There has been an alarming increase in the height of my children recently. It always happens in the spring. They seem to shoot up, as soon as the sun hits. The Teen is near enough my height now, and her sister seems able to look me in the eye a little bit more easily, than I’d care to admit.
And as for the Boy, well he is taking on the appearance of someone who has begun to stretch. Looking just as willowy as his sisters. Watch any of them for long enough, and I swear you can see them growing.
Now, they are not managing this on meal times alone.
The most likely form of extra nourishment, are the homemade goodies I make. The theory is that if I make them, I can keep the snacks on the healthy side. Also there is a limit to how much I can bake/grate/chop.
A big favourite at the moment is raspberry and chocolate chip muffins. Each muffin is practically half raspberries, half muffin. Not overly sweet. Rather yummy, if I say so myself. Our supply of homegrown raspberries has long since run out, so I often find “frozen raspberries” written on my shopping list. Not in my handwriting. A subtle hint to make more.
The good news is that they are incredibly quick to make and bake. I have my muffin making kit piled up ready in the cupboard. I use a cup measure as it’s so much quicker to scoop the ingredients. Speed is of the essence. Especially when you have three children who take it in turns to check if the muffins are ready yet. (Seriously, do they have a rota for who goes in next to scout for muffins?)
Apart from the milk and raspberries, the rest of the ingredients are near by in another cupboard. I reckon I can have these muffins ready to eat within 20 minutes, if not less. I win “best Mama” points if they can smell them baking as they walk up the drive after school. You cannot beat a warm muffin after a hard day
chatting with your friends studying.
So here’s how we make them (when I say we, I mean me):
In first bowl, mix the:
2 cups of self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup of caster sugar
1 cup of frozen raspberries
1/2 cup of semi-sweetened chocolate chips
In second bowl, mix the:
2 tsp of vanilla essence or lemon extract
Also need a muffin tin, lined with 12 paper muffin cases
What to do:
1. Pour the contents of the second bowl into the first, until it is just mixed. Do not over mix.
2. Divide the combined mixture between the 12 muffin cases.
3. For a 2 oven Aga, bake on the third shelf down in the top oven, for about 12-15 minutes, turning the muffin tray around halfway through. For other ovens, bake at 200°c/400°f/ Gas 6 for 15-20 minutes. The muffins are ready when they are golden brown and risen.
4. Take out of the oven. Move the muffins from the tray onto a wire rack to cool.
These muffins never make it beyond the day they are made. I live in hope of putting a batch in the freezer for another day. In all fairness, they are so quick to make, that it’s not a big problem.
More of a challenge is having enough raspberries available, which explains the added request for frozen raspberries to my shopping lists.
My solution is to plant more raspberry canes. I’m aiming to have a row of raspberries this summer. I miss my fruit cage and may have to make a new one. When the Teen was a toddler she used to
be pushed disappear in there, after meals, and feast on all the soft fruit. No need to serve up a pudding. Nothing beats fruit straight from the plant.
Yes. I need to work on my raspberry production.
Grow little raspberry plant. Grow. I have three children waiting for muffins.
Each year we exchange gifts with neighbours and friends. Mostly homemade goodies like festive cookies and sweets. Last year chocolate cherry mice were popular. The children love joining in. Especially between school breaking up and the big day. We have so much fun deciding what to make…..and sampling them, of course.
As the tradition has grown, so have my endeavours to package our gifts up in a fun and eco friendly way. Usually its the bag we send them over in, or reusing the Christmas tin our friends sent over the year before. Some go backwards and forwards each year. We have great neighbours.
This year, we will probably include chocolate chip and clementine shortbread because it is amazingly good. (Recipe below.) I’ll probably drizzle icing and gold stars, but they need a good container too. I’ve been saving up black treacle and golden syrup containers. To give them a festive twist, I knitted up candy cane inspired wraps.
The beauty of these simple knitted covers is that they could be slipped off and used as mug warmers. I’m sure they could be used for a whole number of things. Most likely we will see them again, as they cheer up another package. Next year.
As I was knitting the first one, I couldn’t help being reminded of the Grinch. A Christmas favourite.
Can I admit, I didn’t like the book at first? Not one bit. Maybe it was the greeness of the Grinch from the movies or the way poor Max had to pull the sleigh or the general meaness until the end (hope I didn’t spoil it).
Re-reading it with my children, it has grown on me over the years. With each reading, I like it a little bit more. I whole heartedly love the message it gives. We don’t need all the Christmas trimmings to enjoy this time of year. It is a chance to strengthen our community and friendships.
“Maybe Christmas, ” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas….perhaps…. means a little bit more!”
Now I’m not going to argue with that one.
Would you like the shortbread recipe? It is easy, peasy. Almost lemon squeezy, except it involves clementines not lemons.
175g (6oz) butter (cut into small cubes and at room temperature)
175g (6oz) plain flour
85g (3oz) semolina (uncooked)
85g (3oz) caster sugar
2 clementines (grated peel only)
100g (4oz) or more chocolate chips
1. Put everything, except the chocolate chips, in the food mixer and use the dough hook to mix togther. Alternatively, rub the butter into the flour by hand in a bowl and then mix everything in to the mixture.
2. Mix in chocolate chips into mixture
3. Grease a 30cm x 22cm (12″ x 9″) tray.
4. Spread the mixture evenly into the greased tray and press it firmly.
5. Prick it with a fork, but I prefer to use the fork to make lines all over the flattened mixture.
6. In a 2-oven Aga, slide tray onto the bottom runner, with the cold sheet on second runner at the top for 10-15 minutes. Turning half way through.
For other ovens, recipes seem to suggest 190 ºc/375 ºf/Gas 5 for 15 – 20 mins, but I’ve not tested it. Shortbread should be pale golden brown when they are ready.
7. Once baked, cut into desired shapes and sizes, and lift out of the tray individually onto a wire rack to cool.
I love adding semolina to shortbread. It gives a crunch without needing to add demerara sugar. These ones are sweet enough as they include chocolate chip, so cutting down on more sugar is a plus. When buying the semolina, make sure you buy the uncooked dry type, used to make semolina pudding from scratch. Not the tinned, ready-to-eat semolina. Not a crunch provider.
Needless to say, my first two batches disappeared before I had time to package them. It was a job to have enough to photograph with the recycled gift container. I went out for an hour, and they were all gone except a few when I made it home. I had to use a photo from my Instagram feed to include here.
Anyway, I hope the neighbours will like them. The clementines add a fabulous seasonal touch to the shortbread. The containers are ready. A salvaged bow from last year, is fixed on top. Now I just need to make another batch.
dk wool left over yarn from previous projects
For a Lyle’s Black Treacle 454g tin, cast on 48 stitches using the thumb method, or loosely. Stocking stitch 4 rows of red, then 4 rows of white and so on, until you reach the height of the tin. Cast off.
Sew up the sides and slip onto tin.
For a Lyle’s Golden Syrup 907g tin, cast on 72 stitches and follow the black treacle tin instructions.
There is something about gingerbread that instantly makes me think of snow. The two seem joined at the hip. It must be the warming thought of all that ginger spice on a cold day. Brr.
It wasn’t snowing today. More torrential rain that turned our little lane into a fast flowing stream for most of the day. Along with a bone chilling drop in the temperature.
It had to be a gingerbread day.
I dug out my favourite gingerbread cake recipe. For a touch of snow, I used a splodge of icing made from icing sugar and lemon flavouring. I don’t know about you, but I love the combination of ginger and lemon. The lemon some how lifts it.
Looking at the little snowy cakes, I couldn’t help thinking that there was something missing. Snowmen.
Fortunately, as it’s also hot chocolate season, I have marshmallows readily to hand, which make the perfect instant cake topping snowmen.
To make the 5 snowmen, I used:
12 or so white marshmallows
a tube each of caramel, milk chocolate and white chocolate writing icing
10 mini matchmakers
5 giant chocolate buttons
5 mini rolos
5 cocktail sticks (optional)
For each snowman:
1. Use the icing writing tubes to add 3 buttons to the side of one marshmallow and a face to the other.
2. Use a cocktail stick to make two holes in the side of the button marshmallow and push the matchmaker into each side for arms.
3. Cut another marshmallow in half with a pair of scissors
4. Using the icing from one of the writing tubes, stick the three marshmallows together in the right order
5. Again using the writing tube, stick the chocolate button on the top of the head and then a rolo on the very top. This part looks best if the rolo is upside down.
6. (optional) The snowman will stay in place more easily if you insert a cocktail stick up through the middle of it. (There is no easy way to say it. Sorry snowman.). The end of the stick can be embedded into the cake. The rolo makes it top heavy otherwise, causing the snowman to nose dive off the cake.
7. Ready to add snowman to the top of the cake.
They are more fiddly to make than the christmas light cakes I made last weekend, so I think I’ll stick with those for school parties and the like. This is fun for the family. Especially after a day of battling the weather.
My theory is that if you’re making one, then you might as well make 5, or how ever many you need. With 5 in our family, it had to be 5 snowmen. They look so jolly. Reminds me of the 5 little snowmen and the counting down rhyme, I used to sing and sign with my three when they were toddlers.
Five little snowmen, short and fat
Each one wearing a funny hat
Out came the sun and melted one
What a sad thing was that. Aaaaagh.
Four little snowmen…..
Probably not PC now. I see that the new versions have them standing in a row or made of snow, and wearing bows. Just as dashing, I think.
These marshmallow snowmen seem to be enjoying themselves….and disappearing fast. Two little snowmen left. Sledging on their sleds made of gingerbread.
Five little snowmen cakes
Sliding on gingerbread lakes
Home came the children and gobbled up three
Three less snowman to have for tea.
Not sure it will catch on.
Linking up with Skip to My Lou’s Made by You Monday Linky