Birthday party: Decorating cupcakes

One of my childhood friends always had the best cake at her birthday parties. Her mum would make (or buy?) the most ordinary cupcakes, and set the table with different sort of custards, frostings and toppings. I loved to pile up my plate with candy, and create the most enormous cupcake possible.

For Sara’s birthday party last year, I did a similar thing. I made cupcakes, and cream cheese frosting (simply mix cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar), and used my vintage fondue plates for the table setting. Chocolate sprinkles, heart sprinkles, mini m&m’s, candy… It was all there. And it was funny to see how the children enjoyed themselves (and how in the end, lots of the candy was left un-eaten on the plates, but all of the raspberries, blueberries and strawberries were gone)!

xxx Esther

An 8th birthday party with a cooking theme

It was Pim’s 7th birthday last Monday so I’m planning a little birthday party for him, and I realised that I never posted about the cooking party we had for Sara’s birthday last year!

Sara has enjoyed food since she was a baby, and she loves helping me in the kitchen. So it was no surprise when she asked for a cooking party for her 8th birthday! She invited 8 of her girl friends, and like always, party preparations took place the day before the party (let’s just say, I’m at my best the very last minute).

I bought a huge pile of cheap, unbleached cotton at the market, and together with my mother-in-law sewed 11 aprons out of it (of course Pim and Ava were invited too). I also bought cutting boards, knives, notebooks and pencils. I made a triangular stamp out of a simple eraser, and decorated everything with triangles. I also stamped the children’s names on all of the items.

We set the table with the different veggies and toppings needed for the healthy Vietnamese Style Rice Paper Rolls I blogged about earlier. The children loved cutting everything on their own cutting boards, and writing down the ingredients and recipe in their little notebook. And even very picky eaters found ingredients on the table that they loved!

Afterwards, the notebooks and pencils came in handy for the treasure hunt we had organised in the neighbourhood. And of course, they could all take home a little party bag with the items we had made for them. It was a really fun party!

xxx Esther

Ginger Biscuits

Ginger Biscuits (otherwise known as Ginger Nuts) must be the Irish equivalent to Esther’s Pepernoten – spicey, really crunchy and perfect to dunk into a cup of tea. This is my grandmother’s recipe and I have been eating these ever since I can remember! It makes up to 80 biscuits, but don’t worry, they will disappear fast.

  • 225 grams of butter
  • 340 grams of demerara sugar or other brown (you can use white if stuck, or in France I use cassonade)
  • 1 generous tablespoon of golden syrup — honey does not work as well
  • 1 egg
  • 450 grams of self raising flour (or use plain and add baking powder)
  • 2 tsp ginger (depending on taste)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (depending on taste)

Cream the sugar and the butter and add the egg and the golden syrup. Sift in the flour and the spices. Make little balls with you hands (I always have volunteers for this part), place them on a buttered tray and press them down. Bake for about 15 minutes at around 170°C degrees.

- Emilie

PS. Whilst I was putting together the post, I had a little search on the internet for Ginger Nut recipes and found this little video. I always forget that baking is actually just science. Who knew that more butter makes a chewy biscuit and more sugar a snappy one?!

Æbleskiver recipe


Æbleskivers are a type of (delicious!) Danish pancake… and while I don’t have any Danish roots, my family has been making Æbleskivers for as long as I can remember. My mom even remembers her grandmother making them for her. I believe they are traditionally eaten around Christmas time, but in my family we eat them whenever we are all together. Usually in the summertime!

Santa gave me an Æbleskiver pan for Christmas this year and we made them twice over the Christmas holiday. They’re so yummy — like a cross between a donut and a pancake. What’s not to love?! Here’s my family’s age-old recipe:

Æbleskivers (approximately 40):

- 3 eggs
- 1 pint of cream
- 2 cups flour
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 Tablespoon of sugar

Beat the eggs until they’re light in colour. Add the flour and the cream alternatively and mix well. Add the salt, baking powder and sugar and mix until smooth and creamy. Batter should pour easily into pan.

Heat your Æbleskiver pan over high heat. Add a bit of vegetable oil (or butter) to individual holes and fill the holes ¾ full with batter. Turn the æbleskivers (we do this with a fork in each hand) when they are getting dry and golden on the bottom (you might need to turn them in three rotations to get them to be round in shape). When they are round and golden on all sides, dump from the pan onto a plate of powdered sugar.

Enjoy with powdered sugar and/or jam. (If you’ve made too many, save for later! My kids love them even when they’re cold.)

xx Courtney

Kristina Kringle

My sister has just arrived to spend the holidays with us and we are all so excited!! Her arrival really marked the start of the holiday season for us, and also the start of the Christmas cookie baking frenzy! We decided to start with a dessert our mum used to make every Christmas called Kristina Kringle. Just the almondy smell of them makes my mouth water and reminds me of being a child, counting down the days ’til Christmas!

This is another great recipe from one of my very favourite cookbooks, the Alice Bay Cookbook, referenced before here and here and here. I hope you like them as much as we do! Here’s the recipe:

Kristina Kringle:

-1 cup flour
-1/2 cup butter (112 grams)
-2 tablespoons water

-1 cup water
-1/2 cup butter
-1 cup flour
-3 eggs
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut together 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of butter until mixture resembles fine meal. Add the water and blend well. Form dough into a ball and divide in half. Using the heel of your hand, press dough into two long strips about 3 inches wide, down the length of a cookie sheet.

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of butter to a boil. Remove from heat. Add flour, and stir until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add salt and extract. Stir into a smooth consistency. Spread on top of the dough strips. And bake for 45 minutes. Cool and frost with Almond Icing.

Almond Icing:

-1/4 cup butter, softened
-1 cup confectioner’s sugar
-1 tablespoon milk
-1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine the butter, sugar, milk and extract. Blend until smooth and spread over pastry.

Enjoy! And happy Christmas cookie baking.

xx Courtney

Gratin

Gratins have been around since the invention of the stove I reckon. If you think about it, a lasagne, cauliflower and cheese and a haché parmentier are roughly the same thing: some carbohydrates or vegetables mixed in with a béchamel and potentially some cheese, stuck into an oven until it all turns into a beautiful melting pot of a dish, covered with a bubbling crust.

A good gratin is a staple dish in our house, as it gives new life to leftover pasta, potatoes or vegetables. I mostly use either single cream for my bakes or a tomato sauce to bind the main body of the dish together and then top it with grated cheese. I then stick it in the oven, which has been preheated to 180° and bake it for 30-40 minutes until it is golden brown on top and bubbling.

I don’t think I have ever eaten a bad gratin and, eaten with a crispy green salad, it is a really lovely meal.

- Emilie

Above is a gratin I made the other day with broccoli, potato and some lardons!

Inspiring holiday ideas from Sweet Paul!

You probably have heard of the talented Paul Lowe Einlyng, better known to most people as ‘Sweet Paul‘. His blog and quarterly magazine are an accumulation of wonderful craft projects, yummy recipes and creative decor ideas, all photographed in the most stunning and inspiring way. I’m a big fan of Sweet Paul!

Sweet Paul is sharing some ideas below that were published in his 2013 Sweet Paul Holiday Kids issue. I’m pretty sure they will inspire you to do something crafty with your kids the coming weeks! (Or if not, you can just gaze at the pretty pictures.) The entire magazine, full to the brim with inspiring activities like the sneak peeks below, is available as a PDF download here (for iPad click here). And it’s beautiful!

xxx Esther

Cheese Sticks
These are amazing when served with eggs.

Makes 20 sticks
1 sheet puff pastry (I love to
use Dafour)
½ cup grated cheese of your choice

1. Preheat then oven to 375°F.
2. Cut the puff pastry into half-inch strips.
3. Twist them gently and place in a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
4. Sprinkle with cheese.
5. Bake until golden. This will take about 10 minutes.

Mister Rabbit and Miss Cat
These are very simple toys to make. You can make fabric scraps, make sure they are a natural fiber so that you can watch them.

You need:
fabric
pen
needle and thread
cotton stuffing
sewing Maschine
1.Start by drawing your animal on the fabric.
2.Emboyder it using small stitches.
3.Cut around the animal so that it follows its shape, you need a front and a back.
4.Sew them together right side against right side, turn inside out and stuff with stuffing.
5.Sew up the hole.

And here are the instructions for the adorable Peanut Snowman at the top.

Peanut snowmen
This is a great kids project. Looks awesome on a small tree.

You need:
whole peanuts
white craft paint
marker
wool string
hot glue gun
acorn tops
1.Start by painting the peanuts white.
2.Once dry use a marker and make eyes and mouth.
3.Hot glue a acorn top to the top of the peanut and fasten a piece of wool string around the neck.

Thank you Sweet Paul!

The Little Tings… baking Pepernoten!

This week for The Little Things, Ava and her cute little friend Juul are showing you how easy and fun it is to make your own pepernoten, and how tasty they are to eat afterwards! Pepernoten (the literal translation is ‘peppernuts’) are a typically Dutch delicacy that traditionally is eaten this time of year, when Sinterklaas is in the country. They are actually crunchy mini cookies, and taste a bit like gingerbread… Super delicious!


Here is a wonderful how-to recipe card for you, drawn by Sara Mush, and which of course can be downloaded for free here. Making pepernoten is a perfect afternoon activity for children of all ages — it’s fun and easy to do, with fast and delicious results!

xxx Esther

PS –  This is the fourth post in a series which is called ‘The Little Things’. Thank you Maud Fontein for taking beautiful photos in your wonderful house, and Sara Musch for the beautiful download. Ava’s dress is from La Coqueta, and the aprons are made from a dishtowel, check the recent post here for the how-to.

The Little Things… a Pumpkin Soup recipe

We had a huge autumn storm that raged over northern Europe earlier this week. Trees were falling over everywhere — it was dangerous to be outside… but so nice and cosy to be inside!

With autumn, and being cosy and warm in our minds, Ava and her little friends Juul and Kate helped me make a delicious pumpkin soup for lunch. They cut carrots, potatoes and onions and were great little kitchen assistants! (If you would like to do this at home with your kids, just click here for your free PDF download!).





Cooking with children is a lovely activity, and they can learn so many things about eating healthily and seasonally and about fresh ingredients… and of course, cooking their own meal will motivate them to eat it as well! Juul, Kate and Ava sat down at a beautifully set table and very proudly ate their own soup… A true little lady luncheon for the three little girl friends!





xxx Esther

PS –  This is the second post in a series which is called ‘The Little Things’. Thank you Maud Fontein for taking such gorgeous photos, Sara Musch for the beautiful download, and Bianca from A Day With Kate for letting us use your super stylish house! Paper Straws, Wooden Cutlery and Mae Engelgeer Tea Towel are available from A Day With Kate.

Easy and delicious Pad Thai recipe

My daughter Violette is going through one of these major no-food phases. She isn’t eating anything, and mealtimes are taking a life and a day.

I know I should ignore it, but it is difficult, especially when I have gone to great lengths to cook something special. (I think she took the biscuit when she announced she did not like bread anymore: because baguette was too crusty and normal bread too soft!)

She did, however, eat her body weight in a bowl of the best Pad Thai I have ever made, so I quickly wanted to post about it, just in case anyone else has a non-eater in their midst. I left out the radish, the dried shrimp (as I did not have any), and the chilli (I added some chilli sauce for myself and Coco later). I also used spring onions instead of Chinese chives. Even this simplified version was delicious and easy to whip together.

I always forget how much children (and adults) enjoy eating with chopsticks and slurping noodles – the novelty factor never wears off!

- Emilie

Plum Dumplings

Have you ever tried these beauties in the photo? They are called plum dumplings and I think they originate in Austria (correct me if I’m wrong). They are also very popular in Slovenia where they are made in every household. My mom made them at least once every week or so and now I carry on the tradition. It’s one of those dishes that no one leaves a bite behind.
My favorite are plum but you can also fill them with other fruits like strawberries or apricots and I use spelt flour instead of plain white one and there’s truly no difference – except for making them a tad healthier.
And the great thing about them is that if you make to much dough you can use the extra to make gnocchi! If you don’t know them either that’s an Italian pasta that goes amazing with any kind of sauce – Tila can’t get enough of them ever since she was a baby.

I have tried a few recipes by now, but this is the one my boyfriend ordered me to stick to:

500g potatoes
250 g spelt flour (half fine and half coarse)
2 eggs
salt
nutmeg
1 tbsp butter
20 pitted plums (or any other fruit )

For the topping:
butter
breadcrumbs
sugar (I use coconut sugar)
cinnamon

Peel and boil the potatoes in a slightly salted water then drain and mash well along with one spoon of butter, a pinch of salt and nutmeg. Add the eggs and flour and shape the dough.
Now roll a quarter of the dough on a generously floured surface and cut to 5 equal pieces. Pat them flat and place one pitted plum on each, pinch together and roll in flour to shape the dumpling (there is a great demonstration by Tila on my Instagram).
Boil slowly until they pop up to the surface and then for about 15 minutes more.
Finally melt the butter in a large frying pan, stir in the breadcrumbs wait until nicely browned then roll the dumplings in the mixture until completely coated (straight from the water as the breadcrumbs stick on best this way).
Before serving sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon! Yummm I wish I has some in the freezer right now…

-Polona

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

Clafoutis

My family comes from the Limousin region in France, which is known for 2 reasons: for being the name sake for big, long, black cars with darkened out windows and also for being the originator of the clafoutis, one of the most delicious desserts ever made in France!

Now, I have to admit that for the last few years I had pushed clafoutis to the back of my mind, possibly because of having reached a clafoutis overload after many years of abuse. I am happy to say that clafoutis is back in my life and so far I have rolled out a cherry version, a plum and a pear version and it only has been 2 weeks!

Here is the recipe which is based on my grandmother’s original recipe:

3 eggs
300 ml milk
75 g of sugar
75 g of flour
40g of melted butter
vanilla extract or a pack of vanilla sugar
around 600 g of whatever fruit you fancy (traditionally cherries are used and the stones are always left in. My guess is that it means that there is less fruit juice mixing in with the batter, as the cherries are still intact, but this is only a guess…)

I usually whisk together the eggs and the milk with the butter and then add in the sugar and the flour. I then, if I possibly can, let the batter rest for 30 minutes or so, as I read somewhere this lets the flour absorb the fluid. Meanwhile I heat up the oven to about 180 degrees and butter a dish. I then place the fruit in the dish pour the batter over and bake for about 30 minutes or until it is nice and golden. Enjoy!

- Emilie

PS in the Clafoutis for the photo above I used Mirabelle plums, which are some of my favourites

A courgette (zucchini) muffin recipe!

It’s courgette season! A good excuse to make these delicious muffins… They are yummy — crunchy on the outside, and because of the courgette, lovely and moist inside.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 225 g grated courgette
  • 125 g  sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 125 ml vegetable oil
  • 200 g flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • the grated zest and juice of one lemon

Preheat your oven to 160° C (320° F). In a mixing bowl beat eggs, sugar, oil and courgette. In a separate bowl sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Fold the combined dry ingredients into the courgette mixture. Add the lemon zest, juice and salt. Don’t overmix the batter! Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (You can also make a loaf — in that case, cook for about 50 minutes.)

Bon appétit!

xxx Esther

The best Dutch Pancakes recipe!

We Dutchmen love our pancakes! We eat them for lunch or dinner, but never for breakfast. We like them savoury, with cheese or bacon, or sweet, with apple, raisins or banana and with topping like icing sugar or treacle. We even combine the salt and the sweet — we poor treacle over our bacon pancakes. Yum!

In summer, I like to serve Dutch pancakes with sugar and lemon wedges. Here’s my recipe, which I think is the best:

  • 250 g flour
  • 500 ml or 2 cups of milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 bag baking powder (or 8 grams, or 2 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • a good pinch of salt

Beat the eggs. Combine flour with baking powder, sugar and salt. Add eggs to flour, combine, and add a third of the milk. Whisk to get rid of lumps, add rest of the milk in parts. Get rid of all the lumps. (You can leave the batter to stand for up to an hour to improve, but don’t bother if you’re in a hurry.) Heat up a large frying pan. Melt butter in the pan, and pour in batter (I use a ladle). Evenly cover the bottom of the pan, trying to make the pancake as thin as possible. This is easiest if you pick up the pan and swirl the batter around. Flip pancake over when golden — try to throw it in the air and flip it over that way! Cook other side as well. Stack up pancakes and serve with sugar and lemon for a yummy summer lunch! Enjoy!

xxx Esther

PS For the stack in the photo above I doubled the ingredients.

Recipe: Home-Made Deodorant! (Yes, you’ve Read it Right!)

I’ve already shared this recipe on my blog but it’s so amazing I just have to post it here as well. I’ve tested it during the hot summer days and it works like a charm. It’s natural, organic and like I said – it’s a recipe but it’s not food, in fact it’s deodorant! Yes, organic and home made from things you probably already have at home and it really, trully works. That’s something I had problems finding – a natural deodorant that actually does its job.

But if you’re skeptical you can simply try the baking soda first, since coconut oil is an ingredient that only makes it easier to apply and to help moisturize the skin and the essential oil is optional and you can easily skip it – it only makes it smell nicer.

You’ll need:

About two empty deodorant containers or small glass jars
6 tbs coconut oil
4 tbs baking soda
4 tbs of arrowroot or cornstarch
a few drops of essential oil (if you’d like to add a little fragrance)

Melt the coconut oil on a small fire and add the rest of the ingredients, mix well, wait so it cools down a bit pour into jars or containers and wait for it to cool down completely (you can put them into a fridge).

Voilà! That is all!

-Polona

Little Paris Kitchen

Have you heard of Rachel Khoo of Little Paris Kitchen? I have to admit, I am  a little obsessed by her. I love the idea of a cute English girl cooking French dishes in a tiny kitchen in Paris.

I think what won me over was her video I found on Youtube of how to make Croque Madame Muffins, (probably the best ever combination of French and English fusion cooking). Also check out the choquettes which are possibly my favourite French pastries in the world and the Madeleines with raspberries and lemon curd.

There is something very re-assuring to see someone make complex French dishes on two hot plates and a tiny oven. It makes me feel like I could do it too!

- Emilie

La Super Superette


A superette in France is a corner shop. Now, we do pride ourselves over here on our fabulous food but, secretly, most French do like a bit of junk: biscuits, chocolate, a frozen Lasagne — it is not all croissants and oysters over here!

Now, the good thing is that all this superette food has inspired 2 girls to come up with a genius blog: La Super Superette. They try and recreate all of this crazy food in their little kitchen, thus rendering the food from junk food to home made delicacies without any preservatives. Ever tried to make your own Kinder Egg? Ever had a craving for a Tuc biscuit? The answers are all on their blog.

There is now even a cookbook, which, unfortunately, is only in French at the moment. The blog is also only in French, but is pretty easy to read with google translate.

- Emilie

Chocolate cake in a tin can

Ever since I saw the post about baking a cake in a tin can on Oh Happy Day I wanted to try it!! We did it last week and it was sooo much fun!

I did the cake with the Thermomix, a cooking robot that is really really helpful for me!

After baking it, cut it into layers and fill with your favourite filling. It was soo much fun to see the cake grow inside the tin can. And really, it was very easy. We think is a nice and different way to bake! Hope you like it!

Maria

Yoghurt Icing Carrot Cake

I had my 21st birthday (a girl can dream, right?) last month and decided to gift myself with my favorite cake – carrot cake with yoghurt icing. I wanted to come as close as possible to the one they sell in Starbucks here in Germany (it is to DIE for!!!) and I think I kind of did (next time I just need to add walnuts).

I found this amazing recipe, made a few of my own adjustments and the outcome is one easy-to-make, super delicious and one of the moistest cakes I ever had! Plus it’s much much healthier than the one from Starbucks. It goes something like this:

Ingredients:

2 cups (300 g) whole spelt flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1⁄2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon (or even more if you love it as much as I do)
1⁄2 nutmeg
1 tsp. ginger
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
3⁄4 cup applesauce
1⁄2 cup olive oil (or any other kind)
400 g finely grated carrots

Frosting:

600 g cream cheese
400 g Greek yoghurt
100 white chocolate
Powdered sugar to taste (I used about 3 spoons)

Preheat the oven to 175°C. In one bowl mix all the dry ingredients minus sugar (flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger). Now in a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients except for the carrots (eggs, sugar, apple sauce and oil). Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until combined. Add the grated carrots.

Bake twice – so use only half of the batter first and bake for about 13 – 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Let cool for a minute or two and turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

For the frosting first melt the white chocolate and set aside. Then beat together cream cheese, yoghurt and powdered sugar. Make sure the chocolate is lukewarm and slowly mix it in. Put the frosting into a refrigerator for about 2 hours.

Layer the bottom and the side of the cake pan with parchment paper like this. Cut one cake on half horizontally and put one half into the pan, spread about 1⁄4 of the icing, put the other half on, spread another quarter of icing and repeat the same with the other cake. Leave in a refrigerator over night then put the cake on a cake tray and spread the rest of the icing over the top of the cake.

Bon appétit!

- Polona

Vietnamese style Rice Paper rolls

My kids and I are really  into making rice paper rolls these days — a very fun and healthy cooking activity, which they love! Dried rice paper is available from the Japanese store (you get about one hundred sheets for a few euros). The fillings can vary — we’ve tried cucumber, carrot, avocado, celery and crab sticks. Other good filling are: red pepper, prawns, tofu, bean sprouts, spring onion, Chinese cabbage, egg omelette, fresh herbs (coriander, mint) and chicken strips. They can be completely veggie or kosher, depending on the fillings you choose, and are gluten free!

Place the fillings in little bowls on the table, together with a bit of (Japanese) mayonnaise. My kids love cutting veggies (and are pretty good at it!) so I slice them in fairly big chunks and let them do the rest. Soak a sheet of rice paper into a bowl of lukewarm water until it’s soft, about 15 seconds, and place on the table. Spread a little bit of mayonnaise onto the paper, and choose the topping you like to use. Fold over sides of paper and roll up to close. Done!

You can make a quick dip sauce (combine rice vinegar, lime juice, sping onion and a bit of fish sauce, minced red chilli, mint and coriander) or serve with sweet chili sauce.

Enjoy!!

xxx Esther

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