The Hungry Catepillar Cake

Coco’s First Birthday Cake – “Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersat”

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I can’t believe it’s just over 400 days since little Coco splashed into our world. It’s such a parent cliche, but time has really flown by and our tiny bundle of joy is now flying around (on all fours), opening everything, pulling down anything she can get her hands on and generally causing chaos!

She is also developing her own sparkling personality and early indicators are that she is very strong-willed and determined (eek!); has no concept of danger or risk whatsoever; is a real extravert; and full of laughs and smiles!  We feel so privileged: seeing our little charges growing up and developing.  Sure it’s tough at times and Mr C & L (who loves his sleep) is still recovering from the first 8 months of Coco’s life when it seemed she would never sleep through the night!  Thankfully, she’s now a much better sleeper, although still a partygirl at heart – I think she’ll cause her Papa to have many more sleepless nights in years to come!

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Naturally, every party girl needs a party cake.  I was quite pleased with Lentil’s first birthday cake, less so with the second……!  I wanted to create a really nice cake for Coco and also quiet my sister (a third child) who constantly waxes lyrical about parents pulling out all the stops for first children and having less enthusiasm or time to do so for subsequent siblings!

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At one, Coco is a little young to be “into” anything in particular, but she does enjoy her bedtime stories (when she can stay away long enough – who would have thought during those first 8 months!) and “The Hungry Catepillar” is a favourite.  We have a bi-lingual household and have this book in both languages.  I did a bit of Pinterest research to get some ideas for Hungry Catepillar cakes – you gotta love Pinterest!

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I made a basic Mary Berry sponge cake and filled it with butter cream and marmelade (I realised the jar of jam I thought I had in the cupboard was actually a jar of cranberry sauce and marmelade seemed a better option!).  In an attempt to avoid any last minute stress, I made the sponge two days early. Butter cream icing and marmelade made up the sandwich filling and I then covered the whole cake with butter cream icing.  A good tip I was given: refridgerate the cake prior to icing so the butter cream is nice and set before you add the fondont icing.

I used ready to roll fondont icing and borrowed an icing smoother from a friend, which saved the day, or rather cake!

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I drew the fruit on carboard to make stensils to cut the icing.  The trick is (as I learnt) to add the decorations to the cake before the icing starts to harden so your decorations doen’t .  This allows you to stick the various elements together and wrap them around the cake without cracking.  Undoubtedly less of an issue with a square cake.  I left the catepillar to dry and harden as it just sits on top of the cake.

Of course, I was also very, very lucky to have Toddler patisserie chef extraodinar, Lentil, to help me.  Naturally, it would have been a disaster without his assistance!!

Coco seemed to enjoy the birthday celebrations and tasted a little cake. Her first taste of refrined sugar so I was hoping you wouldn’t like it too much!

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Although she won’t remember the day or cake, hopefully she can read this post and look at the photos in future and know that she has a family that really love her and wanted to make her day really special. And her mummy definitely put in as much effort and as many hours as she did for her brother’s first birthday cake!

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Spiced Apple and Pear Compote

Delicious yoghurt topping

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Coco and Lentil are big yoghurt fans and little tubs of raspberry, strawberry, apricot or peach flavoured yoghurt are a regular after supper dessert.  Generally, Lentil chooses one first and little Coco gets whichever flavour he discards.  I allow Lentil this little concession as I suspect it will quickly come to an end once Coco starts talking!

I like to add a bit of texture and additional flavour to their yoghurts and this little compote is a quick and tasty topping.  It helps with satisfying your little charges’ 5 or 3 (depending on which school of thought you subscribe to!) a day; can be pureed for babies; and is suitable for freezing. It also makes a good combo with creme fraiche, or adds a little healthiness to an ice-cream treat!

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Makes 4 portions.

The what:

2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into kiddie bite-sized chunks

2 pears, peeled, cored and chopped into kiddie bite-sized chunks

a handful of raisins or other dried fruit

1/4 tsp of mixed spice

60ml water

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The how:

Put all the ingredients into a pan and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. The compote is ready once the apple and pear are soft but not mushy.  If the compote starts to stick to the bottom of the pan add a little more water.

Then it’s ready to serve: on its own, with yoghurt, creme fraiche or ice-cream!  It is also delicious with porridge or muesli…..endless possibilities!

Enjoy!

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Apple, Date and Raisin Compote

A versatile fruity compote – equally delicious served warm or cold

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This quick and tasty little compote is great for jazzing up yoghurts, adding to porridge or muesli, or simply on its own.  It’s also makes a delicious fruity weaning puree if you give it a few pulses with the blender.  Run out of chutney for the cheese board?  It’s a complementary substitute for that too.  I usually make extra and pop little tubs of it in the freezer. You gotta love such simple, versatile food!

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Fruit and Oat Bars

These crumbly, crunchy bars are just divine!  Mix up supermarket snacks with some home-baked treats.

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Everyone needs snacks and our family is no different!  Whenever Lentil asks for a rice cake or cereal bar I think I really need to come up with some healthy, tasty alternatives to supermarket bought treats that his Papa will also like! That’s not to say that supermarket-bought snacks don’t have their place – of course they do!  Some of the big brands now make healthy, organic snacks, which are super convenient.  I’d be kidding myself if I thought I could bake all my kids snacks, but I like to try when I can.

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Cucumber and Pineapple Smoothie

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I love this flavour combination, which I happened upon accidentally while creating Riata for my chickpea and sweet potato curry (click here in case you missed it!).  I don’t know why I never thought of cucumber and pineapple before, but I’m sure glad I’ve found it now!!

Lentil loves smoothies and now regularly asks for them, so I’m constantly on the lookout for new concoctions and this one definitely seems to be a winner. Smoothies are also a great way to use up that leftover bit of cucumber in the fridge that would otherwise end up in the bin.

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The what:

a think slice of pineapple, peeled and chopped

1/3 cucumber, peeled and sliced

handful fresh mint

4 tbsp natural yoghurt

1 tsp honey

The how:

Blend the pineapple, cucumber and mint in a food processor, then add the yoghurt and honey and blend until well combined.  You can either serve as a textured smoothie, or pass through a sieve if you prefer a drinkable smoothie without any “bits”.  Personally, I prefer the former, but some kids might be put off by the “bits”.

Have a smoooooothie day!

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Strawberry Goodness Dessert Pot

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“More strawberries?” I hear you say.  But it’s summer and they are just soooooo delicious! I just can’t get enough of these scarlet berries at the moment.  Plus I’m getting all caught up in Wimbledon fever, especially with this fantastic weather.  And heaven forbid we waste any strawberries!  So here is a little dessert I created earlier this week.  It went down such a treat with Lentil and Mr C&L that we’re having it again this evening. You can use whatever fruit you like: it’s a great way of using up any leftovers while they are still fresh.  And it’s so quick and easy, just an assembly job really, which leaves more time to focus on the main course. Just as well as I have no clue what we’re having yet! Hoping to get a little inspiration when I head to the fishmongers later. As delicious as this pot of goodness it, I’m not sure Mr C&L would want to forego a main dish for it……

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Makes one Papa-sized sharing pot and one smaller pot with two kiddie portions.

The what:

6 large strawberries, stem removed and quartered

75g blueberries

5 tbsp natural yoghurt

1 tbsp honey

large handful of granola

some orange zest for sprinkling on top

The how:

Mix the yoghurt and honey together.  If making in one large bowl, layer the bottom of your bowl/jar with half the quartered strawberries.  Dollop 4 tbsp of the honey yoghurt on top.  Next add the granola and layer the blueberries on top of that.  Add the remaining strawberries and 1 tbsp of honey yoghurt.  Finally sprinkle a little orange zest on top.  Be sure to just use the outer zest as if you go too close to the orange flesh it will be bitter.

Then grab a spoon and tuck into to this pot of deliciousness!

Would love to hear any other ideas you have for fruits to use.  xx

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Strawberry, Banana and Cucumber Smoothie

 

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In good old British tradition, we started off the week with strawberries and cream as temperatures soared and the players retreated to Wimbledon’s new ice baths!

I’ve never been a big fan of the ice treatments some spas offer following a sauna or steam – I prefer my spas to be an enjoyable experience! I did however once try a home-made ice bath after a training run for a marathon a few years ago.  I wasn’t able to stay in it for very long and I’m not sure how much it helped, but Mr Coco&Lentil certainly found it amusing!

So leaving the ice baths to the players, we’re starting day 3 off with a healthy strawberry smoothie instead to keep us nice and refreshed as heatwave continues.

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This recipe makes two large and one mini smoothie (for little Coco!) but you can just increase the ingredients to make more. Smoothies are a great way to get extra fruit and veg into little tummies. Lentil asks for seconds of this one and would never guess there is cucumber in it!

The what:

1 banana, peeled and chopped

6 big / 8 small strawberries, topped and quartered

1/4 cucumber, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp natural yoghurt

The how:

Add the banana, cucumber and strawberries to the blender and blitz until smooth.  Then add the yoghurt and blend until you have a thick, but smooth smoothie.

Pour into a glass and sit back and enjoy as there is more sun and Wimbledon excitement in store today: Djokovic meets Jarkko Nieminen of Finland; GB’s Heather Watson takes on Daniela Hantuchova; and Serena Williams finishes the order of play on Centre Court.  Can’t wait?  Neither can we!

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Blueberry and Oat Muffins

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I’ve become quite a fan of the blueberry over the last 18 months, mainly because we have a permanent stash in the fridge: they are one of Lentil’s favourite fruits along with grapes (fresh or dried). I can’t recall how the blueberry craving started. I suspect they appealed as they are small, soft, don’t have any pips or stones, don’t require peeling and are therefore convenient and an unlikely choking hazard!

As one of the original superfoods, blueberries have many additional benefits.  They are a good source of vitamin K, manganese, dietary fibre and vitamin C.  These perennial plants are also recommended for their anti-inflammatory properties and, (believe it or not!), are apparently one of the richest sources of proanthocyanidins, which can decrease free radicals linked to wrinkles!!  So not just good for the kiddies!

If, like me, you were horrified to realise your memory isn’t as good as it used to be post-kids you’ll be delighted to hear that, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods, studies indicate regular blueberry consumption is also great for your memory!

Here is a healthy mini muffin recipe packed full of these little blue berries, or if you prefer to drink your fruit check out our blueberry smoothie recipe here.  xx

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Makes 12 mini muffins

The what:

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100g blueberries

170g wholemeal flour

1 vanilla pod (or you can use 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence)

30g oats (plus a few extra for sprinkling on top)

1 egg

75ml buttermilk

60ml milk

55g unsalted butter

1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

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The how:

Preheat oven to 200 (180 fan) and place the cupcake cases in a mini cupcake baking tray

Melt the unsalted butter in a small saute pan and set aside to cool.

Mix the wholemeal flour, bicarbonate of soda, oats and vanilla in a large bowl. Next make a well in the centre of the bowl and add the buttermilk, milk, egg and butter to the well and stir quickly with a fork to combine.  Add the blueberries and fold in the flour mixture, mixing until well combined.

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Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes.  Insert a cocktail stick into the centre to ensure they are cooked.  The cocktail stick should come out clean.

Place on a rack to cool and then let the kids tuck in!

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Couscous muffins and quinoa “cakes”

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Whilst browsing my Twitter feed this week, I came across an interesting little recipe for quinoa bites from Organix and thought I’d give it a go. You’ll find the recipe at https://www.organix.com/food-planner-recipes/recipes/quinoa-bites.  Despite the growing popularity for this pseudocereal (particularly as a low gulten, wheat-free alternative), it isn’t something I’ve ever used before myself, although I have eaten it.  This made me even more curious to try out these little bites.

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They were quite easy to make and have passed the Lentil test, although we’ve renamed them “quinoa cakes”.  We’ve had a few birthdays recently, which Lentil now “gets” and as a result anything with “cake” in the name seems to go down a treat! A collective of birthdays has also meant listening to Lentil sing “happy birthday” at least four times a day such that I can’t get the tune out of my head…..

I’ve also been meaning to create a healthy little snack with couscous for a while.  I thought a cheesy couscous ball would pass the Lentil taste test.  But my couscous balls have become mini muffins as despite going into the oven as perfect almost equally sized spheres they came out anything but perfectly rounded!

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Makes 30 mini muffins, so good for parties or you can freeze some.

The what:

160g couscous

4 medium eggs, lightly beaten

1 large onion, finely chopped

70g Parmesan, grated

30g mozzarella, grated

2 tsp sage, finely chopped

large handful (approx 1tbsp) parsley, finely chopped

The how:

Pre-heat oven to 200 (180 fan).

For the couscous follow instructions on the pack.  Generally, this involves putting the couscous into a large bowl, adding about 200ml boiling water, mixing and covering for 5 minutes).  Then leave it to cool.

Add all the other ingredients to the cooled couscous and mix well.  Cover a baking tray with parchment/baking paper, mold your couscous balls / muffins and place on the paper.  Cook in the oven for 20 minutes until golden.

Enjoy!

Easter salt and sugar-free bakes

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These are a healthy, sugar and salt free little treat for little tummies.  The fruit makes them just sweet enough so they don’t last very long!

 

 

The what:

30g dried pitted dates, chopped

30g dried cranberries, chopped

130g flour

1tsp baking powder

60g unsalted butter

30ml water

The how:

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool.  Meanwhile puree the dates and cranberries with a hand-held blender, adding the 30 ml of water. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Next add the butter and puree and mix well.  Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 (180 fan).  Remove the cookie dough from the fridge and soften a little between your hands.  Roll out on a floured surface using a rolling-pin until it is about 1cm thick.  Then cut your biscuit shapes and add to a lightly greased baking tray.  Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden.

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Enjoy!

Crunchy blueberry smoothie

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I’m simply hopeless at eating pieces of fruit: I always forget (or go for the biscuit tin instead!) so I started making smoothies to try to pack in my 5-a-day.  Of course Lentil was fascinated with mummy’s new drink, especially when he saw me sprinkle granola on top, and wanted some too.  Great as a mid-morning snack or dessert for little ones.  This will only take you about 5 minutes too!

Makes one large glass or a medium and a lentil-sized glass.

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Bacon and Mushroom Quiche

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Quiche is a great sharing meal and your little ones will enjoy eating what Mama and Papa are eating too! Quiche is also an easy and healthy option for kids (or adult!) parties. I usually do a meaty and a veggie option.

You can use shop-bought shortcrust pastry or if you’re feeling a little bit of the chef pâtissier why not make your own! Click here to see how. Cooking with my own pastry makes me feel like a culinary goddess, if only momentarily!

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Simply Shortcrust

I learnt how to make pastry a couple of years ago and was amazed at how easy it is.  You really can’t go wrong (unlike some of the experiences I’ve had making bread!). It’s so much tastier than shop-bought pastry and I actually find the process quite relaxing and therapeutic.  It also freezes well so I usually make extra and use it to make another quiche or fruit pie at a later date.  Here’s a quick recipe for shortcrust pastry, which is great for quiches and savory or sweet tarts or pies.

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Lentil’s Second Birthday

Let them eat cake!

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I can’t believe my little Lentil is turning two this week!  And of course a birthday calls for some cake.  I’m having a slight melt down about said cake this year. Having only baked a couple of cakes theretofore and never having decorated any, I decided (in my wisdom) last year that I should bake / make all Lentil’s birthday cakes. Or at least until he’s about 18! Boy, am I beginning to regret my earthly-motherness now….

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