The Tyranny of the Lunchbox

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I loathe making packed lunches day in day out…there, I’ve admitted it.  Odd because I love picnics and what is a packed lunch but a picnic in miniature ? I haven’t always hated them, in fact when Spider first started having lunch twice a week as “lunch club” at preschool I spent most of the week planning them and trying to make them fun and enjoyable.

But now some 4 years on, 4 years during which the amount of things he will eat has been  rapidly decreasing (and inconsistent, one week he will eat something the next week it’s “But Mummy, you KNOW I don’t eat that !!!), I just find it dispiriting and a grind…and I’m not alone, I don’t think Flapjack Queen has made flapjacks in over 18 months

His Grandma has had some success with evening meals and has discovered he will eat a lot of things he says he doesn’t like if you cover them with breadcrumbs.

Anyway I have decided it is time to rejuvenate the lunchtime experience for both of us, to try and inject some fun and variation into what has become a sort of “if it’s monday it must be cheese” experience…although maybe drawing up a spreadsheet to record progress may have been taking things a bit too far !

So tonight I have tried to restart my Domestic Goddess qualifications – spurred on by the guilt of the knowledge that my Spider had a Cadbury’s mini roll in his packed lunch every day last week – I flicked through Cake Days:Hummingbird Bakery to see if there was anything I could make from the storecupboard… pity poor Spider as despite page after page of baked yumminess I appear to have picked the most healthy and boring recipe in the book.

Cooling in the kitchen are Apricot Crunches which are a sort of fruited flapjack. I had been worried by the amount of butter involved until I realised they use butter and sugar instead of golden syrup and not in addition. Result for me is that for once I can get my flapjack out of the tin…however the mixture didn’t set too well and is prone to crumbling…I think possibly a higher oven temp next time to make the sugar and butter become” sticky”.

It’s not much, but it is at least a start…and it’s only monday

RECIPE: It’s not my birthday but…

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It’s not my birthday, but it has been. Now I love my birthday, I really really love having a birthday and I use the fact that Husband’s birthday is about a week or so before mine as an excuse to celebrate for at least 2 weeks. But not this year.

This year my husband was away for his birthday and for some reason as a result of that I didn’t feel like celebrating mine…at all…at least not until my Mum (with assistance from a small helper) made me some biscuits…and then suddenly it was as if the sun had come out.

I have mentioned before that my Mum’s Anzac biscuits are the best biscuits in the world and I have shared the recipe only to then make the recipe and realise it wasn’t the right one. Anyway shortly after my birthday Mum shared the correct recipe with me by giving me the piece of paper that her Mum, my Nana had written the recipe down on.

So now, in honour of the fact that today would have been my Nana’s 102nd birthday and my Grandma’s 108th (both of them passed away 6-10 months before reaching 100) I give you  Ellen’s Ginger Biscuits, except my Mum always leaves the ginger out as she’s not fond of it.

Ginger Biscuits

1 Cup rolled oats

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp ginger

4oz Marge

1tblsp syrup (level)

Melt marge and syrup. Add to dry ingredients.

It may need a little cold water to mix. Roll into balls, place on a baking tray (greased) and bake for about 10 minutes.

Don’t overdo the syrup adds my Nana or it will turn out more like brandy snaps.

Happy Birthday Ellen and Theresa.

There is a parachutist in my dishwasher

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One gets used to slightly surreal happenings when you live with a lively and imaginative almost 5 year old, usually they perk up the day such as discovering Eeyore, Pooh and Piglet models lined up on your computer or an Arabian warrior by the bedside light as a small persons attempt to look after Mummy when he’s not there. Sometimes they can be slightly worrying like finding a gun in your purse just before you donate to charity (Plastic and about 1cm long from playmobil) or the time I moved the duvet and found a horses head in the middle of my bed…

Most of the time Spider and I get on. This last month however we have perhaps spent slightly too much time with each other and we are both showing our irritation – I’m also suffering from major league grumpiness from too many early morning visits from Spider –  my attempt at an early night last night was shattered when he came down with the runs at about 11pm and needed to be stripped and showered…

Fortunately, although we do have some problems with playing together (he insists on telling me what I should do and how I should play) we are now getting the hang of cooking…and when it comes to dough he’s getting better than me…cooking with Spider however has a very Spider type angle to it…when I was small I made gingerbread men…Spider refuses to be quite so dull, and fortunately for him has relatives who will indulge him with more his sort of cookie cutter…

A christmas cake they all will eat

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By 9.30am today I had had enough. Enough of the dodgy weather. Enough of the arrangements. Enough of the stress. Enough of the cooking. Enough of the making presents and enough of Spider. He is so wound up its untrue. Husband is taking this in his stride as he’s been dealing with over excited children for 20 years now, this is my first year as last year Spider didn’t really understand this christmas thing…now he does…and let me tell you, it’s hell!

I’ve also been feeling bad about letting luscious Lullabelle down. We had arranged for me to pick her Mum up and bring her to the midlands as my journey home from Reading takes me virtually past her door. But although the office was open today, they were advising staff not to drive…it was at 9.30am that I had the phone call with Lullabelle telling her that I was working from home and would her Mum mind getting a taxi to Reading station…I feel rotten, but I’m not a confident driver in bad weather in this new car, it’s so light and skittish, the old one was like a tank !

So at 9.31 I decided that was it. I was going to stop. If it hasn’t been done yet, it’s not happening. Except some mince pies and maybe some small apple ones and…no it stops here. Got some wrapping to do, but otherwise I’m not touching any of the not done presents until after the 25th – fortunately not seeing the majority of friends and relatives until after Christmas.

So as a result we have inherited the gingerbread I made for Lullabelle and I will make something fresh in the new year when I finally venture the 13 miles down to Banbury – so I’m a whimp in bad weather, but I’m an alive whimp…it is not my accident I’m afraid of it’s other people who think they can drive…

Anyway, enough winging, here is our sweet encrusted cottage – all it needs is a witch to lock over excited children up in cages, where they will be fattened up for christmas until their sister pushes the witch in the oven and they both run back through the forest to the safety of their father’s woodcutter’s cottage… hmmm, we never did get around to providing Spider with a little sister…and after today’s behaviour I don’t think we ever will !

Gingerbread

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Yesterday was spent experimenting and recipe testing. At least that is what I was doing, Spider was enjoying making biscuits and playing with “dough”.

I have a copy of Gingerbread:Joanne Farrow from the library at the moment. It’s a book I’ve had before, by accident as when I’m choosing books Spider has a habit of grabbing things from the shelves and insisting that they are included in out borrowed items – Anyway I digress – I am still trying to plan christmas, food to buy and make, presents to make etc – I am not getting very far admittedly.

Anyway since this particular family is not very interested in the traditional christmas cake I thought I’d try out a few things before christmas and see what works…last weeks chocolate gingercake worked quite well, so that’s the route I’m thinking about at the moment…although since I want Spider to help with the cake I suspect we will be doing a christmas log.

We made part of the gingerbread street, because we wanted to play around with stained glass windows which are made by crushing up boiled sweets, placing in cut outs in the part cooked dough and then cooking for another 5 minutes. The recipe is meant to make 6-8 sets of houses but ours only made 3 as Spider wanted to make a gingerbread man and play with the cutters…

november 2009 012That was last night. It is currently 10am and there is none left, not even a crumb so I guess we can safely say that the basic golden gingerbread recipe from this book is a hit in this family (yes I know eating biscuits for breakfast shouldn’t be encouraged, but I don’t make a habit of it…) – as usually I played around with the recipe as I’m incapable of following something to the letter. This time though I simply replaced the caster sugar with brown sugar, as we have no caster sugar at the moment and lots and lots of different brown sugars – anyway, I think gingerbread tastes better with brown sugar, but that’s just a personal opinion.

Right off to the shops to buy ginger and golden syrup in bulk…I may be sometime

ps you are supposed to pipe chocolate around the doors and windows and add strips of chocolate but the temptation to consume was too strong and we didn’t get that far…

These are not the biscuits…part II

My Mum made me a cake today and afternoon tea with all the things I like – prawns, egg mayonnaise,cold roast chicken, orange jelly…I feel well and truly stuffed to bursting, mostly because I had 4 of her home made biscuits.  These biscuits are amazing and in fact one of my most recent post details my attempt to recreate that biscuit.

Well I now know the truth. These biscuits that I have called Anzac biscuits all my life are not Anzac biscuits and Mum didn’t get the recipe from that Australian WI book I mentioned but its actually a variation on my Nana’s ginger biscuits, only Mum leaves the ginger out – so this is it then, this is the handed down recipe from Mother to Daughter that I have been looking for since I started these pages some 9 or 10 months ago…I think I my cooking Mojo maybe about to come back. I didn’t cock the Anzac recipe up, it was simply the wrong recipe !!!!

You have no idea how much happier I feel now…

These are not the biscuits you are looking for…

Apologies, have been watching rather a lot of Star Wars recently. Spider’s cousin is mad about it and he came back from visiting her obsessing about something he hadn’t seen before…

I am on a quest at the moment. A quest to find the Anzac biscuits of my childhood because following the recipe which I finally remembered to ask Mum for does not create the biscuit I remember…I suspect that she doesn’t follow the recipe as printed, but I’m not sure what she does that is different.

Ingredients

2 cups oats

1 cup plain flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

1 tbs golden syrup

2 tablespoons boiling water

1 tsb bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

Method

Mix oats, sugar, flour and melted butter, then the syrup and lastly soda dissolved in water. Drop by the spoonful on a cold greased oven sheet and bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes

I suspect that Mum melts the butter and the syrup together before adding, which I was actually tempted to do when I made my batch earlier today, certainly I think the mixture needs to be sticker so that the biscuits spread the way the ones in my memory are…Will see later when they have cooled whether they are as chewy in the middle and as good with a glass of milk.

Anzac Day

Today is Anzac day. I had hoped to post up a recipe for the best biscuit ever to mark the occasion, but the keeper of our version of the recipe is my Mum and I forgot to get it off her yesterday, so when its a more sociable time in the morning I will give her a ring…today is the perfect day for cooking with children as its wet and miserable up here in the middle of england…more later !

Didn’t get around to calling Mum, or any cooking, decided to “hang spring cleaning” as it were, we went out and had fun, and appear to have joined the national trust as a “joint birthday present to ourselves”…planning to make the most out of it now for the next 12 months

Is it possible to be addicted to ginger ?

Dinosaur left to keep an eye on Mummy and make sure she doesn't eat the biscuits

Dinosaur left to keep an eye on Mummy and make sure she doesn't eat the biscuits

I know that chillis are supposed to be addictive, there is some chemical which not only makes them hot but does something to your brain to make you feel happy – but does ginger have the same properties?

I just wonder as I appear to have used ginger an awful lot in the last 4 months if my past postings are anything to go by…

If I do a quick stocktake in my cupboards I have at least 5 sorts of ginger: root ginger, powdered ginger, crystallised ginger (covered in chocolate), preserved ginger and this mystery bottle labelled “ginger essence” which is the same size as a food colouring bottle and is as yet unopened – I have no idea where it came from. I also have in my bathroom a bottle of ginger bubble bath…and the only time I go to Starbucks is at Christmas when they go their gingerbread latte…

I think I may have a problem!

I am looking for something to do with the ginger essence, I may try a sponge cake…open to suggestions as I honestly have no idea how you are meant to use it.

Yesterday I tried some cooking with Spider, proper cooking, not decorating a pre-bought item or using a packet mix…it was not exactly a success but for different reasons than before, mainly lack of planning by me.

Decided to make gingerbread men, mainly because I’m trying to run down my spice cupboard (some of the bottles in there are vintage). We followed a recipe in Apples for Jam: Tessa Kiros and having been prewarned by Lacers Life that it may be a bit runny I added some more flour – at least I think I did, I’m not sure…you see the battery has run out on my scales so I tried to convert the gram measurement into a cup measurement when I noticed that the recipe in the book gave a cup measurement of 2 cups which was twice the amount I’d just worked it out as being.

Second problem was I didn’t have enough butter (so added a small bit of soft margarine) and then I discovered I was running out of plain flour so made the difference up with buckwheat. Then I discovered I’d thrown away my baking sheets and had yet to buy replacements…not that it mattered as by that stage I’d reached the bit in the recipe that says “refrigerate for 3 hours”.

At this point Spider got bored and went back into the living room to play “knights and castles” – informing our guests later (luscious Lulabelle and her daughter Lulabud) that “We haven’t got any biscuits because Mummy can’t cook”.

RECIPE: Cut out Cookies (susan austin)

The recipe is almost the same as the pervasive Nigella Lawson version, but I prefer these because they are ok without the icing…and they freeze well which as a (now) full time employee and Mummy is essential for me. The recipe in the book Frost Bite gives a recipe for icing as the intention is that these should be iced, but I don’t always want to be that nice a Mummy !

Ingredients

100g butter (softened)

100g caster sugar

1 egg

0.5tsp vanilla extract

200g plain flour

40g custard powder

0.5tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 180 deg. Line 2 trays with baking paper

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add vanilla and egg. Beat again

2. Sift together flour, baking powder and custard powder. Add to butter mixture. Gently stir until combined. Add more flour if mixture feels too sticky.

3. You can freeze the dough at this point and take out later to defrost and cook when you are ready. Alternatively you can roll out the dough to 2-3mm thick and cut out with cookie cutters to required shape. (You can freeze when cut out by placing trays in the freezer and putting frozen shapes in boxes)

4. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes or so, until lightly browned in at the edges. Leave to cool and ice as required.