Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Crazy Mini Quiche Collection – Oscar helps cook his lunch!

Finally the time has come, Oscar is really keen to help with the cooking!  He’s always asking what different ingredients are and wanting to stir things…I have my own little sous chef.

His first efforts were at Christmas with mince pies and he did really well.  Since then I’ve been wondering whether making his own food will tempt him into trying new things, whether this could be the breakthrough I’ve been waiting for.  Could this be goodbye to the endless days of pasta with grated cheese?  I guess time will tell but for now I resolve to get Oscar more involved in the kitchen. Move over Jamie, there’s a new kid on the block!

With the success of his mince pies under his belt (not that he ate any but he did get lots of praise for his new found cheffing skills), I thought I’d keep to the same idea but go savoury, and this rather eclectic mix of mini quiches is the result of our joint effort.

I chose to put tomato in mine, Nick went for ham and cheese and Oscar…..hot dog!  Well who am I to argue, so hot dog quiche it was.  Put anything in, peppers, spinach, poached or smoked salmon, whatever takes your fancy.

Makes 24 mini quiches.  Sounds like a lot but the three of us got through almost 20 at lunch time yesterday!!  They will freeze well if you have some left.

1 shortcrust pastry sheet (320g)
2 eggs
120ml milk
100g grated cheddar cheese, plus extra for grating on top
1 onion, finely chopped
plain flour - for dusting the worksurface
olive oil
fillings of your choice

You will also need a 7 cm round cutter and a 24 cup bun / muffin tray.  If you only have a 12 cup tray just use a bigger cutter.

Heat the oven to 220°c.

1. Gently soften the onion in a frying pan with a little olive oil for 5-10 minutes.  Meanwhile measure the milk, eggs and grated cheese into a bowl and mix well.  Stir in the onion.  At this point I blitzed the mixture with a hand blender but this isn’t really necessary.

2. Unroll the pastry.  It is quite thick so sprinkle some flour on your work surface and roll it out a little further to make it thinner.  You can use a block of ready to use shortcrust pastry but I’m all for less work!

3. Cut out circles of pastry using the cutter and carefully line the holes in the tray. 

4. Place your choice of filling in each little quiche and then pour over the milk mixture.

5. Put a little grated cheese on top of each quiche and put them in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until they are risen and golden brown.

So, the million dollar question is… did Oscar eat his?  He did, but it wasn’t as if he really wanted to.  First of all he dived into the middle to retrieve his prized lump of frankfurter and then had to be coaxed along to eat the rest.  Not bad though considering it was something he hadn’t had before,  anything new is usually glanced at and pushed away with the comment  ‘Gusting Mummy’.  So I think we could be on to a winner here.  Oscar’s lunch score – 2/5.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Cheese & Onion Baked Potatoes

I first tried these when I was about 10 years old on a family trip to Aviemore in Scotland.  We stayed in a lovely hotel which had a family restaurant called the ‘Potato Train.’ The tables were in little booths made to look like the carriages of a train and I loved it!  It served all kinds of amazing baked potato creations and these were my absolute favourites.  

The idea is to bake a potato then scoop out the middle, mash it with all kinds of yummy things and pop it back into the skin – genius and just a little bit addictive.  Over the next few years my lovely Mum spent countless evenings scooping out potatoes from their skins to satisfy my cravings.   

I would absolutely love to make these for Oscar, but I’m afraid this blog post is a complete and utter cheat as he still flatly refuses to eat any kind of potato, even chips!  I wanted to post this recipe as I really think they are a great idea for any potato-eating kids, so cheat I must.  They are perfect for grown-ups too - Nick and I had ours with steak - YUM.

This will serve 2.

2 baking potatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
olive oil
4 tbsp crème fraiche
2 big handfuls grated cheddar cheese
Splash of milk

Heat the oven to 180°c

1. Wash and dry the potatoes then prick them all over with a fork.  Put them straight onto the oven shelf and bake for 45 mins – 1 hour.

2. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, gently soften the onion in a little olive oil for about 10 minutes. 

3. Take the potatoes out of the oven and either cut in half or cut a small hole (big enough for a spoon) in the top, keeping the ‘lid’ for later.  Carefully scoop out the potato without breaking the skin and place it in a bowl (use oven gloves when you do this).  Put the skins to one side.

4. Put the onion, crème fraiche and most of the cheese into the bowl with the potato and mash it all together with a fork.  Add a little milk to thin the mixture if you want to and some salt and pepper.

5. Put the potato mix back into the skins, sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and put the ‘lid’ back on if you have kept your potato whole.  Put them on a baking tray and back in the oven for 5 minutes until the cheese has melted.

I can’t really give these potatoes a score, even though they are delicious. As I mentioned, this is a complete cheat and Oscar hasn’t been anywhere near them.  I really don’t know why he won’t eat a potato when he’ll quite happily gobble down a huge lump of blue play-doh as he did last week!  ‘Oscar, where’s the play-doh gone?’, ‘In Oscar’s tummy, Mummy’….of course.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Mango Mess – Happy 3rd Birthday Oscar!

It’s been a crazy, but great, start to the New Year. It kicked off in style at a wonderful hotel in the New Forest with all my family, shortly followed by the dreaded potty training (there have been tears (all mine) but we are now doing well). Most excitingly though we have had Oscar’s 3rd Birthday. 

Unsurprisingly the house is now full to the brim with toys and Oscar is convinced that in order for a day to be complete, he must receive presents!  

To celebrate Oscar's big day we had a family party at home, forgot all about any resolutions to eat healthily and tucked into some proper party food.   Nick made an amazing melt-in-the-mouth beef stew which we had with creamy mash (Oscar had his with pasta of course due to his continuing potato aversion). This was followed by Mango Mess for dessert, my Oscar-friendly version of the classic Eton Mess. It is sticky and sweet and, despite being laden with cream, should be eaten guilt free because you are getting one of your five a day!  This is the easiest recipe ever -

125g meringue (I used meringue nests)
1 pint double cream
250g pack ready prepared mango pieces

The best way to do this is to prepare all the separate ingredients and mix them together at the last minute as the meringue goes soft quite quickly.

1. Crumble the meringue into small pieces.

2. Whip the double cream.  Try not to over-whip, stop just before you think it is ready as this dish is best when the cream is still a little soft.

3. Puree the mango using a hand blender.

4. When you are ready to eat, mix the cream and the meringue together and serve in small bowls then spoon over the mango puree. 

Everyone devoured their Mango Mess and I defy even the fussiest eater to turn their nose up at this one.  Oscar’s lunch score – 5/5 - a very satisfying start to the New Year.

Dessert really had to be an easy one as I had already spent about 10 hours sweating away making the birthday cake. Oscar has a train obsession and his particular favourite at the moment is Shinkansen: a little bullet train that I hoped and prayed my cake would turn out to look like.  After hours of beating, baking, carving, icing and piping (black icing onto a white cake…terrifying) I literally fell into my bed exhausted. All the effort was absolutely worth it though, when, at the end of his party, I asked Oscar what his favourite thing about the day was and he thought for a second or two before saying ‘Cake’.  Yay!  Happy Birthday little man.

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