Category Archives: Finger Foods

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Yesterday it was Wednesday and there’s no school in most parts of France on Wednesdays so the littlies were at home. A bit odd at first but quite nice for the kids to have a day off half way through the week, especially as the school hours of 9 to 5 are so long (for Frannie anyway). Over the last few weeks it’s become a bit of baking day at Chez Foti, trying out a new cake or muffin recipe or two and getting the littlies to help with the weighing, pouring, whisking, stirring and of course most importantly the tasting. Yesterday it was the turn of a Chocolate Pumpkin Cake, not only one of the ‘healthiest’ cakes I’ve ever made but one of the moistest and most temptingly delicious. And the kids LOVE it. I think this’ll be a regular Wednesday bake!.

The stirring and tasting team

I love experimenting with veggies in cakes, much to the horror of the French who still haven’t really got to grips with the humble carrot cake. I made many a Courgette Cake with homemade Lemon Curd over the summer, and lots of Chocolate Courgette or Marrow Cakes of late using up the last of the glut. I’ve also baked quite a bit with Butternut Squash in Muffins and Cakes and once even made a gloriously coloured Beetroot Chocolate Cake. But using Pumpkin was a newbie to me, and after a couple of attempts I’ve perfected my recipe and it really is a winner. Low in sugar, and only using healthier unrefined Light Muscavado anyway, and richly flavoured by Roasted Pumpkin, Cocoa and a little warming Cinnamon.

We’ve more than a few pumpkins at Chez Foti, to be honest I’ve not counted them but there’s a lot. They should definitely see us through the winter and I have a feeling the blog will be moving from it’s recent tomato red to pumpkin orange. I’ve picked a few already but most are still out on the patch and will stay there slowly ripening until there’s a risk of frosts.

The Leaning Tower of Pumpkins!

I’m entering this blog for my first ever time to the We Should Cocoa challenge, held by Choclette of the Chocolate Log Blog and the Chocolate Teapot Blog and this month guest hosted by Hungry Hinny. This month’s challenge is to pair Pumpkin with Chocolate or Cocoa.

I’m going for a double whammy and also putting it forward to the One Ingredient Challenge, as this month the ingredient so happens to be Squash or Pumpkin!. The challenge is held jointly by Laura at How to Cook Good Food and this month by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen.

I baked my cake in a medium sized baking tin and made a wee extra in one of my Oogaa bowls for the kids. Being silicone they’re perfect for baking cakes in. Incase you haven’t already dropped by, the Oogaa Recipe site is now up and running and features several Chez Foti baby and kids recipes. You can even add your own recipes!

The kids love their cakes baked in an Oogaa silicone bowl

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Makes one very large traybake (20 x 35cm tin) or a smaller tin and a few individual cakes. Can be frozen.

700g of pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into very large chunks

120g of unsalted butter, room temperature

120ml of sunflower oil

260g of light muscovado sugar

3 medium free range eggs, lightly beaten

130ml of milk

350g of plain flour

50g of cocoa powder

2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Special Equipment: 20 x 35cm baking tin lined with baking parchment, or 6 silicone Oogaa bowls 

Begin with roasting your pumpkin. Place the very large chunks on a baking sheet in an oven pre-heated to 190ºC/Gas Mark 5. Bake for about 40 minutes until they’re pretty soft, turning once or twice during the cooking time. Once cooked remove from the pan, place in a bowl and thoroughly mash with a potato masher. Leave to cool a little. This part could always be done before, when you happen to be using the oven.

Meanwhile start the cake batter. Place the very soft butter, sunflower oil and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir or whisk until well combined.

Whisk in the eggs, followed by the milk.

Now gradually sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and cinnamon to the cake mixture, stirring until well combined with each sifting.

Finally stir in the slightly cooled mashed pumpkin and spoon out into your lined baking tin or bowls. Bake big cakes in the preheated oven (190ºC/Gas Mark 5) for 30 to 40 minutes and smaller ones for around 25 minutes. They’re ready when they’re firm to touch on the top (but still feeling a little squidgy), and an inserted skewer comes out clean of crumbs.

Cut into squares and serve as soon as cool enough to eat. You won’t be able to resist long!

Here’s some other Chez Foti sweet treats: Easy Chocolate Birthday Cake, Courgette Cake with Homemade Lemon Curd, Chocolate Brownies, My Girly Fairy Cake Heaven, Super-Fruity Banana Mini Muffins.

Little Miss F having an approving taste!
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Chicken Goujons for Kids (and Growns Ups too!)

Finger Foods, Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Kids, Grown Ups too

I should start with an apology for my lack of so called ‘kid’s food’ lately. It’s not that my monsters haven’t been eating, it’s just with so many guests and so much going on these days they’ve been eating more often with the grown ups or I’ve been sticking with my old faithfuls.

I have however been making Chicken Goujons for the kids and their friends all summer and they’re a huge hit, and more often than not I make more than a few extra as we can’t resist joining them for a chicken & chips supper!. Some kids food is just too hard to pass by and these are no exception. Just in case you weren’t around in 80s Britain ‘goujons’ are breadcrumbed and fried strips of fish or chicken, very popular then but less so now, not that there’s any reason at all they shouldn’t be. These goujons are dipped in flour, then egg, before coating in a mixture of Parmesan cheese (or Grana Padano), polenta and dried breadcrumbs.

Incredibly quick and simple to make and I almost guarantee your kids (and you) will love them. Don’t be put off by the breadcrumbing bit, it’s a cinch, albeit a messy cinch, and fun to do. If I manage it with a terrifying toddler at bay anyone can!. If your kids are a little older than mine get them involved, I’m sure they’d love to do it themselves. It’s always worthwhile making a huge batch and storing them in the freezer at the post-crumbed pre-fried stage.

I serve mine up with homemade potato wedges and some veggies or baked beans on the side.

The pre-fried Goujons

Enough for 8 to 10 Goujons:

2 chicken breasts

1 tablespoon of plain flour

1 egg

1 heaped teaspoon of dijon mustard

25g of finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese

20g of dried breadcrumbs, homemade or shop bought

20g of polenta

sunflower oil

Slice the chicken breasts into 4 or 5 thin strips or ‘goujons’.

Place the flour in a flat bottomed bowl or plate. Lightly beat the egg with the mustard and place in another bowl. And then finally in a third bowl mix up the Parmesan or Grana Padano, breadcrumbs and polenta.

Now for the messy stuff! With well washed hands, dip each chicken strip in the flour bowl, ensuring it’s fully coated. Then dip it into the egg, again ensuring it’s coated. Then finally the breadcrumb mix. Set aside on a plate and repeat with the remaining strips.

When they’re all done cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge until you’re ready to fry.

Pour enough sunflower oil into a frying pan to just cover it’s base. Heat on a medium heat until very hot. Carefully place the goujons in the hot oil and cook for about 3 minutes before turning it over. You want a golden crispy crumb. When they’re cooked on both sides remove from the pan and drain on kitchen roll.

Serve with homemade potato wedgies and veggies or beans. Yuuuummm. Bet you can’t resist at least one?


Super-Fruity Banana Mini Muffins

We’re just over the middle of the loooooonnnnng 10 week, yes TEN week summer school holidays here. France reportedly has more school holidays than anywhere else in the world, a great place to be if you’re a teacher. Actually I moan a lot about them but in truth I’m quite enjoying it really, well this holiday anyway. The first half we had lots of visitors which is always fun, and now we haven’t but I’m just enjoying being lazy and not having to get dressed and washed and breakfasted (well eventually we do!) and do the school run (not that it’s terribly stressful round here, 5 kms in about 6 mins, and it’s rare you ever see another car until you get to the actual school and there’s never any hassle parking). This holiday it’s lots of walks around the garden, fruit picking, marathon trampoline and paddling pool sessions, visits to local parks and the odd lake or swimming pool dip. Plus plenty of baking. I’m not going to mention the squabbling, squealing, screaming or sulking. Really I’m not. Ahhhrrrrr.

My daughter’s now nearly four and loves to bake (she’s been at school since she was just over two by the way, they start them young here!). Strangely though she’s not really a big cake fan (we really should have a DNA test done) but does love to eat anything she’s helped make. And Jacques at just over two has now decided he wants a piece of the baking action and is very much my master stirrer. He likes his cake but also has a partiality for savory. So during these long summer jollidays we’ve had many a baking session. Many way too messy to blog and show, but some just about okish!. Today it was the turn of some really-fruity fairly-healthy mini-muffins made with bananas, apricots and sultanas. I like to make my muffins small for the kids (and for me so I can eat twice as many) and tend to make them in the normal fairy cake sized cases and tins, but feel free to make them a normal muffin size too.

Use really ripe, preferably over-ripe with blackened skins, bananas.

Miss F the Urchin Child & Champion Spoon Licker

Makes 24 mini-muffins or 12 regular:

250g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

a large pinch of cinnamon

180g of golden caster sugar

2 large eggs

75ml of sunflower oil

75ml of creme fraiche (half fat works fine) or yogurt

2 very large over-ripe bananas or 3 medium sized

80g of apricots, chopped (the slightly squishy ‘ready to eat’ ones are best, but dried work too)

80g of sultanas

Preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a largish mixing bowl then stir in the sugar.

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, oil and creme fraiche or yogurt. And in another bowl roughly mash up the bananas with the back of a fork.

Now for some serious stirring action. Throw the wet mixture into the dry along with the mashed bananas, chopped apricots and sultanas. Stir until well combined.

Place in cake or muffin cases in cake or muffin trays. It’s about a dessertspoon of the raw mixture for a fairy cake sized mini-muffin.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until a little golden on the top, firm to touch and an inserted cake skewer or fork comes out crumb free.

Remove from the trays and cool on a cooling rack for as long as your little ones will allow. Go gobble.

Here’s some other easy peasy baking with kids ideas: Cheesy Biscuits, Cheese, Ham & Sweetcorn Mini-Muffins, Chocolate Brownies

The new Naked Chef, admittedly it was 38°C and we were baking!


Cheese, Ham & Sweetcorn Mini Muffins

Toddlers &  Young Children, Finger Foods, Grown Ups too!

We make cheesy muffins pretty often at Chez Foti as both my kids adore them (and so do I!), especially when they’re still warm out of the oven. They’ve each been known to eat five in one go!  As it was public holidays here last Thursday and Friday and no school we did a spot of baking together. Actually the holiday was only officially on the Thursday but being France employees, teachers included, like to take the Friday off too and make a long weekend of it. Most of May it seems is taken up by these long weekends.

Anyway back to the baking, Francesca who’s now three and a half loves to do all the stirring, whisking, muffin case choosing and placing in the tins, dolloping and sprinkling. It’s a messy business but well worth it, if your patience and tolerance levels will allow!. Kids always seem much more interested in eating anything they’ve had a helping hand in making. Though Jacques at just two was more than happy to do some scribbling, with the occasional cursory glance, on the other side of the table. He participated in the eating only, which needless to say he excelled himself at again. I’m sure it won’t be long before he wants to join in too as he’s a natural born foodie.

As well as a mid morning or tea time treat savoury muffins are a great alternative to all the sweet stuff at kids parties, and are good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. My monsters had these for their dinner with some baked beans on the side. They happened to be coming out of the oven unintentionally at their dinner time anyway and there was no way they’d eat less than three so dinner they were!.

I make small fairy cake size mini-muffins for my kids using ordinary cake cases, and this recipe makes about 24. If you’re  making ordinary muffin sizes you should make 12.

To make 24 small mini-muffins, or 12 ordinary sized: 

2 medium free range eggs

250ml of semi-skimmed or full fat milk

85g of butter, melted then allowed to cool

280g of plain flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

a pinch of salt

a pinch of pepper

½ teaspoon of English mustard powder

140g of Cheddar cheese, grated

100g of ham, diced into roughly 1cm squares

100g of drained tinned sweetcorn (or defrosted frozen sweetcorn)

Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6. Line muffin or cake tins with 12 or 24 cases depending on which size you opt to make.

Beat the eggs together, stir in the milk and the melted and cooled butter.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt & pepper and mustard powder.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the egg, milk and butter mixture. Stir together gently.

Stir in ⅔ of the grated Cheddar, the diced ham and sweetcorn and stir well without over mixing.

Spoon the mixture into the cake or muffin cases. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tops.

Place in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes until risen, firm to touch and a little golden on the tops.

Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool for a few minutes then dig in….as if you couldn’t resist! They’re at their best eaten fresh out of the oven.

How about trying these other recipes? Cheesy Biscuits, Choccie Brownies, a Trio of Dips,  Homemade Fish Fingers or Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes

Little Miss F making the same muffins at Grandma’s a few weeks ago


A Trio of Dips for Babies, Toddlers & Big People!

6-8 month +, Toddlers and Young Children, Finger Foods, Grown Ups too!

Dips are a great way to encourage babies and toddlers to feed themselves and are a fab early ‘finger food’. Even from a very young age babies can co-ordinate themselves to do a dip, even if it’s just dipping their fingers in. And they nearly all love the intensely satisfying experience, albeit a sometimes very messy one for mums and dads!

Dips also encourage wee ones to eat a greater variety of veggies. My kids will rarely eat a stick of raw carrot or pepper on it’s own but will gladly gnaw away if it’s got something yummy on the end. Try offering dips with a selection of finely sliced sticks of raw carrots, cucumbers, peppers, firm avocados or celery as well as breadsticks and slices of wholemeal pitta bread. For babies and littlies offer sticks or pieces of cooked veggies like carrots, courgettes, broccoli florets or even chunks of roasted squash or sweet potato. You might be surprised how much of the good stuff they consume when left to their own devices!

Homemade Hummus

Don’t be daunted by making your own hummus,  it’s remarkably easy and quick and so much better than anything shop bought. From my experience most babies and small children love it, and obviously big children and grown ups too! Rarely a week goes by without me making a batch of hummus. As well as being a great dip it can be tasty snack spread on wholemeal toast or pitta bread, or combined with a little grated carrot or cheese (or both) in a sandwich.

This makes enough for several children but stores well in the fridge for 5 days. I normally make at least double quantity and use exactly the same recipe for the whole family to enjoy.

½ a 400g/14oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ a clove of garlic, finely chopped

juice of ½ a lemon

a desertspoon of Tahini

1.5 tbsps of olive oil

a tiny pinch of salt (no salt if you’re making for babies)

a pinch of black pepper

Throw all the ingredients in a food processor and blend for a few moments, or place in a high sided bowl and whiz with a stick blender. The latter being my preference as it’s less washing up!. Once whizzed check the flavour and add more lemon juice, pepper or salt to taste.

Guacamole

My kids also go crazy for homemade guacamole which again is ridiculously quick and easy to make and beats anything shop bought  hands down.  I use a little fresh coriander in my guacamole as I believe it’s important to get kids into eating strong and interesting flavours from a young age. I also sometimes add a touch of chilli, particularly if I’m making for grown ups too, and the kids like it equally. In fact the first time Francesca ever ate guacamole it was some I’d made for friends that had quite a substantial chilli kick and she loved it! And she was only about 8 months old.

a very ripe avocado

2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice

½ a tomato

a dessertspoon of chopped fresh coriander (optional)

the merest pinch of crushed dried chilli flakes or very finely chopped fresh chilli (optional)

tiny pinches of salt & pepper (no salt if you’re making for babies)

Remove the stone and skin from the avocado, roughly chop and place in a bowl. Mash finely with the back of the fork.

Very finely chop the tomato and stir into the avocado along with the lime  juice, coriander (if using), chilli (if using) and a little salt & pepper.

Tuna & Cream Cheese

The last of my trio happens to be yet another of my kids favourites and is even easier to make than the others. It’s simply tuna mashed up with a little cream cheese. As well as a dip this makes a fab mayo-free sandwich or jacket potato filling. For a very tasty ‘grown up’ version, that kids will also equally enjoy, simply add a little lemon zest, a few finely chopped capers and a grinding of black pepper.

a heaped tablespoon of drained tinned tuna (preferably tuna tinned in spring water)

a heaped tablespoon of full fat cream cheese

Simply mash the two together. Done!.

Here’s Francesca & Jacques enjoying their favourite dippy trio outside in the sunshine:

You might also like: Hummus Hedgehogs, A Trio of Banana Purees, Two Baby Pasta & Puree Recipes, Sweet Potato Daal for Babies.


Homemade Fish Fingers

P1070950

Virtually all kids (and grown ups!) adore fish fingers so why not make your own?   You can honestly put them together in little more than the time to cook frozen shop bought ones. And if time’s a problem, why not make a big batch and store them in the freezer for a later convenience dinner? The difference in quality between a homemade fish finger made with real fish fillet and a processed shop bought one made with minced/ground fish is enormous and it’s truly worth the little added effort.

I believe that getting your kids to eat and love fish from a very early age is really important. It’s been proven over recent years that the nutrients and minerals in fish, and particularly oily fish, are particularly good for the heart and can make improvements in brain development.

Homemade Fish Fingers

Homemade Fish Fingers

Great for 9-12 month babies, fingers foods, toddlers and pre-schoolers, big kids, big people, freezing, making ahead

makes 6-8 fish fingers:

200g of sustainable white fish fillet (cod, haddock or pollack are all perfect)

a tablespoon of plain flour

a medium free range egg, beaten

40g of panko, white breadcrumbs or polenta (or a combination of any of these)

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil

Take the time to carefully examine your fish fillet for any bones, removing any that you find with tweezers. Cut the fish into 6 – 8 even fingers.

Now assemble three shallow flat bottomed dishes. Put the flour in one, the beaten egg in the next and the panko/breadcrumbs/polenta in the final one.

Simply dip each fish finger first into the flour, then into the egg and finally roll it around in the crumbs. Place on a plate until you’re ready to use. They can be frozen for later use at this stage.

Heat the oil in frying pan until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns brown when dropped in. Carefully place the fish fingers in the pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning on all sides until golden brown and crisp all over. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.

Serve with mash or chips and plenty of veggies.

Homemade Fishfingers

How about trying some of my other toddler-tastic recipes? Kids Fish Pie, Sunday Dinner Leftovers Cakes, Chicken, Egg & Veggie Fried Rice or Lasagne ?


Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes

Ever wanted some inspiration of what to do with all those Sunday dinner leftovers? How about throwing them all together, forming into little patties, coating with egg and breadcrumbs and frying them up? And then serving with any leftover gravy. I would love to take the credit for these tasty cakes of loveliness but I can’t, they were thought up by the ingenious husband of a friend of mine. You know who you are and I thank you! We’ve made them on many a Monday, and I’d go as far to say my kids actually prefer them to their Sunday dinners.

This recipe uses leftovers from a roast pork Sunday lunch and combines diced roast pork (obviously!), apple sauce, mashed potatoes and lots of veggie leftovers (I used carrots, peas and courgettes). They’re equally, if not more delish made with leftover roast beef and a desertspoon of creamed horseradish, or lamb and a little mint sauce…. just throw in whatever you have leftovers off…they’ll undoubtedly be good.

For the coating I used Panko for the first ever time. They’re Japanese breadcrumbs that are particularly light and crispy and make for a wonderfully crunchy coating, available at most Asian stores and bigger supermarkets. If you can’t source use ordinary breadcrumbs (either packet or homemade) or polenta or a 50/50 mixture of the two.

This recipe makes 8 cakes, but make as many as you have leftovers for. They freeze well.

Enough for a family of four:

140g cold roast pork, finely diced

120g cold leftover veggies, finely diced

320g cold leftover potato mash

a tablespoon of apple purée or sauce

black pepper

a heaped tablespoon of plain flour

2 eggs, beaten

4 heaped tablespoons of Panko, breadcrumbs or polenta (or a combination of any of these)

sunflower oil for frying

leftover gravy and apple sauce to serve

Place the diced pork, veggies, mashed potato, apple purée and a grinding of black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Combine thoroughly with a spoon. Divide into 8 equal pieces and shape each into a flattened round patty.

Get three flat bottomed bowls. Place the flour in the first, the beaten eggs in the second and the Panko, breadcrumbs or polenta in the third. Now cover each patty first with the flour, then with the egg and finally with the Panko, ensuring that each are evenly coated in them all. This is quite a delicate operation so be gentle or they’ll easily fall apart.

Place in the fridge until you’re ready to use, ideally for at least 30 minutes to give them a chance to firm up a little more.

When you’re ready to cook them pour enough sunflower oil into a large frying pan to cover it’s base and heat for a few minutes on a medium heat. Carefully place the patties in the pan and fry until golden brown. Turn over and fry the other sides until golden too. This should only take about 5 minutes in total. You may need to do a couple of batches.

Serve immediately with re-heated leftover gravy and some more apple sauce/puree. The wee ones like theirs with baked beans, peas or sweetcorn. Grown ups with a salad.


Cheesy Biscuits for Half Term

It’s half term for number one child this week, actually this two weeks…they generously do two in France, the country of more school holidays than anywhere else in the world! So we’re on holiday in the warmer climes of England luxuriating in the wonders of a centrally heated Grandma and Grandpa house, escaping the snowy sub zero temperatures of Siberian SW France.

Yesterday we had a spot of mummy and daughter cheesy biscuit baking. Great fun. This is a really REALLY simple recipe and great to make with kids. I make them quite often with my daughter who’s three as she hasn’t got a particularly sweet tooth (except for chocolate) and likes her cheese so these always go down a storm. Especially when she gets to cut them out herself with animal shaped cutters. Believe me she ate six before I had time to get the camera out and get a snap! If you want to get your kids into baking, invest in some interesting shaped cutters (whatever they’re into!) and make some biscuits, I guarantee they’ll love it.

And these cheesy gems are pretty popular with grown up folk too. You could always add a pinch of hot paprika to the biscuit mix to jazz it up a little, and cut them into more traditional round shapes.

80g grated mature cheddar

50g butter

110g plain flour plus a little extra for rolling

½ tsp of english mustard powder

1 egg yolk

salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 180℃.

Place the cheese, butter, flour and mustard powder in a food processor and whiz until you have a fine crumb.

Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper and the egg yolk and whiz again until a ball is formed in the processor. If a ball doesn’t form easily add a splash of cold water and whiz again. Remove from the processor.

If you have time cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour or so. If not, you can make them immediately but the dough is a little stickier.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it’s about 3 to 4mm thick. Cut the biscuits into your desired shapes. Re-roll any scraps until all the dough is used.

Place on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 7 to 10 minutes until puffed up and a little golden. Keep checking them regularly as they can overcook very quickly.

Once cooked remove from the tray immediately and place on a cooling rack to cool for a minute or two before eating. They’re particularly lovely eaten a little warm fresh from the oven. Enjoy!

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