Getting Ready For Halloween!

Once the children go back to school after the summer holidays, my mind turns back to business. Part of running your own store involves thinking a season or two ahead. Now often, I can’t think a day or two ahead but I’ve learnt from experience that if I don’t get in there quick, the new product ranges are all sold out.

So the beginning of September means I have to be thinking of Halloween (and I’m afraid to say, Christmas, shortly thereafter!). This week, I had great fun looking through the Wilton 2009 yearbook and ordering new items in for our Halloween range.

Cupcake cases are always popular and I’m sure these new Halloween ones will be no exception.

Autumn Leaves Mini Muffin Cases

Autumn Leaves Mini Muffin Cases

 Sometimes the best things happen by mistake! Trying to read my hurried scrawl, I typed in the wrong reference number when I ordered from the supplier. Instead of the anticipated Christmas cake cases, these turned up and they’re  rather lovely…..just the thing for this autumnal weather. They fit perfectly in our 24ct mini muffin pans.

Spooky Ghost Cake Cases

Spooky Ghost Cake Cases

 

 Spooky ghost cupcake cases are available in standard (5cm base diameter) and mini cupcake (2.5cm base) sizes. Best sellers last Halloween, they’ve continued to sell throughout the entire year. So, a ghost’s not just for Halloween…….

Scary Cupcake Cases

Scary Cupcake Cases

These “Boo Scary” cupcake cases are a welcome addition to our Halloween range. Made by Wilton, they are available in standard size and come in packs of 75. These make a fantastic match with our new orange and black sparkling sugars also from Wilton.

 

 

I think of all the goodies we sell in our seasonal ranges, this gingerbread Haunted House has to be my favourite. It’s prebaked which means less hassle for the adults and comes with everything the kids need to make the perfect haunted house.

Prebaked Gingerbread Haunted House
Prebaked Gingerbread Haunted House

My youngest daughter doesn’t like carving pumpkins but thoroughly loved making one of these last year. In fact, Halloween fell in the middle of half-term week in Swansea so it was a great activity for passing the time, especially on the rainier days. Annabel took the completed article over to a neighbours and it took pride of place as acenterpiece for the Halloween party. 

 

 

Advertisements

September 5, 2008 at 10:05 am Leave a comment

Ice Cream For Rainy Days

OK, the summer holidays are nearly over and with the dreadful weather across most of the UK, I suspect many parents and kids will be pleased when they’re back to school. Afterall, there are only so many places you can visit when it rains day after day. But of course, you can always head into the kitchen to pass some time….. try out these great ice cream recipes.

LEMON YOGHURT ICE
(this is great for ages 3-6)
INGREDIENTS
3 large unwaxed lemons
175g icing sugar
200ml double cream
250ml Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp ice cold water

UTENSILS
2 large bowls; fine grater; small sharp knife; chopping board; sieve; wooden spoon; balloon whisk; metal tablespoon; freezer proof container

  1. Grate the lemon zest into a large bowl. Carefully cut them in half and squeeze all of their juice into the bowl.
  2. Sift the icing sugar on to the lemon juice and stir until smooth. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Pour the cream, yoghurt and cold water into another large bowl. Whisk together until the mixture just thickens – you don’t want it to get too stiff.
  4. Gently stir in the lemon syrup, using a metal spoon. Pour the ice cream into a  container and pop in the freezer for 4-5 hours, until you’re ready to eat. Take it out of the freezer 10 minutes before you need it to allow the ice cream to soften.

 

Chocolate Ice Cream
(great for 7-10 year olds to make)
INGREDIENTS
150g chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
400ml double cream
400ml milk
2 large eggs
1 tspn vanilla extract
300g caster sugar
UTENSILS
medium bowl; medium saucepan; freshly boiled kettle of water; wooden spoon; balloon whisk;
freezer proof container

  1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and put into a medium bowl. Pop the bowl in a saucepan and carefully pour boiling water in, until it comes one-third of the way up the pan. Ask for help to place over a medium-low heat, stirring until the chocolate melts.
  2. Pour the milk, cream and sugar into a large bowl. Crack in the eggs and whisk together until smooth and well combined.
  3. Once melted, stir in the chocolate into the milk and cream mix – take care as the chocolate bowl will be hot! Whisk together then pour into a freezer proof container. Pop in the freezer (or an ice cream maker if you have one – ask an adult to show you how to use it). Take out of the freezer to whisk every 2 hours, until frozen.

Try adding chocolate chips for an even better taste. For mint choc chip ice cream, add 1-2 tspns mint extract to the melted chocolate and beat in well before pouring into the cream mixture.


August 27, 2008 at 3:06 pm Leave a comment

Long Time No Blogging

I really can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted on this blog. Cottage Cooks has taken off big style, with over 100 members on our cooking courses and that’s taken up most of my time. I’ve also spent a long time looking for new ranges to add to the online store and have managed to come up with some cracking goodies. Check out our new pink and blue utensil sets for younger cooks and these amazing cupcake wrappers from the USA….they sure know how to dress up a cupcake in the States! Actually there are far too many new items to mention them all, so go take a look for yourself at www.cottagecooks.co.uk

So I’m back with a vengeance……lots of new ideas buzzing round in my head which I just need to get down onto the blog!

August 27, 2008 at 12:26 pm Leave a comment

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes with the Kids

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

Making cupcakes with children is just fantastic. I’ve yet to find a child that doesn’t love choosing the papercases (if you can’t find funky ones at your supermarket, take a look at our huge online range at www.cottagecooks.co.uk where they come in different shapes and sizes too!).  They’re easy and quick to make, with most being cooked within 20 minutes so not far off the instant gratification that smaller hands and tummys crave. Add to that some brightly coloured icing and sprinkles for decorating and you’ve hit kid cake paradise!

Annabel and I made these Mint Chocolate Cupcakes last weekend….thanks to my friend Anna from Nigella.com for providing the recipe for these in UK measurements. Originally taken from the book “500 Cupcakes”, these are a big hit with children and adults alike…..aero in cupcake form. Next week, we’re going to try to make them chocolate orange flavour…….!

INGREDIENTS
225g self raising flour                                   4 tbsp cocoa powder
1teaspoon baking powder                            225g caster sugar
4 large eggs                                                    1 teaspoon mint essence
100g plain chocolate chips                           225g unsalted butter, softened

and for the icing…….
120g unsalted butter, softened                    225 icing sugar
1 teaspoon mint essence                                green food colouring
100g plain choc chips (chocolate sprinkles or crumbled flake works well too)

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 160C (fan oven 150C). Ask your little helper to pop 18 paper cake cases in muffin tins.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into  a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, beat together the flour and sugar until well combined – this is where you need the softened butter. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating together after each addition.

Gradually add the flour mixture, stirring all the time – it’s a good idea for one to stir and one to pour. Make sure all the lumps are stirred out then add in the mint essence and chocolate chips and give another stir. Spoon the mixture into the cake cases – about a dessertspoonful in each one and the adult cook should put them in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes.

Whilst they’re cooking, tidy away all the utensils used so far and get on with making the icing. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the mint essence. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the bowl then beat together well – I find it much easier to do this im my magimix but you need to be careful of kids fingers and sharp blades, obviously!  Add a little food colouring to turn the icing mint green.

Once the cupcakes are cooked, turn out onto a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes, then cover them with icing. No need for fancy piping a little angled palette knife does the job perfectly. Top with the choc chips whilst the icing is still wet (or they all fall off!). Sit back and enjoy.

April 16, 2007 at 10:25 am 1 comment

Making Quick but Healthy Pizza

april-07-048.jpgapril-07-051.jpgBoth of my girls love pizza but I hate buying the stuff from out of the freezer. Chloe makes a fabulous pizza base but time was short today and she was filthy from a day at the stables so whilst she was in the bath, Annabel and I made pizza for tea.

We cheated by buying pre-made bases and tomato topping….I normally make my topping with tomato puree and a little olive oil to thin it but Annabel finds it too tomatoey(!) so I opted for a jar of good quality bruschetta topping.  I had quite a few things going a bit limp in the fridge so Annabel made good use of a red pepper, some onions and tinned sweetcorn that we’d opened a couple of days ago. It also gave us chance to use up the remnants of slightly hard cheese that were festering in the fridge as well as a lovely ball of buffalo mozzarella.

So once I chopped the veggies up, the meal was all Annabel’s. She spread the bruschetta topping all over the pizza base, then sprinkled over the peppers and onions. I even had a problem stopping her eating all the raw pepper! A really good sprinkling of sweetcorn then lots of different cheeses over the top and it was ready to cook.

The pizza bases came in packs of 2 so I quickly blended 150g unsalted butter with 6 garlic cloves, spread it all over the base and hey presto…garlic bread as well! The pizza cooked for 15 minutes at 180c and was divine. The garlic bread was in for the same time but could have done with just 10 minutes.  The girls and I tucked in and there wasn’t a scrap remaining for the dogs!! An excellent meal by Annabel who will be 4 on Monday……..just goes to show that even from such an early age, you can get children cooking and eating good food.

 

 

 

April 5, 2007 at 8:38 pm Leave a comment

Obese Children – Poor Diet or Abuse?

Last month, UK newspapers were filled with the story of Connor McCreaddie, an 8 year old boy who weighs a staggering 14 stone. His sheer size has led to Connor breaking 6 toilet seats, 5 bicycles and 4 beds as well as problems washing and dressing himself. Connor’s obesity and lack of fitness means that he often can’t manage the 1/2 mile walk to school so he has a poor attendance record and is missing out on vital education.                                                                 connor_mccreaddie_narrowweb__300×5002.jpg

Connor’s mother, Nicola McKeown, admits that his diet is appalling with him “demanding snacks every 8 minutes”. Until recently, he would eat 4 packets of crisps a day, 4 Yorkshire puddings with his evening meal, 2 takeaway meals a week, as well as lots of processed sausages, burgers and deep fried chips.  Connor’s grandmother, Barbara Bake feels that the family haven’t had enough support in dealing with Connor and his weight problems. She wanted him to be seen by the leading child obesity expert at their local hospital to have tests for diabetes, thyroid problems and food allergies. An unidentified health official said in the press that appointments were made for the family to see nurses, nutritionists and social workers but weren’t kept.

But in  February, the family had to attend a “child protection conference”  to determine if Connor should be put on the child protection register or even taken into care in a bid to address his obesity.  Dr. Colin Waine, the director of the National Obesity Forum in Nottingham, England, called Connor’s lifestyle “extremely dangerous,” adding he is at risk of developing diabetes in his early teens, and cardiovascular and nervous system problems in his 20s.

“He’s really at risk of dying by the time he’s 30,” Waine said.

Connor’s case attracted national attention after his mother allowed an ITV News crew to film his day-to-day life over the course of a month. But with the well publicised rise in childhood obesity and associated health problems (including reduced life expectancy) can parents still claim that they’re unaware of the dangers their (not so ) little ones are facing? And are many of us simply too indulgent towards the wants of our children?

As an ordinary mum of two, I would have to question why and how Connor was getting snacks every 20 minutes. His mother says it’s because he would throw terrible tantrums if he didn’t get them. Studies have shown that fluctuating blood sugar levels cause irritability and behavioural problems and eating processed foods would significantly raise the blood sugar level.

I do know that children can be difficult to manage and they’ll try every trick in the book to get what they want, whether it be a toy, another 10 minutes on the PS2 or a chocolate bar. Chloe and Annabel do have snacks and treats but not all the time – they’re kept out of reach and out of the way of temptation. The fruit bowl however, is kept well stocked and they both know that I don’t mind them helping themselves if they’re hungry.

Connor’s mother has argued that if he doesn’t get the food he wants at teatime, he’ll sneak downstairs and raid the fridge during the night. My argument to that would be to simply not keep chocolate and crisps in the house at all! By allowing Connor to carry on eating in this way, his mother is, to all intents and purposes, killing him. And since when did 8 year olds rule the roost? A key problem though is that fresh healthy foods are more costly and time consuming than pre-packaged meals. For our family of 4, we spend in excess of £30 a week on fruit and vegetables alone which is a over 25% of our shopping budget. So should the onus go back to the government to perhaps subsidise the cost of fruit and vegetables? Or should that be for the big supermarkets to do….make processed food more expensive and fresh food cheaper. Should the government get compulsory sprots back on the school curriculum? I don’t know but would love to share views on these ideas.

I was glad that the outcome of this case was that Connor was allowed to remain with his mother but with  supervision and help. Since Christmas, he is said to have lost over a stone which is fabulous for Connor (and perhaps undermines the theory of a metabolic disorder…). It would be fascinating to se what happens to him in the long term though.

March 31, 2007 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

Why Should Children Learn to Cook?

Children and cooking is one of the things I feel passionately about. After all, it’s a life skill that so many grow up without and when kids leave home, they haven’t the faintest idea of how to cook meals. So they become reliant upon packets of processed foods that can be popped in the microwave for ease and convenience.  Processed foods that contain high levels of salt, sugar and quite frankly some off cuts of meat that you wouldn’t really want to give to your dog if you knew where they came from!!

Children CAN learn to cook from the earliest of ages – as young as 2 or 3. Give the youngest cooks a wooden spoon and a plastic bowl to stir some ingredients in and they simply love it. They can make dishes that require “assembling” rather than cooking like these Chocolate Almond Croissants – a recipe I put together for 3-6 year olds to make for Mother’s Day breakfast. Of course, they need help as hot ovens are involved but Annabel loves making this as a treat.

INGREDIENTS 
4 croissants
200g good quality chocolate
(milk or plain is fine)
50g flaked almonds
1 tspn icing sugar
METHOD
1.Ask your helper to preheat the oven to 180°c/fan oven 160°c/gas mark 4. Sprinkle the almonds on the smaller baking tray then when the oven is up to temperature, ask your helper to put them in to cook for 3 minutes, until slightly browned.
2.Whilst the almonds are cooking, ask your helper to slice the croissants in half for you. Put the 4 bases on the large baking sheet then break the chocolate into small pieces and sprinkle it over the top. When the almonds are ready, leave them to cool for 5 minutes before sprinkling over the chocolate. Put the tops back on the croissants.
3.Ask your helper to put the croissants in the oven for 5 minutes, until they are warm and the chocolate is melted and oozing. Pop onto a serving plate then sift over a little icing sugar for a fancy finish. Serve whilst still warm.

Chocolate Almond Croissants

March 31, 2007 at 5:03 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


Categories

  • Blogroll

  • Feeds