Monday, 31 December 2007

Little Foodies wishes you all a Happy New Year

I'm still in bed (lazy cow!). Medication has changed so hoping that from next year (less than 6 hours away) I'll be out of bed more than I'm in it.

It's been interesting. I've been grumpy, happy, sleepy, dopey. Infact the Seven Dwarfs have got nothing on me. I've caught up with lots of blog reading. I read and enjoyed every single post that Lydia of The Perfect Pantry has written. If you ever find yourself bed ridden then I'd urge you to do the same, it was great.

I haven't made any New Year resolutions for a few years and I don't think I've given enough thought to it to make really profound ones this year but I should definitely include the following....

Take more care of self including looking after back and actually doing the exercises that the physiotherapist told me to do (over 11 months ago).. Work on building core strength. Maybe start yoga - just typing that made me giggle. Pass me the diazapam I think I'm losing it!

Maybe lose the baby weight. Small will be 4 this year. Not being able to breathe properly while wearing jeans can hardly be blamed on just having had a baby! Okay lose the weight from eating all the pies. Cream ones, chicken ones, banoffee ones, yep I think the pies might be to be blame for the excess weight!

To my boys - Hubby, Little and Small - thanks for being here these last few days. I've tried to be as well behaved as possible. I rather hope you'll agree. Happy New Year my gorgeous ones! Here's hoping 2008 is a wonderful and healthy one for us.

Happy New Year to everybody else too. Hope 2008 brings you all good things.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

The discs - they are a spinning...

Or atleast that's what it feels like. Anybody know any good jokes? interesting facts or good stories?

I'm writing from my bed, from the laptop my lovely hubby bought some time ago. The laptop I said I couldn't get to grips with. Bored out of my brains I seem to be getting to grips with it quite well now. . I've been in bed for 3 days now. At least I think it is 3 days, I seem to have lost all track of time. This Christmas was obviously meant to teach me some lessons. I'm quite good at life lessons but I'm still working out what this was meant to teach me.

In February I tore a disc in my spine. An MRI scan showed it was cute, actually acute but cute sounds more friendly. As you can imagine it hurt quite a bit. The consultant told me that as it had torn so much it wouldn't knit back together completely, that within 5 years I would have to have the disc removed. Sooner if I didn't look after it. I scoffed at this. At 36 years old I thought it was ridiculous to think I'd be a candidate for spinal surgery. Unfortunately though at the tail end of the flu last week, I coughed just once too much. I felt my back twinge. When I went to stand up I couldn't move. I spent the night on the lounge floor after taking numerous drugs that didn't make any difference. With the only other option an ambulance to hospital. I'm sorry but I'd rather take my chances at home! Since then I've taken a copious amount of drugs - Diazepam, Diclofenac, Tramadol, Co-codamol and Dihydrocodeine. Even with a cocktail of some of these drugs it's only just taking the edge off the pain.

On the bright side, at least my back held out until after Christmas. Part of me would rather still have the flu, in place of this of course not on top of this. It's my favourite time of year and so far I've had a week of not being able to taste food and now that I can taste food I can't cook. My husband is rarely at home for this length of time and I'm not able to do stuff with him and the boys. He is taking really good care of me though but weirdly I feel lonely and removed from the famliy. The in-laws arrived yesterday so I know Little and Small will be having fun. Their faces light up when they come into the bedroom and see me. Though Little had a few tears and said he wanted me to be better. Another bonus, Hubby is a fantastic cook and he has just asked if I'd like something special for dinner.

I'm waiting to speak to the pharmacist (he's a lovely man and a good friend of Great Nanny), he's going to talk me through all the drugs that I have and suggest the best way to take them for maximum effect. That way I will hopefully be able to get out of bed and at least feel like part of my family. Who'd have thought I'd be a junkie before the year was out! Hubs did start talking about celebrities who have become addicted to prescription drugs last night. I think he's a little concerned... He needn't be - I can't stand taking them. If I was in to taking tablets I'd have taken those slimming ones years ago and lost a few pounds!

Where's my lunch? He offered a smoked salmon sandwhich - at least half an hour ago!

Monday, 24 December 2007

The Festive Fairy Arrived....

Following my earlier post... I wished real hard and she turned up and sprinkled her magic dust all over me. Giving me enough energy to make a gingerbread castle (inspired by the wonderful Tanna) and some biscuits, and the thing I'd been planning on making all December - a spiced igloo cake (I forgot the fruit).

I want to thank the wonderful Kelly-Jane of Cooking the Books for getting hold of and sending me the Christmas edition of Martha Stewart Living Magazine. I saw an advert for it and was drawn in by the gingerbread towns on the front cover. I couldn't get hold of it but Kelly-Jane did. She is one of the nicest bloggers you'll ever 'meet'. Thanks Kelly-Jane, you're a sweetheart!

Merry Christmas one and all...

Happy Christmas & Fairy Dust

I think I mentioned that things were going to be a little slack around here... I hadn't realised that a shed load of other stuff would happen.... Some of this post might be a bit bah humbug but I thought I'd explain the absence. There is a recipe for Fairy Dust which I think more than makes up for it. Ho Ho Ho...

December was taken up with a lot of making for the school Christmas Fair, I neglected to do most of the fun stuff and present making I'd wanted to make and do for my friends and family, even for myself. I'd had great plans for food making and blogging too. Things didn't sell well at the Christmas Fair. I was a little peeved by this and I'm ashamed to admit felt like crying when the fair finished and I returned home. I think I might take things too personally, which is why I would never want to be in charge of anything like that. We made less than £2000.00. A much smaller school in the next village raised £10,000.00 - I'd best button it on this now.

Little got bronchitis in early December, he then got better only to be struck with another viral thing plus an ear infection, when he gets a temperature over 102 his legs buckle and he can't walk very well. This brought on yet another staphylococcus infection, something he has been battling with on and off with for over a year now. It started just before Christmas last year.

Nan (Great Nanny to Little and Small) fell and broke her hip in three places. It sent her completely mad. She really did talk of blue mice laying eggs in her mouth. She seemed to be better a few days later but then a day or two after that she was talking nonsense again. "I should be in hospital, I have a broken hip." "You are in hospital Nan." "Well, if I'm in hospital, why have they left me in this uncomfortable chair and those two ladies over there have beds." "Nan, you are in a bed." She looked at me with utter contempt. I just stroked her head and this seemed to soothe her worries. That was last Sunday and I haven't been back as it was on the Sunday evening that Little became ill.

It was then Smalls turn, he got a really bad cold. Soon followed by his mummy (that would be me). As I write I'm getting over flu, not man flu, or even a very bad cold, I mean good old proper bed ridden flu. My bones still feel like they've been through a mangle and my heart feels as though it's encased in a really tight bandage. HOWEVER, it's Christmas Eve and I have to get my act together because my children will have happy memories of this Christmas.

I have a lightly spiced fruit cake to make in the shape of an igloo and some lovely polar bears who will live on a little patch of sweet snow until the cake has been eaten and then the polar bears can retire from duty to live in the large box labelled ANIMALS. I will post a picture and the recipe later.

We're off to a party at about 4pm, only for an hour or two as thankfully my Mum and Stepdad arrived on Saturday and I want to spend as much time with them as possible. We don't see them very often. New Year 2007 was the last time. They're staying in a hotel nearby (our house is currently too small for guests to stay longer than one night). Today Mum will be cooking us Dexter Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings. We should have had this over the weekend but with everything going on it didn't happen.

We'll be having the usual tukery and all the trimmings on Christmas Day. Although having watched a few cookery programmes which have involved geese I'm a little sorry that we didn't think to have goose this year.

In the meantime I'm doing my best to coax the Festive Fairy to sprinkle her magic dust on me.

Tonight just before Little and Small go to bed in their new brushed cotton pj's, we'll sprinkle fairy dust (recipe below) outside. This helps FC and his reindeer spot our house easily. We'll also leave out some hay for the reindeer. Not forgetting the mince pie and sherry for Father Christmas.

Fairy Dust Recipe: equal amounts of white flour and glitter. Mixed with love and magical happy thoughts. Put into a beautiful container ready for small hands to gather some and sprinkle over the garden. If you can't muster the love and magical happy thoughts then obviously the flour and glitter will remain just that - flour and glitter and when you're trying to clean it off the patio you'll be cursing Little Foodies for suggesting such a ridiculous thing!! ;)

Amazingly, just writing something for the blog this morning has made me feel a lot better. I hadn't realised that this blog was possibly my therapy too.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas. xx

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Under the Highchair - Little Foodies was/were interviewed...

I love Aimee's blog Under the High Chair. Aimee is a very cool Mummy, who lives in Montreal, Canada. Currently pregnant with child no.2 she still produces amazing food and has the energy to invite a shed load of people round to hers for a cookie swap, despite the fact she'd just (literally) had the house renovated. They (the builders) were probably just packing their van up as guests arrived, you know what these hormones can do to you. She makes me feel old, I'm not - I think I'm just jealous of her energy!

Anyway, Aimee recently asked me some questions as part of her regular feature Foodie Facebook, you can click the following for her interview with me... If you don't fancy that, then do still check out the blog as she posts some fantastic recipes and great pics.

Things might be a bit slack around here. Christmas Plays, Christmas Fair, Great Nanny fell and broke her hip in three places over the weekend, sent her LALA, blue mice laying eggs in her mouth?? Thankfully I think the LALA was just shock as her mind sort of seems back to normal. Lots of hospital visits, but hoping she's going to mend fast as it is Christmas in less than two weeks! I think you probably knew that already.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Peabody's Housewarming

What do you take to a housewarming when the hostess far outstrips your own culinary skills? Well, you can run scared and not bother going or you could just have some fun with the children and make a storyboard of cookies. You'll have to excuse our photos, as per usual we were running late, and despite having in mind what we would bring we still almost didn't make it in time.
The lovely Peabody, We hope your new home is a happy one.

Where the dog always has a juicy bone,

the stars shine brightly on your garden,

your visitors are always cheerful,

and you get to build a snowman whenever you want to...

Warmest wishes for your new home and housewarming party.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

How to waste time for a good cause...

CLICK on - What am I saying?! For someone whose up to their eyes in preparations for Christmas, which include craft making for the School Christmas Fair, making bits for a shepherd costume (WHAT - he's not Joseph?!), on-line shopping for the ugly amount of Christmas presents for those I love, making homemade things to send to those who participated in our Pay it Forward, looking away from child trying to twist yet another loose tooth out of his mouth so that he can fleece the tooth fairy yet again. That and everything else that goes with the festive season (quick breathe!) I should not be suggesting that people go on-line to play games. However, this is all for a good cause and spending time playing this totally addictive game felt great. I know one would have to play it for a very long time to donate enough rice for even a small family to eat well but, well, you know... It's a simple concept. Play a word game on-line. Advertisers pay money. Freerice donates free rice. The game : they give you a word and a few different meanings. You have to click on the correct meaning of the word. For each word you get right they donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. I'm really sorry if you've got more important things to do, you can't hold me responsible for the amount of time you spend playing.

Please PLEASE click Frequently Asked Questions for some insightful information about the game but more importanly about world hunger. You can also click on their sister site - all really important stuff.

Thanks to Jenny at All Things Edible for posting about this on the Daring Bakers blog. I was very impressed with my word knowledge!! My best level was 40 - not bad at all. Edit: I'm now up to level 41. That half hour sure went fast and with nigh on 4000 grains of rice donated. All together now sing "I feel good!"

It gives a warning on the site that the game may make you smarter. It may improve your speaking, writing, thinking, grades, job performance, and (more).

Just as I'd finished writing this post, the tooth twister has pulled yet another tooth out. The Tooth Fairy will be bankrupt at this rate!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Flying by the seat of my bread pants in the style of a Daring Baker

I DID IT! I finally made the Tender Potato Bread

from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World

by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

I don't know if it was the fear of making bread but never before have I left the making of a Daring Baker challenge so late. I have until midnight tonight to post so I'd better hurry up and start typing. This morning as I sat making baubles and what have you for the School Christmas Fair drinking nice coffee and having a bit of a chat. I put to the back of my mind that I still had to make the Tender Potato Bread as chosen by our host this month, the lovely Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups. At 4.30pm this afternoon when I still hadn't started I did think about posting on the DB blog to say I was quitting and that I was incapable of living up to the thing that is a Daring Baker. However I was wrong and for that I thank you Tanna. We just ate the best Focaccia, warm, fresh out of the oven that we ever did taste! The bread rolls look superb and the large loaf looks amazing too and me well I'm amazed and pretty proud of myself this evening. Those who read this blog regularly know that I am not the bread maker in the family. The boys are, both grown and small. Not anymore - I am bread maker extraordinaire!

I peeled enough potatoes to allow for Little and Small to have some for their dinner. With them fed I began a proper. There wasn't enough water from the boiled potatoes which was actually a bonus as I used cold water to get the 3 cups required and this meant it cooled it down quicker. A bonus when you're running as late as I was. Did you hear that? As late as I was. I can say that now because the bread is made and I've still got hours left to post before the witching hour. I mixed the first two cups of flour and yeast to the potato and water and let it rest. I then added most of the rest of the flour and decided to transfer to the KitchenAid as my back was starting to hurt. If anyone has any tips for kneading dough or generally doing repetitive stuff without pain when you have a torn disc in your lower spine please let me know. I did the second kneading by hand. That dough was sticky, I think I may have clogged both the bathroom and kitchen sinks with cleaning my hands and the mixing bowls. It felt really good, though a bit like a fat squidgy tummy. Anyway I decided to go for a focaccia, 6 rolls and a large-ish loaf - as you can see.

If you want to check out what all the other Daring Bakers did (nearly 400 of them now) then click here to go the Daring Bakers Blogroll. If you want to check out the recipe then click here to go to Tanna's blog.

Tanna sums up beautifully what being a Daring Baker is about. She says 'Being a Daring Baker is about trying new recipes, new techniques and taking risks. It’s about reaching just past that comfort zone.This is a Daring Baker Challenge, not a contest and not a competition because at its heart and soul is the support and sharing the how to of baking with 300+ 400+ Daring Bakers once a month.'

Thanks again Tanna, you really are a STAR!

I'm now off to sit down, put my feet up and have a huge glass of W.... ater!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Little Foodies Italy

We used this recipe for a dough that didn't need to proof / prove - whatever! Although a very tasty dough it didn't cook in the same way that our normal choice of dough does so not sure we'd use it again. We topped with passata, mozzarella, onion, mushrooms, olives and pepperoni.

Those celebrity people in the jungle have nothing on us. To say that artistic temperament came out in all of us while making pizza would be an understatement. Six year old stormed off in tears. Three year old shouted that parents were very wrong. Mummy shouted that this was supposed to be enjoyable. Daddy shouted what was all the fuss about and whose GREAT idea was it to all make pizza together. We've made pizza before several times, had lots of fun and no problems. Who knows what was different about today.

Anglo-Italian Lamb Stew with a Moroccan hit
(a slow cooked jumble in an earthenware bowl)
1lb of diced lamb (about 1.5/2 cm cubes)
1 red onion, peeled and cut diced
1 large carrot, cut however you like
Handful of cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, skin left on
Spoonful of dried oregano
Mug full of red wine - Chianti would be good - it was a large mug
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of Worcester Sauce for the British hit
Tablespoon of Harissa for the Moroccan hit

Gently brown the lamb in the olive oil, add the onions and garlic cloves, continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the red wine, worcester sauce, herbs and harissa. Pour this into an ovenproof earthenware bowl, add the tomatoes and carrots or any other veg you want to add and cook on a low heat (about 150C) in the oven for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

The tomatoes were really good!

Lentils and Sausage.... well that was the plan but brunch was on the agends today and with snaggers in the fridge we could hardly not use them. Lentils and sausage another day perhaps.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Little Foodies Italy & Happy Thanksgiving

Until the end of the nineties (literally), I hadn't been to Italy. So I thank my lucky stars that we decided to visit Sorrento for the Millenium New Year. For a first visit it couldn't have been more perfect. Driving along the Amalfi Coast towards Sorrento was everything that you could have wished for the start of the celebrations. Italian people have a passion for life that is definitely infectious. It was cold but sunny and crisp and that seemed to add to the romance of it all. With the low light that comes with Winter the lighting was amazing, making all colours seem brighter and truly more beautiful. The food - I can't do justice with words alone. I have goosebumps just thinking about it all. I'm so SO glad that is how we spent such a momentous occasion and New Year's Eve has never been the same since.

I think most people now eat Italian food of some sort on a regular basis, or at the very least once in a while. Pasta has become a staple store cupboard ingredient for everybody with children (well maybe not everybody), and pizza is definitely another favourite.

I'm sure it wont be a surprise that a lot of our first meals here include spaghetti. Inspired by the penne alla senese recipe (penne with sausage, walntus and cream) from Twelve by Tessa Kiros and the Linguine alla carbonara di salsiccia recipe (sausage carbonara) by Jamie Oliver from Jamie's Italy, we made the following.

Creamy Sausage Meatball Pasta

Creamy Sausage Meatball Pasta
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2lb or 250g good sausagemeat
a large handful of cubed pancetta
2 tablespoons of olive oil
A glug of brandy (about an egg cup size amount)
1 carton of double cream (which equates to roughly just over 1 US size cup)

This is the method we used.
With wet hands make small meatballs (the size of large grapes).
Gently fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes until they start to colour.
Add the sausage meatballs and pancetta, fry for approximately 10 minutes. Shaking the pan regularly, and turning the meatballs if necessary to make sure they colour all over.
Turn the heat up as high as possible, wait for about 20 seconds and then add the brandy.
Cook for 1 minute and then add the cream. Cook for a couple of minutes and then serve over pasta of your choice. We chose spaghetti.

A Little and Small favourite - Spaghetti with Meatballs and Passata

I'd bought about 500g / 1lb of sausagemeat so with the rest I made more meatballs and did one of Little and Small's favourites. It's quick and so easy! Spaghetti with Meatballs and Passata. Make the meatballs in the same way as above, fry with a little onion and garlic. Throw some passata into the pan, heat through and serve with spaghetti.

Note: For recipes that require sausages all of these books suggest Italian sausages. I've never seen an Italian Sausage for sale in England - ever! Jamie Oliver does at least suggest good Cumberland Sausages if you can't get hold of Italian Sausages. I used decent sausagemeat from our local butcher.

Stracotto di manzo (beef braised in red wine)

I also made Stracotto di manzo (beef braised in red wine) from Twelve by Tessa Kiros. Which requires slow cooking beef and carrots in red wine and tomato puree for hours. The only thing I did differently was used chunks of braising steak instead of using a whole piece of meat and I didn't puree the carrots. It was delicious and loved by all. I just stopped for a break and had the leftovers for my lunch.

Garlic Mushrooms and Spaghetti

Another easy dish. Peel and slice some garlic, thinly slice some mushrooms, gently fry in olive oil and then serve with Spaghetti. If you have any, a sprinkling of parsley would be great.

Also for those in the UK, have you seen the website ? It's a website that has the details for all the major online shopping supermarkets. It compares the prices and tells you who will give you the best value for what you want. All you do is register, fill your trolley/select the products you want. It then checks and compares. You then send the trolley to the supermarket of your choice. Couldn't be simpler. They've also got a health checker which gives the nutritional information of most foods and suggest healthier swaps. Worth checking out if you'd like to save a few pennies or get healthier meal suggestions. They even have their own blog. My hubby used mysupermarket sometime last year and told me I should use it. Until recently I'd put it to the back of my mind but then I used it and it really is easy!

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Little Foodies loves The Great Big Vegetable Challenge

Ever since I showed Little and Small the Great Big Vegetable Challenge blog they have been fascinated with what Charlotte prepares for Freddie, and not forgetting Alex. Being huge vegetable fans (we're very lucky!) they thought that it was very strange that Freddie didn't like vegetables. Having now watched Freddie learn to love veg, Little says "Freddie likes more different vegetables than us Mummy and that is a lot!" I hope Charolotte feels very proud of the change around. It's been fun to watch and inspirational to read about. Funnily enough Small seems to be going through a phase of not liking potatoes very much. Now this is very strange as everybody likes potatoes - don't they?!

Jacket Potatoes, Baked Potatoes whatever you call them they're easy, filling and very versatile. When Charlotte of the GBVC mentioned in an e-mail that they were having a little event that involved your best baked potato filling I immediately thought of...
creamed leeks sprinkled with parmesan breadcrumbs
creamed spinach and goats cheese with pine nuts,
curry of any sort,
chilli con carne, sour cream and grated cheese,
franks and beans
and finally never, not ever just cheese...!

We didn't make any of those though, instead we decided to make a version of something that we do often using whatever veggies we have to hand. Which yesterday just happened to be... half a large celeriac, half a large swede, one large parsnip, 2 large carrots and 2 red onions.

Method... Preheat oven to 200C - Peel and then chop all of the veg into approximately 1cm chunks. Place in an oven proof dish and then drench in olive oil that has been mixed with some Moroccan inspired spices. (We used 5 tablespoons of olive oil with 3 teaspoons of our Moroccan spice mix which currently includes: ground cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon and a little paprika). Then roast in the oven for about 45 minutes. Take out and add one tin of chopped tomatoes (you need decent ones with thick juice), put back in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve on steaming hot crispy skinned baked potatoes that have been sliced open and smothered in butter. If you're feeling all virtuous then forego the butter.

This seems to work for almost any type and combination of vegetables and is also good served with rice or pasta.

Over the last couple of weeks the kitchen has been Globe Trotting. We've had Far Eastern inspired stir frys, Cheat's Curries and Japanese style soups among other things. All made on the spur of the moment, without planning and all perfectly edible, but I can't say we've made anything that I wanted to write about.. We've used up some of the contents of our bulging cupboards and this evening we'll be heading to Italy, I can't wait!!!

I've been looking at a few books for inspiration... Jamie's Italy, Twelve by Tessa Kiros and Complete Italian Food by Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio, there's also Carluccio's website. I shall be heading over to Sara's Kitchen Pantry and San Lorenzo blogs, Ilva's Lucullian Delights and Ivonne's Cream Puffs in Venice for some inspiration too.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Little Foodies likes to Pay it Forward

I love to stop and think. I was the terribly annoying child who too often asked 'What? Where? When? Why? and Who?' I then spent quiet time digesting the answers. I became the adult who asked 'If? Maybe? Is there another way?' It's possibly because of this and the answers to some of my annoying questions which have disturbed my equilibrium that makes the whole idea of paying it foward fun and smile inducing and possibly soothing too.

Some of you may be asking what tangent I've gone off on today. Ever seen the film/movie Pay it Forward or read the book Pay it Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde? I've seen the film, not read the book but I get it. It seems that bloggers are wanting to pay it foward too, in a lovely fun way and when I saw this on the lovely Quirky Cupcake, I wanted to join in.

Edit: The orginal blog Pay it Forward is as follows... “I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, which is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.”

I'm not going to insist that you pay it forward. That's entirely up to you but I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join in. (If you want to join in that is) I don't know what the gift will be and I'm with QC on the fact that it may not get to you immediately. I am afterall a Mummy, cook, chauffeur, inn keeper, entertainer (both adult and child), and born SLOTH and this may mean that said homemade gift may take awhile. That said, I may get all creative and it may just take a matter of days. Them's the breaks. The original concept of Pay it Forward was...

'The premise of Pay It Forward is one that any person can implement in his or her own life, at any time. It begins with doing a favour for another person-- without any expectation of being paid back. Indeed one would request that the recipient of that favour do the same for someone else: ideally for three other people. The unconditional favours can be large or small. As the author observes: it doesn't have to be a big thing. It can just seem that way, depending on whom you do it for.'

The above excerpt was taken from the Pay it Foward UK site. Set up by a very inspiring couple who gave up the idea of buying their dream home so they could buy the local community hall which was under threat.

So, if you'd like a homemade gift from the Little Foodies household then do leave a comment. Remember it's the first three people to leave a comment and I have comment moderation on so you wont know immediately. Heck, if I'm feeling all creative there may be more than 3 but no guarantees.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Little Foodies Natural Cold Remedy

Nothing for over a week then twice within one day... Youngest has a horrible cold thing with temperature. If I could only get him to drink my tried and tested cold remedy I know he'd get better more quickly. I've been meaning to post this for a while. I've left it as comments for people and I swear by it.

You'll need:-
One large mug
About an inch of fresh ginger (more if you can take it)
A big dollop of honey (as much as you need or want)
Juice of one lemon
Boiling hot water

Peel the ginger, then grate into mug. A microplane works a treat but you could just chop it finely if you don't have a grater.
Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the mug. A reamer works well, as does a fork to squeeze against the flesh to get maximum amount of juice.
Add a big dollop of honey. Sometimes I like lots, other times a little.
Add boiling water.
Stir and let it brew for a few minutes.

Drink and feel it kicking those sinuses into gear!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Frugal - who am I trying to kid?! ...and a very good Pear Apple and Ginger Crumble

It's been a while. I started this post on Thursday of last week. I fear I'd got blogblock. I'd call it writer's block but that would be fraudulent. Could you imagine the reaction? I'd have the blog police on to me within a day! Receiving money for writing training courses and travel brochures doesn't really count towards being a writer or does it.... as it was for jobs that included things other than just writing I'm guessing it still doesn't count. I may go off on many tangents today so feel free to leave now or skip to the end for the crumble.

Early last week I had the pleasure of spending the morning with a lovely lady who taught me how to make a Sweet Indian Rice Dish. This was no gloopy rice pudding, it was dry, sweet and scented with cloves, cassia bark and cardamons. I'll post the recipe soon. (Thank you T, it was good fun and I loved learning to cook with you. I know other people would too!) I also got some history of how and why Sikhs celebrate Diwali. It was fascinating and you can click here, here and here to find out a little more.

I had every intention of recreating this rice dish for Diwali (The Hindu Festival of Lights). Celebrated last week around the world. Houses were cleaned, lamps lit, windows and doors opened to entice Lakshmi (the Hindu Goddess of Wealth) to enter. Unfortunately we had one child feeling sick and one with a temperature/really bad cold so there was no house cleaning and no Indian food for them. The hot snotty one is still that way. Something about starting pre-school that seems to do it every time! I spent Diwali evening with one of my oldest friends and her dog, we lit two candles and ate ready prepared Indian food from Waitrose...

I recently wrote about trying to be more frugal. It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth that no sooner had I typed the words I seemed to spend the next few weeks being more wasteful than I have been in a long time. I think what triggered it was leaving the freezer door open over night and having to throw away, among other things, our huge harvest of frozen blackberries. Harvested over weeks from our garden and local hedgerows. I was thoroughly peeved and it obviously sent me into some kind of downward spiral. I don't think we should feel guilty for eating and celebrating food. The world is as it is, but I do think we should spare a thought for those who don't have it so and I certainly think I need a good talking to for being wasteful!

Have you seen the book Hungry Planet - what the world eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio, originally published in 2005, or The Atlas of Food - Who eats what, where and why by Erik Millstone and Tim Lang, originally published in 2003? They're very sobering and well worth a read. Important too if you're teaching your children about food and cultures from around the world. Other people have written about the book Hungy Planet recently, Joanna is one, Kalyn is another some time ago, infact it was Kalyn's post on Blogher that prompted me buy the book. Click here for a link to Peter Menzel Photography and here for a link to a slideshow of pictures from the book.

Climbing down from soap box now... I've been looking at some pears in a cauldron from Halloween for the past 2 weeks thinking I must make some crumble before they walked out and made their own way to the wormery. This morning I finally shook the lazy cloak off! I got the pears, cut the bad bits off (as I'd left them for so long there were more bad bits than good bits). I was left with so little pear to make pear crumble that I had to use 3 apples to bulk it up and the last of a jar of ginger preserve (best before date April 2007 - my mother-in-law will be in shock, and possibly proud if she reads that). There would have been so much more of this delicious crumble if I'd only made it earlier but then I might not have added the apple or the ginger conserve. I'd go as far as to say that despite this rambling crazy post this is one of the best crumbles I have ever made.

Pear, Apple and Ginger Crumble
Approx 150g ginger conserve (we used Waitrose out of date, open for months in the fridge!)
2 pears (cored and chopped)
3 small apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
5 tablespoons of apple juice

Cup plain flour
Half a cup of butter (chopped into pieces)
Third cup of sugar (we used unrefined golden granulated)

Put the fruit, ginger conserve and apple juice in the bottom of an oven proof dish. Then onto your crumble mix. If you're lazy use a packet. If you're still lazy but have a couple of minutes to spare and no scales then put one cup of plain flour in a large bowl, to which add half a cup of butter chopped into pieces, Rub this together to make a fine breadcrumb like texture. Then add a third of a cup of sugar and mix. Sprinkle this over your fruit and cook in a pre-heated oven (175C) for 35-40 minutes.

If your children like ginger they should love this. If not, more for the grown ups!

It would appear the blogblock is unblocked! Get it back - I hear you shout!

Sunday, 4 November 2007


You know when you're feeling miserable and can't be bothered? When the thought of throwing a party is the furthest thing from your mind? But then you get a call and somehow this particular call pulls at your party strings. Our village knows how to put on a fireworks display and about 20,000 people descend on the village because they agree. We drank, we ate, we had SPARKLERS!

I took my eye off the ball last night and this soup wasn't as good as it has been. That will teach me...

Spciy Lentil and Bacon Soup (not a recipe, more a thought, hopefully you'll get the idea.)
Packet of lardons or smoked bacon of any sort cut into pieces, garlic, onions, potatoes, packet of red lentils, big glug of concentrated chicken stock (I used Knorr touch of taste), ground cumin, ground coriander, harissa paste, water, salt and pepper and a glug of oil.

Peel and chop the veg. Gently fry all of it, then add spices, stock and water. Boil hard for 10 minutes then gently simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Blitz with a stick blender. Serve with a little cream if your arteries can take it. I forgot to add stock last night, and added garam masala instead of just cumin and coriander. It wasn't the best soup, but most people were too inebriated to care.

How to be a Domestic Goddess is a great book, full of tempting recipes. Why I haven't cooked from it more I can't tell you. Especially after trying these brownies. If you google Nigella brownie recipe there are plenty out there. On the plus side if this article from the Guardian back in 2004 is right and depending on your take on things, they're not actually that bad for you either. Click here at Channel 4 for a snowflecked version (it states less sugar in that one though).

Nigella's Brownies (from How to be a Domestic Goddess pg 193)
375g unsalted butter (soft)
375g dark chocolate (book states best quality, we had Bourneville in the house)
6 large eggs
tablespoon vanilla extract
500g caster sugar
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
300g chopped walnuts (I put them in a bag and bashed them with a rolling pin as I don't like too many pieces of walnut in my brownies).

Preheat oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Line the pan you're using (you will need two or a big one as there's a lot of mixture). Melt the butter and chocolate. In a large bowl beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl weigh the flour and add the salt. When the melted chocolate and butter has cooled a little you need to beat it together with the egg and sugar mix. Then beat in the flour and chopped walnuts. Pour and scrape into your lined pan(s) and then bake for ?? I really don't know, the book suggested 25 minutes.

This makes a seriously good brownie and I'd make it again but I'd ignore the cooking time. I thought the brownie was ready, this was after a good 15 minutes more cooking time than suggested. Nigella does say in the book that you need to keep alert, keep checking: the difference between being gungy and dry is only a few minutes. I don't have the first clue how you're supposed to test this as they're supposed to be slightly gooey and therefore the normal testing of putting a skewer in to see if it comes out clean wouldn't work - any ideas?? It looked beautiful, even more so with the sparkling candles. However when I cut into it, the middle bit wasn't cooked, it was runny and although very tasty I decided to cut off the outside bits. Scraped the inside bits back into the pan and threw it back in the oven for about 10 minutes.

I also came across this adaptation on Jasmine's Confessions of a Cardamon Addict blog. They look more than worthy of a try.
What are these?

These little beauties are for Charlotte and family at the Great Big Vegetable Challenge.
Celebrate veggies and make vegetable faces, what a great idea. So, it only took us a few months Charlotte, but we finally got round to making some for you.
Squashy had collagen in her lips, especially for the occassion and Pumpy had lip surgery that went wrong. Least said soonest mended! Sorry to hear your Mr Pumpernickel was stolen!

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Happy Halloween

At Nan's tea party over the weekend she commented that I've always loved Halloween. I lived with her from the age of nine and I think she remembers things I'd rather she forgot. Like the run up to Guy Fawkes when we would all play knock down ginger and trick or treat. We did horrible things. Threw eggs on people's doorsteps and sprinkled flour over the top. Hubby just told me that in London children are not being sold eggs or flour for this exact reason and worse. I have to say we hardly ever had to resort to this as very few people said trick. If they did it was only because they were up for a joke anyway. At least that's what we told ourselves.

Not as bad as my dad who as a child put a firework through someone's letterbox. Mind numbingly stupid and not something anybody seems that proud of. Though I have to admit to having a very small chuckle, I think more through embarrassment than anything else. Hangs head in shame and berates herself in the style of Dobby (Dobby being the house elf from Harry Potter). I don't know the sort of friends my dad had (it may explain why Nan seems to have had grey hair forever) but somebody also put a firework down his back. There are high jinks and then there's pure stupidity. Our eggs and flour trick seems quite mild in comparison.

As a mother I'm obviously concerned for my children and will not allow them to trick or treat, not until they leave home at least. Which by the looks of things wont be for some time as the average age for children to leave home in England is currently about 27 years old! I doubt we'll be using the word Spookables then, or watching the film that we got the word from - Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie - watch this film - it's great!

In the meantime... Happy Halloween! We'll be eating....

Sick Soup
cauliflower, brocolli, potato, onion, stock, milk, cream, stilton cheese.
(for authenticity I may serve this cold)

Spiced Pumpkin Soup
pumpkin, onion, decent stock, cumin and coriander

Bloody Stubby Fingers
Sausages, squeezed about a bit before oven cooking and dipped in ketchup

Crunchy Munch Witches Brains
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Muffins

Edit: Since I posted I got this sweet treat award from the lovely Pat. Thank you Pat. I'd like to pass the award onto everybody who reads the blog this evening as the picture wont fit tomorrow.

Have a spooky night!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Daring Bakers Bostini Cream Pie October '07 Challenge

Now the challenge I loved, however not loving that I can't get all the pictures to load. It has let me load two more. Slow, steady and sure, all good qualities in a man, I'm sure. Will try and sort it out but for now...
The KitchenAid made swift work of whipping the egg whites.

The cake batter had a wonderful smell.

I was nervous of mixing the batter with the whisked egg whites but it seemed to come together easily. I added one spoonful at a time.

Hmmm, yes I thought silicone wasn't supposed to stick. This was after oiling as I know it sticks without oil. Now I know it sticks either way.

Me: "DON'T EAT THE ROUND ONES!!" Little and Small "Yummy, this cake is yummmmmmmy!"

I scaled the recipe down to a third (roughly) and this still gave us 4 wine glasses full and plenty of left over cake to be snaffled (see above). If you were to see my workings out - I'd be ashamed. How am I supposed to help my children with maths homework when the time comes?! If there is anybody out there who is really good at maths and good at scaling down recipes please let me know so I know who to call on next time...

In brief, we love orange, we love cake, we love custard and we love chocolate so what's not to love about the Bostini Cream Pie! A very big thank you to Mary at Alpineberry for a great challenge this month. Click here for Mary's post and the recipe. I will try and load more pics. In the meantime check out the Daring Bakers blogroll to see what everybody else did.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Little Foodies Veg Patch

It's been a while since I posted about the veg patch. Yesterday, Hubby picked 4 tiny strawberries from the hanging baskets and dutifully handed them over to Little and Small, they were gone in seconds. I don't think there will be any more and I think four in one go is a record as during the traditional picking and eating period we only seemed to get one or two a day.

The following pictures are of chillies grown in the garden, harvested last week. We thought at one point they wouldn't ever grow or ripen and that it would be another waste. However we were wrong, they grew and they grew very well. The red ones are fiercely hot, these have not been handed to the children to eat raw.

Thanks (infact very big thanks) to my husband I have a new macro lense. Need to play a bit as the pics are a little blurred. My hands shake when I take pics so should start using the tripod, the macro lense doesn't seem so forgiving as the old one.) Thank you darling, I do know that it was for you, aswell as for me though!!! ;) xx

What are we up to this weekend... Dressing the house for Halloween, we wont be going for it in the same way as our friends across the pond but we'll do our bit and... having a little tea party for Great Nanny.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to two very special people today.

Firstly Nan (Great Nanny to Little and Small), who despite being 88 today and driving us all nuts with her antics of late we all love dearly. I could write a book about her antics but I wont. Secondly to my lovely Stepdad, M a very happy birthday too. Thanks for lots of things, mostly for putting up with my mum. (that's a joke Mum!) I expect I will take that bit out before hitting publish, but I might not... I've definitely got some naughty pixie sat inside my head today. Must be something about it being half term.

For the cake, I thought it fitting to remember Nan's banana and honey tea loaf recipe that I posted about some time ago. Click here for the recipe.

I really have to move on from the all the stodge I've been making and eating. There's a chicken roasting in the oven for dinner, stuffed with some of the lemons that had been zested for all the lemon cakes. I've also made a bread pudding (not to be confused with bread and butter pudding). It's 20 to 5 and I've thought about hitting the sloe gin. It's a year old and particularly good. Again, possibly because it's half term!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Little Foodies Lemon Drizzle Cakes

I wrote about lemon drizzle cupcakes last week that I promised a picture for. I've realised that I didn't take any. I made them again yesterday for the cake bake sale (Nursery School Afternoon Tea) and still didn't take any pictures. Click here for the recipe. As it's the half term holiday for us this week I just made two medium size heart shape ones using the same recipe. Now that's a lot of lemon drizzle cake over the period of seven days. I took a picture this time - see above. One has already been snaffled. The other is now up a height. At least until my husband gets home.

Over the next few weeks I think we're going to hop all over the world. The main reason for this is to stop being wasteful. We have cupboards full of ingredients that really need to start being used up. If we stick with one place at a time it makes it tricky as I seem incapable of planning more than a couple of weeks in advance. Which tends to mean, we decide on a new country then I rush out and buy a whole load of new stuff. We seriously have enough sauces, spices, herbs and condiments of one sort or another (among other things) to last a a very large family a good twelve months. So, to that end we'll definitely be heading to the Far East, with a trip back to Japan. I'm really looking forward to Thailand and I may pick Joey's brain of 80 Breakfasts fame, who tempts us all with amazing food and photographs from Manila in the Phillipines.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Little Foodies Britain - Alternative Roly Poly

Little and Small love bananas and custard (read that cold custard). I was never overly fond of it as a child and because of this rarely think to give it to them unless they ask for it. When I was thinking about British Food and my mind was wandering, as it does, it suddenly dawned on me - how about Banana Roly Poly & Custard. Lots of people will be familiar with the name Jam Roly Poly, but they might not have tried it, it's a suet sponge rolled up with jam in the middle, then baked. I googled Banana Roly Poly and it threw up nothing that I could see, we played around and this is what we came up with.
Banana Roly Poly
for the filling
4 bananas (peeled and mashed)

for the roly poly
8oz / 250g self raising flour
4 oz / 125g suet (we use Atora vegetable suet)
50g granulated sugar
pinch of salt
6-8 tablespoons of water
To brush over the top prior to cooking - a little milk and beaten egg and a handful of sugar.

Preheat the oven to 200C, 400F, gas mark 6
For the roly poly pudding part
In a bowl sift the flour and add suet, salt and sugar. Mix well and gradually add the water, mixing until it forms a stiff dough. You may not need all of the water. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle/oblong shape.

Smear the banana mash over the top and then roll the dough. Tuck the ends in underneath, so that the filling doesn't come pouring out during cooking. Place on a baking tray, seam side down, brush with milk and beaten egg (beaten egg optional), sprinkle with sugar and cook for approximately 40 minutes.

Edit: If you've made the dough a little too soft, a good tip is to wrap it tightly in baking paper after you've rolled it. Cook it in the paper for the first 30 minutes and then undo the paper for the last 10 minutes.

Banana & Toffee Roly Poly
for the filling
I jar of dulce de leche
2 bananas (peeled and finely sliced)

Follow the roly poly pudding part above, then smear a jar of dulce de leche over the dough, place the sliced bananas over the top and then roll the dough. Tuck the ends in underneath, so that the filling doesn't come pouring out during cooking. Place on a baking tray, seam side down, brush with milk and beaten egg (beaten egg optional), sprinkle with sugar and cook for approximately 40 minutes.

Serve hot with custard. We love hot pudding with cold custard! Of course I could have made a fresh custard from scratch but for me a tin of Ambrosia Custard does it every time... Yum, yum, yummety yum! Will post pics tomorrow, I have to bake some cakes for a nursery school afternoon tea tomorrow.
Edit: Pics now loaded as you can see. I ended up baking the cakes today after we got back from staying with old friends in Muswell Hill, North London last night. We had a (very long overdue) great evening. The rugby result wasn't so good but the less said about that the better. As all of the children woke so early this morning we went for a stomp in Highgate Park, with a little stop at the cafe for coffee and pastries! All this stodge - I may need to start cutting back a little. Off to eat Cottage Pie, cooked by my lovely husband.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Little Foodies Britain

So many people think pease pudding is revolting. As a child I would have agreed. I still ate it though. There was no fussing about food when I was growing up. You ate what you were given. This was an unspoken rule, it was never enforced heavily, it's just what happened. Give me pease pudding now and I love it! I don't have it that often admittedly and I prefer it when I'm actually in the North East. It always seems to taste better. I particularly love a ham and pease pudding stottie. A stottie being a soft white bread bap. If you find yourself in the North East of England anytime you should try it. Pease Pudding certainly doesn't look appetising but boy it's good. It even has it's own little rhyme.

Pease pudding hot, Pease pudding cold,
Pease pudding in the pot, Nine days old,
Some like it hot, Some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, Nine days old.

I think it is better cooked with a ham, preferably on the bone but you can always do it without the ham, making it suitable for vegetarians. In which case I'd cook it with an onion.

Ham and Pease Pudding
One ham joint, approx 1 kilo in weight (This doesn't really matter, if it's on the bone it will probably weigh more. I used a boneless joint this time.)
500g packet of yellow split peas (this is just over 1lb in weight)
31/2 pints / 2 litres of boiling hot water
a sprinkle of pepper

Put the ham in a large heavy bottom pan and cover with water. Put on a high heat and let it come to the boil. Boil it for approx. 10 minutes then pour the water away. Add the split peas to the pan along with pepper, cover with 31/2 pints of boiling hot water. Bring to the boil, then let it simmer gently for approximately 1 1/2 hours. Regularly skim the top of any frothy scum that appears. After the 1 1/2 hours take the ham out (so long as it's cooked enough for the size). Put the pan back on the heat and check the consistency, it should be like thick soup at this stage. Simmer for a further half an hour but keep an eye on it as it may start to dry out too much in which case it will start catching/burning on the bottom of the pan. If this happens add a tiny bit more water, just enough to stop it from catching.. After 2 hours it should be ready to take off the heat and let it cool down. It will set harder once it cools down, so bear this in mind.

Edit: I took off some of the liquid after an hour when I made this to make some soup and therefore it took less time to cook. I could see that the split peas where going to be mushy enough without the full two hours. I was able to go on instinct, I guess from years of watching it being made as a child.

It is superb when it's freshly cooked, hot from the pan smeared on top of really fresh bread with butter on. It's also really good on a plate, alongside a few slices of the ham it was cooked with and some hot potatoes. Best of all eaten cold in a sandwich with slices of the ham.

It also makes really good soup if you take a couple of cups of the cooked pease pudding and add 2 pints of good stock, one chopped onion, some chopped root vegetables and potatoes, a few bits of the ham, finely chopped. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes and you have one very tasty soup.

Lemon Drizzle Cupcakes (This made 24 mini cupcakes and 12 normal size cupcakes).
200g / 7oz self raising flour
175g / 6oz unsalted butter (room temp)
175g / 6oz sugar
3 eggs medium size (room temp)
Zest (finely grated peel) and juice of one lemon
A few tablespoons of milk may be needed to loosen the mixture.

Cream the sugar and butter together, add the eggs and mix well. Fold in the flour (sieved) then add the juice and rind of one lemon. If the mixture is too thick add a little milk at a time to loosen it. Spoon into cupcake holders and bake in a preheated oven (175C/gas mark 3 ) for approximately 12-15 minutes. Take them out of the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes, then drizzle with the icing and allow to cool.

For the lemon icing. 1 and a half cups of icing sugar, zest and juice of one lemon. You may need more lemon juice or use a few drops of warm water. This made far too much icing but it was so delicious we allowed ourselves to spoon more on each time we ate them!!

Ginger Flapjacks
1lb / 450g rolled oats
101/2 oz / 300g butter
3oz / 75g soft brown sugar
2oz / 50g golden syrup
Half a jar of ginger conserve

Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the ginger conserve and mix then add the oats and mix well. Pour the mixture into an ovenproof pan, lined with greaseproof paper (mine is approx 9 x 11 inches) and press down with the back of a wooden spoon. Bake in a pre-heated oven (190C / gas mark 5) for approximately 30 minutes. Take out and leave to cool for 15 minutes before cutting into pieces. Store in an airtight container for a few days if you can get them to last that long.

Little's verdict of pease pudding - NO THANK YOU but can I have some more ham, that's really good! Small's verdict of pease pudding - Mmmm delicious! But on hearing Little's protests he decided he didn't like it either. Harsh glares at Little - he knows the rules!


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