Tag Archives: ice-cream

Birthday Party for a 4 year old boy. Part 2. The food

21 Jun

Food at a child’s party can be a social minefield these days. Everyone has their own ideals and standards about what is ‘appropriate’ fare for a child’s party, and I am no exception. (How much easier our parents had it, in the days when crisps, fizzy drinks and hydrogenated fats were all the rage!!)

Not everyone has the time, or the inclination to prepare the food themselves.  In the light of our current ‘how on earth are we going to pack up this house in 4 weeks status’ I was almost tempted to make a mad dash to M&S myself. However, there is something truly satisfying about putting something home-made and personal.  I find the trick is to keep it simple, and to try not to do too much. A little advance planning, and a shopping delivery, meant that the preparation took about the same amount of time as if I had ventured out to the supermarket to buy everything.

MENU

  • Sandwiches – Ham, Cream cheese, Cheese, Marmite (about 4 rounds of each type)
  • Cocktail Sausages
  • Sausage Rolls
  • Breadsticks
  • Cucumber
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon
  • Skips and Hula Hoops
  • Fairy Cakes
  • Vanilla Ice cream in cones with sprinkles or a flake
  • Fruit Juice drinks or mini- bottles of water

    cookie cutter sandwiches

You may wonder if it is possible to give a ‘recipe’ for sandwiches. Not really. But there are a couple of tips and tricks I have picked up along the way, that make life easier. The first is to get the butter out the night before you need it, so it is very soft and spreadable.  Also, the quality of the bread matters. I tend to buy a premium brand, medium sliced loaf. It’s not what we have usually but is perfect for these type of sandwiches.  And here is a tip I learned from Mary Berry. You can make the sandwiches up to 2 days in advance. I didn’t on this occasion but I have been known to make them the day before. To keep them fresh, cover the sandwiches in damp (not wet) kitchen towel, then double wrap in cling film. Keep them refrigerated. The damp kitchen towel and cling film will stop them drying out. I like to get the children involved with the cookie cutters (saves cutting the crusts off) so we usually offer a variety of shapes and sizes.

Stars and circles

Cocktail Sausages. On this occasion I bought them ready cooked. Don’t send me to the gallows just yet. I usually prefer to cook them myself as I find the pre-cooked ones a little dry, but on this occasion time was short, so needs must.

Jazzed up 'home assembled' sausage rolls

Sausage rolls. I do not make these from scratch. Its more of an assembly job. I bought some sausage meat, added chopped sage (from garden) and shallots (from freezer) then wrapped in ready-made puff pastry. Cook for about 20/25 minutes on 190 degrees. I have also been known to squeeze out the contents of sausages onto the pastry as the filling. Tastes much nicer than the shop version, and really not an awful lot of effort. My 2yo happily joined in with this little exercise.

Breadsticks. Remove from wrapper and place in beakers

Crinkle cut cucumber

Cucumber – Peeled and cut with a crinkle cutter

Grapes – An abundant supply. Washed and de-stalked

Watermelon – Chopped into small pieces. I bought a mini- watermelon which has hardly any seeds. Served in a large trifle dish. This was a big hit with the little ones.

Fairy Cakes – I used the Hummingbird Bakery Vanilla Cupcake recipe and placed Disney Cars rice paper cutouts on top. I also helpfully forgot to take a picture! If you are short of time, then leave the uniced cakes out on the table with the icing and some sprinkles, and the kids can create their own.

Vanilla Ice Cream.  I have been known to make my own!  On this occasion it was shop bought. I still like to check the ingredients as many use Invert Sugar Syrup and other unappealing ingredients. I opted for a supermarket own brand Organic Vanilla type, which had a fairly innocuous ingredients list, and served it in a cone, with my childhood favourite flake 99.

This amount of food was enough to feed about 12 children, and a few hungry parents, and the leftovers were polished off by myself and the OH for dinner. A complete carb overload, but totally satisfying!

Watermelon Heaven!

Happy Chickens Moroccan Style (Day 5 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

22 May

Todays Menu  

  • Breakfast. Cereal and yoghurt and fruit
  • Lunch. Wraps with cream cheese for the kids. Leftover pizza heated in toaster for mummy
  • Snack. Banana Iced Yoghurt
  • Dinner – kids – chicken thighs with couscous and broccoli
  • Dinner adults – Spicy chicken legs, chickpea and coriander couscous, morrocan style carrot salad.

 

 

 Banana Iced Yoghurt  

Did you know you can freeze bananas? I didn’t until I had a glut last year and threw a few in the freezer to see what happens. They freeze brilliantly. You can even leave the skin on. It will go black, but keep them all pristine inside, and ready for action when you want to bake banana bread or, some banana iced yoghurt.  

While I was rummaging in the freezer looking for inspiration for dinner, I came across some long ago frozen bananas. So, when the kids wanted a mid afternoon snack, it was delivered, courtesy of the blender.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • 4 medium sized bananas, broken into chunks (they should break easily, no kit needed)
  • 200ml plain yoghurt/greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • juice of half a lemon
  1. Blitz banana using ice function on the blender.
  2. Add yoghurt/vanilla and juice until you have a slightly melting ice cream consistency.
  3. Serve

    Slightly melting Banana Iced Yoghurt

     

  

Total prep time. About 2 minutes. From the taking of the bananas out of the freezer to the placing the used blender in the dishwasher. Now that’s what I call fast food! The bananas are so sweet you don’t need to add sugar. My kids love this as a snack. I tell them its ice cream, while secretly feeling quite pleased that they are eating just a piece of fruit with some pro-biotic yoghurt.  

DINNER  

The food stocks are getting low, as is this weeks kitty, so I was getting a bit concerned about dinner. Then I remembered one of my staple after work meals when I was working. Seasoned chicken legs, Couscous, Salad. Very little prep time required, and on the whole a very thrifty dish. M&S quite often do a promo on their organic chicken legs at 4 for a fiver, so not really a budget buster. In fact, this is a great dish to serve up if you are feeding a large group, as the preparation is minimal, and the ingredients are not too expensive.  

Happy Chickens  

Chicken with Ras El Hanout

 

I was vegetarian for over 20 years until about 5 years ago. When I gave up meat, ‘free-range and organic’ were nowhere to be seen in my little corner of South-West London. When I finally started to eat meat again I vowed only to eat meat where the animal welfare standards were high. That raises a bit of a dilemma when you are invited to lunch and are asked if you have any special requests. Its sounds a more than a little picky and snooty to say ‘I’ll eat your meat but only if it’s up to my standards’. So unless I know people well, I either say I am veggie or offer to bring some food along.  

Which brings me on to todays food. Happy Chickens. The Organic Free Range kind are not cheap. So when I see them on offer I tend to stock the freezer. Obviously I took this step 9 months ago, with a batch of chicken legs that I found, this morning, lingering in the back of our ‘spare’ freezer. Sell by date 29 August 2009. Eaten by date, today 21 May 2010!  

If like me, you are using previously frozen chicken, do make sure it has defrosted fully. I left mine out on the worktop today (I am sure the health inspectors would be tutting) and it was still cold but thoroughly defrosted.  

I have a selection of spices in the cupboard like Cajun, Sumac, and todays choice, Ras El Hanout. Its a lovely, fragrant moroccan spice blend. To prepare the chicken you need do nothing more than to rub a little oil on the chicken legs. Sprinkle with the seasoning. Cook for about 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees. Thats it.  

The couscous  

I love couscous. I always keep a supply of this in the cupboard. Boil the kettle. Pour on water. A few minutes later and its ready. What could be easier? Today I decided to add a few ingredients and flavourings from the cupboard, but it was simply an add, mix and cover with boiling water exercise.  

I have made this, and variations of it so often, that I tend to just add, mix and taste rather than following any strict recipe.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • Couscous. Enough to fill the bottom of a soup bowl by about 1cm. Maybe 300g
  • Vegetable bouillon. A dessertspoon. Add and mix
  • Raisins. A large handful
  • Chickpeas. A standard tin, drained and washed.
  • Cumin (seeds not ground). 1 dessertspoonful
  • Pine nuts (toasted if you have time) 25g
  • Chopped coriander (from freezer)1 tablespoon
  • Butter. About 25 g

METHOD  

  • Mix all ingredients in bowl
  • Pour over boiling water until mixture is just immersed a little in the water
  • Agitate mixture with a fork
  • Cover with a cloth or plate for 5 minutes or so
  • Fluff with a fork and serve

Moroccan Style Carrot Salad. Inspired by Stephanie Alexander.  

Moroccan Style Carrot Salad

 

If you have not yet discovered the cookery genius that is Stephanie Alexander, then you have been missing out. I was introduced to her only last year by my foodie friend Annmaree. This is not a glossy, picture filled cookery book. It is a tome. A reference book filled with a lifetime of cooking knowledge.  It is arranged alphabetically by ingredient (why aren’t all cookery books organised that way?). So, when you have a weird or wonderful, or perhaps just a very boring ingredient that you want to use up, look it up, and Stephanie will provide you will a selection of ideas and recipes for it. Today I was wondering how best to use the carrots in the fridge, when Stephanie came to the rescue, and gave me the inspiration for this dressing.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • about 500g carrots, grated
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 dessertspoon toasted cumin seeds
  • 1 dessertspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Large glug of olive oil (1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 dessertspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chillis

METHOD  

  1. Place cumin, garlic, salt, sugar in pestle and mortar and crush to a paste
  2. Add olive oil and lemon juice. Mix until you have a glossy dressing.
  3. Check taste and adjust seasoning
  4. Grate the carrots.
  5. Add the coriander and chilli and mix throughly
  6. Add dressing making sure salad well coated
  7. Serve

The biggest effort today, was not the cooking. Each dish probably took about 5 minutes preparation. The real effort was putting a little thought and imagination into the food available, and making an appetizing meal from it. The carrot salad exceeded all my expectations. It was not something I had tried before, but will definitely be one to use again.  

Dinner is served

 

DAY 5 SUMMARY  

A great use of some very neglected food from my freezer. 2 days of the challenge left. I am missing chocolate, and not at all optimistic that I wont go over budget. Food (or chocolate) donations anyone?  

Chickpea Couscous

Poached Salmon and Soba Noodles with a Ginger Broth (Day 2 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

19 May

Pea and Mint Soup

LUNCH

Pea and Mint Soup

My plans for soup from the freezer had to be shelved when I discovered a bag of peas defrosted in the fridge. I have no idea if I put them there in a tired moment (which isn’t inconceivable given that I have found shower gel in the freezer and deodorant in the fridge in the past month!), or if my children helpfully made the transfer for me.

I have been using frozen peas to make a quick soup for many years. The preparation is minimal and the result is a fresh and light soup with a light green colour (as long as you do not overcook it – in which case you will be faced with a tasty but unattractive, muddy looking, olive-green coloured soup). Even though the result is bright green, my vegetable averse children love it.

INGREDIENTS LIST

Peas and shallots in the pan

  • 1 Dessert spoon Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots (from freezer)
  • 340g peas
  • 500ml Vegetable stock (I use Vegetable bouillon powder to make this . If you have yet to try it, do so now. You will never again have your head swayed by a stock cube)
  • 2 large serving spoons full of home-made mash (I had some left over from last night) or 2 large baking potatoes cooked (zap them in the microwave if you have none cooked)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mint
METHOD
  1. Put pan on a low heat.

    Add some mash. Really!

  2. Add oil and shallots for a minute or two.
  3. Boil kettle and make stock
  4. Add peas to pan
  5. Add stock
  6. Add potatoes
  7. Cook for 5 minutes
  8. Add dried mint
  9. Blend in liquidiser
  10. TA DA! Lunch is ready!

DINNER

Poached Salmon and Soba Noodles with a Ginger Broth

Dinner is served

Today I sought inspiration from the queen of fast and fabulous, Donna Hay. I have had a packet of Soba Noodles lingering in the back of my cupboard for about a year. I think I bought them when we returned from our foodie heaven holiday to Australia and in a fit of cooking optimism, I bought a wide selection of food that I don’t usually cook with. There is still quite a bit of it in the cupboard.

I tapped in ‘Soba Noodles’ in to the search facility on Donnas site and Poached Salmon and Soba Noodles with a Ginger Broth was the result. Perfect, as I had some Salmon fillets in the freezer. I was lacking the fresh and pickled ginger. So I spent a princely 52p on a large chunk of ginger and decided we could do without the pickled variety. As this is Donnas recipe, not mine, I have recited the ingredients below, and have included a link back to her site for full recipe and instructions.

Uncooked Soba Noodles

  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
  • 45g ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 270g soba noodles
  • 2 x 200g salmon fillets, skin removed, sliced
  • 2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and sliced
  • pickled ginger and coriander

This was simple to cook and used only one pan. The resulting dish was flavourful and light, and satisfying without feeling ‘heavy’.  I will be definite trying this out again especially once we have moved and are dishwasher-less. As I wasnt sure if the children would try the noodles, I gave them mash instead. A sure fire way to get them to try something is to make them think its special. Annabel flatly rejected her mash, and demanded some of mummy’s spaghetti!

DESSERT

Poached Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream

Poached Pear with Vanilla Ice Cream

I am down to my last bar of chocolate, which has me a bit concerned given the current budgetary constraints. I did however notice that I still had 12 VERY HARD pears in the fruit bowl. I am skilfully adept at missing the moment of perfect ripeness when the juice surges out from the fruit as you take your first bite. Instead I am gifted at selecting the type of pear that changes overnight from rock hard to slightly shrivelled, woolly and tasteless!

To keep the children happy with the promise of dessert I decided to poach some of the pears. In theory this should be a thrifty dish. Save for the fact that almost every recipe that you come across for poached pears suggests that you use a bottle of wine, or some vanilla pods or both. All very well, but it tends to increase the cost of the dish by at least £5. So, for a thrifty midweek dessert, I find a light syrup, flavoured with some lemon and vanilla extract will leave you feeling both satisfied, and solvent. The only truly laborious part of this exercise was the peeling of the pears. If you have a good grips peeler, it will take all of 5 minutes. And after leaving the mixture to quietly simmer on the stove top for 45 minutes, infusing the air with the homely scent of pears and vanilla, you will have dessert for today, and if you are not too greedy, some for tomorrow too.

INGREDIENTS
  • 6 dessert pears, peeled
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 litre water
  • peel and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Mix water, sugar, lemon juice and peel and vanilla extract, in a medium-sized pan. Add pears. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes (if the pears are ripe, maybe 10 minutes less). If you are not sure if they are cooked try one with a knife. You are looking for texture that is firm, but will yield with a little pressure from a knife.

Serve warm, with a little of the juice, and some ice-cream. Or mascarpone. Or some dark chocolate, melted then drizzled over the pear….

Day 2 Summary

Total spend for the week so far £16.60. Remaining budget, £18.40. 5 days to go and counting.

Supermarket Sweep 4 May 2010

4 May

Where did the last week go?  Here it is then, my weekly round-up of  supermarket best buys.

Starting in alphabetical order with Asda. This week you can stock up on your breakfast basics at bargain basement prices.  Activia yoghurts, 4 for £1, Tropicana Smoothie – mango, passionfruit & pineapple £1 for 750ml, and 2 for £3 on weetabix cereals, and 2 packets for £1 on Warburtons crumpets. They are also offering lunchtime deli wraps for £1 a packet.

Lidl.  Love it or loathe it you can’t knock their prices. This week there are the usual unbelievably low prices on a range of vegetables, the best one being cauliflowers at only 49p each. Add some cut price cheddar and you are halfway there to a cauliflower cheese, 500g Pilgrims Choice extra mature cheddar is only £2.99. Childrens favourite spread, Nutella is down to £1.25 a jar, and if you fancy a warm weather treat for the freezer, they are offering Bounty, Mars and Snickers Ice Creams at an ice cool £2 for a packet of 8.

Morrisons, are offering every mums’ emergency staple, Birds Eye fishfingers, at £1 for a packet of 8 and the obligatory (in this house at least) Heinz Ketchup for £1 (570g squeezy size). They also have lunchbox fillers Petit Filous Frubes down to £1 for a packet of 9, and emergency child bribe of choice for many, cadburys chocolate fingers at 74p a packet (these have also been found to work well on grown-ups).

If you are shopping at Sainsburys this week, take advantage of this weeks deals and invite a friend for lunch. Serve one of a selection of Sainsburys own brand soups at only £1 for a 600g carton, complemented with the Taste the Difference Gruyere and Garlic Fougasse, half price at £1.09. While you finish up with a home made cappuccino, and a selection of Lindt Chocolate bars (only £1 for 100g) the dishwasher can clean up for you with Finish all in one lemon tablets  down to £4.49 for 45 (10p a wash…..come on, at that price who wouldnt use a dishwasher?).

Tescos are also offering half price Finish dishwasher tabs, and Jacquart Champagne for only £13.49 a bottle. They have also added their Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne at £25 for 2. I haven’t tried their bubbles recently, but it usually attracts favourable reviews in the press. They also have some fantastic offers on a wide range of fruit and veg, the best ones in my book being vine ripened tomatoes at 99p a pack or satsumas at 99p a pack.

Last but by no means least, is Waitrose. Aside from 1/3 off Sirloin and Rump Steak there is no change from last weeks best buys, so I have included a link back to that post here.

Happy Shopping!