I have had a “best baked beans” recipe for a long time now, but every time I make it, I tweak it – anyone else do that? Now that we’ve been a couple of months sans-Heinz over in rural northern Sweden I have had plenty of practice and plenty of tweaks and boy, is this THE recipe I have for you now!!!
If you think you don’t have time to make beans and that they couldn’t possible stand up to the comparison of your favourite can – think again, I promise you will not be disappointed 😉
Little olive oil for frying
½ onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed / finely chopped
2 rashers of streaky bacon (optional, but highly recommended)
Pinch ground cumin
Pinch ground coriander
250 mls tomato passata
1 400g tin cannellini beans (or 100g dried beans soaked overnight then boiled for approx. 90 mins until cooked)
Gently fry the onions and garlic in a little oil
for 2-3 minutes on a medium temperature, stirring so they don’t burn, then add
the bacon (if using) and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until it’s all cooked
Add the passata, coriander and cumin and bring
to the boil before adding the beans.
Cook through for 10 minutes or so until
everything is piping hot.
What are your cupboard staples that could use a tasty and healthy makeover?
For the next instalment of my Good.Mood.Food series, I wanted to share with you the amazing benefits of green tea. Many people that are trying to “be healthier” ditch the caffeinated drinks and green tea tends to fall into this category for them, but the caffeine in green tea is gentler than in coffee – there’s not only a lower quantity of it, but it’s also buffered by the presence of an amino acid called L-theanine. I find L-theanine to be such a powerful nutrient for me personally – it supports neurotransmitters in the body, supporting the brain by producing an anti-anxiety effect. My morning green tea is therefore a non-negotiable for me, and my kids know that so I get my 5 mins peace to help me start my day on an even keel with love and patience.
But once in a while I switch up the tea bag for this lovely treat – a matcha latte. I used to always only have them when I could buy them out, but they’re remarkably easy to make – why not give it a go?
cup (250 mls) dairy-free milk ie, almond, rice or oat
1 tsp matcha green tea powder
1 tsp coconut oil
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
tsp honey (optional)
Heat all ingredients gently in a pan at a low heat and ensure it does not reach boiling point. Either blitz in a Nutri bullet-style blender to froth, or whisk with a hand whisk for that authentic frothy “latte” feel.
I hope you enjoy that, and that it helps you to feel great. For more feel-good recipes, why not have a look at my Good.Mood.Food post?
Continuing with my Good.Mood.Food series on food to support mental health, I wanted to introduce you to buckwheat – have you tried it? When it comes to supporting mental health, it’s such a lovely source of supportive nutrients and definitely something I love to have in my weekly repertoire.
First of all, it’s high in protein – in fact it is one of only a few plant sources of protein that are considered “complete”, in that they contain some of all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to get from their food. Protein is so important for building neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers that we need for a happy mood). It also stabilises our blood sugar levels, keeping us feeling fuller for longer and also on a more even keel energy and mood wise.
It also contains a good dose of magnesium, manganese and B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin and B6, all of which are important for our brain health amongst other things!
Buckwheat flour is used a lot in Brittany, northern France, for making “galettes” – savoury pancakes like these, and that’s exactly where I discovered it many years ago, long before I had any appreciation for its nutritional benefits. You can fill these pancakes with whatever you fancy, I like a simple ham and cheese which also goes down well with the kids and is a brilliant toddler food when cut into strips like an alternative quesadilla. Here I’ve made a simple ratatouille and topped with a little hard goat’s cheese, and accompanied it with a green side salad to further boost the nutrient density of my meal.
100g buckwheat flour
Pinch of salt
300mls mls water (approx.)
Knob of butter, melted (optional)
Mix the egg into the flour and salt using a whisk, then gradually add the water until it has a smooth and runny but not watery consistency. Add in the melted butter if using and thoroughly mix in. You want to be able to pour pancakes that are as thin as you would expect to make sweet ones.
Heat a little butter in a large frying pan to a medium – high heat, pour the batter and leave to cook for approx 2 mins until it is dry on top and comes away from the sides easily (don’t try to remove it to quickly or it will stick and tear). Once it comes away, flip it over and cook the other side for 30 seconds – 1 minute.
Repeat as necessary add your fillings and then fold or roll
The batter will last in the fridge for a couple of days in an airtight container if you don’t want to eat them all at once. They can also be stored cold in the fridge and used as wraps for lunches / lunchboxes
Do let me know what you think, and I hope you’re enjoying my series on Good.Mood.Food – the full blog post and links to more recipes for your mental health are here.
For those of you who read my previous Good Mood Food post on supporting mental health through the Covid-19 lockdown and looking for inspiring recipes, this is such a lovely simple but wonderfully supportive salad. Eating the right fats is so important for brain health, as it getting sufficient proteins and the variety of different vitamins and minerals we need to keep all the process running effectively to keep us on an even keel and feeling great.
For the salad:
1 chicory (endive) sliced, or other salad leaves
1 small carrot, grated
1 small beetroot, grated
1/2 a large or a whole avocado, sliced
1 pre-cooked salmon fillet (simply bake for 20 minutes or pan fry in advance) This is delicious served warm or cold
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
For the dressing:
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
Method: 1. Mix the salad dressing ingredients together in an empty jam jar, and shake well to mix 2. Assemble the salad ingredients on a plate, then drizzle over the dressing (there will be plenty spare for another day, just use as much as you like for taste)
There’s something quite cosy going on in my home, sheltered inside amidst the chaos. There’s an attempt at home schooling that has moments of varying success, there’s some cabin fever at having only our immediate family for company and a distinct lack of “me” time despite not being able to go anywhere, and yet I am spending precious time with my kids and teaching them all the things I also love to do… like baking!
These rock cakes are a variation of a recipe that my mum used to bake with me and my sister. Blissfully easy to do with small people, and as the name suggests, the appearance is better when no attention is paid to it at all. And so very comforting for me as a memory of my childhood, albeit I’ve switched out some of the less than healthy ingredients (hello glace cherries!) for some more wholesome alternatives.
200g wholemeal flour (I used spelt)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
150g dried fruit – I used 50g raisins, 50g chopped dates and 50g chopped apricots
30g chopped mixed nuts
80g brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 large egg, beaten
2-3 tbsp milk
Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases and pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan assisted)
Measure out the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and stir together
Add the butter to the flour mix, chopped into 1-2cm square cubes
Rub the flour and butter together with your fingers. This was always a step emphasised by my mum as being important not to over-heat the butter and make a doughy consistency, but I don’t find that true in reality (sorry Mum!) so the kids get stuck in
Clean children’s hands thoroughly so that the mix remains mostly in the bowl!
Add the sugar, dried fruit, nuts and lemon rind and mix together
Add the egg and milk and stir to form a thick mixture that can be scooped out – then scoop it out dividing evenly into the cupcake cases
Bake for approx 20 minutes, until golden brown on top, then leave to cool on a wire rack for as long as the small people can wait.
Do please let me know what you think of these! Other great family bakes to try are:
These cheese-less “cheesecakes” are made with high-protein cashew nuts on a base of dates and pecans. There is still a reasonable amount of sugar included, but it’s not refined sugar (meaning it carries lots of great nutrients along with it), and blood sugar spikes should be better counteracted by the protein, fat and fibre content. Plus, if you’re following a gluten and/or dairy free diet or undertaking “veganuary” then these are a show-stopper dessert for which where nobody’s going to feel they’re being deprived of a proper treat!
For the bases:
150g madjool dates, destoned
For the toppings:
125g cashew nuts*, soaked in water for at least an hour, then drained
The juice from one lemon
100mls coconut oil, melted, plus a little extra for greasing
160mls coconut cream
100mls maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla bean extract
100g raspberries, fresh or frozen
Freeze-dried raspberry pieces (optional) *Please buy fair trade – it really does make a difference!
Grease a 12 hole large muffin tin with a little coconut oil, and lay a strip of greaseproof paper across each hole with just a little of each end sticking out above the top (this is to aid in removing the cheesecakes from the tin once frozen, trust me, it’s worth the effort!)
Blitz the dates and pecans in a high-speed food processor until they start to combine and stick together into a sort of dough, then split the mixture out evenly between each of the 12 muffin tin holes and press down with the back of a spoon or the base of a small glass
Next, wash out the food processor and now blitz together the drained cashew nuts with the lemon juice, coconut oil, coconut cream, maple syrup, vanilla bean extract and raspberries until it’s completely smooth
Evenly pour the cashew nut mixture over each of the bases, sprinkle over some freeze-dried raspberry pieces (for aesthetics), and pop the tray into the freezer for at least 2 hours, or until the cheesecakes are frozen solid
To serve, remove from the freezer and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before carefully removing them from the tray using the tip of a knife and the greaseproof “handles”. You may wish to leave them to stand for a little longer so that they are a bit softer and easier to eat, but I usually can’t wait that long! Store the extras back in the freezer or keep them covered in the fridge for a few days.
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.
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.
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s important that we get it right! This is often the first place I start with my private clients, but why and what are they doing wrong? Well, 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. It’s a scientific fact that if the first meal we eat in the day is high in protein, we consume less overall throughout the day, and I for one know how much better I’m able to concentrate and keep going when I eat a good high-protein breakfast.
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 batch was 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 and let me know what you think!
3 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups oats
3 tbsp buckwheat
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tbsp hemp seed hearts
15g dehydrated or freeze-dried strawberry / raspberry pieces (or other fruit)
Method: 1. Preheat the oven to 160C
2. Gently melt the coconut oil in a pan, then mix in the honey, vanilla and cinnamon
3. Blitz the nuts slightly in a food processor or blender, to make chunks of varying sizes rather than whole nuts
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, buckwheat, coconut and seeds, then pour over the coconut oil honey mix and mix well together
5. Pour the mix into a deep sided baking tray and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven to mix the mixture, preventing it from burning on the top and sticking together, then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Repeat again with a final 10 minutes cooking time, then remove, mix the mixture one last time and leave to cool.
Once cool, mix in the freeze-dried berries and transfer to an airtight container. This will last 2-4 weeks kept in a cool and dark cupboard. Serve with full-fat plain yogurt or milk.
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.