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Monthly Archives: October 2012

It’s raining potatoes

This week we are making delicious Pumpkin scones. A recipe greeted with mild trepidation by adult and child alike, but, as always they left carrying far fewer than they had made. Most children know about the funny or scary faced pumpkins we carve out and light up, but most children also think they are simply a novelty torch for halloween and so it comes as a bit of a shock that we can actually eat them!

Whilst they cooked we had a try of some pumpkin and some seeds, initially a lot of the kids weren’t all that sold on the idea of having a taste – and then they were offered points. One point if you lick it, two points if you nibble it and a once in a lifetime two hundred points if you ate it all and quick as a flash the pumpkin was gone. I was telling my husband this evening. ‘what do the points mean?’ he asked. The answer, absolutely nothing, just the thrill of having achieved something really good. He felt this rather fraudulent until I pointed out that they now know they like pumpkin and that discovery alone made them happy! (He still thought this was a bit of a cop out!)

After we’d had a little tasting session we set about looking where foods come from, underground, over ground or on a tree. We discussed just how a big the tree would have to be to grow pumpkins and decided  that would just be silly! But how about carrots, onions, pears and plums? They got them mostly right, with the exception of the flying potatoes… lets hope it doesn’t start raining!

               

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Boys and their bacteria

Wow, it’s been a very busy week and now Saturday afternoon finds me and my boys snuggled up watching a Disney movie. My eldest adores dancing and gymnastics and with a couple of shows in the pipeline he’s feeling rather overworked and underpaid,  I can’t say I blame him, he’s working very hard and more than ready for half term! I am equally exhausted, the week has seen busy classes, an evening with the local cub group talking about food safety and a chat on cooking with kids on the local radio.

The cub group was good fun, I don’t get out much, can you tell? I was asked to give a talk about safety and hygiene in the kitchen to go towards the boys cooking badge. I sat for many an hour pondering how to make this less than deathly dull. It’s not particularly the most scintillating subject, especially for a group of ten year olds that would rather be playing football, so I grew some mould, got some pictures and gave it my best shot. We covered basic things, where you need to be careful in the kitchen, types of burns, knife safety all the usual. We talked about what to check the food for and I showed them my mouldy baked beans – much boy over reaction of urghs and yuks ensued, they weren’t even particularly mouldy. How does that work? You leave some beans in your fridge for a few days then when you go to finish them they’re all green and furry – you deliberately leave some beans to get mouldy and they last for an age! I must admit I was slightly nervous of a health and safety spot check in which I had to try and convince them that the mould was supposed to be growing in the fridge.

We went on to chatter, and with a group of boys chatter really is the only suitable word, about personal hygiene and why oh why Mums always tell you to wash your hands so question one, put your hand up if you can HONESTLY say you never pick your nose. Well, of the ten kids about two put their hands up, then slowly lowered them back down again. Why did that matter? Well because our noses are a haven for the lovely Staphylococcus aureus.

We looked at several bacteria, asked how many of them ALWAYS washed their hands after going to the toilet and obviously the word poo was mentioned more than once in relation to the spread of germs causing much merriment amongst the boys who made the very most of the opportunity to legitimately say this most desired word out loud, in public without being told off! The favourite of bacteria was the now renamed hexbug – known more commonly to you and I as Salmonella.

I’d like to say that my little chat has made the boys more aware of why we must be hygienic and that each and every time they go the toilet they’ll wash their hands, and that there will be a few more lads about town whose fingers aren’t constantly lodged in a nostril, but alas, I fear that instead they may be actively collecting bacteria in an attempt to see who can win the race to their own, private stinky boy badge!

Sprouting noses

Kids hate green foods, it’s a well known fact…. that was mostly disproved in all my classes so far this week. We’ve been making one of my favourite recipes, courgette cakes. It never fails to win over the kids and the parents always tentatively try before exclaiming in a shocked voice ‘ They’re actually really nice!’  The courgette mixes into the batter and the result is a beautifully moist cake that tastes delicious.

A lot of the people that come to class do so because they have real issues with their children eating a varied range of foods. Some will eat just fruit and no veg, some just veg and no fruit and some just pasta, plain and simple and that is that! Cooking and tasting with friends can make a huge difference to a child’s willingness to try. Often the kids come in and you see them watching the children willingly munching away with slight confusion. Why on Earth are they doing that? Then as the weeks go on they realise they are the odd one out and everyone else is tasting but them and slowly a little hand sneaks towards the table and takes a little nibble! Some kids will eat food in class that they’d never try at home. In fact once a Mum secretly used to me her weeks groceries so that I could hand them to her – if they came from my house her son would eat them! Psychology plays a huge part in faddy eating. To me the classes are the ideal opportunity to address this issue, we’re using food, exploring food and so why not taste them? This week I extended the limits somewhat and must admit I worried I was being a tad too adventurous. The cakes went into the oven and the little cooks set about clearing the table and bringing over all their washing up, always good to get them trained from an early age, then they sat in their seats and eagerly awaited this weeks activity which normally involves a tasting session.

This week was no exception, only we were tasting foods even the adults recoiled at! On my plate I had a spinach plant, a raw courgette and lots of raw sprouts. The kids didn’t look fazed at all, always a good start but I was expecting it to be a bit of a challenge so we started slowly. First we tried the courgette cutting it up and seeing how it looked – cucumber was the obvious response, sweetcumber slightly less obvious! But did it taste like a cucumber? They all started munching away and soon enough the courgette has disappeared. Next the sprouts, what do these look like? Little cabbages, cauliflowers, lettuces all were shouted out responses. We spent a bit of time peeling away the leaves, making little patterns in them with our teeth and licking them to make them stick on our noses – one Mum misunderstood the instructions and merrily licked her daughters nose instead of the leaf – if stuck none the less! It seems once a child has put a piece of food to their lips they’re far more likely to then eat them.. and they did, without being prompted their curiosity got the better of them and they were soon munching on their sprouts. Next came the spinach leaf straight from the plant.

They all had a little bowl of water to wash their leaf and make it into a little boat  and then again they started munching and most finished it up! One lovely little boy who comes to class doesn’t eat vegetables at all – he left having eaten all three!

Corn dogs

This week saw my class making lovely little savoury muffins. These little cakes are slightly heavier and more ‘bready’ in consistency to your normal cakes, contain no sugar, and can be packed with anything you like, cold cooked meats, veggies, leftovers from last nights dinner… we used peppers, tomoatoes, sweetcorn and cheese. Kids love a good cake, be it sweet or savoury, if it looks like a cake it must be a friendly food and for those less keen on anything of a veggie origin you can often convince them the extra bits are there just to make them look pretty!

To coincide with the sweetcorn in the muffins we had some fun looking at and tasting sweetcorn, most were bamboozled by the leafed corn, good guesses all round of cabbage and lettuce and even better excited faces when we peeled back the leaves to show the corn. So we had the corn but how does it turn from a cob, to a whole load of little niblets? Again most excellent suggestions were put forward from knife wielding ninjas, to my personal favourite, a dog in a machine. We think the premise of this ingenious idea was that the dog sat in the machine and nibbled off the niblets – we discussed the merits of the idea but the ultimate conclusion was that it may not pass the stringent health and safety regulations we must adhere too, shame. To prove that the corn can indeed come off of the cob we had a go at munching it off pre-cooked, cold cobs, the kids loved it and it struck me what a great packed lunch filler this would eb. Kids love the taste and they always love somethinga  little quirky. Next was the turn of raw baby corn, another dieal lunch box food, the jury was split. I’d warned them that it crunched into hundreds of little bits which felt a bit odd on teh tongue the first time it tasted them but then, once your tongue was used to the bobbles it was lovely . Some of the kids munched with dubious face waiting for their tongue to become accustomed to the rather alien texture, some gulped it down as fast as they could and others. well, they spat it straight out looking rather disgusted!

 

Photo: Yum!

 

For those of you that didn’t join us, here’s the recipe

2oz Butter – melted

6oz Self Raising Flour

1 Egg

60ml Milk

Fillings

 

* Sift the flour into your bowl and take some small handfuls of your favourite fillings and mix in to the flour.

* Stir in the melted butter

* Stir in the egg (having scooped it from your mat where it escaped to during cracking)

* Stir in the milk

* Give it all a huge mix and split between 6-8 cakes cases.

* Cook for 12-15mins at 220 oC

*

Dancing teeth and tickled tongues!

This week we’re making lemon biscuits in class, and whilst they cook the kids in my groups have been tasted various citrus fruits, oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits. Our activity time is all about exploring the foods around us that quite often we, as parents, just assume our kids know about, but a few were stumped on these, we don’t see them so maybe they grow underground? Maybe they fall from the sky? Great rationalising but sadly not! The answers we get when we probe the kids about the foods and how they grow are fabulous. Once talking about carrots I explained that they grow underground and the soil acts as a big duvet to keep them warm, the leaves grow out so they can gobble up the sunshine and feed the carrots and the roots are like teeny straws sucking up the water from the soil to give the carrots a drink and help them grow. Where does the water come from if they’re in a big field though? Thumbs twiddled and lips were chewed until a very quiet little voice whispered ‘ bunny tears? Definately up there in the top five cute moments!’

I’ve spoken before about a little girl who’d been with me for a while with various disabilities, but also this term I have a very special little girl named Libby. Libby is 4 1/2 and has Downs Syndrome. I was going to write ‘sadly has Down’s syndrome’ but since knowing her that’s not the case, there is nothing sad about Libby. There are some kids that you just want to cuddle and she is one of them. I’ll hold my hands up and openly admit that I’ve always been a little nervous around kids with disabilities but these two little girls have taught me so much, people are people of all shapes and sizes, all strengths and weaknesses, it’s that simple! She is the smiliest most joyful child I know and a true pleasure to have in my class. When we got to tasting this week her Mum looked at me and mouthed that she doesn’t like oranges, in true determined Libby fashion she watched the other kids trying their orange, took a look at hers, looked at the kids, and had a little nibble, then suddenly the whole thing was gone and the smile was very big indeed – on both her and her Mummy!

Libby and her biscuits!

I love citrus week, the faces the kids pull are always entertaining, and more often than not they’ll go back for another curious lick. One little lady couldn’t stop giggling as the lime tickled her tongue, one other described it as making their teeth dance, but nearly all tasted and I now suspect the shop keepers in the area are wondering why their grapefruit and lime sales have spiked this week! As adults we decide what flavours we think are palatable, we have so many preconceptions on good and bad flavours, at the weekend we went to a carvery and my 7 year old was decidely excited that they had both sprouts and red cabbage – it was apparently ‘epic and awesome’ The guy serving thought he was being sarcastic til he started piling them on to his plate! Unfortuantely when asked at school what his favourite foods were he forgot his love of veg and drew a huge battered sausage, ho hum.

If you fancied making some lemon biscuits yourself, here’s the recipe

2.5oz butter

1.5oz Icing sugar

4oz Plain Flour

1/2 lemon juice

Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy, stir in the flour, add the juice and knead into a ball and there you have it! Roll to biscuit thickness and cook for 10 mins at 180oC – though do keep checking as they suddenly cook!