Sunday, 12 February 2012

Baking for school lunches

One of the things I want to do this year is bake my own treats for the kids' school lunches. They love a little biscuit or cake in their lunchbox but I don't like the price tag, over-packaging or level of preservatives you get in the pre-packaged ones.

So far I have made bacon and cheese scrolls, blueberry muffins (but I added a few white choc chips), cupcakes and today's piece de resistance, chocolate brownies (no nuts).

It has been a big commitment for me. I don't rate myself as a baker. It isn't really my style. I like to free-range in the kitchen; rarely using a recipe. But baking is different to cooking. All that precise measuring. Lists of necessary ingredients (I lack the flare experience to switch up ingredients if I don't have exactly the required ones).

And it is a whole different set of implements too. Sister A once made a cake for Nugget's birthday in my kitchen*. When it was my birthday five weeks later, she bought me a new set of measuring cups, mixing bowls, wooden spoons etc. Mum bought me a set of electric beaters. I detected a theme.

I must admit that having the 'right' equipment does make a difference. It makes baking easier. Achievable.

I am starting to feel a little more accomplished with this precision cooking business, although I still don't know what to do with the kids when they want to 'help'. They are getting a bit tired of tipping flour into the sifter or into the mixing bowl!. Next thing I will be buying myself one of those flashy Mixmasters!

Do you have a fairly fail safe recipe that you could share? Or a suggestion for what I should attempt next week (it has to be nut free because of the school's policy). Even better if it is something I can cook in bulk and freeze. And tell me, what do your kids do to 'help' you bake?

* That is not the only cake Sister A has baked for my children. She whipped up the twins' three year old cake pictured above too. 

Don't forget to enter my Food Patrol Giveaway. Open until Wednesday February 15, 2012.


ANB said...

I have just started trying to let E (22 months) to help me cook cakes. It has to be a *really* simple recipe - the kind where you put everything in one bowl and stir. No beating of egg whites in separate bowls or anything like that. And put all the ingredients out before you start, measured if possible, before you let the child near the bench. This chocolate mayonaise cake (which sounds mental but works well - mayo replaces eggs and butter) was a good one for her to help with -

Toni said...

Muffins are great, and you can add just about anything to them.
My kids love corn cheese and bacon muffins, which are basically just your plain muffin mix with some of the milk removed, and a small can of creamed corn added. Stir in some cheese and bacon and bake as usual.
These are DELISH with pumpkin soup in winter as well.

Dolores said...

I haven't tried this yet but apparently it's all the rage: a 3 ingredient cake!! Large Tin of Crushed Pineapple, 2 cups of Self-raising flour, 1 cup of caster sugar. Mix all together and pour into a cake tin or muffin tin and bake. Let me know if you try it. :-)

Diminishing Lucy said...

Those twins of yours - what a peachy photo.

I bake up a storm for lunchboxes, for all the reasons you suggest.

I have a range of tried and true easy/freezable/lunchbox proof/nut free lunchbox treats which we have on rotation.

And as for the kids helping?

Get them mashing banana, or beating eggs, or rolling dough...OR, let them sit on the bench and chat away with them about their stuff, and before you know it, you're done, and they have "helped" without helping...

You should put a Kenwood or similar on your Christmas list....

And a decent pair of digital scales.

Anonymous said...

Go girl with the baking, started doing the same for the kids when I stopped much better for the kids health and our wallets :)

karlyn Jackson said...

I just posted simple Milo Cookies on my blog, the kids love them and they are super simple. I let my 8 year old cook cakes and muffins himself, makes a hell of a mess but it's good for him to read the recipe himself. My 4 year old likes to chop dried fruit with scissors, perfect for date scones.

Nat - Muddy Farmwife said...

I have a great zucchini slice recipe where you just throw everything in a bowl, mix it, bake in the oven. We freeze it, the girls grate the zucchini, cheese and carrot.
Letting them help is hard because I'm such a control freak, they get everything out, we have to take it in turns, they grease the tins, beat eggs, sift flour etc. I just don't let them crack the eggs yet! Otherwise they do most things.

Mama of 2 boys said...

Oh well done MM, it's fabulous that you are baking treats for the kids rather than throwing in a processed sweet... which only ever taste half as nice anyway.
I do love me some baking, my equipment could really use an overhaul though, as you're right, it does come down to having the right tools.
I find my boys love the good old Anzac biscuit and it's not too bad for them, also clears the nut regulations nicely xo

Mum on the Run said...

Hee hee - I like the subtle gifting going on in your family!!

Lisa H said...

Did you see this 4 ingredients apple cake posted by Tat @ Mum in Search?

I've baked it twice since she posted it last week... and I am NOT a baker nor am I much of a cook (packets and jars and cans, oh yeah!)

It's SO easy, and it tastes divine. Gets 5 stars from me! :-)

Emily said...

My favourite bikkies growing up were afghans. I'd link you to a recipe but I'm too lazy - google will produce fab results. Anything combining butter, cocoa and corn flakes just has to be a winner, right?!

And thanks for your lovely comments on my blog. Feeling much better now :)

InkPaperPen said...

I had to bake 24 cupcakes yesterday for my boy's birthday and it made me realise that I just don't enjoy baking. I'll do it, I don't want the boys to totally miss out but I can't see me ever making a habit out of it.

The right baking implements are important. I'm like you, people buy them for me as presents...

Check out the CWA cookbooks if you haven't already. They have lots of simple baking snacks.

Quill and Ink Handmade said...

I'm a sucker for lunchbox treats - and even though it's often more expensive to bake my own, I like knowing what's going into their little bodies.

Our favourite at the moment is an oat, coconut and sultana slice. I've been experimenting with cutting out sugar with a lot of my baking, and adding in dates or fruit instead. It's super easy and takes about 20 mins:

1 cup self raising flour
1 tbs golden syrup
1 egg, beaten lightly
125g butter
1/2 cup (or more, if you like) coconut
1 cup oats
About 1/2 cup chopped dates
About 1/2 cup sultanas

Combine flour, oats, coconut, dried fruit. Melt butter and golden syrup on the stove, add to the dry ingredients. Add the egg and mix until just combined. Press into a lined/prepared tin and bake at 180 degrees for 20 mins. Allow to cool before slicing.

Happy baking, MM x

Photographer Mum said...

I have been doing the same thing this year now that I have some more time, and for the same reasons as yours! I have several recipes I can share with you if you like - all have ingredients that are easily accessible from coles/woolies etc. and are easy to make - some freeze well and they last quite a while just in a tupperware container.

heather at wordplayhouse® said...

Soon you'll find even baking doesn't have to be as precise as you thought. You'll get the "feel" of how much flour should go in a pancake batter or muffin batter and you'll be baking those without recipes too. It's great that you are baking homemade for your children—more delicious and healthier. -heather

life without mathematics said...

Digital scales do help. Woollies have $14 ones that zero to allow for accurate measurement of ingredients as they are added. I don't know what good ones are like, but these seem pretty effective.

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

I'm with @lifewithoutmathematics - I love my digital scales. They make it all so much easier! Check out Frills in the Hills for a world of lunchbox treats. :-)

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