Planet Posters, Seasonal Cooking & Fungi Fieldtrips

I’ve been busy working on other projects recently and have neglected my blog a bit. But it feels like a new season has started and I felt the desire to share what we’d been doing this morning πŸ™‚

With the school rush a part of our routine again, I’m enjoying the slow development of weekend days. When the weather is favourable, we’ve been going for long nature walks. The girls have told me their favourite place to visit at the moment is Rowallane Gardens. I love the fact that it is so easy to get to but it feels like pure escapism. The trees are beautiful autumnal colours at the moment and I find it helps to reset my mind just being around them. There is definitely something to the Japanese practice of tree bathing. I find watching the kids climbing trees, or just being surrounded by them really healing.

I love walking around the lake and seeing the weeping willows. My kids attempt to play Pooh sticks every time we go but seem surprised each time they discover there is no current to carry their sticks away πŸ™‚ Still, sitting on a bridge prodding at things in the water does them good. I don’t think there is enough down-time for kids nowadays and I like them to experience it when they can. They have found a tree that they call the “Sliding Tree” because it bows in the shape of a slide. I’m surprised they haven’t destroyed their leggings on it yet, but it keeps them happy πŸ™‚ I brought some sausages in a flask and we had hotdogs beside the bandstand. It reminded me of when I was little and we used to have a school barbecue in that spot πŸ™‚

I like walking around the Old Wood part of Rowallane at the minute. There is something spooky about it, so it makes sense they put their Halloween hunt there. They have started to put together some of the tree sculptures. The girls said that they were “scary” but seemed to still want to pose for photos with them πŸ™‚ They have put up little signs about fungi-spotting. There are lots of different kinds if you look around for them. I find it calms my kids looking for things like that – doing anything that resembles a treasure hunt. They became really interested in finding as many different kinds as they could and liked the ones that looked like frills πŸ™‚

They have made a little fairy town out of some tree stumps and the girls were pretending to walk their fingers up the stairs into the little house πŸ™‚ I love finding unexpected things that people have made along the way πŸ™‚ Afterwards, we played Hide and Seek in the walled garden and had some snacks at the cafe. I love the outdoor terrace. It always seems to get the sun when nowhere else does, and it feels like we have left Northern Ireland while we’re there πŸ™‚ Every time we go, I get a scone and my daughter devours most of it, but she still declares that they aren’t as good as “Nannie’s scones.”

I have been experimenting with some new recipes over the last week. I got a book called “Feed your Family for Β£20 a Week” and it has lots of good recipes in it πŸ™‚ I made a sausage casserole yesterday that the kids actually ate, and enough lentil soup to feed a whole town πŸ™‚ There is a recipe for granola too and it turned out better than any I have got from the shops. I also found a recipe for a three ingredient Christmas cake and wanted to experiment with it. It turned out surprisingly well for something with so few ingredients. I added some Baileys to it and I might make a version of it for Christmas time with an attempt at icing/marzipan on it πŸ™‚

It felt Wintery to me yesterday, so we had a pyjamas day in the house. I love finding old movies I loved as a kid and watching them with the girls. We watched Dennis the Menace. It was one of the few non-cartoon films that they have found hilarious. I keep those packets of microwave popcorn in the house so I have them on hand for a cinema day. You can get four of them for a pound in Home Bargains πŸ™‚

We made some gingerbread men. I’m not quite sure why I’m doing so much Christmas-style baking in October, but it just felt like appropriate weather for it. Gingerbread men are the one kind of biscuit both my kids will eat πŸ™‚ They love icing them and adding sprinkles too. The girls just wanted to use all the cookie cutters we own so we have a bit of a mixture of seasons biscuits-wise πŸ™‚

We hadn’t got around to completing the girls’ Toucan boxes, so we made the planets poster. You had to dye coffee filters, using felt tips and a water pipette. Then, you had to add bright tissue paper to add another layer of dye. The effect was interesting and they did come out with a mottled, planet-type surface πŸ™‚ When they had dried, the girls glued them over the holes in the poster and added stickers. To finish it off, they added some glow in the dark stars πŸ™‚

We also made a dreamcatcher. The girls had to paint the wooden hoop with watercolours first. While we waited for it to dry, we had an autumn painting session together and we all painted pumpkins πŸ™‚ We talked about adding more than one colour running through an object and my daughter seems very interested in that now πŸ™‚ When the hoop was dry, we threaded cord through it with a plastic needle πŸ™‚ It’s good practice for kids to get the hang of sewing without the finger-pricking part πŸ™‚ We decorated it with hanging beads and feathers and my daughter put it up in their bedroom to ward off bad dreams πŸ™‚

It felt like a gentle kind of day and it was a welcome break from running around, picking up and dropping everyone off πŸ™‚ I felt much more ready to face the week this morning and my mind felt rested for once. I think my version of lying down binge-watching a boxset is making things with my hands, and my kids might be the same way πŸ™‚

Cheap Cheesy Biscuits Recipe

This recipe was quickly thrown together and it worked out to be edible so thought I’d share it. It might not be the healthiest snack for kids, but at least there are no unknown ingredients or sugar in it πŸ™‚ It also makes a good activity for kids eager to cookie cut πŸ™‚

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup grated cheddar

1/2 cup chilled, cubed butter

1 egg

Splash of milk

Shake of salt (optional)

Method

Measure flour into a bowl and rub in chilled, cubed butter to make breadcrumb-like consistency. Add grated cheese, egg and milk. (Salt too if you like.) Mix to combine but don’t over-mix. Β Shape into a ball and chill in fridge for 1/2 an hour. Roll out the pastry. Your hands might work better than a rolling pin because of the crumbly texture. Cut out cookies and place on baking parchment/ greased tin. Put in preheated oven at 180c for 10 minutes. Enjoy πŸ™‚

Cheap Minestrone Soup

This is my β€œI can’t be arsed going to the shops” recipe. It’s a good way to use up leftover vegetables and pasta too. I always keep frozen vegetables in the house so I can make healthy meals without having to go out and buy fresh stuff first. My kids mostly just pick the pasta out of this, eating around everything that is a vegetable/could be posing as a vegetable – but with their fussiness levels, that is to be expected. You can use any veg you like. It’s good with a mixture of root veg/greens/pulses.

Ingredients

1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 carrots
1 potato
2 large mushrooms
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
900ml veg stock
Two handfuls of random pasta shapes
Broccoli/frozen green veg
Large handful of peas/beans
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Generous shake of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Fry garlic, onion, chopped carrots, potatoes, mushrooms (all fresh veg) in oil until onions are clear. Add tin of tomatoes and stock, herbs/seasoning and cook on medium heat for 15 mins. Add pasta and lower heat. Add frozen veg and beans/peas for last few minutes. Allow it to cook until thickened and flavours developed. This is good with homemade bread and cheese sprinkled on top.

Kids Smoothie Cups Recipe

Smoothie Cups For Kids (and Adults) Recipe

This isn’t really a proper recipe, but I thought I’d share it since it went down as well with my kids as ice cream, without the hyperactive results. I was looking for easy ways to entertain kids today since I’m sick and these took two minutes to make and eating them kept them entertained for a long time πŸ™‚ they’re like a cross between a smoothie and frozen yogurt.

Ingredients

1 frozen banana (just peel and shove in the freezer and add straight to blender)

1 handful frozen strawberries

a few blueberries

2 tbsps Greek yogurt

300ml whole milk (or any milk you like)

a large squeeze of honey

1 tsp chia seeds

Method

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until you have achieved your desired consistency. Β Give it to them in little cups with spoons, party cups or add an umbrella if you want to make them for a party πŸ™‚

I got all of the ingredients in Lidl. They have lots of frozen berries which are great for smoothies πŸ™‚

Cheap and Cheerful Pizza Sauce (40p)

A lot of people seem to buy jars of pre-made pizza sauce, which admittedly is probably less effort, but probably costs more and doesn’t taste as good. This sauce is so easy to make and goes particularly well with this pizza dough recipe: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/pizza-dough-recipe-1921714

This is the best pizza dough recipe I have found. It tastes as good as takeaway pizza and you can let the dough rise in the fridge overnight if you want to make it the day before. It also freezes really well.

Here is the recipe for sauce (I am hoping all of these measurements are accurate since I typically just throw things at a pot.)

Ingredients:

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 clove of garlic

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp rosemary

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oil

Throw all ingredients in a pot (apart from the oil) and simmer on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until all the flavours have combined.

Take it off the heat and stir in the oil, transfer to a blender and puree as smoothly as you like. I usually do mine in a smoothie maker and it comes out really smooth and a very vibrant colour, but you can use a blender, hand blender or if you have neither, just mash it really well πŸ™‚ This usually makes enough sauce to top three 10 inch pizzas. (You can double the recipe to make a larger quantity.) The sauce also freezes well (just drain off any excess liquid when it defrosts before putting it on the pizza.)

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For a really quick pizza use this on pittas, grilled muffins, bagels or make pizza toast for kids πŸ™‚