Learning About the Hindu Festival Of Diwali

I can’t claim to have grown up with much awareness of religious diversity, and I can’t claim to be one way better or worse off for it, but I do know that my children are growing up in a much different way and in a very different place to the close, conservative, and supportive  community that I did, so I think it’s important for them to learn two things: 1) Tolerance for other religions, 2) an understanding of other religions in relation to what I believe, and what I hope they will believe. Religious observances are also different now, and sometimes more commercial – for example the Colour Run, based on the Holli celebration, or locally, we have Electric Woods, where Robin Hill lights up the autumn nights inspired by Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. While we could just go and enjoy the prettiness, I think there’s value in explaining what it is that we’re exposing ourselves to, so that the children can learn something about ‘other people’. As it was, the Electric Woods event saw us walking through the woods at Robin Hill enjoying the cold evening air, listening to music and looking at light displays. It was a lovely evening out, fuelled by hot chocolate. dewali-robin-hillRead more: Learning About the Hindu Festival Of Diwali

The Original Mr Frosty – Crunchy Ice Maker

There are things in every person’s childhood that, when reintroduced sometime in your future, they get really excited about. Well, Mr Frosty isn’t actually one of mine, having not grown up in the UK, but when I told a friend that I had received a Mr Frosty in the mail, she squealed down the phone so loudly I had a fright! Apparently Mr Frosty of her childhood filled many a summer and she was really excited to hear that they were being relaunched in the UK. And yes – her childhood was in the 90’s. Mine, not quite!

Mr Frosty is an at-home slushy maker that comes with a snowman with handle and removable drawer, with an internal grater for crushing the ice. 9bc1faf9-cb5e-497d-9c84-c7a06667c92e

It comes with two bowls and two spoons – the bowls are tiny, but perfectly child sized. They don’t honestly need more, and seconds aren’t a problem. There is also an ice mold with summery ice shapes – fire hydrant and summer fruits – and a lolly maker for three icy popsicles and snowman handles. Finally there’s a squeezy penguin with a removable hat so that you can fill it with cordial and a hole in the hat so you can squeeze it out over the plain ice. I’m told that the Mr Frosty of the 90’s came with sugary syrups, but in this 2016 version, those aren’t included.  You can, however, buy concentrates from your local supermarket, or choose to use something else or nothing else! The kids won’t know the difference, really!Read more: The Original Mr Frosty – Crunchy Ice Maker

Pizza Express School Visits & Home Educators

Some time during last summer, we booked a home ed visit for one of the Pizza Express School Visit sessions, and though we had to wait several months for our session, we arrived on the agreed date and had a fantastic and informative visit.

Pizza Express School Visits offer groups the opportunity to not only see how pizza is made but also to get hands on and involved. For some children this is a brand new experience, of course, and for our group there was a mix of abilities too, considering our participants ranged from about 3 – 14 years.

Obviously the details may differ from visit to visit, but for ours on the Isle of Wight, the children were decked out in chefs hats and aprons, and given loads of flour to flour their work surface – a set of tables in the restaurant. Each child was given a ball of dough. The chef – whose name I sadly can’t remember – was amazing. He had such great rapport with the children, and was engaging and informative and did a fantastic job of managing such a range of ages.Pizza Express Visit

They spoke about the different steps they went through, the chef demonstrated, and the children were able to take their own dough ball, and knead it, twist it and shape it into circles – they even got to toss it up into the air. Read more: Pizza Express School Visits & Home Educators

Making Chocolate With Disney Cakes And Sweets

I love a good recipe book. Actually I love going through a recipe book and gleaning great ideas to adjust and adapt to our family’s way of cooking and eating.

People often comment about how much I do with my girls, and how busy we always are, but the truth is, a lot of it comes from outside inspirations – like this morning: we made Fruity Chocolate Chunks from Issue 1 of the Disney Cakes And Sweets Collection. It was a fun activity I probably wouldn’t have thought of on my own.

The girls had a lot of fun with it. We didn’t have a single one of the ingredients in the original recipe, but they recommend substitutions too, so we made milk chocolate with hazelnuts and candied orange peel.

I used my Thermomix to temper the chocolate to a perfect 37 degrees Celsius, which was also ideal because it means the chocolate never got too hot for the girls to handle. 

While the chocolate was doing it’s thing, I gave Ameli the job of crushing the hazelnuts. I could have done it in seconds in the Thermie (or a food processor), but I decided to stretch the activity as long as I could. I put the hazelnuts into a cake pan and gave her a mallet, covering it with a napkin and let her hammer it. An easier option would be put it all in a ziploc bag and hammer it that way, but the girl had fun anyway.

Next up, we sprinkled orange peel over the hazelnuts and mixed them together in a silicone tray before pouring the perfectly tempered chocolate over it.

While the kids licked the chocolate off the spoons and bowl, I popped it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

A little while later, we had perfect chocolate snacks, easy, simple and fun. And they’d make lovely gifts too!

There are a few more recipes from issue 1 that Ameli’s asked if we can try, as well as Winnie the Pooh icing guides and a Mickey Mouse cookie cutter, both of which Ameli can’t wait to use! I’m sure you’ll see more of our adventures in baking and sugar craft soon!

Little Cooks – Amazing Apple (Or Berry) Cake

Issue 4 of the Little Cooks Dora the Explorer magazines brings us the Amazing Apple Cake. Unfortunately, by the time I got to actually making the cake, the black spot on my apple had turned into a gaping big hole inside. I didn’t stick around to find that worm. Instead, I found a half a cup of frozen berries in the freezer, and topped them up to a full cup with boiling water. The result was a delicious, moist berry cake that didn’t last the day – we gobbled it up in one sitting!Read more: Little Cooks – Amazing Apple (Or Berry) Cake

Kids In The Kitchen: Chocolate Crispies

A few weeks ago my boss, Emma, from PlayPennies sent Ameli a little gift that ticks two boxes for her: books and cooking. Yes, she sent her the Usborne First Picture Cookbook. It’s a cardboard book with seven simple child friendly recipes. It’s a gorgeous book, beautifully illustrated, full of atrociously bad for you, but incredibly good recipes.

We set about making what we could with what we had in the house straight away, and here’s our first go at what turned out to be absolutely delicious Chocolate Crispies.Read more: Kids In The Kitchen: Chocolate Crispies

Little Cooks – Fruit Smoothie Recipe

I really like the Little Cooks recipes, because they’re generally pretty simple, and not too unhealthy either. I was quite excited by the Strawberry Sundae recipe as I thought it would be nice and healthy and fun to make. Unfortunately it really wasn’t and I can’t say we’ll be in a hurry to make it quite like this again. It was so, so sweet, even my sweet tooth and I couldn’t finish it.Read more: Little Cooks – Fruit Smoothie Recipe

Little Cooks – Dora The Explorer Review And Competition

Yesterday I shared a Banana muffin recipe from the Little Cooks Collection and today I have the opportunity to share more about it with  my readers, and offer one of you the opportunity to win a subscription of your own!

The Little Cooks Collection is based on Dora the Explorer. While Ameli has never seen an episode of the TV Show, she has thoroughly enjoyed the magazine.

You can see for yourself what each magazine holds, but I’ll walk you through it anyway.

Each copy comes with a freebie, and in the end you’ll have this whole collection of usable kitchen goodies – I say usable as they’re not just toys, they can actually be used in real cooking. dora1

The mag starts with fun activities around what you’re cooking with, so in the first issue you bake Banana muffins and have a page of ‘circle the banana’, colour this and get your goodies ready activities.

Next up you have the recipe pages. Nicely illustrated, and easy to follow, the recipe – at least in the first issue – is really simple and quick to do, with minimal clean-up. (Often children’s recipes seem to require masses of bowls and mixing and preparation – this didn’t at all!)

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While your muffins are baking in the oven, there are plenty activity pages for you and your child to do together. There are fun facts, more snack ideas – banana ice cream, simple smoothie, banana breakfast and a banana lolly-  drawing activities, cutting and sticking activities and once you’ve had enough of all that, you can eat your muffins and read the story together.

Overall there’s a good few hours of activity in each book and you can add to and take away from it as you wish.

I didn’t really expect much from the goodies that come along with the magazine, but have been really impressed. The plate is dishwasher safe (I think, since it survived the dishwasher!) and the silicone cups are totally fabulous. They fit in our muffin pans, although that’s not essential – the hold themselves up, as compared to the paper cups that tend to flop about a bit. Once out the oven they cool pretty quickly, and they they peel off the muffins without taking chunks of muffin with it. The result is a beautifully smooth finish on your banana muffins, without fishing bits of paper out your mouth either! The silicone cases have really impressed me so much, I’m on the lookout for these in the shops so we can buy another set (the first book only costs 99p).

For subscription information, check out the website. (Issue 1 is 99p, Issue 2 is £2.99 and thereafter they’re £4.99 every two weeks.) You can pick these up at your local supermarkets and so on, but if you subscribe you also get a whole bunch of free goodies.

Little Cooks – Banana Muffins

I absolutely love baking and cooking with Ameli. It’s something we do regularly enough, and it’s fun for both of us, most of the time. While I don’t tend to use ‘dumbed down’ recipes specifically on her behalf, it is sometimes easier if I’m just looking for an afternoon activity for us to use a child friendly recipe that has few ingredients and little effort.

We came across the Little Cooks Collection, featuring Dora the Explorer and decided we’d try out the recipes.  You subscribe and receive two magazines a month, complete with recipes, activities, and a child’s kitchen set to collect.

The first recipe was for Banana Muffins, so here they are with our take on it:

This recipe is supposed to be for four muffins. Four seemed a low number to turn the oven on for, so we immediately doubled it and somehow ended up with 11 muffins – no one was complaining!

Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas
  • 80g soft brown sugar (although we used white as that’s what we had)
  • 4tbsp rapeseed oil (that’s 60ml)
  • 2 small eggs or 1 large one
  • 130 ml (1/2 cup) milk
  • 200g self-raising flour

(I think next time I’ll add a pinch of salt too, to deepen the banana flavour.)

Instructions:

  1. Peel and mash the banana in a bowl
  2. Mix in the sugar and oil
  3. Add the egg
  4. Pour the milk and stir together
  5. Add the flour and stir
  6. Spoon the mixture into your Dora muffin cases (we only had four so used paper for the rest – but the silicone muffin cases are excellent and I’m going to look out for another copy of the first book so we can have another set of the silicone muffin cases which come with the 99p book.)
  7. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes at 190C/365F/gas mark 5

The book also recommends adding either 50g of chopped nuts, blueberries or apple pieces. I think that can only add to the flavour so we’ll try that next time. Something else that works well with banana is coconut, so we could try that too.

Flavour-wise this is a really basic recipe and I do think salt could bring out more of the banana flavour, but it’s perfectly suitable for  children and packed in an air-tight container makes a lovely breakfast for the next day too.

Simplicity-wise, however, there couldn’t be an easier recipe for a two-year old to follow with Mama’s help – older kids will need even less help.

Find out more from the Little Cooks website, where you’ll find information on subscribing, all the freebies you’ll receive and you can see what the inside of the magazine looks like too. We are loving the Little Cooks series, and highly recommend them!