Category Archives: Cooking/Baking

Strawberry Jam Recipe

We went fruit picking again on Monday and picked, amongst other things, over 2kg of strawberries! We have eaten some and today I used the remaining berries to make strawberry jam.

Makes approx 6 x 454g jars of jam:

Ingredients

1.8kg strawberries
approx 8 tsp lemon juice
1.8kg sugar

Wash the strawberries if necessary and drain well. Hull and remove any soft spots, bruises and blemishes,

Place in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with the lemon juice and heat for 10 minutes until the fruit is soft. Using the back of a spoon crush some of the fruit to release the pectin. I crush most of the berries as my kids like a smooth jam, however you can crush as few as one-third.

Add the sugar to the pan and stir over a low heat until it has dissolved completely. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Continue to boil rapidly for about 15 minutes. Do not stir as this will reduce the temperature of the jam. Check to see if the setting point has been reached*

Once a set has been reached skim off any froth that has risen to the surface.

Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir to distribute any larger pieces of fruit. Pour into sterilised jars and seal immediately. Store for up to a year in a cool dark place.

Strawberry Jam

*There are a few ways to test for a set. You can use a thermometer to check the temperature, Setting point is reached at 105ºC. Alternatively you can do a “wrinkle test”. Spoon a little jam onto a chilled plate (I place a small plate in the freezer as I start cooking). Leave it to cool for 2 minutes, then push the jam with your finger. If the top wrinkles the jam is set. If it wrinkles only a little or not at all continue boiling the jam for a little longer (2-5 minutes) and test again.

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Making Soup

For several days now Jasmine has been asking me if she can have soup for lunch, soup with vegetables in. I know she actually meant Heinz Vegetable Soup but as we had rather a lot of peas and some carrots left over from our PYO trip to Garsons Farm I decided it would be much nicer to make our own.

Yesterday morning we spent a long time shelling all the peas and I made Pea Soup with half of them. In the afternoon we went shopping and bought some green beans and broccoli and then this morning, with Gordon around to play with Ben, Jasmine and I (with a little help from Thomas) made our own vegetable soup.

I got all the ingredients together and put everything on the table with a chopping board, a knife, a vegetable peeler and several bowls. Jasmine started by chopping the green beans into small pieces and placed them in a bowl. She pulled some “small trees” off the broccoli and these went in another bowl. I peeled a couple of potatoes (I wasn’t brave enough to let her do this!) and she chopped them into cubes. Lastly, she got to use the peeler and she peeled and chopped the carrots. Thomas appeared while we were doing the carrots so he had a turn peeling and chopping as well.Soup 1They both really enjoyed preparing the vegetables and were really sensible with both the knife and peeler. This is what has always worried me about letting them prep veg because they do have a tendency to become a little silly as kids do! When I am on my own with all 3 kids I know I would find an activity like this very stressful, but today with Ben distracted and both Jasmine and Thomas really keen I was so impressed with them. Jasmine told me that chopping the veg with a knife was just like using the saw at Forest School! She also said a couple of times how much she enjoyed “learning how to chop things because when I have my own house when I am bigger I need to know”!!!

Once everything was prepared I put it all in a pan with about half of the remaining peas from yesterday, a couple of handfuls of small pasta bows and a jug of vegetable stock. I simmered this over a low heat for around 40 minutes.

I then ladled out about half of the soup into a bowl and blended this until it was smooth. I added the blended soup back into the pan and mixed it well, to give a lovely final  soup with vegetables in, just as requested.

I knew the biggest test would be when it came to eating it for lunch. Jasmine usually doesn’t like mixing her foods and everything on her plate has to be separate, so I was a little concerned that even though she had helped plan and prepare the soup, she wouldn’t actually eat it! She well and truly proved me wrong though and she loved it! Ben took a while to start, but eventually he ate his. Thomas had pea soup and he enjoyed this as well!

And my opinion.. it is delicious and I think we did a good job!

soup 2

 

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Asparagus Soup

Making use of the absolutely delicious asparagus we picked at Garsons Farm, I made Asparagus Soup for lunch today. I can’t describe how nice it was.. you just have to try it for yourself!

Asparagus Soup

Best served with warm, crusty bread!

You will need:

Small knob of butter
1tbsp olive oil
450g asparagus (approx), finely sliced
2 shallots, roughly chopped
600ml vegetable stock
5tbsp double cream

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
  2. Add the shallots and fry for four minutes until softened. 
  3. Add the asparagus and fry for a further two minutes. 
  4. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 7 to 10 minutes until the asparagus is cooked. 
  5. Remove from the heat. Roughly blend using a hand blender. Add the double cream and season to taste. Blend until smooth.
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Easter Fudge

Today we have had a full on Easter craft day! Alongside making our Easter Bonnets I got my wonderful Usborne Little Book of Easter Activities out and chose 2 activities; one for the kids to do, one for me to do.

For me, I chose Easter Fudge.

While the recipe is in a book designed to be for children, I wouldn’t say this recipe is child-friendly as it involves using a hob. I don’t know at what age I will consider it OK for the kids to get close to a hot hob, but it is not yet!

It is, however, a very simple recipe and makes delicious fudge!

IngredientsEaster Fudge

450g (1lb) icing sugar
100g (4oz) white marshmallows
2 tbsp milk
100g (4oz) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
yellow food colouriing

shallow 18cm (7in) square cake tin

Method

1. Using a paper towel, wipe some oil onto the sides and bottom of the cake tin. Line the bottom with greaseproof paper and wipe oil over this as well.

2. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl.

3. Cut the marshmallows in half and put them in a small pan. Add the milk, butter and vanilla essence.

4. Gently heat the pan. Stir the mixture every now and then with a wooden spoon until everything has melted.

5. Pour the mixture into the icing sugar. Beat everything together until it is smooth then mix in the food colouring.

6. Put the fudge into the tin and push it into the corners. Gently agitate the tin to smooth the top of the fudge.

7. When the fudge is cool enough put it into the fridge for around three hours to go firm.

8. Once firm, loosen the edges of the fudge with a blunt knife, then turn it out onto a chopping board. Remove the paper.

9. Cut the fudge into pieces. Put the pieces in an airtight container in the fridge for a further hour to harden.

Note: If you want to make pink fudge, use pink marshmallows and add pink or red food colouring.

Eat and Enjoy 🙂

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Easy To Make Bird Feeder

Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. Finally, spring has arrived! With perfect timing two of our Narcissus flowers opened this morning!

Narcissus

This afternoon we went to a friends house and made some really simple bird feeders. They were so easy to make, we made some more once we got home!

You will need:

Cookie Cutters
Bread (old/stale is best)
Peanut Butter
Seeds

Cut several shapes out of the bread slices. Spread peanut butter on the cut shapes. Sprinkle seeds over the peanut butter and press gently so they stick.

I simply placed our feeders around the garden, however you could make a very small hole in the bread and thread with string before you begin, so they can be hung up.

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Mack Cake

This year when I asked Ben what cake he wanted for his birthday party he changed his mind a few times, but eventually settled on a Mack cake (Lightning McQueen’s transporter truck from the Disney film Cars).

Mack Cake

 

The cake is made from 2 x 20cm square marble cakes (200gms flour, sugar, butter and 4 egg sponge recipe).

I was initially going to make the trailer from one cake cut in half but this wasn’t quite tall enough so I ended up putting another half high layer in from the other cake. (Tip: freeze the cake before you start decorating and it makes for much easier cutting and shaping when you start assembling)

The cab is made from 5 separate pieces; the base, the bonnet, the cab/eyes section and 2 pieces to make up the cap. I iced each of the bottom three pieces individually and placed them on top of one another. The 2 pieces that made up the cap were iced together as one piece and then placed on the top.

The exhaust is made from grey icing, rolled into a cylinder and held in place on the cake using a piece of spaghetti as a kind of dowel. The top pipe is a smaller cylinder of icing placed on top.

Finally I added piping around the bottom, wheels,  a lightning strike and number “95” on the trailer and eyes, mouth, a white front on the cap, and fuel tanks to the cab.

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Lemon Curd and Lavender Bags

I have been holding off writing about the hand-made Christmas Gifts we made this year because Granny (Gordon’s mum) was away for Christmas and in our usual disorganised way we hadn’t finished most of the gifts before she went! She is back home now and we are going to visit tomorrow so finally she will get her Christmas gifts and I can write the first post! 

Lavender Bags

One of the things I really started to enjoy last year was sewing. I have never really done any needlework in the past but my Hama Bead obsession led to me trying out Cross Stitch (they are both about counting patterns and colours!) and from there I gained confidence with a needle and began making some simple items. One of the first hand-made gifts I decided to make for Christmas was lavender bags and satchets.

I began by cutting 2 pieces of fabric 18cm x 15cm. With right sides of the fabric facing, pin together. The pattern I was following said this included a 1cm seam allowance so, being a beginner, I marked a 1cm border along 2 long sides and 1 short side and used this line as a guide for the stitching. For the first bags I made I hand stitched in backstitch but I have also machine sewn a few now.

Once the 3 sides are sewn turn the bag inside out and push the corners out with a blunt pencil or similar. Hem the top opening. The pattern said to either hemstitch or blindstitch. I had to google both and found a great tutorial on YouTube for blindstitch so used this. I was surprised by how easy it actually was once I knew how!

I then filled the bag approximately 2/3rds full of lavender (purchased from Ebay) and tied it tightly shut with a 30cm length of ribbon.

I also made some lavender drawer sachets using 15cm square pieces of fabric and leaving a 2cm hole in one side to turn out and fill. Once filled I sewed the hole up and completed the gift by tying 3 together with ribbon.Lavender Bags and Sachets

Lemon Curd

One of my favourite books of 2012 was The Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew. I used it a lot over the year and one of my very favourite recipes is Lemon Curd. It takes only 4 ingredients and can be made from start to finish in less then an hour. It is a perfect hand-made gift idea.

To make about 450g/1lb you need:

3 lemons
200g caster sugar
115g unsalted butter, diced
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

Wash the lemons, the finely grate the rind and place in a large heatproof bowl. Halve the lemons and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Set over a pan of gently simmering water and add the sugar and butter. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted.
Put the eggs and yolks in a bowl and beat together with a fork. Pour the eggs through a sieve into the lemon mixture and whisk well until thoroughly combined.
Stir the mixture constantly over the heat until the lemon curd thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove and pour into small warm sterilised jars. Cover, seal and label.
Store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. Once opened keep in the fridge.Lemon Curd

 

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Instant Chocolate Mug Cake

Love chocolate cake? Have a microwave and a few basic baking ingredients? Then this is for you! Plus, it contains no egg.. so there are no worries about not cooking it for long enough!

I have wanted to try the recipe out ever since I saw it on a Home Educating Group on Facebook a few months ago. Now all the chocolate has gone from Christmas I finally got round to it a few days ago. I can confirm it is delicious!

Recipe

3 tbsp plain flour
1.5 tbsp cocoa
3 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp bicarb of soda
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla essence or other flavour (I used orange flavouring as I didn’t have any vanilla in the cupboard!)
optional spoonful of choc chips/nutella etc

In a mug (or small bowl) mix the flour, cocoa, sugar and bicarb. Add the vegetable oil, milk and flavouring and mix well until creamy with no lumps. If adding choc chips, sprinkle them on top. If using nutella or similar push it under the mix until it is fully submerged.

Bake in the microwave. I cooked it for 2.5 minutes on full power (800W) but you’ll probably need to use trial and error to get the time right!

Eat and enjoy .. perfect for a cold winter’s evening 🙂

 

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Stencils and Scones

This morning I finally got round to opening the Melissa and Doug Textured Stencils the kids got for Christmas.

They got a set each so we have one dinosaur set, one sea life set and one insects set. The sets come with 4 textured stencils, 1 pencil, 3 non-roll crayons and an eraser. Jasmine and Thomas enjoyed using the textured part of the stencil to do some rubbing and after I had showed Jasmine how she could combine the traditional stencil part with the rubbing she had a good go at doing this herself. It isn’t easy but she had a good go.

Ladybird Stencil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This afternoon we made scones. I got the cookie cutters out and let the kids choose what shapes they wanted.. well, guided by me as some of the shapes they wanted wouldn’t have worked! We made (to name a few) square, pentagon, heart, triangle, car, rocket ship and rugby ball shaped scones!

Scones

 

 

 

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Marzipan Christmas Treats

The lurgy has hit the household. Thomas has been poorly for a couple of days and it looks like Ben might be going the same way. Gordon had to stay overnight at work last night so needed to sleep today, so I needed an activity that would keep all 3 kids (both poorly and well!) occupied and reasonably quiet.

Out came the Marzipan and we made “Christmas sweets”.

We used one block of natural marzipan and red, blue and green food dye.

Marzipan ModellingJasmine got stuck straight in, making some very detailed models of snowmen and a present. The boys played with the marzipan for a bit until I suggested they should be making something Christmassy! Thomas wasn’t really too sure what to do but suddenly decided to make some Christmas Wreaths and then candy canes and Ben added some details on to a snowman and Christmas Tree that I had made for him.

Marzipan Wreath

Making a Marzipan Snowman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marzipan Christmas Tree

 

and our finished “sweets”

Marzipan Christmas Treats

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