Friday, 31 October 2014

Featured Post: Letterfall: A Great Literacy Game for the Family

As regular readers will know, we are huge book worms in our household, so much so that i've even set up an entire literary festival this year! Literacy is so important and anything that you can do to encourage it and support it will aid your children throughout their life. One of the best games that I've bought my children is Junior scrabble and its one of the few which they will sit there and play time and time again. Another similar game which is arguably better, especially for taking out with you is Bananagrams.

Scottish Friendly have developed a fantastic on line game (perfect for the holidays and beyond) which, if your children like literacy based games they will love and if you are anything like me, you'll get addicted to yourself. But why would they do it? Well, for the past 15 years, Scottish Friendly have sponsored the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour and in association with the Scottish Book Trust have brought leading UK and international children’s authors to children in schools and libraries across the country. 

The Letterfall UK Championship is part of Scottish Friendly’s work to children’s literacy. We are certainly loving it here and its become a bit of a stealth player in my battle to get my eldest to engage with language, something I think Scottish Friendly were aiming for. The best thing is that its actually a championship so you are in competition with real life people, i'm currently wondering how I might ever beat my husband, a man who read the dictionary for fun…

How the championship works:
The competition is open to UK residents and has cash prizes on offer. You can find the game online here.

Taking part is easy, all you need to do is select your country of residence, play the game and try for the highest score in your nations leaderboard. The top player from each country by noon on Monday 3rd November 2014 will win £100 each and be eligible to go forward into the grand final which is going to be held in Glasgow on the 28th november 2014 where they can compete in the play-off competition to win £500 and the coveted Letterfall National Champion Trophy.

Disclaimer: We were given recompense to promote the competition, but genuinely think its rather good. If somewhat addictive!!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Review: The Snow Queen

Like the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson has a lot to answer for. He's not directly responsible for this version of the popular fairy tale the Snow Queen but even if he were, he'd be waiting impatiently until December for the sequel to hit the cinema. A bit of digging shows that the Snow Queen has been around for a while, 2012 in it's native Russian to be precise, but it only got an American release last year and a British release this year.

If you've seen the posters, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's desperately trying to hang on the coat tails of Frozen or any number of other family films from the Little Mermaid, to Narnia and Alice in Wonderland but to do so would be a disservice to the film. Since the film was written by a Russian, originally voice acted by Russians, and based on a folk tale from Denmark, a country with strong historic ties to Russia, it's safe to say that the film is about as un-American as you can get within the terms of modern animation. You won't find characters bursting into song every two minutes and although there is the obligatory In fact, in places it's quite scary and dark. Rated PG, the boy (7), said some bits were pretty scary. This from a lad who watched the Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time last week too.

There can't be many kids films where the lead characters parents are killed pretty much before the opening credits have finished but that's all the more credit (pun intended) to the film, which stays truer to the fairy tale origins of the story than most adaptations, even if it does introduce a pet ferret and a troll to the story- mostly to provide comic relief but also to give Gerda, the protagonist, characters to give plot exposition to. The story, in case you're unfamiliar with it, involves Gerda and Kai, orphans living in an orphanage. Kai is kidnapped by the same evil Snow Queen that killed their parents and Gerda sets off to rescue him and free her brother.

We like our European animation in this house, having recently enjoyed A Monster in Paris amongst others, and this version of The Snow Queen is no exception. We like to sugar coat our peril a little too much for our kids now days, and this is a big step in the right direction for kids films. Don't get me wrong; it's not going to terrify your kids, mild peril is still mild peril but it's different enough in the strings it pulls to make it genuinely worth a watch.

The film is currently enjoying a half term excursion at the cinema (from October 25th) and will be out on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital platforms on November 3rd. It's worth a watch, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Red House Children’s Book Award blog tour: Debi Gliori










"Dragon Loves Penguin” has been shortlisted in the younger children category of the 2015 Red House Children's Book Award. The Red House Children's Book Award is the only national children’s book award voted for entirely by children. It is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children's Book Groups, and sponsored by Red House. 
Useful links:

Monday, 20 October 2014

Quick, Cheap and Easy Keema Fusilli Pasta Bake

I was asked to design my own recipe for a dish to make with keema. Once you have made a batch of keema you'll find that its a brilliantly simple dish which is incredibly versatile. The challenge posed me with a problem, i'm not that good at cooking, well, at least i'm not all that interested in cooking. However, I know how to do all the basics and nearly everything we eat at home is cooked from scratch. I fancied doing keema meatballs or keema with home made Naan Breads. Then it struck me that in our house we are time limited and the basics work just as well for us as anything else and above all, my kids love pasta. So I've decided to cook a quick and easy Fusilli Pasta bake which can be frozen in batches so out of one keema cooking session, you'll get 2 family meals which will feed four people easily and wont break the bank. If you like my recipe you'll be able to vote for it over on the www.simplybeefandlamb.co.uk website.

Ingredients:
450 g lean lamb mince
2tsp sunflower of vegetable oil
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
1 x 2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger peeled and finely chopped
1-2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp garam masala or medium curry powder
4 medium potatoes, chopped
5- 10 ml white sugar
2 tbsp tomato puree
salt and freshly milled black pepper
1000g Wholewheat Fusilli Pasta
1 tin Cannellini beans
I packet of grated Mozerella

Method:
1. Heat the old in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the onion and garlic over a low heat for 10 minutes or until soft and lightly golden.

2. Add the ginger, chillies, cumin and garam masala or curry powder. Cook over a moderate heat for 1- 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the lamb and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, then add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato puree, cannellini beans and bring to the boil. Season, reduce the hear and cook uncovered for 20- 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water, if needed.
4. Cook the pasta so its al dente
5. Once the pasta is cooked mix the keema with the pasta and tin of chopped tomatoes, mix through the mozzarella cheese.

6. Divide evenly into three oven proof dishes and top with grated cheddar.
7. Pop the dish you want to eat tonight into the oven for about 15 minutes at 180 degrees. Or until the cheddar on top is nice and crsipy. Leave the other dishes to cool then freeze for use later on!

Enjoy! 

Readers of Being a Mummy can be in with a chance to win £50 by posting a picture of their own keema dish with the hashtag #CookWithKeema on Facebook or Twitter. So get voting for me and cooking yourself!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Ready, Steady, Cook Fish! Simple Creamy Pasta and Asparagus with Trout




I was asked to design a fish dish for a new campaign from Seafish which is the national authority on fish called Ready. Steady, Cook Fish! The challenge was to design a recipe in 30 minutes using fish. I'm all for quick, easy, uncomplicated healthy dishes which are economical to make, so I thought I'd make up this pasta and Trout dish. This quick and easy dish is a perfect comfort food for those winter nights at home. You could serve it with come lovely fresh home-made bread but its equally as nice on its own. My children loved it, I hope you'll enjoy it too.

Ingredients
1 packet of Trout (250 g)
3/4 packet pasta bronze fusilli pasta
Cream cheese
one teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
grated rind of about 1/5 of a lemon
half teaspoon of dried oregano
a handful of frozen peas
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method (overall cooking time 20 minutes):

1. Place the Trout into a frying pan and cook it lightly, not entirely (the trout will finish cooking when mixed with the pasta).
2. Cook the Pasta al dente
3. Flake the trout
4. Drain the pasta and stir in the cream cheese, lemon juice and rind and oregano. This should mix together and coat the pasta
5. Meanwhile pop the frozen peas in a dish and cover with water and a lid. Then cook for about 2 minutes.
6. Stir in the peas to the pasta.
7. Stir in the flaked trout and season with black pepper.

Serve with steamed asparagus stalks.

If you'd like to find lots more healthy fish recipes have a look at Fish is the Dish which is chock full of amazing recipes and inspiration.

Disclaimer: I was sent some ingredients to provide inspiration, but in the end did my own thing!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Cooking with Keema

Rather excitingly I've been asked to design my own Keema dish to be entered into a competition. I'm sure I won't win the competition, but hey, little old me has been asked to do something cookery related. With my track record of cooking this suggests that I'm improving!

Anyway, like me, you're probably wondering what Keema actually is: Keema is inspired by South Asian cuisine and is used all over the world quite often as a base for many recipes. Its made with lamb mince and spices and is easy to cook. Surprisingly so, because on my first attempt I was simultaneously having a phone conversation, looking after the kids and cooking...

This is the recipe for Lamb Keema:

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: Under 40 minutes

Ingredients:
450 g lean lamb mince
2tsp sunflower of vegetable oil
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
1 x 2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger peeled and finely chopped
1-2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp garam masala or medium curry powder
4 medium potatoes, chopped
5- 10 ml white sugar
2 tbsp tomato puree
salt and freshly milled black pepper
4 oz frozen peas
large handful of freshly chopped coriander

Method:
1. Heat the old in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the onion and garlic over a low heat for 10 minutes or until soft and lightly golden.

2. Add the ginger, chillies, cumin and garam masala or curry powder. Cook over a moderate heat for 1- 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the lamb and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, then add the tomatoes, sugar tomato puree and bring to the boil. Season, reduce the hear and cook uncovered for 20- 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water, if needed.
4. 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the peas.
5. Garnish with the coriander and serve with flat or naan bread, plain basmati rice or poppadoms and a selection of relishes.


Earlier this year Stacey Solomon met up with Indian chef Nisha Katona and learnt how to cook it. This is a really interesting video as it not only shows you how to cook and more importantly when Keema is cooked, but there is also a discussion about how to tailor it for kids. I'm converted, if you give it a go i'm sure you will be too. Keema is REALLY yummy, without doubt it will become a family basic regular dish.



Disclaimer: I was sent a kit to learn how to cook Keema from EBLEX

Book Review: A Treasury of Animal Stories by Holly Webb

Holly Webb's animal stories are brilliant for little readers and also to read to primary school aged children. Over the years we have built up a few of them individually so it was lovely to receive this collection of 11 of them all nicely presented in a soft cover book.

The stories speak for themselves and are a lovely collection perfectly pitched at primary school aged readers. I enjoy reading them to my children and the older ones (7 and 5) like reading them to themselves. One of the things which she seems particularly good at is writing a story which the children can use to develop their comprehension, there are lots of opportunities to discuss different emotions and situations alongside the general threads of the stories and I think this is very valuable.

This book benefits from lots of little additional interviews and information panels. Even I learnt something from the Did You Know? panel about hedgehogs!

This is a really lovely gift for a little reader and to be honest I'd much rather my children received something like this than an annual this Christmas. Its a bargain at £9:99 and I think I've enjoyed it as much as the children.

You can find out more about the book here.

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