Thursday, October 21, 2010

The beauty of it

I've been pretty quiet in the past few weeks. Nothing special has happened. We have just been busy living and enjoying it.

The last time I posted, I was getting ready to receive my mum and dad over in our new house for the first time. They were supposed to arrive on the Saturday and leave on the Tuesday but they unfortunately had to cut their stay short and left on the Monday due to the strikes going on in France and their Tuesday flight being cancelled. So they were over on a very short 1.5 days visit. Short but very very enjoyable. The girls loved them being over. We went on a nice walk on the Sunday followed by some cake and bread baking and a lovely dinner. We all walked down to school on the Monday before making our way to the airport.

I am glad to say that they loved the house and the surrounding area, although we didn't get much time to explore much with them. Noelie took her first steps after a lot of coaxing by my dad. She is now flying around but only on her terms. If she wants you to hold her hand, she will not walk unless you do. And then, after a while, she will just let go and doesn't want you near her. Her speech is also developing at an incredible rate.

Marie has already had 2 outings in her new school. One exploring the woods, from which she returned with a bag full of dead leaves (what for!!!), conkers and various other sticks and stones. Another one, to the library where she got to meet Steve Cole, author of the Astrosaurus children books which she loves. Tomorrow is the last day before half term and they can get all dressed up in their Hallowe'en costumes and finish early and the Parents association have organized a Spooky Hallowe'en disco for the kids tomorrow evening. Marie has decided that she wanted to dress up like her sister and so, will be going as a witch.

In the meantime, I have started on my course. It is a distance learning course and I really need to get cracking. I have nearly completed 2 modules of it already but there have been no big assignments yet. I have also indulged again in my love of baking and baked fresh bread nearly everyday. I have discovered a wonderful recipe for bread that requires very little time and effort and have been using it ever since. My parents tried my home baked bread and found it delicious. My mum even stole the recipe off me. My brother and his girlfriend who were over in August have been already converted and bake their own bread too, despite both of them working full time and working shifts! You can find the recipe here: Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day. Look for their master recipe and you too will be able to make your own bread in no time at all and with no sweating from all that kneading!

Doesn't it look nice?
Other than that, Mr Foodie has too succumbed to the baking lightening that seems to have struck our house lately. He tried his hand at making cupcakes, no less and cookies. I have to admit, he did a very good job at it. I am no icing queen and the first time, I just made normal icing, none of that fancy swirly pink glittery stuff. But the second time, I tried to make THE frosting. And didn't do that good a job really. The stuff looked like it had split. I tried piping it onto the cakes and it just looked like a big pink blob had landed on them. Mr Foodie made them look a bit nicer by adding sprinkles and other stuff on them. He was all proud of himself and I was really proud of him too. He even brought some into work to share with his colleagues! Some of them probably thought that he was trying to poison them, but I can confirm that they are still alive one week on!

And the rest of the time? Well, the rest of the time, I have just been in awe at the beauty of the countryside. When you live in town, there are too many things around, too many streetlights, too many buildings, not enough trees to notice the beauty around. I have been looking from my kitchen window at the century old trees lining our little country road, their leaves turning from green to yellow, red and orange. I have looked at the mist hanging mid air and the sun rising over it. I have looked at the stars and the moon and the shadows it casts in the fields around. I have looked at the gust of wind taking with it colourful leaves from the trees and depositing them lightly onto the ground. I have listened to the conkers falling from the trees and hitting the road. I have watched the squirrel who lives on the big tree at the end of the garden, jumping onto the telephone lines and making its way safely across the road. I have looked at the pheasants in the field next to us and admired their beautiful autumn coloured feathers. I have enjoyed walking into the crisp morning air to the school and back, all wrapped up. And I am just wishing Christmas would come quick so that I can get a nice, decent camera to take pictures of it all and share them with you. But until then, I will make do with the better photographer of the family. Here are a few pictures that my dad took when he was over.

Foodie Mummy

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Have you gone baking mad?

Are you baking mad? It seems that in the past few weeks I have been. I bake nearly everyday either on my own or with Marie.

This week has been filled with baking, baking, baking. I seem to alternate between weeks of cooking and weeks of baking. As you know I hate waste, so when I saw 5 apples nearing the end of their life, I decided to do something with them. Now, Marie doesn't like cooked apples so I knew that I would have to be crafty so that I didn't find myself with half a cake going to waste. See, as my neighbour would put it, I'm a 'feeder'. Where I used to work, a feeder was a big big truck. I hope she doesn't mean I look like a truck. Oh dear! No, I think that what she means is that I cook, I bake and all but not really for me, for everybody else. And it's true, I don't really do it for myself and there are times when I don't even eat what I bake. Thank God, otherwise she would use Feeder in the other sense!

Anyway back to my apples. I didn't want to bake a crumble or an apple tart. I haven't broken the pastry key yet. So I decided I would bake something my grand mother used to do: 'Beignets aux pommes'. The translation would be something like Apple Donuts but they are not as big as donuts and the batter is slightly different to that of a donut. They are just apples dipped in batter and deep fried. Great idea considering I don't own a deep fat fryer of any kind, whether electric or not. So I used my wok and half filled it with oil. Now, they came out not looking quite like I remembered it. But they tasted nice and out of the 20 or so beignets I made they were all gone by the next day.

On Thursday, the unknown woman I had let Marie go off with in that first week of school came over to my house for a play date. and a coffee and a chat. I had been to her house 2 weeks ago and, in return, invited her to mine. And that morning, I went baking mad again. I baked for hours. When you don't know somebody well, it is quite difficult to bake or cook for them. I didn't know what she ate, I didn't know what her kids liked for lunch. So I played it quite safe (I thought) and baked some mini lemon cakes (well some... more like 12), some Nutella Muffins (again 12) and some Bacon and Cheese Muffins (yes, you guessed, 12). OK, I didn't know that her daughter (Marie's friend) was a vegetarian (I asked and she made that decision herself at 5 years of age, and the parents are not even vegetarians!). Surely 36 cakes/muffins would be enough for 3 adults and 4 children? Em, yes, that would be more than enough, Foodie. Despite the fact that we all, more or less, had one of each, and that she even took some home with her, I still have about 8 left over! Baking mad. That's me. I made too much again.

I probably won't bake as much this week for various reasons. One is that I baked to much this week and I am running out of baking powder. Yes, I know you can buy it in the shops, but I am a creature of habit and I am used to baking with my French baking powder. So I will have to wait for my mum and dad to get here on Saturday to get some more. Then, I am about to start a distance learning course too so I probably won't have as much time on my hands as I do now (although I need to point out that I only bake when Noelie goes for her nap, before somebody accuses me of neglecting my child in favour of cake tins and flour, although they make as much of a mess, but probably just a little less noise).

So in the meantime, I will leave you with the recipe for the Bacon and Cheese Muffins that I found in a magazine a few weeks ago (yes, I have time to read those too) and thought it would be worth a try. Everybody here loved them, they are incredibly easy to make and if you have any leftover, they are great to put into a lunchbox. The best thing about them is that once you know the ingredients you need to make the batter, you can make as many variations of it as you like! I tried olives, sun dried tomatoes and garlic cheese and that was yummy (although I was the only one who ate them because nobody else likes olives here).

Bacon and Cheese Muffins:

- 5 bacon rashers (I used streaky bacon, you can also use pancetta or even just ham)
- 100 grs of Cheese (I used Cheddar on the first batch and Emmental for the second)
- 140 grs plain flour
- 1 tbsp of baking powder
- 125 ml of milk
- 3 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 egg

- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 6 hole muffin tray.
- Grill or fry the bacon, set aside to cool and chop finely.
- Mix the flour, salt and baking powder
- Whisk together the egg, milk and oil
- Add the dry ingredients.
- Add the bacon and cheese.
- Spoon into the muffin tray.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Yummy! Now I'm off to bake some soda bread. If it turns out nice, I'll share the recipe with you, shall I? Or are you sick of ready them? Let me know!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Brio Pounding Bench

Noelie loves throwing things and banging stuff. She loves to hear the various noises she can make by banging a piece of jigsaw against the table or even just drumming her fingers. The louder the better.

So she was delighted when last month, we received the Brio Pounding Bench for Noelie to test out, courtesy of the online nursery shop Hello Baby. The Pounding bench is one of those everlasting toy, one I remember my brother having when he was a baby, one that has run the test of time. The Brio one came out for the first time in 1957!

 When it arrived in the post, I was surprised at the size of it. I didn't know what to expect. It is quite compact which makes it great for putting away and it is the perfect size for Noelie to play with, not big or not too small. It is designed for children age 24 months + and since Noelie is only 16 months, I was a bit concerned that she would not be able to play with it. How wrong was I? She has grasped the concept of banging onto the pegs very quickly, but still  insists on banging onto the white ones (those that don't move!) instead of the red ones. The toy is designed to improve hand - eye coordination skills and I have to say that in the short time we have had it, I have seen quite an improvement. Although she doesn't yet bang on it with the hammer in the right position, she is now able to bang on the peg of her choosing. When she first played with it, she couldn't do that and would bang at any random peg on the bench, sometimes even missing the bench altogether. She has now understood that if she wants to keep playing with it, she has to flip it around and she gets to have more fun, so it has also helped in improving her problem solving skills (which amaze me everyday).

The hammer is light enough for her and it fits snugly into her hand and, as Mr Foodie's knee can testify, she had become quite agile with it. Mr Foodie, the biggest kid of the Foodie Household, loves playing with the Pounding Bench too. He finds it great especially after a stressful day!

So thank you to Hello Baby for letting us try this out. We are all looking forward to more months of fun with the Pounding Bench. Hello Baby offers a great range of toys and nursery equipment. Christmas is just around the corner, so why not pop over to their website to find out more about the Brio Pounding bench and all the others products they offer!

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