Children's Nutrition, Kids meals, Lunchboxes, Recipes, Savoury, Snacks

Sweet potato and bean dip

Good sources of protein, fats and fibre in toddler snacks, lunchboxes and for adults as well, really help to keep blood sugar levels balanced and support a stable mood, sustained energy and that all important ability to concentrate and learn. This sweet potato and bean dip also adds in plenty of extra micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and more) that really support the body in all it’s important tasks and help you to feel in tip-top health!

This recipe was inspired by the blog Rupert and Mummy, and is a lovely nutritious alternative to hummus. “Mummy” (Jenny) uses tahini in hers for extra creaminess, but since the whole point of this recipe is to avoid nuts and seeds (a requirement in many schools now) and provide a nutritious, protein and fibre-rich alternative to hummus, I’ve played around with some different ingredients to make the base (beans and sweet potato) really pop with flavour without it. Why not give it a go and have a play with different flavour tweaks yourself? I’d love to know how you get on!

Ingredients:
• 1 sweet potato
• 1 400g tin butter beans (or other beans – cannelini or haricot also work well, I just like to use white beans for the overall colour)
• juice of 1/2 lemon
• 2 sundried tomatoes
• 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
• 70mls extra virgin olive oil
• Pinch of salt (optional)

Method:
1. Roast the sweet potato in the oven whole at 180C (fan) for about 40 minutes, until it is cooked all the way through, then leave it to cool. I tend to do this alongside baking something else, and pop it in the fridge to use later. 2. Once you’re ready to make your dip, remove the skin from the sweet potato and pop in food processor with the beans (drained and rinsed) and rest of the ingredients
3. Blitz until it’s the desired consistency, adding a splash of water if it’s a bit thick for your processor (my boys prefer it very smooth), then chill in the fridge

You can then serve with crudites or oatcakes for a snack, and it also makes a good filling for wraps – I love to add some salad leaves and halloumi for example.

Children's Nutrition, Dinners, Kids meals, Lunchboxes, Recipes, Savoury

Pumpkin seed and parsley pesto

Pesto is such a versatile sauce – you can eat it with pasta, as a base to savoury toasts, smothered on chicken or fish, as the flavour for a salad dressing… the list goes on. And pesto doesn’t have to be the traditional basil and pine nut base (of course it can, that’s delicious!), once you get the hang of making them you really can use any seeds and leaves you want to.

This delicious parsley and pumpkin seed version is great for this time of year as it’s full of vitamin C and zinc, fab nutrients for supporting the immune system. I tend to make a large quantity, then use half and freeze half to just grab out when I need a quick meal.

Makes about 8 tablespoons
Ingredients:
• 75g pumpkin seeds
• 1 clove garlic
• Large pack of parsley (approx. 50-60g)
• Juice of half a lemon
• 150-200mls extra virgin olive oil
• Pinch of salt and pepper to season (omit salt with young children)
• 50g parmesan cheese (optional)

Method:
1. Blitz the pumpkin seeds and garlic in a food processor (I use my Nutri Ninja) until they are ground to a flour
2. Add the parsley (washed and ripped into pieces), lemon juice, salt and pepper and olive oil and blitz again to a smooth consistency
3. Add the grated cheese if using (I enjoy this just as much without, and my children tend to add so much cheese to their pesto pasta it rather feels like too much to already include it in the pesto!), and blitz again. If you’re not adding the cheese you will probably need nearer 150 mls rather than 200 mls of olive oil, but adjust it to the taste and consistency you like
4. Serve! This will keep for a good few days or up to a week in an airtight jar in the fridge, just trickle a little extra olive oil over the leftovers to keep the air away.

Breakfast, Recipes, Uncategorized

Strawberry Omega 3 Granola

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it’s important that we also get that breakfast right. Many processed breakfast cereals release their carbohydrate content very quickly (even if they are labelled “low sugar”) and are really lacking in essential nutrients that we need to thrive. (I cover all the science behind this in the Eating for Energy workshop, new dates coming soon!)

So, one of my favourite breakfasts is home-made granola. Making granola might look complicated and time-consuming, but I assure you, once you get in the swing of it, it really isn’t that onerous and the benefits to your health and energy levels, as well as your wallet, will speak volumes!

This is my latest batch, inspired by my pick-you-own strawberry experience (I sliced and dehydrated these strawberries, but you can also buy them in health food stores, online shops, or substitute for another dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries).

I’ve called it “omega 3” because it’s rich in the fats that our body coverts to healthy omega 3 (think heart and brain health) and which tend to be lacking in many shop-bought cereals which often provide more omega 6 fats). Omega 3 in this recipe comes from the walnuts, flax seeds and hemp hearts, but you can mix it up with whatever you have to hand in terms of nuts and seeds.

Do have a go – I think you will be pleasantly surprised! And if you’d like more recipe inspiration to maximise the nutrients in your daily diet without having to spend a fortune on superfood fads, please join my Supercharge your Diet workshop on Thurs 20th June.

Ingredients:
150g walnuts (or other nuts)
150g almonds (or other nuts)
100g flax seeds (linseeds)
200g other seeds – I used 100g hemp hearts and 100g buckwheat*
200g oats or other flakes – I used 100g rolled gf oats and 100g quinoa flakes*
4 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
100g dried fruit – I used dehydrated strawberries**

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (fan).
2. In a saucepan, gently melt the coconut oil with the maple syrup and cinnamon.
3. Put the walnuts, almonds and flax into a food processor and blitz for a few seconds just to break them down into small chunk – you aren’t aiming to make a fine flour, just avoid there being too many whole nuts in your granola.
4. Add the nut mix to the other dry ingredients (oats and seeds etc. but not the dried fruit) and mix together, then pour over the melted coconut oil and maple syrup mixture and again stir thoroughly to make sure everything is coated.
5. Tip the mixture into a deep baking tray and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir the granola – this is so that it all gets toasted evenly. Return it to the oven for another 10 minutes, then repeat the stirring and bake for a final 10 minutes.
6. Leave the granola to cool in the tray, then add the dried fruit, mix well and store in an airtight container. This will last 2-4 weeks kept in a cool and dark cupboard. Serve with full-fat plain yogurt or milk.

Don’t forget there are more of my breakfast recipes available in a free pdf download when you sign up to my newsletter!

Children's Nutrition, Kids meals

Encouraging positive eating habits in our children: part 1 – get them cooking!

As part of developing resources to help parents encourage their children to eat healthily, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Becky Beasley of Two-Teaspoons.

Becky founded Two-Teaspoons in 2012, teaching culinary skills to children of all ages and I absolutely love her passion for real food and her no-nonsense approach to the art of cooking. She is an inspiration, catering for five nurseries a day and teaching toddlers to teens to cook on a regular basis. I couldn’t do it, but she truly believes that anyone and everyone can cook and there’s no doubt in my mind that if you have any doubts, she’s the person to show you how!

RFN: Hi Becky, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. Can you start by telling me when was it you yourself learnt to cook, and what was it that sparked your passion for good food?

BB: I learnt to cook from my Mum, who also worked full time as a teacher. My parents were incredibly social, often inviting guests to eat, and the passion really came from the early recognition that learning to cook made life more fun. I always tell teenagers in my pre-uni classes that if they can cook a meal, they will never be short of friends!

RFN: Have you had many fussy eaters through your door and how did they find the cooking experience?

BB: Absolutely, from the mildly fussy to the quite extreme, but they all enjoy the cooking experience and often enough that they try the food at the end too.

RFN: That’s amazing – how do you do it?

BB: I think there are two key values that I always instil throughout a class:

1. It’s social – my classes are not “classes” as much as “experiences”; it doesn’t matter what is being cooked or whether or not it is liked as much as the whole event itself is fun. This helps the children form a more positive relationship with the dishes we’re making. I’m not the parent in this scenario, I really don’t have any vested interest in whether or not the children I teach eat the food they make, and once they know that, and there’s no pressure to try new or disliked foods they tend to relax and enjoy themselves.

2. There are no “good” or “bad” foods – I never put more value on one particular food above another. Sometimes we cook with chocolate, other times it’s broccoli; neither is more or less delicious than the other, they are just what’s required for the recipe and the focus is on enjoying the cooking experience.

RFN: That’s some very powerful psychology and a great attitude to have for building a long-term healthy relationship with food. Have you learnt anything from the children you’ve taught to cook?

BB: I never cease to be amazed by the skills of the children I teach – they always surprise me with their ability. That and never teach a couscous class unless you really love cleaning up!

RFN: I hear you there… Ok, so what’s your favourite dish to cook with kids, and why?

BB: I can’t really say I’ve a favourite dish to teach, but I always enjoy teaching them to cook things they think they’ll hate. There’s nothing more satisfying than turned up noses at the start of a class, and clean plates at the end!

RFN: And what’s the most popular class or dish for the kids, and why?

BB: Probably bread making, which I also love to teach. There’s so much fun to be had in being so tactile with the food – it’s fun, messy and a complete sensory pleasure. I also get to be a bit theatrical pouring oil on the table which also adds to the fun dynamic of the class!

RFN: That does sound like brilliant fun! And finally, can you share your top 3 tips for getting children cooking?

BB: Yes…

1. It’s important to get enthusiastic as a parent. That also means getting comfortable with chaos and mess. Cooking needs to be fun rather than a series of “telling offs”, regardless of how frustrating that sometimes is to do!


2. Let them have a say in what they want to cook. If they want to bake cookies, then bake cookies. You can also make something healthier to go alongside. Once children have taken ownership of a task, their attitude changes and that brings an enormous sense of pride and achievement.


3. Find a time when you have that capacity to cook with your kids (perhaps a Saturday afternoon rather than a Tuesday evening!) so that you’re not under any pressure, and remember that it doesn’t always need to be a huge activity – the smallest of “jobs” like peeling potatoes and grating cheese can also be great fun for children.

RFN: and I imagine that will help enormously with points 1 and 2 as well! Thank you Becky for that invaluable insight and please keep helping our kids learn to love cooking!

If you’d like your children to try out a cookery class with Becky, you can head over to her website: Two-Teaspoons to sign up. All classes are mixed age and ability (from 4 years upwards), which she says is fantastic for bringing the best out in everyone, and goes to show that it’s never too young to start cooking.

There are also some great family friendly recipes on the website that I’ll be trying out, and Becky’s shared with me a couple of her favourite gadgets to alleviate our fears for young children getting too involved. I’ll be testing these out with my kids too and will let you know how I get on.

Kids meals, Nutrition Science, Recipes

Reclaiming our children’s health

Photo by: C. Pohl. What was actually on offer at a local primary school disco…

On 10th March 2019 we were confronted with the headline “Scientists blame working mothers for Britain’s childhood obesity epidemic after study of 20,000 families”. Brilliant, as if working Mums don’t have enough on our plates, now we’re responsible for the obesity epidemic too? Not surprisingly, the Mum army was furious, but what did the study actually say, and how on earth is this headline at all helpful?

Sadly, the headline was not helpful at all. Rather than offering support to working families or those with children that are classified as overweight or obese, it just caused upset, guilt and anger. I took to Instagram live and was pleased to see that that was helpful for a lot of parents, but for those of you who missed it, here’s a written summary…

What the paper said

The research was a paper published in the scientific journal SSM-Population Health, with the title “The impact of maternal employment on children’s weight: Evidence from the UK”. It tracked 19,244 children born between 2000 and 2002, measuring their Body Mass Index (a measure of weight relative to height) at 9 months, 3, 5, 7, 11 and 14 years. The premise of the paper was that both childhood obesity and the number of mothers is paid employment has risen dramatically since 1975. The hypothesis set out to test if there was a causative effect between these two factors, rather than them both being independent statistics that happen to show the same trend.

So was there a causative link?

The paper statistically concluded that there was, however it did also fairly summarise the other available research on this subject. What it found was a number of research papers that also supported the association, and an equal number that did not. It also offered two possible contradicting explanations as to how and why a mother’s employment status might link to their child’s weight:

  1. Working mothers have less time to prepare and cook healthy food
  2. Working mothers may be able to afford better quality food for their children

The study also asked two additional questions of the children / their carers:

  1. How many hours TV did they watch per day during term time? This was to determine how sedentary children of working versus stay-at-home mums are
  2. How often did they skip breakfast? To act as a measure of children’s healthy eating habits

So how robust does that make these findings? In my opinion, the existence of other conflicting studies do seem to undermine a strong statistical significance, and these additional questions do take rather a big leap between what is being asked and the conclusions drown. There are, however, some useful take-aways from it.

What can we learn?

Rather than single-handedly blame working mothers, the paper concluded that steps should be taken to better involve both fathers and childcare providers in the day-to-day childcare activities and responsibilities such as eating and exercise, something which it recorded as still falling largely to mothers regardless of employment status. It noted that, whilst again not statistically significant, children who also lived with grandparents tended to have a lower BMI, suggesting that it is this aspect of time and capacity to care for and teach and provide food for our children that was the key factor.

What about working fathers?

This was a huge objection from the audience, so to cover off why fathers were not considered in the study, this was legitimately due to a lack of data. Father’s working status was also recorded, however only about 10% of the total fathers were not in employment at any stage of the study, so sadly any conclusions drawn about fathers specifically would not be statistically significant.

A word on BMI

The main measure used to determine whether or not a child was overweight or obese was BMI, which is calculated by taking a person’s weight in kilograms and dividing that by the square of their height in meters (if you’re interested in finding out yours, I would suggest popping over to the NHS website and using their handy calculator tool). When it comes to children, this is then applied against a population average that places your child at its appropriate percentile against the population as a whole. A healthy weight is deemed to be between the 3rd and 95th percentiles.

Is BMI helpful? It does give a measure across large populations and a way to track trends, so using it to show that on average childhood obesity is increasing over time is relatively helpful. However when it comes to the individual, things are less clear cut. Total weight does not take into account heavy muscle mass or lighter fat mass such that, for example, a healthy athlete may have a much higher BMI than an elderly adult who has lost much muscle mass and gained in unhealthy fat mass. Similar can be said of children – they are all so very different, and medical professionals do not usually consider BMI alone as a measure of good or poor health.

What to do if your child has a high BMI

Children in the UK are measured at school, and that BMI measure is then communicated back to their parents for follow-up. First of all, if you’ve received such a letter, I would say not to panic. Please consult a medical professional who will be able to tell you whether or not there is something of concern.

Depending on where you live, there are varying free support services available to help you to make changes to diet and lifestyle if needed. Many Registered Nutritional Therapists such as myself, are also able to offer help and support in this area: click here to find an NT near you.

Supporting working families

I think it’s safe to say that we’re not going back to pre-1975 and looking to retire the majority of mothers from the workforce. Ethics aside, even if this was feasible from a financial perspective, I doubt it would be in any way successful. So many factors in our lives have changed in the last 45 years, many of which have contributed to a poorer diet and increased levels of obesity. So here are my alternative ideas for healthy change:

  1. There is no difference between kids’ food and adult’s food

One of my biggest bug bears is this notion of “kids’ food” versus adult’s food. Where did this come from? I’m not advocating weaning babies and young children on restaurant dinners or suggesting that we can’t occasionally enjoy richer or spicier food alone, but most of the food I cook and eat is not designated for a single-sized human, and that’s how it was until very recent history in the grand scheme of things.

It has become the norm to only offer children fish fingers and chips, mac and cheese or chicken nuggets in restaurants. Also normalising the omission of any type of vegetable in many cases!

When we promote foods as a “children’s dinner” in a world where working parents often are eating separately out of necessity and timings, it’s easy to see how we can get caught in the trap of feeding our children their own food at their own dinner time. But actually, was this a conscious decision? Or has it just happened due to marketing and following what peers do? Ask yourself this question – would you eat what you’re serving your children?

My challenge to you is – can you stop? Can you prepare the same food, even if it’s eaten at separate times? Or can you ensure that childcare providers that are providing this food eat the same foods with the children in order to model good eating habits? Depending on how ingrained habits are and how old your children are, this may take some time to transition, but perhaps weekends would be a good starting point – a family meal that is fun, but also healthy and suitable for all ages.

2. We don’t always need snacks

My mum always scoffs at kids’ snacks and asks when on earth did this become the way to eat? Certainly not when I was a child apparently (and we’re not even going back 40 years then either, not quite!) This is an additional area of marketing for the food industry – if children need snacks then they can sell them. And it’s completely become the norm again without many actually stopping and thinking about whether or not their child really needs a snack. If my boys eat a decent breakfast, they are rarely hungry again by 10am and actually asking for more food, unless that is, they see it, and/or their peers are eating it.

Try starting the day with a healthy and filling breakfast, and see how long your children last without asking for or visibly needing food. You may be surprised! And always take a back-up snack that is full of fibre and protein and not high in sugar.

3. The food industry is an industry

The clue is in the title – food as an “industry”. Food became a “technology” subject at school and we stopped being taught how to cook and instead learned about how to produce “food products”. Do you see the difference? We stopped leaning about how all the wonderful nutrients in our bodies really work there in a way that made them appetising, and focused instead on the art of analysing our food as products to sell. We were subconsciously trained to buy food products rather than cook them ourselves, and indeed many people I meet genuinely believe that cooking is far more difficult than it actually is (ok I may not be Michelin star standard, but what I produce is more than “edible”!) and that processed packaged foods are just as nutritious as homemade one (they are not).

There is more and more emerging evidence that processed foods are not healthy for us, regardless of how many vitamins and minerals are artificially added, and the UK is one of the biggest consumers of highly processed foods in the world (certainly lengths ahead of our European counterparts). Perhaps this change in how we learn about food, rather than the increase in working mothers, has actually driven down the route of buying more unhealthy processed foods?

4. Food labelling is too complicated

In addition to buying in to the food industry itself, we are also being constantly conned by food labelling. It is there in the guise of making it easier for consumers to make healthy choices, but oftentimes this very labelling is making it much harder than it really needs to be to make a judgement on a food’s nutritional value.

My golden rules for reading labels are very simple:

  1. If it has more than 5 ingredients, it’s probably not healthy
  2. If you don’t recognise any of the ingredients listed, or your grandparents wouldn’t, it’s probably not healthy

I teach the fundamental principals of good nutrition in my EAT TO THRIVE programme, and it’s so rewarding to help people make sense of reading food labels. There’s often a traffic light system to help busy people make good choices quickly, but this does not reflect a product’s propensity to spike blood sugar levels, and “healthy” artificial sweeteners aren’t really a healthy choice despite keeping that traffic light number in the green.

We need to approach food labelling with a more cynical eye, and increase our own confidence in reading labels, cooking and choosing healthy foods so that we can pass those skills on and model them to our children.

What can we do?

I put that question to you, and the response was fantastic, so…

1.Teach our children about food; teach them how to cook it, teach them what it does in their bodies, get them involved in every aspect of what they eat from choosing it at the supermarket/market, to growing it, chopping it, cooking it.

If you’re not preparing the food for your children, speak to those who are about doing this too. Find your most knowledgeable friend or neighbour and rope them into volunteering at your child’s school or nursery to do food-based activities with them, there are endless possibilities

2. Brush up your own knowledge and skills. It doesn’t have to be a chore to learn how to cook, there are loads of great cooking classes out there. Sign up, take a friend, learn to love cooking real food from scratch so you don’t have to rely on processed meals

3. Surround yourself with supportive friends and talk about nutrition. For older children surrounded by peer pressure, how can we help them? In all honesty I’m not there yet, but I am doing everything in my power to model good eating habits to my children and surrounding our whole family with like-minded people so that they have a group of peers in exactly the same boat.

And I talk about it! Yes, I am probably that annoying nutrition friend, but we can all do it – if you learn something, share it, talk about it. Headlines like this try to divide the working mums from the stay-at-home mums but we shouldn’t let them. If you have challenges, ask your friends for help – chances are they are experiencing or have experienced the same issues too.

4. Provide a healthy breakfast. This was the key area that consistently came up as challenging – what to serve your children for breakfast that is quick, easy and tasty, and not a high-sugar breakfast cereal that won’t support their energy levels over the course of the morning and will likely lead to more pestering or bad choices at “snack time”. So I’ve pulled together five recipes that I use on a regular basis – you can download them by signing up to my mailing list.

I hope that helps, but if you’ve any questions or requests, please do post them here, and let’s continue the conversation about how to help turn around the childhood obesity epidemic regardless of how many hours mums spend per day in paid employment! And if you’re in the Wimbledon area are would like to learn more, my next Children’s Nutrition Workshop will be taking place on 18th May.

Dinners, Recipes

Friday Night “fake-away” Lamb Curry

I love to batch cook “take-away” dishes for a Friday night feast. I was a huge fan of a weekly take-away for years, but the truth is they never make me feel very good. There may well be good take-aways out there, but many tend to be filled with hidden sugar, flavour enhancers, and for me – cream and gluten, all of which are just unnecessary for a great curry in my opinion… In addition, the tendency is to over-order, and the portion sizes are always huge which leads to over-eating, let’s be honest!

So I’ve adopted a “here’s one I made earlier” approach to take-aways. I batch cook a big batch, and freeze it in portions ready to grab out of the freezer on a Friday night. My kid-friendly but also good enough for grown-ups chicken korma is always a big hit, but my favourite has to be this spicy lamb curry. Turn the heat up or down by using more or less chillies, I think I’ve achieved a middle-ground here that will suit most.

Serves 6 (so three ready meals for two), serve with brown rice, extra yogurt (especially if it’s a little too hot for you), some fresh coriander and/or mint, maybe a couple of popadoms if you’re happy to bend the healthy rules a little for the weekend 😉

Ingredients:

  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 5 cm piece of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
  • 4 tablespoons plain natural yogurt or coconut yogurt if dairy free
  • 750g diced lamb
  • 2 medium white onions
  • 2 peppers (red/orange/yellow best for colour)
  • 4 birdseye chillies, deseeded
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2-3 red onions
  • 1 additional pepper (green works well)
  • seeds from 3 green cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves / 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder (optional)
  • 3-4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 x 400 g tin of plum tomatoes

Method:

  1. Grate the ginger (peel it first if it’s not organic) and crush the garlic, place in a large bowl with the turmeric, peppercorns and yogurt, and mix together with the lamb until it’s all coated. Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour hour, preferably overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170ºC (150ºC fan)
  3. Peel and roughly chop the white onions, deseed and roughly chop the peppers and birdseye chillies and blitz in a food processor.
  4. Chop the red onions and green pepper, then gently heat the coconut oil in a large casserole dish (that has a lid) that can be transferred to the oven and fry them gently for 4-5 minutes, until they are nicely softened.
  5. Meanwhile, pop the cardamom seeds, cloves, cumin seeds and coriander seeds into a small food processor or coffee grinder, and grind to a powder. Add this powder, along with the cinnamon, paprika and chilli powder to the pan and stir to coat the softened onions and pepper.
  6. Add the blitzed veg from the processor to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, then add the tomatoes, the marinated lamb and approx 250 mls water, and bring to the boil.
  7. Once boiling, cover with the lid and place in the oven for at least 2 hours. Stir occasionally and add a little more water if the sauce is thickening too much.
Recipes, Sweet treats

Chocolate mousse

A healthy chocolate mousse?! Packed with healthy fat (avocado) and antioxidants, this truly is a dessert you don’t need to feel guilty about! There’s no nasties, no refined sugar, just real food, and it tastes delicious.It also freezes well to create “chocolate ice cream” – I pop it in lolly moulds or silicon cupcake cases.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 banana
  • 3-4 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract / vanilla bean paste
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  • Pinch of sea salt

Method:

Combine all ingredients together in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Transfer the mixture into small ramekins and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Recipes, Snacks, Sweet treats

Christmas gingerbread biscuits

Time to get into the festive season! If you’re anything like me, whilst you’re enjoying the excitement, school performances and parties, you may be getting a little overwhelmed by the amount of sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods being offered to your children… But Christmas is a celebration, and eating treats really is a part of it, I really don’t believe in any food being completely off limits (within reason of course!) so I wanted to share a recipe with you that ticks a lot of the boxes when it comes to enjoying treats in moderation.

These biscuits are made with:

  • Wholemeal spelt flour – higher in nutrients than refined white flour, and slower to digest thus reducing the sugar spike.
  • Unrefined sugar – again, slightly slower to release it’s glucose, and also still retaining some lovely minerals to support overall health.
  • Black Strap Molasses – did you know that this is actually a rich source of iron and calcium?
  • Cinnamon – helps to naturally balance blood sugar levels
  • Raw cacao – this retains its healthy antioxidants in a way that processed chocolate bars just don’t
  • Natural fruits, nuts and seeds – beautiful and healthy at the same time

Biscuit recipe:
(makes about 20)

Ingredients:

  • 350g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 150g unrefined sugar (I used Biona Rapadura, Billingtons also make unrefined cane sugar or you could use coconut palm sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp black strap molasses

Method:

  1. Mix together the flour, bicarb, ginger and cinnamon and put into a food processor. Add the butter and blend until well-mixed and resembling fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.
  2. Lightly beat the egg and treacle together, slowly add to the food processor and pulse until the mixture clumps together. Tip the dough out on a floured surface, and knead lightly into a ball. Place in a covered bowl in the fridge, and chill for at least 15 minutes
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  4. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 5mm thickness, then using cutters, cut out the biscuits and place them on the baking trays.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 For the chocolate buttercream:

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 50g maple syrup
  • 50g raw cocao powder
  • 1tsp vanilla paste
  • 1-3tsp milk
  • To decorate: Dried fruit such as cranberries, desiccated coconut, seeds such as sunflower seeds, nuts

 Method:

  1. Blend together the butter, maple syrup and vanilla paste using a mixer, then slowly add the cocoa bit by bit, adding in some milk if needed for consistency and texture. The buttercream needs to be reasonably thin in order to be easily piped.
  2. Once the biscuits are cooled, decorate using the chocolate buttercream and toppings. I used cranberries, desiccated coconut and sunflower seeds

I hope you enjoy baking them, with your little ones or without, and please leave me a comment if you like them!

Dinners, Kids meals, Recipes

“Green Cheese” Soup

My kids call this broccoli and stilton “green cheese” soup, it’s their favourite and they have absolutely no idea where the green colouring comes from! For the last batch I used about 400g broccoli, then made up the rest of the weight in Brussel sprouts and spinach, but vary the mix to what you have in abundance. 

Ingredients:

  • Knob of coconut oil or butter
  • 1 onion or leek, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crsuhed or finely chopped
  • 600g chopped broccoli or other cruciferous veg
  • 1 l stock (veg or chicken)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 160g stilton cheese, roughly chopped
  • Pinch of salt and pepper to season

 Method:

  1. Heat the oil then fry the onion/leek and garlic for 2-3 minutes on a low heat so that they don’t burn (they should just go soft and translucent)
  2. Add the chopped veg, stock, bay leaves, cheese and salt and pepper, bring the boil, cover and simmer for approx. 20-30m minutes until the broccoli is cooked through and tender. Stir occasionally.
  3. Remove the bay leaves, then blitz to a smooth consistency in a food processor (in batches) or with a stick blender (careful, it is hot!), and serve with some crusty bread.
Dinners, Kids meals, Recipes, Savoury

“Hidden veg” tomato sauce

Not just a sauce for Halloween, but I thought this picture might be inspiring today! I’ve topped some mini pizza bases with the sauce, some grated cheese and “spiders” made from olives (but trust me, it tastes just as good without the additional work of painstakingly slicing and arranging olives ha ha!)

This recipe makes a batch that can be frozen in glass jars and used for pasta dishes, pizza sauce, or as a sauce on other dishes… It’s a great way to get a variety of veg into fussy eaters (you can substitute with other veg too), and is such a versatile batch cook to keep in the freezer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ butternut squash, finely diced (or use some pre-cooked leftovers if you have them)
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 400ml jar passata
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 2 tsp mixed Italian herbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil for frying

Method:

  1. Gently fry the onions on a medium-high heat in a little rice bran oil for 5-10 minutes until softened but not burned.
  2. Add the garlic, celery, butternut squash and red pepper and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring gently.
  3. Add the tomatoes, passata and herbs and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes until everything’s nicely cooked and soft.
  4. Leave to cool slightly, then blitz in a food processor and use immediately on pasta, or allow to cool and freeze in glass jars.