Tag Archives: food

New Sprouts Picnic Set Review

29 Jul

Today, my children have played with the Learning Resources New Sprouts Picnic set. It is a very complete play food set for 2 small people; plastic basket, 2 plates, 2 hamburgers, 2 watermelon wedges, 2 cupcakes and 2 condiment bottles. The manufacturer’s recommended age group is from 2 years old upwards, so it’s safe for toddlers as well as older children.

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My kids aren’t really into hamburgers; on first sight, they decided the burger patties were giant cookies! However, for pretend eating, they’re happy to stack the patties in the bun halves. The condiment bottles were much admired for the ketchup and mustard strings – when you tip the bottles upside down, the string slides out; when you turn the bottle back up and hold the string up, the string slides back in. As the bottles aren’t actually labelled, my daughter promptly repurposed them as icing for the “cookies” and cupcakes!

A neat feature of the plates is: they’re divided into thirds, with raised borders. For an older child, this might be an opportune maths lesson – division and fractions. For a younger child, it simply means any play food sits easily and doesn’t fall off as soon as you pick up a plate. (The photos, below, show some Learning Resources play food and some of our own play food pieces.)

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I love how versatile the picnic pieces are. While a child’s imagination knows no limits, it can only be helped by the simple shapes and lack of rigid direction. Kids don’t need play instructions – they know instinctively! It’s also great that there’s 2 of everything. Whether you’re playing with a sibling or a friend, or you’re hosting a teddy bear tea party, the extra serving encourages sharing without squabbles.

The basket itself is ideal for storing the set neatly. Plastic is, of course, easy to clean and durable for both indoor and outdoor play. I think this will have real longevity and is a super cute imaginative play set.

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To keep the picnic role-play fresh, I might add some of my own play food, in due course. (This is a great tip for any toy losing that nouveau sparkle – mix in one new item and the entire thing becomes “new” again e.g. a dress for a doll or a prop for dressing up clothes.) In the meantime, I would definitely recommend the New Sprouts Picnic set for ages 3-7. Younger children must be careful around the condiment bottle strings.

The New Sprouts Picnic set is available on Amazon UK at £18.66 (correct as of July 29, 2014) or direct from Learning Resources at £23.94 (inc VAT).

Free amigurumi play food knitting and crochet pattern designs by FC Knits: Mini Gingerbread Man, Play Food Cherry Cake Slice and Play Food Sandwich.

Homemade Bread Recipe

5 Sep

Fresh homemade bread, hot from the oven, is a wonderful thing. It’s not knitting or crochet but we’ve all got to eat some time and knitted sandwiches are too calorie-free! Bread is pretty much a staple foodstuff so here is my favourite homemade bread recipe.

Sliced white bread loaf from an easy homemade bread recipe!

Ingredients:
1 lb plain flour (about 2 heaped cups) plus extra for kneading
1 tsp salt
2 oz butter or margarine (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 pt hand-hot water (rather hot but not so hot that you couldn’t stick your fingers in it)
1 sachet easy-bake yeast (7 g easy-bake yeast is equivalent to 1 1/2 tsp dried yeast or 1 tbsp fresh yeast)
2 tsp caster sugar

Method:
1. Mix the water, yeast and sugar together in a jug and set it aside for a few minutes until it starts to froth up. (It’ll look a bit like the head on a pint of beer!)
2. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
3. Rub the fat into the flour mixture. (Use your fingertips and keep rubbing until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.)
4. Pour your frothy yeast water into your flour mixture and combine thoroughly. (If it’s a bit sticky, don’t worry – you can work in some extra flour.)
5. Tip your dough on a very well-floured surface and knead like crazy. Seriously, knead like there’s no tomorrow – I’m not going to give you a second chance*, unlike most homemade bread recipes!
6. Shape your kneaded dough into a loaf and pop it into a 2 lb loaf tin. Leave your dough to rise, until it’s doubled in size. (This may take about an hour or longer; a warm room temperature will help.)
7. Bake your bread in a preheated oven at 200 degrees celsius (390 degrees fahrenheit) for 40 minutes. Leave it to cool for at least a few minutes before slicing!

This homemade bread recipe is very adaptable. If you want to make 2 loaves, divide your dough between a couple of 1 lb loaf tins and reduce the baking time to 30 minutes. Or, if you’d like to make bread rolls, shape the dough into small balls on a baking sheet and reduce the baking time to 15 minutes. You can change the flour to whatever you fancy; a half-and-half mix of plain flour and wholemeal flour works very well.

If you use non-dairy margarine instead of butter, then this homemade bread recipe will be vegan. Alternatively, if you don’t care for soft bread then you could omit the fat entirely; the fat is there to soften the bread texture.

*Most homemade bread recipes will tell you that white bread requires 2 risings and wholemeal bread only requires 1 rising. If you want to give your dough a second rising, well, that’s entirely up to you. You don’t need to!! ;)

Abbreviations & Glossary:
g = grams
lb = pound
tbsp = tablespoon
tsp = teaspoon
caster sugar (UK) = superfine sugar (US)
plain flour (UK) = all-purpose flour (US)
wholemeal flour (UK) = whole-wheat flour (US)

Courgette Bread Recipe

27 Aug

Courgette bread has nothing to do with knitting or crochet. However, I really like baking and I wanted to share this courgette bread recipe with you! I was going to come up with a yarn link but I decided it wasn’t worth the pretence. Oh, if I must: it’s based on a friend’s recipe and she knits and crochets too, so this is… Courgette Bread for Knitters. Yes, that was pretty tenuous. I told you it would be.

The humble courgette (US: zucchini) is a super vegetable. (Okay, technically it’s actually a fruit but so is a tomato.) It’s low in calories and has folate, manganese, potassium and vitamin A. With the optional egg, large helping of veg and some nutritious whole grain, this courgette bread is healthy* enough for an anytime snack or even a light meal.

sliced zucchini courgette bread

Ingredients:
1 whisked egg or 1 quantity egg replacer**
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp oil
1 cup grated courgette (about 1 small courgette; it doesn’t matter if it’s more like 1-2 cups, as this recipe is very forgiving)
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Method:
1. Combine the courgette, sugar, oil, egg (or replacer) and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. (I grate my courgette straight into the bowl and dump the other wet ingredients on top.) It will probably look like frothy soup – don’t worry!
2. Sift all your remaining (dry) ingredients into the bowl and mix them in thoroughly. The mixture will be fairly wet and resemble cake batter.
3. Pour the mixture into a greased loaf tin or a non-stick silicone tin. (If your courgette was about 1 cup then a 1 lb tin will be perfect; if it was closer to 1 1/2 or 2 cups then you’ll need a 2 lb tin.)
4. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees centigrade (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 50 minutes. Leave the courgette bread to cool for at least a few minutes before taking it out of the tin and slicing it; courgette bread will go a bit crumbly or squishy if you attempt to slice it while it’s still very hot.

*Okay, I admit it’s a bit like a cake. But it’s jolly healthy for a cake! Also, if you eat it standing up or from someone else’s plate then the calories don’t count. Maybe.

**If you use egg replacer instead of an egg, then this recipe will be vegan. (My preferred brand product is Allergycare Whole Egg Replacer; I’ve always had excellent results with it.) However, if you’re not vegan, then an egg provides some useful protein. I make this bread both ways and it works perfectly as veggie or vegan. The vegan version will have slightly fewer calories. (I sound like I’m on a special diet but I’m not. I should probably stop mentioning calories.)

Abbreviations & Glossary:
lb = pound
tbsp = tablespoon
tsp = teaspoon
bicarbonate of soda (UK) = baking soda (US)
caster sugar (UK) = superfine sugar (US)
courgette (UK) = zucchini (US)
plain flour (UK) = all-purpose flour (US)
wholemeal flour (UK) = whole-wheat flour (US)

American Tips:
If you are using all-purpose flour, adjust the baking powder measure to a scant 1/2 teaspoon as all-purpose flour has slightly less gluten than British plain flour.