Things my kids happily ate this month 5

It wasn’t all dump cakes and poke cakes and rants about Facebook memes this month. I did manage to cook decent meals for the kids, too.

Lazy chicken pie

  • Fry off diced carrot, onion and celery until soft then add sliced mushrooms. Mix in a can of chicken soup, a handful of frozen peas, some tinned sweet corn and some pre-cooked chicken, left over from a roast or from the deli.
  • Pour into a pie dish and scrunch sheets of filo pastry into loose balls and cover the top of the pie. Brush with butter, beaten egg or milk if you’d like.
  • Bake at 180C for 20-25 minutes until the filo pastry is browned and the filling is hot.

Sweet potato frittata

  • Chop a pepper and blast for a minute in the microwave to soften. Do some frozen peas at the same time. Cube a roasted sweet potato (I had one left over from a roast) and add the peas, pepper and tinned sweet corn.
  • Fry the mix briefly then pour over beaten eggs. Cook until mostly set then either flip to cook the other side or finish under the grill.


Creamy mushroom pasta bake

  • Cook your pasta.
  • Meanwhile, whisk equal parts melted butter and flour to form a roux then add some cream cheese and cheddar and whisk until melted. Add the cheese sauce to the drained pasta and add sliced mushrooms and frozen peas, plus ham if you’d like.
  • Put the mix into a baking dish and too with more grated cheese then bake at 180C for 20-25 mins until bubbling.


BBQ chicken 

  • Into a plastic bag, put a squirt each of tomato ketchup and honey, a sprinkle of paprika, some minced garlic, a glug of soy sauce and splash of vinegar.
  • Add chicken pieces and massage the sauce over them then leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours.
  • Pour everything into a baking disk and bake for 45-50 minutes, basting occasionally.

Basic biscuits

What to do with a long bank holiday weekend?

Big G was building a pantry door to replace the one that fell off its hinges last week, complete with built-in spice racks.

G Minor is finally on the move. She waited until I had taken her to the physio to check all was ok; less than 48 hours later off she trotted in a positively JAUNTY fashion. So she is quite content crawling about – I lay a trail of toys from one of the sitting room to the other and she bumbles back and forth.

So G Major and I made some biscuits. We made the dough after lunch, chilled it during nap time, cut them out and baked them when everyone woke up and they were ready to eat after supper.

It kept her engaged all afternoon. Also, our neighbour has had a fall and is in the hospital so we were able to send a little biscuit care package.

This recipe is very versatile. Depending on what you have in, you can make all kinds of different biscuits. Add some jam for thumbprint biscuits; sprinkle the dough with cinnamon and sugar and roll up before slicing into rounds; add boiled sweets for stained glass window biscuits; add any dried fruit or nuts; leave them plain and ice them.

Obviously, as these are basic biscuits, I made them wearing yoga pants and drinking a Starbucks skinny caramel latte.

What you need:
250g softened butter
140g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
Splash of vanilla essence
300g plain flour

What you do

1. Cream the butter and sugar. The recipe from which this was adapted says to do that by hand but seriously, use the mixer.

2. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat to combine, then gently beat in the flour.

3. Add any extra  ingredients. I had chocolate chips, glace cherries and pecans to use up, so one-third of the dough got the chocolate chips and one-third got the chopped cherries and pecans. I also had some lemon curd in the fridge so I left the last portion plain for thumbprint biscuits.

4. Roll the dough up in cling film and chill for an hour. I like to do this in a sausage shape as you can then just slice through the sausage to get nice rounds and not worry about biscuit cutters.

5. Once chilled, slice or press out into rounds.

6. For the thumbprint biscuits, G Major made an indentation in each biscuit and we filled it with lemon curd.

7.Bake at 180C for about 15 minutes. I start checking at 12 minutes; these needed a little longer this time round.

Parenting is about what you do, not what you are

My Facebook page has recently been flooded with posts about the #motherhoodchallenge. I though that this had died back in February but it’s back.

And it’s morphed.

Originally, participants were asked to post a  picture that made them “happy to be a mum”. So far, so Facebook. Pretty shit for anyone who doesn’t want or is not able to be a parent. Not remotely inclusive of fathers, or grandparents or aunts and uncles who parent as well. Hard work for anyone not enjoying parenthood.  And it’s not actually a challenge, is it, if you wanted to have kids and then you had kids and then you love those kids and then you posted a picture on Facebook of those kids? But fine. While it was mindless, it was probably no worse than endless pictures of their children anyway.

But now I’m seeing, “I’ve been challenged to post a picture that makes me proud to be a mum.”

What the hell does that mean?

Not “proud of my kids”. Not “proud of how I parent”. Certainly not “proud of me”. Just “proud to be a mum”.

Being a mother is not something to be intrinsically proud of. Sperm + egg = baby. It’s biology. You pushed a baby out your foof? Great. Animals do it all the time. You don’t need skills or talent. Sorry, love, but you’re one of millions.

Parenting is about what you DO, not what you ARE. It’s about the thought that goes into how you raise your child,  about the experiences you create with them, about the people you invite to share their life. It’s about the hundred good and bad things you do each day that impact on your kids. It’s not about procreation.

If you have children, there are lots of things that you could be proud of.

You can simply be proud of your kids. Because they did something exceptional, or displayed the qualities and values you appreciate.

You can be proud of the fact you and your partner supported and loved each other through the terrible journey of infertility until a pregnancy took.

You can be proud of the fact you took a decision to adopt or foster a child and give them a chance they might not have had otherwise.

You can be proud of the fact you have fought to keep your kids through a divorce, and that they still see you smile nicely at the other parent.

You can be proud of the strength you and your child demonstrate when they’re in hospital again.

You can be proud your child defends your gender identity and sexual preferences to the haterz and that they learnt that from you.

You can be proud of the fact you get up every day and feed and wash and play with your children through crushing depression, or that you fed your body and your baby despite the voices in your head telling you not to eat.

But don’t just be proud “to be a mum”. Because it devalues all the work you and millions of other parents do.

Easy microwave cheese sauce

“Life is too short to stand over the stove making a roux.”

Thus spake CiderPashmina.

So here is a microwave cheese sauce for you

  • Melt a tablespoon of butter in a microwavable jug until just melted

  • Stir in a tablespoon of plain flour until it forms a smooth paste

  • Slowly add a cup of milk, stirring to form a paste

  • Microwave in 30 second bursts for 3 minutes, stirring after each burst

  • Stir in a cup of  grated cheese then give it another 30 seconds in the microwave t

OMG dump cakes

If there was one recipe that summed up my cooking style, it would be dump cakes. It’s a pudding. It uses some fresh ingredients but also has an acceptable cheat. It takes hardly any time to prepare but looks like you made an effort. And it creates very little washing up. Minimal cleaning up is the guiding principle in my life.

Dump cakes sound like an industrial product for public urinals but are actually the easiest pudding in the world to make after Eton Mess. So-called because you dump everything into the dish, this is easy enough for the kids to make. It’s a lot like a crumble but with a more cake-y top.

They are honestly the best things I’ve come across for ages.

Apple and Raspberry Dump Cake

Stewed apples and raspberries (tinned or homemade)
Vanilla cake mix
100g-ish butter


Dump the stewed fruit into a pie dish.

Scatter over the cake mix and top with squares of butter.

Bake at 180C for half an hour, until the topping is brown .

G Minor had this with custard while G Major had plain Greek yoghurt with hers.

Tiramisu poke cake

What’s better than cake? Cake with extra hidden bits. I don’t know who came up with the idea of poke cakes but I love them.

Poke cakes are, as the name suggests, cakes which have holes poked into them, creating delicious little reservoirs into which you can pour extra flavourings. The cake soaks some of this up and you end up with a really soft, dessert-like cake. It’s a kind of fridge cake, really (which I also love to make).

As with many of the recipes on here, there are loads of variations you could try. How about vanilla cake with stewed fruit and custard-y icing; chocolate cake with caramel sauce and chocolate icing; lemon sponge with passion fruit curd and lemon icing? NB I am going to make and eat ALL of these.

I put Kahlua in this as it wasn’t meant for the kids but you could leave it out.

Tiramisu poke cake


  • Box of chocolate cake mix plus required extra ingredients, or ingredients for your own sponge
  • Tablespoon of instant coffee made up very strongly with just a dash of water
  • 200g plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 tin of condensed milk
  • Splash of Kahlua
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate curls to finish, if you want


  • Make your cake and leave to cool completely in the tin
  • When cool, poke holes all over with something round enough to make decent sized holes
Mmmm, pokey
  • Whisk together the yoghurt, coffee, condensed milk and Kalhua and pour over the cooked cake.
You can see the air bubbles as the topping fills the holes
  • Chill for a couple of hours till firm
  • Top with whipped cream and chocolate (if using) and chill again.
  • Slice into squares so you can see the pokey bits and eat once the kids have gone to bed.

Review: My First Ballet – Sleeping Beauty

I am now a ballet mum. Having danced from the age of three until I was 24, getting my teaching diploma in the process, it feels very strange now to wrestle G Major into her tights and leotard and wave her off to class and not go myself.

G Major loves ballet, and there are distinct shades of her mother when she demands I move the coffee table off the rug so she has “more room for beautiful dancing”. Enthusiasm definitely outweighs skill currently, but I wanted to tap into that enthusiasm by going to see a real ballet.

Traditionally the Nutcracker is the ballet to which one takes small children, but a full length ballet is hard work for littlies, and I think the story of The Nutcracker is actually quite complicated, with all the sweets from round the world and so on.

So I was excited to lean about My First Ballet, a joint venture by the English National Ballet and second year students  from the English National Ballet School. Designed for children 3+, this year’s ballet is Sleeping Beauty. The ballet features a cut down version of the score and a narrator to help the audience follow the story.

Before we went, we talked about what we’d see, what a theatre looks like (stage, curtains, seats etc) and how we behave at the theatre. We also read the story of Sleeping Beauty a number of times – I changed the names original Grimm characters as we went to reflect the names used in the ballet.

G Major barely sits through a full length film, so I wasn’t sure how she’d manage with a ballet, so I invited Grandma for crowd control and a spare lap. In the event, G Major was completely absorbed, although the view was better from our laps rather than from her own seat.

The costuming was beautiful and the giant set very effective. The choreographer, ENB’s Associate Artist George Williamson, has greatly emphasised the use of ballet mime to tell the story, making it easy for the young audience to see who was ‘beautiful’ or ‘a prince’, or who might ‘die’ or just ‘fall asleep’.

The narrator took the form of an older Princess Aurora, retelling the story of her christening, enchantment and eventual rescue. It was clear and easy to follow, but didn’t interrupt the dancing action.

The dancers themselves were excellent. It’s a great opportunity for the second year students to perform as part of a professional company, and they were very strong even when faced with some difficult choreography such as the Rose Adagio.

Interval was blessedly long enough to get a theater full of young children, mostly girls, through the toilets. The audience is encouraged to dress up; if not, there are plenty of tiaras, fairy wings and wands on sale at the box office. Overall the audience was extremely well behaved, a testament to just how engaging the production is – they were all captivated.

G Major absolutely loved it (almost as much as she loved the balloon from Giraffe after lunch) and we’ll definitely be going to another next year.

The production is still touring – you can see full details of the tour until July here