This year Uncle Ben’s pioneered the first ever Cook With Your Kids Day as part of their Ben’s Beginners initiative. The idea behind Ben’s Beginners and Cook With Your Kids Day, which is on October 15th, is that we’re a bit rubbish when it comes to teaching our kids the basics of food preparation. Okay, so ‘a bit rubbish’ is maybe a little harsh, but you know what I mean. We get so focussed on academic teaching – SATS and spellings and reading levels – that we loose sight of key skills like cooking.

I’ve always been pretty good at cooking with my own kids when it comes to baking, but that’s really just because I want them to be able to cook me treats. I’m a bit less on the ball when it comes to actual meals.

(To be honest, I’ve never been good at actual meals generally. I hate food shopping, and will normally leave Sainsbury’s with a collection of random items like ice cream cones and radishes rather than useful ingredients for things.)

It wasn’t long ago for example that I had a text message from Bee in London. Bee is an expert baker, but clearly I’ve not taught her so well on the savoury front.

‘How do you make stir-fry?’ her text read.

I wasn’t sure how to answer that.

‘Well, the clue is sort of in the name…’

This week though Belle and I made chicken curry. With actual spices! And vegetables! Fancy. 

easy chicken curry recipe View Post

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A funny and unusual thing happened this morning. I accidentally sent Belle to her school cake sale with a batch of home made jam tarts. 

I know, I know, it’s about the least slummy thing I have ever done, but in my defence, I didn’t mean to.

Let me set the scene.

I’ve not been feeling very well this week. Belle has been a bit poorly too, so was off school on Wednesday, and yesterday I was feeling particularly rough, in that self-absorbed, ‘I’m so ill’ sort of way. I went to Sainsbury’s in the morning and a friend from book group had to literally stand in front of me and shout boo, and it still took about two seconds for the world to swim into focus from behind the fog of self-pity.

Anyway, you know how sometimes when you’re feeling a bit yukky, so just want something nice to comfort you? I decided that the something nice I wanted was jam. Fiance actually made some jam a couple of months ago, but I felt a bit bad just eating jam out of the jar with a spoon, so I decided to make jam tarts.

Let’s face it, what exactly is a jam tart if not just a socially acceptable way to eat big blobs of jam? Plus you don’t even have a spoon to wash up at the end. 

So I made some.

The pastry was a bit iffy, and I had a few problems when it came to making the cases. I only had a small cutter or a large cutter, when clearly what I needed was a medium cutter. I did my best though. I cut out 12 small circles, an then individually rolled each one out a bit more to make it bigger. I pictured myself on the Bake Off. Paul’s eyebrows were raised.

jam tarts

(This is a stock image, but fairly representative of the scene, although I was probably a little more generous with the jam. I didn’t want you to think though that I went about life doing ordinary things like feeling a bit crap and making jam tarts, pausing every few minutes to style a photo, just in case.) View Post

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I’ve been getting a little concerned of late about our diet.

I don’t know why I say ‘of late’ – we’ve never been one of those ‘no cereals in the house, only natural yogurt for breakfast’ type of families. Lately though, and especially since the the other morning when I came downstairs to find out Belle had eaten bacon crisps for breakfast, I’ve had the feeling that I need to take some action.

I was heartened the other week when we made the rice and black bean tacos, and I discovered in the process that Belle actually liked black beans. Actively quite liked them, not just eating them because I’d promised her a chocolate button at the end if she did. Spurred on, I decided that I would take an hour after school and teach her how to make a proper lasagne. They have cooked lasagne at school before, but to be quite honest, it wasn’t a patch on mine. Plus the school recipe went something like this:

  • Beef
  • Onions (optional)
  • Carrots (optional)

That’s hardly encouraging healthy eating is it?! View Post

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Word up yo!

(That’s me being down with the kids to prove that I’m not a grandparent yet.)

I’ve got a little story to tell you about chips, but first…

This Sunday is Grandparents’ Day, and environmental charity Hubbub and Unilever are seizing the opportunity to highlight the importance of cooking with grandparents as a way to spend time together, pass on valuable skills and reduce food waste. They’ve set up an online resource to help you #CookSomethingGrand, offering tips and a whole load of great recipes.

To demonstrate the issue, Hubbub and Unilever conducted a survey of 1,000 UK parents. The results showed that eight out of 10 parents wish they had more time to teach their children to cook and over half expressed a concern that their children won’t have the skills needed to cook a meal for themselves when they grow up. Cooking skills are essential if we want to use up leftovers, maximise the value from our food and tackle the 7 million tonnes of food wasted in the UK each year.

Just to frighten you, by the age of 11:
– 44% of children have never boiled an egg
– 28% have never peeled a potato
– 28% have never mashed potatoes
– 23% have never chopped vegetables with a knife

68% of parents also said they’d like their children to spend more time cooking with their grandparents, hence the link to Grandparents’ Day. Take a look at the video that Hubbub and Unilever have put together if you need a bit of inspiration.

 

My story about chips

I have very fond memories of cooking with my Gran. We didn’t make cakes though, or scones, or anything traditionally grandparenty like that. The only things I ever remember making with my Gran were crinkle cut chips.

My Gran made an awful lot of crinkle cut chips.

crinkle cut chips Grandparents' Day View Post

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I came downstairs on Monday morning, while Belle was getting dressed for school, to the usual collection of breakfast debris. For some reason, she seems to be under the impression that she lives in a cafe, and so every morning is a dilemma – do I ask her to tidy up after herself, and face her teenage wrath, or just do it myself and live in peace?

On Monday morning though, I didn’t come down to the usual sticky peanut butter knife or empty cereal bowl. On Monday I came downstairs to find an empty packet of bacon and tomato ketchup flavour crisps on the sofa. 

teenage fussy eater

I was feeling brave, so I decided to confront her.

“You know it’s not okay to eat crisps for breakfast don’t you?” I said, ducking down behind the table. (Metaphorically.)

“But they were bacon flavour,” she said.

?

“So it counts as breakfast,” she clarified.

Ah right. Well that’s fine then. 

Now the issue I have is that I’m actually quite fond of Belle, and don’t want her to get rickets or any other weird vitamin deficiency, but once a child gets to 14, how exactly are you meant to make them do things? This applies generally to be honest, but with food in particular, how are you actually, physically, meant to get them to eat sensible things?! I’d hoped that as she got older, she’d grow out of her fussy eating habits, and be happy to at least be in the same room as a courgette, but if anything it’s getting worse. She used to tolerate peas for instance, but even they have seemed to have slipped on to her ‘don’t make me eat that or I’ll gag’ list.

So how do you do it?

I provide her with a range of tasty options and I encourage her to try new things. I don’t especially want to never have treats in the house, (I like treats), but even if I did resort to that, at 14 she is quite capable of just stopping at the shop on her way home and buying her own crisps. Where has my authority gone?

(More to the point, was it ever there in the first place?)

I just want to be a good parent, or at least the sort that you don’t feel the need to report to anyone, but apart from holding Belle down and stuffing her cheeks with kale, how do I make her eat good things?

Photo – Only Fabrizio/shutterstock

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