Pear crisp – autumnal baking

Pear crisp – autumnal baking

It’s that time of year when the leaves turn golden and hasn’t it happened quickly this year! I’ve started getting Hygge (Danish for cosy and snuggly for the winter months with blankets, candles, slippers and comfort food). The apples and pears are hanging off the trees and many have already fallen-  they are begging to be picked right now! I want to share my new pear crisp recipe with you.

Here’s a lovely recipe I made with my Saturday class this week and it’s too easy / good / satisfyingly “hygge” not to share with you.

It’s a warm, spiced crunchy crispy and sticky comforting dish. It can be eaten with fingers or served with ice cream, cream or custard for a dessert. The children in my class were eating it as soon as they walked out of the door. I try to get them to save the food they make so that their parents can at least see what they’ve been doing. I wonder how often the food actually makes it to their homes!

So here’s the recipe

pear crisp crumble apple kids cook children cook cookery lesson autumn autumnal tasty delicious easy aromatic wholesome healthy spiced cinnamon oats pears apples brown sugar lemon juice

 

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A bit more about the recipe:

Pear crisp is a baked pear dish with a spiced oaty crumble sprinkled over the pears and then baked. It’s great as a dessert or finger food. It would be a super tasty fireside snack or even camp food. It could be made in a foil parcel – yummy!

In our lesson:
Knife skills

This was a good opportunity for us to learn about using knives safely. My classes are mixed ages and so younger children have more assistance. I only allow usage of knives with 1:1 supervision and children are taught correct knife handling techniques for cooking.  I was so proud to see the progress and confidence of some of the children who had been attending my classes for some time.

Food science

We used lemon juice on the sliced pears while we prepared our oaty topping. The children learned about the use of an acid (lemon juice) to prevent the enzymic browning that happens once fruit has been cut and exposed to the air.

Nutrition

We also discussed fibre and it’s importance in our diet along with the multitude of vitamins that we get from eating fruit.

Working as a team to clear up afterwards!

Most lessons end with a quick washing up session. Roles are divided between the children (and me) and we work as a team to get the job done. Children covet certain roles – Equipment organiser is a popular one! It’s also a great opportunity for a chat and we have fun getting the job done together. I just wish that washing up was as fun at home!

If you’d like to know more about my cookery classes, please have a look here:

cookery school craft learn recipes children kids activities lessons holiday club autumn winter Ramsgate Westgate Broadstairs East Kent Margate Thanet Cook Cookery Food Healthy Beginners Make creative creativity art sewing lunch breakfast dinner

My family friendly pancakes guide

Pancakes I love you so!

 

I’m a self confessed pancakes  junkie. I can out-eat my children in a challenge any day. There are no signs of my obsession waning any time soon either. I cook them most weekends and we usually don’t have any left to do anything sensible with like freezing them.pancake pancakes cooking recipe children family

 

So I’ve decided to share the love and publish my own guide – how to cook them, how to serve, them, how to let the kids help to make them and how to tweak them… oh and what to serve with them.

My pancakes guide includes:
  • My all time top four recipes for four different styles of pancake.
  • How to serve them to not only make an occasion of eating them, but to make it a truly interactive experience for all.
  • How to tweak them to suit different diets – or to add extra flavour or nutrition.
  • Loads of exciting flavour and ingredient combinations for toppings
  • How to freeze them so that you can eat pancakes all year round, even when you just don’t have the time.

Does that sound good?

Yes?

Click on the lovely pic below and you can download my fab guide for free.

pancake day pancakes family children cooking recipes ideas flavours topping freezing ingredients

 Enjoy! 

and get flipping!

pancakes pancake family food children cook

Family friendly fish

Family friendly fish
Another mum recently asked me for suggestions to help her to encourage her three children to eat fish.
They used to enjoy a variety of fishy dishes.
One by one, for differing reasons, they’ve now started to reject it.

fish recipes kids children eat cook fussy

Sounds like they might have got a bit spooked, scared of finding a bone, does this sound familiar?

It certainly does to me. It’s not so much reminiscent of my own children. This fishy phobia reminded me more of me, when I was a child.

I remember being a child in the eighties and sitting in the back of the car eating fish and chips.  I found something hard in my mouthful of fish and my (vegetarian) mum muttered absentmindedly “It’s probably an eye”…

Well, that was the start of many years of me being scared of eating any fish whatsoever. Eventually I became a vegetarian at 11 and didn’t eat fish again until I was at uni. My friend and housemate Helen, (Hello Helen!) took it upon herself to open my eyes, mind and taste buds  to it again.

I knew that nutritionally for me it was the right thing for me to do. But I had years of imagined fishy phobias to undo. So, Helen (bless her!) meticulously planned my re-introduction to fish, starting with a Fillet o’ fish at Mcdonalds. I know! – I’m cringing at this thought! We had decided that this was the least scary form that fish could take! I think we were right. 

It was…. O.K,  what more can I really say?

So, where it lacked flavour, texture and general foodie excitement, it was at least safe. The experience successfully de-armed fish in my mind. It really wasn’t the monster I’d built it up to be.  

My next fishy foray happened a couple of weeks later at lunchtime when we shared a tuna melt toasted sandwich.

Yeah! That was nice, I was converted.

fish recipes kids children eat cook fussy

I’ve continued to eat it ever since, but never really been hugely ambitious (definitely no food served with a face … or fins for that matter!) however I wouldn’t be without it now and absolutely love cooking with it. Thankfully my children have always been open minded with fish and my eldest regularly enjoys sardines on toast for breakfast.  

So actually I think I’m quite well qualified to help with this dilemma – I’d like to think I know how these children feel.

Here are my top five tips for getting children to try some new fishy foods, and I’ve included a few recipes / meal ideas at the end to help you get started.

 

Take away the pressure.

Don’t force it at meal times … in fact don’t even mention it!

I believe that tasting and trying new foods should be light hearted and fun, an experiment and experience and not an ordeal.

Some ways of introducing fish and other new foods are below:

  • Play the tasting game. Set up a platter of teeny tiny tasters maybe just one or two being fish, start with ones that you think will be least offensive to your children, and make sure they are attractively presented. Some nice ones to start with might be: smoked haddock, salmon, tuna, prawn, crab, mackerel pate – imagine the pretty pastel colours of those on a white plate. You could perhaps give your child some mini crackers to taste each sample with. Make sure to mix the fish tasters in with some others that are a little less scary. Then number each sample and put little numbered pieces of paper in a bowl and play the tasting game by taking turns to pick a number and taste a sample. Here’s a video of my girls playing the game one day with a selection of sauces, spreads, fruit, veg and cheeses.
  • Get your children to help you to make a fishy meal for the adults – do this a few times, let them choose seasoning and help to present and serve the dish. They might eat something else at the same meal, or it might be an adult only meal that they help you with prepping. Just let them see, feel and smell the fish, with no suggestions at all from you about them tasting or trying it. Do this a few times before asking them if they’d like to try some. You’ll probably find they’d like to try it before you ask them.  Hopefully this will demystify fish in their eyes, as well as taking the pressure off of them having to eat it. Children would find the following dishes fun to help prepare: Fishy parcels, fish pie, goujons, mackerel pate, tuna pasta salad, garlicky prawns.   Download my Family fishy recipe guide here – recipes with the hands symbol are ones that are especially good for children to help with. children cook helping hand recipes recipe learn to cook fishfree fish recipe guide learn to cook fish

Educate your children about the benefits of eating fish.

Try to get talking around the subject of nutrition at meal times, from time to time you might like to slip into conversation WHY and HOW particular foods are useful for our bodies. I’ve included a brief summary below of the benefits of fish nutritionally. 

  • It’s rich in protein which helps your body to grow and repair
  • Oily fish are a good source of essential fats (omega 3 fatty acids). Good for your brain, eye health, blood pressure and heart health.
  • If you eat the soft bones (often found in caned fish such as sardines, and salmon,) you’ll benefit from extra calcium – great for bone health and formation.
  • Vitamins A, D, E and K are abundant in oily fish which will benefit your bones, muscles, skin and eye health.

Be a good role model.

Don’t let your children’s fussy shenanigans stop you from eating and enjoying fish. Make sure you do it in front of them. If you are a bit wary too, then be a good role model by being up for tasting and trying new foods regularly.

Here are some suggestions of things you might do together:

  • Go for a tapas meal. The Spanish tradition of tapas where you order a wide selection of dishes to the middle of your table and then share is ideal for tasting new foods and being a bit brave when ordering in a restaurant.  You’ll only have a small portion to share between the whole table. Strike a deal with your kids – if you try something, they do too. Or maybe you’ll have a competition of who can try the most new foods. Or perhaps you could all be restaurant critics and grade each dish out of ten. 
  • You could buy or make some sushi with fishy fillings, this is easy, fun and a fantastic way of tasting new foods in tiny parcels. 
  • Have a family meal around a big family friendly paella.  Another Spanish tradition – the paella is typically shared on a Sunday – a huge rice dish filled with all sorts of sea food, your bowl becomes a lucky dip. 

Talk about it.

Keep a dialogue going about food.

Ban the words yuk and yum.

From now on no one is allowed to say if they do or don’t like something.

When teaching, I use word prompt cards like these to help children to find the right words. They help children to express their experiences of foods beyond like and dislike. The words are sorted into smells, textures, flavours and appearances. If a child is really reluctant to taste a food I always tell them that they do not have to taste it, they can describe the smell, texture or appearance instead. This immediately takes the pressure off them. 

                                                                               

fish tips cooking children fussy eater

 …and then get cooking!

learn to cook fish recipe fussy

I know from experience that cooking breaks down barriers. Cooking is theraputic, educational, productive and sociable. It also helps fussy eaters enormously by de-mystifying ingredients. Cooking allows sensory introductions to foods that may otherwise seem scary to children. The very best thing would be to get your children being hands on in the kitchen as often as possible.

Use your conversations with your children to inform your cooking and meal planning. If they don’t like skin or bones, go for mashed up or blended fish such as pate or fish cakes.

If they like to see what they are eating, take them to the fish monger. Get them to help choose a piece and have a conversation with the fish monger about it.

Perhaps strong flavours are off putting,  in this case go for cod, or haddock, or mix the it into mashed potato in a fish cake.

They might prefer to be able to see exactly what they are eating, have fun with baked foil parcels and different seasonings.

To move away from slimy textures, you could have fun with a barbeque or racklette, and cook the fish for longer. 

Below are some meal ideas that I think are perfect for family cooking and eating sessions. If you’d like a bit more detail on how to make them, click here to download

Fee free to mess around with them and adapt them to suit your family.

free fish recipe guide learn to cook fish

Christmas gift and present ideas for kids and teens

Christmas gift and present ideas for kids and teens

This year I faced a dilemma; for the first time in the history of having children, mine don’t know what they want for Christmas! Christmas gift ideas for my kids are just not coming readily.

Imagine that! Does anyone else have a similar problem?

christmas-1711545_640In terms of ‘things’ there isn’t anything they really want or need! So this year I’ve really had to put my Christmas Elf thinking cap on and get a bit resourceful. So I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

So now we’ve established that it’s not necessarily ‘THINGS’ we want this year, I’ve decided to think  a bit out of the box.

Some things mentioned are local to me, but I’m sure if you’re further afield there will be a range of similar options nearer to where you live.

 

Experiences:

For me, as a parent, lately it’s been important to me to be spending time with my kids before they grow up and decide that I’m not cool enough anymore or I’m too old to do stuff with. So I’ve come up with a lovely list of experiences that can be shared together. Last year I bought membership to our new local theme park Dreamland and wanted this to be a stocking surprise, so I bought some gorgeous Dreamland branded items from their gift shop and packed the membership cards up in a shoe box with the branded paraphernalia. The yearly family pass is actually rather reasonable £125 for a family of four and you all get your own card (handy for present giving) and we’ve had plenty of use out of it.  Here’s a link: 

Other fab tickets and membership ideas include:

Go ape,                                 Laser quest, paintball,     Zoo membership

woods-1246177_640        paintball-1282164_640     seal-1232186_640

not to mention: theatre tickets, day trip to France, weekend city break and theme park day tickets. 

The positives of this type of gift are that they are something to look forward to once the Christmas glitter has gone, and they can be bonding experiences for families. Photos can be taken during the experience and a montage created afterwards and framed as a memory.

Materials / tools to enable or encourage a hobby:

I’m all for encouraging my children away from their tablets and the TV. So any glimmer of an interest or hobby and I’m all over it. What better way to encourage this than by investing in their hobby. I think Christmas is an excellent opportunity to buy really good quality materials and equipment that you wouldn’t normally consider spending out on during the year such as canvases, quality watercolour paints, a camera, football boots, specialist crafting equipment, roller skates (these are some roller skates that I totally recommend as they are size adjustable and an excellent price), bike and sewing machine.  

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Thinking even further out of the box, why not put together something or somewhere that makes you child’s hobby even easier to access. A pop up dark room? A crafting desk or storage facility?

Personal space:

Ooh, how about creating a secret kid’s cave only to be revealed on Christmas morning? A treasure hunt leading your child to the scene of their new hideout?

post-37284_640It could be a shed in the garden that you secretly decorate inside and kit out with kid’s stuff like beanbags, bunting, battery operated lanterns and a do not enter sign on the door.  

Or maybe you could cosy up the basement or cellar (if it’s in usable condition) with beanbags, TV and a mini fridge.  For younger children, what about an under the stairs hidey hole, or teepee? Children and teens love to feel independent and they love to have something to call their own.  

 

 

Learn a skill:

Here’s a present that can last well beyond Christmas.

Christmas gift ideas kids Why not book your child onto a slightly more unusual course in something they’ve not tried before. I attended some wonderful bushcraft courses both one day and a weekend one here. They do organised group courses, family courses and also private bookings ranging from wood craft to cooking, to survival. 

Christmas gift kids cookery gift

Talking of cooking…. I couldn’t write a post without including my true love. Every child needs to learn to cook at some point, some are desperate to get cooking and some parents can’t face it in their own kitchen, or maybe don’t have the time. Some teens really need the skills but don’t realise it yet. I’m offering a six week cookery course on Saturday mornings in Westgate for £60. A perfect pressie for grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, and parents to consider.   For a small charge I will send a personalised piece of cookery equipment with a voucher so that your child can have something to unwrap on the day.

Other courses you could buy into include climbing, horseriding, and cycling, skateboarding, dressmaking. We have a lovely sewing shop in Canterbury near to us that offers a wide range of courses, many for beginners and some especially for children.

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration for the child that thinks they have it all! Please let me know of anything I’ve missed but could include. I’m always on the lookout for a present that’s a bit different.

It all begins with breakfast

It all begins with breakfast

Do you ever dream of the day that your child is able to bring you breakfast in bed?

It’s never too soon to give your children independence and autonomy in the kitchen and the best place to start is by teaching them to make you breakfast in bed, or at the very least, their own breakfast.

I know, I know, this idea is a little scary, I expect you’re envisaging your five year old son slopping boiling hot water from a tea cup onto his arm, sticking his fingers in the toaster and wrecking your new kitchen worktops?

Am I right?

Well, hear me out, here is why I think breakfast is not just the best start to the day, but it’s also the best start to your child’s repertoire of cookery skills and life skills in general.

If your child can prepare their own breakfast in the kitchen:

  • It will help them to be more independent
  • It will help with the rush in the mornings before school
  • It will provide an excellent basis for further cooking skills
  • Your child will gain confidence
  • Your child will gain a renewed respect for the other work you do in the kitchen
    preparing food for the family.
  • Your child will experience a huge sense of pride and satisfaction.
  • You may just get a lie-in one day
  • You may even get served breakfast in bed!

Where to start?

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, we can’t expect a full English in one day either, however, I urge you to watch this video of 5 year old Sam who I taught to make a smoothie about 5 minutes before we made this film.

We made the smoothie once before the film and then Sam independently made the smoothie himself – there are no cuts in the video (I don’t know how to do this yet!). I hope you’ll be impressed, I know I was!

I also taught my daughters in the same way, and they are able to make their own smoothie each morning.

 Some tips to get you started

  1. Invest in a cheap and cheerful, simple smoothie maker like the one featured in my video. It makes single servings or double servings and that’s it. The vessel the smoothie is made in is the vessel you drink it from. Alternatively a hand blender in a jug does the job as well. Both of these pieces of equipment are easy to clean – a vital requirement in the early morning pre-school rush – I think you’ll agree!
  2. Make sure you train your child on correct grips when cutting fruit and vegetables. The two main grips are Claw and bridge. I’ll be writing a blog on these shortly. Watch this space!
  3. Any fruits you’d use for a smoothie are usually soft enough to be cut with a normal dinner knife. No sharp blades needed – this allows your child some independence. Alternatively buy frozen fruit packs from the supermarket and store these in your freezer. Mangoes are lovely in a smoothie, and you can even buy sliced avocado frozen which makes smoothies really creamy. Mixed berries are lovely too!
  4. Teach your child how to clear up after themselves. You decide your expectations on this one. For me it simply is to wipe down the side and put any dirty equipment next to the sink.  This is of course age dependent.

That’s it!

Teach your child how to do it, watch or be in the background for the first couple of times and then embed it in your daily routine. A smoothie is an excellent start to the day especially for children who can’t stomach much for breakfast early in the morning.

You don’t have to limit yourself to smoothies either:

Toast is easy and spreading butter / spreads is a great way of practicing fine motor control. Make sure you teach your child never to put their fingers or any implement into the toaster, and obviously you are the best judge to decide at what age your child is able to be trusted with this task alone, however there is no problem with them doing it whilst you are in the same room. 

Cereal can easily be served, eaten and put away with minimal or no supervision, sometimes it just takes some simple instructions and monitoring the first couple of times and then once your child has mastered it you’ll be so pleased. One tip with cereal is that if you buy milk in the huge 6 pint bottles, you may need to decant it into a smaller jug for your child to use more easily. This can be done the night before and stored in an accessible position in the fridge. 

There are numerous other breakfast products that can be pre-prepared for you child to help themselves to including mini fritatas, muffins, granola bars and equally many more that can be prepared together with your child. However I’ll save these for another time.  

These are some very simple tasks you can start your child off with. They are an excellent foundation for other learning in the kitchen. Through these you can teach your child some of the fundamentals of good kitchen management and basic cooking skills such as clearing up after themselves, washing hands before cooking. Being safe, and handling equipment safely.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions and see photographs of breakfasts your child has created. I’ll leave you with a picture of the breakfast my daughter Mary surprised me with one morning when she was 7 years old.

Initially it was served with the grapes down the centre between the two slices to make it look like a butterfly. Sadly I can’t lay my hands on the first picture right now, but at the time I was so touched that she’d put so much thought into it and it taster all the sweeter to me for that reason.

toast
Honey and peanut butter on toast with grape garnish by Mary age 7 x