toddler crafts: tissue paper monster

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I had a free Toucan Box that I got with a voucher code things months and months ago and although I think it’s really aimed at 3 years plus with some help Jack was able to do this activity.
It included a little canvas bag and some bits and pieces to decorate it, so we ripped the tissue paper into random shapes and arranged them out on the piece of foil, then Jack got to use the paint brush and cover them in water. I pressed the bag on top, with the cardboard box inside to stop the ink going through both sides. When we lifted the bag the tissue had left a lovely marbled effect.
There’s another step included to stencil shapes on using felt tips but we may save them for something else when he’s a bit bigger, along with the bingo cards for spotting different things outside.

There was a fair amount of tissue leftover, so I got Jack to do some more ripping whilst I quickly drew a monster on sugar paper with a permanent marker. I then got out the glue, (which apparently is friendly glue produced especially for early years crafts?!) and again Jack used the paint brush to dab glue (with guidance) and throw handfuls of tissue onto the paper which we then glued over to stick down.
Later I added the eye stickers that I had picked up in Tesco and a roughly cut piece of parcel tape with spiky teeth drawn on, again in permanent marker.

I put the monster up on the wall with the paintings and Jack keeps pointing at it, I’m trying to teach him that monsters roar like lions and dinosaurs!

I have a couple of ideas for making Halloween crafts, so we’ll see what else we’ll get to this month!

BBQ ribs

Through the meal planning over a month, I’ve been trying to ensure that we eat a range of meals, so that it makes it a bit more interesting and so so that I don’t just cook the same things over and over. We have our staples, bolognaise/chillies/casserole as they go down well and I know that Jack will eat them and I could probably cook them in my sleep these days. But sometimes I want to try something new and make something a bit different to my usual repertoire.

For Saturday’s dinner I decided that rather than doing the sweet and sour sauce I usually do with ribs I’d try a BBQ sauce instead.

IMG_20141004_175624Ingredients:

  • pork ribs
  • 8tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 8tbsp brown sugar
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • 2tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 2tsp smoke paprika

It’s very simple, mix all the ingredients except the ribs in a oven proof dish, then add the ribs making sure that they are covered in the sauce.
Cover and pop in the fridge overnight.
Bake in a moderate to hot oven for 40-45minutes.

I served the ribs with sweetcorn fritters (that I’m still not happy with the batter, too eggy, must keep trying) sweet potato chips (crinkle cut for fun!) and a few mangetout for some green. But I think corn on the cob and potato wedges would be good too, or sweet potato mashed.

There was a lot of liquid from the meat in the sauce and I think if I made it again, I’d take the ribs out and keep them warm and try and reduce down the sauce in a saucepan.

Jack liked them anyway, he had BBQ sauce across his cheeks and ate all his chips!

Have you tried making anything new recently?

flapjacks: raisin and chocolate versions

I seem to have made rather a lot of flapjack recently, or at least 3 batches. It’s quick and simple, Jack can ‘help’ me and it uses ingredients I usually just have in. It also lasts and is still edible a week later, a week is the longest a piece has been left.

To make it a bit more interesting though I’ve included some additional ingredients to make raisin or chocolate flapjacks. Added to my current favourite flapjack recipe adapted from the little Scottish Teatime Recipes book, the Ready Brek added makes a lovely chewy and crumbly flapjack rather than a crisp biscuit like texture.

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Recipe… Continue reading

curry pastes for the freezer

Yesterday, along with vacuuming the house, cleaning the bathroom, changing the bed sheets and starting to make Jack’s winter coat (Jack was out with Nanny for the day!), I prepared curry pastes to pop in the freezer. Yes I really think I’ve taken this being organised thing a bit far but it really doesn’t take much effort to throw some ingredients in the food processor, it uses up all of the chillies, coriander and ginger and the base of five dinners is ready in half an hour.

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Thai Green Curry Paste

Whizzed up in the food processor…

  • 3 chillies (de-seeded if you wish)
  • 3 shallots (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 5cm(ish) piece of ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled and halved)
  • fresh coriander (I used half a pack)
  • 2 lemongrass stalks (ends trimmed and outer layer peeled)
  • zest of 2 limes and juice of 1
  • 1tbsp coriander (ground)
  • 1tsp cumin (ground)
  • 1tsp black pepper (ground)
  • 2tsp fish sauce
  • 3tbsp olive oil

Jalfrezi Curry Paste

Again in the food processor…

  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled and halved)
  • 2-3cm(ish) piece of ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 1tsp tumeric
  • 2tbsp oil
  • 2tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 chillies (de-seeded if you wish)
  • small bunch of fresh coriander (again half the pack)
  • 2tsp cumin
  • 1tsp mustard seeds
  • 1tsp fenugreek
  • 1tsp coriander

Note: For the thai curry I ground the coriander and cumin in the nut grinder attachment for the food processor, and for the jalfrezi toasted and ground the spices, but you could use ready ground.

The thai curry paste made enough for 3 dinner for the 3 of us, so one for dinner last night and 2 for the freezer. I made a quick thai curry by heat a glug of oil in the wok and adding a portion of paste and gently frying, next adding beef stir fry strips, stirring and cooking through, veg; mange tout and pak choi and a tin of coconut milk. I left it to simmer for the time it took the jasmine rice to cook.

The jalfrezi paste made 2 portions for us 3 and will be used next week with a recipe….

What waste saving tips do you have?

a midweek chicken roast

There is (almost) a downside to my roughly planning meals for the month in that I don’t always know what we’ll be doing. This month Phil hasn’t been here for 3 Sunday’s so the whole chicken that I brought for a Sunday dinner was still sitting in the freezer and being a medium sized chicken, there were plans for it to create at least 2 meals. So we ate a roast dinner on a Wednesday instead…

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Aiming for a 1pm lunch, just before 11.30 I rub some butter under the skin of the chicken breasts and place in a roasting tin with a tiny bit of oil on the bottom. It then goes in the oven for an hour and a half, Basting a couple of times when I remember/get chance.

I then take the boy upstairs for his nap before getting on with the next bit.

In the muffin tin, which I use more for making Yorkshires now, I put a teaspoon or slightly more of oil in 10 of the holes, this then goes in the oven to heat up.

Next I make up the Yorkshire pudding mix, 300ml of milk, 150g plain flour and one egg, whisked together, I then put this to the side until it’s time to bake.

I also mix up have a packet (proper homemade stuffing is a Christmas treat) of sage and onion stuffing mix, and leave to cool.

And finally prep the veg, this time I was doing mash otherwise potatoes are par boiled after the chickens gone in the oven. We also had cabbage, french and runner beans. With them ready in the pans covered in water, all that needed doing was switching things on.

So at 12.10 About 50 minutex before dinner I spoon the stuffing mix into balls on a lightly greased baking tray, poor the Yorkshire batter into the 10 oiled holes in the muffin tin and check the chicken hasn’t browned too much to need covering with foil.

I then sit down for 15minutes before Jack wakes up.

When Jack returns from nap time, I turn on the potatoes and and veg to simmer for 20ish minutes/until cooked and set the table.

Just before 1pm, I take out the chicken, pour all the (clear) juices into a frying pan and place the chicken to rest on the serving plate with a piece of foil covering it.

I then make the gravy but adding a little water, a teaspoon of marmite, pepper and mixed herbs, bring it to the boil and mix a table spoon of cornflour with a splash of water and pour into the gravy to thicken, keep stirring between checking, the veg is cooked, mashing potatoes and ensuring that the Yorkshires and stuffing are crisp but not burnt! This is the hardest bit of a roast!

But knowing everything is cooked it goes onto plates and the table and we get to enjoy a Wednesday lunchtime roast chicken dinner!

And the leftovers, the leftover Yorkshire puddings went in the freezer, the leftover chicken breast were used for pizza topping the next day and I pulled the remaining chicken off the bones and boiled up the carcass to make a stock with the intention of making a chicken soup but two days later I hadn’t and didn’t want to use chicken that had been sat in the fridge for a few days.

What leftover chicken dishes do you like?

toddler crafts: homemade playdough

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Tuesday night last week I happened to make playdough, I found a recipe for no-cook playdough and had a go.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 2 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tbsps cream of tartar
  • 1 to 1.5 cups of boiling water
  • food colouring

And it’s so easy to make!

Mix the flour, salt and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl then mix in the oil.
Add a little food colouring to the boiling water, I used my sugarflair gel colours so I got a nice strong colour.
Bix by bit pour the water into the flour mix, mixing until it becomes a sticky dough.
Leave to cool, I think I left it for half an hour or so.
Knead until it’s no longer sticky.
Keep in an air tight tub.

Wednesday afternoon I collected together a few bits and pieces jigsaw shapes, straws, bottle tops, shower curtain rings, to play with the dough and we got going.

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First just playing and feeling the new texture. Jack briefly tried to eat it but then didn’t bother for the rest of the time….

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broccoli and stilton soup

On the Saturday we went to collect the vegetables from the farm on the list to pick up was a broccoli, since we have 2 bags of broccoli already frozen in the freezer I figured I’d make it into soup, so off I go to Tesco and come back with a block of stilton, then I go to make the soup and realise I hadn’t actually picked it up from the farm, doh! But eventually I got some broccoli and I made the soup and it was really easy and I wondered why I’d never made it before.

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Recipe…. Continue reading

Jack and paint!

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Last Wednesday Jack had his first proper experience of paint! (I’m not counting his hand prints for Christmas cards last year!) It’s something I’d been meaning to get round to doing for a few weeks and in a spur of the moment decision finishing lunch we went out and brought kids paints and brushes from Wilko’s and got going.

Out came the red polka dotted table cloth and some of the collection of yogurt pots I’ve been saving on the kitchen window sill, Jack in an old t-shirt of mine to minimise the amount of paint on clothing, and he got to work. Exploring the paint with different brushes and sponges and his fingers too of course, he even tried to eat it too.

Half an hour later he was of course a terrible mess with paint up his arms, between all his fingers and on his face, but he’d filled too pieces of paper, there wasn’t paint on the floor and I think he’d enjoyed himself. It just meant that he had a bath before tea not after!

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The next morning I put his art up on the wall, it’s things like this that make a family home.

mini veggie pasties

My little Jack goes off with Nanny on a Friday (currently, it was Thursday) so he has a fun day with swimming lessons at the moment and I get to catch up on jobs around the house (it’s so much easier to hoover/hang washing/clean the bathroom without a toddler following you around!). And I make him up a little pack lunch, there’s one problem my not really fussy little boy just doesn’t eat sandwiches, he doesn’t like cheese or eat ham, he’ll occasionally eat a tuna sweetcorn wrap but not sandwich, no filling between bread. So instead I try to keep a stash of savoury muffins and pasties in the freezer for him.

The River Cottage Baby and Toddler cookbook has a great recipe for double potato pies, with regular potato, sweet potato and sweetcorn filling but with an empty freezer and only half a sweet potato in I decided to make up my own mixed veg version.

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what we’ve been eating…

I’ve been having a mini discussion on Facebook about meal planning after I posted this picture on Instagram of my slightly excessive organisation of the freezer contents and thought that I’d write about it here too.

IMG_20140905_154404I shop for a 3/4 week period, usually doing a shop for a couple of days then the big online shop a few days later when I receive some money. We have a chest freezer in our cellar and it’s made life so much easier as previously with only the little 2 shelf freezer I had to shop every few days and couldn’t easily batch cook.

Online food shopping is great because I can start to add things to the basket as we run out and then go through with ideas for meals jumping from department to department, keeping an eye on the total. It also means that I don’t have to leave the sofa and precariously balance everything on a pushchair to get home!

I don’t plan exactly what meals we’ll have, just have some ideas, as we get our vegetables from Woodhouse Farm still and never quite know what we’ll get and it’s hard to know 4 weeks in advance what your plans are.

So this month we have eaten…

Setember 1st – 7th
Monday: Beef enchiladas with salad and guacamole
Tuesday: Sausage whorls with roasted Mediterranean vegetables and potatoes
Wednesday: (dinner out)
Thursday: Ginger and lime chicken with rice and vegetables
Friday:Pork chorizo burgers with cooked tomato salsa
Saturday:Pasta bolognaise (a huge batch made that created 2 lasagnes to freeze)
Sunday: Beef casserole with Yorkshire puddings, mash potatoes and vegetables

September 8th – 14th
Monday: Bangers and mash with vegetables
Tuesday: Fishcakes with minty potatoes and vegetables
Wednesday: Baked potatoes with chilli con carne (chilli from the freezer)
Thursday: (dinner out)~
Friday: Saag paneer with rice and naan
Saturday: Bean casserole with toast and cheese
Sunday: (dinner out)

September 15th – 21st
Monday: Pulled pork wraps with tomato and pepper salsa and yogurt
Tuesday: Lasagne and garlic bread (lasagne from the freezer)
Wednesday: Stir-fried sweet and sour beef, veg and noodles
Thursday: Aubergine and courgette risotto with salmon
Friday: Corned beef hash with baked beans
Saturday: Spicy lentil and chickpeas in tomatoes with cous cous
Sunday: Baked potatoes with cheese sauce and bacon and vegetables

September 22nd – 28th
Monday: Chinese style pork belly and egg friend rice
Tuesday: Spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread (meatballs from freezer)
Wednesday: Roast chicken dinner (as Phil’s not been here on Sunday’s)
Thursday: Homemade pizza using leftover chicken
Friday: Lentil and vegetable pasta bake (with lentil bolognaise from freezer)
Saturday: Cassoulet with crusty bread
Sunday: Mushroom risotto with extra vegetables and crispy bacon

The days in italics are when Phil’s not here this month and we can eat anything as I don’t have to accommodate his ‘fussy’ eating. I’m quite impressed that there are 25 different dinners there, yes several are pasta based and there are a couple of risottos and 2 baked potatoes but with different flavours.
The non-meat dinners that myself and Jack are eating whilst Phil’s away are mostly leftover when we’ve eaten all the meat out of them as I’ve been putting anything that’s portion sized in the freezer.
And I’ve been enjoying not having to think up dinner everyday and have been remembering to take the meat out the freezer the night before too.

How about you, do you meal plan? Weekly? Fortnightly? Monthly?