Little Baker Picks – December

LB Dec 14

Didymos Didytai

When LB was little I carried her in a stretchy sling from Victoria SlingLady. Now she’s bigger and heavier I’ve upgraded to a Didymos Didytai to give more support for both me and LB. I like that I can carry LB on my front, back or side with it plus it comes in lots of pretty fabrics. This pleases the hippy haberdashery lover in me. Hubs prefers the more traditional carriers so he uses a Baby Bjorn and for Christmas we’re getting a hardcore baby carrying rucksack so we can take to the hills with her as she loves the great outdoors.

I’m a babywearing fan. Sometimes it’s easier to wear than take a buggy, it means I can get on with jobs and the biggie, put a grouchy LB in a sling or carrier and she’s usually asleep within 5 min. Magic.

Baby grows

I do love baby grows. As a baby it’s the only time in your life when it is socially acceptable to be seen outside the house in a onesie. As cute as outfits are for babies (I’ve bought a fair few), sometimes it’s nice and easy for her to be in a babygrow. Think taking her swimming. Never again will I make the mistake of putting her in an outfit. It’s a mare to change a damp, rapidly chilling wriggle monster into something that isn’t baggy with minimum buttons.

Next baby grows are good as they wash well and have integrated scratch mitts. Size wise they are generous. 20 weeks in and weighing 14lb, LB still fits in her 0-3 baby grows from Next. It’s interesting seeing how the retailers differ so much in quality and sizing. Tesco – good sizing, usually good quality and generally wash well; Asda – small sizing, poor choice unless you have a penchant for frills, slogans and baby pink. LB has nearly grown out of 3-6 months Asda baby grows even though she is small for her size; Morrisons Nutmeg – while some of their clothing is good, their baby grows are thin, wonky seamed and don’t wash well at all.

Baby books

Tactile books are brilliant for babies. LB has the Faces version of this book and it seems to go most places with us. They are made of material, feature plastic mirrors, can be chewed and feature a velcro strap meaning they can be safely attached to the buggy or play gym. She’s mastering the art of turning pages at the moment.


Or should I say Mocc Ons. LB has the inability to keep most types of booties/shoes on and in the colder weather a couple of pair of socks just aren’t warm enough. I’d read about moccasins for babies being great (especially when babywearing) so set about trying to source them. I finally found them in Sainsbury’s. They sell them in a large variety of patterns and colours for the bargain price of £5. You can find other retailers on the Sockons website.

Have you made any fab baby/child discoveries recently?


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Christmas Pudding Rum Truffles

christmas pudding truffles

These truffles are based on a rum truffle recipe I used to make and eat as a child. Often we would visit Mellors, a local bakery, and pick a cake. My favourite was a rum truffle and I can remember it being the size of my fist. Of course I now know that rum truffles are a cheeky way of using up leftover cake.

This is such a simple, no-bake recipe. It can be adapted in many different ways to incorporate different themes and flavourings. I find rum flavouring works better than real rum in these truffles. The rum flavouring can be sometimes be a bit difficult to find (Silver Spoon do one) so when I spot it I buy it.

From an educational point a view this is a fabulous recipe to teach ratios. It’s essentially 1 part cocoa powder:2 parts icing sugar :4 parts cake crumbs and as it makes 12 truffles when using 100g cake there are many factors relating to the number 12. This makes the recipe easy to scale up and down or work out the ingredients if you only a given amount of cake crumbs.

Christmas Pudding Truffles
Makes 12

  • 100g cake crumbs (more or less any sponge cake works, even stale cake)
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp flavouring (I like rum flavouring or orange extract)
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 3 tsp icing sugar mixed with 1 tsp of boiled water to make glace icing
  • holly made from small amount of coloured sugarpaste. You could also use glacé cherries and angelica or holly sprinkles.
  1. Mix together the cake crumbs, icing sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. Add the flavouring and milk. Mix until the ingredients are well combined and stick together.
  3. Using your hands mush together the mixture until it is almost evenly coloured. Wash your hands. The next step is easier with clean hands.
  4. Pinch off a small sprout sized piece of truffle mixture. Roll into a ball and set to one side.
  5. Drizzle a small amount of the glace icing on to the top of the pudding, then decorate with the fondant holly. Chill for an hour to allow to set.

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Make Eat Get Read Go – Dec ’14


I guess it’s inevitable what this MEGRG will contain, for festive frolics are just around the corner.


Door wreath

Every year I make our door wreath. One year it contained chilli & limes, the next year I made it from sprouts. Last year I went on a Blossom Tree wreath making workshop and I was really pleased with what I managed to produce. Now I just need to come up with a design for this year now. If all else fails I do love this herb & chilli wreath from Rocket Garden.


Christmas Florentines

For the last few years I’ve made Christmas cakes but they rarely get eaten so this year I’ve decided to make festive Florentines instead. They are one of my favourite sweet things. I’m thinking dried cranberries, sour cherries, candied peel with lots of nuts, chocolate and maybe a liberal dusting of gold lustre. Something a bit like this Hairy Bikers recipe, though if it is as good as the recipe in the Green & Blacks cookbook remains to be seen.


Paul A Young Advent Calendar 

I’m a lucky lady, Hubs has treated me to a Paul A Young advent calendar, I think it’s to make up for the fact he bought himself yet another Star Wars Lego advent calendar this year.

I’m a huge fan of Paul A Young. His rich brownies are like eating a slab of divine truffle. They are so rich I cut them in quarters and eat over 4 sittings. The chocolates contained in this years calendar include: champagne, fruit & nut, spiced rum, persian spices and his multi-award winning salted caramel. To offset these rather good chocolates I also have a Cadburys Hero calendar. Still great chocolate just at the other end of the chocolate spectrum.


Nigella Christmas

Not original I know, but there is something about the book that makes me smile, even if it is to just look and dream than cook a recipe from it. Don’t forget it’s probably Nigella to blame for why so many of us deck our kitchens out in fairy lights during the festive season.


Calke Abbey Christmas Lights and Labyrinths

It’s been a tradition of ours for a good few years to attend Calke Abbey for their Christmas events. Every year the gardens are lit, children deck the trees with handmade ornaments and the wish tree even granted my wish a few years ago.

Inside the house they decorate some of the rooms using decorations found stashed in the grand hall. This is surprisingly easy given the previous tenants, the Harper-Crewe family, were hoarders. Last year there was a tree decorated circa 1980, this took me back to my childhood and made me surprisingly emotional.

This year some of the tunnels will be lit and we will be returning for the first time with Little Baker in tow to add her to our Christmas tradition.


Wishing everyone a fabulous festive season and there will be a couple of quick and easy Christmas recipes coming to the blog in the next week or two.

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Little Baker Picks – November

LB nov 14

As Little Baker (LB) get closer to 4 months our old life is becoming a distant past. No time for new recipes or photography (unless it’s trying to catch LB smiling), and you certainly don’t want to see the state of the garden. Our life is now a whirlwind of mother and baby classes, reliable non-fuss dinners and bedtime routines. We’ve also decided that we really must stop celebrating her weekly birthdays and milestones with cake. Don’t worry though, weaning will start in January and that’s when the real fun and mess begins.

M&S dress

There is such a large choice of baby clothes out there but many places seem to think girls can only be dressed in pastel pink, with frills, emblazoned with slogan and a cartoon character. While I appreciate some people are more than happy with this it just isn’t my cup of tea. There are more colours in the world than baby pink and I’ve been trying to introduce these to LB’s wardrobe. M&S have some beautiful clothes for girls at the moment in their Indigo collection featuring bold colours and patterns. I fell in love with this dress as soon as I saw it especially the print featuring little hedgehogs.

Wonder Weeks app

This app is a must for all parents. Yes the study it’s based on could just be a ruse to sell books to desperate parents but just like horoscopes, in that you can read something in all the signs that you recognise, this app can help soothe your soul when you’re having a bad day with baby. Consult the app and little one is probably having a growth spurt. Calm restored and you know it just means sitting it out (eating chocolate) and it’ll pass.

Lamaze tug and play knot

Lamaze do great baby toys. They are bright, tactile and covered in different textures. LB has this knot toy and it goes most places with her. Every time she plays with it she seems to discover something new or if it doubt she’ll just chew on the green star. She’s got some more Lamaze toys on her Christmas list.

Baby Sensory classes

I do various classes with LB and this is my current favourite, though running through a forest with a buggy is a close second. Yes I’ve turned in to one of those mums.

As the weeks go by it’s interesting watching her development. One week she’s not engaged, the next she is tracking objects with her eyes. If I could only do one class a week with LB it would be this. You soon get over the awkwardness of singing songs to your baby about suns and moons comIng out to play. My fondness of these classes may also be because it sometimes involves singing and dancing to S Club and messy play with food.

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Saturn (tomato & basil) rolls

cottage cheese rolls

Cottage cheese purchases are often on a healthy kick whim. It’s opened, spooned on a jacket spud then the rest of the pot risks being forgotten about at the back of the fridge. This recipe uses up this languishing pot and is perfect for a quick lunchtime bread as no yeast is required.

As part of my work (well when not on mat leave) I take recipes and adapt them to fit a topic or make them more suitable for the client’s needs. In this case these rolls linked with a school’s Space topic. The mixed herbs in the dough represented the rocks in Saturn’s rings and the cottage cheese the ice. It’s for Primary-aged children to make and they had 1.5 hours to make, bake and clean up. In this short time frame it’s very difficult to make proper bread so these made a great compromise. The original recipe for these rolls uses a food processor, not ideal with a class of children with minimum kitchen facilities, so by using value/basics cottage cheese that is usually less chunky than more expensive brands you eliminate the use of a blender.

cooked saturn rolls

The cottage cheese gives the bread a lovely fluffy texture. Something you wouldn’t expect with bread made with no yeast. If you are using a thick, chunky cottage cheese I recommend you put it in a blender to make it smoother. Low fat cottage cheese also works well.

Saturn (tomato & basil) Rolls
Based on Tomato Pesto Rolls in What Shall We Cook Today?
Makes 6 small rolls 

250 g self raising flour

1/4 tsp salt

125 g cottage cheese (if your cottage cheese is very chunky put in a blender for a few seconds)

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

1/2 egg

60 ml milk

3 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

6 basil leaves

olive oil

1) Pre heat oven to 190°c. Cover baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment or fine sprinkling of flour.

2) Put the flour, cottage cheese, salt, mixed herbs, egg and milk in a bowl and mix until you have a soft dough. If the dough is a bit dry add a splash more of milk.

3) Turn out on to a floured worktop and knead twice so it looks smoother.

4) Divide the dough into 6 pieces, roll into a ball and place on baking tray.

5) Make a deep hole in each roll. Push a basil leaf and tomato half into the hole.

6) Drizzle with olive oil then bake for 15-20 until rolls are risen and golden.

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Make Eat Get Read Go – November ’14



Salt dough

In reality I would like my “make” to say time, but as I can’t magic time out of thin air salt dough will have to do. Salt dough is easy and uses basic kitchen ingredients. I’m going to make a batch to get some Little Baker foot and hand prints using this recipe on the fabulous Imagination Tree blog.


Bonfire Brownies

I have a few jobs for the family bonfire display: Bake cake and heat the mulled wine. These Bonfire Brownies are in the GBBO Learn to Bake book and look like the perfect thing to make. Who can say no to brownies laced with pecans then coated in marshmallows and fudgy icing?


Louise Jenkins papercutting

I’ve always admired papercutting as an art. Louise Jenkins’ work is beautiful and quite different from the other papercutting pieces out there. I particularly love the detail on this owl piece.


Annabel Karmel Baby & Toddler Meal Planner

Now is the time to start swotting up on weaning. We will not be starting until January but I need to get my head around it. I know that two major weaning camps exist: purée and baby led weaning, and that’s about all. I’ve been given this Annabel Karmel book by a friend who highly recommended it.


Bonfire display

Go for November had to be a fireworks display for Guy Fawkes Night. I’ll be watching the family bonfire & fireworks with Little Baker from the safety and warmth of a conservatory while keeping that all important mulled wine warm for the rest of the family.

Have a lovely, snug and warm November.

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Our first family holiday – Center Parcs Sherwood Forest

Center Parcs 1

My family has visited Center Parcs Sherwood Forest since the early 1990s. Back then the accommodation was nowhere near as plush as it is now and I can remember the beds being simply covered in sheets and blankets and you had to make your own bed. We didn’t care, as long as we got to spend every waking hour in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise we were happy. We visited nearly every year until about 6 years ago when all of us kids had grown up and left home. Now Little Baker (LB) is on the scene we decided her first holiday had to be Center Parcs as it was somewhere we knew well and is renowned for its baby-friendly facilities. So on an unusually mild October afternoon, eight of us descended on Center Parcs to relive and reignite our family holidays. Naturally it involved champagne, cake and lots of food.

We stayed in two adjoining 4-person woodland lodges close to the centre. All the villas come with travel cots so I’m glad we didn’t have to lug ours along. Our car was already full with her things and just one bag for us squeezed in to the corner. It’s amazing how many things one little person needs. This villa location worked well as it’s the only time we’ve not brought bikes with us so facilities were only a short walk away.

Center Parcs has evolved over the years. Initially it was very much sport orientated, now it has more of a leisure pursuit slant. It’s always worked well for us, especially when teenagers, as we could all do our own thing. Mum usually avoiding all sporting activity with avid people watching and the rest of the family being our competitive selves. Over the years I think we must have tried nearly all the sports Center Parcs has on offer but we always fall back on three for a good bit of inter-sibling rivalry – Squash, crazy golf and ten pin bowling. I’m sure 3 months postpartum I shouldn’t be playing squash but hey I had a reputation to upkeep and no-one has to tell my GP.

Going to Center Parcs with a 3-month-old is different. You have to plan your day more and accept some of your favourite activities of the past are put on hold for a bit. The spa there is very good and usually a haunt of mine but with a baby who’d most likely need feeding during the 3-hour chill out session it wasn’t to be this time.

Center Parcs Sherwood Forest

Many people gawp at the prices of food & activities at Center Parcs. Yes you are paying a premium and I think you just have to accept that, budget for it and enjoy your holiday. Holidays are not for moaning and penny pinching. We did spot that the food prices have stayed pretty constant since our last visit 6 or so years ago. Many of the eating outlets are now run by well-known brands. There’s Cafe Rouge along with Strada alongside Center Parc’s own named eateries. It’s also unsurprising to know there is a Starbucks or St. Arbucks as we like call it due to it being in the building that was originally the Center Parcs church. All the meals we ate out were good especially the club sandwich at Foresters Inn which proved to be worth the initial gasp of “how much?”. A holiday tradition of ours is to drink hot chocolate and it must come with all the trimming available. In fact I think I prefer eating the toppings on hot chocolate more than the drink itself.

Even 20 years or so since our first visit the Subtropical Swimming Paradise is our favourite. Gone are the days when we used to get to the pool for when it opened at 10am and only leave once kicked out at 10pm. We are starting baby swimming lessons soon so I decided it would be the perfect time to introduce her to the pool. At Center Parcs they have family changing booths with changing table and nappy bins which made our three pool visits far easier. Little Baker, possibly the youngest swimmer in the pool, took like a duck to water and felt so chilled bobbing along by the waterfall in her rubber ring that she fell asleep.

I think LB is going to be an active outdoors girl. She was fascinated by the trees and certainly slept well after days out in the fresh air. Now she’s back home she’s wondering where Grandpa, Nain, aunties & uncles have gone along with her daily dip in the pool. We may be heading back sooner than we think…

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