Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Making a baker

April 30, 2012

Pearl made her first chocolate cake last week.  She has helped me bake before, but not made one “herself”.  She wanted to take a cake to share with her class.

She did very well, with minimal help from me.  It does help that our standard go-to chocolate cake recipe is exceptionally easy and almost no-fail.  Her classmates really liked it, and her teacher was very impressed.

Keen to capitalise on this, I suggested she make another one this evening for her Dad’s birthday tomorrow.  Fainjin and Babess pulled a chair over to the bench to watch, just as they do when I’m baking.  Once again, she did a great job.

Next I’ll have to teach her how to make buttercream icing.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

It’s all in the marketing

January 18, 2012

The Dad: “Babess, would you like to try some of this yummy pide that Mummy made?”

Babess: “Naaaaah.”

The Dad: “Um, how about some special pizza?”

Babess (excitedly): “Yeah!”

And that is how Babess came to eat pide (Turkish pizza) for dinner.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

Plum birthday cake

January 14, 2012

We have had a terrible wind storm the past couple of days, and it was a relief to wake up to relative calm this morning.

The children played outside, The Dad hung some washing out, and I gave our poor old tomato plants some TLC – they had all been blown over at least once each during the storm, and were looking battered and dried-out, so I watered and fed them and trimmed off any damaged branches and dead leaves.

As I was disposing of the trimmings, I came across a “birthday cake” Babess had made.  She had gathered a dozen or so windfall plums, and piled dandelions, buttercups and daisies on top.  Yes, our lawn desperately needs mowing, but at least she has plenty of flowers for decorating with!

I looked at the plums.  Most of them were still in perfect condition.  I “rescued” them from the birthday cake – that game had been abandoned anyway – and checked the plum tree.  There was still lots of ripe fruit on it, mostly within easy reach.

The Dad and the kids helped me, and we gathered an ice-cream container full of small, dark plums.  Only about a kilo (2.5lb), but enough for five jars of jam I would think.  Fainjin is very keen to help me make jam again, and Babess wants to help this time too – I think she wants her name on the labels!

I hope it’s as good as last year’s plum jam.  Mmmmmm.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

How to Make Strawberry Jam

November 25, 2011

The plum jam I made earlier this year was a huge hit, so since strawberries are plentiful, relatively cheap and good-tasting at this time of year, I thought I’d have a go at strawberry jam.  Fainjin was home with me today for some one-on-one time, and he had great fun helping.

To make strawberry jam, you need:



lemon juice

jars and lids

a 4-year-old helper wearing an apron

several pots

a smoke alarm

First, sterilise the jars.  While they’re bubbling in the pot, wash and hull the strawberries, chopping them roughly into a large bowl.

About half the strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped

Pass the strawberries to your helper, and give him a masher.  Sound effects are optional, but Fainjin found chanting “Moosh moosh moosh” to be helpful.

Moosh moosh

Keep mooshing until the berries are moderately-well crushed (your helper might need a hand, depending on how squishy the strawberries are to start with).


Note the lovely Moomin apron, appropriated from his little sister’s dress-up box.

Next, measure the crushed berries.  We had 8 cups!  That meant we needed half a cup of lemon juice.  Fainjin was over the moon to have a reason to pick the lemons (he often brings me some just for fun).

Lemons from our tree!

Now, because we had eight cups of berries, we needed eight cups of sugar.  Stop at this point and discuss with the four-year-old: we need eight cups of sugar, and there are two measures in each cup.  So how many measures of sugar do we need?  (Lots of prompting and counting on fingers, and reminders that eighteen is not the number after fifteen might be required). Measure out the sugar, with your helper counting the measures out loud.

Put everything into a large saucepan

Stir over a low heat, until the sugar is dissolved.  Then turn the heat up and bring to a rolling boil.  Allow your helper to stir very carefully.

My little stirrer!

Notice that the jam bubbles up quite high, quite quickly.  Start to worry that it might boil over.  Move the helper out of the way.


I think you know what happens next.  Teach the four-year-old a few new words, and breathe in the delicious aroma of burnt sugar.  Quickly turn off the gas!  (Ooops, not quickly enough).  If you’re unlucky, or slow, the smoke alarm will let your neighbours know you’re cooking.

Decant a portion of the jam into another large pot, and bring to the boil.  Clean the sides and bottom of the first pot, clean the stovetop, and bring the first pot back to the boil.  Don’t be disappointed if your helper decides that making a Lego airplane to take us all to Australia is more important than helping make jam right now.

back on track

Boil for 10 minutes (or more for the larger pot), until jam sets on a cold plate.  Then pour into jars, seal, and so on.

Strawberry jam, and a Lego plane to take us to Australia

When the pot has cooled, scrape a teaspoon along one side and give your helper a taste of the fruit of his labours.  Your reward is his huge grin and judgement: “It’s deeeeelicious!”

Oh, and several jars of jam, and a caramel-scented kitchen, and a huge pile of sticky dishes.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Eating for strong bones

November 6, 2011

At lunch today, Fainjin was pleased to see I had given him some cashews.  “Mum!” he said, “These are nuts! And nuts are good for you! ‘Cos they give you strong bones and healthy blood!”

I agreed that nuts are good for you, and he happily continued with his lunch.  Babess came to join him, and he told her that nuts are good for your bones.

“I have bones,” she asserted, pointing to her arm.

There was a short pause, then: “You probably have a head bone, too,” big brother told her kindly.

These kids crack me up.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Moomin-themed birthday Party

October 2, 2011

We had a great activity planned for Pearl and her friends today, and she was really looking forward to it.  Sadly, though, through no fault or lack of foresight on our part, it was unavailable this morning.  So we were left scrambling  a little bit for something to occupy six 8-10 year-old girls and two preschoolers.

Luckily, we were close to a good maritime museum, and spent a good 45 min in there marvelling at exhibits, climbing into boats and model cabins, and pushing buttons to see what noises they made.  Pearl was bitterly disappointed and not very enthusiastic about “Plan B”, but she put up with it and her friends were happy enough.  A bit of a treat afterwards was seeing a baby seal resting on rocks nearby!

"I wish someone would scratch my tummy..."

Then it was back home for a party lunch (rainbow goldfish crackers from our trip to the US were a huge hit!), and Moomin birthday cake, sorry, Snork Maiden birthday cake:

Snork Maiden birthday cake

We also had Moomin wine-gums and Moomin biscuits (cookies), and a Moomin-shaped jelly which was very popular.  In the photo you can see korvapuustit (Finnish cinnamon buns) and the compulsory “healthy lunch” option: vegemite-cheese scrolls.  A large bowl of carrot sticks disappeared rapidly too, rather to my surprise!

There was much playing-with-the-birthday-presents and Lego-building, and singing of Happy Birthday, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

So *that’s* why he doesn’t have scurvy

September 23, 2011

“Mum,” Fainjin said seriously, contemplating his dinner of pasta and cheese – again.  “Did you know… garlic bread is a fruit.”

I blinked.  “It is?”

“Because,” he continued ponderously, “it has seeds.  And the only food that has seeds is fruit.”

That settles that, then.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

A morning pick-me-up

September 6, 2011

Babess was a bit dreamy and absent this morning.  The Dad was trying to ascertain what she would eat for breakfast, and getting nowhere.

“Do you want toast?”

“Noooooo,” in a floaty, not-really-awake-yet voice.

“Cereal then?”


He flashed me a grin and offered, “Coffee?”

That woke her up.  “Coffee?!” she was scornful.  “I’m not a Daddy, I’m a girl!”

Now he had her attention, The Dad was opened his mouth to ask her again what she would eat, but she hadn’t finished talking.

“I’ll have tea.”

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Chocolate crackles

September 4, 2011

Fainjin was invited to a friend’s birthday party today.  It was held at a gymnastics club, and it turned out that Babess was welcome to stay as well, which was great.

It was very well set-up, with lots of equipment for the kids to play on, plenty of supervision, and the entire floor covered in soft mats (apart from the lovely sprung floor for tumbling on).

Fainjin had a great time climbing, balancing, swinging, jumping and bouncing.  He discovered that he can do forward and backward rolls, and really enjoyed playing with the big swiss ball.

Babess wasn’t so interested in the equipment, preferring to run around in circles on the sprung floor and occasionally kick a ball.  That was perfectly ok too.

At afternoon-tea time, Fainjin was very impressed with the chocolate crackles.  “Look Mum! Chocolate rice bubbles!”  Later I noticed he had four of the little paper cases on his plate.

I suppose I know one thing I’ll have to make for his birthday party in a few months!

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Snippets from the day

September 3, 2011

Babess appeared this morning in t-shirt, tights, and boots.  She wanted us to go out to the craft market.  “If we’re going out, you’ll need more clothes on,” I told her.  “Tights are not pants.”

She looked at me, slightly puzzled.  “Is a dress pants?”

Fainjin was rattling around the yard on his scooter, but I couldn’t see the girls.  I went around the side of the house, and they were sitting together playing, deep in conversation.  So sweet.

Fainjin has discovered Fox in Socks.  He brings it to me each evening at story-time, with an evil grin on his face.  He is waiting for me to stumble on “three cheese trees freeze”.

Fainjin ate all his broccoli tonight.  About a teaspoonful.  I have told him that broccoli will help him to run faster, and in particular to run faster than Pearl.  He doesn’t pretend to like the broccoli, but he has started to eat little bits, and tonight – with lots of encouragement – he ate all that I gave him.  And a little (microscopic) bit of carrot.  That, I fibbed, will help him see in the dark.  Like Spiderman.  I have lost all shame when it comes to getting him to eat – and bribes don’t work, so it’s nice to know something will!

Of course, after he ate that broccoli he ran back and forth through the house several times to demonstrate how fast he had become…

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

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