How we tackled… After school hunger

… After School Hunger

This September saw me dropping off a child at school for the first time ever. There were tears (all mine), there was pride (class certificate in his first week) and there were endless days (and nights) of worry about how well he would settle in (extremely). All par for the course naturally and I was ready for how tired he would be at the end of every day and especially at the end of the week.

What I wasn’t quite prepared for, however, was the absolutely, totally, completely insatiable hunger we’d have on our hands now that school was in the picture.

Max was in a lovely private day nursery before starting school where he would have breakfast number 2 when he arrived at about 8.45am, a 2 course home-cooked meal at 11.30am and a further teatime “snack” at 3.30pm before returning home for another proper dinner with us. In essence, he was eating about 17 meals a day and was pretty happy about it.

School, however, is a whole new ball game. He came back from his first week excitedly telling me, “Mummy, you can eat a carrot whenever you want!” but, unlimited carrots aside, food is in shorter supply and, added to that dynamic, school is hungry work. Basically we were given one hungry boy every day at 3.20pm.

We’re dealing with this hunger in many different ways. Bemusement mainly but also fruit, lots of it (apples, pears, oranges, berries, you name it), toast of course (where would we be without toast), ice creams (on Fridays) and basically whatever else we can find in the cupboard.

But as the hunger continues and we try to find new ways to fill this boy up I thought I would devote a bit of time this half term to trying a few new ideas which had to tick 3 key criteria:

Quick(ish) and easy
On the healthy side
Tastes good
First up I tried skinny chocolate and cranberry muffins – a BBC Good Food recipe which you can find here:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/252615/skinny-chocolate-and-cranberry-muffins

I actually left out the cranberries as we’re not too keen in this household although I’d think about substituting some nuts next time for some texture. The recipe calls for very little sugar, low fat yoghurt and skimmed milk which all in all make for a relatively healthy muffin. I enjoyed them but fully anticipated Max to not be so keen as they are really not very sweet but he wolfed it down and asked for another. For me these ticked all 3 boxes but I could probably tweak the recipe a little.

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Next up I tried a Jamie Oliver Everyday Superfood recipe – smoothie pancakes. I used berries for my “smoothie” and left out the banana. This may well have been my undoing because, whilst I’ve seen a lot of love for this recipe online (and despite the pic) we all universally hated it, it all ended up in the bin. Certainly quick, definitely healthy but that’s no good if it’s inedible.

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Finally I decided to make my own brioche as this is something both kids have always loved (obviously) but I’ve never actually made. I used a Paul Hollywood recipe from his How to Bake book. I love this book. I’m really not a great baker but everything I make from it seems to turn out well and we often enjoy wraps and pitta from his recipes.

I actually thought brioche would be considerably harder work but, with a mixer with a dough hook attachment at least, it was really easy. The only faff was that after the initial 15 minutes or so of making the dough you have to cool it for at least 7 hours which, in half term week isn’t so bad but normally that level of organisation is not my strong point.

Anyway, the next day after the dough had cooled then proved and baked we had the most wonderful brioche which you can, of course, add some extra butter to for good measure. And jam. And vodka when the kids are finally in bed.

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I’m still coming up with ideas but for this week at least Max seems fairly full! Hallelujah.

Feed The Team’s Great British Bake Off

The mixing bowls are in the wash and the tent has been dismantled.  It feels like the right woman won in the end – Nadiya was a star throughout not only because she was a bloody brilliant baker but because she challenged pre-conceptions by making it clear she wasn’t there any filling any alleged quotas.

At the start of the whole thing I got a bit excited and came up with the idea of us 3 running our own Bake Off throughout, baking creations along that week’s theme, posting the results on Instagram and calling whoever got the most likes that week’s Star Baker.

We were about half a week in when I realised that my life is already quite stressful without giving myself the task of creating some kind of baking masterpiece (nothing less would do, I’m that competitive) but nevertheless we all persevered and managed to produce something every week, something, even if I do say so myself, pretty impressive actually.

And I (Emma) won!  I couldn’t quite believe that we were going into finals week 4-4-4, partly because it just sounded so totally made up but also because I always view myself as the least proficient cook amongst the three of us.  I’m more of a trier than a real talent.  My winning bakewell tart though was, bloody delicious, and it was good to win with the bake that is actually my all time favourite.

So I’m slightly glad to see the back of it but a bit sad too, because here are the things I learnt about myself during this year’s Bake Off:

  • I’m bloody competitive – to be fair I think I knew this already but this cemented the view – I mean it didn’t really matter did it (but actually it did).
  • I think I have a bit of a tendency towards perfectionism and should let up on myself a little – yes my piping isn’t perfect but actually I’m not a patissier, i work in Corporate Finance…
  • But actually I quite enjoyed patisserie.  It’s a total faff but I relished the challenge of something I hadn’t tried before.
  • I struggle with making things look neat and tidy but I’m not bad on the taste factor
  • I quite like cake.

So this week, instead of scouring the internet for things to make and madly trying to make something passable in time, I might just kick back and actually relax… but come Wednesday I’ll be missing the competition.

Dressing like a mum

Like it or not Winter is coming and my thoughts turn to their joy-filled faces at Christmas… no really, they turn to boots and winter clothes actually.  Obsessed as I am, with shopping, and inspired like many I’m sure by @dresslikeamum amongst others, I wanted some which both reflect the old me (career-minded, social life, fashion savvy) but fit in with the life of the new me (tired working weeks, in bed by 10pm and parklife weekend).

Somewhere along that thought process I ended up with these beauties – over the knee suede from Kurt Geiger purchased on a quick trip out when visiting our London office (hard at work).  They are wondrous.  I’ve always found it quite difficult to find long boots that don’t look like wellies on me but these fit all the way up and have ties at the top to hold them in place.  Plus they look quite glam whilst actually being flat and comfortable.  Bonus.

Problem is I was actually lying awake last night (post comforting a toddler with a temperature) panicking over where I’m actually going to wear them to justify the price tag.  Can I really wear boots like these to work and be taken seriously?  If I wore them to the park would the other mothers be whispering about me and would they be covered in mud by week 2?  And as for wearing them in the evening, well the cost per wear is going to be seriously poor unless I deploy them during our pre-passing out Netflix fix.

I think I may have been duped by glamorous instagram posts of mothers in high maintenance outfits looking chic whilst beaming with wonder at their miraculously clean kids.  But it’s too late because I left the box in my hotel room and I’m committed to them whole heartedly.  So tomorrow, they’re coming to the zoo with/on me.  If you see me there, please don’t judge I’m just trying to tread that fine new me/old me line and perhaps not always getting it quite right.

Meal Planner – Week Starting 12th October 2015

Welcome to our first meal planner live on our new blog, hope you like it!

We started meal planning in an effort to stay sane whilst eating with a young family – making meals that they would eat but which didn’t bore us to tears (there’s only so much pasta and pesto you can take) whilst juggling work, swimming lessons and all that other life stuff.

The other curve ball we throw in (just to make life harder for ourselves) is that we try to have two meat, two fish and two veg meals a week (plus one day off for good behaviour). We found that it means we can’t shy away from feeding them fish when they moan about it. One day they’ll thank us (or maybe not).

This week is a simple one, life is busy busy busy.

On Monday it’s stuffed jackets which is pretty much what it says on the tin. I’ll bake some jackets, scoop out the middle, mix with cheese and sweetcorn and any other veggies left hanging around, pop it back in, top with cheese and back in the oven for 10 minutes. I’ll serve with salad which means actual salad for me and cucumber and peppers with hummus for them.

On Tuesday it’s prawns pasta, a recipe I made up one night late after work years ago. I cook some onions with some mushrooms and garlic and the tiniest hint of chilli (it used to be more in those days), then pop in some prawns at the last minute. Turn off the heat and mix in some sour cream and toss through the pasta. Serve with copious amounts of parmesan as parmesan hides a multitude of sins.

Wednesday is a new one on me, I’m trying out different ways of making quick pizzas – last week it was naan bread, this week I’m using pitta as a base with some tomato puree and whatever toppings they fancy.

On Thursday it’s fish and chips, I’m out for the evening eating canapés and acting like an adult so the chips are of the oven variety – say it loud and proud!

And finally we get to Friday and the start of the weekend, starting it the way we mean to go on with toad in the hole, Max keeps banging on about bangers and yorkshire pudding is a true crowd please.

Saturday is my day off – we might go out and eat somewhere fancy. Or maybe (more likely) we’ll eat burgers somewhere with brightly coloured decor.

I’m going to finish the week with ham and tarragon pot pie. This is a recipe from the BBC Good Food website, I haven’t tried it before so I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ve bought some ham hock to make life simpler and puff pastry too. Life is too short to ever every try to make puff pastry.

Enjoy your week!

An Actual Holiday

I had to book it in a fit of optimism.  Edie is a true HORROR in the car, any longer than say 3 minutes and she loses her shit, so a 3 hour drive on a Friday afternoon ON A BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND was only appealing with the rose tinted spectacles of it being many weeks away.

But we made it to Northumberland, and to our log cabin in Fenmoor Park to be exact, nerves almost in tact due to a tactical stop at McDonalds halfway.

The last time we came to Northumberland was PK (pre-kids) and my memories mostly consist of walking around hand-in-hand in the lazy, meandering way you feel you must have done all of the time when you’re post-kids.  But it seemed like a good place to be with smalls, wide open spaces (fewer people to hear the screams), castles and beaches.  Max heaven pretty much.

And it was actually.  For once it actually felt like a holiday… Car journey aside it was relatively stress-free, we had our own facilities, everything was within easy reach, the kids were almost constantly entertained.  My god, it was almost relaxing.  (Having our very own hot tub in our lakeside setting might also have helped somewhat…)

And it’s amazing just how much there was to do up there.  We spent an entire day at Alnwick Castle and Gardens (which was good because you basically have to remortgage if you want to get in there).  After getting over the shock of the cost we had a blast, Harry and Dumbledore were there doing a magic show, even Peppa bloody Pig was there and, if you tactically blank out the bit where Max got trapped inside a fountain and screamed the place down, the kids thought it was amazing and never wanted to leave.

On our second day we made a visit to Whitehouse Farm Centre near Morpeth which was also bloody fantastic.  Max fed goats for about 3 hours while we sat around musing about why we ever went to France (oh yes, the weather).  And then, while the kids slept we schlepped on over to the beach by Bamburgh Castle where Edie was buried up to her armpits with a look of total don’t give a shit on her windswept face.

On our last day we headed over to Cragside, not quite sure what we would find but we were very pleasantly surprised.  An absolutely huge estate of a place with an interesting house for Max to quiz a dozen old ladies in and then tons of space to run around, including a barefoot walk where Max got covered in mud, what could be better when you’re just about to get in the car for a 3 hour drive home?

All in all, it’s a truly great place to visit for families.  Loads to do, great places to stay, nice places to eat, wildlife and outdoor space galore, I couldn’t recommend it more.

I suppose the best praise I can really give it is to say we are going back in about 3 weeks.  I’m sure the car journey will be a blast.