Category: Cooking with kids

All Four Stars – A Book Review

All Four Stars – A Book Review

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

Here’s a scrumptiously wonderful book every tween is going to love. All Four Stars is the story of Gladys Gatsby, an eleven-year-old who is passionate about cooking. Her parents, on the other hand, are not. They are both working and don’t have the time or inclination to cook. The family lives on terrible takeaways.

However, Gladys cooks up complicated delicacies in secret, when her parents are away at work. All is well until one day when her parents walk in just as she accidentally sets fire to the kitchen curtains while making Creme Brûlée. As a result of that singularly bad piece of luck, she’s banned from further cooking experiments and her allowance is taken away.

Then, through a quirk of fate, she lands an assignment as a food critic in a frontline newspaper. The catch is – getting to that restaurant which is a train-ride away from the suburb where Gladys lives. Confiding in her parents and asking for help is out of the question. So how does she do it?

This is a story delicious enough to sate the most demanding of gourmands.

It’s a perfect read-aloud book
Each night after dinner, we’d sit with this one, the children and I, reading it aloud. The descriptions of food made H hungry while N started dreaming of a career as a food critic.

What I liked
The descriptions of food were absolutely delectable. The good ones (that she had at Parm’s house or out at restaurants) were mouth-watering but it’s the bad ones that H and N enjoyed most because they were hilariously funny.

I loved that Gladys sampled and enjoyed all kinds of food – African, Malaysian and Indian too. She has an Indian friend and the rather foreign descriptions of familiar Indian foods like chhole and raita and palak paneer had the children completely thrilled.

If you’ve read any of my earlier reviews you’ll know I love a book with great side-characters. All Four Stars had many of them – Sandy, Gladys’ friend and neighbour, Parm, her Indian friend, Charissa the most popular girl at school, the kind Mr Eng who runs a cosy grocery and patisserie and Mrs Anderson, Sandy’s adorable mom. Although some of them are rather stereotypical they all manage to do something to redeem themselves, to break the stereotype. That, I was grateful for.

There are bits on friendship – on making and keeping friends – on shared secrets and making plans which the children completely loved.

If I have one complaint it would be that the author didn’t do justice to the parents. They come across as uni-dimensional, too taken up with their work, barely bothered about their daughter and rather unkind. They did get better towards the end of the book, though, so that was something.

We talked about
Whether the punishment Gladys got was fair/unfair.
Could Gladys have done things differently? Perhaps, taken the help of other sympathetic adults.

What we did
– We read up all kinds of cuisines that Gladys talks of.
– We pored (and salivated) endlessly over food pictures.
– We made up a game of trying to describe a food to someone who had never known Indian cuisine.
– And we tried baking.

This book came to us through Enchantico – a delightful book-activity box we subscribed to. Read my review of the box here. It came with a cookie recipe, premixed flour as well as cookie cutters.

With all that help we had to try our hand at baking. The first batch came out near perfect. But then we got caught up in something and ended up burning down the next one and had to rush around dousing the flames in the oven.

So you see, there really is never any guarantee with cookies but the book – that’s a sure shot winner.

 

Linking up with the Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge #writebravely #writetribeproblogger

10 things to do with tweens during vacations

10 things to do with tweens during vacations

 

With the first excitement of vacations wearing off I find the children flitting between the pool and their tabs. It’s as if they have nothing else to do. The moment I try to restrict their screen time they come up with “What shall we do?” – the question that is the dread of all mums. If you’re a mum in the same boat as I, here’s a list to help you out.

1. Master a recipe 
Learn to make at least one dish completely on your own – a salad, a raita, french toast, no bake cookies, cake in a mug. If you find that you enjoy cooking you could work on making your own recipe book. That reminds me to get N to work on hers. She started one during the exams and never got back to it.

This Marie biscuit cake is one of the easiest ever.

2. Read books
Duh! Obviously. Most of you would be reading books, a few at least. How about trying out a short review after you’ve read it? That way you can keep a record of all the books you read and what you thought of them.

3. Make a summer holiday diary
You could write about
Things you did: Played scrabble with cousins, Made french toast, Made friends with your aunt’s pug (N is dead scared of dogs and this last one is high on her list).
Places you visited: A relative’s place, Historical monuments, the Science centre
Foods you ate: Shared mangoes with grandpa, Pain puri at the roadside stall, Kulfi  and falooda, a new flavour of ice-cream.

4. Make a family news collage
How about turning a journalist this summer? Collect ‘news’ about family members. A cousin who graduated from high school, an aunt who got a promotion, a relative who went on a holiday, your achievement in school, a dance you performed or a skill you picked up – all of that is news. If you have pictures that’s like the icing on the cake. If not, no problem. Make small write-ups on pieces of paper and stick them onto a chart paper like a collage. We made one for our apartment complex. We typed out the news items and cut them out but hand written is good too.

4. Learn a funny poem or maybe two
They’re fun to recite. Here’s one to get you started.

5. Plant a plant and learn how to take care of it
Does it need a special kind of soil? How much and how often should you water it? Google it or get an adult to help if you don’t have access to the Internet. Don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb. I have a black one too. Go for the easy ones first. You could simply begin with a money plant in a glass or a bottle. They almost never die on you.

6. Learn the names and know how to recognise at least five new flowers/trees that you see around you
Watch out for the regulars. Can you tell a Neem tree from an Ashoka tree? Or a Banyan from a Peepal? You couldn’t possibly miss the Gulmohur or the tall Eucalyptus. Try smelling a eucalyptus leaf. Does it seem familiar?

7. Take responsibility for one household chore and make sure you do it every single day
You could try folding your sheet, making your bed, folding dried clothes, watering plants, wiping the table after lunch/dinner. Helps to have mum on your side since you’re home all day 🙂 and she’s the one in charge of doing up the cakes and the shakes.

8. Talk to your parents/grandparents and ask them how they spent their summer vacations
Can you try any of those things? How about writing out a small piece comparing their vacations and yours?

9. Make handmade gifts for friends for school reopening day.
You could try photo frames or pen holders. I loved these easy pencil toppers made from duct tape at Atop Serenity Hill. Take a look.

 

10. Make your own school labels
Even if you’re not very crafty you could have a go. Cut out plain white paper labels and border them with Washi tape. That shouldn’t be too tough. Oh and before you do this, don’t forget to ensure it is allowed in your school.

I’ll be trying out all of these with the twins over the next month and sharing what we did. So watch out for detailed ‘How Tos’. I’d love it if you shared yours too.

 

Picture credits: Pixabay and Shutterstock

 

A tween in my kitchen

A tween in my kitchen

H burnt his fingers recently while cooking, quite literally. As he was scraping the egg off the pan, he caught it with his hand to steady it, forgetting how hot it would be. We did the whole cold water-ice routine. Once the burning sensation subsided he was fine but for a blister on his thumb and index finger.
I’ve mentioned this before, H loves to potter around in the kitchen. However, as he’s growing up he’s beginning to brand a lot of things he once enjoyed ‘girly’, and has started staying away from them. I wrote about it at Parentous here when I talked about peer pressure and how it can change the kids.
He gave up playing with his kitchen set ages ago and doesn’t seem inclined to hang out with the pots and pans. When his friends are around he adopts this macho air and pretends to be all grown up which I find kind of cute, though he’d never forgive me if he heard me say so.

After his adventure in the kitchen I was curious to know what he’d tell his friends about his hurt fingers, whether he’d admit to being in the kitchen at all.

When they dropped by later in the day there he was brandishing his thumb, showing off his blister like some kind of a trophy. And he was saying, with absolute pretend nonchalance, “This is nothing I just burnt my fingers while I was helping my mother in the kitchen.”
The awed looks on his friend’s faces made me let out a sigh of relief. I can say with some confidence that along with cricket and computer games cooking remains macho in the tween world.
These kitchen adventures are all towards the fulfilment of one single dream of mine – that there’ll come a day when the kids will wake up on their own, make a healthy breakfast for themsleves, dress up and go to school while I’ll laze in bed. What?? One can dream.

Brownies!

Brownies!


Sometime back I’d promised I’d find time each weekend to take up one craft activity with Naisha and try one recipe with Hrit. However I could keep my word only to Naisha. We did some great fun stuff. When it was Hrit’s turn either we ran out of time or I couldn’t find a suitable recipe.. easy yet appealing. And so I fobbed off the poor guy with stuff like peeling boiled eggs and potatoes (basics are very important, I told him) …

 … or post cooking washing (A good chef must learn to clear up).

Yes mums can be pretty crafty.

Sweetheart that he is, he hung around helping me with my chores satisfied if I let him ‘smell the atta’ or gave the names of the spices in the spice box.

Finally this weekend things came together and we decided to try this recipe from cookingandme.com. Chef Hrit took centre stage assisted by Naisha.

First, the ingredients…
Marie biscuits — 20-25
Cocoa powder — 3 tbsp
Roasted nut of choice, we managed walnuts — 1/4 cup
Sugar — 2 tsp
Condensed milk (Milkmaid) — 1/2 of a 400gm tin

Here’s how it goes…

Crush the Marie biscuits.. don’t worry if it isn’t too fine a powder

Add the cocoa powder

Add the sugar and Milkmade and mix. This needs some strength and I had to lend a hand

At which point.. the mixture becomes too yummy to not be tasted..

Add the nuts

Butter a bowl/tray

Spread out the mixture on the tray

Pat it evenly and put it in the freezer.

Call in the assistant to clear up

We left it overnight and the result was great. The brownies in the original recipe
look yummier but ours weren’t bad

For a more accurate account do hop over to the original recipe .

Hrit’s parting line (accompanied with a huge sigh): I wish I were a mama then I could get to cook all kinds of things.

Meet me on Instagram @obsessivemom06

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