Happy Face Shortbread Biscuits

shortbread biscuits in Lunch Lady Magazine

We love our sugar cookie recipe, but because the recipe calls for shortening (which isn’t always easy to find) and requires that you put the dough in the fridge for an hour before baking, it’s not one of those quick make and bake recipes. I was on the hunt for an easier version when Ivy and I discovered this cute cookie idea in the first issue of Lunch Lady Magazine. Ivy loved the idea of making faces and giving them chocolate hair. So fun!

The recipe is so easy – all you need are three ingredients: butter, sugar and flour. Mix it together, roll out the dough, cut out your shapes, draw faces, bake and then dip in chocolate. Really, that easy.

making cookies

Drawing faces

dipping cookies2

Shortbread Biscuits:

  • 125g butter (at room temperature)
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 180g plain flour

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C/ 375 degrees F.
Beat butter and sugar in bowl until creamy. Stir in flour until smooth. Pop your dough onto the counter and gently roll it out until it is about 1cm thick. Cut dough into your favourite shapes and then pop them onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. If you want face biscuits, draw faces with a wooden skewer before putting the tray into the fridge. Put the tray into the fridge for 20 minutes. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they’re on the paler side of golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Dip in melted chocolate (optional). Enjoy!

*We make melted chocolate by breaking up a bar of dark chocolate and adding a few tablespoons of butter. We melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. Dip cookies quickly before the chocolate solidifies. Lick the bowl clean, of course! : )

Marlow eating chocolate

Marlow choosing a cookie

Marlow and cookie

Enjoy! x

Happy Easter!!!

Easter10 Happy Easter everyone! Easter is one of my favourite holidays — the idea of celebrating the beginning of spring is just so wonderful. We have been spending the days cooking, eating, and hanging out with friends and I thought it would be nice to share some of our Easter traditions with you…

Easter decoration (Babyccino Kids) EASTER9A week or two before Easter, we set a few branches of curly hazel or willow in a vase and decorate them with wooden and felt Easter ornaments we have made and collected over the years. We call this our ‘Easter Tree’ and it immediately brings spring in the house.

easter7 easter3 Easter brunch Natural dye Easter Eggs - Babyccino Kids

Easter Day here in the Netherlands is traditionally celebrated with a brunch, and I always love making a few things that for us are so typical for the Easter holiday:

  • Coloured eggs, of course! We made the beautiful Macedonian Orthodox Easter eggs a few weeks ago, and this weekend we experimented with natural egg dies (using brown onion skins, red onion skins, red cabbage, and turmeric, on white and brown eggs). We were very happy with the pretty results!
  • ‘Birds Nests’ (hard boiled eggs, hidden inside a layer of minced meat). My great grandmother, grandmother, mother… they all made these for Easter. Easter is no Easter without them!
  • A butter lamb — again, a family tradition that I remember from when I was very little. We make a butter lamb every Easter and use cloves for eyes and buxus leaves for the ears.
  • Butterhorns! These cinnamon rolls have been adopted from Courtney’s family. We have celebrated Easter with them so many times, that now, Butterhorns belong to Easter as much as Birds Nests do!

easter12 easter13 Easter egg hunt

Of course, after brunch the children search for the chocolate eggs that the Easter Bunny has hidden in the garden : ). (My grandfather used to make a slot in the chocolate eggs using a hot knife, and hide banknotes inside. And then he would hide them in very difficult places! I think that when the kids are a bit older, I’m going to do just the same, so fun!)

easter4 easther5 Easter (Babyccino Kids)

The day after Easter is another holiday for us, and we eat leftovers from Easter brunch, an take it very easy. Often, people go to the garden centre and start to prepare their gardens and balconies for spring.

So how do you celebrate Easter? Any special traditions or recipes? Pleas share!

xxx Esther

Apple Streusel Kuchen

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A lot of things surprised my parents when they first moved to Germany as a young couple (no music playing between 12-3pm everyday, no greeting random strangers on the streets), but there was one custom they adopted immediately: the Sunday afternoon cake.

The Sunday afternoon cake was, and hopefully still is, one of the best ever German traditions. Maybe it is my nostalgic imagination running away with me… but I remember walking through villages where almost every house had a cake cooling off on the window sill, ready to be eaten at 4pm on the dot. DSC00610

My dad visited this weekend, as he kindly had the kids for a week during the holidays, and so I tried my hand at one of our favourite German specialities: the Apple Streusel Kuchen. I scanned a ton of recipes on the internet and this recipe is a mix of several, as I wanted a specific cake that had a soft sponge base and a crunchy streusel topping. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams of flour
  • 200 grams of butter
  • 150 grams of sugar
  • roughly 600 grams of apples
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • a little shot of milk if needed

Preheat your oven to 180°C. First make the streusel (fancy german word for crumble) by crumbling up 100 grams of butter, 125g of flour and 75 grams of sugar. Once the crumble is ready, stick it back into the fridge while you are prepping the rest of the cake.

Cream the rest of the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy (I found a article on why this step is actually really important here). Cream in the eggs, one after the other and, finally, add the flour and baking powder. If the dough feels a tad heavy, add a shot of milk. It should be falling heavily from a spoon.

Line a spring form baking tin with paper and pour in the dough. (I think you might even get a better and thinner result if you use a baking tray instead of the spring form). Peel the apples and place them on top of the dough. Finish off with the crumble on top. Bake until the crumble is golden brown. Enjoy!

Emilie

Slow-Baked Organic Cookies from Farm Brothers

Farm BrothersBack in December my husband and I whisked ourselves away for a few days to spend our wedding anniversary in Amsterdam. We stayed at The Hoxton hotel which by the way I can totally recommend! Each afternoon we’d relax in their restaurant and I’d drink pots of tea reading the paper. Now my only reason for ordering more and more tea was simply because on the side of my saucer was a delicious chocolate cookie! Now because these cookies are something else I eventually asked what they were and together with my very patient husband I went on a mission to find them.

Farm Brothers cookies

It turns out they are made by two brothers, Herman and Tyler, who call themselves Farm Brothers. They decided to leave their day jobs behind to follow their dreams and make delicious and wholesome organic snacks. We tasted the chocolate and sea salt cookies which were divine. I’ve since found the ginger and lemon ones and they are just as delicious.

Farm Brother choices

I’ve stocked up on all three flavours of Farm Brothers cookies and the children are so happy when I bring them out for snack time. I love how Florence was playing ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ with them the other day!

You can buy Farm Brothers in the Netherlands from Marqt, Bijenkorfvan Heinde & Natuurwinkel or simply spend an afternoon at The Hoxton hotel and order a pot of tea.

Vanessa x

Carrot Buns recipe

Wholemeal Spelt Carrot Buns1

Talan celebrated his 2nd birthday last month and in his nursery children can’t bring cakes and sweets but can bring bread instead, which I love. So I found this amazing carrot bread buns recipe that I have to share with you.
These are so so so delicious and truly very simple and quick to make. You can’t go wrong, I promise.

Here is what you need to make about 15 – 20 buns:

50 g fresh yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
180g (2-3 large) carrots
1 tsp salt
250 cottage or ricotta cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 kg (7 cups) wholemeal spelt flour

Wholemeal Spelt Carrot Buns

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1. Crumble yeast into about half the lukewarm water
2. Place the rest of the ingredients (don’t forget about the other half of water!) in a large bowl, add the yeast and water mixture and mix and knead until you get a smooth and firm dough. Add a bit more flour if the dough is too sticky.
3. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour
4. Heat oven to 200°C
5. Now knead just a little bit more and cut into 15-20 pieces.
6. Roll into small balls and flatten a bit.
7. Bake for about 25 min
8. Now just brush those beauties with cold water, wait for a few minutes and enjoy!

Yes, really – this easy!

ps. I’m sorry for the blurry photo of my baby boy but I love this capture of him stealing grated carrots – isn’t he the sweetest? My little veggie lover.

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Lunch Lady magazine

lunch lady

Never has going back to school been more fun! I want to feed the girls nourishing, wholesome food, making sure they have enough energy to withstand the cold outside and keep their brains ticking over for the day but there are days when I open up that lunchbox and stare at it complacently wondering what to pop in. So when I discovered this new magazine that Kate Berry has put her heart and soul into I jumped for joy!

Eat Ya Disco LL

This colourful magazine is real, it’s dazzles with fun and it’s filled with doable and healthy recipes. I love it and so do my girls! In fact we made these super tasty peach pasties so quickly they were eaten up before they even hit the lunch box. And after making a second batch Helena took a few to school and her friends asked her to bring more back the next day!

Peach pasties

The magazine was recently published after the success of Kate’s blog which she started back in 2013 when her daughter was being bullied at school for eating a homemade lunch. Kate wanted to inspire parents to make delicious lunches for their children and she’s certainly done that. You can watch her launch video here which sums up why this magazine is so close to Kate’s heart.

Aunty Jade's Tomato Sauce LLRecipes such as chocnut butter which you can spread thickly on toasted bread, with berries and coconut, or Aunty Jade’s tomato sauce is perfect for pasta days, and then there’s the spread on energy balls which have now become a regular in our house. And did I mention the stickers they supply to decorate your bananas! The whole magazine is just bursting with foodie fun!

Healthy snack ballsAs well as scrumptious recipes, you’ll also find cool articles which reflect on parenting and family life. Kate says herself  it’s where ‘parenting is not taken too seriously but where a balanced approach to family life is’.

The 1970's Kitchen LL You can buy Lunch Lady online here. I cannot recommend this magazine enough. I’m definitely subscribing to the second issue when it’s released. The blog is just as great and so are the impressive images on Lunch Lady’s IG account.

Vanessa xx

Tuesday Tips: A simple birthday party

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Esther has organised some epic kids birthday parties, some of my favourite being the disco party and the stick horse party .

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I on the other hand am terrible at this! I seriously cannot compete. BUT I do think it is important for my kids to have their friends over, host them in our home and basically say “thank you” to all their friends for a great year together. Because that is what birthday parties are all about, right? (Not at all about presents and being the centre of attention ;)).

Now another mom at school, who is a pre-school teacher, gave me a couple of tips on how she organises a typical birthday party and I thought it was so genius I wanted to shared them with you. She manages to have some of the best parties without any preparation whatsoever.

When the kids turn up she divides the kids into 2 groups (depending on the numbers) and each group then bakes a cake. It takes them a good 30 mins to get all the ingredients together, mix the batter and get the cakes ready to be popped into the oven. Then she gets the kids to make the world’s longest chain garland which they then decorate the room with. After that, they have time for about 2 games (musical chairs, statues or memory tray). By that time the games are finished, the cakes are ready to eat and everyone loves them even more because they have made them themselves. When the cakes are eaten up and everyone has sung happy birthday, it is already pick-up time.

I thought this very so simple and fun! If anyone has any other ideas to share I would LOVE to hear ;). I have a birthday coming up soon..

Emilie

PS. The above photos are of Esther’s children’s amazing birthday parties!

Italian-Inspired Tuna & Bean Salad

ingredients for tuna and bean salad

The other day we were in a little grocery store here in New Zealand, looking for some quick supplies to make lunch in our campervan. Michael scanned their modest cheese section hoping to find something beyond the standard Cheddar and Edam options, to add a bit of interest to our sandwiches. He found Gruyere, an Adamo family favourite, but missed the small print. What he actually bought was ‘Gruyere-Style’ cheese—and a very bland rendition at that, with not much more than a name in common with the original. I’m pretty sure the Swiss would not approve.

Michael and I had a good laugh. We know better than to trust anything bearing the ‘-style’ suffix. ‘Italian-style’, ‘Greek-style’, ‘Gruyere-style…run a mile. But now I find myself wanting to share a recipe we have created based on the Italian classic, Tonno & Faggioli. It would be wrong to label our version Italian, but I couldn’t possibly add style to the title of this post.

Here’s our version of a dish that we love to eat in Italy. We have no clue if this is how the Italians make it, but it’s certainly been influenced by their recipe. So we’re going with Italian-inspired. Ha!

Whatever you call it, it’s the easiest, quickest, and tastiest meal in our camper van repertoire. It has become one of the kids’ favourite and a weekly staple. It is especially handy while camping as there is no cooking required, and most of the ingredients are ones you can keep in your cupboard. It literally takes less than 10 minutes to make, and my kids gobble it up just as quickly. Here’s the recipe:

chopping tomatos for tuna salad

chopping parsley

Ingredients:

  •  2 cans of Cannellini Beans
  •  1 large tin of tuna (preferably sustainably line-caught in olive oil)
  • 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 small spring onions
  • 1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper

Drain the cans of beans and tuna and empty into a bowl. Chop tomatoes and spring onions and add to the bean and tuna mix. Chop the flat-leaf parsley and sprinkle into the bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Italian tuna and bean salad

We usually serve with some good Italian ciabatta bread, but we had a difficult time finding that when it came time to snap some photos of our meal – so pita bread it was. Not very Italian, but this is camping-style fare!

Buon appetito!

x

p.s. This simple tomato pasta and this tuna pasta are other favourite camping meals.

The Little Things: bread on a stick!

The Little Things by Babyccino Kids The Little Things by Babyccino KidsWe have seen the first signs of spring here in Amsterdam, but still, they say it’s going to be the coldest week so far this winter. So a good time to celebrate a bit of outdoor coldness for this new The Little Things post!

tltoutdoor-3We got together with three families in our team member Nina’s gorgeous country house and had a wonderful morning making bread dough and wrapping it around sticks, while the dads were preparing a fire in the garden. Making the dough was easy and sooo much fun!

tltoutdoor-2 The Little Things by Babyccino Kids

We used a basic bread recipe:

  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water

We were with 10 children, so you can definitely use half the amounts if you are with a smaller group. You can add some sugar and cinnamon to make the bread slightly sweet, but we were planning to fill the bread with sausages later so preferred them to be more savoury.

The Little Things by Babyccino KidsObviously, children are the very best tools at working the dough into a smooth consistency. : )

The Little Things by Babyccino Kids tltoutdoor-7You need some good sticks to wrap the bread around. So time for a little search outside for some cool sticks! (Or, in our case, just collect them from the stick collection in the basket outside our front door.)

tltoutdoor-8 The Little Things by Babyccino KidsWe covered the end of the sticks with aluminium foil before we twined the dough around in long strips — making sure not to make the layers of dough too thick.

tltoutdoor-11 The Little Things by Babyccino KidsTime to bake our bread!

The Little Things by Babyccino Kids tltoutdoor-12 tltoutdoor-13 tltoutdoor-16 The Little Things by Babyccino Kids The Little Things by Babyccino KidsStanding around a fire with a group of friends preparing food is such a warm and wonderful way to spend time together…

tltoutdoor-20 tltoutdoor-19 tltoutdoor-21 The Little Things by Babyccino Kids It takes a little while for the bread to bake, turning them around and around.

tltoutdoor-23 tltoutdoor-24 tltoutdoor-25 tltoutdoor-27 tltoutdoor-26 The Little Things by Babyccino KidsWe used a Dutch oven on the fire to warm the sausages, and then stuck them with right in the bread with a bit of ketchup. Yum!

The Little Things by Babyccino KidsWhat a perfect winter weekend morning! Spring, we are ready for you when you are, but in the meantime, we’ll entertain ourselves with our good friend Winter!

xxx Esther

PS – This is the newest post in a series which is called ‘The Little Things’. Thank you Maud Fontein for taking these beautiful photos and thank you Nina for letting us use your beautiful house and garden! The children are wearing clothes from Babaà, Omibia, Mabo, Dotty Dungarees, and La Coqueta.

Gingerbread Wonderland by Mima Sinclair

Ginger Bread WonderlandWe’ve had such a cosy winter holiday spending our days with the fire lit, reading books and baking in the kitchen. We’ve made our favourite chocolate brownies, delicious soups and even roasted chestnuts on the fire – delicious! We also made gingerbread (for the first time ever).

Helena was gifted Gingerbread Wonderland for her birthday and we really enjoyed looking through the ideas over the holidays. It wasn’t until we had a few restful days in the New Year that we decided to bake from it and we are addicted! We found the recipes to be quick and easy and there are even variations for dairy and gluten free.

gingerbread creationsIt was really difficult to choose what to make. Every idea is super sweet. Look at these mini houses. Wouldn’t they be perfect on the side of a hot cocoa and I adore the speculaas. I’m going to remember to make these next year for Dutch Sinterklaas.In the end, we decided to make the gingerbread garland but instead of making hearts and gingerbread men, we made stars so it could be used to celebrate New Year.

gingerbread garland on wallIt was so effective – almost too pretty to eat! Helena had a great idea that we could make the heart garland for Valentine’s Day. Who says gingerbread is only for Christmas? I think it’s a great idea…..

Gingerbread Wonderland is available from Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK).

Vanessa x

Alfajores!

alfajores with lime

It’s difficult to think of a time when we didn’t know what an ‘alfajor’ was… but the truth is that we’ve only just discovered these delicious treats since arriving to Uruguay 6 weeks ago. They are now our most favourite cookies ever! Alfajores are a very common Latin American cookie, most common in Argentina and Uruguay (with Argentina being the biggest consumer according to Wikipedia).

When we were in Uruguay last month, we were lucky to have our Argentinian friend (and lover and baker of alfajores), Delfina from Fanny & Alexander, show us how to make them. We spent a wonderful afternoon making two different types of alfajores. By the end of the cooking session, the kids had managed to mix up the two different doughs and the result was a marbled alfajore, our very own Adamo version. : )

The kids had so much fun making them that they declared it the ‘best day ever’. If you know her, you’ll know that Delfina has this affect on children.

Delfina has very kindly shared her recipes – both for the cream-coloured ‘Alfajores de Maicena’ with grated lime as well as the chocolate alfajores in chocolate coating. Both are delicious!!

Below are the recipes…
dipping alfajores into coconut

squeezing dulce de leche on alfajores

Marlow making alfajores

Alfajores de Maicena / Cornstarch Alfajores sprinkled with lime zest
-70 grams of butter
-1 cup sugar
-3 egg yolks
-1 lemon (zest)
-1 cup of cornstarch
-1 cup wheat flour
-10 grams of baking powder (roughly 2 teaspoons)
-250 grams of Dulce de Leche
-25 grams of shredded coconut
-1 lime (or above lemon) grated for zest on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the tray.
Using an electric mixer beat the butter and the sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the 3 yolks, and the lemon zest of half a lemon. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and the cornstarch.
Add dry elements in the first bowl (with the sugar and the yolks) and combine ingredients using your hands until becomes a dough.
On a floured surface, roll dough to 0.5 cm thick. Cut into small circles, keeping in mind they are going to be the final size of the alfajor. Bake them for a few minutes (5-10) until cooked. Spread dulce de leche on cooked dough and create a sandwich.
Finally, rotate the edges of the alfajor in shredded coconut.
Ass a garnish you night want to add lemon or lime zest on the top of the alfajor, the zest also serves to offset the sweetness of the dulce de leche.
Tip: if the dough is too dry add more egg yolk not water, the water makes the alfajores harder.
The alfajores always taste better a few days old rather than fresh.

alfajor dough

dipping alfajores into chocolate

Alfajores de Chocolate
-1 cup of cornstarch
-1/2 cup wheat flour
-70 grams of butter
-3 Egg yolk
-1 cup sugar
-½ cup cocoa powder
-250 grams of Dulce de Leche
-25 grams of dried coconut
-10 grams of baking powder (roughly 2 teaspoons)
-1 orange zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the tray.
Using an electric mixer beat the butter and the sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the 3 yolks, and the orange zest of half a lemon. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and the cornstarch.
Add dry elements in the first bowl (with the sugar and the yolks) and combine ingredients using your hands until becomes a dough. On a floured surface, roll dough to 0.5 cm thick. Cut into small circles, keeping in mind they are going to be the final size of the alfajor. Bake them for a few minutes until cooked. Spread dulce de leche on cooked dough and create a sandwich. Finally, dip into chocolate sauce:

Chocolate coating
-1 bar of Chocolate
-25 gr of butter

Melt chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Add butter mixed until combined.
When the chocolate is liquid set aside and quickly soak the alfajor entirely. To settle place the chocolate soaked alfajor on a cooling rack. And enjoy! Alfajores are rare in that they only get better (softer!) the older they are, so they’re best to eat 2-3 days after making…. if they last that long! ; )

Kids Cook French, by Claudine Pépin

Kids-Cook-French-(1)I’m so excited to share this book with you! It ticks all the right boxes for me: a cookbook for kids that is sophisticated, recipes which makes children want to enjoy real, wholesome food and delicate illustrations highlighting the beauty of the traditional French kitchen.

Kid’s Cook French is a book curated by a whole family and it’s intended to be enjoyed by the whole family. (Together with her husband, Claudine wrote the recipes, while her father and her daughter worked on the illustrations). Claudine Pepin advocates there no such thing as “kids food”, only “good food”. She truly believes the kitchen is the heart of the home and I love how she writes a note for children in the beginning of the book explaining cooking is fun; it makes people happy!

recipes

My eldest daughter, Helena, was really keen to choose what she wanted to cook herself after this wonderful message from Claudine. So she took pen to market paper and wrote down her shopping list. Her first recipe was sauteed white fish in a secret sauce. I was so impressed with the simplicity of the recipes (considering they sounded so exquisite) as Helena hardly asked for help from me.

market-list-2Next up she made herb-roasted pototoes which having made it several times now has become a family favourite. It’s so simple and so absolutely delicious!

pommes-de-terre-roties-aux-herbesKid’s Cook French is a cookbook containing 30 glorious recipes, grouped as starters, mains, sides and desserts. Each recipe is written in both English and French which I think is awesome to encourage Helena’s (and my) French skills. The illustrations are as exquisite as the food to be cooked and I enjoyed the notes on each recipe, most of which are family anecdotes. This is a superb book which excites us about seasonal cooking. It’s a book which has yet to be included in our book shelf as we’re using it so often. As Claudine says, “family mealtimes are essential to communicate, to bond together, to laugh, to argue, to share, and to enjoy life” – I know you will all love this book.

Available online from Amazon (US) and (UK).

Happy cooking!!
Vanessa xx

A ‘One Pot Wonder’ recipe — a video with Abel & Cole!

One Pot Wonder recipe (with Abel & Cole)

When we lived in London (already 10 years ago!), I was a huge fan of the beautiful organic food boxes that were delivered to our doorstep once a week by British home delivery service Abel & Cole. For me, it really pioneered cooking with seasonal and local ingredients, so different from the supermarket food I had gotten used to in previous decades.

So I loved the opportunity of visiting the Abel & Cole offices in South London recently with our team member Bethie. How fun to see the now size of this amazing company, to meet some of the wonderful people working there (all positively obsessed about great food!) and hey — to not only visit the beautiful Abel & Cole test kitchen (where I felt right at home!) but cook in it, too!

The video-recipe of the delicious ‘One Pot Wonder’ we prepared that day is now up on our YouTube channel — have a look and if you’re inspired and decide to try it out, do let me know what you think!

Enjoy!

xxx Esther

PS Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more inspiration!

Bringing Autumn into the home

Autumn in ScotlandHaving lived overseas in places where the sun shines warmly every day (sigh) and there are only two seasons to live in, there were times when I really missed seeing the four seasons. Here in Scotland the seasonal changes seem so beautifully apparent. Perhaps it’s because the countryside is so breathtakingly stunning here or maybe it’s because we’re living closer to nature. We certainly enjoy the slower pace of life where we can watch the leaves change colour, where the light is golden and the air is crisp.

We’re loving autumn and I’ve noticed that the girls have really embraced the season here so I wanted to share with you some of the ways we’ve brought autumn into our home through the books we read, the food we bake and the crafts we’ve made from some of our forest foraging collections.

Nature's DayI discovered the book Nature’s Day at The ShopUp last year and was thrilled to see a book which captures the magic of the seasons so well. The intricate bright sketchings by Danielle Kroll and the gentle writing by Kay Maguire encourages children of all ages to enjoy nature everywhere. We’ve been enjoying cosy days reading this book together pointing to the mushrooms in the book which we spotted on our walks.

Nature's Day falling leaves

One Sunday we made a special cake and chose autumn fruits and edible flowers to decorate it. The smell of pumkpin, cinnamon and cloves drifted through the house and it was super delicious. The recipe was adapted from Amy-Beth Ellice’s spiced pumpkin bundt cake found here.

Autumn prettiness 1I love foraging with the girls and although it’s on a very simple level we manage to gather some pretty collections. One of my favourite books is The Wreath Recipe and it was there I found the inspiration to make a sweet woodland garland with the girls. It was so super simple to make; just with a needle and some thin twine we threaded through leaves, mushrooms and moss and hung it in our living room using washi tape. It was so effective and has lasted a while. With the rest of our findings I made a small bouqet for the fireplace.

Autumn in my flour potWith these small and quick crafts we brought autumn into our home and continue to enjoy those cosy slower days.

Vanessa xx

Little Dish Cookbook

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I have to say Bethie’s post a few weeks ago did inspire me! I am not at all the kind of person that plans ahead, it just does not even occur to me, but the thing that struck a cord with me was sitting down with the kids and choosing the menu for the week together. I love that idea, especially as we are in a bit of a cooking rut, making the same things again and again and again.

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So I decided to put this meal planning thing to the test and I sat down with my girls and a cookbook and gave them free reign to chose the menu for the next week. That responsibility was exactly what they needed and every evening they have been super keen to help out and cook. As they are quite big now I do tend to let them get on with it themselves and intervene only when asked. The book we used for this little experiment is ideal for this: the Little Dish Family Cookbook. It is full of easy, good, healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most of them are pretty fast to put together, which is essential for us if we are going to start cooking from scratch on school nights. The girls have made everything from Birchner Musesli to Stir Fry Chicken Noodles and Lamb Burgers and I am very much looking forward to the next few concoctions they come up with.

Helpers

My goofy helpers who at the moment cannot keep a straight face whenever a camera is pointed at them.

– Emilie

Origami napkins! (by Lollipop Design)

lollipop_1

Aren’t these origami napkins from Lollipop design the cutest? And so clever and fun too! We always use cloth napkins for our meals — for environmental reasons, but also because I simply like the look of them. These napkins are so brilliant because they look so super cute, giving a really special touch to the table — plus, they serve some entertainment for on the table as well!

Origami napkin by Lollipop Design (photo Babyccino Kids)
Origami Napkins by Lollipop Design

My kids have each adopted an animal, and love folding and unfolding the pattern at the table. (Which, I must admit, they are so much better in than I am!) Unfolded, they are just like a normal napkin — with a really nice, interesting colour-block pattern.

Origami Napkins by Lollipop Design

I think these napkins would make such a sweet present too, maybe to bring to a dinner party? (I also have already marked them on my holiday list — can you believe that we have to start thinking of Christmas soon?)

xxx Esther

Vegetable Lasagne

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We have spent the summer enjoying ourselves and indulging in saucisson, paté, sausages, cheese and bread — as you would if you are on holiday in France. But I am now craving vegetables so badly!

I have spent bit of time browsing the internet for new recipes (as I am a little bit bored of my usual dishes) and stumbled across this recipe for a Vegetable Lasagne. I am a massive fan of Felicity Cloake’s recipes, and was excited to discover this one.

I like the fact that there are not massive chunks of vegetables in it, but rather a lovely, slightly smokey vegetable sauce. It is seriously good, perfect with a big helping of salad!

I am actually going to continue experimenting with different types of Vegetable Lasagnes; I would love to try this one and this one!

– Emilie

A little tip on how to choose a French wine

blue cap

I am still, after living in France for 8 years now, a total wine-choosing novice. I seriously make my friends cringe as I still have the tendency to choose the bottle based on prettiness of the label!

The other week a friend of mine pointed out something to me whilst we were picking up a bottle of wine: the caps on the top of French wine bottles have different colours and it is not random at all. Obviously I then spent a very merry 30 minutes in the wine shop quizing the owner and this is what I found out:

So a blue capsule means the wine is a “vin de table” a cheap(ish) wine, the green capsule means that the wine is from a specific region. The grapes have been grown in that region and the wine was also produced in the same area, and fall under very strict regulations – basically a sign of quality. The orange/ brown capsule is for sweet wines and liquors.

red cap

The other thing to look out for is the words Recoltant ( or the letter R), which means that the wine was created entirely by one person. They grew the grapes, harvested them and produced the wine. Negotiant (or the letter N) means that the wine was made by someone else than the producer of the grapes. Now this does not necessarily mean that the wine isn’t good, but the assumption is that if someone has grown the grapes and produced the wine themselves, they have possibly taken better care.

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This is just a rule of thumb by the way – one of my favourite wines, which is produced in my region has a blue cap, but is absolutely delicious. Also these rules differ from country to country here in Europe.

– Emilie

PS BTW apparently 2011 was a good year for wine here in France!

 

Bitsy’s Brainfood

Ivy 2

Bitsy’s Brainfood is a new, organic children’s food brand which we have recently discovered and which has signed on to sponsor our upcoming ShopUp event in NYC. I was really excited to discover this company, and in the weeks since partnering with them the kids and I have become big Bitsy’s Brainfood fans!

They recently sent over some smart cookies for us to try, and they’re now my kids’ favourite snack.

Bitsy's brainfood alphabet cookies Bitsy's brainfood cookies

Bitsy's Brainfood smart cookies

The smart cookies are baked with organic fruits and vegetables, made with whole grains and are made in a nut-free facility. They’re healthy and they taste good (yes I’ve tried), and I love that they’re alphabet shaped, so kids learn about their letters while enjoying their snack (I swear, Marlow learned her letters from eating alphabet cereal!). I also like that they’re not crumbly or messy — it’s a good snack to have in the car or to keep in your handbag for on-the-go.

Bitsy’s was started by two moms who believe that healthy minds and healthy bodies are connected and that learning to eat smart should be fun. What I love about their products is that they’re not trying to hide the fact that there are vegetables in their products, they want kids to embrace their veggies and know that they are good for them.

I’m so happy to have discovered Bitsy’s Brainfood, and we’re delighted they’re joining us (with free samples!) at the ShopUp in just a couple weeks. Look out for them there (September 13th and 14th)!

Courtney x

Jamberry, by Bruce Degen

Jamberry
reading and eating berries

We have very recently moved to Scotland and we are so lucky to have a wonderful plot of strawberries and a few raspberry bushes in our garden. We have picked so many berries our fingers are stained pink and our bellies are bursting! But what I’ve loved most is that it reminded me of one of our favourite summer time books, Jamberry by Bruce Degen.

reading in the garden
Florence helping in the kitchen

Jamberry is the sweetest of board books. It’s about a young boy and a bear who merrily play through the land of berries. Their adventures are surreal and the word play Degen delights us with makes for a delicious classic. The characters sit in a canoe of blueberries with their hats bursting of berries and they lay in a meadow of strawberries with dancing lambs and ponies. Florence giggles all the way through this book, whilst Helena enjoys making up more crazy berry words!

Bruce Degen, who also illustrates this book, is said to enjoy combining humour with art and it’s his bright images together with a mix of literary rhyme and alliteration that make us want to read this book over and over again.
Having read Jamberry so many times last week, Florence and I decided to make some batches of jam with our collection of berries. She was such a great helper, picking the berries, plucking them clean, and squashing them into the sugar!

Berry jam

The recipe we used is River Cottage’s strawberry jam with sweet scented geranium leaves which I discovered last summer. The geranium leaf really compliments the flavour of the berries and the jam is even more delicious in a Victorian sponge cake with freshly whipped cream! Perhaps that’s something else I’ll make before the girls go back to school.
The book is available from all good bookstores or online from Amazon (US and UK).
Vanessa xx

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