Mixing it up….

In just a few short weeks time, my bouncing little ball of energy, also known as Oscar, will be turning four. FOUR! Man alive, how on earth did that ever happen? A year. Over. Done. Never to be repeated. When you look at the passage of time through the ageing of a child it makes everything feel so much more transient, so here today gone tomorrow. Literally. Ahh my sweet sweet boy. Every day you change, every day you grow.

So aside from getting maudlin, and feeling all kinds of old ? we’ve been thinking about how to mark our little guy’s fourth birthday. Last year, you may recall, we threw him a wonderful party with the help of our friends at The Hen House, Haslemere. It’s was awesome! So awesome in fact that we weren’t sure what we could do to top it this year (not that it’s a year on year competition, but you know what I mean!) We ummed and ahhed and looked around locally, but couldn’t find anything suitable. Then we started talking about how much fun we had over Christmas and how it would be lovely if Oscar could share his birthday with his extended family.

So that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re going down to Plymouth for Easter. We’re staying in the same apartment as at Christmas, and we plan to celebrate his birthday, with his extended family, a week early, on Easter Sunday. I’ve been pinteresting like mad already for some Easter themed party food and while I won’t be going mad, a centrepiece always goes down well I find. My favourite at the moment is this one. Isn’t it too cute?

A dip filled bunny, surrounded by veggies? What's not to love?

A dip filled bunny, surrounded by veggies? What’s not to love?

Any other Easter themed party food ideas gratefully received. Seriously, if you’ve got any ideas, or blog posts to share, I’d love to see them!

So that’s the party sorted, but then there’s what to get him for a gift. For the last few years we’ve concentrated on large garden toys for his April birthday, setting him up for the coming summer. And that’s been great, but this year we haven’t really got anything in mind. Maybe a bigger slide? But where would it go? Hmmm. It’s a conundrum that’s for sure. And in terms of play toys, there’s nothing he desperately wants and nothing much he needs, to be honest. He’s got more Thomas toys than you can shake a stick at and Duplo coming out of his ears! He has no interest in any of the movie tie ins and flits between favourite cartoons most days (last week it was 1940s Tom and Jerry, this week it’s been 1990s Rugrats – all hail TV streaming services!) He has just started to pick up things (straws, sticks, the Hoover!) and use them as guns, but this upsets me no end and I have no wish to encourage it. So we’re back to the question; what do we get him? What is he in to?

There is one idea I had. It may sound crazy and you may think this is more for me than him, but hear me out. The boy loves to bake. This has been a thing now for over a year. But recently he’s decided he doesn’t like using my Kitchen Aid and instead wants to ‘mix’ everything himself in a ‘giant bowl’ (his words). For this you need a good sturdy bowl, and I just don’t have one. We tend to use my mixer bowl, which is light and topples off its tiny base regularly. He needs something better. I’ve always loved Mason Cash bowls. My mum had one, my Nanna had one. I used to think owning one was almost a prerequisite for being a mum. I always wanted a beige one, just like my mums, but recently Mason Cash released their Varsity range, in cream and Navy Blue. So I started thinking, actually, of all the things we could get him, how about his own ‘giant mixing bowl’? And if we’re going to do that, why not get him the grande dame of bowls?

image

The Mason Cash Varsity Mixing Bowl in blue. The perfect gift?

Surely that’s what every four year old would want for their birthday. Right?

Come back in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what we decide!

The Boy Makes… Gluten Free Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies

The hottest day of the year yesterday and today? Pah. Gloomy, murky, rainy! What the dickens is going on? It’s July for goodness sake. Well there really was little else for it we needed to bake today and something comforting on this warm/cold/murky/grey July day. Happy British Summertime.

Like many of our forays into the kitchen I looked in the cupboards, saw what we had, and googled the ingredients for inspiration. That’s when I found this recipe over at the awesomely name Yammie’s Noshery. The beautiful photos won me over and I just had to give them a go.

So I got the bowls out, called Oscar over and told him to get get a chair to stand on. And he did! Lets just take a moment there to marvel at that fact. Ahhhhhh. Right, so anyway the cookies, yes?

Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies

image

These were great to make with the boy as unlike recent attempts in the kitchen they required no melting or hob work. Perfect for little hands who just love to dump stuff in a bowl and mix.

Ingredients

The original has these in cups, but I’ve converted to grams, cos I’m super nice like that. I’ve also made a few tweaks, including using gluten free flour as usual. Should you prefer standard flour then just omit the Xanthan Gum

  • 130g peanut butter (I used crunchy which I think works amazingly, but smooth would be good too, particularly if these are for small children)
  • 50g softened unsalted butter
  • 220g soft brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 200g gluten free plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Granulated sugar for rolling (I used caster, but any kind would be good)

Apologies for the lack of photos of the boy helping me. I promise you he did, but I’d left my phone in the other room and you know how they are once they start something!

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c or Gas Mark 5.
  2. Mix the peanut butter, butter and sugar together.
  3. Mash the banana. Add to the butter mix along with the vanilla extract and stir well.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined into an easy to work dough.
  5. Take walnut size pieces and roll into balls. Roll each ball in the granulated sugar and place on a baking sheet covered in baking parchment.
  6. Press lightly with the prongs of a fork to make the chequered pattern. The cookies will spread, so don’t put too many on a tray or too close together. I used two baking sheets to make 19 cookies.
  7. Bake for around 10-15 minutes or until golden.
  8. Leave to cool on cooling racks before snaffling greedily behind the kitchen door so the children don’t see you.
Press lightly with the back of a fork this way and that to get the criss cross pattern.

Press lightly in to the uncooked dough with the back of a fork this way and that to get the criss cross pattern.

I am totally going to have to make these again (not that the waistband on my jeans wants me too – they’re so good). The boy loved mixing the ingredients and the mixture is so tactile. Rather like very soft play dough. And so quick. From ingredient to grateful munching in around 20 minutes. I can see them being really good with added cinnamon and rolled in demerara sugar closer to Christmas.

So next time you have a friends coming over and there’s a gluten free eater among them, whip up a batch of these. Everyone will be grateful you did.

Delicious Gluten Free Peanut Butter and Banana cookies. Great with a coffee!

Delicious Gluten Free Peanut Butter and Banana cookies. Great with a coffee!

Free From Farmhouse

The Boy Makes…Apple & Pear Almond Crumble

OK so this is a teensy bit of a cheat in the ‘The Boy Makes’ series. Oscar did indeed help me make this, but only parts of it (for reasons that will become clear). However, this is my first foray into a completely new, throw it together and see what happens recipe and as such I couldn’t not include it here. Plus once you taste it, you’ll thank me forever more!

image

So a crumble you say. Usually the reserve of Autumnal feasts and its true it does have a taste of the colder weather about it, but it came about because I had a load of fruit that was lying bruised in my fruit bowl. Apples and Pears were what I had so Apple and Pear something it had to be. I chose a crumble because although Ben loves a crumble (as do I) what with one thing and a Slimming World I haven’t made one for ages. It’s not exactly a health food now is it, but I can tell you now making nothing else makes me feel as mumly or wifely or as god damn gorgeous in the kitchen!

image

Spot the missing ingredient!

Ingredients

  • Three ripe pears
  • Two large ripe eating apples
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 50g cold hard unsalted butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g almonds (I used whole ones blitzed in the processor but you could use ready chopped ones)

For the fruit filling

  1. Peel and chop the fruit into quarters. Core and slice each quarter thinly. This is difficult to have a three year old help with so I did this before he joined in
  2. Put the fruit into a mixing bowl and add cinnamon and maple syrup. Stir well
  3. Pour the contents into a suitably homely pie dish
  4. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool

image image

image

For the topping

  1. Cube the cold butter and add to the flour
  2. Rub the butter and flour between the pads of your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs (or as near as damned). Remember as you rub the butter and flour together, to lift it out of the bowl. This adds air and a crispness later. Again this was tricky for the boy to be involved with but he enjoyed watching me!
  3. Stir through the sugar
  4. If you are using whole almonds, blitz them in the food processor until evenly chopped. If using chopped almonds open the packet!
  5. Stir the almonds through the crumb mixture
  6. Tip the crumb mixture over cooled fruit and bake at 200C or Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes

image

image

image

image

image

Serve as you see fit. I like to serve mine with vanilla ice cream (something about the contrast between hot and cold is just mouth watering), but you could use cream, custard or nothing at all!

image

 

Et voila. The very best crumble I have ever eaten. I’m sorry Mum and I’m sorry to both of my Nanna’s, but it really is that good.

I leave the recipe with you, jealous that you get to try it for the first time and hope you love it as much as I do.

You’re very welcome 😉

 

The Boy Makes…The Best GF Banana Bread Ever!

I’ve not had much luck with gluten free cakes so far. They’ve been OK, pleasant enough I suppose and Oscar’s been happy enough to wolf them all down, so they can’t have been that bad. But I don’t know, they just didn’t taste quite right, if you know what I mean. So I decided to give our family favourite a gluten free make over and see if I couldn’t make a really good gf cake.

Ben’s absolute favourite cake is Chocolate Banana Bread. It’s a slightly tinkered with version of this Nigella staple and I’ve made it many times. It’s great fun to make, primarily because I love squishing the bananas, and so I thought Oscar would enjoy it too. We gave it a go two weeks ago and it was such a roaring success, with everyone who tried it, that we’ve made three more since. And not one has hung around for long! It has a moist quality I’ve not found in other gf cakes and using good size overly ripe fruit gives it a wonderful banana sweetness.

So just for you this is our gf version of the best banana bread you’ll ever taste.

As in previous recipes we used my Kitchen Aid, but you could also do this by hand.

image

  • 175 grams plain gluten free flour (we use Doves Farm)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
  • 2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder (we use Waitrose Cooks Ingredient Baking Powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 125 grams unsalted butter
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 good size ripe bananas (the riper the better!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Line tin with baking parchment

Line tin with baking parchment

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C/gas mark 3/325 F.
  2. Mash the bananas with a fork until a smooth puree and leave to one side.
  3. Put the GF flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a bow and mix well.
  4. Melt the butter. I do this by microwaving in short bursts.
  5. Add the melted butter and sugar to the mixer bowl and beat until blended. Beat in one egg at a time, then add the mashed bananas and vanilla extract.
  6. With the mixer on slow, add a third of the flour mixture at a time, mixing well each time.
  7. Pour the mixture into a lined loaf tin and bake for 1-11/4 hours.
  8. Leave in the tin to cool for half an hour before inverting cake onto cooling rack and peeling off the paper.
Reminds me of weaning!

Reminds me of weaning!

 

Mix the dry ingredients together

Mix the dry ingredients together

 

Beat wet ingredients, then add flour mix a third at a time

Beat wet ingredients, then add flour mix a third at a time

 

Have a toddler that gets bored half way through and leaves you too it. Hey what? Hang on this is supposed to be The Boy Makes... not leave poor mama to it!

Have a toddler that gets bored half way through and leaves you too it. Hey what? Hang on this is supposed to be ‘The Boy Makes…’ not ‘Leave poor mama to it…’!

 

Leaving to cool is the hardest part!

Leaving to cool is the hardest part!

 

Inverted cake, now ready to cut.

Inverted cake, now ready to cut.

We assume it lasts well for a few days in an airtight container blah blah blah….. It’s only lasted a few days wrapped in foil in our house. Absolutely delicious when the boy’s gone to bed, sliced thickly, warmed in the microwave and severed with Vanilla Ice Cream!

Oh there he is!

Oh there he is! My little grubby chops!

 

BakedPotato Mummy
Free From Farmhouse

The Boy Makes….Homemade Bounty Bars

Over the Easter holidays, the boy and I were inspired to have a crack at some more sweet cooking projects. We made chocolate cupcakes one day and then, scrolling through Instagram one morning, I came across this post for Homemade Bounty Bars by the gorgeous Mrs Bishop over at MrsBishopBakesandBanter. I LOVE Bounty bars and the boy has taken a real shine to coconut and dark chocolate recently (there’s not an issue in the world that can’t be solved with a Mrs Crimble’s Chocolate Covered Coconut Macaroon I tells ya!). We’ve never tried making proper ‘sweets’ before, so I thought this would be a fun place to start.

The recipe Mrs B (and I!) used was incredibly simple with just four ingredients:

image

  • 100ml Condensed Milk
  • 75g Desiccated Coconut
  • 200g Icing Sugar
  • 200g Dark Chocolate
I weighed out the ingredients.....

I weighed out the ingredients…..

...and Oscar poured them into the bowl. First the coconut.....

…and Oscar poured them into the bowl. First the coconut…..

...followed by the condensed milk and then the sugar. Mix it all together.

…followed by the condensed milk and then the sugar. We mixed it all together.

It should come together in one easy to handle lump.

It should come together in one easy to handle lump.

Oscar helped me shape it into bars (it was only my desire for even bars that meant his lumps got flattened out!) Place on greaseproof paper lined tray and leave to firm up in the fridge for an hour or so. This recipe makes 8 big bars easily.

Oscar helped me shape it into bars (it was only my desire for even bars that meant his lumps got flattened out!) We placed the bars on a greaseproof paper lined tray and left them to firm up in the fridge for a couple of hours. This recipe makes 8 big bars easily.

Melt the chocolate. I do this is short bursts in the microwave, stirring each time, but you could do it in a bain-marie. Drop the bars into the choclate and spoon it over to coat. Oscar LOVED doing this bit. Lift onto greaseproof sheet and chill in the fridge.

Melt the chocolate. I do this is short bursts in the microwave, stirring each time, but you could do it over a bain-marie. Drop the bars into the melted chocolate and spoon it over to coat. Oscar LOVED doing this bit, but it was a bit messy and I got no photos – boohoo! Lift onto a greaseproof sheet and chill in the fridge until the chocolate sets.

Oh my life they were so good! We’re definitely going to make them again, but next time I am going to fiddle around with the proportions. I want to try adding more coconut and a little less sugar. I’m also going to make 16 small bars, instead of 8 big ones. Don’t get me wrong the big bars looked awesome, but realistically, I think a smaller bar would have been enough. You could also try making them in to bit size pieces, perhaps for a party. Bounty Bites, if you will! I think you’d easily get 32 bites out of this recipe, although I’m not sure if you’d need slightly more chocolate. Give it a go!

The boy likes them, but not as much as mama does!

Homemade Bounty Bars. The boy likes them, but not as much as mama does!

 

BakedPotato Mummy
Gym Bunny Mummy