christmas granola and breakfast cookies

I’m loving the childish excitement for Christmas building up and am obviously looking forward to all the food, drink and family. My daughter’s first nativity play (she is Mary, though wants to be an angel as “they get to fly”!) has me feeling excited too. But I’m feeling very tardy in my preparations this year.

I may have a huge ham from our piggies in brine, an abundance of pickles, including piccalilli, a pumpkin achar from Diana Henry’s ‘Salt Sugar Smoke’ (I reckon it will go well with the leftover turkey) and an Apple, Fig and Pear Chutney with cardamon from Karen at Lavender and Lovage; but the Christmas pud ingredients are still in the cupboard, the house is in a state, and despite lots of optimistic plans, no presents are made or bought yet. Then there’ s the nativity tights.

When Ruby came home after rehearsals telling us she was Mary in her first nativity, I have to admit we were a little suspicious. She is prone to a little creativity in the things she tells us after all. But it turns out she actually is Mary and although I always thought this was a dream role for lots of little girls, Ruby definitely has aspirations to be an angel. She seems to think her outfit is going to be a party dress (under the inevitable blue material wrapped around her) but I have instructions from school to get white tights. Realising the outfit has to be taken in next week and I still haven’t got the white tights, I have visions of a Pippi Longstocking style Mary with hastily grabbed crazy tights.

At least I can sleep easy knowing that Mary will have had a good breakfast. I’m still on a healthy breakfasts mission, especially on school days when I have an effort to get good fuel into my daughter in time. And with lots of ideas for festive cupcakes, rocky road and Christmas tree biscuits in my head, a bit of wholesome nourishment seems particularly necessary for all of us. I make the granola regularly with whatever dried fruit I have to hand, but cranberries seem right for December. I’ve added quinoa to my usual mix this month to fit in with my quest for pre-festivity healthiness.

Recipe – Christmas Granola

450g rolled oats

240g pumpkin seeds

100g quinoa

175g apple sauce (I make big batches of this when there’s an apple glut and freeze in portions)

2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ginger

6 tablespoons runny honey

100g light brown sugar

250g hazelnuts (or you can use cashew nuts/almonds)

1 teaspoon maldon sea salt

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

300g cranberries

Mix everything except cranberries together in a large mixing bowl and then spread onto 2 baking sheets. Bake at 170C for about 40minutes, turning the mixture over with a spatula half way through so it is evenly golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes then gently scrape off the bottom of baking sheets. Leave to cool completely on baking sheets then mix with cranberries and tip into jars. Great with greek yoghurt and fruit but good with milk too (the sweetened/honey tasting milk is a sort of grown-up frosties milk). Chunks of this also make a good energy packed snack.

The breakfast cookies are from an  Abel and Cole recipe on (a great website with recipes and lots of interesting ideas, it’s the online equivalent of a cup of tea and a chat in a cosy kitchen). Grated carrot and lemon zest in the original recipe were ingredients which I omitted, and I’ve added cranberries to make them feel christmassy. I’m loving experimenting with organic British flour in these sort of recipes; usually naturally low in gluten due to our weather, it’s often got a really interesting flavour. I used organic wheat flour from Tamarisk Farm, an organic farm with lovely fields leading down to the sea that we came across on holiday in Dorset. Gilchesters, an organic farm in Northumberland that stone grinds its own old varieties of wheat sells some interesting flour online too. My daughter thinks it’s great having biscuits for breakfast when I give her a couple of these with a banana milkshake.

Recipe Christmas breakfast cookies


o 125g wholemeal or spelt flour

o 150g jumbo porridge oats

o ½ tsp bicarbonate soda

o A pinch of sea salt

o ½ tsp ground cinnamon

o 100g dark or light brown sugar

o 4 tbsp maple syrup 

o 100ml olive or rapeseed oil

o 100g cranberries

o 100g pumpkin seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C/Gas 4.

2. Add the flour, oats, baking soda and salt to a big bowl. Mix well to ensure the baking soda and salt are evenly distributed. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix everything together.

3. Scoop by the tablespoon and press into rounds on an oiled baking sheet. They will seems really crumbly at this stage, but don’t worry they’ll bake well. You’ll probably get about a dozen per tray.

4. Bake for 10 mins, or till just starting to set and just picking up a little colour. They’ll set to be soft and chewy like this. If you’d prefer them crispier, flip the cookies over and return to the oven for 3 mins or so to crisp up the bottoms.

5. Once cooked, they store nicely for a week in an airtight container.






star charts and breakfast trifle


Deciding that our star chart system was in need of some new enthusiasm to encourage good behaviour, I took inspiration from Emily Carlisle at more than just a mother.  Our new chart is a childlike picture of mud, grass, flowers, a tree with a swing and treehouse then sunshine above. I would like to claim the drawing is by my 5 year old, would reflect better on both of us, but afraid it’s by me.

Ruby started in the mud but by behaving well has risen to the flowers. When she arrives at the sunshine, there’ll be some sort of treat. I’d suggested that Guy and I should be on there too but he thinks that at 5 your parents shouldn’t be seen languishing in the mud too much, we should be infallible. I think it’s a bit too late for that, but have agreed that Mog and Tiger can join Ruby on the chart.

In an effort to haul myself out of the mud I decided to be enthusiastic about healthy breakfasts again. At the weekend it’s particularly easy with less time pressure to get Ruby involved in making something more exciting. If she’s made it herself, she’s even more likely to tuck in with relish. And possibly edge onto the swing.

Yesterday we made breakfast trifles with oats, greek yoghurt and lots of healthy berries. In season, blackcurrants, raspberries or blackberries are great. The only blackberries we have at the moment are in whiskey and I thought using those would’ve kept me firmly down in the mud. So I made an indulgent purchase of blueberries, although was able to use strawberries we’d frozen from the summer days of gluts. Their tendency to lose texture in the freezer is fine here (as it is in milkshakes and smoothies) as they get mashed into a sort of rustic puree with honey anyway. I had some home-made blackberry sauce left to drizzle over our breakfast puds too. And we made enough to give us a tasty, healthy start to the more challenging Monday morning. Maybe I still have hope of rising to the sun and a Monday evening glass of wine.


Berry Lovely Breakfast Trifles

100g porridge oats

125 ml apple juice

500g strawberries (can be frozen ones in the winter)

3 teaspoons honey

125g plain or greek yoghurt

150g berries (blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries or blueberries/a mixture of whatever you have handy)

blackberry sauce, optional (I just heat blackberries with a little sugar for a few minutes, then push through a sieve. Good with ice-cream or pancakes too)

Mix the oats and apple juice in a bowl and cover then leave in the fridge for an hour or overnight. Mash the stawberries with the honey. Now simply take about 5 glasses and layer oats, yoghurt, strawberry mixture, berries and blackberry sauce in an order that you or your children feel is pleasing.

weekend breakfast

The cooler, dewy mornings are tempting me into weekend baking. There’s something very comforting about pottering about in pjs, cooking something simple and wholesome  while a coffee pot warms on the woodburner.

Also, my daughter isn’t a big fan of breakfast. It’s often a real effort to ensure she has something healthy to give her enough energy to start the day. So rather than resorting to coco pops, I thought getting her involved and experimenting with new recipes was worth a try.

I made some oat cakes first of all, with oats and wheatgerm as ingredients yet ‘cake’ in the name, they proved healthy enough for my liking and, with a good dollop of damson jam, irresistible to Ruby.

This morning we baked banana and date bread together. While it cooked, Ruby and I nipped into the garden, still in our nighties, to pick raspberries. Back in the kitchen, I gave her little bowls of oats, greek yoghurt and honey to mix us all raspberry breakfast pots. The ‘pick n mix’ novelty worked a treat.

We have banana and date bread left to toast tomorrow and maybe it’ll all go downhill after that but I loved the excuse to wander around the garden in our nighties, coming back inside to the warm smells of baking.

Recipe Date and Banana Loaf

160g Chopped dates (I have substituted these for sticky prunes too, and result was delicious)

2 bananas, mashed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

170g unrefined cane sugar or caster sugar

1 egg

250g self-raising flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas4). Grease and line a 10 x 20cm loaf tin with baking paper.

Put the dates, banana, butter, bicarbonate of soda and sugar in a bowl. Pour in 250ml boiling water, stir to dissolve sugar. then leave to soak for a few minutes. Stir the egg through, then fold in the flour and baking powder.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. This is great still slightly warm, just in thick slices. You can butter if you like or, if there’s any left, toast it the next day.