Anzac biscuits (an Australian classic!)

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Anzac biscuits are an Australian classic, believed to have been sent to the ANZAC’s (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) during World War I. Everyone seems to love this crunchy biscuit made from oats, desiccated coconut, flour, butter, sugar and syrup. They are super easy to make, taking about 8 mins prep plus 10-20 mins baking, and are great warm or cold. If you have kids they could help out – once mixed they are just dolloped on to a baking tray so don’t have to look perfect, as you can see!
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Recipe is from Annabel Karmel’s rather excellent ‘The Fussy Eaters Recipe Book’. The biscuits will keep for a few days in an airtight container and can be frozen.  Just look at my son tucking in…
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Anzac biscuits (makes approx 18)

85g porridge oats
85g desiccated coconut
100g caster or brown sugar
100g plain flour
Pinch of salt
100g butter/marge, melted
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp boiling water

Grease a couple of baking trays with butter or marge and preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.

Mix the oats, coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture. Pour the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Put dessertspoons of the mixture on to the baking trays, flatten the tops slightly and place a fair bit apart to allow room for spreading – they can increase up to twice in size when baking.

Bake for 10-20 mins, turning them over halfway through once the bottom is cooked. They should be golden brown on each side. The exact time will depend a bit on your oven. If your oven is not great like mine then swap the shelves around halfway through too. Leave 10 mins to firm up before eating!

Build-your-own-burgers

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As a parent of young children I really rate letting them choose and put their food together once in a while.  So for this ‘build your own burger’ meal I set out the buns, burgers, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced cheese, ketchup, mayo and sweet chilli sauce on the table.  Then we chose what we wanted and built our burgers ourselves!  I didn’t pressure the kids to include the vegetables, as they are more likely to enjoy vegetables in the long-term if it is not a battle.

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I made some tasty and quick bean burgers, which can be prepared in advance of frying (simple recipe below).  The idea is that this is a fun meal and the kids are getting involved, so if you don’t have time to make burgers then using shop-bought burgers is fine too!  Everyone enjoyed filing their buns and squirting the sauces on.  And 3 out of 4 of us liked the bean burgers.  Only thing that was missing was the gherkins!

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Thank you to the highly recommended Tiny Budget Cooking free online cookbook (www.tinybudgetcooking.com) for the bean burger recipe inspiration!  Their book is full of delicious and cheap recipes.

Bean burgers (makes approx 8 medium sized burgers)

2 tins black eyed beans, drained, rinsed and shaken dry

1/2 onion, chopped small

1 clove garlic, crushed/chopped small

Small handful olives, chopped small

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

2 tsp plain flour

Put the beans in a big bowl. Add the onion, garlic, olives, herbs, flour and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Thoroughly mix and mash the ingredients together using your clean hands to break up most of the beans (this works really well) and form in to approx 8 patties.

Carefully fry the burgers in a little oil in a pan in batches of 3 or 4, for around 4 minutes per side, until browned.  Eat in a burger bun with lettuce, tomato, cheese slices and ketchup or mayo.  Sweet chilli sauce works great too!

Fuss-free Easter eggs

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Yesterday I tried out this little Easter egg recipe from http://www.carnation.co.uk.  You just blitz (or grate) shop-bought Madeira cake, mix with Carnation tinned chocolate sauce, make the mixture in to balls, roll them in sprinkles and refrigerate for 30 mins (or overnight). Hello Easter eggs!

 

You could push lolly sticks in to the Easter eggs if you fancy, but they are perfectly fine without.  Don’t expect perfect balls – expect slightly clumsy looking homemade charm!   This is a nice recipe to make with kids, although mine were too comfortable on the sofa…

Happy Easter!

Fuss-free Easter eggs (makes approx 25 smallish eggs )

300g Carnation chocolate filling and topping

400g Madeira cake

Sprinkles

Break up the Madeira cake and tip into a food processor. Blend until you have fine crumbs, or grate the cake on a fine grater. Tip into a large bowl, then spoon in the Carnation Chocolate filling and topping gradually and mix with a spoon until combined.

Pour your decorating sprinkles in to a small bowl.  Roll the cake mixture into round balls and then roll in the sprinkles until evenly covered.

Press a lolly pop stick or skewer into each coated ball if you fancy.  Refrigerate the balls/lollies for 30 minutes or until they are firm to touch (overnight is fine).  Enjoy over Easter!

Cooking with kids – Prawn toasts

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I recently took the kids to a Chinese cafe to try out some Chinese food – the only thing they ate was rice and prawn toasts, which they LOVED.  We simplified an already straightforward sounding BBC recipe and tried making them at home: using a food processor you blitz prawns, cornflour, an egg white, garlic and spring onion, spread the mixture on bread, press on to sesame seeds then fry.  They are crunchy, delicious and authentic tasting!

My kids were ‘busy playing batpowder’ (whatever that means) so only helped a little – cutting bread in to (vague) triangle shapes and operating the food processor.

 

I strongly believe every second counts when ‘cooking with kids’ – somedays they might want to get really involved, other days they give just 10 seconds of their time and other days completely refuse.  But it is all experience and it is good for them to see the process!

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You could prepare the prawn paste in advance if you want to save time later, and store any leftovers in the fridge.  Allow around 25 minutes to make the prawn toasts, depending on how much the kids get involved (or not!)  The toasts are great with sweet chilli sauce, for dipping.  We ate them with strawberries, a bit of an odd combination but we like both so why not.

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Prawn toasts (serves 4 as a snack or part of a meal)

4 pieces of bread, crusts removed

1/2 cup of cooked prawns i.e. pink!

2 spring onions (white bit only)

1/2 clove garlic

1/2 white of an egg

Dessert spoon of cornflour

Sesame seeds

For frying – vegetable or sunflower oil

Put all the ingredients apart from the sesame seeds and oil in a food processor and blend until they are a paste.  Cut each piece of bread in to four triangles.  Spread the prawn mixture on to one side of each of the bread triangles and press down.  Fill a wide bowl or plate with sesame seeds and press each triangle in to it, so a layer of sesame seeds stick to the prawn paste.

Fill a saucepan with around 1/2 inch of sunflower or vegetable oil and once hot (but not smoking) plop in the breads for about 30 seconds on the plain side and around 1 minute on the prawn and sesame side until deep golden (this will vary a little so use your own judgement).  Use a slotted spoon to turn them over if you have one, otherwise a tablespoon will work (just make sure any excess oil drips off after they are cooked!)  Eat.

 

Marshmallow crispy squares

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These marshmallow crispy squares are a great kids treat, contain four ingredients and are really easy to make.  You mix melted marshmallows with rice crispies, vanilla essence and butter then put the mixture in the fridge to harden.  I found the recipe on http://www.allrecipes.co.uk when I was looking for very low effort school fair recipes!  The school fair organiser said anything topped with a chocolate button or sweet sells instantly, hence the smarties.

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Marshmallow crispy squares (makes around 12)

50g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g marshmallows
100g rice crispies (or similar)

Grease a smallish baking tray with butter or margarine, or line it with greaseproof paper.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the vanilla. Melt the marshmallows into the butter, stirring. Add the rice crispies when the marshmallows have melted and stir until they are coated. Quickly pour into the prepared tin and press down tightly and evenly. Top with chocolate buttons if you like!
Let set for 2 to 3 hours. Cut into squares.

Eggy bread (10 mins)

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Eggy bread is one of the standout treats of my childhood.  Lovingly made by my mum.  You soak bread in beaten egg, fry each side until golden and slightly crispy then top with sugar and ground cinnamon.  You could also eat it with a little honey on top and bacon on the side.  This time my boys helped plonk the bread in the saucepan (with supervision!)

Nothing beats using demerara sugar as the granules are large and crunchy so you get a little nugget of sweetness.  But any sugar will do.  Comfort food in 10 minutes!

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Eggy bread (serves 2)

2 pieces bread

1 large egg, beaten

Splash of milk

Butter/marge

A little sugar

A little ground cinnamon

Beat a large egg, mix in a splash of milk then pour in to a shallow bowl.  Put both pieces of bread in the bowl to soak, turning them over so they evenly absorb the mixture.  Heat a little butter in a pan  until melted and bubbling slightly then add the bread.  Fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.  Eat topped with sugar and cinnamon!

Veggie mince cups

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I was recently given a brilliant ‘mince cup’ recipe by a lady called Claire.  She said that she makes a dry veggie mince, lines muffin tray holes with circles cut out of tortilla wraps, fills them with the mince, tops with cheese, and cooks them briefly in the oven. Out come crispy mince cups!  I tried these with my family and WE ALL LOVED THEM.  The kids were even talking about them the next day.

We ate the mince cups hot with some peas for dinner, then cold as an after school snack. My youngest son helped fill the tortilla circles with the mince and sprinkled over the cheese. We used half of the mixture to make the mince cups, then the next evening added tinned chopped tomatoes to the remaining mixture to eat with pasta. That’s two different meals!

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Claire says the mince cups are lovely with olives on top. I think adding some fresh chopped chilli and then spooning some sour cream on when cooked would be tasty too. I think you could play around with the ingredients a lot as long as any filling is not too wet! Allow about 25 mins preparation and 12 minutes baking.

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Veggie mince cups (makes 16 small cups using half the mixture, then just add chopped tinned tomatoes to the remaining half to make spaghetti bolognaise the next day!)

2 large tortilla wraps

200g quorn mince

1 small carrot, chopped small

4 mushrooms, chopped small

1/2 onion, chopped small

1/2 red pepper, chopped small

Shake dried mixed herbs

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1 vegetable stock cube

Large handful grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

First find a cup/glass that is a bit bigger than the holes in your muffin tray, then use the cup and a knife to cut out circles and put them in to the muffin holes. Then heat some oil in a pan and add the quorn mince, stirring regularly for about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables, dried herbs, garlic and crumble in the stock cube. Gently cook for another 10 mins or so, stirring regularly, and adding a little more oil if necessary. Don’t let the mixture get too wet.

Spoon half the mixture (or more if needed!) in to the muffin tray lined with tortillas, until full, then top with the grated cheese. Cook in the oven for around 12 mins, until the cups are slightly crispy and the cheese has melted. Eat with hands!

Pineapple upside down cake – retro cooking-with-kids fun!

upside-down pineapple cake

This is a classic Seventies cake that I fancied trying out.   It sounded tasty,  looks impressive (in a retro kind of way!) and I thought my kids would enjoy making an ‘upside down’ cake.  It’s really simple to make, even if you are new to cake making.  You make a classic sponge mixture (with added syrup from the tinned pineapple) then pour it over a butter and sugar glaze with pineapple rings and glacé cherries.  Once cooked turn the cake upside down et voila!  Allow about 15 mins to prepare the cake and at least 35 mins to cook.

upside-down pineapple cake

upside-down pineapple cake

The recipe is based on one from the BBC Good Food website, but I have reduced the sugar content as online reviews said that it was too sweet. The top of the cake is sticky and the centre is light and fluffy.  It is is gorgeous with cream or ice cream. Our grandparents would be proud!

upside-down pineapple cake

upside-down pineapple cake

Pineapple upside down cake (serves at least 8 people)

For the topping

40g softened butter
40g light soft brown sugar
7 pineapple rings in syrup, drained  (keep syrup aside for the cake mixture)
7 glacé cherries
For the cake
100g softened butter
80g caster sugar
120g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

Heat oven to 180 degrees//gas mark 4. For the topping, beat the butter and sugar together briefly until creamy. Line a 20-21cm cake tin with greaseproof paper on the bottom.  Butter the sides.  Spread the butter and sugar mixture on to the greaseproof paper over the base. Arrange pineapple rings on top, then place cherries in the centres of the rings.
Place the cake ingredients in a bowl along with 2 tbsp of the pineapple syrup and beat to a soft consistency (about one min). Spoon into the tin on top of the pineapple and smooth it out so it’s level. Bake for 35-45 mins until deep golden on top and a knife inserted comes out clean. Leave to stand for 5 mins, then turn out onto a plate. Serve warm with a scoop of cream or ice cream.

Cooking with kids – Baked Spaghetti Cake – like a spaghetti frittata!

baked spaghetti cake

When I saw this baked spaghetti cake recipe (like a spaghetti frittata) in ASDA magazine I tore it straight out.  It looked tasty and interesting, and I thought it would appeal to my kids, who pretend spaghetti is worms!  My kid-friendlier version contains spaghetti, eggs, cheese, asparagus, spinach, dried herbs and chorizo (optional).  You could experiment with it further – it would work with lots of different vegetables and is a great way of using up leftovers.

My kids enjoyed helping to make the cake, breaking the eggs, pouring the ingredients in, stirring, and ‘painting’ (greasing) the cake tin.  The result was as tasty and interesting as I thought it would be, and I was very impressed at how well the cake held together, with a slightly crispy top and a firm, creamy middle. It would also work well cold in a picnic.

The cake takes about 15 mins to prepare (or longer if the kids are helping!) and 40 mins to cook.   The ingredients come to about £6 in total and provide 6-8 servings.

baked spaghetti cake

baked spaghetti cake

baked spaghetti cake

baked spaghetti cake

We cut the cake in to wedges once out of the oven.  We all enjoyed it, apart from my oldest son, who wasn’t so sure.  3 out of 4 is a success in my book though!

baked spaghetti cake

baked spaghetti cake

Baked Spaghetti Cake (serves 6-8 people)

Butter/marge, for greasing

300g spaghetti (can be gluten-free spaghetti)

200g low fat soft cheese (e.g. Philadelphia or cheaper alternative – I use the value soft cheese)

4 eggs

Shake dried mixed herbs

125g cheddar cheese, grated

Very large handful of asparagus tips, chopped small

150g spinach, roughly chopped

Optional – handful finely chopped chorizo or ham

Optional – salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Grease a (roughly) 23cm round cake tin.

Boil the spaghetti as per the pack instructions.  Drain well and put in a large bowl.

Beat the soft cheese and eggs with a fork until smooth and shake over some dried herbs.  Add to the spaghetti.  Stir in the cheddar cheese,  asparagus, spinach and chorizo.  Season with salt and pepper if you like, mix well and pour the mixture in to the cake tin.  Cook for 30-45 mins (this will vary according to your oven), until the cake is pretty set and the top is a little golden and crispy.  Wait five mins then cut in to wedges and eat.

Pitta bread pizza – great to make with kids

pitta bread pizza

This is a great way to make pizza in a hurry and to use up random bits of food.  It’s a nice little activity for kids to get involved in.  You simply spoon some tinned chopped tomatoes on top of pitta bread, sprinkle on some grated cheddar and dried herbs and anything else you fancy.  Then cook for around 10 minutes.

We have used various combinations of cooked ham, chorizo, prawns, red pepper, onion, tinned sweetcorn, asparagus, mushrooms, olives and capers.  Sometimes I finish mine off with chilli flakes.

pitta bread pizza

My kids are young so I tend to cut everything up and put it in to little bowls so they can assemble the pizza themselves.  They like this.

pitta bread pizza

pitta bread pizza

If my kids are feeling creative (a rarity in the kitchen!) I might quickly cut the ham in to triangle shapes (for scary teeth) and the pepper in to strips (for eyebrows) so they can put everything together and make a pizza face (olives for eyes/sweetcorn for spots etc).  The fun of this has even encouraged them to TRY SOMETHING NEW…

As pitta bread doesn’t have a long shelf life I usually freeze it and use it straight from the freezer.

pitta bread pizza

Pitta bread pizza 

Pitta bread (one per person – white or wholemeal is fine)

3 tsp chopped tomatoes per person

Small handful grated cheddar cheese per person

Shake dried herbs per person

Any combination of: cooked ham, chorizo, prawns, red pepper, onion, tinned sweetcorn, asparagus, mushrooms, olives and capers

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.

Spoon and spread the chopped tomatoes on the pitta.  Sprinkle over the cheese and dried herbs.  Add any other toppings of your choice.  Put in the oven for around 10 minutes until slightly crispy and the cheese has melted.