Entertaining a toddler can be tough at the best of times, let alone on a cold, grey, January afternoon. To stop everyone going a bit stir crazy, you need to have an armoury full of ideas to keep them entertained. For us, this usually involves stuff like playing with lots of toys, reading, watching TV / films, messy play and, most recently, baking. The other day though, we did something very different – we had a feast with a Gruffalo!
As part of another collaboration with Iceland, I was challenged to see if I could come up with my very own family movie afternoon. “Hey, that’s not too bad, just stick on the TV”, I hear you say. However, the added element was that they tasked me with pairing up our movie selection with some of their party food range.
We’re no stranger to Iceland and their party food. I’ve already featured some of it on previous posts such as here and here as part of the #PowerOfFrozen campaign, so I was looking forward to tucking in once again. Although we only discovered Iceland in the last year or so, I’ve genuinely been impressed with the quality, variety and value for money at the supermarket.
Buying some frozen stuff has also changed how we eat – for instance, we now always have frozen vegetables (peppers, onions, mixed veg etc) in the freezer as a backup for when we’ve run out of fresh stuff. This means we still get good quality veg in our meals, but with the convenience of it being easy to portion and less expensive when buying in bulk.
When it came to this particular challenge, I knew instantly what I wanted to attempt. Toddler L loves all things Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. As a parent forced to read the same books and watch the same films over and over again, I’ve also come to love their stuff. From The Gruffalo to Room on the Broom to Stick Man to Superworm, there’s something about the writing and illustrations that captures the imagination. So much so, that Toddler L is now obsessed.
Look who we found earlier in Wendover Woods. The Gruffalo was there too. pic.twitter.com/ZNu31Ky5sK
— The DADventurer (@The_dadventurer) October 9, 2016
So, what I planned to do was recreate the different dishes mentioned in the book / film using Iceland’s party food. This would mean that I’d be making Scrambled Snake, Owl Ice Cream, Roasted Fox, Mouse Sandwich and Gruffalo Crumble. Nothing like biting off more than I can chew, eh?!
We popped along to our local Iceland and were able to get all of the food from there. Not all of the party food was available in-store, so I had to change one of the dishes. However, in retrospect, I think it turned out for the best. To make our movie afternoon more of a thing, I also did a bit of a Gruffalo makeover on her play tent. With the help of a few blankets, a couple of cushions and some fairy lights inside, her tent was ‘transformed’ into The Gruffalo’s Cave.
After spending the morning reading and playing in her tent, it was on to the food and films. This was the time to unleash my ‘creative, culinary talents’ – and unleash is exactly what I did. Here is what we ate as part of our Gruffalo-themed movie afternoon.
Preparing A Feast With A Gruffalo
“You’ll taste good on a slice of bread!”
A mouse sandwich might be a favourite of the Gruffalo’s, but it’s not something I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of tasting. As such, serving up a plate of rodent on bread didn’t particularly appeal, so I made the executive decision to substitute mouse for something much nicer.
Rather than a boring and uninspiring ham (or equivalent) sandwich, I bought southern fried chicken drumsticks, tiger bloomer bread and mature cheddar cheese. The idea was then to cut the bread into the shape of a mouse’s head to make mouse melt sandwiches.
After sticking the drumsticks in the oven for around 40 minutes, I removed the cooked chicken off the bone and shredded it. I then butchered the bread with a knife as I (attempted to) create a shape resembling a mouse. I then placed the chicken on the bread and topped with grated cheese, before finishing off the masterpiece with more cheese and chives to create facial features.
It may have looked like it was created on CBeebies I Can Cook, but it was tasty and Toddler L recognised it as a mouse – for me, that’s a win. I’m not going to lie though. After spending ages cutting one mouse out of the bread for Toddler L, the missus and I just ate ours with normal slices…shhh…don’t tell anyone…
“And his favourite food is scrambled snake.”
It’s pretty difficult to get your hands on actual snake, so I had to use my imagination for the scrambled snake. Having looked at the party food in Iceland, I decided to go with the tasty sounding breaded mozzarella sticks with cream cheese and cheddar cheese.
Not only did these have the same shape as what I imagine a scrambled snake would look like, but the parsley in the breadcrumbs added a hint of a snake’s scale patterns. Once assembled and topped off with googly eyes, the dish was spot on.
I thought these breaded mozzarella sticks were really good value. They’re available in a pack of 12 for just a quid and cooked from frozen in nine minutes. They were tasty, the cheese filling was gooey and they worked perfectly with a few dips on the side.
Funnily enough, Toddler L wasn’t fussed about trying them when they were normal mozzarella sticks. However, when she found out they were scrambled snake, she tucked in and ended up eating nearly four of them. I’m definitely going to pretend everything is scrambled snake from now on if she’s being fussy!
“And his favourite food is roasted fox.”
Roasted fox was a bit of a challenge. After all, fox hunting is illegal and I didn’t have the time to drive along the country roads looking for roadkill. Instead, I used a bit of creative licence and decided our roasted fox would be duck spring rolls.
Sure, it was a bit of a leap, but I thought that if a fox was roasted, the meat would be succulent and fall apart, much like the texture of duck. Encased in a filo pastry with Chinese style sauce and spring onion, the roasted fox took 12 minutes to cook from frozen. We’ve had these before and remember them being nice – we weren’t disappointed this time either. As an added bonus for our Gruffalo feast, the spring rolls even had a slight orangey / brown appearance once cooked which certainly helped to sell them to Toddler L as fox.
“My favourite food is – Gruffalo crumble!”
As dessert was sorted (see later), the obvious choice of an apple crumble was out. So, instead, the Gruffalo crumble needed to be something else. So I took inspiration from the second book – The Gruffalo’s Child – where Gruffalo Pie is mentioned and went down that avenue instead.
I found some small steak pies in-store and thought that these would be perfect. They took 30 minutes to cook from frozen and were made of short crust pastry with diced beef and gravy, then topped with puff pastry. I think this worked well on two levels. Firstly, if you think about it, the Gruffalo would probably taste quite meaty and steak-like. Secondly, he’s brown, as is both beef and gravy.
I decided to go a little further too to make them more Gruffalo-esque. I did this by adding some frozen vegetables – carrots for his orange eyes, a pea for the poisonous wart on his nose and green beans for his terrible tusks and horns. Not only did this add some extra vegetabley goodness to the food, but if you squint really, really tightly, it’s almost like you’re looking at the Gruffalo himself!
“And his favourite food is owl ice cream.”
For afters, we obviously had to have owl ice cream. Rather than feature any actual bird in our dessert, we bought some wafer cones, Iceland caramel swirl ice cream and a bag of chocolate M&M’s.
Making the owl ice cream was a really quick job, but I reckon the result was pretty impressive. OK, ‘impressive’ might be going a bit far, but I could see these being a massive hit at any kids party. I added a scoop of caramel ice cream to the cone, then decorated it with two orange M&M’s for the eyes and a brown M&M for the beak. Simple, tasty and who wouldn’t love the concept of eating owl ice cream?
Although there are no drinks in The Gruffalo – which majorly worries me from a dehydration perspective – I decided to make our own Gruffalo juice. This was simply blackcurrant squash with the all-important Iceland frozen melon balls to represent the orange eyes and green poisonous wart.
It was hardly Masterchef, but it was a nice little addition to the feast which kept the theme going. The balls also had the added benefit of keeping the drinks cool as they acted as like melony ice-cubes! Toddler L certainly enjoyed it – she basically downed her drink in one and then told me she wanted to eat “Gruffalo eyes”. A pretty novel way to get kids to eat more fruit, eh?!
Eating A Feast With A Gruffalo
As the photos show, we enjoyed turning what would have been a cold and wet Saturday into a fun-filled day centred around Toddler L’s favourite film. It was nice to do something a bit more special than just watching The Gruffalo (again) and Iceland’s party food helped massively with this. The food tasted nice and was easy to prepare, whilst the additional touches to make them Gruffalo-themed was totally worth it. I also really enjoyed getting creative with the food – hey, maybe I am a Pinterest parent after all!
It was a fun day and I hope this post has given you some party ideas or inspiration if looking to do something similar with your toddler! Do you like my Gruffalo party food ideas? Would you have done any of the dishes differently? Let me know below!
N.B. This is a collaborative post written with Iceland.