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


Dairy-free, Gluten free, Recipes, Sweet treats, Vegan

Raspberry cashew “cheesecakes”

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!

(Makes 12)

Ingredients

For the bases:

  • 150g madjool dates, destoned
  • 125g pecans

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!

Method:

  1. 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!)
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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.
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!

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, 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.

Lunchboxes, Recipes, Sweet treats

Chocolate Bliss Balls

Yet another sweet treat for you all, but another versatile one! I put these in my children’s lunchboxes as well as grab them myself when I’m feeling the need for a quick sweet fix after dinner or mid afternoon if my energy levels dip.

They are high in sugar, that can’t be denied, however the combination of sunflower seeds provides some good fat, fibre and protein to help slow the release of that sugar into the bloodstream (therefore reducing the “spike” or “sugar high” feeling and subsequent dip in energy levels). They are also made with raw cacao powder, which is a fantastic source of antioxidants – the reason nutritionists give dark chocolate (70% minimum cocoa solids) the ok for a healthy balanced diet.

In addition, I’ve just need looking into the research into dates for pregnant women – it seems that there may well be some additional benefits in eating approx 6 per day in the last weeks of pregnancy, to help speed up cervical dilation and reduce the duration of labour (and therefore the risk of medical intervention that often occurs when labour is prolonged). This does not constitute medical advice, always consult your Nutritional Therapist who can advise in light of your whole health, but for most, dates shouldn’t pose a risk so might well be worth a try? Certainly a few of these bliss balls in your hospital bag wouldn’t go amiss to keep energy levels up!

Makes approx 40 small ones, 20 large (I always prefer to make small ones and eat two, and that tactic also seems to work well with my kids too!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 large tbsp cacao (or cocoa)
  • 1 large tbsp coconut oil
  • Desiccated coconut to finish

Method:

Pop the sunflower seeds in a food processor and blitz to a course flour. Add the other ingredients apart from the coconut and blitz until it’s well combined in a sticky dough. Spoon our, roll in your hands and then in the coconut.
Chill for an hour in the fridge (or just tuck in!)

Recipes, Sweet treats

Apple Sauce Super-Flapjacks

My flapjacks, as served to the mums at Mum and Baby Yoga with the amazing Lon Gibbons, Yoga Teacher, Arvigo Therapist, Doula and all round supporter of every aspect of womens’ health. And here’s why I chose this recipe for them…

Supporting our bodies through motherhood

I don’t doubt that everyone has the best of intentions when they turn up to visit a new born baby and bring Mum and lovely treat – a box of chocolates or cookies or cakes. And as a Mum myself, I know how appreciated that is and how appealing those treats are – we are tired, exhausted, battle-scarred and hormonal as all hell, and our bodies are in any case hard-wired to seek sugar and fats, it’s an evolutionary thing.

But… now here’s the thing. As I explained on my recent video about Christmas calories, these sorts of foods are what I refer to as “anti-nutrients”. Put simply, the process of digesting them depletes our bodies’ store of essential nutrients – it takes more vitamins and minerals to digest them than they contain. Calories are not all equal, and whilst the energy these calories provides gives us a temporary boost, what we really need to be eating and feeding new Mums are nutrient-rich foods.

So, how about giving these treats next time: Apple Sauce Super-Flapjacks

Makes: 24

Ingredients:

  • 250g apple sauce (homemade or no added sugar!)
  • 250g coconut oil (or butter)
  • 50g treacle (or blackstrap molasses)
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 300g oats
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 30g chia seeds
  • 50g dried mulberries (or use cranberries or another dried fruit)
  • 70g raisins

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan oven) and line the base of a 20x30cm baking tray.
  2. Gently heat the coconut oil, treacle/molasses, apple sauce and cinnamon in a pan until the coconut oil has all melted and it can be mixed together and combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients, then pour in the liquid mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are covered.
  4. Pour out into the baking tray, evenly flatten using the back of a large spoon, and then cook for approx. 40 mins until golden and delicious.
  5. Leave in the tray for 10 minutes before cooling fully on a wire rack. Cut into approx. 24 squares, and serve.

A few nutrition facts:

These flapjacks satisfy the sweet tooth in all of us, but also provide vitamin C from the dried fruit and apple, helping with healing and supporting our immune system. Dried fruits such as mulberries are also a great source of iron, handy to help in replenishing any lost blood supplies.

Seeds are little powerhouses of nutrients, not just protein and good fats, but also B vitamins which are essential in energy production and vitamin E which sunflower seeds has in abundance and is vital in repairing and healing our skin (say no more Mums, you know what I mean!).

The fibre from the oats, fruit and seeds is also great for balancing blood sugar levels, providing a sustained flow of energy rather than a sharp spike and subsequent plummet that refined sugars give us.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but in moderation and in combination with a diet low in refined sugar, it’s great for our bodies, and especially good if Mum is nourishing a new born baby with breastmilk.

Nutrition is just one way to help support your body for fertility, pregnancy, after birth and beyond. I met Lon Gibbons when I was pregnant with my first child and got to benefit from her wealth of knowledge through my pregnancy and during my post-natal recovery, and I’m so pleased that I now get to work with her and her clients through these very special times of the life cycle. For additional support, I would highly recommend her for her incredible knowledge, experience and nurturing manner: Lon Gibbons

Recipes, Sweet treats

Sweet potato biscuits

Sweet potatoes are full of beta-carotene, the building blocks for vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is really important for our eyes, so while eating lots of beta-carotene rich carrots may not give you the ability to see in the dark, they certainly can help with maintaining healthy vision!

I do love a biscuit, and am constantly looking for ways to satisfy my children’s desire to be “normal” and eat sweet treats in a more healthy way. When I started making this recipe, I was actually aiming for a savoury cracker, but the caramel flavour of the roast sweet potatoes ended up lending itself much more easily to this sweet treat instead.

In addition to the beta-carotene, these biscuits provide a great source of fibre, “good” fats, and if made with ground almonds, protein too. Plus all that fibre, fat and protein slows down how quickly the sugar is released into our blood stream, meaning that we, and our little ones, stay fuller for longer and don’t experience that crazy rush of energy followed by slump.

Ingredients:

  • 200g baked sweet potato (approx. one large potato)
  • 50g butter / coconut oil
  • 225g flour (I used 50% rice flour, 50% ground almonds)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 45g sugar (I used coconut palm sugar)
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Gently melt the butter
  3. Peel then mash the sweet potato and mix with the butter
  4. In another bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and spices (better if you sieve them but not essential), then mix the dry ingredients with the sweet potato mixture a spoon at a time
  5. Roll the mixture out on a floured surface to ½ cm thick, cut out, and place on a lined and greased baking sheet
  6. Bake for approx. 15 mins, then remove to cool on a wire rack
Recipes, Snacks, Sweet treats

Beetroot Brownie Bugs

I’m updating this recipe in line with a recent bake, but this pic is waaaay too cute to change right? It’s not Halloween right now, I’ve just used this recipe for a birthday cake, and made suggestions for some of the ingredient swaps I had to do as we’re in lockdown right now so it’s not possible to get everything I want. Hope you’re all keeping safe and well x

Beetroot is a great source of B vitamins, particularly folate (B9) and many minerals such as manganese, potassium, iron and magnesium which are all essential for good energy production. It also contains a good dose of vitamin C too, to supercharge the immune systems.

The recipe does include a reasonable portion of sugar, but not nearly as much as commercial bought cakes or your Grandma’s favourite Victoria Sandwich recipe, and combining it with the fibre in the wholemeal flour and vegetable pulp should slow down its release into the bloodstream and help to avoid any sharp spikes in blood sugar.  At the end of the day, it’s almost impossible to prevent our kids wanting and getting sweet treats, but at least with these you can be sure that the unhealthy implications are being minimised, and that they are getting a dose of good nutrients along with their treat.

Ingredients:

  • 125ml coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 150g sugar (I used coconut palm sugar, you could use any brown sugar such as demerara)
  • 1 egg
  • 100mls milk (or non-dairy milk)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 250g wholemeal flour (I used spelt for extra nutrients, gluten free flour would also work well)
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 250g grated beetroot*
  • *optional* 100g dark chocolate chips

*You could also use leftover juicing pulp, just increase the liquid to 200 mls to compensate.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Grease (with a little oil) and line a 20x30cm baking tin or prepare trays for 12 cupcake cases.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, egg, milk and vanilla until well blended. At home I use my mixer to speed up the process, but when working with the children mixing by hand is fine (and significantly less stressful!)
  3. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  4. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture until well combined, then add the veggies and chocolate chips (if using).
  5. Portion the mixture out into the cupcake cases or spread evenly into the prepared tin.
  6. Bake for approximately 25 minutes for the cupcakes, 30 minutes for the tin, until the cakes spring back when gently touched. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack.

For my birthday cake version I made a quick icing from:

  • 4 tbsp coconut oil – melted
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup (could use honey)
  • 4 tbsp cacao (or cocoa) powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)

Simply melt the coconut oil, then mix in the other ingredients to form an icing paste. Coat the cake and sprinkle on some freeze-dried fruit pieces if you have them.