Saturday, 20 August 2016

Dairy free Cherry and sultana cake

This dairy free Cherry and sultana cake is a favourite in our house - it's the type of cake that's sturdy enough to travel well be it for M's packed lunch or a family picnic. Despite that it's not a dense fruit cake, the type you'd have for Christmas, but a lightly fruited sponge, that stays beautifully moist without being crumbly. It pairs beautifully with a cup of tea and a good gossip with dear friends, and is quick and easy enough to make and give as a gift the same day.

The most important part of the recipe is soaking the sultanas - I save a couple of teabags from my morning cuppas so there's no need to use extra teabags unnecessarily.

Dairy free Cherry and sultana cake
Dairy free, soya free
Serves 10

4oz dairy free spread (I used Pure)
4oz caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
6oz plain flour
12oz sultanas
4oz glace cherries, rinsed and halved
2 teabags

Put 2 teabags in a medium sized bowl and top with the sultanas. Cover in boiling water and leave to stand - you could do overnight, but I tend to pop them in after breakfast and make the cake while the toddler is asleep - so 2-3 hours
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C
Grease and flour a 2lb loaf tin
In a separate bowl cream the dairy free spread and the sugar until light and fluffy
Add the eggs, one at a time with a large spoonful of flour each time to stop the mixture from curdling
Remove 4 tablespoons of flour and set aside
Sift in the rest of the flour and mix gently to combine
Stir the reserved flour in with the cherries until they're all covered (this helps them not to sink to the bottom of your cake)
Stir the cherries into your cake batter
Pour/ spoon the batter into your greased and floured tin
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour - after 45 minutes, check to make sure that the top hasn't caught - if it's getting too dark, cover it with a double layer of greaseproof paper
Allow to cool for 20 minutes or so in the tin, then transfer it to a cooling rack
Slice and enjoy - it keeps nicely for a few days, but longer than that I don't know as it never lasts that long in this house!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Cooking with toddlers - Frozen pea humous (dairy free, sesame free, vegan, syn free)

Frozen pea houmous is so ridiculously easy to make, and really fresh and tasty and a huge hit with a certain dairy, egg, and soya free toddler I know. 

I don't know about you, but the coverage in the press recently about salt levels in humous were a bit of a shock. Harry, like so many toddlers, loves humous, and the reports stunned me - especially as he loves to 'dip dip' any extra veggies he might have with his supper in some. Normally I would dismiss reports like this as scaremongering, but toddler's kidneys aren't able to process high levels of salt so, ironically I've been careful with most processed food, just not humous. 

Harry has been 'helping' me in the kitchen for a while, sometimes he just likes to stir things, he loves to roll out pastry and biscuit dough, and helps beautifully with tasting. Other days he likes to watch, be it in his high chair, at my feet, stood on a chair or sat on the worktop. I know it's not the safest way to help, but our floor isn't level so chairs etc wobble.

This is so easy, and a real store cupboard standby dish - I know it's lovely to be able to use fresh ingredients, but all so often I find myself without what I need and these days, being on a strict budget means that it's much more thrifty to use frozen peas. And really, with the exception of M - who doesn't have a bag of frozen peas in their freezer - I'm almost entirely sure it's the law!

You can easily make this with a stick blender instead of a food processor - as it's a small quantity I find the stick blender easier. Or if you like your humous to have a rougher texture, use a large bowl and a potato masher


Frozen pea and mint humous
Dairy free, soya free, Vegan

1 cup of frozen peas
200g of tinned chickpeas (roughly half a tin - if you're egg free, keep the liquid from the tin for egg free meringues or marshmallows!)
3-4 mint leaves - but this is entirely optional
Half a clove of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil

Measure out your cup of frozen peas and cover them in boiling water - leave for 3-4 minutes
Pop half a tin of chickpeas into a bowl
Add the mint and garlic to the bowl
Drain and add the peas
With your stick blender, blitz the ingredients until they're a texture you're happy with - we go for fairly smooth
Add the olive oil if you feel you need it - we didn't, the damp peas gave enough wetness to the mixture

This keeps nicely in the fridge for 3-4 days, but seems to vanish much faster in our house!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Now we are two: What's new in our nappy bag?

Who knew two years and a bit ago that a nappy bag would become an essential part of my life - I remember those heady days of lusting over pretty handbags in shades of teal and mustard, stalking second hand Radley bags on eBay, or saving up for a brand new one. Nowadays, handbags don't get a look in but my nappy bag is my lifeline - even to the point where last weekend I automatically picked it up and took it to a chiropractors appointment, leaving M and Harry - who naturally took the opportunity to promptly do a massive poo (Harry, not M) - without!

Last time I did this kind of post I was using a Babymel bag, which sadly met an early demise due to a forgotten peach and some subsequent mould. This has been replaced by a Skip hop Dash signature bag which I adore. It's bigger than the Babymel, but what I really love are the pockets. Clearly pockets are a thing that make me happy - in a skirt or dress they're the first thing I'll tell you about it. The pockets help me to separate out all those necessary bits and pieces without smashing a banana into the pages of Harry's red book. True story. Also the Skip hop has grey chevrons - what's not to love?

Still kept in the bag are our Aldi Mamia wipes - any of the more expensive ones seem to make Harry sore, but these ones are perfect. And a complete bargain, especially if you pick them up during a Baby and Toddler event at Aldi - around 50p a pack.

On the subject of changing nappies - we've switched to the Weleda Calendula nappy cream which has done wonders - Harry definitely seems to take after me on the sensitive skin front.

I'm trying to drink more water at the moment, and trying to encourage my milk obsessed toddler to drink more too. Always having a bottle on hand means I don't get dehydrated and modelling that for Harry should hopefully help him too. I'm using one of the bottles from Ikea that we got during the LAGOM project, and it really does mean I don't buy a drink whilst out and about so not just saving money but also not adding any more plastic to the recycling pile.

Our Lulujo muslins are still a massive feature in the nappy bag - I only bought three, but always have one with me. These days it's much less likely to be used for mopping up sick but as a makeshift picnic blanket, comforter for when Harry's sleepy, or additional sunshade when then hood on our pushchair breaks for the 97th time that day (Our Britax Affinity has provided great service but is clearly reaching the end of it's useful life. Which is a shame as I liked it).

The last thing in our bag is a new addition - the Belvita breakfast biscuits - I've was recently sent the crunchy apricot. As a disclaimer I should say that I don't have these for breakfast, but if I'm on the go all day - Baby music to the choo-choo park to shopping, then they stand up to the rigours of the nappy bag better than fruit, and are easy to eat on the go and keep me going until such time as I collapse in search of coffee.

I think they only things that are different to last time are the lack of teethers - toys that now feature are quite often Bing Bunny and our hand knitted Flop, a That's not my... book and a couple of cars or trains.

Still a vital part of my packing is my Medpac that contains my epi-pen - with that comes a reminder that they only last a year, so make sure yours is still in date. 

What's indispensable in your nappy bag?

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Meal Planning Monday: 8th August 2016

Another week, another meal plan. I don't know about other Mummys of pre-schoolers but the summer holidays have hit us hard. I didn't realise just how much our baby groups and classes give a routine to our days and week. Without them, days with a toddler seems longer - and our fall back activities like the park or soft play are wildly busy with all the school age children on their holidays. Of course I don't begrudge them their much needed and longed for time off, but it does make life that bit more tricky. Fortunately this week an impromptu meet up of playgroup mums in a local playground has meant that we're going to do a weekly unofficial mini playgroup in the park. And coffee in the cafe for the grown ups! 

Other than the long days of summer stretching gloriously ahead of us, things in the pantry are relatively quiet so this meal plan has been a nice easy one to pop together. That said, Harry is going through a slightly odd phase with eating at the moment, he's really off his food - even long time favourites like humous and peanut butter aren't working their magic. I've decided to put together a couple of his favourite weaning recipes today and am hoping the gentle flavours and easier textures win him around. 

Breakfasts: I had a lovely Cranachan overnight oats this morning, made from a Stoats cranachan porridge sachet I was sent. I haven't had overnight oats for ages, so am going to restart that lovely habit using my favourite 0% fat Total Greek yoghurt, and some of the wonderful summer fruit that are on Aldi's Super 6 this week.  Harry's been quite keen on porridge, so I might pick up some coconut yoghurt and try him on a mini portion of the same. 

Lunches: I adored the crustless quiche I made last week, so I'm going to make another this week. The resident carnivore enjoyed it too - and even had a few helpful suggestions for next time. Last weeks was bacon, mushroom and tomato - this week I'm thinking of salmon, tomato and possibly broccoli. Mind you this does mean my fish phobic husband won't touch it with a bargepole. All the more for me! I am a bad wife! 


Sunday: Tonight is the oft-made and much loved Tomato, vegetable and red lentil pasta. I'm planning on prepping the veggies right after I finish this post! I've got some courgetti to use up so will have that with it while M has some penne. 

Monday: There will be leftover pasta sauce, I'm thinking of baking it - and possibly (to M's delight) adding some sausages if there's some on special in Aldi this afternoon. 

Tuesday: Gammon steaks, topped with a fried egg, and slimming world chips

Wednesday: Chicken stir fry with noodles

Thursday: Leftover stir fry with rice

M's parents are visiting us next weekend so I'm a bit more mindful of their culinary preferences which does mean toning down my liberal use of garlic, chilli and other spices. Mind you M's mum is also doing Slimming World so we bond over syn free cooking. 

Friday: Bolognese stuffed peppers, topped with cheese and carrot salad

Saturday: The rest of the bolognaise with pasta, salad and garlic bread

Sunday:  I picked up my Mary Berry cookbook that M got me for Christmas and which I've shamefully cooked nothing from as yet. It's August! I don't know what's come over me. Anyway it has a lovely recipe in it for a Meditarrenean veg and mozzarella galette (or what I call a puff pastry pizza - I'm classy, me!) So I'll do that with salad for a lovely fresh lunch.

Baking wise M has asked for my Sultana and cherry cake again, and who am I to say no (it's lovely). I will blog it, but last week's caught on the top so thought I'd better make it again and not get distracted by the joyful bouncing of toddlers on a trampoline.

As always, have a look through everyone that's joined in on the linky: 

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Life, love and little things. July 2016

I've been on an unplanned hiatus from these posts for a while, for absolutely no reason other than those horrible headaches and migraines which are blighting my days. However, that doesn't mean there aren't wonderful things in my life and as always I'm looking forward to sharing them here.

I finished another blanket this month. This one's a baby blanket for a dear, dear friend who's expecting. It was a lovely thing to hook such love into every row, for the Mama and her bubba. It was also incredibly pleasing to stitch something that I finished in a shortish space of time.

I'm still working on my massive neat ripple for our bed. It uses the Last Dance in the Rain colour pack from Scheepjes for their crochet-a-long in memory of Marinke Slump. I've written about it here and am fairly decided I'll tackle the pattern again, some time next year. I've currently got 2 blankets and some cushion covers on my hooks, and I'm also thinking about socks!

We had our annual Brownie holiday in July - which was the first time I've been away from Harry for two nights, and the first time in the new kitchen in the Division's holiday house. It was glorious to cook in, so much space - and made me loathe our kitchen at home a bit more! The holiday theme was Alice in Wonderland, so on Saturday we had a Mad Hatter's Tea Party - with the ubiquitous jam tarts, cheesy caterpillars, White rabbit sausage rolls and some playing card fairy cakes. Drink me potions and Eat me fruit also featured on the menu. The girls had a wonderful time and I really enjoyed my role as QM.

July is M's birthday and this year was a big one - so a special cake was in order. Harry helped me and together we made him a Funfetti cake with blue buttercream - which is what happens when you let your toddler choose the colour! Topped with a fondant road and some lovely wooden cars from Babi Pur, M adored it. And it tasted lovely too.

The end of term for Guides clashed with some lovely sunny days, and despite having had my feet in the paddling pool at home all day we finished our term in the same way - only adding ice creams into the mix!

The glorious summer weather has not just meant long days in the garden, but lighter food as well. M is not a fan of salad, so I've been roasting peppers, courgettes, mushrooms, red onions and garlic and topping them with our favourite dairy free Heck sausages, or stirring them into pasta. I've also had a (very successful bash) at recreating my favourite Carrefour carrot salad that I eat by the bucketful when in France.

Despite not blogging much, July has been full to the brim of fun and family and of course some fab food too. Lots of blessings for me to recount in my Bullet Journal and of course say thank you for.

If you like these sneaky peeks into our month, why not follow Penelope's Pantry on Instagram for regular snapshots into what's going on.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Meal Planning Monday: 1st August 2016

The first of a new month always feels like turning over a new page - so appropriately as it falls on a Monday this month I thought I'd pop my meal planning hat on and get organised. I've been a bit slack about posting lately, on account of my migraines. Added to that, Harry's last two molars are making their appearance known so the unbroken nights that I thought hoped were the norm now are a distant memory. Sad times with dark circles and all the meds abound.

On a lighter note, we've found a new Aldi (yes, that's just how exciting my life is) which is far less stressful than the branch we've been using thus far, making the weekly shop not only on budget but also, almost pleasant. Who knew? 

As always I'm trying to be healthy - and am going to make a real effort to up my fruit and veg intake as I've been a bit lazy on that front. Ditto water, I've always drunk lots of water, but just lately it's felt beyond me and I'm sure it affects my headaches. 

Breakfasts: Yoghurt and fruit - I've got some bags of frozen berries that I'd hoped to make smoothies with, but my blender just isn't up to the task so I'm repurposing them breakfast style. 

Lunches: Sadly Aldi seem to have discontinued their big packs of Smoked salmon, so I'm making some of my favourite Aubergine and tomato humous to have with avocado and salad for lunches. 


Monday: Heck sausages, roast veg, corn on the cob and carrot salad

Tuesday: Crustless quiche, Slimming World chips and salad

Wednesday: Pasta carbonara - on courgetti for me

Thursday: Chicken and veg curry, homemade naan and rice

Friday: Leftover curry and rice

Saturday: Pizza, slimming world chips and salad

Sunday: Lamb leg steaks with garlic and rosemary, roast potatoes and green beans

There's a bit more cooking than usual as there weren't any chickens on offer this week, so there's fewer leftover-y dishes. 

Baking wise I'm going to make a light fruit cake for Mark's lunches - I just use tea soaked sultanas and glace cherries and as we have a week of playdates will be using Michelle's recipe for 4 Ingredient peanut butter cookies for treats. 

As always, we're blog hopping for meal plans so do join in with your plan and add it on the linky - or if you're not a blogger then do have a read of everyone else's. It's a bit like taking a nosy at someone's shopping trolley! 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Kitchen gadgets - my thoughts...

With so much innovation in and around the kitchen these days, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the choice - high speed blenders for smoothies, juicers for... juice, fancy pants all in one machines that cost a quarter of my monthly mortgage payment... I could go on. Now, I know I'm an exception when it comes to kitchen gadgets, in that I use mine regularly. Part of the trick to that (I think) is that none of them are tucked away in a cupboard.

My beloved kMix lives on the fridge and is used for all our baking exploits as you can see above - most recently M's Funfetti birthday cake ably assisted by my helper.

Similarly my much battered Kenwood food processor lives on the shelf below our microwave and is used at least twice a week. It makes such short work of prepping veggies for dishes like my Tomato, veg and lentil pasta sauce or our new favourite Mexican Rice Bowls

My bread maker is being used much less at the moment (damn you Slimming world and your anti-breadness) but is a Godsend in this heat. I can pop the ingredients for a loaf in overnight and wake up to allergy friendly, fresh bread in the morning.

I've toyed with buying other gadgets; the blender that came with my food processor isn't watertight so is no good for smoothies (I tend to use a stick blender and stick to fruit avoid the slightly more taxing green smoothies), and a spiraliser go in and out of my Lakeland basket so often it looks like they're on Strictly.

And then we come to juicers - I've dithered over a juicer for a few years now. Often prompted by an afternoon perusing the Lakeland catalogue I think of the wonders I could knock up with end of the week fruit - or just with the half punnet of this, that or the other that Harry has decided he no longer likes at all, having previously inhaled them at light speed. Yes, blueberries I'm looking at you. However I've never got as far as committing to a purchase - I quite like the look of the Panasonic juicers swayed in part by 'easy to clean' in the description.

On sweltering days like today I'm especially rueing my dithery nature as I battle to get Harry to drink any fluids - something tells me a drop of fresh juice in his water bottle would help much more than my futile attempts at bribery with grapes, attempts at playing cheers (which annoying always works for Daddy). We've always avoided anything akin to squash or baby juice, but as the thermometer tips 30 degrees and my anxiety about a dehydrated bubba does the same  (Oh how I miss breastfeeding on days like today) some freshly pressed juice in some chilly water might be just the ticket.

What are your favourite kitchen gadgets? Do you have a juicer? What are your experiences?

This post has been sponsored by Panasonic, all content and views are my own


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