These are the perfect canapé for a dinner party and your child will love helping you make them as they get involved at every level: playing with flour, rolling the dough, grating the cheese (while having a quick nibble), painting with beaten egg and sprinkling with sesame seeds.
What you need:
Block of or ready rolled puff pastry sheet
2 handfuls of strong hard cheese e.g. cheddar, gruyere or parmesan
Handful of white flour
Tablespoon of sesame seeds
Tablespoon of butter/butter wrapper to grease a tray
Take the pastry out of the freezer or fridge and leave it to adjust to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 190C. Sprinkle a flat surface with plain flour. Roll your pastry to 1/2 a centimetre thick into a rectangular shape. Sprinkle 1 handful of grated cheese onto half the rectangle then fold over. Re-roll the pastry to the original size. Cut into long strips, about an inch wide, and place on a greased baking tray. Break an egg and whisk it quickly with a fork. Using a pastry brush (or if you haven't got one, use a teaspoon), paint the strips with egg, then sprinkle with more cheese and sesame seeds. Place in oven for 10-12 minutes until they have risen and are golden. Great with a G&T (what isn't?!) and can reheated the next day.
Makes around 16 cheese straws
These are very good fun to make as there are lots of stages in which the little ones participate. Nice to do on a weekend morning for breakfast (if you are supermum, but if you had a big Friday night, I would just stick to the Cheerios...)
What you need:
Readymade croissant dough (often comes frozen in a roll)
50g of plain/milk chocolate
25g plain flour (for dusting the surface)
Preheat the oven to 200C. Allow the children to shake a little flour on a flat surface then begin to roll your croissant dough into a square, 1/2 a centimetre thick. Cut into triangle shapes. Break the chocolate into pieces and wrap each piece (preferably stick shaped) in the triangle of pastry so it resembles a croissant. Beat 1 egg in a bowl and ask the children to paint the croissants. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden.
Makes 6-8 croissants
Recipes to make WITH your children
My fondest childhood memories of Christmas were making mince pies with my grandmother. Baking with your children is a great bonding experience and all the actions of stirring, pouring and rolling are excellent for tuning their fine motor skills. Mince pies have lots of easy stages where they can get fully involved, not to mention the final stage - consumption! And don't forget, as my Dad would say to me, that Father Christmas is extremely partial to one with his glass of port...
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Dust a flat surface with a little flour and place your sheet of pastry on it, or if you have a block, roll it to 50mm thick.
Cut circles with pastry cutters. Lightly grease a mince pie tray (cupcake tray) and place one circle in the bottom of each, a dessert spoon of mincemeat inside and a circle on top. Pinch the edges of the pastry circles together then cut a slit in the top to allow the steam to escape. Beat an egg in a bowl with a fork then paint the pies with a pastry brush. If you own an appropriate cutter, place little pastry stars on top too.
Bake for 20 mins then dust with icing/confectioner's sugar.
Makes around 8-10 pies and goes particularly well with a glass of mulled wine, although Father Christmas apparently prefers port.
GI-Friendly Gingerbread Men
If the pollution is too high to go outside, or the weather sucks in general, baking is a useful indoor distraction for the kids. Not only is it an wonderful bonding activity, but all the actions of kneading, stirring and sprinkling are key in tuning their fine motor skills. Always on the hunt for healthier versions of classic recipes, these are low GI gingerbread men using coconut sugar which has around half the glycemic index of regular table sugar AND retains some of the coconut's nutrients such as iron and zinc. Or, you can use brown sugar, and yes, I am aware that the icing sugar could be healthier. Will try to find a healthier version of that next...
What you need:
350g plain flour plus more for dusting the surface
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
120g unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of maple syrup
150g of icing sugar
Sift the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and teaspoon of cinnamon.
Place in the food processor with the butter & sugar and blend.
Combine the egg and maple syrup in a bowl with a fork.
Once looking like breadcrumbs add the egg and maple syrup and combine until it forms clumps.
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Now preheat the oven to 180C.
Bring it out the fridge and allow it to return to room temperature.
Generously dust the surface and roll the dough to 0.5cm thickness, cut shapes, and place on a greased oven tray. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until slightly firm & brown.
To make icing sugar, combine 1 cup of icing sugar with a drop of filtered water and stir until it forms a paste. Add water DROP BY DROP only if you need more to form a paste.
Makes A LOT (possibly 15-25 gingerbread men depending on how much dough the children consume during the process, so you will have plenty to give away.)
Gluten Free Beetroot & Chocolate Brownies
What you need:
250g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids). I used Lindt.
100g butter, plus more to grease the tin
250g cooked beetroot - I roasted 2 large beets
150g coconut/brown sugar (for bittersweet taste, otherwise add up to 100g more of sugar)
150g ground almonds
2 tbsp cacao or cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 180°C and cook your beets (if raw) for around an hour until soft. Peel them once cooked but keep the oven on.
Grease a baking tin with a little butter and then line it with baking parchment.
Break up your chocolate into small pieces and place into a pyrex bowl above a saucepan of simmering water, about 2 inches deep. Stir the chocolate pieces with a wooden spoon until they melt - do not have the heat up too high as you don't want to cook them
Blend the beetroots to a puree then add the melted chocolate, butter and eggs. Then add the sugar, ground almonds, cacao and baking powder until smooth.
Pour into the baking tin and and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is set and a skewer comes out clean if inserted in the middle. Don't fret if it seems a little soft as it will firm on cooling, plus it's good to be a bit gooey in the middle. Place on a cooling rack and once cool, dust with icing sugar.
Serve with cream, ice cream and/or berries.
Shredded Wheat Squares
This is a great way to turn an unwanted, unloved box of Shredded Wheat into a far tastier snack. I made them with my daughter so a great bonding activity while the school holidays are STILL on. I spied the recipe on the back of the box then tweaked it marginally for healthier ingredients and a slightly easier method.
What you need:
2.4 cups of shredded wheat (small cereal size), broken up
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup runny honey
1/4 cup coconut nectar
3/4 cup raisins
Butter to grease the tray
Grease a shallow baking tray with a little butter.
Break up the shredded wheat by breaking each little piece with your thumb. Add the raisins to these.
Take a pan and over a low heat, combine your sugar, honey, peanut butter and coconut nectar. AS SOON AS it is bubbling and runny, mix quickly with the shredded wheat and raisins. You must act quickly otherwise the liquid will harden again. Heat again if this is the case. This is tricky as it doesn't seem like there is enough liquid, but do persevere.
Then quickly press it into the tray, which again is difficult, but just keep pressing. As the mixture cools, you can use your hands, which is slightly easier.
Allow to cool then cut into squares. These keep well in the fridge in an airtight box for a few days.
Umbrella Cupcakes for a Rainy Day
Martha Stewart, eat your friggin' heart out! I got this idea from the world acclaimed cookery bible: Peppa Pig Magazine. They included a cupcake recipe but you could use any you like. My personal favourite, fail-proof, classic cupcake recipe is from the Hummingbird Bakery, London (link is below). Bake your cakes, apply buttercream icing to the top, decorate, slice in half then insert a bendy straw in the bottom - you need to trim each end to get the right shape. Could this be a more ideal rainy day activity in the school holidays?!