Midi’s Favourite Cubs Badge

I think I’ve written thousands of words about Midi Minx and her love of cooking and baking (and my love of troughing her creations). Ha, my Instagram page features more of her baking than my own! Recently, she’d been grizzling about Maxi’s speedier accumulation of Cub Scout badges than her own. I can see why: when she’s in Cubs uniform, Maxi looks like she fell out of a cornflakes packet… I explained to Midi that she’d need to be patient and earn her badges slowly, as she learned new knowledge and skills. No, she wants more badges NOW. She asked whether she could get any badges for existing skills. For instance, was there perhaps a baking badge..? Crafty minx! I explained that she wouldn’t get badges just for turning up and that all work for badges has to be equally taxing for everyone. I had a chat with her Akela, who was game for her to work on the badge at home. After a quick check that Midi planned to make something that would be appropriately difficult for her current skillset, she was off!

We checked the requirements of the Cubs Chef Activity badge and any available resources – no point reinventing the wheel, eh? The online pack certainly contains lots of activities (pretty handy, as it appears I’ve now merrily volunteered myself to help other Cubs get their Chefs badge!). Like her sisters, Midi’s been drilled in food hygiene and safety since she was tiny, so we just quickly looked at the relevant exercises in the activity pack and discussed them so that I was certain she’d sufficient knowledge of the areas covered. We didn’t do the food techniques game, as I felt that was a bit too easy for her. Instead I grilled her (badoom-tish!!) on which cooking techniques she’d choose to best cook different foods that I listed.

When it came to planning the menu, I know that the Eatwell Plate listed in the pack was updated and replaced in March 2016 by the Eatwell Guide, so I used that instead as a basis of discussing the food choices with Midi. We talked about food groups and proportions, and because this was already old hat to her, I added the challenge of also varying the flavours, textures and colours of the food. She’s only 8, so I didn’t enforce The Boss’s suggestion of also only choosing seasonal or local produce (!) Maybe next time…

I ended up cutting her a fair bit of slack when it came to actually cooking things up and changing the menu: the preparation took far, far longer than expected, and she desperately squeezed in a quick bike ride with her Dad in the middle of the cooking before it got dark. As a result, there were fewer fruits and 1 less vegetable than she’d originally planned. I helped her change her plan for a seasonal fruit salad into a quick yogurt, honey and nut side-dish with just the one fruit to go with the biscotti. And the swede mash didn’t happen at all because her chopping skills aren’t yet safe enough to slice the thick skin off the swede (and not her hand) competently. Maybe if we’d had (much, much) more time

So what was her Showstopper Menu for 5, then? Midi chose to make a vegetable and lentil soup for a first course to show that she can prepare vegetables, follow a recipe and safely use a liquidiser; she decided on cottage pie and mixed greens for main as they’re quite easy to cook, used different cooking techniques, and are a standard winter dinner in our household; for dessert she made some super-crunchy hazelnut, chocolate and lemon biscotti, with Greek yogurt, honey, nuts and pomelo segments alongside, just because they’re her favourites. They all tasted fantastic, but the best bit for me? She had to serve, clear up and wash everything up afterwards. What a treat for the rest of us!

I’ve written this post partly because I’m desperately proud of her emerging cooking skills and am constantly encouraging her independence, and also so I can send a link to her Akela as proof of what she produced. The photos got fewer as she needed closer supervision / time was running out! I’ve added 2 of the recipes she used (weeeeell, one recipe and one set of directions), so I hope you give them a try, too.

Vegetable and Lentil Soup For 10

Ingredients

  • tasty-lentil-soup

    The finished soup. No garnish needed

    tablespoon of olive oil

  • 2 small / 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • crushed clove or 2 of garlic
  • teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 175g lentils (we used a mix of red and white because it was all we had)
  • 2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • scant tablespoon of tomato puree
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • bay leaf

Method

  1. Serving up - a new skill

    Serving up – a new skill for Midi

    Heat the oil in a saucepan. Fry the onion over a medium heat for about 10 mins till it’s soft and transparent.

  2. Add the carrots and celery, and sweat for a few more minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and ground spices. Stir for a minute.
  4. Add the lentils, stock, tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, a bit of seasoning, bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 30 mins till the veg is soft.
  5. Cool slightly, then liquidise. Check for seasoning. Serve. We stored half in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch!

Cottage Pie and Mixed Greens

Ingredients

  • cottage-pie-dinnertablespoon of oil
  • 1 large / 2 small onions, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 750g beef mince
  • pint of beef stock
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • about 500g potatoes
  • large knob of butter
  • about 500g brussels sprouts
  • about 300g frozen peas

Method

  1. Peel the potatoes, chop into even chunks. Place in cold, salted water, bring to the boil, simmer for 20 mins or until soft enough to mash.
  2. While the tatties are coming to the boil, put the oven on to heat to 210degC / gas 7.
  3. While the tatties are simmering, heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion till soft, then sweat the carrots. Tip onto a bowl.
  4. First attempt at serving dinner in fair portions to 5 hungry people

    First attempt at serving dinner in fair portions to 5 hungry people. And aye, although she’s tall she still needs a step to use the cooker safely

    Turn the saucepan heat to high. Fry the beef mince till browned. Add the vegetables, stock, Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer gently while you’re getting on with the tatties.

  5. Drain the potatoes when they’re ready. Mash roughly with a large knob of butter and a little pepper.
  6. Put the mince in a deep ovenproof dish. Put the mashed potato through a potato ricer and squeeze it in noodles over the mince. Place in the hot oven for 15 – 20 mins until the potato has browned and gone crunchy.
  7. While the cottage pie is in the oven, cook your brussels sprouts (trim the tails, cut in half, pop in a little saucepan. Cover with boiling water, bring back to boil and simmer for 5 mins. Drain, serve with a small knob of butter swirled over them.
  8. While you’re serving the cottage pie and brussels sprouts onto plates, cook the frozen peas in the microwave according to the package instructions.

Hazelnut, Chocolate and Lemon Biscotti

I promise to add more details for this when I check what amendments Midi and The Boss made to the original Paul Hollywood recipe. I can’t reproduce his recipe because it’ll be copyrighted, but I’ll at least link to it.

The Finale… tidying up!

And she’s still smiling. Will she willingly tidy up from now on? (Don’t be silly – you can’t get a badge for that!)

 

The Untold Tale

The Untold Tale

… behind a photograph.

Rainy day baking. 7 yo Midi made these buns all by herself #homemade #baking #currantbuns #clevergirl #delicious

A post shared by Grumpy Old Trout (@grumpyoldtrout) on

I posted this snapshot of Midi on my Instagram feed this afternoon, and attached the usual proud mum strapline:

Rainy day baking. 7 yo Midi made these buns all by herself #homemade #baking #currantbuns #clevergirl #delicious

So far so nauseatingly cute, yes? Well, you know me and the minxes very well by now, and you’re not taken in at all – you know fine that there’s a background, unspoken story:

The kids have been driving each other up the wall all day. All. Day. Long. I’m a bit short on tolerance because I’ve had maybe 4 hours sleep, one of those completely unbroken (go me!) thanks to a tickly cough I picked up from Germ Vector 2, who’s been kissing boys again. Boys with coughs. So now the whole family is hacking away at night. Hey, I have no dignity, here’s how bad it is: I’m drinking hot liquid all day long to quell the tickle, so have to pee constantly because if I cough more than 10 times in any one long hacking bout, even if I have a totally empty bladder, then I end up with wet pants; my head throbs from my little brain rattling against my skull all day and all night; my stomach hurts (ripped a muscle again – I can see it doming when I cough); my chest hurts; my throat feels raw; I croak; I can’t breathe deeply or talk or laugh or else I cough. And then I can’t breathe at all. Joy…

So. I’m really not in the mood for any nonsense, or much of anything at all. They won’t watch tv or DVDs without bickering over the channel or the volume. They won’t read their enormous stack of library books. They won’t play together, whether nicely or not. All they want to do is scatter Lego over every square inch of carpet or floor, and torment each other in a competition to see who can make Maxi howl or Mini screech the loudest.

I tried distracting them with a bit of compost, some seeds and baby spider plants that need potted. But that involved going out to the garage for 28 seconds. After about 23 seconds, Mini raced out the house screaming about Maxi, Maxi was trying to drown her out with her own complaints, and Midi was just chanting something incoherent, just for the sheer hell of it.

Eventually I needed cake. Either that, or my bleeding ears were going to make me abandon them to a feral life of eating cat kibble from Killer Cat’s bowl and making a living selling popping candy and sherbet dip-dabs. I had a cunning plan: Midi loves baking. I think it’s because she gets to use sharp knives. That child will choose the huge meat cleaver to delicately slice off a bit of butter to mix with sugar. Anyway, I dragged her (literally) off her elder sister to come and ‘bake with Mummy’. Silence reigned briefly until Mini and Maxi happily agreed on some music for the CD player (Justin Bieber. Dear God, have my ears not suffered enough?!). It didn’t take much persuading for Midi to merrily take over the baking – The Glasgow Cookery Book’s coffee buns, so-called because you eat them with coffee, not because there’s any coffee in them – and give me time to actually have a coffee while she made them entirely herself.

There was a 10 minute period of total silence while the girls troughed the buns, then it was back to the shrieking and whooping onslaught. Last time I checked on them they were jumping off tables and setting up rope ladders in the pitch dark, screaming about air ambulances rescuing injured rich skiers in a power cut. Surrounded by aliens.

With imaginations like theirs, I think tomorrow will have to be spent outdoors, bad cough or not. I’ll just have to break out the massive night-time maternity pads I found the other day. Meh. Pass the linctus

Shortbread and Dresses

The kids are on fine comedy form at the moment.

*************************************************************************************************

The other day I picked up Mini Minx from nursery. She came barreling out waving 2 round pieces of paper. “Ohhh”, I cooed, “You’ve been drawing! What are they?”

“That’s your face, Mummy. See? This time I drew you with a smiley mouth”, Mini explained.

“Riiiiiiight”, I said, remembering Wooden Spoon-gate.

“And that one is your big, fat tummy!” she beamed.

“Oh”, I said wittily, to a playground of sniggers. “That’s lovely!”

************************************************************************************************

Today I was trying to persuade Mini to wear one of the dresses I made for her.

“But it fits you, and it’s pretty, and it’s ironed, and it’s clean. All those other dresses you want need ironed. I’m too tired. Don’t you like it?”

“Yes, I DO love the dress you sewed me, Mummy; I only hate it a tiny, little bit”, she reassured me.

*************************************************************************************************

Right, enough of the humour; back to moaning. Midi has been pressing my buttons All.Day.Long. I think today was a backlash from her broken sleep the night before last. She sneaked into my bed and kicked and shoved and smothered me all night. In the morning, she didn’t even attempt to pretend she’d had a nightmare. When she said she’d just fancied a Mummy-Cuddle because she was cold, I explained (again) that if I didn’t get more sleep that I’d die. She just shrugged.

So this morning she lay about on the living room carpet, refusing to put on any socks, and rejecting any I shoved on her big duck-feet. “They’re Maxi’s!!” she wailed: “Ewwwwww!!” Which is a cheek, because *she’s* the one who’s just had 2 verrucas finally fall off.

She refused to eat breakfast. She dawdled to school. She refused to kiss Mini goodbye.

At lunchtime, she decided to run into the wall in the hall, big heavy shoe first, bringing down all 4 canvasses and bending the hanging frames at the back, and leaving a dent and a big scuff-print. Her rationale for the damage was “I was bored”.

Give me strength!!

She fell asleep quickly tonight, so with luck she’ll wake up her happy self tomorrow and be at less risk of being strangled. And she suddenly has a new back tooth, as well as an extra front lower incisor. Shark Mouth. I remember she was a terribly grizzly teether as a baby, so perhaps all these things are related?

Talking of dresses, Mini’s Challenge to me of not wearing jeans for a month is going well. I unearthed all my “Big Girl” clothes now that I’m a couple of dress sizes fluffier (ahem…) than this time last year. Last time most of them were worn was after Maxi was born (yep, 8 years ago) and some of the big swooshy dresses haven’t seen the light of day for 20 years. Today I waddled on the 4 school runs in a swishy 50s style circle skirted effort with a ruched top that Mini calls my Bra-Dress. It looks like a bridesmaid’s dress. I don’t give 2 hoots 🙂

At nursery Mini made shortbread with one of the other wee girls for their morning snack. I think the kids do baking once a week, and everyone takes turns to help bake. Mini explained how to make it:

“You need this much buttuh”, she said, holding her arms very wide apart. “And you need to mix, mix, mix in soogah. Not too much”.

“How much?” I asked, taking notes.

“Just not too much. And then you need to squeeeeeeeeeeze in de flowah. Lots n lots. An then you roll it an cut out starfish, an bake an bake an bake. In de oven. Then you eat it aaaaall up. It’s very yummy”, she monologued.

Quarter of a 500g tub of Total Greek yogurt (full fat - none of this namby-pamby low fat nonsense); sliced strawberries; hazelnuts; pumpkin seeds; drizzle of maple syrup. Hoover up.

Quarter of a 500g tub of Total Greek yogurt (full fat – none of this namby-pamby low fat nonsense); sliced strawberries; hazelnuts; pumpkin seeds; drizzle of maple syrup. Hoover up.

So what’s a greedy Mummy to do? We made our own. God, it was delicious! I meant to take a photo of it, but I scoffed all the leftovers. Oops. Never mind, I’ll leave you with a photo of yesterday’s healthy breakfast instead. And the recipe for the shortbread: cream 100g butter with 50g caster sugar. Combine with 200g flour by hand. Roll. Stamp out. Prick with fork. Bake at 170degC for 30 mins.

One last thing:

The Boss got Honduras in the office World Cup sweepstakes. “Are they any good?” he asked nervously. (No, dear).

‘Rest’ Day

Good Friday, Day 7 of the Easter Holidays

Current ban on glue? No problem for Maxi - use a whole roll of sellotape instead

What a yucky day! Unrelenting rain. But because we were all a bit frazzled, we decided to have a stay-at-home-day today. Well, except for me and Mini Minx who zoomed off right after breakfast with a long shopping list and 5 shops to visit. And every bin in the high street. Have I told you that Mini is obsessed with wheelie bins and skips..? Again, she refused to go in the sling or even hold my hand. “I walk!” she insisted. “Woe do!”

Mid-film, mid-munch

When we got back, Maxi and Midi had transformed the downstairs. I think the idea of having a home cinema day to watch their new DVDs had caught their imagination. They’d lined every stuffed toy in the house into row upon row of ‘audience’. A huge number 8 outside the living room door gave me a clue which cinema was showing Toy Story that afternoon. hot cross bunsMidi had made a big decorated hand to go beside it, but we’ve still no idea why. Both girls happily ripped up paper into confetti-sized tickets for all their toys, and The Boss had taught them how to make paper bags for their popcorn. Maxi also had time to make a random spring-time collage (photo top left).

The latest knitted horrors that I'm going to inflict on Mini Minx

As soon as Mini went down for her nap, the curtains were drawn, DVD on, bags of popcorn readied, and everyone settled down for a lazy afternoon.

After the film / nap, we all belatedly made hot cross buns – I did the dough and The Boss and minxes did the rest while I finished a Fairisle cardigan that’s been on the go for weeks. The buns tasted good, but by golly they were tough!

The Cutlery Prodigy

Just walked back up the hill on the 2nd school run of the day with Mini in the sling. I love carrying her on the front because we can gaze into each others’ eyes, kiss and chat about stuff that 22 month olds find interesting. Like birdies in the sky (“Buddees ina kye!”) and who she and her sisters are (“Pop-pop! Lalla! Woe!”).

This time of year always makes me reflect on how fast the minxes are growing up. Midi will be 4 in a few weeks, Mini’s nearly 2. I manage to stay in denial most of the year, but at the moment I’ve been confronted with some big advances.

Small examples first. I think I already mentioned that Mini spontaneously learned to say ‘blue’ when I dyed my hair 3 weeks ago. She can now repeat colours and sometimes gets a few right when you ask. She’s pretty excited about facing forward in her car seat now that she’s finally reached the max weight limit for rear-facing of 13kg. Within a day she was clambering deftly up and down (apart from the 5 days that the stupid car was stuck in the stupid garage, but that’s another rant entirely). She’s started biting in anger, albeit gently. (That’s one developmental stage that she will be ushered swiftly out of, believe you me!).

Bigger examples. The week before last I was teasing Mini and gave her a big handful of cutlery and told her to lay the table for dinner. She industriously shuffled to the table, swung the double-handful over her head and onto the table. I half-watched her pick up a piece, say, “Dada” and bustle off round the table to where The Boss usually sits. Then she raced back, grabbed another piece, said, “Pop-pop”, and trotted to Maxi Minx’s chair. Anyway, eventually she came over for a cuddle. As I swung her on my hip, I saw that she’d actually laid the table. OK, everyone’s knife, fork and spoon were plopped together, but to be fair Mini’s head barely reaches the tabletop. But the remarkable thing was that everyone had the right cutlery – the 3 minxes all have their own small metal sets that are subtly different from the other sets. Believing this to be a fluke (how can a one-year-old spot which cutlery her sisters use, for goodness’ sake?) I gave Mini the task of laying the table every night. She does. And she always gets it right. Frankly, I’m amazed.

Not to be outdone, Maxi Minx at 5 is flourishing in school. I caught her reading her books inwardly to herself. I thought she was just looking at the pictures, but no, it was the words. She’s also reading Harry Potter to herself. I’m not sure that’s what her teachers would say was age-appropriate, though…

child baking licking the bowl

Always the best bit of baking, no matter how old you are

Maxi and Midi are making an apple crumble by themselves on at least one night a week. All I do is peel the apples, though I’m sure Maxi could cope with that, now. Is it time to coax Mini away from munching the butter and flour, and get her to learn to stir in sugar and spices properly, so all 3 can make it entirely by themselves?

And I’ve been quizzing Midi what she’d like for her birthday: another dolly? Paint? Chalks? Toys? No. She wants a white camera, a blue headress so she can be Mary, another white headress so her favourite dolly can be Jesus, and a real boy. Crikey, Pinocchio meets The Nativity in the head of a 3 year old…