You Crack Me Up review

Hotel Chocolat Collage

Hotel Chocolat Easter egg review by Jessie age 9 and Mia age 6

When I told my daughters that Hotel Chocolat had offered to send me one of their Easter eggs to review but that I thought I’d have to turn it down because I was just too busy, you can imagine the look of devastating disappointment on their faces. Then it occurred to us, since many of their chocolate eggs are targeted at little ones, why not get the little ones to do the review? And that’s exactly what we did.

So without further ado, I have great pleasure in handing you over to Jessie…

hotel chocolat

When I was told by my mum that Hotel Chocolat had asked me to do a review, I was thrilled. It would mean tasting delicious chocolate. Yum!!!

They sent us an Extra Thick Egg called ‘You Crack Me Up’ which we thought was a funny name. Inside the thick egg were lots of little chocolates in different shapes and sizes.

hotel chocolat

The first thing I tried was a white soldier. Because there was two of everything, my sister had one too. It was delicious white chocolate on the outside with a mouth-watering scoop of chocolate like Nutella inside. It looked a bit like a piece of toast dipped into runny egg yolk. It was simply decorated but looked good. My rating:9/10.

This is what my sister said: “It was really tasty and delicious and nice. I loved the taste of the yellow bit.” Mia’s rating: 7/10.

hotel chocolat

The next thing I tried was the chocolate brownie. Although its name is chocolate brownie, to Mia and I it did not taste a bit like one. It looked amazing, but funny as well because of its sweet face. Also, it is amazingly smooth on the outside and filled with crunchy nut in the inside. This is my idea of a cute piece of chocolate. My rating: 7/10.

This is what Mia said: “It was really crunchy and sweet, I loved the taste. It was really yummy and nice. I liked the look the best.” Mia’s rating: 9/10.

The third thing I tried was an amazing looking chocolate chick. It looked spectacular, but turned out to be very rich. I loved the taste, but wouldn’t be able to eat too many! My rating: 7/10.

Mia thought: “The chick looks fluffy and looks so tasty and yummy. It was so delicious.” Mia’s rating: 7/10.

Next, we had a taste of the thick chocolate shell. I thought it was a gorgeously tasty smooth, hard shell. It tasted spectacular and was amazing. My rating: 10/10! This was my favourite bit!

Mia said:“The shell looks so yummy and delicious. I love it. It’s so scrummy and yummy.” Mia’s rating: 10/10!

Soon we came to eating the white chocolate fried egg. It was nearly as good as the shell. It looks amazing, tastes amazing, is amazing. My rating: 9/10.

Mia said: “Looks very fried, looks very tasty, it is very good to eat. It is yummy!” Rating: 8/10.

Now we were onto the chocolate rabbit. I loved it, especially the detailed decoration. Also it has a beautifully soft layer of chocolate. Yum, yum, yum!!! My rating: 8/10.

My sister adored it even more than me (as much as the egg shell). “It looks yummy and it looks really tasty and is tasty,” Mia said. Rating: 10/10!

your-crack-me-up-extra-thick-easter-eggNow we come to the final piece of chocolate. The crunchy praline – another cute, smiley face very similar to the chocolate brownie. It had a crispy outside and a spoonful of ‘Nutella’ inside. My rating: 9/10.

Here is what Mia thought: “It looks really crunchy and nice. It looks so tasty I loved it. Rating: 11/10!!! As you can see, this was Mia’s overall favourite!

After tasting this spectacular chocolate, Mia and I are pleased to say we thoroughly recommend this as a posh Easter egg. Enjoy!

Final note from Mum

At £28, you might think this is rather on the expensive side for a children’s Easter egg and I must admit I would certainly think twice about spending so much on chocolate. But a little goes a very long way with this egg. My children absolutely loved it (as you can tell from the frequent uses of spectacular and amazing in their review) but it has actually taken them a fortnight to get through it so I would say it represents good value for money.

Since my girls were kind enough to let me try a tiny nibble, I can confirm that the chocolate is ruddy good too and so much more delicious and attractive than those cheap as chips eggs you can buy in bulk in supermarkets.

Disclosure: Hotel Chocolat provided me with a complimentary You Crack Me Up chocolate egg for review purposes. No money exchanged hands and all opinions are my own (or my daughters’).




Family Foodies: the fab fast food round-up

FabFastFood Collage

If you are looking for fresh ideas for tasty, healthy food to cook when time is tight, you’ve come to the right place. Our latest Family Foodies challenge has attracted a brilliant array of fab fast food recipes for feeding your hectic, hungry family and I have to say I’m really looking forward to working (and eating) my way through this little lot over the coming weeks.

So let’s crack on and take a look through those enticing entries…

Julie Collage

Pasta and Gnocchi from Julie’s Farmhouse Kitchen

Julie gets things rolling with a tempting trio of Italian-inspired dishes from her Farmhouse Kitchen. She made a hearty bowlful of Gnocchi with Chorizo, Spinach and Tomato Sauce, a quick and easy Creamy Pesto Pancetta, Peas and Mushrooms with Spirali Pasta, and Spaghetti with Mushroom, Spinach & Pancetta Sauce. I made this last dish, the spaghetti, for supper the other week and I can confirm it really is very good.

Salmon and potato salad

Pan Fried Salmon & Syrian Potato Salad from Farmersgirl Kitchen

This beautiful dish of simply cooked salmon served with a fresh and zingy potato salad from Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen has springtime written all over it, and what’s more it is so quick to rustle up too. It looks so inviting, doesn’t it?

HomeCookFood Collage

Fast & Spicy from Home Cook Food

Linsy from Home Cook Food brought an exciting assortment of dishes to our Fab Fast Food buffet. There’s a beautifully spiced Methi Vegetable Malai, a protein-packed Kala Chana Aur Methi Curry (black chickpeas with fenugreek leaves), fragrant Mint and Coriander Leaves Paratha (flatbread), a robustly flavoured Bruschetta Pasta and last, but not least, this very tasty Eggplant Rice. I’m so inspired by Linsy’s use of spices in these dishes and I look forward to trying them out on my brood.

stir fry on a budget

Stir-Fry on a Budget from Happiness is Homemade

Sylvia’s photographs on her blog Happiness is Homemade are always utterly gorgeous, and these pictures of her simple take on a stir-fry live up to her usual stunning standard. Don’t you just want to dive straight into this image of whole wheat spaghetti with vegetables? You just know it’s going to taste every bit as good as it looks.

beef broccoli pasta

Beef and Broccoli Pasta from Elizabeth’s Kitchen

Another blog where I always wish I could climb into the screen to sample the food is Elizabeth’s Kitchen. Elizabeth can invite me around any night of the week to eat pasta as attractive as this! Quick, healthy and delicious – just perfect.

quirky Collage

Intriguing Inspiration from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous

Sudha from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous likes to surprise and delight her blog readers with intriguing and inspiring recipes and her four entries for the Fab Fast Food challenge are perfect examples of her cooking style. There are Spicy ChickpeasGluten Free PancakesQuirky Quinoa Patties and Naked Egg Inspired Pasta. The big question for me is which one to try first…

coco banana freeze bites

Coco-Banana Freeze Bites from The Gluten Free Alchemist

These gluten-free coco-banana bites were the brilliant result of an “over-ripe banana fest” in the kitchen of Kate aka The Gluten Free Alchemist. These little morsels of fruity, frozen deliciousness are ever so healthy, particularly if you opt for carob, although to be honest I think I’ll quite happily stick with chocolate. Not only are they made in minutes but they keep in the freezer for ages, perfect for a handy snack when life gets manic.

Eat Your Veg Collage

Fast & Healthy from Eat Your Veg

My Family Foodies partner-in-crime, Lou from Eat Your Veg is up next and she really is a pro when it comes to healthy fast food. Just take a look at this little lot – there’s a super speedy Chicken & Veggie Chow Mein, a Healthier Tuna Mayo and these simply wonderful Bread Tarts, which I so wish I’d thought of myself and intend to try out on my kids very, very soon.

FFF Collage

A Delicious Duo from Family-Friends-Food

Helen from Family-Friends-Food knows a thing or two about creating child-friendly food, and these two offerings to our Fab Fast Food table demonstrate how just easy it can be to rustle up delicious food in a matter of minutes. Her Zesty Tuna Pasta has a wonderfully Mediterranean feel to it and is great eaten either warm or cold, while I reckon these French Toast Pizza Rolls are simply ingenious.

BM Collage

Fast and Wholesome from Bangers & Mash

Next are three dishes from yours truly, each of which are super quick and super easy. Oh and super tasty too. Firstly, there’s my Baked Rice with Spinach, Cannellini Beans and Eggs using basic store cupboard ingredients. Then there’s a Chicken Soup with Rice, perfect for feeding little (and big) people when they’re poorly. And finally, how about Baked Sea Bass with Ginger, Garlic & Chilli and Miso Rice – an incredible combination of fresh, zesty flavours and all cooked in a foil parcel, keeping washing up to a minimum. Result.

chicken chow mein Lancashire  Food

Chicken Chow Mein from Lancashire Food

Linzi from Lancashire Food brings us her gorgeous chicken chow mein, on the table within just 30 minutes. It’s always a hit with her own family. Linzi’s recipe features Chinese five spice, one of my favourite spice blends, and is perfect for using up whatever veggies you happen to have in.

hot dog pasta
Speedy Hot Dog Pasta from JibberJabberUK

Another quick and easy recipe making the most of store cupboard ingredients is this satisfying hot dog pasta from Ness at JibberJabberUK. My children adore hot dog sausages so I know they’d be first in line for this dish, plus I like Ness’ top tip about throwing in some finely chopped broccoli stalk too – a great way to reduce your food waste.


Beef Noodle Soup from Searching for Spice

Another way to reduce food waste of course is to make the most of  your leftovers, which is what this tasty noodle soup from Corina at Searching for Spice calls for – leftover beef brisket to be exact. Packed with vegetables and flavoured with chillies, garlic, lime and ginger, this is definitely my kind of soup.


Zesty Salmon Goujons from Feeding Boys

These salmon goujons from Katie at Feeding Boys look just so tempting, I really can’t imagine any child refusing these. Katie promises they only take 10 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to bake and in her words “you’ll be rewarded with luxurious chunky goujons instead of the skinny minnie versions that come out of a packet when you’re knackered on a Thursday evening.” That’s it. I’m sold!

potato quinoa tikki

Potato Quinoa Tikki from My Receipes

I must admit, I had to Google the work ‘tikki’. I discovered from Wikipedia (where would I be without Wikipedia?) that it means “a small cutlet or croquette” and hails from North India. Normally made from potato (aloo tikki), Vidhya from My Receipes has come up with her own take which also uses quinoa and frozen peas. Flavoured with a whole host of spices, these tikki sound absolutely delicious.

bok choy and edamame miso stir fry

Bok Choy and Edamame Miso Stir Fry from The Taste Space

Nasifriet from The Taste Space is midway through a 30 different vegetables in 30 days challenge. She needed to come up with some not-so-common vegetables and so headed straight for her local Asian grocer and came home with baby bok choy, which she turned into this wonderfully healthy and attractive stir fry with shiitake mushrooms, snow peas, edamame and miso. It sounds incredible to me – divinely simply temple food that you know is going to do you so much good.

Mincemeat Muffins

Banana & Mincemeat Buns from Chocolate Log Blog

Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog promises these scrummy banana and mincemeat buns can be rustled up in under half an hour, so long as your butter is soft and your ingredients handy. I’m ready for that challenge! We always seem to have ripe bananas in our house, so this recipe is definitely one for me to bookmark.


Fresh Herb and Tapenade Flatbreads from How to Cook Good Food

As Laura from How to Cook Good Food says, you can never have too many flatbread recipes up your sleeve. As well as offering us her herb and tapenade flatbreads, she also shares a fantastic list of her favourite flatbread recipes from other blogs. So if you’re in need of flatbread inspiration, you know where to head! Laura’s version looks fantastic – it looks delightfully light and crispy and I love the use of fresh herbs and dukkah, a fabulous Middle Eastern spice mix.

mad house cookbook

And the winner is…

Thanks to everyone for sharing their fabulous fast food ideas in this month’s Family Foodies challenge. Each and every one was a real winner in its own right, but as ever only one of you can take home the prize of Jo Pratt’s inspirational Madhouse Cookbook.

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the Fab Fast Food challenge is Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary for her very tasty beef and broccoli pasta. Well done Elizabeth! Your prize will be in the post to you very soon.

Louisa at Eat Your Veg will be revealing April’s theme for Family Foodies very soon, so do keep an eye out for that – I promise, you’re going to love it! I can’t wait to see what you come up with…



Bolognese for ballerinas

spaghetti bolognese

We’re nearing the end of the school half-term holidays. It’s been a lovely week of movies (Mr Peabody and Sherman in 3D at the cinema and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 on DVD, both of which get a big thumbs up from my girls), baking (my eight-year-old Jess created a superb Victoria sponge with her very own recipe mango buttercream topping, while Mia elected to make double chocolate chip cookies although Mummy did most of the work), library outings, times tables testing, story writing, soft toy safaris, Sir Frances Drake research, and dance shows.

Baking Collage

Jess and Mia have been rehearsing for months and months for their big dance show with the Susan Hill School of Dancing. This finally culminated in much-anticipated performances at the end of the half term break at the Forum Theatre in Bath. The girls and their friends had a day of dress rehearsals on Thursday, followed by matinée and evening shows on Friday and Saturday. I helped out back stage on the Thursday and Friday, which was great fun but truly exhausting. I thought being responsible for two children was full on, but looking after a group of 13 five-year-old girls was something else, and not to be repeated too quickly!

Sadly, Jess was forced to miss her Saturday performances as she fell ill with a bug – she was absolutely gutted, but at least she got to dance on the Friday. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see her as I was back stage, although friends who were in the audience tell me she danced beautifully. So this weekend, poor old Jessie has spent most of the weekend on the sofa under a duvet. She’s off her food – always a sure-fire sign she’s unwell – although I have succeeded in tempting her with a little fresh melon and chicken soup with rice. I’ll post the recipe for the soup very soon.

Dance Collage

Earlier in half-term week my mission had been to feed my two ballerinas with lots of nourishing food to keep their energy levels up for all that dancing. And so the obvious dinner after their gruelling Thursday of dress rehearsals had to be their all-time favourite, spaghetti Bolognese.

Spaghetti Collage

Spaghetti Bolognese has been both of their favourite meals since they were old enough to pick up a fork and spoon. Whenever I make it, I always make sure there’s some left over to go in the freezer for an easy supper another day.

spaghetti bolognese

Everyone has their own Bolognese recipe. Mine varies depending on what I have in the house.

Sometimes mine will have a drop of red wine in there, and sometimes it won’t. Sometimes there will be peppers or mushrooms (much to Jessie’s dismay as she’ll have to pick them out), or perhaps some smoked bacon. If I have a Parmesan rind lurking in the fridge, I’ll chuck that in during the cooking to give it a scrumptious flavour boost. I don’t always add caraway seeds, but I thought I would this time so I can enter it into this month’s Spice Trail challenge, which has caraway as its theme. I think the caraway adds a lovely intense and slightly sweet flavour to the Bolognese, and I quite often use it in casseroles and other slow-cooked meat dishes.

Bolognese sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
500g minced beef
400g tin chopped tomatoes
beef stock cube or pot
½ tsp caraway seeds
dash Worcestershire sauce
Parmesan rind (optional)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the chopped onions, carrots and celery until soft – around five minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a couple more minutes before adding the minced beef. Stir to break up any lumps and cook for two to three minutes until browned.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes. Half fill the tomato tin with hot water and pour into the pan. Sprinkle in the beef stock cube, or ‘plop’ in the stock pot. Add the caraway seeds, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and the Parmesan rind if you happen to have one left over.

Give it all a good stir and allow to simmer for half an hour or so. If it starts to look dry, add a little more water. Before serving, give it a taste and add a little salt and pepper if needed, and remove the Parmesan rind if used.

Serve with pasta, ideally spaghetti, and a grating of fresh Parmesan cheese on top.

spice trail badge square

I’m adding this Bolognese to February’s Spice Trail, hosted by yours truly, as it features caraway seeds.


I am also sharing this with February’s Family Foodies, hosted by Eat Your Veg and me, which this month has a Love theme. Spaghetti Bolognese is definitely a dish cooked with love for my loved ones, big and small.

The Valentine scribble cake

Valentine Scribble Cake Collage

When I want to give my children a treat, I bake them a big chocolate cake.

When I want to show my children how much I love them, I’ll leave them in charge of decorating said chocolate cake.

valentine scribble cake

Et voila! Here you have our Scribble Valentine Cake! Mia came up with the name.

My daughters don’t think Valentine’s Day should be just for their mummy and daddy. Surely it’s a celebration for the whole family; we all love each other, don’t we? Especially when it usually means there are gifts of chocolates involved.

So this year in the run up to V Day, we decided to make a rather large family chocolate cake.

Yes, I know the end result is garish and gaudy but Mia had a blast being given (almost) free rein to decorate it, and all of us were more than happy to eat it.

scribble cake

It is a simple chocolate sponge sandwich, filled with strawberry jam and whipped cream. We then covered it with a white chocolate icing, which was supposed to be coloured a tasteful shade of pink but ended up a very vibrant red. I’d like to blame the children, but to be honest it was my hand that slipped as the food colouring went in.

Mia then went to town creating her own Jackson Pollock style artwork, dribbling first melted plain and then white chocolate on top of the cake, and of course all over herself and the floor at the same time. For the final piece de resistance, Mia added some lovely Thornton’s Valentine’s chocolate truffle cups to spell out I heart you on top. We also had a bag of Thornton’s strawberry jelly hearts but Mia decided against using those as well at it might be slightly OTT. You see, she can be quite a discerning child really. Jess and Mia gobbled up the jelly hearts once they finished licking the bowl out, natch.

valentine scribble cake

If you’d like to attempt creating your own chocolate action art masterpiece with your little ones, here’s how we made ours. It’s a slight variation on the tried and tested chocolate cake I make for most special occasions in our house.

Valentine scribble cake

3 tbsp cocoa powder
200g caster sugar
200g soft butter
3 eggs
200g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp strawberry jam
200ml double cream

For the icing

100g butter
100g white chocolate, plus another 25g for drizzling
100g icing sugar
2 tbsp double cream
red food colouring
25g plain chocolate
plus any other decorations you care to throw on top

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of two 20cm cake tins with baking parchment.

In a cup mix the cocoa with 4 tablespoons of boiling water until smooth.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Take some time with this; keep beating for a good five minutes. Add the cocoa mixture, eggs, flour and baking powder and mix well.

Split the mixture between the two cake tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the oven. The cakes are ready when an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing the cakes from the tins.

To make the icing, place the butter, white chocolate, icing sugar and double cream into a bowl and place over gently simmering water in a pan. Stir until it’s all melted and blended together. Add a few drops of red food colouring – just one or two if you want a pretty shade of pink, or a good glug if you fancy a slightly more vivid hue like ours. If the white chocolate goes a little lumpy or grainy, as it can do sometimes (white chocolate isn’t particularly easy to work with when it’s melted), you can try stirring in a touch more double cream and/or passing the icing through a sieve into another bowl. Allow the icing to cool a little.

Whip the double cream until it forms soft peaks.

Remove the baking parchment from both cakes. Place one a wire rack, over kitchen towel or newspaper to catch the icing drips later. Firstly spread the cake with jam and then with whipped cream. Place the second sponge on top and press down.

Pour the red icing over the top and allow to set slightly. In separate bowls, melt the white chocolate and plain chocolate and then, using a teaspoon, drizzle over the cake in an ‘artistic’ manner. Finally, decorate with any other sweeties or chocolates you fancy.

valentine scribble cake

As this cake is definitely one to make for and with those you love, particularly those of the younger/smaller variety, I am entering it into February’s Family Foodies challenge hosted by Eat Your Veg and myself, and where the theme this month is LOVE.


Disclosure: Thorntons provided me with complimentary chocolate truffle cups and strawberry jelly hearts for review purposes.

Family Foodies: your favourite ‘hidden goodies’ recipes

Hidden Goodies Collage

Now how’s that for a tempting array of food and drink? Would you believe each and every one of these is packed full of hidden goodies to tempt your children (and any other fussy eaters) to get some healthy stuff inside them?

If you are looking for cunning ways to sneak some extra fruit, vegetables, fibre, nuts or pulses into your family, then I’m sure you’ll find a tasty trick or two among this month’s fabulous Family Foodies round-up. So let’s get started…

Turkey Sliders

Turkey Sliders from Mamacook

As well as turkey, these sliders (aka mini burgers) from Heidi at Mamacook feature hidden vegetables in the form of grated courgette, along with fresh herbs and sweet chilli sauce – a great way to introduce a little mild spice to your little ones. I’m sure my children could put quite a few of these cute little burgers away. As indeed could I.

broccoli courgette and stilton soup

Broccoli, Courgette and Stilton Soup from Caroline Makes

I love the idea of Caroline from Caroline Makes sneaking vegetables into her own food! That’s exactly what she’s done with this tasty broccoli, courgette and Stilton soup. “I am a pretty fussy eater,” she writes, “and don’t like a lot of veg, so had an idea of sneaking some hidden veg… into my own food! My theory was that if I couldn’t see it, and hopefully couldn’t taste it, I wouldn’t mind eating it.” I definitely wouldn’t mind eating a big bowl of this – and I’m sure I’d be back for seconds.

Broccoli frittata

Broccoli Frittata from Mamacook

Heidi from Mamacook  is back with a beautiful broccoli frittata, which she says is ideal for babies, toddlers and indeed the whole family. And even though this is a pretty thrifty dish, Heidi’s tip to make it even thriftier is to make sure you cook the broccoli stalk as well as the florets, as it all tastes the same. Sound advice.

Baked spinach and potato bites

Spinach and Potato Bites from Mamacook

Heidi is a dab hand at this hidden goodies lark. Here’s her third entry; spinach and potato bites, and don’t though look so good? They’re a great way to use up leftover mashed potato and an ideal finger food for toddlers. Heidi’s son ate six of them in one sitting, even before he touched his fish fingers, which really is saying something.

spicy chicken burger

Spicy Chicken Burgers from Caroline Makes

There’s sneaky carrot in this healthy take on the chicken burger, a second entry from Caroline Makes, which originates from a Slimming World recipe. They are a great way to make chicken breasts go a little bit further, and Caroline promises you really can’t taste the carrot!

leftover rice balls

Leftover Rice Balls from My Tasty Adventures

Carrot is another hidden ingredient in these wonderful rice balls from My Tasty Adventures, together with peas, cheese, chicken, herbs and spices, and of course leftover rice. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, they are reminiscent of a falafel and I know my children would absolutely adore them.

roast vegetable sauce for pasta

Roast Vegetable Sauce for Pasta from Bangers & Mash

Pasta sauces are an easy way to disguise a whole host of vegetables and my roast vegetable sauce contains carrots, tomatoes, butternut squash, red onion, celery and courgettes. It’s incredibly easy to make and I’ve been cooking it for my two girls since they were toddlers and they still love it now.

vegetarian canneloni

Vegetarian Cannelloni from Spurs Cook

Martin from Spurs Cook brings us another pasta and vegetable dish with his warming cannelloni. There are all kinds of ingredients in this one from mushrooms, leeks, courgettes and carrots to chilli, fennel and anchovies and while it apparently involves quite a bit of preparation, Martin assures us it is well worth the effort. I bet – it sounds absolutely gorgeous.

parsnip, carrot and lentil soup

Parsnip, Carrot & Lentil Soup from Tinned Tomatoes

Just like pasta sauces, soups are another brilliant way to introduce vegetables and other goodies to your children. Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes offers this gorgeously wholesome parsnip, carrot and lentil soup, which as well as being a great tea for little ones is perfect for anyone on the 5:2 diet as it contains just 175 calories a portion.

slow cooker carrot and coriander soup

Slow Cooker Carrot & Coriander Soup from JibberJabberUK

Ness from JibberJabberUK brings us this delicious carrot and coriander soup, which happens to be the first soup she’s made in her slow cooker since her university days, when she managed to stink out her student flat with a particularly garlicky soup while she was out at her Saturday job. Personally, I’d never complain about the smell of garlic, but it definitely sounds like this soup was much more of a success.

roast cauliflower cheese soup

Roast Cauliflower Cheese Soup from Bangers & Mash

My roast cauliflower cheese soup is very simple to make and the ingredients list isn’t long, yet it tastes rich and luxurious all the same. It’s the ideal way to encourage people who normally steer clear of cauliflower to give it a go, and I’m convinced they’ll be persuaded to change their minds.

jeruslam soup+crisps

Jerusalem Artichoke and Rosemary Soup with Jerusalem Artichoke Crisps from Allotment 2 Kitchen

Jerusalem artichoke soup has to be one of my all-time favourites and I really like the addition of rosemary in this version from Shaheen from Allotment 2 Kitchen, along with the adornment of delicate Jerusalem artichoke crisps. I must admit I haven’t tried artichokes yet on my two girls, but I am very sure they would be tempted by this lovely soup.

Carrot-Courgette-Fritters-4 (1)

Carrot & Courgette Fritters from The Spicy Pear

Tina from The Spicy Pear says these delightful fritters were born out of necessity when she needed to use up some carrots and courgettes. They have become a regular feature in her house ever since, and I can certainly see why. They look like a restaurant-style hor d’oeuvre, rather than a meal of leftovers, and I bet they would get gobbled up by my clan within seconds.

Chicken cutlets with veggies

Chicken Cutlets with Veggies from Happiness is Homemade

Nor would these irresistible chicken cutlets from Sylvia at Happiness is Homemade look out-of-place in a smart restaurant. Sylvia says they were a staple dish of her childhood. Her mother would cook them while she was at school, as a clever way to sneak in some veggies of which she wasn’t the biggest fan at the time.

chorizo and vegetable stromboli

Chorizo and Vegetable Stromboli from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families

This stromboli, which Michelle from Utterly Scrummy helpfully explains is a Swiss roll type savoury filled bread thing, looks simply gorgeous. You can imagine how those roasted vegetables and spicy chorizo wrapped up in warm bread are going to come together in fabulously cheesy, oozy mouthfuls of utter scrumminess.


Green Olive & Date Breadsticks from How to Cook Good Food

Breadsticks are one of my daughters’ favourite snacks and we get through a fair few of them in our house, so it would probably be a good idea to have a go at making our own. This recipe from Laura at How to Cook Good Food looks perfect, bringing together the sweet and salty flavours of dates and green olive, which I know my girls would really go for.

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes

Smoked Mackerel Fish Cakes from Mamacook

Fish cakes are another staple food in our house but I’m slightly embarrassed to admit they normally come out of a packet. This tasty recipe from Heidi at Mamacook shows just how easy it is to make your own fish cakes, particularly when you use ready-to-eat smoked mackerel, plus it gives you the opportunity to sneak in a few extra goodies: Heidi’s fish cakes feature butternut squash along with the mashed potato. I’ll be trying these on my girls very soon.

veggie sausageless rolls

Veggie Sausageless Rolls from The Crazy Kitchen

These yummy sausageless rolls from Helen in The Crazy Kitchen look so tempting, you’d never know they were packed full of all kinds of goodies – such as cauliflower, which Helen’s son Jack hates, yet he happily tucked into a plate of these. This recipe will make 24 mini sausageless rolls, plus you’ll have enough filling left over to make a few veggie burgers too.


Chicken, Pearl Barley and Veggie Stew from Eat Your Veg

My fellow host of the Family Foodies challenge, Louisa from Eat Your Veg brings this fabulous chicken stew to our table, featuring lovely pearl barley and a whole host of wholesome vegetables. Louisa has been making this stew for her “two monsters” since they were weaning and they always devoured it. Serve me a big bowl of this stew, and I’d devour it too.

Slow Cooker Turkey Supreme

Slow Cooker Turkey Supreme from JibberJabberUK

Ness from JibberJabberUK is back with another treat from her slow cooker, this time a turkey supreme, made from turkey thighs lurking at the back of her freezer and an assortment of vegetables that needed using up in the fridge. This included celery, which in her house only Ness actually likes. Her whole family enjoyed the turkey supreme, and not one noticed the celery. Nice work, Ness!

mini calzones

Mini Calzones with Asparagus from My Tasty Adventures

These mini calzones from My Tasty Adventures don’t just look good; they also taste good and you can feel good about eating them. They are a great snack for little ones, which you can pack to eat on the go and I’m sure they’d go down very well in your kid’s lunch box. These tasty morsels are filled with asparagus, mushrooms and mozzarella, while the beautiful pastry features turmeric powder and chia seeds.

creamy green chicken curry

Creamy Green Chicken Curry from Dip’s Diner

This vibrant chicken curry from Dip’s Diner gets its brilliant green colour from spinach puree and lots of coriander and is packed full of a wonderful assortment of fragrant spices. You just know this curry is going to taste divine, as well as being so good for you.

lamb and potato bake

Lamb & Potato Bake from JibberJabberUK

Ness from JibberJabberUK is back again with an ingenious cheat’s version of a shepherd’s pie in the form of this tasty, one-pot lamb and potato bake. It also features lots of vegetables, finely chopped up so they are barely noticeable. Plus Ness leaves the skins on the potatoes for even more hidden goodness.

beef pie with hidden carrot

Beef Pie with Hidden Carrot (and Other Vegetables) from Gluten Free Alchemist

My children go mad for a tasty, meaty pie and this beef pie from Kate (aka the Gluten Free Alchemist) looks like their dream dinner. Kate has a regular battle getting her daughter to eat vegetables and so she has become a bit of a dab hand at disguising them, as in this delicious pie, which is one of her daughter’s favourite meals. As well as the “evil carrot” as her daughter dubs them, Kate’s pie also contains a goodly quantity of parsley, onion, garlic, sweetcorn and tomato.

Beef Ragu from Feed My Family!

Jillian from Feed My Family offers us another beefy dish featuring all kinds of hidden vegetables in her beef ragu, perfect served up with either rice or pasta. She uses this ragu to smuggle vegetables into her husband as well as her children!

fig and honey smoothie

Fig and Honey Smoothie from Bangers & Mash

We’re moving onto sweet treats next and first up is my fig and honey smoothie, which my girls loved even though neither of them would ever normally go near a dried fig. They reckoned it tasted like a chocolate smoothie and were desperate for seconds. A definite result in my book.

beetroot and chocolate cupcakes

Chocolate and Beetroot Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting from Selma’s Table

In my eyes, chocolate and beetroot is an incredible combination , and don’t these lovely cupcakes from Selma of Selma’s Table look just so tempting? She recently managed to feed this to a friend’s husband who normally can’t even look at beetroot. And yes, he enjoyed them – you really can’t taste the beetroot. Instead they give the cake a marvellous moistness and a beautiful reddish hue.


Apricot, Coconut & Plain Chocolate Cookies from Eat Your Veg

Louisa from Eat Your Veg has sneaked a fair few goodies into this cheeky little cookies, with wholemeal flour, dark brown sugar, dried apricots, plain chocolate, hazelnuts, desiccated coconut and oats all on the ingredients list. What’s more, the dough keeps well in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen for a later, almost instant, sweet treat.


Avocado Oat Cookies with Raisins and Chocolate from Veggie Desserts

Kate from Veggie Desserts has also brought a batch of virtuous cookies to our Hidden Goodies party. Her gorgeously green cookies feature oats, raisins, chocolate and, rather unusually, avocado. They are super easy to make, can be whipped up in next to no time and make an ideal portable snack for children and grown ups alike.


Chocolate Avocado Mousse from Eat Your Veg

More hidden avocado is on the menu from my Hidden Goodies partner in crime, Louisa at Eat Your Veg. Her chocolate avocado mousse looks so good, what child (or adult) could resist? Taking just five minutes, yes FIVE minutes, to make, they must surely be the speediest pud ever, not to mention most nutritious.

Artichoke Cake Slice

Jerusalem Artichoke Cake from Chocolate Log Blog

Rounding off our inspired menu of hidden goody delights, Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog brings us this glorious Jerusalem artichoke cake. Choclette says you’d never know there were artichokes in the cake, but they successfully added to the overall nuttiness and moistness. It is similar to a carrot cake – but even nicer.

So if you are looking for new ways of getting your family to eat more of their five-a-day, a good place to start would be to work your way through this little lot. I’m sure you’ll agree, we received some fantastic entries to Family Foodies this month. But of course this is a challenge and, as ever, there can only be one winner. The unenviable task of judging falls to Trish Tucker-May from Passion for Juice, so without further ado I’ll hand over to Trish to announce the winner.

And the winner is…

Trish with sons Roary and Jackpot and husband Joe

Trish with sons Roary and Jackpot and husband Joe

Trish says, “I loved the fantastic pictures and have pinned many of these recipes to try in the future. I particularly liked the simplicity of all of Mamacook’s recipes. I loved the Polish translation from Happiness is Homemade’s recipe for the Chicken Cutlets with Veggies. Chocolate Avocado Mousse is close to my heart, as it is one I love to make myself. It is so easy, decadent and healthy. The Parsnip, Carrot and Lentil Soup by Tinned Tomatoes stood out as well, as I liked the amount of veg plus the nutritional information for the 5:2 diet was helpful and easy to follow.

“The Beef Pie with Hidden Carrot from Gluten Free Alchemist looks amazing and I will be making this over the weekend. Beautiful pictures and the pie looked delightful covered in stars. Eat Your Veg’s recipe for Apricot, Coconut and Plain Chocolate Cookies looks amazing and I thought the layout was very easy to follow with clear prep times and lovely pictures.

“So as you can see, it has been a very difficult decision but I had to narrow it down to one recipe that I thought was unusual. I would never have thought of putting avocado into biscuits and cooking it with oats. So my choice for the winner is Veggie Desserts’ Avocado, Oat Cookies with Raisins and Chocolate.  The photos look brilliant and I like the idea of green biscuits. They look very simple and intriguing. This is definitely a recipe I will be trying with my family. One of my boys hates avocado but if it is alongside raisins and chocolate it is a sure crowd pleaser.

“Congratulations to Veggie Deserts and to all the entrants. I am so inspired by so many clever cooks, writers and photographers. Thanks for letting me take part.”

Thanks to Trish for judging and providing this month’s prize. And well done again to Kate from Veggie Desserts on a very well deserved win. Your prize of a Passion 4 Juice recipe book will be in the post to you very soon.

Love is in the air with February’s Family Foodies challenge over at Eat Your Veg. This month we’re looking for your favourite recipes to cook for your family to show them just how much you love them! Can’t wait to see what you all come up with…


Fig and honey smoothie

fig and honey smoothie

Since making the Cheeky Monkey smoothie, we’ve been experimenting with all kinds of fresh juices and smoothies at Chez Bangers. This one is currently one of our favourites.

I wasn’t sure my children would like the idea of a smoothie made from dried figs, so I told them it was a honey smoothie. They gulped it down in seconds and demanded another. They also asked whether there was chocolate in it. I guess that’s partly due to the colour, but the fig does give it a lovely richness which isn’t all that dissimilar to a chocolate smoothie.

So if you’re trying to encourage your children to consume a little extra fruit and fibre, this smoothie could be a good way to go…

fig and honey smoothie

Fig and honey smoothie

Serves 2

50g dried figs, roughly chopped
250ml milk
1 tbsp rolled oats
1 tbsp runny honey

Place the figs in a glass and cover with milk, around 50ml. Leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours, or even better overnight, to allow the figs to become all plump and squidgy.

Simply pour the figs, along with the milk in which they have been soaking, together with the rest of the milk, oats and honey into a liquidiser and blend well until smooth.

fig and honey smoothie

As my fig and honey smoothie is a great way to sneak some extra goodies into your children’s diets (and your own while you’re at it), I’m entering it into January’s Family Foodies challenge, where the theme is Hidden Goodies.


January’s Family Foodies challenge: hidden goodies


We all want to feed our little ones good, healthy food, and yet that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. As parents and carers, we play a huge role in shaping our children’s attitudes towards food but the individual child’s tastes and character play a big part too.

Take my two daughters, for instance. Our first daughter Jess is nearly nine, and will eat practically everything you put in front of her. Everything that is, except mushrooms for some reason. But overall she is an absolute joy to feed and cook for and she’s always been this way, ever since weaning. She has an adventurous and curious approach towards food and is always eager to try new things. A lover of strong, bold flavours, Jess delights in being able to eat chillies almost as hot as those my husband and I can eat.

So my husband and I were rather proud about this little foodie we assumed we had created. And then our second daughter comes along; Mia, who is now nearly six. While she will eat quite a varied diet, it is only after a great deal of coaxing and cajoling. And disguising. Mia likes meat and plain foods. Bangers and mash is one of her favourites, or a straightforward roast dinner; sweet puddings and chocolate. You can see the look of suspicion instantly appear in her eyes when I serve up anything different, or smelling of spices, or containing a heavy quota of vegetables.

Yet our children have had exactly the same influences, have grown up being fed the same foods and tasting the same tastes and yet their whole response to food is at such polar opposites.

That’s why I’m thrilled to be hosting this month’s Family Foodies challenge, calling for your favourite family recipes featuring Hidden Goodies.

HIDDEN GOODIESWhile I’m not a big believer of making special food for children and would much rather they ate the same good food as the rest of us, we do need to acknowledge that sometimes children need a little extra persuasion to enjoy new foods, tastes and flavours. And yes sometimes, at the end of the day, all we care about is making sure our kids get something nutritious inside them, whether they realise it or not.

So that’s this month challenge. What are your cunning ploys and devious devices for getting some of the good stuff into your kids – be it fruit, vegetables, fibre, nuts or pulses? What are your favourite recipes containing hidden goodies? At the end of this month’s challenge, it would be fantastic to have a store of ideas to share with other parents looking for creative ideas on how to tackle this age old problem.

Win a delicious juice and smoothie recipe book

At the end of the Hidden Goodies Family Foodies challenge, one lucky winner will receive a recipe book from Passion 4 Juice, featuring an inspiring collection of tempting juice and smoothie recipes created by Trish Tucker May. Trish launched her mobile juice bar at the Glastonbury Festival back in 2003 and since then thousands of festival goers have experienced her amazing taste sensations, both here in the UK and in her native Australia.

passion 4 juice

Family Foodie Entry Guidelines:

  • You may submit any recipe on your blog that fits this month’s theme, new or from the archive, and feel free to enter as many times as you wish. You’re also welcome to submit the post to other challenges too. If the recipe is not your own, please give the appropriate credit.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Tuesday 28 January 2014.
  • Display the Family Foodies badge (below) on your recipe post, with a link back to both Eat Your Veg and Bangers & Mash, as well as details of this month’s challenge.
  • If you’re on Twitter, then please tweet your post to myself @BangerMashChatand Lou @Eat_Your_Veg and include the hashtag #FamilyFoodies. We’ll retweet all that we see.
  • You may enter from anywhere in the blogosphere, and we’ll happily post out any prizes.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe. The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries. Winners will get to display a Family Foodie Winner annotated badge on their blog if they wish and their recipe will go through to the Family Foodies Hall of Fame on each of our sites.
  • All entries will be added to the Family Foodies Pinterest Group Board.

I’m really looking forward to seeing your Hidden Goodies entries!

January’s entries…

  1. Turkey Sliders from Mamacook
  2. Spinach and Potato Bites from Mamacook
  3. Broccoli Frittata from Mamacook
  4. Chocolate and Beetroot Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting from Selma’s Table
  5. Spicy Chicken Burgers from Caroline Makes
  6. Chicken Cutlets with Veggies from Happiness is Homemade
  7. Chorizo and Vegetable Stromboli from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families
  8. Smoked Mackerel Fish Cakes from Mamacook
  9. Broccoli, Courgette and Stilton Soup from Caroline Makes
  10. Veggie Sausageless Rolls from The Crazy Kitchen
  11. Chicken, Pearl Barley and Veggie Stew from Eat Your Veg
  12. Slow Cooker Turkey Supreme from JibberJabberUK
  13. Chocolate Avocado Mousse from Eat Your Veg
  14. Mini Calzones with Asparagus from My Tasty Adventures
  15. Avocado Oat Cookies with Raisins and Chocolate from Veggie Desserts
  16. Creamy Green Chicken Curry from Dip’s Diner
  17. Roast Cauliflower Cheese Soup from Bangers & Mash
  18. Lamb & Potato Bake from JibberJabberUK
  19. Green Olive & Date Breadsticks from How to Cook Good Food
  20. Parsnip, Carrot & Lentil Soup from Tinned Tomatoes
  21. Beef Pie with Hidden Carrot (and Other Vegetables) from Gluten Free Alchemist
  22. Apricot, Coconut & Plain Chocolate Cookies from Eat Your Veg
  23. Carrot & Courgette Fritters from The Spicy Pear
  24. Jerusalem Artichoke Cake from Chocolate Log Blog
  25. Jerusalem Artichoke and Rosemary Soup with Jerusalem Artichoke Crisps from Allotment 2 Kitchen
  26. Leftover Rice Balls from My Tasty Adventures
  27. Roast Vegetable Sauce for Pasta from Bangers & Mash
  28. Slow Cooker Carrot & Coriander Soup from JibberJabberUK
  29. Vegetarian Canneloni from Spurs Cook
  30. Fig and Honey Smoothie from Bangers & Mash
  31. Beef Ragu from Feed My Family!


Snowflake tear and share iced buns

snowflake Collage

These snowflake iced buns would make a fun teatime centre piece when friends and family are gathered together over Christmas, particularly if there are children in the equation. They are very easy to make as well, and the children will love to get involved in the baking as much as the eating.

Flavoured with cinnamon and lemon and sprinkled with a tiny touch of confectioner’s glitter, the buns are sticky, sweet and wonderfully festive but without the rich heaviness of many of the cakes and puddings around at this time of year. Perfect with a cup of afternoon tea.

snowflake iced buns

This recipe is based on one I found on the Delicious website.

Snowflake tear and share iced buns

250g strong white bread flour
250g plain flour
1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
2 tsp salt
50g soft butter
2 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
100ml semi-skimmed milk, warmed
1 egg
200ml tepid water
400g icing sugar
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
confectioner’s glitter

Sift the flours into a mixing bowl along with the yeast and salt. Make a well in the middle, and add the soft butter, sugar, cinnamon milk and egg. Bring all the ingredients together using a wooden spoon, adding the tepid water just a little at a time until you have a wet dough.

Dust your work surface with flour, and then knead your dough for a good 10 minutes until smooth and stretchy. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for an hour or so, until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

Knock back the dough by giving it a decent punch. Pull off small pieces of dough, approximately palm-sized and roll into the various components of your snowflake shape. You’ll need eight longish buns for the main ‘spokes’ of the snowflake and eight slightly shorter ones for the V-shapes at the end of each spoke. Don’t make them too fat; remember they will rise again. Arrange the buns, almost touching on a lined baking tray. I had extra dough left over, so I made a further six traditional shaped buns and placed these on a separate tray.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.

Cover the buns with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for another hour to double in size.

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until risen and a beautiful golden colour. Carefully lift the snowflake onto a wire rack to cool. Don’t worry though if it does break apart. It’s easy to put it all back together on a plate before icing.

To make the lemon icing, simply sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and mix in enough lemon juice until you get a thick but slightly runny icing. Using a tablespoon, drizzle a generous amount of icing over each bun and sprinkle over a little confectioner’s glitter for some festive sparkle. Leave for a minute or so to set, then place on a serving plate. And off you go – tear and share!

snowflake iced buns

My Spice Trail challenge for December has cinnamon as its theme, so of course I have to enter these sticky iced buns.

spice trail badge square

The buns are great to bake with and for kids, making them ideal candidates for December’s Family Foodies hosted by Eat Your Veg, where the theme is Kids Christmas.

family-foodiesAnd as the chosen letter is X over at the Alpha Bakes challenge, hosted by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes, I think these buns would be a good entry as they are perfect for your Xmas parties.

AlphaBakes Logo

After Eight ice cream sundaes

Sundae CollageIn the words of Perry and Bing and may other crooners, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Our tree went up at the weekend and suddenly the house feels transformed into a magical, sparkly wonderland. It’s the earliest  we’ve ever put it up. My husband doesn’t think we should have a tree until Christmas Eve, but I’ve been working on him over the years and, having been to the children’s school Christmas fair the day before, it just felt right for it to go up last Saturday.

We also made these After Eight ice cream sundaes at the weekend, which got us into the festive feasting spirit. Wow – they were good. Indulgent, rich and decadent, just like a proper sundae should be. Not of course, something you should eat every day though. But for a Christmas treat, these are just the ticket.

after eight sundae

I must admit, I haven’t eaten After Eight Mints for some years. I associate them with Christmas as a child back in the eighties. I can clearly remember being at my grandparents’ house in Lancashire for Christmas and having them at the end of a meal. As the grown ups were chatting, I pretty much worked my way through the box, and I couldn’t deny how many I’d eaten as the evidence was there in front of me in the form of a pile of those little black envelopes. I’d forgotten how much I like them. And my children seem rather partial to them to. It was a battle keeping the grubby little mitts off them so that I had enough to make this dessert.

The good people at After Eight sent me some of their goodies to experiment with: a box of After Eight Mints and their After Eight Collection, a selection of dark and white mint chocolates. The challenge was to come up with a dessert featuring their chocolate mints. As my children adore mint choc chip ice cream, an ice cream sundae was the obvious choice. 

These sundaes are very simple to make; more of an assembly job really. There are chocolate brownies at the bottom. Feel free to bake your own, but I made things easy on myself by buying some. Next comes a layer of forest fruits, which bring a touch of tartness to the proceedings. You need it to cut through all that rich sweetness. Then there’s the After Eight ice cream. Even if you don’t fancy making the whole sundae, do try making the ice cream – it’s a lovely take on the classic mint choc chip and really couldn’t be easier to create.

after eight ice cream

Melted After Eight Mints combined with a little cream conjure up a wonderful chocolate sauce, which is loving drizzled over the ice cream before topping with whipped cream for that extra level of indulgence.

after eight chocolate sauce

So there you have it – my simple After Eight ice cream sundaes. You’re welcome!

After Eight ice cream sundaes

Makes 4 large sundaes

Half a litre vanilla ice cream
300g box of After Eight Mints
4 chocolate brownies, cut into bite-size chunks
300ml double cream
250g forest fruits (fresh or frozen)
After Eight Collection chocolates for decoration

Place the ice cream in a bowl and allow to soften at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Chop half the After Eight Mints into small pieces. Fold the mint pieces into the ice cream, spoon into a plastic carton, cover and place in the freezer until it has re-frozen.

To make the sauce, place the remaining After Eight Mints and 100ml of the cream in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir until the chocolate mints have completely melted and the sauce has formed. Leave to cool.

Whip the remaining cream in a large bowl until stiff.

Place the brownie pieces at the bottom of four sundae glasses and top with a couple of spoonfuls of the frozen fruits. On top of the fruits place a couple of scoops of the chocolate mint ice cream and drizzle with a generous smothering of chocolate mint sauce. Finally, spoon whipped cream on top of each sundae and decorate with a pretty chocolate from the After Eight Collection. 

Dig in and enjoy to your heart’s content!

Disclosure: this post is sponsored by After Eight who paid me to develop this recipe and provided me with complimentary boxes of After Eight Mints and the After Eight Collection.

As this pudding definitely fits the description of a Festive Treat, I’m entering it into December’s Teatime Treats hosted by What Kate Baked and Lavender & Lovage.


And these sundaes would be great for parties, so I’m also entering them into Four Seasons Food hosted by  Delicieux and Eat Your Veg.


My children adored the sundaes, so I reckon they would also make a good entry for December’s Family Foodies challenge over at Eat Your Veg, where the theme is Kids Christmas.


Family Foodies: top lunchbox ideas

Lunchbox Collage

If you ever feel stuck in a rut when it comes to preparing your children’s lunchboxes, you’re sure to find a few new ideas here. I know my children would be over the moon to discover any one of these tasty treats in their packed lunches, and I’m sure they would be the envy of the school dining hall.

So without further ado, I have great pleasure in bringing you this month’s Family Foodies lunchbox round-up. We’ve lots of tasty savoury bakes to get things started, including some clever ways to sneak a few veggies into  the kids.

savoury vegetable cake

Savoury Vegetable Cake from Allotment 2 Kitchen

These savoury cakes from Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen look just the ticket for satisfying growling tums and will ensure your little ones are well on their way to their five-a-day, with their filling of carrots, French beans and cauliflower florets.

Apple & Smoked Cheese Pasties from The Garden Deli

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who doesn’t like a homemade pasty, and children in particular seem rather partial to a stuffed pastry creation or two. Smoked cheese is popular in our house, which happens to be the filling of these wholesome pasties from Sarah at The Garden Deli, along with her homegrown apples and sage for a fantastic flavour combination.

mini pasties

Mini Lunchbox Pasties from Bangers & Mash

More pasties, this time from me. These mini pasties are filled with minced beef, carrot and hard-boiled egg and flavoured with a dash or Worcestershire sauce and a little black treacle. I’m rather addicted to using treacle with beef, since discovering it recently in a Higgidy Pie recipe for chilli beef.

Chilli Corn Chocolate Muffins

Chilli Corn Chocolate Muffins from Chocolate Log Blog

When I first read the name of these, I have to admit I assumed they were going to be sweet muffins but I was completely wrong. These inventive bakes from Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog feature Cheddar cheese, manzano chilli, paprika, garlic, 100% dark chocolate (“for extra umami”) and sweetcorn for a gorgeously chewy texture. Intrigued? I certainly am.


Pumpkin, Walnut & Poppy Seed Muffins with Cheddar Cheese from Lavender & Lovage

More savoury muffins up next from Karen at Lavender & Lovage, and again featuring Cheddar cheese but this time with the seasonal addition of pumpkin with walnuts and poppy seeds. My girls would be thrilled to find these in their lunchboxes, although I can also see myself serving them up at home with a big bowl of hot soup.


Cheesy Pumpkin Scones from Eat Your Veg

Lou at Eat Your Veg uses more pumpkin in this next entry, and here she succeeds in sneaking it into these incredibly tempting cheese scones. I like the idea of scattering pumpkin seeds on top for a delightfully crunchy topping.

cheese and apple scones

Cheddar Cheese, Apple & Sage Scones from Bangers & Mash

Savoury scones are a regular lunchbox filler in our house, so here’s another scone idea from me. Like Sarah at The Garden Deli with her beautiful pasties, I’ve gone for a cheese, apple and sage combination. This recipe makes around 12 scones, which ought to see you through quite a few lunches, but in actual fact they were all eaten within the day here.

sausage plait

Honey Mustard Sausage Plaits from Mint Custard

I often have cravings for sausage rolls, and when I saw both these sausage plaits from Becky at Mint Custard (and the next entry) I couldn’t stop thinking about sausage rolls for ages. I’ve never thought to include sausage rolls in a lunchbox before, but what a sound idea, although I am thinking as much of my own lunchbox as my children’s.

sausage bacon apple rolls

 Gluten Free Sausage, Bacon and Apple Rolls from the Gluten Free Alchemist

Lunchboxes can be even more of a challenge when you have to stick to a gluten-free diet, so this recipe from Kate aka the Gluten Free Alchemist will be something of a Godsend for many. Made with homemade gluten-free shortcrust pastry (using potato and gram flour) and filled with bacon, apple (more apple – hurrah!) and gluten-free sausage meat, I am literally drooling as I include this entry…

mini tarts

Mini Tarts from Bangers & Mash

You might have gathered I’m rather fond of mini what-nots for lunchboxes. As well as mini pasties, these mini tarts always go down well with my children. They’re very versatile and you can fill them with just about anything you (or the children) fancy. Or whatever you happen to have lurking in the fridge.


Hedgehog Rolls from Eat Your Veg

I often find that when kids have helped to cook something, they’re much more likely to eat it and I can’t imagine many children not enjoying making and eating these cute little hedgehog rolls from Lou at Eat Your Veg. And not just hedgehogs, but tortoises, flowers and snails too!


Luchito Honey Glazed Ham from Eat Your Veg

Lou also offers us this majestic glazed ham, which I am definitely bookmarking to make at Christmas. Her children enjoyed thick slices of this to fill hedgehog rolls in their packed lunches. What incredibly lucky children!

bento sushi rice

Bento Sushi Rice Shapes from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary

Elizabeth offers us a whole array of lunchbox ideas in her entry, including ingenious ‘ants on a log’, but it is her sushi rice shapes that I can’t wait to try first. They’re so simple but so effective; my daughter’s response when I showed her the photo was “Wow! Can we have those?”

Sweet treats

And now it’s time for some sweet treats. I like to think when I include a little sweet homemade something in their lunchboxes, it’s as if I’m sending a hug to my children while they’re at school. A bit twee perhaps, but I can be like that sometimes.

bread pudding

Bread Pudding from The Crazy Kitchen

I’d never have thought of including bread pudding in a lunchbox but after seeing this post from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen it suddenly seems like a very good idea, and one that would keep the kids’ tummies full all afternoon. I’m not sure my bread pudding would end up looking quite this beautiful though…

choc orange cranberry cookies

Chocolate, Orange & Cranberry Cookies from Utterly Scrummy

Just looking at these cookies makes me feel all Christmassy – what a great idea of Michelle from Utterly Scrummy to use chocolate orange (from her husband’s not-so-secret stash I might add) along with cranberries for a fabulously festive flavour. Personally, I think these would be far too good for the children, and would probably end up hiding them away in my own secret stash…


Super-Fruity Banana Loaf Cake from Eat Your Veg

For someone who says she’s not a baker, I’m always so impressed by the cakes Louisa posts over at Eat Your Veg. Doesn’t this fruity loaf cake look delicious? Plus it’s pretty good for you too, featuring no less than three bananas, dried apricots, sultanas, wholemeal flour and she replaces the usual butter with coconut oil and yoghurt. A perfect sweet treat for the kids’ lunchboxes I reckon.


Spiced Muesli Cake from The Crazy Kitchen

More festive baking next, this time in the form of a spiced muesli cake – a second brilliant entry from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen. It’s great cold in lunchboxes, but also makes for a comforting pud served warm from the oven with ice cream or custard. This cake really wouldn’t last very long in our house!


Soul-Cakes from Lavender & Lovage

These pretty Soul-Cakes from Karen at Lavender & Lovage are a cake-cum-biscuit, traditionally made on All Soul’s Day (just after Halloween) and were distributed by the rich to the poor of the parish. They are very easy-to-make and would be perfect with your afternoon cuppa, but do make sure you save a one or two for the children’s lunches.

lime cake

Easy Iced Lime Cake from Fab Food 4 All

My children’s school provides hot meals twice a week and when I ask them on those days what the best thing they ate was, it’s invariably an iced sponge cake of some description. So what a good idea to include it in their packed lunches too, and this iced lime cake from Camilla at Fab Food 4 All looks just the recipe to try.

spiced pumpkin and chocolate cupcakes

Spiced Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins from Leeks & Limoni

These muffins look really rather decadent but according to Katharine at Leeks & Limoni they’re actually quite virtuous. They contain no butter at all and only a little sunflower oil, and of course there’s the pumpkin too. What’s more they’re incredibly easy to make. I’m sold!

fruit and nut balls

Dried Fruit & Nut Balls from Bangers & Mash

These fruit and nut balls sound so virtuous, you really wouldn’t expect them to taste good but trust me, they really do. Although a little part of me is wondering how they’d taste if they were dipped in some gorgeously dark chocolate… By the way, my girls’ school is OK with nuts (as ingredients in cakes and biscuits etc) in packed lunches, but do check your school lunch policy before sending these in.

So there you have it, our Family Foodies’ round-up of tasty recipes to help you put some pizzazz in your lunchboxes. But there can only be one winner.

And the winner is…

Our guest judge this month is Caroline Job, the mum of three behind the inspiring website that is Lunchbox World. You should pay the site a visit as it’s packed full of lovely recipes and helpful hints and tips, plus lots of cool lunchbox-related products. So Caroline knows a thing or two about what makes a good lunchbox filler.

This is what Caroline had to say:

“I was delighted to be asked to judge this month’s round-up.  Having set up the Lunchbox World business back in 2009, when my three kids started having packed lunches at school, lunch boxes are never far from my thoughts. Helping you put the fun back into packed lunches has always been my mantra!

“When I look out for new lunch box ideas, I am always thinking: they have to be fun, something the kids will eat, nutritious and above all, attractive and easy for them to eat. If they can be bite-size or in their very own portion, I feel it goes down into their tummies that much quicker! If we think it’s boring, the kids will too, so it is always worth the time and effort to make it FUN! I aim for the kids to bring home those lunch boxes empty (ie eaten), which then puts a smile on my face, as I then think “job well done”.

“There were so many fun, tasty, and nutritious entries, it was a tough decision. It would have been great to taste them all! But there were three that jumped out at me. The hedgehog rolls from Eat Your Veg are such fun and I am sure any kid finding them in their lunch box would gobble them up immediately! But I hesitated as the prep/cooking time was a long one. I was also drawn to the bite-size mini tarts by Bangers and Mash, but I was looking for something a bit more festive for this time of year.

Then bingo! I saw the delicious cranberry, orange and chocolate cookies made by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy. These tick all the boxes for me and they’ve got the festive flavour too.


So because it’s Christmas, I have a fun prize for Michelle. Hopefully every time you use it you’ll think of Lunchbox World. A fun dotty lunch box with matching picnic mat, that folds up into approximately A4 size, so very portable. Don’t feel you have to wait until spring though, you can picnic indoors as well as outdoors!

Thanks again for inviting me to judge your competition. If you are looking for more lunch box ideas, tips, hints and recipe ideas, do have a look at the Lunchbox World blog, where there are posts on family fun too, and the main Lunchbox World website, which is all about the world of lunchboxes!”

Congratulations Michelle on your thoroughly deserved win. Drop me a line with your address and your prize will be winging its way to you very soon.

Thank you to all our bloggers for sharing their lunchbox recipes. December’s Family Foodies challenge is now open over at Eat Your Veg and the theme this month is, rather appropriately, Kids Christmas. Louisa and I look forward seeing your fun and festive family recipes!