food processor as mine has broken and I still haven’t got round to replacing it. I’m trying to find one that juices as well, maybe it might have to go on my Christmas list? So instead I rubbed in the butter, baking powder and plain flour together until the mixture looked like breadcrumbs. After that I combined this with some grated cheese and formed it into a ball. Nigella said the recipe makes about 16 feet but her cutter must have been slightly smaller than mine. I only got 11 biscuits.
I baked the Cheesy Feet on a Saturday afternoon and put them on the cooling rack in my kitchen. I went upstairs to get ready as Mr SmartCookieSam and I were going out that night. When I came back downstairs I noticed there were only 6 feet left! Mr SmartCookieSam had been eating them! He said they were moreish and reminded him of cheese straws, which he also loves!
Yesterday we had had our lunch outside in the gorgeous September sunshine and then Mr SmartCookieSam asked for a cheesy foot to go with his cup of tea. One cheesy foot turned into the rest of the box apart from one which I ate with the dog sat there drooling at me.
A recipe which is easily adaptable, you could add herbs, or maybe some cayenne pepper or paprika to the dough or even some finely chopped garlic and onion! Now that would make your cheesy feet smell even more!
The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is the latest publication from food writer Annabel Karmel and was published a couple of months ago. My family have grown up with Annabel’s recipes right from when I started weaning my daughter back in 1998 using purees from the Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. I’ve bought several of her books over the years from her Family Meal Planner, to her Kids In The Kitchen inspired books, to her party recipe one. I’ve kept all the books though I don’t think my kids would appreciate butternut squash purees now! Having said that, I regularly go back to recipes from the Family Meal Planner, which has been my lifesaver in the kitchen for the past 16 years.
So, when Annabel brings out a new book which isn’t directed at babies and toddlers, I’m always keen to buy it. I was very impressed with the Busy Mum’s Cookbook as it fits into my lifestyle. I work most days as a supply teacher, a job I love but I’m always shattered when I get in from school. All the recipes I have tried out of the book so far have fitted into the slot of being suitable for busy parents and not just Mums!
The introduction states: “Many of us stick with what we know and trust when it comes to cooking, especially when our lives are busier than ever! Yet the result is often a collection of six or seven failsafe recipes that families rely upon week in week out!”
I have easily fallen into that trap. I think I’ve cooked chilli con carne or chicken curry every week for the past year but I do it because I know my son will eat it. Annabel Karmel’s own children have always been a massive part of her cookery career, she tests recipes out on them and there used to be photos of them in her earlier books. Now they are grown up but they still influence her recipes, just like I do when I try to recreate my own dishes at home.
The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is split up into seven sections each featuring a stack of recipes to suit all lifestyles.
Chapter One is called “20 Minute Recipes” and features plenty of recipes which can be cooked in a very short time. Last Monday evening I tried out the Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto on my family. It says the cooking time is 10 mins and the preparation time, 8 minutes. I had to roast the cherry tomatoes in the oven with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar which took all of 10 minutes. While the tomatoes were roasting the pasta was cooking on the hob. When it had cooked I added pesto sauce to the pasta and mixed it with the tomatoes and mozzarella pieces. Ideal for a a quick weeknight supper.
Annabel’s baking recipes are just divine and I must admit I always looked at the baking and dessert chapters first when I bought her earlier books. For every special occasion dinner I must have made Annabel’s naughty but nice version of Tiramisu and baked a lot of her cakes and cookies for children’s parties. I know sweets and desserts get a bad press but to be honest I can’t see the problem in having the odd treat here or there. So it was great to see a handful of delicious recipes at the back of the book in the Sweets chapter. Last Sunday I tried out the Golden Syrup Ginger Cake which is described as a “deliciously moist, gently spiced cake (which is) perfect for an afternoon tea treat.”
To me it sounded like McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake which I used to eat as a child for tea at my Nana Margaret’s house. I’ve not had it for years. So I was tempted to try baking the cake to see if it was the same. I used my Nordicware Gingerbread Man Loaf Bundt pan which has only been used once before, great to give it another outing. I greased the pan well with Wilton Cake Release. Flour, caster sugar, cinnamon and ginger were combined in one bowl. In another in went eggs, sunflower oil and golden syrup. They were then mixed together and the batter poured into the tin. It tasted lovely even though I could have done with more mixture to fill the tin! It looked very small!
Last Friday night was perfect to sit out and enjoy the gorgeous sunny weather. I had loads of tomatoes to use up and had the idea of making the Three Tomato Bruschettas for my family. Though we only had one type of tomato, this recipe was a lot more fiddly than I thought. I had to peel and de-seed a whole punnet of cherry tomatoes which took a lot of time. The Bruschetta recipe is in the Lunchboxes and Snacks chapter. Lunchboxes is something I never get right. When my kids were at primary school they had Lunchboxes and I used Annabel’s own Lunchboxes book for ideas when my daughter first started in Reception. Her pasta salads and fruit salads with dips would come back untouched and she used to say “Why can’t I have fruit winders in my lunchbox?” Or “……has Cheesestrings in hers, why can’t I?” I tend to be a bit disorganised with my own lunches, I end up with half a carton of soup or a noodle pot. If I’m feeling really lazy then I buy a sandwich from a local garage with an M&S food shop attached to it. Same goes for my husband, when he’s working in his office, he’s across the road from a fantastic bakery so he nips there for a sandwich or a pasty. The kids follow what their friends are doing in town. So unless I sort myself out, I can’t see myself using the lunch box recipes much!
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love baking biscuits, hence my blog name SmartCookieSam. Last Friday I had some spare time and decided to bake some of Annabel’s Chocolate and Oat Cookies. My son is going through his GCSEs at the moment and my daughter has been busy in her college course. What better than a sweet treat to start half term off? The cookies were very simple to make using butter, brown sugar, flour, an egg, some vanilla extract, baking powder, a small amount of ground ginger, porridge oats and dark chocolate cut into chunks. No sooner than they had been put on the cooling rack, then half of them disappeared! That’s a good sign. If they’re still there in the biscuit tin a few days later that’s when I start getting worried.
My son and husband aren’t massive pasta fans but they liked the Pasta Arrabiata recipe. It was a perfect standby storecupboard supper to knock up after a busy day at work. It went very well washed down with a couple of glasses of wine! I forgot to tell hubby that Arrabiata sauce has chillies in it!
There was another chapter in the book dedicated to Entertaining. Well I can’t remember the last time I had friends round for dinner. It was probably about 10 years ago. Ever since I went back to work doing dinner parties is the last thing on my mind. Though I have had several parties and get togethers. This usually ends up being buffet food or a BBQ or maybe cakes and lots of drink though! I can’t see me cooking any recipes from the Entertaining chapter soon, though!
So, to sum up I was extremely impressed with Annabel’s book. It is going to be well used in the next few years I bet as it was the case with her baby and toddler feeding books. I can wholeheartedly recommend it!
To make a change from my usual baking and sweet recipes which I create, it has been a welcome change to bring you something completely different. This is a recipe I have used for nearly 15 years with my own two children and also one that has been made at an After School cookery club that I used to run.
When Wren Kitchens contacted me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would like to be involved in their #LittleKitchen campaign, I was really excited. Although I’m really busy at the moment in my teaching career and with home commitments, I love to take part in schemes which are very close to my heart.
The #LittleKitchen campaign has been created to encourage children to cook by being involved in food preparation and cooking. Wren Kitchen’s philosophy is something I heavily relate to: the kitchen is the heart of the home and where the family whatever their ages are able to come together. They talk, prepare food and have fun while they’re doing it. At the same time you spend precious family time together as well as creating healthy and delicious food. Not only that but by being involved in the food preparation process, children have fun, a sense of responsiblity and also are more likely to eat something that they’ve made themselves.
It is always a challenge to find meals which tick all the boxes. Is it delicious? Does is contain portions of fruit and veg which will count towards your 5 a day? Will the kids actually like it? I think this recipe has proved time and time again that it does fulfill that need.
My Chinese Egg Fried Rice recipe is one that children of all ages can help to create and it is a valuable recipe to add to the repertoire. I am convinced that being able to cook simple, yet nutritious, but fun meals is a valuable life skill as everyone has to eat. My own daughter is off to uni this autumn and she will be able to cook the Egg Fried Rice for herself and her friends. The beauty in this recipe is that you can used whatever leftover veg you have left over, so long as they are chopped up small. It can also have frozen peas and sweetcorn in it so it fills out the dish. All the ingredients are cheap so it is a useful budget dinner.
CHINESE EGG FRIED RICE
225g dry weight long grain or basmati rice
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped finely.
1 pepper, deseeded and chopped
Approx 75g frozen peas
2 medium eggs, beaten
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
If you fancy substiuting any of the vegetables, feel free. I sometimes use 3 or 4 spring onions in the rice instead of the ordinary onions. I used a yellow pepper here but the colour doesn’t matter. Just use whatever you have at hand.
KIDS IN THE KITCHEN:
Even very young children can take part in making this dish. My own two children used to help by using a child friendly knife to cut and prepare easy to cut vegetables like peppers and to help weigh out ingredients. I included them in every step of the process even though they kept away from the hob when I was frying the vegetables and boiling the rice. When the dish was put on the table I let them serve themselves.
As children get older they are more able to cope with cutting more difficult vegetables, such as onions and will be able to peel the carrots. You could involve them by adding the vegetables and rice to the pans at the right time and they could stir the contents of the pan. They could also make the omelette with help. Teenagers will easily able to cook the Egg Fried Rice without supervision. Though my children will always leave me their mess to clean up afterwards!
Last Monday afternoon I got in from work and finished my jobs. It was one of those afternoons where I had an urge to bake something. It had to be something quick that I could sling together and chuck in the oven before disappearing off to collect my kids from school.
Brownies or blondies work well for me as I make them such a lot, you get it down to a fine art and they don’t take long to whip up and in the oven. So, for this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge where I am baking a recipe from every chapter of Rachel Allen’s Bake, her recipe for White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Blondies would be just the ticket. In the recipe introduction Rachel says “Fed up of brownies? Try blondies! These little squares are great on their own, eaten with ice cream they are simply sinful!” Well we all need a pick me up or a little treat to help us get through life don’t we?
I looked in my baking cupboard knowing that I’d bought a packet of white chocolate chips a couple of weeks back and would have enough to go in the blondies. But when I opened the cupboard.. they just weren’t there! I can only put it down to my kids helping themselves! So frustrating, but I couldn’t prove who had took them! Luckily though I had a packet of dark chocolate chips and they would have to do instead!
To begin with I creamed some butter and crunchy peanut butter together in a large mixing bowl. When this was done I sifted some plain flour and bakingpowder in another bowl. To the peanut butter bowl I added soft brown sugar, egg and some vanilla extract. Finally in went the bag of chocolate chips.
As for the tin, I used the square one I always use for my brownies. It’s a either a loose bottomed one I bought a few years back in Lakeland or one I bought at a Jamie At Home party which isn’t loose bottomed but still worked as well. Either tin always makes either 16 small square brownie bites or 12 large ones. No problem again here, the dough went into the tin fine and 25-30 minutes later out it came after being baked in the oven at 170oC (electric fan oven here).
After about 1/2 hour’s cooling time I attempted to cut up the blondies and quickly hid them in a box in the cupboard away from my family. They were going into work to share with my work colleagues and I thought if my family knew there were blondies about there wouldn’t be any left the next day.
I thought I’d got away with it as it was an afternoon when I was at home and my kids were still at school. I had hidden the evidence but when we got in from the school run my daughter started sniffing when she came back in. She said “Have you been baking? I can smell chocolate!” My kids have baking radar but I lied and said she was imagining things!