Little kitchen helpers: homemade ice cream

My boys love ice cream and with the warmer weather well on it’s way we will probably be eating it pretty frequently. While I have absolutely no objections to buying some every so often, I do try to avoid sugar and additive stuffed varieties being the boys staple summer food. Especially with eczema being an issue for both of them. So here’s a gorgeous, simple homemade treat that has no additives or extra sugar and on top of that is packed full of real fruit.

Ingredients:
Should fill a 6-part ice lolly mould but may vary a bit depending on the size of mould you are using.

100mls milk

1 large banana

1 handful of strawberries and/or blueberries

Or

Other fruit of your choice – seedless berries are great because they tend to be soft and sweet, but others will work too depending on your taste.

You can also use frozen fruit if you prefer.

Method:

Put all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Pour mixture into an ice lolly mould.

Freeze until solid.

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Little kitchen helpers: sweet potato chips

20180315_161723123109703.jpgI love homemade snacks (when I have time/energy to make them) because I know exactly what’s in them. Sweet potato chips are currently a particular favourite for me because of being on a pretty restrictive migraine elimination diet.

All you need are: sweet potatoes.

Give them a scrub (or peel them). My kids like helping with this bit.

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Slice them thin.

Lay them individually on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Make sure they aren’t overlapping. Mine always need a bit of rearranging after my helpers have finished.

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You can add any other optional ingredients now: a spray of olive oil, a bit of salt and black pepper, herbs like thyme or rosemary are all good options.

Put them in a preheated oven at around 190 degrees Celsius for about 40 minutes. Turn once during baking and keep in mind that the time might vary depending on your oven and how thin you sliced the potatoes. They should come out lightly browned.

Leave out to cool and harden.

We’ve also tried this with Irish potatoes which worked well; carrots, which came out too crisped without olive oil and not at all crispy but very yummy with oil – I think maybe I’m just missing the balance so far; and bananas which have failed miserably no matter what I do!

Little kitchen helpers: peeling and chopping practice

Both my boys love chopping food up (…and generally being destructive…) What they, or Z├Ęph at least, produces is always filled with love and pride at contributing to the family. But hard foods are difficult to chop and can be dangerous for little fingers which might slip. And little fingers also produce highly irregular chopped goods – which is sometimes fine and sometimes makes cooking awkward. So my kids both get to do chopping practice.

This is a food prep activity which they find lots of fun, can contribute towards family meals or snacks and gets them working in their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

For Elly, at 20 months I choose very soft foods such as banana and boiled eggs – this can make a mess. I recommend removing he yolk and just giving the white part to avoid the worst of this – and he loves getting stuck in with his knife. And eating bits on the way.

At 4 Zeph still has fun with this and I can challenge him to try to cut regular sized circles, semi-circles or chunks. He also gets opportunities to do slightly harder chopping tasks: courgette, grape tomatoes, cucumber etc. as well as pre-sliced hard vegetables such as carrot and potato.

Zeph also gets to peel vegetables, though Elly does not. The first time, a few months ago now, he tried a carrot and got very upset that he couldn’t do it. But he has since, at his own request, tried again. And again. And again. And now he does a fairly good job minus the bits closest to the ends. Potatoes are harder – his first try he scrapped off one little patch of peel before getting frustrated and wandering off, but more recent attempts he’s managed more.

Little kitchen helpers: salad (tomato, cucumber and bell pepper)

My kids made salad tonight, mostly leaving me just to supervise. I did wash the foods before giving them to the boys, although I could, and probably should, have let them do it themselves: they both like taking things out of the fridge and they both love playing with water; moreover, it’s good practice and learning for them. But… I… was kinda tired and just didn’t think about it this time until it was too late. So the kids got given their salad ready to cut.

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Zeph has been using sharp knives for at least a year now, and started cutting things around 16 months with a blunt dinner knife. He has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing, but we always start with a little chat about knife safety (holding the handle firmly, always pointing the blade down and away from you, always cutting on a board and never into your hand, never waving it around, putting it down carefully when you are not using it, keeping your fingers away from the blade when cutting) and I always supervise carefully.

Elly has also been trying to cut with a blunt knife for three or four months now. He’s adept at slicing banana, but these foods are harder so he preferred to pull the bell pepper apart with his fingers. He also wanted to take a turn with a sharp knife, so we held it together to cut a few pieces.

We took some time to identify the seeds inside each food and to compare their size and whether or not we eat them. And after cutting, tipping and mixing, the boys ended up with this:

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Zeph didn’t say it in so many words, but I got the feeling he was really proud to have made salad for dinner virtually by himself. He was very enthusiastic about serving it to Daddy and I with salad dressing, and making sure that we enjoyed it all!