Jane's Fish Finger Pie

I've had The Baby & Toddler healthy eating planner on my heaving cookery book shelf for a while now, I bought it on the recommendation of a friend, mainly for more ideas to tempt TC's tastebuds and widen her repetoire. 

It's an interesting book, full of family type recipes for toddlers that can be scaled up for family meals.  As with all my cookery books I've earmarked the recipes I want to try but the Fish Finger Pie wasn't on the list.  But when a friend who also has the book said "Have you tried the Fish Finger pie, my 2 loved it" I thought it would be fun to try out.

Its all very simple.  I've halved the recipe as its best eaten fresh and it was plenty for a 2 year old and myself for lunch.

  • Grill or oven bake 4 frozen fish fingers (I had to buy some as we don't usually have them).
  • Peel a couple of medium sized potatoes - I also put some sweet potato in to up the nutritional content - and cook until tender.  Once cooked mash with butter and a dash of milk.
  • Assemble the pie as follows:  lay fish fingers on the bottom of an ovenproof dish, pour baked beans over - I used half a large tin, top the beans with the mashed potatoes.
  • Sprinkle a mound of grated cheese over the potatoes and bake for 15 minutes or until golden on top and hot through.
The verdict, it has a fair bit of nutritional value, lots of protein from the fish and beans, B vitamins, calcium, iron, vitamin C & zinc and with a side of vegetables it makes a warm, filling lunch that TC had fun making with me after a busy morning at the park.  (She spooned some beans and helped with the mash!).  

Carrot Cake

I overdid the carrot grating somewhat with my trusty food processor this week whilst making my veg-packed tomato sauce, there was nothing for it but to bake a carrot cake!  I do love carrot cake but am not always keen on eating cakes with buttercream on but I didn't slather it all the way round the sides so a little concession, I think!  I'm not a great fan of spices in cakes but have put a touch of cinnamon - nutmeg, ginger or mixed spice could also be used.  This recipe contains nuts, omit if allergic.

150g unsalted butter, nicely softened
100g soft light brown sugar
3 organic free range eggs

200g wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 generous pinches of salt

Zest of 1 large orange plus 1 tblspn of the juice
200g grated carrots
80g walnuts, chopped
6-8 walnut halves to decorate
80g sultanas

Buttercream Icing
125g Cream cheese
50g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar

Pre-heat your oven to 180C or 160C fan, line the bases of 2 x 7"/18cm sandwich tins with parchment paper and grease the sides with butter.

1.  In a large mixing bowl beat the softened butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.
2.  Add the eggs and beat together until well combined and doubled in volume.
3.  Mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and fold gently into the wet ingredients.
4.  Fold in the grated carrots, chopped walnuts, sultanas, orange zest & juice.
5.  Divide evenly between the 2 tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until a cocktail stick comes out cleanly.
6.  Cool on a wire rack.
7.  For the buttercream icing, beat the butter and cream cheese together, then add the icing sugar gradually and beat until combined.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
8.  Once the cakes are cool enough, slather buttercream icing over one half and sandwich the other half on top, then cover the top of the cake with the remaining icing.  Decorate with walnut halves.
9.  Make tea, cut a slice and enjoy.  Delicious! 


Time for Change

With the end of British Summer Time, a fresh new look is in order for the blog, I'm feeling the need for change all round, the blog is my starting point.  I'm such a tweaker though, I'll probably try out many different blog looks! 

Begone with the pink, I think I'm (nearly) over it now, even TC's new bedroom is not pink so maybe I'm cured?  I do hope not, I've rather enjoyed dressing up and buying pink in every conceivable shade for a girl, it's been a while and it has been a joy.  Slowly but surely other colours have crept into her wardrobe, the reds, the yellows, the navy denims and even the black trousers much needed especially now the colder and wetter weather is upon us and everything seems muddier.

The changing of the clocks has never bothered me in any way except losing that extra hour of sleep when they go forward in the Spring.  I have friends worried their toddlers are going to be up even earlier than they are already at 6am, I am fortunate with TC, she is a great sleeper and although this morning she awoke the expected extra hour earlier, by tonight she will be back in her stride at bedtime and up at her usual (much more civilised) 8am time tomorrow morning.

Do the time changes twice a year affect or disrupt your children's sleep pattern?

Play -Doh Fun Factory

TC is the proud owner of the Play-Doh Fun Factory - the stamp on it saying 50 years 1960-2010, very apt I thought as TC is a 2010 baby.  Some toys have been around so long which is a testament to their longevity and how some of the simpler pastimes are sometimes the best.  No digital displays, no complicated instructions, just good clean fun! 

The kit came with a couple of tubs of Play-doh but I am also going to (attempt) make some from scratch.  I have every food grade colour under the sun from my baking stash and the ingredients are pretty standard from the baking cupboard.  There are a few recipes on the internet, all very easy to put together, here is one from the lovely Zena-Marie at The Fabulous Moms Guide that we will be giving a go.  We'll be breaking out the cookie cutter shapes for a bit of freestyling but I'm not introducing glitter for now as I know she will find it irresistible and although I welcome more fun looking glittery poos, I can wait a while longer for this particular phenomenon!

The Fun Factory consists of a nifty little machine with a lever that presses out the Play-doh into 8 interesting shapes and comes with a plastic knife to trim off the resulting squiggles and shapes.  It's a great cause and effect, creative tool.  The box says 3+ years but TC is more than ready for the Play-Doh experience and mummy wants to play too!

TC and I will be baking together at some point but I thought using Play-doh would be a good prelude, lots of squishing and kneading and squirting out shapes, she was enthralled and it held her attention for longer than most things she has played with, so big tick!

Update:  We made the play-doh, see red & purple blobs above and what a success, so easy, very pliable as long as you keep it in a plastic bag when not in use, not sticky and easy to roll out to cut out shapes.  You need a lot of colouring to achieve a deep colour but definitely will be making our own again. 

wine & shoes for mummy!


Welcome Home Cake

It's been a stressful week so we've been kicking back this weekend getting whatever fresh air and sunshine we can find and just generally enjoying being back as a family again.

When Mr J was in hospital I found it hard to unwind and relax at the end of every day, so one night I found myself in the kitchen baking biscuits after TC was snuggled up in bed.  I find baking quite therapeutic especially when I do it all by hand, the measuring, the creaming, the beating (good for pent up stress!!), the scraping of the bowl and finally the licking of the spatula!

So today I've baked a welcome home Apple & Sour Cream flan cake, TC takes after me in the cake eating department, we love our cake!

Our apple trees suffered this year like most have, the beautiful, delicate pink blossoms were rained on so hard that they didn't get pollinated so no apples, the first year that has ever happened, usually we they are so prolific (we have 4 trees) we cook, bake, freeze and finally give loads to the neighbours.  So this year I had to BUY some Bramleys for this flan cake which was inspired by an old Woman & Home recipe that I have tucked away and is a firm family favourite.  I do twiddle with my recipes as I always prefer to lower the sugar content, but they still taste sweet enough.

Pre heat your oven to 180C, 160C Fan, gas mark 4
Bottom line and butter a 23cm (9") round cake tin, I use a springform, so easy to use.

My Ingredients
2 medium sized  cooking apples, peeled and cored
125g butter,softened plus a little extra to brush top of apples
90g golden caster sugar
2 organic free-range eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
100g sour cream
1 tblspn apricot jam for glazing

Beat the butter and the golden caster sugar together until pale and creamy, add the eggs one at a time and beat in.  Stir in the vanilla extract, then the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and the sour cream until smooth. 

Chop one of the apples into small bite sized chunks and finely slice the other.  Add the chopped apples to the cake batter, then spread the mixture into the prepared baking tin.  Make smooth and even then arrange the apple slices to top.  Melt a little butter and brush over the top of the cake and apples.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until the cake has risen and is golden.  It should be firm to the touch.  Cool on a wire rack, then glaze the top with the warm apricot jam.   Serve with creme fraiche or a dollop of double cream, this cake is so lovely and moist it doesn't need anything but what the heck, as I said its been a stressful week....


The Heart of the Matter Part 2

We went straight home from A&E, the dog greeted us nervously, but so pleased we were back, in the confusion he escaped from the garden and went missing for an hour.   I find a few remnants of the ambulance visit and hastily clear them away.  Later that evening I sit in Mr J's office chair, pondering the day, gazing at the family photos on the walls, being taken back in time, it is a timeline of our life together.  If you have seen the Cotton Traders current ad, that reminds me of us many years ago even down to the dog and the house on the beach!  When it's on I have to stop and drink it in, remembering those days, The house seems too quiet tonight without him.

Saturday morning arrives, I call the cardiac care unit where Mr J has been moved to.  He has had an understandably restless night, hooked up to medications and still on oxygen to help him breathe.  He is plastered with electrodes all over his chest where he is constantly monitored remotely and any changes are leapt upon without delay.  He has needles plastered to both hands where medications are being administered regularly.  He feels rough, battered and bruised and can barely speak.

We go in to visit taking fresh clothes and toiletries, I tell TC we are going to see Daddy, her quizzical face is puzzled why Daddy is here and not with us like every morning of her life so far. 

As children we don't remember much until we are around 3, my earliest memories are being left with a child minder whilst my mum went to work, I was 3, TC is just over 2, she will have no memory of of this moment in time being anything but somewhere we go to see Daddy every day for the time being.  The next day Mr J is transferred to a private room, TC thinks it's her own private playground.

As the days roll on the hospital visits have become our routine for the day, she knows we are going to see Daddy, she thinks he lives there now I suppose.  What goes on in a 2 year olds mind, I have no recollection, sadly, it seems like a great place where life is so simplistic and full of love and laughter.  As each day passes Mr J is improving and the relief is welcome for us all, from where he started a few short days ago being so very ill to recovering day by day.  He can't be discharged until he has an angiogram, they need to find out why this happened so suddenly without warning, whatever they find they will act upon as necessary, I pray it is minimal.

That day was today, he had a stent put in at lunchtime and will be home later this evening.  The scariest thing I learnt today was that his blood oxygen level at the time of collapse was 40%, I'm told this is incompatible with life and he is a walking miracle, someone, somewhere was watching over him.  Today it was measured at 98%!   I have bought a monitor for measuring blood oxygen saturation just for my peace of mind.

TC will have a lovely surprise tomorrow morning when she wakes up, I can't wait to see her face.


The Heart of the Matter Part 1

It all started with my laptop drinking a cup of tea. rotten luck seems to start somewhere and then continues on its track upsetting the applecart as it trips you up over and over in varying degrees.

This takes me to Friday afternoon, 2pm to be precise,  Mr J working from home, takes a conference call to the USA.  He asks me to keep TC occupied so she doesn't try to find Daddy and interrupt the important call.  We comply.

A few minutes later I hear an unfamiliar noise, a crashing, a banging, what's going on, I peek into the office and see Mr J struggling for breath, I slam the door open, he is staggering and rapidly going blue.  I grab the phone, disconnect the transatlantic line and dial 999 to call an ambulance, the next few minutes goes by in a blur of me telling Mr J to breathe but it's clear he is moments from stopping breathing.

The ambulance arrives and the paramedics swing into action, they have a professional calmness in the crisis that has unfolded which is reassuring and within minutes he is in the ambulance.  I ran back into the house where TC is contained safely in her cot to reassure her with a smile and a lightness of voice that everything is ok while inside the adrenalin is pumping around my system making me a little too hyper.

I take TC into the kitchen with a view to making her a snack, keeping her routine going until we can go to the hospital.  Looking out of the kitchen window I see the ambulance still parked at the bottom of the drive, why isn't it gone, I don't like it.  TC is now in her high chair, I run out of the house, banging on the ambulance, asking if everything is ok, my nerves on high alert.  The paramedic calmly tells me he has deteriorated further and they are "working on him" and minutes later they are gone, flashing lights and sirens a blaze ....

I try to keep my thoughts high and busy myself with getting TC ready to go out, we make our way to the hospital, I am numb at the thought of what might be and just concentrate on being mummy.  We arrive at A&E and the receptionist leaves her post to take us through, she goes to talk to the doctors and nurses, they all peer at me through the glass, this is making me very nervous, I feel the tears rising from behind my eyes.  The receptionist comes out and takes us to a side room to wait, I've been in one of these side rooms before.  I grab her arm asking her "is he ok?" she can't tell me, ok "is he still alive???"   "Of course, of course, yes!"  Thank goodness, relief washes over me.

I remove us from the side room, I can only take a few minutes there, we stand outside the emergency room and wait....  A nurse comes out after a few minutes and wants to prepare me for what is to come, I'm not really listening, I just want to see him....   He is covered in wires and an oxygen mask and looks bewildered, I take his hand, he squeezes it.  TC looks at him a little worried, the nurses pounce on her with an oxygen mask to play with and stickers that say morphine on them, she plays happily oblivious to her daddy's plight.  He is very "poorly" they tell me, downplaying the obvious magnitude of the situation before me. 

He has suffered a heart attack.

The next few hours would be crucial....