Friday, 29 June 2012

Cheese & Black Pepper Biscuits

Beware of making these too small (like I did with some of them) or there won't be much biscuit left by the time they finish cooking!


75g unsalted butter (softened)
1 small garlic clove, crushed
50g parmesan, grated
50g cheddar cheese
100g plain flour
Generous grind of black pepper

In a bowl, beat the butter, pepper and garlic until smooth.  Stir in the cheeses and flour, and work into a soft dough.  Add a teaspoon or two of water if it is not sticking together.  Cover with clingfilm and chill for at least 30 mins.

Roll out on a floured surface and cut your biscuit shapes out using cutters.  (You can also roll little balls of the dough and press flat if you prefer.)  Place on baking paper on a baking tray and cook for 15-20 mins at 160 degrees.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Stepping Stones Cookie Bar

After a hellish visit to the dentist this morning, I was in dire need of caffeine so took the opportunity to pay a visit to Stepping Stones Cookie Bar on Royal Parade in Hindhead.  I intended to get a coffee to take-away so we could head to the park and let off some much needed steam but I spotted a patio door to the back of the shop and discovered there was a little garden, complete with a play slide, so I decided to order in.  The coffee was pretty darn good and I felt compelled to sample some of the cake too (so selfless, I know!) so we had ourselves a very pleasant pit stop in the sunny garden.  I was able to enjoy my latte in relative peace while the little guys wore themselves out seeing who could find the most adventurous way to descend a slide.

Chatting to the server afterwards, I discovered the shop is a social enterprise with the profits being split 50/50 between Stepping Stones, a school for children with mild disabilities which is just around the corner to the shop, and the COINS Foundation, its parent organisation.  Pupils from the school also get to do work experience at the coffee bar, and visit weekly to learn about the way the business is run as well as ex-pupils working in the shop at the weekend.

The shop is immaculate and sells little goodies on the side too - some edible, some fun - and they do a range of sandwiches & paninis as well as cakes and cookies.  And the way I see it, any calories consumed there are offset by the virtue of helping out the least that what I was telling myself as I devoured a large and very delicious piece of lemon cake!

Stepping Stones Cookie Bar

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Pizza Muffins

These are really easy to make and a great weekend lunch - my little guys loved them when I made them today.  I basically used up all the leftovers in my fridge - I just threw everything in - so you could easily adapt it to whatever you have.  You can see how my recipe differs to the link at the bottom - I couldn't find quinoa on its own at the supermarket, they only had a mixture of quinoa and bulgar but I think they turned out OK.  The only adjustment I would make next time is that I think I would make them a little smaller, perhaps using a mini muffin tray.

Ingredients (makes 10)
125g quinoa & bulgar wheat (cooked)
50g baby spinach leaves
150g mozarella, torn
Half red pepper
Half red onion
Few slices of pastrami
5 mushrooms, chopped & cooked in a little oil or butter
2 tbsp grated parmesan
2 eggs
Pinch each of oregano, basil & paprika

Cook the quinoa / bulgar according to packet insructions (mine was 10 mins in boiling water), drain and put in a bowl.  Put all remaining ingredients except the eggs & the parmesan into a food processor & chop / mix together.  Add this mix to the quinoa bowl, and add in the eggs & parmesan.  Mix well.

Divide between the muffin tin, making sure you have oiled the "holes" very well - I can't stress this enough, mine stuck a bit too much!  Press each portion down on itself to compress.

Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180 degrees.

I got this idea from Joni Rae - thank you for the inspiration! 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


This is a ridiculously easy recipe that I got from my lovely step-mum.  I just made these tonight but will NOT be able to stop eating them once you start!  DS had 3 in one go ;o)

115g ground almonds
170g caster sugar
1 tsp plain flour (yes, that is only ONE TEASPOON!)
2 egg whites
2 drops vanilla essence (or if your 3 year old is helping, a good slug!)
16 split almonds halves (I used flaked almonds instead)

Heat the oven to 180 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with baking paper (or rice paper if you can find it).

Mix together the almonds, sugar and flour.  Add the egg whites and vanilla and beat well.

Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture on the baking sheet, allowing 5cm between them for spreading.  Place a split almond on the top of each one.  Bake for 15 mins or until the macaroons are firm to the touch. 

I did mine in batches, as I couldn't fit them all on the baking sheet at once, and I found the undercooked ones came out slightly better - more chewy.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Emily's "Everything" Fried Rice

You can basically chuck anything you want in here - leftovers, hidden veggies, you name it!  It's a quick & easy throw together supper but still super tasty.

Ingredients (serves 2 adults & 2 kids in our house!)
175g basmati rice
1 small onion, peeled & diced
Half a red pepper, diced
1 egg (beaten)
Cup of peas
Cup of sweetcorn
1 spring onion
1 chicken breast, diced or cut into strips
1 cup of frozen cooked prawns
1 tbsp light soy sauce

Cook the rice, drain & set aside.

Heat some oil in a wok (I tried this in a frying pan but it just isn't big enough, and ends up spilling over the sides!).  Add the onion & red pepper and cook for around 5 mins.  Add the chicken, prawns, peas & sweetcorn (my peas were frozen, my corn wasn't - they were both fine) and the spring onion.  Cook for around 4-5 mins, or until you are sure the chicken is cooked through.  Add the egg and stir through.  Do this on a high heat but keep it moving - it will become like scrambled egg. 

When everything is cooked, add a large knob of butter and the cooked rice and the soy sauce, and stir everything together for 2-3 mins, still on a high heat & again keep it all moving.

Serve immediately. although I can confirm this is just as tasty reheated the next day!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Today we visited Secretts in Godalming.  I just love this place!  Besides being a fantastic garden centre and farm shop, they always put on activities for the kids during every school holiday.  AND THEY ARE FREE!  They usually do a Treasure Hunt themed to the holiday, although today we were actually aiming for the Story Telling in the courtyard (note, this is held in the Farm Shop not the Garden Centre...<bangs head on wall>...  As we missed the stories, we decided instead to join the Jubilee treasure hunt.  Children (or parents) are given a sheet with 10 clues and you have to find them around the garden centre.  

DS loved the Halloween themed one last year...

...and although today he was less enthusiastic, we pushed on and collected all the clues.  The kids return their sheet to the front desk and receive a prize - usually a sweet of some description.  Aside from the hunt, my kids love the duck pond and playhouse at the top of the garden centre - a reason to visit anytime in my opinion!  We usually end up buying hot chocolate in the cafe (which does great food) so I don't feel too bad about taking advantage of the freebie activities ;o)


Favourite Books

Books are a big part of our life.  Both my husband and I are avid readers with books adorning the walls of our house from top to bottom so it was natural the kids would be introduced to them from an early age.  I recently had a reorganisation of the children’s books in their bedrooms, and it got me thinking about all the books they love.  Most nights it will be the same old favourites trotted out for bedtime story so I’ve started taking them to the library every week to choose some different ones.  Despite this helping a little (if only to relieve my boredom of reading the same books over and over!), the kids still have a group of firm favourites.

Of course I have to mention The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, as it’s a classic.  Our dog-eared copy is holding itself together by a thread – it’s seen us through DS’s early years and has now been passed on to DD, who loves it just as much as he did.

Rod Campbell is another classic, with Dear Zoo being on most children’s book shelves and Oh Dear! is of a similar vein but equally loved.  In addition to those two, we also have I’m Not Scary! which remained DS's favourite for a long time before he outgrew it.

Judith Kerr is another hit in our house – The Tiger Who Came to Tea prompted DS’s first visit to the theatre when the stage show was put on in London, and who doesn’t love Mog the Forgetful Cat?

But I don’t want to talk about all the well known books like these, as wonderful as they are (and believe me, my kids love Julia Donaldson as much as the next) but instead want to share some of the more unusual ones we’ve found.

DS was recently bought Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg and he just loves it. Right now, we are reading the book together at least twice a day and today I saw him sitting on the sofa reading it himself.  The book shows kids how mistakes can be turned into something else, and how you don’t always need to start over - such a great idea!  It has bright colours throughout, and lots of flaps & pop-ups for little fingers.

I remember scouring the shops for books about bedtime when DS was a baby, and I found The Big Night-Night Book by Georgie Birkett.  Both my kids have loved the rhyming text and touch-and-feel elements to the pages but best of all it really conveys the concept of bedtime in a way they can understand.  Reading this book became a staple part of DS’s bedtime routine!

Somebody bought DS The Story of the Little Mole – Plop-up Edition by Werner Holzwarth for his second birthday and I have to admit I wasn’t keen at first glance so put it away for a few months.  He stumbled across it one day and loved it right away – it has bits to pull, move or turn and the subject matter is extremely appealing to children as Mole investigates to find out who did a poo on his head!

Gallop by Rufus Butler Seder is a “scanimation picture book” – both kids loved this one from an early age, as turning the pages causes the pictures to move!

One of DD’s current favourites is The Busy Little Train by Anna Claybourne & Jo Moon.  Again containing that rhyming text that kids seem to love so much, it follows Monkey as he drives his train picking up all his friends on the way.  It is beautifully coloured, and the pages contain more detail than you first think, enabling the child to find new things with each reading.

The Magic Bed by John Burningham is a really lovely story – and another huge hit!  A boy is bought a magic bed and after saying the magic words, flies off on different adventures round the world each night.

I found The Teeny-Weeny Walking Stick by Karen Hodgson & Sally Anne Lambert in a small independent book shop, and the owner told me it was one of his favourites.  I think kids can really identify with the story – Edward finds various things in his garden that he feels are proof there are tiny people living there, and spends the book trying to convince his sister Hattie to believe him.

And I love that a couple of my own childhood favourites are now appreciated just as much by my kids: The Fuzzy What-Was-He by Peter Seymour, The Best Nest by P.D. Eastman and Harry The Dirty Dog by Gene Zion.

Have you recycled any of your childhood books on to your kids?  What books are your kid’s favourites?