banana bread with chocolate chips and sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Cooking with kids: Easy seedy, chocolate-chip banana bread recipe

banana bread with chocolate chips and sunflower and pumpkin seeds

I love banana bread and as the Little One loves bananas we always have some hanging around. So if you find yourself with some that are over-ripe this is a perfect way to use them up and it’s very easy so the children can help you bake it. This is a mishmash of various banana bread recipes, keeping the bits I like such as chocolate chips and a crunchy, sweet, seeded crust. At two years old, I’ve been involving my son in baking for a while now and it’s great to see him really keen to get involved. However, as with most things these days, he insists on trying to do it by himself (obviously I’m actually doing most of it) but luckily this is one of those recipes that is quite forgiving even if everything isn’t quite mixed properly. And I’ve learnt  to accept the fact the kitchen will get covered in flour as he ‘stirs’ while actually flicking stuff all over the place!

What you’ll need

A 2lb loaf tin
A willing little helper (ideally wearing an apron if you can get yours to wear one!)

130g Butter
150g Light brown sugar
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large free range eggs
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
100g bag of choc chips
2 tbsp demerera sugar
2 tablespoons seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds

weighing ingredients for banana bread

What to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 160° C (fan), 180° C conventional, gas mark 4. I use a silicon loaf tin so just grease it with butter but if you’re using a conventional tin you may want to line it with baking parchment too.
  2. Get your little ones to help you mash up the bananas with a fork (I have to stop mine sneaking most of it into his mouth as he loves bananas).
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. I use an electric handheld whisk then little hands can ‘help’ you by holding on.

Mixing banana bread ingredients

4. Add the eggs, mashed banana and vanilla and whisk a bit more until all combined.

5. Sift the flour, mixed spice, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and fold in. Then add the chocolate chips (you could add other things here – dried fruit, coconut, white or dark chocolate chunks – up to you)

6. Transfer to the loaf tin and then sprinkle the top liberally with mixed seeds. I suually have pumpkin and sunflower seeds in the cupboard but you can use whatever you have or even exchange these for nuts like flaked almonds or even desiccated coconut.

7. Finally sprinkle with Demerara sugar (for a yummy sweet crust) and then put it in the oven for 50-60 minutes.

8. It’s delicious eaten warm, but it will keep for a few days and is yummy lightly toasted with butter for breakfast. Although ours usually gets eaten pretty quickly!

Boy stuffing his face with banana bread

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Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

Review: Beach East at Olympic Park, Stratford

I was really excited to hear that the UK’s largest urban beach was opening just down the road in Stratford, so this week we headed down to Beach East at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to check it out.

Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

Luckily, the weather was warm and sunny on the morning we visited as this definitely helps with the beach vibe! I parked in Westfield shopping centre but you could also park at the Aquatic Centre or get the tube or bus to Stratford. We arrived just after it opened at about 10am and though it was fairly quiet when we arrived, it quickly filled up and by the time we left the place was getting pretty rammed. Obviously, with schools just breaking up this is to be expected but this was a weekday, so afternoons and weekends are going to be super busy.

boy on Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

The ‘beach’ is basically a little complex near the aquatic centre with fun fair rides, food stalls, picnic areas and a large sandy area complete with paddling pool. You do have to walk past a lot of rides to get to the beach area so the pestering starts straight away. However, if you can drag your kids past that the sand was lovely and clean and we brought along a bucket and spade which is always good for simple but effective entertainment of toddlers.

boy playing in sand at Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

While there are some food outlets as I’ve mentioned, they are selling stuff like hotdogs, chips and other fast food so if you’re trying to be a bit healthier or just want to save money you are allowed to bring in your own food and drink (although no glass bottles etc). Personally my little one is so fussy at the moment that I resent paying out for food he’ll barely eat so we packed a little picnic to eat on the beach. A few mouthfuls got eaten before he wanted to run around and play in the sand again. But if you can get them to sit still for long enough a rug is a good idea. There are a few deck chairs but these did all get commandeered by  10 am and they are not very comfortable for little ones. Be warned though – that fine sand gets into everything – gritty sandwiches ahoy! We had packed the swimming stuff for our little ones but they didn’t seem that interested and frankly, I was pretty glad because it was getting very busy with older kids as time went on. But if your kids are a bit older, I’m sure they’ll be desperate to have a splash about and a paddle in the water.

boy near food stalls Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

As soon as we arrived, my little one had spotted a ride with little cars so he spent most of the morning talking about the green car and attempting to run off to have a go. Most of the rides suitable for younger children seem to cost £2 but others go up to £4 and you need to buy tokens at the kiosk first. Despite initially enjoying sitting in the car, when the ride started it did go round the corner quite fast and my little one got a bit scared and started to cry. It was all a bit heartbreaking as I couldn’t get him out of the car until the ride stopped but my friend’s son of the same age was fine so, as ever, who knows how your toddler will react! However, I did notice the lady running it let some younger children on and quite a few of them seemed to be crying! So I’d suggest watching some kids go round on the rides first to get a sense of it and what age group they are and if you think your child would enjoy it (of course this is no guarantee with the unpredictable little monkeys!). There are lots of other rides for older children, such as mini roller coasters and swing seats that all look great fun – although I can imagine it could quickly get expensive.

boy in toy car at Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

Apart from the unsuccessful ride, we had a lovely morning there and when the sun was shining it definitely felt like we were on a beach and it had a distinctly holiday vibe. As it is open until 10pm and has bars, we decided it would be an interesting place to go on a date night for something different on a  warm summers evening. Not that we actually ever go out on date nights, but if you are the kind of parents that can get your shit together to do that I’m sure it would be fun!

Beach East is open until 31st August 2015. It’s open from 10am – 10pm and entry is free. You can bring your own food and drink and pushchairs but no dogs.

Beach East website

Address: Stratford Waterfront, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, next to Westfield E15 2DU

Have you been to Beach East? I’d love to know what you thought of it, just add your comment below.

What’s on in West Essex this weekend: Friday 10 July – Sunday 12 July

SATURDAY 11 JULY

BEACH EAST AT THE PARK, STRATFORD

I’m really excited about this. We already love going to the sandpit at the Olympic Park near Westfield Stratford and were commenting just the other day how great it would be if there was a paddling pool. And then I find out they’re going one better with an urban beach! Opening this weekend and open until the end of August, it will be the largest one in the UK with a huge kid’s paddling pool overlooking the canal, one thousand tons of sand as well as funfair rides, beach bars and lots of events and activities. So grab your bucket and spade and we’ll see you there.

Beach East at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Stratford

TIME: Open daily 10am-10pm from 11 July to 31st August

PRICE: Free

ADDRESS: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

MORE INFO: Olympic Park website

FAIRY-TALE FINDERS A TEATRO VIVO ADVENTURE, VALENTINE”S MANSION

Teatro Vivo Valentine's Mansion

This looks like a really interesting immersive theatre experience at Valentine’s Mansion. It promises that families can meet famous characters from fairytales and listen to their version of the stories we know and love in some unusual places and inventive spaces. Look out for the hungry wolf, a wet Frog Prince and Snow White’s wicked stepmother. Suitable for children 6 years and older

TIME: 11am, 3pm & 7pm (60 minute performance)

PRICE: £8 adults, £5 children and concessions, £20 Family ticket. Booking advised via Redbridge website

ADDRESS: Valentine’s Mansion & Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA

MORE INFO: Redbridge website

FREE FILM SCREENING, LEYTONSTONE

My Neighbor Totoro film poster

As part of a Free Film Day, the Leytonstone Film Club is showing the wonderful children’s film My Neighbor Totoro by brilliant Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. The award-winning film follows the two young daughters of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in postwar rural Japan. If you want to expand your children’s horizons beyond Disney, this is a great introduction to the films of Studio Ghibli.

TIME: 2.30pm

PRICE: Free but seats are limited and will be allocated ona first come, first served basis

ADDRESS: Leytonstone Children’s Centre (Former Harrow Green Library, ground floor), 8 Cathall Road, E11 4LF

SUMMER FETE & SPORTS DAY, ST JOHNS SCHOOL CHIGWELL

After a weekend full of school fete’s last weekend, there are a few more going on this week before all the schools break up. So check your local one and if you’re near Chigwell, this one at St John’s school looks like a traditional offering with a BBQ, raffle, home produce, stalls and refreshments.

TIME: 12- 3PM

PRICE: £1 adults & 50p children (free for school students)

ADDRESS: St John’s RC School, Turpins Lane, Chigwell, IG8 8AX

MORE INFO: Ring 0208 504 1818

SUNDAY 12th JULY

COMMUNITY OPEN DAY, NORTH WEALD AIRFIELD

Aeroplanes at North Weald Airfield

My Little One is obsessed with aeroplanes and helicopters so we are already regular visitors to the North Weald Airfield and the great child-friendly café they have there. It was on a visit a few weeks ago that I saw posters for their open day and air display and I know our son will love it. It is being put on to celebrate the75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and will feature Second World War fighter planes, military vehicles and classic cars. An air display will begin at 2pm featuring Spitfires and Hurricanes plus aerobatic displays. Plus there will be helicopter pleasure rides, family friendly activities with magic tricks, fairground rides and a bouncy castle in the children’s adventure corner. And the day will end with a parade at 4pm by the Royal Air Forces Association.

TIME: Gates open 10am

PRICE: £5 per person available on the day, babies 12 months and under free

ADDRESS: Merlin Way, North Weald, Essex CM16 6HR

MORE INFO: North Weald Airfield Facebook page 

PAWS AT THE VIEW, CHINGFORD

There’s four-legged friends at The View on the edge of Epping forest in Chingford. There’ll be have-a-go agility, displays, stalls, tombola and a companion dog show. Visitors can also take in ‘Tudor Stuff’ at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge between 2pm and 4pm.Costumed guides will bring The Hunting Lodge to life and there will be Tudor art and craft activities on offer.

TIME: 11am – 4pm

PRICE: Free entry, £1 entry to the dog show and £1 for craft activities

ADDRESS: The View, Rangers Road, Chingford E4 7QH

MORE INFO: Ring 020 7332 1991 or visit www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/eppingforest

Mini Moments: Brighton Pier

Boy looking at Brighton Pier

I love this as it captures the brief moment when my son stopped at the beginning of Brighton Pier, shouted ‘wow’ at the sea and the pier and took off at a run in excitement.

He loves Brighton Pier & it’s a brilliant way to tire out a toddler. Just running up and down  is exciting when the sea is swirling around beneath the wooden floor planks. Then there’s the amusement arcade – full of music, flashing lights and buttons to press. And when the sun is shining you can’t beat sitting outside on the pier eating fish and chips.

Read more about Free and child friendly fun activities in Brighton here.

Find out about Mini Moments.

What’s on this weekend: Saturday 4 July – Sunday 5 July

If you’re looking for kids activities and something to do with the family in West Essex this weekend – you’re in luck. This seems to be the favoured weekend for lots of school fairs and fetes around Woodford, Wanstead and the local area. So aside from the list below, chances are a school near you will be hosting a summery event with tombolas and kids stalls for a fun, local day out.

SATURDAY 4 JULY 2015

FAIRLOP FAIR, FAIRLOP WATERS COUNTY PARK

Fairlop Fair Saturday 4 July 2015
The fourth annual Fairlop Fair has lots of family-friendly activities to keep the little ones amused. Set in the Fairlop Waters County Park, the heart of the fair is the Fairlop Arena where bands and choirs will be performing as well as a local talent show. The Children’s Zone includes a Gingerbread man competition and some free children’s theatre including a classic Punch and Judy show. There’s a brilliantly named Craft Jungle Pod when you can get your face painted, make a jungle mask or wild head dress or balloon hat so you’ll be suitably attired for the Fairlop Parade at 4pm. And I love the sound of the Bubble Man who is apparently a bubbleologist and will be creating all sorts of bubbles from giant ones to tiny ones and even bubble caterpillars filled with smoke! There’s loads more going on too so it sounds like there should be something for everyone.

TIMES: 11am – 6pm
ADDRESS: Fairlop Waters, Forest Road Barkingside, Essex, IG6 3HN
PRICE: Free, car park is £3
MORE INFORMATION: Fairlop Fair website

(The Gingerbread Men and the parade have their roots in the original fair started in the 1720s and in its heyday the Fairlop Fair used to attract around 200, 000 revellers! These days its usually around 5, 000 but you can read a really interesting history of Fairlop Fair here: Ilford Historical Society)

SUNDAY 5 JULY 2015

HAVEN HOUSE SUMMER FAYRE, HAVEN HOUSE 

The Woodford Green children’s hospice has planned lost of family-friendly games and activities including a bouncy castle, swing boats, tombolas and a rodeo bull. Alongside the stalls and food there’s a Frozen princess sing-along, a magician, pirate ship-themed playground and live music from a Blues Brothers tribute act, the Epping Forest Pipe Band and Popchoir.

TIME: 11am – 4pm
ADDRESS: Haven House Children’s Hospice, High Road, Woodford Green, Essex IG8 9LB
PRICE: Suggested £2 donation for entry (under 3s are free).
MORE INFORMATION: Haven House website

EPPING TOWN SHOW, EPPING

I haven’t been able to find out lots of detail about the Epping Town Show, but a funfair, animals, circus skills, refreshments, activites and arena events are all being promised. 

EPPING TOWN SHOW

TIMES: midday – 5pm
ADDRESS: Stonards Hill Recreation Ground
PRICE: Free
MORE INFORMATION: Epping Town Show

DONKEY DERBY, THEYDON BOIS 

This looks like a lot of fun. It has been a very long time since I went to a donkey derby but this one promises stalls (such as hook the duck and smash the crocks), entertainment and a dog show alongside the seven races. Apparently it attracts about 4, 000 people each year. There will be seven races in the derby, with children aged 10 to 15 trying to get their mules around the course in one piece. Punters can bet on the donkeys for fun with a payout for the winners in each race.

TIMES: midday – 4pm
ADDRESS: The Green, Theydon Bois
PRICE: Free
MORE INFORMATION: Theydon Bois village website

COMING SOON

And the circus is coming to town, you can book now for Circus Fantasia that opens in Ray Lodge Park, Woodford on Wednesday 8th until 12th July. I have no idea if it is any good so I’d love to hear what you think if you’ve been before or you go along this time. You can book advance tickets for Circus Fantasia on the Ticketline website.