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, 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, 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, Savoury

Savoury Cheese Flapjacks

 When it comes to flapjacks, who can resist? But although they may be high in oats, traditional flapjacks (not my apple sauce version!) are high in sugar and really don’t help with providing us and our little ones with a sustained source of long-lasting energy. So, why not try this savoury version instead? I’ve tried to maximise nutrient diversity with added veg and seeds (yes, I snuck in a veg!) and also included some extra protein in the form of quinoa flakes.

These are a staple in my kids lunchboxes  – you can eat them alone as a snack, or combine with a dip like hummus. Just beware, they are quite cheesy, so don’t over indulge your saturated fat intake by scoffing the lot in one sitting – one is plenty! Anyway, demand for the recipe has been high, so without further ado – enjoy!

Makes 24

Ingredients:

  • 50g butter, melted
  • 100g porridge oats
  • 50 quinoa flakes (or just use 150g porridge oats if you don’t have quinoa flakes)
  • 150g grated cheese, cheddar works well
  • 150g grated vegetables – carrots and other root veg work best
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, and line a 20 x 30 cms baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Pour the melted butter over the oats and quinoa flakes, and thoroughly mix to make sure all flakes are coated. Add the grated cheese, veg, seeds and eggs and again combine well.
  3. Tip the mixture into the tin and flatten it out, making sure that it’s firmly pressed down, then bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Once cooked, allow the flapjacks to cool in the tin before tipping out and slicing up. I store them in the freezer for quick lunchbox and snack packing, but they will keep for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Breakfast, Lunchboxes, Recipes, Savoury

Crustless Quiches

I know when I was growing up, the school lunchbox revolved around a sandwich, a packet of crisps, piece of cake or a chocolate bar, a piece of fruit (usually and apple or banana) and a juice. I am thankful to have been one of the lucky ones, as my Mum bakes her own bread, always used real butter not low-fat margarine, and would bake delicious cakes full of fresh and dried fruit and nuts.

But the science can’t be disputed now, and although this was a pretty good example, most lunchboxes that follow this theme are not nutritionally sufficient. Our kids need good proteins and fibre to sustain their energy to learn, good fats to support their brains, and a myriad of other nutrients to allow their growing bodies to flourish in the numerous tasks it needs to carry out over the course of the day.

But they also need to be eaten, and so herein lies the challenge us lunchbox mums face on a daily basis…

I have quite a few staples that I batch make and freeze for ease in the mornings, and over the coming weeks and months, I’m planning a project to share some more of them with you as my time permits, but here’s one that proved a popular request last week – crustless quiches. Great for breakfast, great cold in lunchboxes too.

These are so quick and easy to do, and as long as you have eggs, the rest can really be made of whatever you have to hand: veggies, leftover meat or fish, cheese, olives. Why not try blending in spinach? Makes them an amazing bright green! Whatever you do, the aim is to get a few different colours into the mix (for different micronutrients and phytonutrients), and the protein and fats are taken care of by the humble yet nutritionally wonderful egg.

Ingredients:

  • ½ baked sweet potato
  • 6 eggs
  • Small handful of parsley
  • 50g ham, chopped
  • 50g (frozen) sweetcorn
  • 50g grated cheddar cheese

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a muffin tin (use butter, coconut oil or rice bran oil)
  2. Blend together the eggs, sweet potato and parsley in a blender
  3. Mix the ham, sweetcorn and half the cheese, then pour into the muffin tin (makes 12)
  4. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese, and bake for 12-15 mins until solid and slightly golden on top.
  5. Allow to cool in the tin, then remove with a spatula (they can stick a little so be gentle!)

Let me know what you put in yours!