You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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Introducing New Foods

I like offal: liver, kidney, sweetbreads. I am big on seafood as well including whelks and winkles. Scottish black pudding beats English black pudding hands down and Haggis is delicious.

I was brought up on “interesting” cuts of meat none of which I considered odd until I reached secondary school at 11 and people started eeeeeeeeeewing everything. Then I turned veggie for a while but that’s another story.

Unfortunately hubby is a little less adventurous than me. I mean he’ll try everything, which I applaud, but we have had a few, albeit rare, dashes to the bin for things he considers too revolting. There aren’t many things I haven’t been able to stomach in life; I can list them all on a couple fingers:

  • Jellyfish – It was just like eating rubber and I couldn’t figure out how to take a bite or even swallow it.
  • Tripe – I reckon I’ll try it again at some point but cooked in a clear broth was just too much texture for me on a first try.

I haven’t had to try many insects yet. I’ve eaten ants (in chocolate) but I don’t know how I would react to deep fried locust for example. I’d like to think I’d give them a go. I know a lot of it is mental and perception can definitely influence how we taste things but its hard to override your brain.

Fried crickets

Fried crickets

Now, I’m not saying you should like everything. I don’t really like onion, for example, and frogs legs can hop on. But its all about being open to new flavours. Did you know that children may need to be offered a new food as many as 10-15 times before they will eat it?

Probably, like a lots of things, there are tastes best acquired at a young age. One study showed that repeated taste exposure can increase liking for certain food products in young children.

This is why I am on a mission to introduce my kids to as many flavours as I can before they learn from their peers that somethings “shouldn’t” be eaten.

This week we had tongue. Ox tongue cooked in broth with carrots, celery, onions and boiled potatoes is one of my favorite childhood dishes. It is super easy to cook: Firstly you clean the tongue thoroughly and then you pop it in a large pot. Chop up 3 to 4 carrots in to batons, 3 sticks of celery into batons, one onion into chunks. Add all the veg to the pot with the celery leaves, 6 peppercorns and a bay leaf and then just cover all with some stock. Then you cook the tongue until the skin can be peeled off easily. This can take a few hours so I tend to pop it on at low temperature when I go out for the afternoon. While I am peeling the tongue I add my potatoes to cook in the stock. Then I slice the tongue and re add it to the broth to warm it before serving.

Tongue has an acquired texture but it has a great taste plus it is really easy for the kids to eat. I was determined that the kids would like it, and not snub it like their Dad, so I pulled out the big guns: the paint palate plates that I’ve shown you before. The trick is to make it as colourful as possible to make it more appealing!

tongue

Success! The plates were spotless and no complaints. M even had second servings of tongue.

What foods do you eat that others might consider odd? How adventurous are you with new flavours?

 

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April Fish!

I had to introduce my little girl to the concept of April Fool’s Day today as at nearly three I think she is finally old enough to get it.

When we woke this morning I explained to her what day it was and what people generally do on April Fool’s Day. Then I attempted to get her to  play a joke on Daddy to which she responded,

“No Mummy, you are silly.”

Not put off I headed down to get breakfast ready. I had prepared E’s bowl the night before: I froze her current favourite cereal with some milk in a bowl (hiding some ice cubes underneath so as not to be too wasteful). So all I had to do this morning was to top up with a bit of fresh milk and there was no immediate noticeable difference.

cereal

Ever hungry E tried to dig straight in to her breakfast only to be able to dislodge one flake while I ate my bowl happily next to her. Undeterred she tried again.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“Mummy its stuck!”

“Really? Mine’s ok. Look!”

*Frantic attack of the frozen cereal commences.*

“Mummy!”

To which I crack and explain, “April Fool’s!”

“Oh… Silly Mummy!”

I offered her a normal bowl of cereal and she was happy with only a few mutterings of “silly Mummy” from time to time between mouthfuls.

We soon made peace though when I showed her what she had for her tea later. Over here “April Fools” pranks are known as a “Poisson d’Avril” and I got the kids a couple of little marzipan fish from our local Chocolaterie to celebrate today. I love this place and think they do the best chocolate truffles I have ever tasted! If you are ever in Neuchâtel you need to pop by but be warned the owners are approaching retirement and I’ve heard they are going to shut the shop when they do. As good an excuse as any for us to eat their chocolate while we still can.

poisson d'avril

I think in E’s eyes it was just another normal morning with me being just marginally stranger than normal. I can’t wait for next year!

Hope you had happy pranking too this morning.


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Abuse!

Sometimes things get a bit silly here but the kids seem to enjoy it so I tend to just get egged on.

I was attempting to quickly prepare dinner for some guests this weekend while at the same time as making the kids’ dinner. As all mums of small children will know this is never allowed so we develop distraction tactics.

M was giving me the “I’m so hungry, I’m fading away” chat so I slipped him a goldfish nibble. Total mistake! Was he content with just one? No! Soon I had something small and now very dribbly trying to climb my leg and I was unable to move. I caved and gave him another which in turn gave me some short lived respite until it was swallowed.

goldfish

Cue brainwave: I started to lay the goldfish out in a line. Not only would M have to move to eat (taking up more time) but I could also lead him anywhere by means of goldfish bribery.

My initial line went round the kitchen island, just as a improvised obstacle course, to test my theory. Then we took a turn into the hallway towards the kids playroom/study where E was playing happily. It worked as a giggling M got gradually closer to his toys and away from the dangerous kitchen.

M trail

E soon came out to see what all the giggling was about and shrieked in delight at the goldfish trail (starting to eat her way along it too).

Ok, I know it is probably some mums’ worst nightmare (their kids eating off the floor) but we are a pet-free and shoe-free house and they had good fun.

Disclaimers:

  • The floor was very clean pre the goldfish crumbs explosion.
  • No children were harmed despite the abuse during this improvised activity. In fact maybe their immune systems were improved.


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P-P-P-Pizza!

Its oh so easy to just buy a pizza ready-made and pop it in the oven (or even easier to pick up the phone) but actually they are pretty simple to make from scratch. Here is my lazy guide to pizza making that even the kids can do.

Ok, so there is a little bit of work involved: You have to buy the ingredients at the shop and make the recipes at some point. This does involves some kneading by hand (if you don’t have a kneading attachment on your mixer). Kneading is a great workout though and can help release a lot of built up tension.

Here is my pizza dough recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver:pizza dough

Ingredients
  • 1 kg white bread flour or Tipo ’00’ flour, or 800g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 x 7 g dried yeast sachet
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tsbp extra virgin olive oil
  • 650 ml lukewarm water
  • semolina flour for dusting (you can use normal flour but I prefer semolina)

Method

Sieve the flour and salt on to a clean work surface (or into your mixer with kneading attachment if you have one) and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called knocking back the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about eight pizzas but I roll thinly.

I tend to make this and freeze 2 thirds as 1 third is enough for us as a family. If you freeze it into pizza size portions it is easier later.

When I know I want to make pizzas I just pop a couple of portions in the fridge the night before and it is perfect the next day and ready to roll. (That’s the lazy bit as I don’t actually have to make the dough when I want to make pizza).

I roll them out just before we are going to eat on to semolina flour as it gives it that nice slightly grainy base. I don’t really throw my pizza about much as I tend to lose it to the floor but feel free.

The next stage is the tomato sauce. Here is the perfect pizza sauce recipe and so easy to do. This is also a staple I have in the freezer pre-portioned and I take it out to defrost with the pizza dough the night before:

Pizza prep

Even Teddy helped

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1kg tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper

Method

Cook down onions until they are soft and then add the garlic. After one minute add the other ingredients (except the salt and pepper which you add right at the end to taste) and simmer for an hour. The sauce will be nice and thick and relatively chunky at the end but you can purée it if you are less lazy than me.

So this is why I said it was easy. For me it is a meal that doesn’t generally involve any cooking on the actual night: E loves to cook and the assembly is a task she can pretty much do alone. I supervise the rolling if we don’t want too many holes in our pizza bases but the rest is up to her. I like to promote independence in our children and even had her chopping button mushrooms from about 18 months (with her baby knife). I believe that there is no better way of learning than letting your toddler take part in everyday tasks. Of course there is a limit to how much you can bake (and actually consume) or what you can allow your child to clean without it becoming dangerous hence we do crafts too.

The great thing about pizzas is that you can put anything on them. Yesterday was fairly basic though as I had made a mushroom salad at lunch so that went on with some lardons left over from a quiche we made.  As for cheese we went classical again with Mozzarella and Parmesan.
The kids picking out which pizzas were theirs.

The kids picking out which pizzas were theirs.

They took about 20 minutes in a 220°C oven. If you can heat it from the bottom element only and preheat the baking trays this helps you to get the lift and air in the dough like in pizza-oven baked ones.
Calzone
We made two medium pizzas and one giant calzone. Please do give it a go as it really isn’t as daunting as it looks. Happy pizza making.
pizzas


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Paint by breakfast

Among other things it’s our 10 year anniversary today. Seems crazy that we have actually been together that long. We are celebrating tonight so I decided to make it special for the kids too.

When E and I went to the stationary shop to buy our craft supplies the other day we had a total explore. It always works out more expensive than planned but I love going in there as it is such a source for inspiration. This trip I found these paint palates for 2 Swiss Francs a piece so I reckoned absolute bargain!

They make great pick and mix style plates and it is fab to really be able to contrast so many different colours on one plate. We have yoghurts, fresh fruit, compote, dried fruit and cereal. I tend to buy fairly seasonally or local produce (bananas being the exception) so I can’t wait to do this again this summer with all the berries!

Breakfast Painting

What’s more it has been proven that kids prefer children are tempted by plates with more elements and colours thus encouraging them to eat more nutritionally diverse diets (Cornell, 2012) How fab is that?

I am going to be having more fun with meal times over the next few months so stay posted.

Have a lovely day.