Homemade Jammy Dodgers

These are my absolute favourite new thing to make. I adapted an old biscuit recipe I had and they have worked a treat! Don’t be worried about the initial crumbly mixture. It comes together well after chilling and rolling. I have tested these on a few people this last week and they have been so popular I’ve made several batches, keeping enough back for my cookie jar too of course, because I think my 4 year old might just be their biggest fan. Well worth a go! Beware though, they are utterly buttery and delicious!20170322_113132[1]

Ingredients for Biscuits

225g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

140g White Caster Sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling

1 large egg yolk, save the white for brushing later on

2.5 tsp Vanilla Extract

280g Plain Flour

Pinch of Salt

1-1.5 Tablespoon Whole Milk

 

Ingredients for Filling

50g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

85g Icing Sugar

5 Tablespoons Strawberry Jam

Food colouring Gel of your choice, we did pink

 

Method

1.Place butter and sugar into a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until combined

2.Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla extract

3.Sift the flour and salt over the mixture and stir. Ideally get your hands in to squish the mixture into a dough, if still a bit flourly use the milk, I found a tablespoon really brings it together without getting it too wet

4.Halve the dough, shaping into two balls, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for one hour

5.Pre heat oven to Gas 5/190c

6.Line Baking trays with baking paper. No need for any extra grease

7.Unwrap dough and roll each ball flat. Not too thin so they don’t crumble. One batch needs to be the solid shape the cutter makes it and the other batch needs to have smaller holes cut out of the middle to display the jam at the end. I didn’t have a small enough cutter so used a piping bag nozzle 😉 Biscuit cutter size will determine how many biscuits this recipe will make. I use a 2.5 inch cutter which makes loads. I got 26 full biscuits out of this mixture, meaning it cut 52 circles with the cutter

Above: Once rolled and cut, scrunch the off cuts back together and roll again to get more biscuits. Place on a sheet of baking paper below and top with a sheet of cling film above, to prevent sticking on either side before rolling

Above: You dont need fancy tools. Use what ever you have

8.Space well apart on baking trays and bake for 6-7 minutes, bringing out after this time. Brush with the leftover egg white then sprinkle with a little sugar, returning it to the oven for a further 5 minutes. They should be lightly golden brown. Cool completely on wire racks

 Above: They do not spread or rise a lot so no need for a mass of space between them, just enough so they do not touch

 

  1. Make the buttercream filling by mixing the butter with the sifted icing sugar. Add a drop of your favourite colour and mix well. Spread over the full biscuit bases (those that will be the bottom of the biscuit) and add about half a teaspoon of warm runny jam to the centre. Place a ring cut out biscuit on top and fill in any gaps in the centre with extra jam. Leave to cool and this will set back into solid form.

    Above: We love a bit of colour inside x

    1. Put the kettle on, sit down and try not to eat them all 😉 xxx20170322_113402[1]

Cooking for the freezer, eating well on a budget and preventing waste!

Hi everyone. I have mostly been hibernating with my little one since the start of the New Year. Keeping busy but being quite lazy (down to tiredness) in relation to what we ate. I have to admit I have been seeing a lot of toast and salad these last few weeks. Quick, easy snacks that take minimal time and effort. Luckily my girl is more of a grazer so has been happy with picnic style nibbles. Everything is fun when you’re three. 20170125_1232071

Above: Love a no cook tuna sandwich but its time to get cooking again!

Lack of motivation is a real killer! Apart from a very generous friend and neighbour who invites me round to sample her yummy food once in a while, I really had lost all my passion for cooking and eating. (If you know me, you know that’s just not right ;-).)Especially having had limited funds to eat well in the first place. The last few weeks (the dreaded after christmas reality check) have been some of the worst for me financially since managing on my own. However, seeing how rough things had become, it was the kick up the arse I had needed to take stock of my freezer situation and general attitude towards meals and planning ahead!

For the first time in ages, my freezer was almost completely bare. No back ups. No handy extra ingredients to make a meal more interesting. Nothing but a bag of frozen spinach and some bread! Dire! When you are having a hard up week as a single mom, to not have a freezer full of healthy meals ready to go is a big mistake. It’s a life saver and saves you turning to a highly salted ready meal or the local chip shop when there’s nothing to eat in the house! It’s quite easy to do too if you change your mind-set and include it into what you’re doing anyway. You always need to eat and cook. It makes perfect sense to cook something that will keep for another meal too. 20170125_2020171

Above: Getting my cook on….

So, with that in mind, I started doing something about it. A little research online and a few helpful answers from mom (who has managed in a similar situation with three kids to keep alive!) I am well on my way. Now whenever I cook im thinking will it freeze? Things now only seem worth making if I can freeze a portion for a rainy day! There are some things that simply don’t taste as good once frozen, such as pasta, and can have its quality damaged. And some things just taste damn good made fresh and that’s how it should be. However, for most of my meals, I am now using the method of eat some now and freeze some for later. With a nearly four year old daughter to feed, who always wants something, it’s the best way forward for me. It also helps on days when she’s at nursery as I don’t want to stand for an hour cooking when she gets in, ive missed her, I want to spend time with her!

Above: Precious time

So here are a few things I have found freeze really well and a few ideas of what I will be doing to inspire you to be a bit more thrifty too ;-).Nothing goes to waste now in this house!

Cake!

Yes, you heard me, cake freezes! How I have not come across this bit of amazingly delicious information before I will never know but cake freezes really well, for at least 3 months. To be fair, my mom had told me this before but I didn’t believe her , thinking the quality would be effected, but its great! Now if im in the mood to bake, I don’t have to eat it all or feel I have to give loads away. I have one slice and the rest goes in my newly appointed cake freezer drawer (honestly) and its there for when people pop round for tea or when Emi wants a bit. It will take less than half hour to defrost at room temperature (sliced) or you can take it out the night before or warm in the microwave. Instant cake! I have tried all sorts from wholemeal fruit tea loaf to orange drizzle to cake full of fresh fruit. It all works well. And it works out much cheaper to make your own. Everyone should have a cake drawer ;-).

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Above: To think I have lived my entire adult life without a supply of frozen cake 😉

Bread!

I love bread. I have always frozen it but usually just buy a loaf and freeze it sliced. I have started teaching Emi how to make bread lately and she loves it. She bashes it about, loves the end result and makes her own labels for them to store them in the freezer. Making your own is also much cheaper as you will get 2 or 3 loaves out of one bag of flour, which is about the same cost as a standard loaf. I agree there’s not always time to make ones own bread (before you snigger) but if you do have a spare hour or two its well worth a try. Fresh bread straight from the oven with real butter oozing all over it is AMAZING! Slice it up and freeze the rest for some rustic eggs on chunky homemade toast or late night snacking at a later date.

Above: Emi making her bread and her homemade labels x

Pasta Sauce!

This is one of the most versatile things to make. You can use any meat, any veg, whatever you want or that is in stock and it is such a handy standby for midweek meals to have in as you can just lift it out and reheat it alongside some fresh pasta which takes minutes to cook. I just made a batch tonight using turkey mince, mixed frozen peppers, spinach and oregano, which took less than 40 minutes and has provided my freezer with three meals for the coming weeks ahead. It’s a  great way to use up cheaper meats too, I bought turkey thigh mince instead of turkey breast mince, which is about £1 cheaper to buy and probably is packed with more flavour anyway. Make it in a big batch in a large pan to go even further and in the long run it will work out even cheaper again. Perfect budget cooking and pure comfort eating to boot. Pack it with healthy ingredients and you’re onto a winner for both taste and health!

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Above: My healthy turkey and pepper pasta sauce x

Stew!

Stew is gorgeous. Such comfort food and an excellent filler on a cold winters night. Its my perfect winter food. I love beef stew cooked down using red wine and loads of onions. Again, with the same principle as the pasta sauce, meat and veg will all freeze very well once cooked. I’ve used cooked leftover chicken to then make a chicken stew, which will then also freeze. Three meals from one chicken. I’ve also sourced the cheaper cuts of beef which are perfect in stews and equally freeze really well too.

Soups!

Any kind of soup will freeze. I have been doing mainly vegetable soups as they are really cheap to make and really quick to defrost. Carrot and coriander, pea soup, mushroom, potato and leek, they are all a great way to full up on healthy produce and get some of your five a day too without really thinking about it. It makes a great accompaniment to your frozen homemade bread too! This is the main way that I use up those scabby last onions or carrots that get forgotten at the back of the drawer. Once its cooked and blitzed, you would never have known it once looked a bit manky.

Stock!

Another way to use up the slightly gone too far manky veg lurking in the bottom of that fridge of yours. Celery, carrot, onions, anything really can be bunged into boiling water with seasoning and simmered to create a lovely stock. I always strip me chicken clean, use the left over meat for soups or stir frys and then boil up the bones with some veg to make a few pots of stock, which will be frozen and then used as the base of a new dish at some point down the line. There is far too much waste in terms of food these days and there are so many things that can be done with all those slightly less attractive bits!

Other Lifesaving tips!

Eggs!

Eggs are amazing! Dont just see them as a cake ingredient. I try to use them as much as I can as they are very cheap to use per person and they last for ages! Dont overlook these beauties! And don’t keep them in the fridge!

You can use them for:

Omlettes (You can vary with the filling such as cheese, mushrooms etc)

Scrambled eggs (On toast, with a fry up, with fresh herbs, with smoked salmon etc)

Poached eggs (on a bagel, with crushed avocado, Eggs Benedict etc)

Soft boiled eggs (With toast soldiers of course, how else?!)

Hard boiled eggs (To cut up on salads, to mash with mayo for egg and cress sandwiches, to eat whole out the fridge as a high protein snack.)

In baking

To make yorkshire puddings (these freeze too!)

To make pancakes (Cook them and freeze some!)

As a binder when making burgers

As a glaze when making pastry

Frittatas (Love a slice of this hot or cold and again can be filled with whatever you have.)

Can you tell I like eggs?!

 

Natural Yoghurt!

Yoghurt is worth so much more than just eating from the pot.

You can use it for:

Eating with honey and fruit as a healthy breakfast choice

Mixing into curries or other spicy dishes to cool down the heat!

Mixing with fresh ingredients like herbs or cucumber to make individual dips to accompany meals.

Blending with fresh fruit and honey and freezing in individual ice lolly moulds for a fun task with the kids and a healthy alternative to pudding.

Mixing into porridge for the creamy version without the cream guilt.

A day or two past its used by date is still fine, don’t waste it, pour a couple of tablespoons into the blender with frozen fruit, milk, nuts and honey to make a delicious smoothie.

Make a pasta sauce. By blending nuts, herbs, cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and the yoghurt, then you have a really healthy and natural alternative to the usual cream laden white sauces.

Above: Strawberry, Mango, Yoghurt, Almond, Banana and Honey smoothies for breakfast. Someone likes to eat the fruit frozen!

Fruit!

Always keep in a good selection of fruit! It is so versatile!

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You can use it for:

Lemons can be used to make drinks, add flavour to dishes or make the perfect pancake topping! You can use the rind and juice and both of these freeze well in ice cube trays.

Bananas can be eaten whole, eaten warm with custard (classic) for an easy pudding, left to go brown and mashed into banana bread, added to smoothies.

Apples can be baked, stewed, grated for cakes, made into apple sauce, chopped over salads, or just make a nice snack for kids!

As long as I have plenty of eggs, some cupboard basics and some fruit I know that we can  make a decent meal or two with dessert too! Hope this has given someone out there a few ideas to stretch out their ingredients that little bit further! xx

 

 

Making Breakfast Fun!

Over the last couple of weeks, my three year old has really gone off eating breakfast. I know kids tend to go through understandable short term phases, but when you are as active as she is, it concerned me that she was not fueling up properly for the day ahead, often having an eleven o clock slump, feeling tired and grumpy because of it…much like us big ones I guess if we neglect to fuel our bodies properly. I know I feel dizzy come lunch time if I skip breakfast.

I was trying the usual, eating together, offering different options, buying in her previous usual favourite things. She nibbled bits, she always eats something. But she just wasnt excited to eat anymore and I wanted to change that.

So, this week, I took action! I decided that me and her simply were not having enough fun, in all aspects of our life, but with the food in particular. I have been fortunate enough that I introduced real food to my daughter from a really early age, so there is next to nothing she wont at least try. But meal times shouldnt be seen as a chore, food is amazing and there’s so much we don’t know about. I never want her to think she has to eat her food, I want her to know eating is a pleasure and to look forward to it.

With that in mind, I decided to start making her food more like play time! Kids, especially three year olds, thrive off activities and fun! More than anything, I wanted to make her smile again.

So yesterday morning, we came downstairs and she said she was hungry. She opened the fridge, already like a teenager, seeing nothing she much fancied and walked out of the kitchen again huffing to go and slump in her mini arm chair. I smiled and left her to it and felt excited that I was going to surprise her with something she didn’t expect. It’s so easy to quickly rush a bowl of cereal or a slice of toast. Most days you have to if you have work or have large family commitments. However, if you can genuinely say to yourself you have 10 minutes to spare that morning, its well worth investing a little more time to give something different a try!

I made her some pancakes. Not the usual circle ones. Still using a standard batter (I just used 1 egg and as much flour and milk as I needed.) I poured in random amounts around the bottom of the pan making sure the batter edges didn’t meet. Turns out it made a load of random shapes , some even vaguely resembled dinosaurs and a U.F.O I thought. I chopped up some fresh berries and did a pot of yoghurt with a paintbrush dipped in ready for her to get busy. I covered it with a tea towel and said I had a surprise. (Three year olds love that word.) The look on her face when I whipped it away was priceless. She adored that she could glue on her berries with the yoghurt and essentially make crafts with her breakfast. She was excited, mealtime no longer was rushed to get back and play because it was the play and she ate lots in the process. We did it  again tonight for dinner ;-). A little imagination goes a long way with children this young.

20160904_160602[1]Above: Sure I can see a couple of by chance dinosaurs in there!20160904_160608[1]Above: One happy girl x20160904_161220[1]20160904_160839[1]

Above: Emi just checking the yoghurt glue wasnt real! Theres only one way to check after all!

This morning I wanted to surprise her again and she was actually smiling at me when she asked what was for breakfast. She knew something was coming again. So today, I made her day by saying we could have her favourite, ice cream, for breakfast! Well, that just blew her little mind.

She said “Ice cream? For breakfast? Ha!”. Throwing her head back and laughing as she does. I love seeing her thinking when something changes the game plan! Before you spit out your tea and call me a bad mom, give me a break. I wouldn’t actually give my daughter sugar laden ice cream as a promoted way of having a good breakfast! We made our own instant soft scoop ice cream using bananas I had frozen the night before. This one is great, really quick and super healthy!

You simply blend frozen bananas with whatever other ingredient or flavour you fancy. We made two types to try, one with fresh strawberries and frozen bananas and a chocolate ice cream which is just the bananas, 1 tsp of cocoa powder and a squeeze of honey. The strawberry one doesn’t need sweetening but cocoa can be quite bitter so that needed the honey I thought. Plus the chocolate one is really gooey almost like a pudding, which feels great to be allowed in the morning! Add a splash of milk to the chocolate one too to loosen it up a bit, a little goes a long way. So with just two ingredients in the strawberry one and four in the chocolate one, all natural and healthy, it makes a great start to the day and is really fun too.20160904_081441[1]Above: Thats enough now Emi!20160904_081448[1]Above: mmmmm I try some too!20160904_082153[1]Above: Loving her treat breakfast x20160904_082215[1] Above: Yummy and healthy too x

It takes all of about a minute and makes an instant soft scoop ice cream that is super healthy but feels like a treat. Just make sure you only blend until the bananas have no more lumps. If you do it more than that your soft scoop will become more of a thick shake! Best of all its something she could join in with, again, getting her excited by eating what she’s made herself rather than just being handed something and told it has to be eaten. Food has to be fun! Especially when kids are learning!

There are loads of fun things to try.

Making faces out of Fruit shapes is a nice one to do with them. (Bananas slit in half are perfect for a big smily mouth!).

We make porridge and make shapes on the top decorating with dried fruits and a squeeze of honey or jam. Hearts is a favourite and she always does me one on mine 😉 xWP_20160214_08_33_38_ProAbove: Emi with her blueberry heart porridge on Valentines day this year x

I am a realist and I do understand that food play isn’t always achievable or quick enough to do every day of the week. I am not suggesting that. I am going to aim to dedicate at least the weekend mornings to doing this for her and with her, more if I can, but at least those two days. Setting realistic goals is better than just saying I have no time or it’s too much upkeep. The child having one fun food day to look forward to each week is better than none at all.

You don’t have to keep it to one certain meal event either. We do the same with lunches sometime.

Making lettuce boats she can fill with chicken and salad herself and float across the table like on water is always fun (Thank god for wipe clean table cloths!)

Letting her draw a face on her hard-boiled egg shell after she has eaten and reenacting humptey dumptey before smashing his shell with her spoon is another firm favourite!

Using my inherited sherry glasses from Nan and letting her have her own little glass of wine at the dinner table always makes her feel really grown up and not left out. (It is squash for the record ;-0.)20160816_135948[1].jpgAbove: Emi with her mini wine x

Kids just want to be involved so give something a bit more inventive a try to see if they like it. Theres a good chance they will x