Tag Archives: kids cooking

It’s Been Flubberized!

While intrepid jungle explorers receive all the kudos, quite frankly, I feel any parent brave enough to delve through their child’s school bag deserves a gold medal, a statue in their local park and their own TV show. This is where such lofty ideals as COURAGE, BRAVERY, PERSEVERANCE and PERSISTANCE  hit the road, and you find out whether you are mighty… or a mouse.

Rowena 1981

You’d never suspect this neat girl would have rotting yogurt or a squished banana in her bag, would you?!!

Thinking back to my own school bag, there were definitely some serious horrors in there. Indeed, there were horrors of Elm Street proportions. Undoubtedly, the worst of it had to be the burst yogurt. Don’t ask me which fool put a yogurt in their bag without a raincoat or any form of protection. No one likes a dobber. However, I still remember the stench, and fishing out wads of soggy paper caked in the stuff and trying to salvage affected exercise and text books. Of course, I didn’t clean it up very well and the smell only got worse, and no doubt even mould set in. This was pure YUCK in capital letters!! A school kid’s equivalent of a toxic spill. I don’t remember Mum cleaning it up either. That was my job…along with cleaning out the squashed banana, which was also brutally slaughtered in that very same school bag. I feel ashamed to admit it now, but I was evidently a repeat offender,  who didn’t learn from her mistakes.

Unfortunately, my daughter has followed in my footsteps. While she did a fantastic effort with a squished banana, she’s now found a whole new catastrophic realm. Her school bag has “flubberitis”.

Flubber is a type of slime. If you’re from my era, you might recall that you could buy slime in a little green plastic can. I loved this was fanastic, goopy ooze.

On the other hand, this slime is quite different. You make it yourself and it looks and smells like some deadly toxic pestilence straight out of Ghost Busters. Slime replicates very, very quickly and is currently spreading through schools and homes faster than the common cold. If you have a good look around in the playground, you’ll see its tell-tale \ smear on just about everything, just like another substance we’ll simply call> “nasal secretions”.

green slime

Flubberitis…goopy slime on the march inside my daughter’s school bag. At least, it smelled like fresh apples. 

My daughter’s been operating a slime laboratory in her room for the last six months and I haven’t been impressed to find slime stuck to her sheets, carpet, school hat, skort. Depending on the type of slime, it’s footprints vary. Not quite as bad as chewing gum, it still likes to stick around and can be a beast to get rid of. Moreover, there’s all the apparatus used to make the slime. That’s simply mess on mess on mess, even if you can appreciate that it’s “art”, “science”, “an alternative to screen time” or “better than drugs”.

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My daughter is keen to export slime to even the remotest corners of the globe…a budding entrepreneur. 

I have mixed feelings towards my daughter’s obsession with slime. On the positive, making slime is a creative and scientific venture. She not one mixes the core ingredients together, she and her friends add things to vary it’s texture and colour such as foam balls and glitter.  There are a multitude of different recipes and kinds of slime out there and it really is quite fascinating for anyone with a science bent. Moreover, many people also enjoy the sensory stimulation of playing and fidgeting with the slime. This can be a lot of fun and may also relieve stress. On the other hand, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like stuff sticking to your fingers, some slimes won’t be for you. I personally find many of the slimes feel quite icky on my skin and I don’t like touching them at all. Smell is also a problem and has caused breathing difficulties in our family. I also find the mess and the smears across just about every surface annoying. I’ve also been concerned about her sniffing all that glue, and she’s now been told to make it outside.

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Like Mother, like daughter. This was where I made potions out of wildflowers when we were living on acreage out at Galston, Sydney. This was my happy place and this has always been a much-prized photograph. 

That’s how I see the stuff. My daughter finds it mesmerizing and a real sensory indulgence, especially when she’s added things like foam balls, sparkly glitter or sand to the mix. I’ve seen her squishing it for hours, as it releases some kind of magic I struggle to understand. Yet, that doesn’t matter as long as I can show some interest and listen to her accounts of the ducks’ guts of slime.

It could be better. It could be worse.

Have you or your kids had much to do with slime? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

xx Rowena

 

Lemon Meringue Mountain

You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional.
-Mark Udall (US Politician)

You could say, that attempting to make Lemon Meringue Pie with two kids was overly ambitious and verging on insanity.It’s the sort of project, like climbing Everest, where you call for professional reinforcements and are very well prepared. You could well also consult the Great Google Guru for a few “chef’s tips” to create that perfect lemon meringue mountain. It’s not the sort of project where you bring in the rookies..despite their oozing enthusiasm and willingness to help!

There is a sacred horror about everything grand. It is easy to admire mediocrity and hills; but whatever is too lofty, a genius as well as a mountain, an assembly as well as a masterpiece, seen too near, is appalling.
-Victor Hugo

However, as a parent, if you always waited until conditions were just right and absolutely perfect, you’d never even get out the front door. I know some parents actually manage to pull off the whole perfect life routine (Pewk!) but most of us are simply bumbling along and patching up the mess as we go.

Thieving fingers!

Thieving fingers!

We even become accustomed to disasters.

Indeed, we expect it.

Yet, rather than being negative or self-defeatist, forewarned is fore-armed. Indeed, armed with all sorts of cleaning and patch-up products, we are prepared…at least, some of the time!!

More Thieving Little Fingers.

More Thieving Little Fingers.

Anyway, many years ago, I was renowned for my Lemon Meringue Pies but I’ve never made them for our family. No doubt for obvious reasons. There are many much less demanding recipes out there it is pretty challenging with plenty of pitfalls…especially trying to make it with kids either under foot or even just “trying” to help!

“Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb towards it.”
-Edmund Hillary

Lemon Meringue Pie not only looks like a snow-capped mountain peak, pulling this showy dessert off is indeed like climbing a mountain. There’s making the pastry and trying to get that perfect consistency but not only that being able to roll the stuff out and actually roll it out well and manage to tranfer it from the bench into the pie plate without it flopping off the rolling pin (no wonder the dogs were parked at my feet. They knew!!). Then, there was making the lemon filling on the stove.This could well get lumpy and the filling needs to have that lemon tang without being overly sour. I was a bit concerned that my lemons were smaller than average so added an extra one to hedge my bets. When it came to making the meringue, I had two kids assisting and a mixmaster under attack. Those little thieving fingers couldn’t keep out of all that sticky white goop…bees to a honeypot!

Why I ever considered making my Lemon Meringue Pie come back baking with the kids, I’ll never know. Actually, yes I do. It was because I wanted them to share in the memories. That  I wanted to share what felt like a very important part of me…one of my very special signature dish. I made my grandparents a Lemon Meringue Pie when my Aunty Lyn died suddenly aged 36 and for some reason, I felt that it would make a difference and somehow it did. For the rest of her life, my grandmother spoke about “that pie”. Sure, she loved the pie but in retrospect, it was the thought…the way it reflected my love for all my family who were grieving…which meant the world to her.

Only when you drink from the river
of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top,
then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
then shall you truly dance.
-Khalil Gibran

On Sunday, with my bag full of lemons still stuffed inside the over-crowded fridge, I bit the bullet. We were having Lemon Meringue Pie for dessert. The kids were both very excited. “Mummy’s making Lemon Meringue Pie”. (you can translate this “excitement” into little peoples running haphazardly around the kitchen getting underfoot and in the way!!) With it’s impressive mountain of meringue it is a striking dessert and they thought I was exceptionally clever for being able to make it. They had such faith!

However, I wasn’t quite so sure. It’s been a long time since I’d last made it and I couldn’t find my old recipe and wasn’t feel sure about anything.

A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?
-Khalil Gibran

Of course, the fact that the TV Masterchef series has just launched off again, didn’t help. The show totally raised my unrealistic expectations to all sorts of lofty heights. I was no longer Rowena making humble pie with all the distractions, interruptions and chaos of a home kitchen. No, I was indeed, a French-trained Masterchef managing my ingredients and meticulously moving towards perfection: Bon Appetit.

Well, as they say practice makes perfect.

Practice and more practice.

Indeed, something like 10,000 hours of practice.

That’s a lot of Lemon Meringue Pies.

Miss added that extra special touch swirling around the lemon butter filling. Quite the professional in the making!

Miss added that extra special touch swirling around the lemon butter filling. Quite the professional in the making!

Anyway, after doing battle with the kids, the mixmaster and myself, I have expanded upon my “Kitchen Rules & Principles”

1) Check ingredients before getting started. This wasn’t such a problem this time but Geoff has had to go on mercy dashes to the supermarket for missing\, essentiasl igredients in the not-so-distant past.

2) Chefs have this great term “mise en place”, which basically means having everything set up before you get started.

3) Ingredients only in the mixmaster. Fingers, spoons, spatulas or any other kind of implement are banned from the bowl and mixture while the beaters are moving.

4) The pastry and meringue are not play doh. They do not like being touched and overworked.

5) Keep your thieving fingers off the meringue. This applies to both cooked and uncooked meringue.

Anyway, Miss had great delight piling the meringue up on top of the pie and calling it Mt Kosciusko, which is Australia’s tallest “mountain”. To be honest, there was a  bit too much delight and she would’ve been playing with the meringue for hours if I hadn’t stepped in.In case you weren’t aware, meringue doesn’t like a lot of handling.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
-Edmund Hillary

Miss applying the snowy mountain.

Miss applying the snowy mountain.

I was pretty pleased with the end result but am going to have a few more practice attempts and fiddle with the recipe a bit before I post it. After all, there is nothing humble about the gracious Lemon Meringue Pie.

Miss building her meringue mountain.

Miss building her meringue mountain.

That is until little fingers start pinching bits of the meringue and the snow appears to be melting only in this instance, it’s patches of yellow which are peering through the gaps instead of green.

Decapitated...the mixmaster was looking terminal until Geoff wove his magic.

Decapitated…the mixmaster was looking terminal until Geoff wove his magic.

By the way, I almost forgot to mention that we had a near fatality during the baking process. Probably on account of my poor instructions, Mister pressed the wrong lever and the mixmaster came off its base and then the clip came off and fell inside the stand and later proved to have snapped. We hate needless waste and at the thought of having to throw a good mixmaster away because some clip broke, was unacceptable. Geoff took on yet another engineering “Mr Fix-It” Challenge. He disappeared off into the garage and returned with a clip he’d manipulated out of chunk of a metal hard disk. You can knock people for “keeping” all sort of bits and pieces for a rainy day but when they achieve a miracle like this, I can’t but be impressed.

Any memories or reflections? Would love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

Day 2- Atlantic Salmon and Salad

Tuesday 14th January, 2014

Atlantic Salmon with Salad

Whoever mentioned the health benefits of omega 3 forgot to disclose the price tag…$26.00 for three somewhat modest fillets to feed our family of four. For that sort of money, I’d be wanting the whole fish and its mate included. I was mighty thankful, therefore, that our kids only peck at their food like sparrows and aren’t ravenous teenagers yet. Otherwise, we’d be taking out a second mortgage (Geoff said we still might have to stick our cap out on the street after my visit to the op shop. My claims that I was actually “saving money” fell on deaf ears!!)

Although I flinched at the cost and almost went into cardiac arrest, I re-directed and focused on how this miracle fish bursting with omega 3 was going to save my life. After all, I am on chemo and I have a nasty auto-immune disease which has flared up. I need to be very, very healthy indeed. Health is my new mantra. This fish was literally what the doctor ordered.

As the salmon only needed a very quick pan fry, we started off by making the salad.

Here’s a rough recipe:

Snow Pea Salad

Approximately 2 handfuls of snow peas strung and sliced into thirds

Diced sweet potato roasted

Cherry tomatoes sliced in half

Grated carrot

Grated cheese

Small cubes of Wasabi cheese 5mm wide.

I started Mister off on grating the carrot. Grating always seems simple enough to me and yet the kids struggle with it. It was yet another instance where I came to realize how much the kids still have to learn and the importance of patience and a supportive, guiding hand on my part. Of course, Mister complained about grating his fingers and I repeatedly had to show him how I held the carrot with my fingers up the top with the top of the carrot pressing against the palm of my hand. Then I noticed the grater sliding around the chopping board in his left hand and reminded him to hold it down so it wouldn’t slip around. More than once Mister said he couldn’t do it but I showed once again and he had another go…persistence! He was all smiles and his growing confidence shone like the sun.

Next we moved onto the snow peas. Last night it was Miss’s turn and tonight Mister was having his lesson with the snow peas. Once again, I had to explain how to find the string. This can get a bit tricky and even I can’t find the string on every snow pea. I’ve never really looked so closely at a snow pea before to work out where all the bits are. Anyway, the string is on the side which has the peas in it, not the flat side.

Then slice the snow peas into thirds. I recommended cutting about 4 snow peas together at a time to speed things up. Mister was looking to cut up one snow pea at a time into fairly small pieces.

Miss had it fairly easy slicing the cherry tomatoes in half.

Couldn’t buy a ripe avocado for our salad tonight. Apparently, the avocado I bought will be ready for Friday.

The advantage of this salad is that if there are bits which the kids don’t like, you can do an adult version after you have dished up for the kids. We added small squares of Wasabi cheese and diced roasted sweet potato to ours. When I am organized, I try to keep roasted sweet potato and pumpkin in our fridge. It keeps for a few days and you can add it to so many meals. To roast it up, I simply spray the tray with oil or use olive oil add some crushed garlic and toss the pieces around in the oil and bake at 200°C. Easy peasy!

This salad would also be great with some roasted macadamia nuts and some olives.

Atlantic Salmon

I cooked Atlantic Salmon for the first time last week. It was a bit of a daunting process. You could say that fish was fish. Mum just coats both sides in flour and then cooks it up in a hot pan with butter. However, Atlantic Salmon seemed a bit special and so I wasn’t sure quite how to cook it. Mum was busy cooking dinner for the kids at the time and so I resorted to Google instead. That recommended a very quick 5 minute fry on each side and it was cooked to perfection.

Last week when I was on my own, I had ordered the somewhat cheaper steaks and the bones were a hassle. This week, however, I ordered the bone-free fillets to keep Geoff and the kids happy. These fillets were quite thick and a challenge to cook. Geoff likes everything cooked to well done and raw patches wouldn’t go down well at all with him although I didn’t want to destroy it either. Salmon does seem a little delicate.

Each of the children rolled their piece of fish in flour and dropped it in the pan. I cooked it on the hotplate in my Dad’s grilling frying pan with plenty of butter. Cooked skin side down first. Cooked each side and turned down the heat to cook it through. It was perfect. Served it with fresh lemon juice. Miss added tartare sauce which was a bit disrespectful. Even Geoff said he liked it and he’s not much of a fish eater so that was quite encouraging.

Somewhere around dinner time, the sun started to set across the bay and I couldn’t help reaching for the camera to capture the golden sun setting behind the gum trees. It is also around sunset that the local cockatoo population goes crazy and starts doing kamikaze laps overhead squawking and screeching in a dreadful chorus.

So it seems that we have now passed the fish test. Tomorrow night, we will be cooking pizza from scratch and from scratch I mean using dried yeast and watching the dough rise the old-fashioned way in a sink filled with warm water instead of using the bread maker. I thought the kids would enjoy watching the dough rise. I’ve always loved it. Another moment to share with the kids although I have to be honest that writing up about our cooking project is taking up a lot of time that I should actually be spending with the kids.

We will also be baking an Apple Pie.

I’ll looking forward to our next culinary adventure.

Xx Rowena