How to make a simple spider

Thankfully toddlers are not art critics. They take joy in simple pleasures and aren’t going to worry if your arts and crafts skills aren’t going to get you a gallery listing.

You can make a simple spider using:

  • Cardboard inner tube
  • Scissors or sharp knife
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Marker pen or felt tips (or buttons or googly eyes).
  1. Cut your paper tube to size (toilet rolls are a good size but a paper towel roll will need cutting in half or thirds).
  2. Make eyes. The simplest option is to draw then on but googly eyes are great if you have a packet lying around.
  3. Make 4 holes on each side of the paper tube (roughly parallel).
  4. Push 4 pipe cleaners through the parallel holes so they stick out each side. You now have 8 legs!
  5. Draw a web for your spider or print one out from Worksheet Fun.

Making your own gourmet nut butter – it’s easy!

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Home-made Tree nut butter

Ingredients

  • Raw unsalted nuts.
    • I used a 150g blend that was cashew nuts (51%), almonds (26%), brazil nuts (11%), hazel nuts (6%), macadamia nuts (6%).
  • Oil (I use Rice Bran oil).
  • Salt

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, gluten free, egg free, peanut free.

I posted recently about how easy it is to make peanut butter and wanted to try my hand with tree nuts.

Making your own nut butter can be great if you have a food allergy in your family. It’s handy because you can customize it and experiment with different nuts. It can also be a cost effective way of making nut butter. Often tree nut butters are really expensive but if you’re able to pick up the nuts cheaply then it’s quick to make your own!

Directions

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  1. Roasting gives the nut butter more flavour. You can choose whether you want to buy roasted nuts or roast them yourself (if purchasing pre-roasted, check the type of oil that has been used if you have a soy allergy). Roasting gives the peanut butter more flavour and helps to loosen the oils inside the nuts to blend into a smoother butter.
    • Heat the oven to 180’C / 350’F and toast the nuts till they are golden and glossy with oil. This will take about 10 mins.
  2. Put nuts, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of oil into a food processor.
  3. Blend on 10-20 second bursts and scrape down the sides with a plastic spatula as needed. You’ll find it starts off looking a bit like crumbly breadcrumbs – this is normal!
    • I found the tree nuts were a lot tougher than the peanuts and took longer to blend. You don’t want to overheat the motor on your food processor so be kind to it and aim for short bursts on/off!
  4. Continue blending  until shiny and smooth.
    • Add a teaspoon of oil at a time if you’re finding it dry.
  5. Add salt to taste.

Potato Latkes

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Potato Latkes

Ingredients

  • Potatoes
    • I use around 450g per batch.
  • 1 small red sweet onion, finely diced.
    • I have used brown onion as well for more of a hashbrown flavour.
  • 2 eggs, beaten.
  • 3T flour
  • Salt & pepper to taste.
  • Oil (or butter) for frying.
  • Toppings: sour cream & apple sauce.

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Directions:

  1. Grate the potato.
    • A food processor is great for this! I have also hand grated. In some countries you can buy bags of frozen pre-shredded potato.
    • Note: if using a food processor for the potato then you can also use it for the onion but remove the potato first.
  2. Squeeze the potato with your hands to remove excess moisture and then pat dry.
  3. Put the potato in a mixing bowl and add onion, eggs, seasonings, and flour. Mixture should be thick and cohesive.
  4. Heat and oil a frying pan and fry batches of potato mix (I use about 2T for each patty).
  5. Fry for several minutes on each side.
  6. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately or keep warm in the oven on an oven tray lined with baking paper.
    • If you want to wait and have everyone eat together then you can brown each side of the latkes on a higher temperature, cook for a slightly shorter time, and then finish them all off in the oven for 5-10 mins.

How to make hanging hand towels

Toddlers love becoming independent and however they phrase it, what they’re thinking is along the lines of ‘Me do! Me do!’.

The first step was putting up some no-damage removeable hooks in the bathroom.

The second step was picking up some gorgeous large-sized adult face cloths at Kmart in attractive eye-catching colours. I found some ribbon in the craft box and selected some large buttons from my Bag-of-Buttons. The trick is to cross over the ends of the ribbon, place the button on top, and then sew through cloth-ribbon-button. Make sure that everything is nice and sturdily attached.

It’s a cheap way to make something practical, eye-catching, unique, and still washable! Plus toddlers love little accent features (like buttons, ribbons, applique etc.).

How to make Multi-seed bread (Toddler friendly)

Often Multi-grain bread recipes will include things like whole linseed, sunflowers, pumpkin seeds, and these can be a bit rough on a young toddler’s gut. This is especially apparent when they get old enough to inform you ‘Poo! Seeds!’; they can obviously feel it. So, the seeds I’ve used for this bake are gentler and smaller passing through; the wonderful thing about home-made bread is that you can adapt it to suit. I also really like making Ancient Grains bread which is very light and fluffy!

Ingredients

  • 325ml water
  • 2T + 2 tsp oil (I use rice bran)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2T sugar
  • 3c 2T flour
  • 2T milk powder
    • Baby formula also works.
  • 9-12T seeds (I used 3T ground linseed, 3T poppy, 3T sesame).

Allergies: soy free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Directions

  1. Put everything into the breadmaker in order listed. Select Dough only.
  2. When it finishes, select Dough only again so that it goes through another knockdown/rising cycle.
  3. Take out dough, knead for a couple of minutes, and place in bread tin. Let it rise while oven heats
  4. Heat oven to 220’C.
  5. Bake at 220’C for 10 minutes, then at 180’C for 30 minutes.
  6. Bread should sound ‘hollow’ if you take it out of the tin and knock on the bottom.

How to make Linseed Bread

To make a 750g loaf. This was delicious with home made peanut butter.

Ingredients

  • 290ml water
  • 2T oil (I use rice bran oil)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2T sugar
  • 3c bread flour
  • 2 1/2T ground linseed/flaxseed
  • 2T milk powder
    • Baby formula also works!
  • 3 tsp bread improver yeast

Allergies: soy free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Directions

  1. Put everything into the breadmaker in order listed. Select Dough only.
  2. When it finishes, select Dough only again so that it goes through another knockdown/rising cycle.
  3. Take out dough, knead for a couple of minutes, and place in bread tin. Let it rise while oven heats
  4. Heat oven to 220’C.
  5. Bake at 220’C for 10 minutes, then at 180’C for 30 minutes; you may want to lower the oven tray when you turn the temperature down. I also recommend removing the loaf from the bread tin for the last 5-10 mins of cooking to allow even browning along the base.
  6. Bread should sound ‘hollow’ if you take it out of the tin and knock on the bottom.

Note: This will not turn out the same if you simply cook it in the breadmaker (it will be okay but not amazing) because the bread is contained by the size of the breadmaker and you can’t vary temperature and distance from heat.

Tip: A longer rising time will result in fluffier bread. I have sometimes done 4 knockdowns (two lengthy and two short) and 4 rising times meaning that the bread with 4-8 hours of ‘proofing’ before baking. Gluten based bread loves getting knocked around; all that kneading and rising helps to elasticate the dough and allows the gluten + yeast to work together to create tiny air bubbles.

If you’re interested in the chemistry of breadmaking check out this great post from Serious Eats.

Did you know? A commercial bakery will go from start to bag in 3 hours or less when making bread; traditional methods (and sourdoughs) take 18-25 hours. One theory behind rising numbers of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease is our move away to industrialized baking; a longer rising time results in decreased gluten proteins as they break down and change. It’s something to think about if you’re considering decreasing gluten in your diet.

How to make Milk Bread

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Milk bread

To make a 750g loaf. This was a sweeter denser bread that toasted well. It was delicious with butter & jam, and also with vegemite & avocado.

Ingredients

  • 310ml milk (full cream or standard not trim)
  • 3 tsp oil (I use rice bran oil)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2T sugar
  • 3c bread flour
  • 3 tsp bread improver yeast

Allergies: soy free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Directions

  1. Put everything into the breadmaker in order listed. Select Dough only.
  2. When it finishes, select Dough only again so that it goes through another knockdown/rising cycle.
  3. Take out dough, knead for a couple of minutes, and place in bread tin. Let it rise while oven heats
  4. Heat oven to 220’C.
  5. Bake at 220’C for 10 minutes, then at 180’C for 30 minutes.
  6. Bread should sound ‘hollow’ if you take it out of the tin and knock on the bottom.

How to make amazing rotissere / BBQ style chicken even if you’re working or just plain busy

This creates amazing melting-off-the-bone roast chicken with crispy skin and fantastic gravy. For best results (and practicality) it uses both a slow cooker and a oven. (The alternative is 5 hours in the oven but then you won’t get the amazing corn!).

Ingredients

  • Spice blend
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
    • 1/2 tsp white pepper + 1/4 tsp black pepper (or just fresh grind in tri-colour peppercorns)
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 chicken to roast
  • Vegetables to roast (i.e. potatoes, zucchini, carrot, whole peeled garlic, corn-on-the-cob).
  • Oil (I like rice bran oil)
  • Potato flakes or cornstarch (for the gravy)

Allergy friendly: soy free, dairy free, gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Tip: Whole peeled garlic is often sold in large bags; consider portioning it out into little bags and freezing it. You can pull it out of the freezer each time you have a roast.

Directions

  1. Mix the spice blend together.
  2. Peel the onion & top’n’tail it.
  3. Make sure the chicken is ready for cooking (i.e. giblets removed).
  4. Rinse the cavity and pat dry with a paper towel.
  5. Rub the spice blend over the chicken inside and out.
  6. Put the onion inside the chicken cavity.
  7. Put the chicken into the slow cooker.
    • A note on timing: You can rub the chicken the night before, wrap it in a plastic bag, and marinade it overnight in the fridge so that all you have to do in the morning is pop it in the slow cooker. The choice on whether to put the cooker on Low or High depends on how long it will be in there and how long you want to have it in the oven. My chicken wasn’t 100% defrosted so I had it on High in the slow cooker for 5 hours and then in the oven for 1.5 hours.
  8. Prepare your vegetables to roast.
    • I chop the potatoes up and put them in the steamer in the microwave for about 10 minutes to give them a bit of a head start before placing them in the roasting pan.  You can brush the veggies lightly with oil before placing the chicken on top – they just need a touch to keep from drying out before the fat from the chicken starts to drip out.
  9. Carefully pull the chicken out of the slow cooker and put it in the roasting pan. Baste it with the juices from the slow cooker.
  10. Roast the chicken for 60-90 mins. Start the oven at 180-200’C; you’ll be able to drop the temperature to 150’C and cover the chicken in tin foil once it has browned. Keep basting the chicken periodically with juices from the slow cooker.
  11. Put the corn-on-the-cob in the slow cooker (in the chicken juices) as soon as you take the chicken out. Cook on High for 60-90 minutes.
    • The juices will only cover the bottom of the corn; this is fine. It comes out cooked, still with a good steamed firmness, sweet, and lightly flavoured by the chicken broth.
  12. Once the chicken, roast veggies, and corn are all cooked, you can use the juices in the slow cooker to make gravy. You can use flour or cornstarch, or try potato flakes.  It’s not just that these are gluten free, it’s that they thicken the gravy quickly and don’t go lumpy like cornflour sometimes does. Add potato flakes gradually (leaving the slow cooker on) and stirring; I made my gravy quite thick.

Leftover roast chicken can be used for the next night, sandwiches, to make chicken fried rice, or as a pizza topping on a flat or scone base.

Chocolate Irish Potato Cake (Vegan & Allergy Friendly)

 

Ingredients

  • 4T ground linseed/flaxseed + 6T hot water
    • OR use 4 eggs.
  • 1c hot unseasoned mashed potato (instant is fine)
    • 1c of potato flakes + approx. 3/4c boiling water makes 1c mashed potato.
  • 1c hot water
  • 3/4c rice bran oil
    • OR 3/4c softened butter
  • 1 1/2c sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2c flour (or gluten free baking mix)
  • 2 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4c cocoa
  • Optional: 1 tsp cinnamon

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, egg free, peanut free, tree nut free, gluten free*.

Note: I’ve included ingredient options so that you can choose whether to use butter & eggs; I made mine without. It’s worth having a recipe like this even if you don’t have allergies. It’s great if you’ve run out of other ingredients (or would rather use the eggs for breakfast!), it’s cost effective, it’s allergy friendly to share with others, and you’re getting extra nutrients + fibre from the linseed. The other fabulous thing about linseed as an egg replacement is that it makes cakes and breads beautifully moist.

My inspiration for this recipe came from finding potato flakes in a bulk foods store and wondering what I could do with them. I gather from the internet that in some countries (like the USA) it’s reasonably common to find potato flakes or instant mashed potato at the supermarket; elsewhere, have a hunt in bulk food and health food stores.

Directions

Note: This is a thick batter and you’ll get the smoothest batter by using a food processor. You can also use a big mixing bowl and electric hand mixer but in that case you’ll want to go a bit slower (i.e. egg, beat, egg, beat, etc. and alternate the potato & dry ingredients) to blend & aerate it.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180’C.
  2. Prepare your egg replacement. Use a bowl or mug, put in 4T ground linseed and 6T hot water. Mix and then leave it, for 5-10 mins, until needed (this gives the seeds time to absorb the water) it turns into a stretchy liquid that’s a bit thicker than egg.
  3. Mix up your mashed potato. You can use a bowl, put in 1c of potato flakes, and then slowly add 3/4 – 1 cup of boiling water while stirring until smooth. It turns into mashed potato very quickly.
  4. Slowly add 1c of hot water to the mashed potato stirring carefully to create a smooth liquid.
  5. In the food processor, blend the oil, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  6. Add the linseed (egg-replacement) and blend.
  7. Add the liquidy potato.
  8. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa, cinnamon and blend till smooth.
  9. Pour into a silicon cake tin.
  10. Cook for 25 min and check (a knife is likely to come out sticky); cook for another 15 mins and check (a knife is now likely to come out clean). Turn the oven off and leave the cake inside for another 10 minutes. Pull cake out and place on bench to cool.
  11. Dust with icing sugar.

This comes out as a beautifully moist, rich, chocolatey cake.

Alternatives:

  • If anyone successfully plays around with coconut flour/sugar, let me know. I wonder if it would turn out like a gluten-free Bounty Bar cake.
  • If you like coffee consider adding 2T dark roasted instant coffee when adding the dry ingredients.
  • For birthdays or special occasions, try splitting the batter between two cake tins. Layer the cakes with cherry, plum, or raspberry jam in between and a thick chocolate frosting on top.
  • For another allergy friendly chocolate cake, check out this Depression-Era Chocolate cake.