Nutritious Chocolate Crispies in Minutes

Posted on July 10th, 2012 - Fiona

What makes a chocolate snack healthy?

Growing kids need healthy snacks. We all know fruit and vegetable pieces are great, nutritious and fat free, but sometimes a sweet treat is what they really fancy! My secret is simple store cupboard ingredients with no nasty additives,strange fats or fillers and fortified bran flakes with added vitamins and fibre. These chocolate crispies are so easy to make, I knock them up in minutes, yes literally minutes! Or why not take your time and make them with the children’s help.  They are perfect for after school treats, in packed lunches and picnics.

Finished chocolate crispies ready for the children!


I am a bit of a just poor it in the pan by judgement girl with ingredients, but this is my approximate guide on quantities. Remember I cook on a large scale with eight in our family and extra to sell in reception for our holiday makers. You may want to scale this back!

400g Bran Flakes with added vitaminsIngredients for Chocolate Crispies

250g Packet of Butter

350g granulated sugar

300g golden syrup

100g cocoa powder


1. Melt the sugar and butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat stirring until both are dissolved.

Melting butter and sugarMelted butter and sugar


2. Reduce the heat and add the syrup then the cocoa powder and stir to a smooth liquid taking care not to boil the mixture.

Adding syrup and cocoaReady to remove from the heat


3. Remove from heat add the bran flakes. Carefully stir to thoroughly coat all these.

4. Working swiftly while the mixture is still warm spoon into cup cake cases.


Adding Bran FlakesInto cup cases


5. Chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes or at room temperature for 1/2 an hour.


Stored in an airtight container they will last up to a week if they have the chance!

The True Test 

Here is what happens when my children come home from school and spot my chocolate crispies cooling! 


Kids eating chocolate crispies

If you have a spare 10 minutes, why not give them a go.

I am linking this post to The Gallery this week where the theme is food 

No more fussy eaters!

Posted on June 25th, 2012 - Fiona

What happened to my baby?Clio as a baby

Do you look back on your baby years and fondly remember them eating all their puréed fruit and vegetables, a kin to a sparrow in the nest with no nonsense, relishing the next spoonful and wondering what the problem was about with fussy children? I certainly did. I think I really believed fussy eaters were born of parents not introducing tastes and flavours early on and proudly blended any veg we had for my babies, marvelling on how well mashed garden greens went down.


Toddler rebellion!

The first time mine began to express a preference was on the transition from mush to solids. Suddenly carrot was OK, peas and sweet corn tolerated, but greens and mushrooms were out the window, or more literally dropped from the high chair table! I have always been quite strict about food; I think it comes from my own upbringing and the need to avoid fussy eaters with 6 children. My solution was to impose a no pudding rule for anyone who failed to finish their main course, including all the greens! For some this worked a treat, for others it was a hollow victory as they just left the greens and endlessly missed out on pudding. Their choice, but I still worried they were missing important nutrients.


Difficult eatersToddler eatingToddler Meals


The breakthrough

I am not quite sure at what point the penny dropped that children eat by more than one sense. They are more attuned to their senses than us adults and use them all more effectively.  Liking is not just the flavour (which is stronger to them) but also the smell, the visual and the texture. Crack these and you crack your fussy eater!  

The Visual:Meal time Castles

Try making patterns, pictures or play scenes with meals. Favourites for mine were sausage and mash: The mash would be a mound to represent a castle. Sausages would be chopped into pieces and placed into the mash to represent soldiers, broccoli florets around the edge of the castle were the “baddies” and gravy the castle moat. As the children raced to eat the baddies and protect the soldiers, they quite forgot it was broccoli they were eating! Animals, faces and stick people are entertaining: carrot batons are great for this. Allowing children to help prepare and join in with the creating also gives a sense of ownership and desire to taste their work. 


Dinner looking fun


This lovely photo is thanks to The Boy and Me  who kindly allowed me use it following her blog post The battle of the greens which looks at similar issues.


The Texture

No matter how pretty and creative, there are some foods which most children just find off putting, onion and mushrooms for a start! Here I believe it is the food texture that is the issue. Cooked mushrooms have a slimy slug like feel and will even make many adults want to retch!  All of my children fall into this camp but all eat plenty of onion and mushroom, they just don’t taste them. My food processor is my “Desert Island” kitchen gadget and my key to feeding my children the vegetables I feel they need but which they dislike! All my mince recipes from cottage pie to Lasagne have at least 60% vegetable content, my trick is to chop the vegetables into mince meat size pieces before slow cooking with all the herbs, garlic and meat so that the vegetables and meat fuse as one texture and flavour. 

Blended raw vegetablesmince and veg cooking with herbs and spiceslasagne

And Now?

My children are now age 8 to 14 and they will all try any food, still there are some they don’t like, but casserole with vegetables is now ok so long as the “veg bits” are not too large. Admittedly the older children are more enthusiastic than the younger ones, but that gives me hope that it does all correct itself in time.

We eat as a family whenever we can, this is only 

Family Meal time

about half the week given all their clubs and activities, but on the evenings we are all home meal times are an important occasion in the day. Now that their tastes are maturing family meal times are much more versatile, I find I can be more liberal with the spices and herbs and more adventurous with flavours. That said I will still do a mince based dish at least once a week to ensure I use up any unpopular vegetables and help them along with their 5 a day! 


I would love to hear if you have experienced fussy eaters and the vegetable rebellion and how you have dealt with the situation.






Tiramisu from Coombe Cusine

Posted on June 21st, 2012 - Fiona

Perfect for a dinner party

This is one of my favourite puddings. It is rich, sweet and alcoholic, ticks all the boxes for me! What’s more it is so easy to make. I love this recipe so much I never order it when out as it is always a disappointment by comparison. Sadly it is not one I can make for our holiday guests at Coombe Mill as it doesn’t freeze for our freezer meals. However it is so quick I often rustle one up if asked to take a dessert to a supper party, which is exactly why I made this one at the weekend! It can be made the day before which is perfect for me on a busy Saturday with changeover.


500g Full fat cream cheese like Philadelphia (chill well before use)

large 410g tin of sweetened condensed milk, full fat (chill well before use)

Ingredients for Tiramisu

Cocoa Powder for dusting

White chocolate bar or drops

Pack of sponge fingers

Good quality very strong coffee

Brandy, whiskey or marsala wine

Decorative glass serving bowl


1. Whisk the cheese and condensed milk to dropping consistency.

Tip: It is important to make sure both are VERY cold before you start and not use any half fat versions as they will just turn to a liquid consistency. 

Ingredients for mixingWhiskingdropping consistency

2. In a separate dish make some strong coffee and add a few spoonfuls of the Brandy or other to taste. 

3. Dunk the sponge fingers in the coffee to absorb the liquid, turn to soak both sides, remove while just stiff.

4. Begin to layer the cream mixture with alternate sponge layers in the glass serving bowl dusting with cocoa in between. Finish on a cream layer.

5. Dust with cocoa and sprinkle over the white chocolate.

Tip: You can by drops but this is expensive, I like to grate a bar, it forms little curls which are very effective and go so much further – if the children don’t find them!

Coffee and sponge soakinglayering in the dishlayering in the dish

sifting the cocoaPealing the chocolate into curls Tiramisu ready to serve


The finished result is of the bitter coffee sweetened by the creamy mixture with a delicious zing from the brandy. Definitely an adult pudding! One day I would like to give it a go replacing the coffee for lemon juice and the brandy for a citrus liqueur.  Not sure if it will work, but I am sure there is scope to develop this traditional Italian dessert.


Serving of Tiramisu

Pesto Pork from Coombe Cuisine

Posted on June 5th, 2012 - Fiona

Inspired by the weather and twitter!

This recipe is one I experimented with last month. I had been tweeting with  who blogs at Dad’s Cooking Tonight, wondering what to do with my leg of pork as the weather was far too lovely for the roast I had planned. He mentioned he had Pesto Pork in his slow cooker for his family. Not a combination I would have naturally put together but it seemed to match the mood of the day so having found a jar of pesto sauce in the cupboard an idea for a recipe began to evolve:


Leg of Pork, boned and cubed

Fresh or dried herbs: oregano, rosemary, bay leaf

Onions: chopped

Ingredients for Pesto Pork

Mushrooms: sliced

Yellow pepper: seeded and sliced 

2 tablespoons of Pesto sauce from a jar

2 cloves of garlic

Plain flour

Pear Cider

Tin of evaporated milk

Chicken stock cubes

1/2 Fresh lemon squeezed

Olive oil

Black pepper


Step 1

Shallow fry the pork in a large pan with a little olive oil to seal for about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of plain flour and chicken stock cubes. Coat the meat and stir for a further minute till it just begins to stick to the pan.

Add the pear cider and about 1/2 can of the evaporated milk, stirring to incorporate all the sticky bits from the flour on the base of the pan.

Add the herbs to taste and pesto sauce and continue to fry over a medium heat. for 3 – 5 minutes.

Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and reduce the heat to simmer.

Sealing the porkSprinkle in flourAdding Pear Cider

Step 2

Meanwhile, Fry the onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 4 minutes till wilted. Add to the casserole with the sliced yellow pepper.  If the sauce thickens too much let is down with the cider or more of the tin of evaporated milk.

Pesto Pork ready for the oven

Cover and place in a medium oven for 1 hour or better still a low oven for 2 hours.


Pesto Pork out of the oven


I served ours with mini garlic roast potatoes and green vegetables, but it would have worked equally well with rice, or for one of our shop frozen meals I think I would use saute potatoes or couscous as I don’t like to freeze cooked rice.


Pesto Pork  for dinner 

The meal had the thumbs up from my family and will be added to the list of favourite pork dishes. Thanks to Andy for the inspiration! 


 Family Dinner with Pesto Pork

I am linking this post up to Funky Foodies over on Scottish Mum’s blog, why not see what other tempting recipes are there.

Funky Foodies

Butter Biscuits. Be as bold as you dare

Posted on May 29th, 2012 - Fiona

Why I love these biscuits

I can make these simple tasty biscuits in 15 minutes including cooking time. No E numbers, no nasty ingredients, just a basic packed lunch filler or treat. It is a great one to do with the children too since they can have such fun at the play dough stage creating shapes for their biscuits, but do watch out for the bits that pop straight into their mouths!  For a tempting finish let your imagination run free with the toppings.  The basic biscuit is limited only by your imagination.


250g butter at room temperature

4oz of granulated or caster sugar

300g Self Raising Flour

1 or 2 teaspoons of vanilla flavour

Greased baking trays


Simply mix all ingredients into a dough ball. I use the food processor for this and it takes just seconds. The children love to help weighing out the ingredients and turning the knob on the processor.


Weighing the fourMummy's little helperOperating the Processor


Roll the dough into golf sized balls and slightly flatten before placing on the baking tray.

When the children are involved I like to leave them at this stage to make their own shapes and designs. A word of caution, vertical designs will collapse down into a pancake shape in the oven!

Bake at 180degrees for no more than 12 minutes till golden brown.


Dough ready to shapeInto the ovenReady to decorate. Quick, where are the Smarties!


If you are adding Smarties or other non icing toppings to the biscuits it is important to add these immediately when they come out of the oven while the biscuit is still hot and soft. They cool and harden very quickly. Some toppings like raisons can go into the dough before baking, or rolling in chocolate chips, but Smarties lose their colour and shine and are best added after cooking.

Butter Biscuits

Coconut Biscuits

The basic mixture also works really well rolled into desiccated coconut before placing in the oven. I then like to pop a glace cheery in the middle when they come out of the oven. Tasty coconut biscuits that are hard to beat!

Rolling biscuit mix in desiccated coconutcoconut biscuitscoconut biscuits


For Parties

I make up bowls of coloured icing with icing sugar, water and food colouring add these to the table with spoons then provide a variety of sprinkles, mini mallows chocolate drops etc and small icing tubes and just let the children have fun!

Party Decorating BiscuitsEating Birthday Party BiscuitsA bit rich all at once!

Recognition for the recipe origins

The basic recipe which I have modified only slightly is in Merry Berry’s Fork biscuits from her Complete Cook Book. Everyone has a cookery book they really use amongst the many which are just thumbed through and this is mine. Many of my meals and puddings are loosely based on ideas from this no nonsence, well illustrated book with recipes I find easy to follow and personalize. the tatty condition of my old copy is testament to its use.

Mary Berry Cook book


I am linking this post to The Crazy Kitchen’s Cooking with your Toddler which I have been promising to do for months. Do click on the badge and see lots of other great ideas for cooking with children.

Cooking With Your Toddler