Toddler Life – Self Feeding with Oxo Tot

Toddler Life – Self Feeding with Oxo TotThere comes a time in the life of every toddler when being spoon fed just isn’t good enough. The food looks funky, the colours are appealing and they simple want to have a go themselves… It is a great stage, yet at the same time a very messy period in their development!

Toddler Life – Self Feeding with Oxo Tot Feeding SetOxo Tot sent us a lovely toddler feeding set to aid in minimising messiness during this time.

The set includes:

  • Fork
  • Spoon
  • Plate
  • Large bowl

It is design for kids from 12 months old. Well, Leo isn’t 12 months yet… he will be soon… very soon… but he is more than ready and eager to attempt independent eating.

The Oxo Tot feeding set is extremely well made plus it is pleasing to the eye. Its design is very clever and extremely helpful.

Toddler Life – Self Feeding with Oxo Tot - PlateLet’s take the plate for example: its base is weighted and non-slip so it is not so easy for it to slide plus it features a raised curved ring, which really helps with keeping the food inside the plate instead of on your floor. The ring can be removed if / when needed which means that plate will grow with your toddler.

Toddler Life – Self Feeding with Oxo Tot - Large BowlThe bowl was the perfect size – 360ml. It is ideal for most meals, which means you really have no need for an entire selection of different dishes. The bowl features a non-slip weighted base and high walls to make scooping food an easier task.

Toddler Life – Self Feeding with Oxo Tot - Spoon & Fork Toddler Life – Self Feeding with Oxo Tot - Spoon And ForkBoth spoon and fork feature generous handles with soft, non-slip grips which are very easy to handle by your little ones hands 😉

I have to admit, we like the set; we like it a lot. It makes feeding time a more enjoyable experience. Plus it is BPA, phthalate and PVC free and it is dishwasher safe (yes, I am just being selfish now but I really dislike doing the dishes). The set is priced at £18 which makes it a great value for money.

Toddler Life - Self Feeding with Oxo Tot Feeding SetWe are giving a big thumbs up to the Oxo Tot set – great looks; great quality and helpful design, we couldn’t ask for more.

Healthy Snacks – Home Baked Banana Chips

Healthy Snacks – Home Baked Banana ChipsIt would appear you liked my Apple Chips recipe, so today I have for you a different fruit based healthy snack variation – home baked banana chips.

This time I’ve dried just pure bananas, no additions whatsoever.

It worked perfectly and the final chips were mega crunchy and super tasty.

So, what will you need to make some at home?

Well, the ingredients list contain just one item: bananas 🙂

As to everything else you will also need:

  • Pre-heated oven (120C)
  • Baking tray lined with baking parchment
  • Fantastic knife skills or a mandolin
  • Airtight container for storage

So how do we make it?

Creating home-baked banana chips couldn’t be easier.

Basically, all you need to do is to slice your bananas and pop them to the preheated oven.

As you know my chopping skills aren’t perfect so yet again I used my Oxo Chef’s Mandolin Slicer and sliced all my bananas to 4mm thick pieces.

Then, they were evenly placed on the baking tray (nicely lined with paper) and placed in the oven.

30 minutes later I removed them from the oven and flipped all the slices over. The turning process isn’t as easy as with apples as the bananas do not warp or twist like the apples do, so you have to be very careful when turning them. They are also much stickier, but with a little practise and a thin blade, you will have every piece upside down in no time.

Once they are all tuned over pop them back into the oven and allow them to dry for another 30 minutes.

When the time is up, take them out of the oven and set aside to cool.

Your chips will still be drying out slightly when you take them out from the oven.

After 10 or 15 minutes you are ready to have a taste 😉

Top Tips:
Use only ripe, ready to eat bananas. As there is no extra sugar you really don’t want to “chip” the green ones as they will not be as sweet and offer a more bitter experience.

Bananas are sticky and quite fragile, so it is best to use a very sharp knife or a good quality mandolin for slicing otherwise they will simply lose their shape and you risk them turning into a mush.

Remember: bananas have a high-calorie count. A bowl of banana chips might not look much but calorie wise it will be.

Healthy Snacks - Home Baked Banana ChipsWhat do you think about my banana chips?

Will you be making some?

Yum

Healthy Snacks – Home Baked Banana Chips

Healthy Snacks – Home Baked Apple Chips

Home Baked Apple Chips

Just a few days ago Canderel challenged me to come up with a low-calorie recipe. This morning I received my Canderal sweetener and a small shopping voucher so I decided to knuckle down and get straight to work. My first instinct was to bake a cake, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew that a cake would not be an ideal solution… after all try as you might you can’t really resolve all your problems with cake alone 😉

In my head I browsed through endless recipes from the past which would be suitable and after a while I stumbled onto a blast from the past – Home Baked Apple Chips, perfect I thought to myself.

Healthy Snacks – Home Baked Apple Chips.

Growing up, both my parents and my grandparents had allotments, so in the harvest season there was always an abundance of fresh fruit. Being frugal by nature we would always turn them into something else, something more suitable for storage over those long winter months. A lot of apples were therefore turned into dried apples. They didn’t look like my chips here, they were bigger and chunkier but the principle is the same… they make for a perfect, healthy snack and best of all they have a very low calorie count.

So let’s make some Home Baked Apple Chips.

Home Baked Apple Chips with Canderel and cinnamon

Ingredients:

2 large apples

3tsp Canderel granulated sweetener

1tsp cinnamon

1 lemon (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to a very cool 120C (fan assisted).

Line two large baking trays with non stick baking parchment.

In a small bowl mix your Canderel granulated sweetener and the cinnamon.

Make sure you have a fine sieve ready for action.

Home Baked Apple Chips and my  Oxo Chef’s Mandolin Slicer

Finely slice your apples. I don’t have any fully developed chef like knife skills, so I used my Oxo Chef’s Mandolin Slicer. Using a mandolin allowed me to have all my slices of equal thickness which makes baking them later on so much easier.

Place your sliced apples on earlier prepared baking trays.

If you are going for the lemon option, this is the time to do it. The lemon will stop your apples from going brown from oxidation but at the same time it will inevitably add a hint of lemon flavour to your apple slices. I skipped the lemon step this time round but if you are opting in simple cut your lemon in half and juice it on top of your apples.

Healthy Snacks - Home Baked Apple Chips

Using your fine mesh sieve, sprinkle your Canderel and cinnamon mixture all over the apples.

Pop them into the oven and set the timer to 30 minutes.

After this time remove both trays from the oven and turn your apple slices over.

Pop them back into the oven for a further 30 minutes.

Once the time is up, remove from the oven and allow them to cool.

When completely cool store them in an airtight container, if they are not for immediate consumption (be warned though, you will want to try one to see what they taste like which in turn leads to trying another one and then as if by magic you only end up putting three pieces into the airtight storage container).

My Healthy Snacks – Home Baked Apple Chips.

Top Tips:
Do not be tempted to bake them without lining the trays… I know as I did it and the whole batch was ruined as they arc welded themselves to the bottom of the trays!

Your baking time will depend on the thickness of your apple slices (as a guide mine where around 2mm thick)– the thinner the apples, the shorter the cooking time, so please watch them a bit more closely when you bake them for the first time just in case they will need a bit less time. When they start to bend and the edges start to lift this would be your sign that they are almost ready to be turned over… give them another 5 minutes and then perform the flips.

My Healthy Snacks – Home Baked Apple Chips

Do you like fruit chips?

Have you ever made home baked apple chips?

Yum

Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

my autumn cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

Betta Living in celebration of National Cupcake Week have challenged bloggers to come up with an innovative and interesting variation. So with the nights’ drawing in and the temperatures definitely on a downward trend culinary thoughts wander towards comfort foods and homely foods. In light of this I would like to offer my take on an Autumnal Cupcake.

Turn your oven on to 180C and let warm up

Prepare your cupcake trays and line them with paper forms.

Ingredients for the cupcakes:

  • 2 large carrots; grated
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200ml sunflower oil
  • 220g brown sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1.5tsp baking powder
  • 0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5tsp ground ginger
  • 0.5tsp ground nutmeg
  • A handful almonds; chopped
  • Pinch of salt

Ingredients for the decorations:

  • 200ml whipped cream
  • 125g mascarpone cheese
  • 1.5tblsp icing sugar
  • 1 large carrot
  • 250ml water
  • 220g caster sugar
  • Orange food colouring

Method:

Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the baking powder and the bicarbonate of soda.

Now add the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) and the pinch of salt and mix well.

In a second bowl gentle whisk the eggs together mix in the oil; sugar, grated carrots and vanilla extract, you are wanting the ingredients to be just combined.

Now add your wet ingredients to your dry ones and throw in the chopped almonds and combine gently.

Spoon into your paper cupcake forms, you should have enough mixture for 18 cupcakes.

Place into your preheated oven for 20-25minutes or until golden brown and a wooden toothpick comes out clean when stuck into your cupcake.

Turn the oven down to 110C.

1. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

Allow the cupcakes to cool as we get ready to start creating the decorations.

2. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

Wash your carrot and peel it and dry with some kitchen roll. With a sharp knife you can turn half the carrot into julienne pieces and the other half into wafer thin leaves, or if you are like us who have good but not stunning knife skills then drag out your Oxo Chef’s Mandolin Slicer (other makes are available) and it’s done in seconds.

Add the sugar to the water in a heavy based saucepan and put on a low heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Add all the pre-cut carrot pieces to the pan and boil gently for 10-15 minutes.

Sieve the carrots to remove the excess water and place on a baking tray that is lined with baking paper, space them out so they each have lots of space. Place in the oven 20-25minutes.

3. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

Remove them from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool you want to roll the leaf shaped pieces around something like a skewer to help form the curl shape. The julienne pieces you want to tie together into knots. Once all the pieces are formed pop them back into the oven for another 20 minutes, we are wanting them to be very dry.

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form and then add then fold in the mascarpone cheese and the sugar. Split your cream if desired so that different colours can be added, we have created a nice orange cream to accentuate the cupcake base.

So we should now have 18 lovely baked cupcakes, a tray of carrot decorations and a bowl of topping.

Now all that is left to do is find your piping bag and let your imagination run riot.

Have fun and enjoy!

4. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff7. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff6. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

Travelling for food – USA the land of BBQ and the ultimate pulled pork

Travelling for food BBQ

Did you know that over 40 per cent of travellers aged 18-34 have chosen a holiday destination specifically because they wanted to try a certain type of food? Good news, wouldn’t you agree?

According to an ICE survey more and more young people are indulging in food tourism. The numbers are reversed as the age of those surveyed goes up; only 11% of people over 65 let their stomach do the decision making for them.

It’s a shame that our older population isn’t so adventurous but it is nice to see that young people are willing to try and discover new things, food included.

We love new foods and would be happy to take a trip just with food in mind. One of our dream destinations is USA, the land of real BBQ. Yes, seeing the Great Canyon, Niagara Falls or driving on Route 66 would be awesome and a once in a lifetime experience but visiting USA BBQ hot spots would give us much more pleasure.

You might think “Hold on a minute, really, travelling to USA just to have a BBQ?” Yes, we would. Mainly because USA BBQ has nothing to do with blackened half burnt sausages that are still raw in the middle or poorly looking shop brought burgers, which tend to dominate UK BBQ parties. USA BBQ is a full on trip to flavour town that has elevated the humble BBQ to an art form; be it a pulled pork from Tennessee, hickory smoked brisket from Texas or glazed ribs from Missouri and please don’t even get me started on spicy chicken wings or any one of the variety of handmade burgers. USA is truly the chosen land in regards to BBQ.

Travelling for food Primo

Mark and I like BBQ but we simply can’t afford to be travelling to USA every time we feel like having a pulled pork butties, so we decided to learn how to cook it ourselves and invested in some pieces of real BBQ equipment of our own. We bought ourselves a Primo. Primo is the USA’s most popular barbeque / smoker used for home or in a small industrial setting. No, you can’t buy it on the continent, if you want one you will have to import it from USA, but we have something similar over here called a Big Green Egg (we never considered buying it or used it and I can’t speak as to how good it will be comparing to our Primo). The main difference between your standard BBQ and a Primo is that the Primo works like a barbeque / smoker, so you get the best of both worlds, depending on what you cook and what you are trying to achieve. You can cook on an open fire, just like your standard BBQ or you can smoke stuff in it for hours and hours… We love it and use it all year round. Being ceramic in construction it is not scared of the winter rains or even snow and it is always ready for action.

I would like to share with you a recipe for one version of the perfect pulled pork, not roast pork as it usually ends up being when sold in the UK but proper fall apart, melt in the mouth meat that just makes you smile – yes, it involves our Primo but not to worry you can simply do the same in the oven; obviously just skip the part where you would add wood chips to make the smoke – this wouldn’t be advised in the oven. If you really want to have some smoke taste on your pulled pork, on one oven cook we put some tea leaves in a tinfoil boat that we shaped and placed on the stove in an empty saucepan, when heated some lovely aromatic smoke will come. With some tongs carefully take the tinfoil boat of the heat and pop into the oven next to your meat.

Ingredients:

1 whole pork shoulder (bone included)*

For dry rub:

  • 1tbsp ground cumin
  • 1tbsp garlic powder
  • 1tbsp onion powder
  • 1tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1tbsp salt
  • 1tbsp ground pepper
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • ½ cup brown sugar

For brine solution:

  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3tbsp of dry run
  • Water to cover the entire shoulder

*You can’t buy it from your local supermarket; you will need a trip to a real butcher. Decent size pork shoulder will cost between £30- £40. It might seem like a lot but it will feed a lot of people, or a few people for a long time. Though it is worth remembering that once people start eating the finished dish; the concept of sharing does tend to take a holiday for most of them.

Method:

Rinse the pork shoulder and place in a large container, pour in the brine solution, and add water until it is completely covered. Leave in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (brining overnight 12+ hours is best). Remove from the fridge and pat dry with paper towels. Place it in a baking tray and begin coating with your dry rub. Your entire shoulder is supposed to be covered in the rub, massage the spices into every part of the shoulder until all mixture is gone. Remember to place your meat so that the fat layer is upper most before cooking. If you have a meat thermometer this would be a perfect time to use it. Place it in the thickest part, close to the bone but without touching it. It will help with assessment later on in regards to the readiness of our meat.

Travelling for food --- Pulled PorkTravelling for food -- Pulled PorkTravelling for food Pulled Pork

Now you are ready to cook it. I would put it into my Primo and leave it for about 16-18 hours, cooking low and slow at 110C and adding wood chips every few hours for the additional smoke. You can place it in the over on a shelf. Make sure you can easily see the thermometer. When it hits 93.3C (the internal meat temperature) turn your oven off and leave it inside to cool a bit, this will allow for the meat to relax and all the juices to flood back to the outer edges of the joint. After a couple more hours or so, when the internal meat temperature has dropped to 75C remove from the oven. Place on a dry, large and clean work surface, remove the crust and begin to shred. It should come apart with easy just by using 2 forks. If you are going to use your fingers I recommend some rubber gloves, it will still be very hot!

Travelling for food - Pulled Pork

If you cooked it well you should have a large amount of liquid / fat at the bottom of your cooking pan – pour it onto fat separator. Let is separate and reserve the juices for tomorrow, when you want to reheat the left over pulled pork just throw a hand full into a frying pan on a medium heat and add a splash of the juices. Cook for 2-3 minutes covered, and you can relive the awesome experience all over again … unless you have an army of hungry people already waiting to be fed 😉

Travelling for food --- Pulled pork.

That’s it; nothing less, nothing more.

We made our first pulled pork in the oven. We loved it so much but we just couldn’t understand how the same piece of meat from a smoker could taste any better, but believe me the difference is huuuuuge. A proper BBQ / smoker takes it to a totally new level, it’s the smoky taste it speaks to the inner caveperson, it satisfies some primal craving, it is the best way to enjoy cooked meat.

pulled pork 2

Have you ever been on a holiday that was based around the quest for a particular food or dish?

In a few weeks time we are going to Poland to sample some local Bigos 🙂