Breakfast, Children's Nutrition, Dinners, Gluten free, Kids meals, Lunchboxes, Recipes, Savoury, Uncategorized

Buckwheat pancakes

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.

Makes 6

Ingredients:

  • 100g buckwheat flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 300mls mls water (approx.)
  • Knob of butter, melted (optional)

Method:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Repeat as necessary add your fillings and then fold or roll
  4. 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.

Children's Nutrition, Lunchboxes, Recipes, Snacks, Sweet treats, Uncategorized

Rock cakes

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.

Makes 12

Ingredients:

  • 200g wholemeal flour (I used spelt)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100g butter
  • 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

Method:

  1. Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases and pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan assisted)
  2. Measure out the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and stir together
  3. Add the butter to the flour mix, chopped into 1-2cm square cubes
  4. 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
  5. Clean children’s hands thoroughly so that the mix remains mostly in the bowl!
  6. Add the sugar, dried fruit, nuts and lemon rind and mix together
  7. 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
  8. 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:

Savoury Cheese Flapjacks
Courgette Cupcakes
Apple Sauce Super-Flapjacks


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.

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.
Lunchboxes, Recipes, Savoury

Homemade Wholemeal Spelt Bread

Should we be eating bread?

Commercial white bread is what is known as a refined carbohydrate – it turns very quickly to sugar in the body (in fact in the mouth!) so I would never recommend consuming much of this to anyone. And even wholemeal commercial breads break down to sugar reasonably quickly, so shouldn’t be a main-stay of our diets. They are, however, a lovely, practical and traditional food that can be a good source of nutrition (and certainly a great vessel for good nutrition!)

What I am focusing on today is the fact that commercial breads are often highly processed and filled with artificial preservatives (to prolong shelf life) and not really that great for our health. Coupled with the news that they will now be fortified with synthetic folic acid, I feel there’s yet another reason to opt for homemade breads (consumed in moderation!) and despite being a bit time consuming, it turns out it’s not actually difficult to make (some equipment may also be desirable…)

So today I’m sharing with you my Mum’s wholemeal spelt bread recipe which I successfully made with my three year old as part of yesterday’s afternoon entertainment – I do love to kill two birds with one stone – healthy food, entertainment, and education (so three then!)

I rarely eat wheat at all these days, and I follow a low gluten diet generally for my own health (but that’s a whole different blog post that I really must get around to writing and sharing). Spelt is an ancient wheat-grain that contains a slightly different form of gluten, and is better tolerated by many (did you know the wheat we eat today has actually only been around in its current form for about 40 years? Our grandparents really did not eat the same wheat we do today, remember that when someone tells you non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is not a real thing!) Its gluten is not as robust as that found in wheat, hence it does not rise as well and needs more gentle treatment in terms of kneading and rising. This is the reason I have also added an egg to the mix, to help it all stay nicely together in a slice. It does have a lovely taste though, more nutty, and I have no doubt that you will love this slathered with butter and dipped in a warming winter vegetable soup!

Ingredients:

  • 500g wholemeal spelt flour (UNFORTIFIED!)
  • 7g / 1 tsp / 1 sachet quick yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250mls (approx.) tepid water

Method:

  1. Using an electric mixer with a dough hook, slowly combine all the ingredients in a bowl, then leave on a slow mix for 6 minutes to knead the dough
  2. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave somewhere warm to rise until double in size (approx. 2 hours)
  3. Return the risen dough to the food mixer and again “knock it back” on a slow setting for 1 minute only
  4. Transfer to an oiled bread tin, cover with the damp tea towel and leave to rise again for approx. 30-40 minutes when it should be about doubled in size again. With spelt, unlike with wheat dough, it’s important not to over-knead it or to leave it to rise for too long
  5. Score the top with a few lines using a knife, then put it in a preheated oven at 220C (fan assisted) and bake for approx. 30 mins. When done, you can tip it out of the tin and tap on the bottom – you should hear a hollow knocking sound – if not, pop it back in for a bit longer
  6. Cool on a wire rack
Lunchboxes, Recipes, Snacks, Sweet treats

Chocolate courgette brownies

Cakes are a great way to sneak veggies into kids right? And ourselves, not to forget – I’m all about maximising the nutrients from my calories. We’re coming to the end of the courgette season now, but I’ve had a bit of a glut in the final weeks so this was a great way to use some up in a batch. Most of the brownies have gone into the freezer, ready for a quick dessert or to add to a lunchbox.

Ingredients:

  • 120g softened unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 200g rapadura (unrefined sugar cane) or coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 125ml milk or dairy-free milk (I used oat milk)
  • 350g wholemeal spelt flour (or gluten free flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 450g courgettes, peeled & finely grated
  • 50g hemp seed hearts
  • 70g dark choc chips (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C (fan), and grease and line a 20 x 35 cms baking tin
  2. Put the butter / coconut oil and olive oil in a bowl, add the rapadura (or sugar) and vanilla bean paste and beat until well combined and fluffy (the colour will lighten) – I use an electric mixer for this.
  3. Add the eggs gradually whilst mixing, following each with a tbsp flour to help prevent them curdling, then add the milk and combine well.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into the bowl and gently stir in, then finally add the grated courgette, help seed hearts and dark choc chips (if using) and fold gently together.
  5. Pour the mixture into the baking tray and lightly smooth for an even distribution. Top with some extra 100% cocoa dark choc chips to make Insta-worthy (but cause loud objections from your children) and bake for approx 40 mins until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Cool in the tin, then turn out, chop into bite-sized pieces and enjoy. They are delicious served warm with a little ice cream or frozen yogurt, but also nice cold (easier to remove any offensive 100% cocoa chips from the top!)

Please do leave me a note to let me know what you think of these! I love the hemp seeds for extra texture (and nutrients – a great source of omega 3), and using the chocolate chips gives it a more authentic brownie decadence but actually adds a few extra antioxidants too. These have definitely stopped the kids lunchboxes looking “too healthy” but they’re a treat I’m very happy to see eaten with joy!

Lunchboxes, Recipes, Savoury, Snacks

Homemade hummus

Hummus has to be a lunchbox staple for us, the kids love it, and it’s the perfect dip for a whole host of veggies from carrots and cucumbers, to peppers, beans and celery. Whilst it’s readily available, store-bought versions can contain inferior sources of fats and include unnecessary preservatives, plus the tendency is to go through hundreds of throw-away plastic tubs.  It’s actually very easy to make, and once you get the hang of it you can add other nutritious ingredients like peppers or beetroot or avocado…

Ingredients:

  • 1 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 tsp tahini
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice ½ lemon
  • pinch cumin or paprika
  • 3-4 tbsp water

Method:

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Add a little more water if the consistency is too thick, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with veg sticks or oat cakes, on or off the picnic blanket!

Lunchboxes, Recipes, Savoury

Quick spelt quesadillas

Those of you who have followed me for a while now will know I am an advocate of avoiding sandwiches when possible. It’s not that I’m against the humble sandwich entirely, it’s just that its construction can lend itself to a high-carb (high simple carb when using white bread particularly) and low fat and protein lunchbox. But, our kids do love sandwiches, and wraps, and well, carbs, so he’s my efforts for today…

You can buy wholemeal spelt wraps in many healthfood stores, and these make a great staple to keep in the cupboard for quick meals. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can make your own – it’s really not as difficult as it sounds!

Makes 4 wraps / 2 quesadillas

Ingredients:

  • 100g wholemeal spelt (or alternative flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • approx 20 mls cold water

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, adding enough water to make a dough consistency that will stick together but also be pliable enough to roll out.
  2. Split the dough into 4, then roll each out on a floured surface until they are the desired thickness of a wrap (the shape won’t be perfect, but a rough circle is all you need!)
  3. Preheat a frying pan, then dry fry each wrap for approx. 1-2 minutes on each side, flipping over when bubbles appear on the top.

The wraps are ready to go! You can also make larger batches and freeze them, just be sure to take them out of the freezer in good time so that they can fully defrost before you try to separate and assemble them.

Today, I returned a wrap to the pan, sprinkled with grated cheddar and finely chopped spinach, a slice of ham and another sprinkling of cheddar, add another wrap to the top, then reheated again for 30 seconds on each side to melt the cheese and stick the wraps and fillings together. Once cool, I sliced them up and arranged them in the lunchbox.

You can add any variety of flavours and fillings you want to, why not try:

  • Goats cheese and spinach
  • Cheddar and tomato
  • Sweet potato (precooked and mashed / finely chopped), black beans and mozzarella

 

 

Lunchboxes, Recipes, Sweet treats

Blackberry and apple muffins

There are still a few blackberries around (more so outside of London but even here too!) so I wanted to share this little lunchbox treat that’s a winner with my boys, and offers far more in terms of nutrition than a standard muffin without compromising on taste. Blackberries are full of vitamin C, a key antioxidant and very supportive for the immune system (dare I say as winter approaches we may wish to support this area a little more?) They are high in fibre, to slow digestion and balance energy levels (for good concentration), and their lovely dark purple colour comes from a type of phytonutrient called an anthocyanins, which has been linked with boosting brain power too.

They equally make a good breakfast muffin, or after-school snack (or a good coffee cake for all the Mum’s out there celebrating a morning of quiet after the busy summer holidays!) If you’re not needing to be nut-free for allergies or lunchbox purposes, do consider the ground almond substitute as it will help boost the nutritional value even further and balance blood sugar levels that little bit better too, helping your little ones to stay full for even longer.

Ingredients:

  • 250g flour – I use 50:50 wholemeal spelt and white spelt. Use up to 40g ground almonds if you aren’t avoiding nuts
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g sugar (I use unrefined rapadura which has a wonderful caramel flavour as well including nutrients that refined sugar doesn’t)
  • 100g grated apple (keep the skin on)
  • 125 mls plain full-fat yogurt (or coconut yogurt if dairy-free)
  • 125 mls milk (full fat or dairy-free)
  • 75g melted unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 100g blackberries

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, and pop 12 large cake cases into a muffin tray
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mix well
  3. Add the grated apple and mix again to distribute evenly
  4. Combine the yogurt, milk, butter and egg in a jug and mix well, then add it to the dry mixture and again stir well
  5. Finally, add in the blackberries, stir, and portion out into the 12 cake cases
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, then remove to cool on a wire rack

Once they’re cool, I pop most of these into the freezer to use as lunchbox staples, but make sure you save one for your efforts too! They will keep a couple of days in an airtight container, but best to freeze and defrost when required.