Cornbread and Helper Towers

Recipes that I can easily make while including our 2 year old are worth their weight in gold.  Arguably, most recipes can be toddler friendly from a ‘make’ perspective if you arm yourself with patience (a lot) and you’re ok with a bit (or a lot) of mess.  Today E helped me make this cornbread recipe and it was pretty successful.  She helped by counting scoops as she dumps ingredients into the bowl and stirring the ingredients.

One of my friends passed along a great tip for little hands that want to help with stirring – use a whisk!  Ingredients are much less likely to be flung across the kitchen and much more likely to stay in the bowl.

One of the other things that’s helped with incorporating E into baking and cooking projects has been our helper tower.  416expat built this helper tower designed by Ana White to help corral E safely when she helps at the counter.  There isn’t the same chance that she’ll tip over a chair or fall off.  She doesn’t always want to cook with me, but wants to be in the kitchen with me.  Sometimes, while I’m making dinner, E will bring her lego and build at the counter.  She is able to work at the same level as I am and feel included.  It’s been a bit help!

This cornbread recipe comes via Diana Henry in the Telegraph.  She somehow managed to get it from The Lockhart Restaurant chef, Brad McDonald.  It’s amazing and it’s now my go-to cornbread recipe.  I can highly recommend the maple syrup and butter glaze.

Maple Glazed Cornbread

150g coarse yellow polenta
150g plain flour
50g brown sugar
1 tsp baking-powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
240ml milk
30g butter, melted and cooled
15g butter – for the frying pan

Maple Glaze
50g butter, softened
1tbsp maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 415F.  Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix the wet ingredients together.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir to combine.  In a 9” skillet (cast iron works brilliantly), melt a the 15g portion of butter over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, pour in the batter.  Put into the oven, baking for 20 minutes.  While the cornbread is baking, combine the glaze ingredients.  When the cornbread is finished, immediately put the glaze on top.  Serve hot.


Spiced Pear Muffins – The Toddler Edition

E likes all things tiny right now.  It might have to do with the addition of her baby brother who she regularly describes as “So Tiny” said in a high pitched squealing nearly two year old voice.  Everything from baby carrots to these muffins is described as being tiny.

These muffins have everything I look for in a muffin, they’re flavourful with a blend of warm spices, moist, and they freeze well.  From, this recipe is a bit sweet in its original form, so I’ve omitted the sugar topping and dialled back the sugar a bit.  I also used a mix of pear and apples as E had eaten one of the two pears I’d saved for the recipe.  Whatever you do, don’t forget to put the milk in.  It’s vital and without it, the muffins are dry dry dry.  Remember to turn down the oven temperature as soon as you’ve put the muffins into the oven.

I’ve linked back to the original recipe if you’d like to see how they compare.

Spiced Pear Muffins

1/3 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
1/2 c butter, softened
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c milk
2-2 1/2 C pears and apples, unpeeled and diced

Preheat your oven to 425F. Beats together the sugars and butter until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated.  Add in the vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, spices and salt.  Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Combining in thirds, add the dry ingredients, milk and pears to the wet ingredients, stirring after each addition.  Do not over mix.  Put the muffin mixture into tins lined with muffin paper.  Put into the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 400F.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.

In order to make these toddler sized, I use a mini-muffin pan and cut the baking time down dramatically.  I check the muffins after 10 minutes and take them out by 15 minutes of baking time.

Orzo with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

While we lived in London we made every effort to say yes.  Yes to invitations to party invitations, to random events happening in the city (how else does one end up on a bee-keepers cooking course in South London), and to social situations that may otherwise send me running scared.  I am, by nature perhaps, a somewhat reluctant social mingler.  Saying yes however, resulted in some of our very favourite memories.  It’s how I ended up joining Thane Prince’s cookbook club and having the opportunity to hear the brilliant Paul Young speak about his experience as a chocolatier in England and it’s how I ended up meeting Nigel Slater at a New Years Day party without actually knowing at the time, who Nigel Slater was (we were pretty fresh off the plane to be fair).

Nigel’s recipes have quickly made it into my regular repertoire and perhaps even more so now that we’ve got a 23 month old and a newborn crying for attention.  His most recent book Eat is stuffed with accessible (relatively quick to put together with ingredients I typically stock in my pantry/fridge) recipes.  Nigel includes variations to many of the recipes which I find helpful particularly when I am light on one ingredient or am wanting to push my toddler’s meal acceptance boundaries!  Nigel also writes a weekly column in the Guardian.  It’s here where I found a new favourite recipe.  His recipe for orzo with brussels sprouts and sausage was fast, easy, and very flavourful.  I used a spicy Italian sausage from our local butcher and some wine that needed to be opened.  Check out the recipe link above for the recipe itself.

The finished product

The finished product


When we were living in the UK we had an opportunity to visit the Umbria region in Italy.  It was there that we first tried Porchetta.  A rather hardcore Italian pork roast, porchetta isn’t the type of thing I would endeavour to recreate at home.  Thankfully Bon Appetite has that covered for me.  Their week night version was very easily recreated within the context of having a new baby at home.  I’ve made a very simple change, using very thinly sliced pancetta instead of the recommended bacon.  I found it just added more flavour than standard bacon.

Bon Appetit’s Weeknight Porchetta

4 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 tbsp coarsely chopped rosemary, plus 4 sprigs
1tbsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin
4 slices pancetta

Preheat the oven to 425. In a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic, rosemary, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp olive oil and grind until combined.  Rub this mixture over the tenderloin, leaving it to marinade as long as you have available (overnight ideally, but I had only 30 minutes).  Wrap the tenderloin in the pancetta slices, and place on top of sprigs of rosemary in a large baking pan.  I used a cast iron fry pan.  Drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Roast in the preheated over until an instant read thermometer registers 145degrees. Let rest for 10-15 minutes, slice and serve.

Consider making a pan sauce, removing the pork tenderloin, rosemary sprigs and placing the pan over medium high heat.  Add 1/2 cup of white wine, scraping up the flavour bits from the pan until the wine has reduced by at least half.  Then add another cup of chicken or vegetable stock, again cooking until reduced by half.  Remove from heat, stir in 1 tbsp of butter, check seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.