Dinners, Kids meals, Recipes

Chicken Korma

Friday night take-aways are a bit of a tradition, aren’t they? From “Fish and chip Friday” to that end of the week feeling of not wanting to cook, just kick back and relax. The problem is that take-away food is often high in added sugar, high in bad fats (think deep fat fried in sunflower oil!), high in refined carbohydrates and low in vegetables. For me, it’s like the perfect storm for feeling rubbish on waking up Saturday morning, even though I completely support taking a break from cooking and spending some time chilling out and relaxing.

So in our household, it’s usually a Friday night “fake-away”, that’s a classic take-away style food, but homemade so just as nutritious as it is delicious. And today I want to share with you a winner of a curry that satisfies the whole family. It’s not super quick to make, but you can either slow cook it over the course of that afternoon and simply dish it out, or make it in advance and freeze portions to reheat quickly. It’s also free from gluten, dairy and of course, refined sugar, and can be made nut-free for those with nut allergies too.

Here I’ve served with some brown rice and a cheeky poppadum (because my kids think everything tastes better on a poppadum!) Peas are also a great accompanying flavour, so mutter paneer cheesy peas or simply some plain peas on the side for the kids.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp approx. grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 tsp grated fresh turmeric
  • 2 tbsp korma powder
  • 600g chicken – breast and thigh meat are both good, just as long as there are no bones, diced into large chunks
  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced into large chunks
  • 2 red peppers, diced (optional – this makes it less traditional but tastes great and adds another veg to the mix!)
  • 300-500 mls chicken stock
  • 400 ml tin of coconut milk
  • 50 ground almonds (optional, use a little corn flour to thicken if needs be if you’re nut free)
  • Small handful chopped fresh coriander to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C (fan). Heat the coconut oil in a large casserole pan, and fry the onion for 1-2 minutes on a low heat without burning it. Then add the garlic, grated ginger, turmeric and korma powder, and cook for a further 1-2 minutes to release all the flavours, stirring well so that it doesn’t stick.
  2. Increase the heat to medium and add the chicken. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring and turning the chicken pieces until they are all white and the meat is sealed.
  3. Add the sweet potato chunks and red peppers if using, chicken stock and coconut milk, cover and bring to the boil.
  4. Transfer to the oven and allow to cook slowly for at least 1 hour, checking and stirring occasionally to ensure there is sufficient liquid (top up with stock or water if the sauce is getting too thick. I often leave for two hours to make sure it’s extra tender and melt in the mouth, but it will need more liquid for this.
  5. Remove from the over when the sauce is fairly thick and the chicken is well cooked and falling apart. Stir in the ground almonds if using, or thicken with a little corn flour if not, and serve.
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.

Recipes, Sweet treats

Yummy Gummy Bears

My son started Reception year at school just two weeks ago, and already he’s finished class with a “sweetie” handout three times for birthday celebrations. What do you think? I hate to be the bad guy and take them away, but I don’t feel like it’s the best time to be having these “treats” (so he’s bouncing off the walls while I try and prepare a healthy dinner which he inevitably won’t have quite the same appetite for after his sugar fix!)

I’ve seen these recipes for homemade gummy bears around – not entirely healthy, but lower in sugar, using gelatin which is great for joint health and digestion, and including real fruit and vegetable juice and therefore all the additional nutrients they provide (in this case a nice dose of vitamin C and beta carotene which help immune function amongst other things, so great for fighting the back-to-school bugs!)

They were surprisingly easy to do, so why not have a go? Pop them in a nice little bag or jar ready for pick-up, and you’re prepped for a quick switch-over if those dreaded plastic bags appear from the gates!

Ingredients:

1 cup (250 ml) fruit juice or pureed fruit*

1-2tsp honey (or alternative sweetener such as maple syrup)

3 tbs gelatin

*Pureed fruit will retain the healthy fibre that is stripped in the juicing process, but the end result is cloudy and less “authentic”, hence I started with the juice only version.

Method:

  1. Pour the juice and honey into a saucepan and sprinkle over the gelatin powder. Heat slowly on a low heat, whisking together to prevent the gelatin from clumping. Adding the gelatin a spoonful at a time whilst whisking will minimise the risk of this and subsequent work of “de-clumping” (which you can do by squashing them against the edge of the pan with the back of a spoon if needs be).
  2. Once the gelatin is all dissolved, bring gently to boiling point, and then remove from the heat and allow to stand for about 5 minutes to cool slightly.
  3. Place three silicone gummy bear trays (approx. 150 bears) on a baking tray so that you can then move them once filled, and use a pipette to carefully fill them.
  4. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour (I left them overnight) before popping them out.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

For the gelatin, I used this one: http://www.gelatingreatlakes.co.uk/store/p1/Great_Lakes_Gelatin_Co.%0ABeef_Hide_Gelatin.html It’s a beef product, kosher but not halal. Alternatively you could use agar agar for a vegetarian option, but in my experience the texture is slightly different.

For the juice, I used a mix of half freshly squeezed orange juice, and half carrot juice to give it the bright orange colour. I will be experimenting with other colours and flavours though as they were a big hit with my boys (2 and 4yrs).

If you’re looking for the silicone molds and pipette to make these, I just ordered a little set from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Candy-Silicone-SENHAI-Gumdrop-Chocolate/dp/B01JYBP7R6/ref=sr_1_4?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1506069157&sr=1-4&keywords=gummy+bear+mold

I am not endorsing any of the products I am sharing on this page, and do not have any financial gains from doing so.

Lunchboxes, Recipes

Catherine’s Courgette Cupcakes

It was such a delight to return home at the end of the summer to some surprise produce flourishing in the garden, not least of which were a number of (some rather large!) courgettes. So whilst we’ve been using them in a number of recipes (stuffed marrow, parmesan coated courgette sticks, courgetti/zoodles) when there’s a recipe that will turn them into a great freezable lunchbox treat, it’s a win-win situation (plus the kids don’t even realise they’re eating vegetables!)

Courgettes may not be top of the “superfoods” list, they’re by no means the powerhouses of nutrients, but they quietly provide us with a nice source of fibre (particularly as you can leave the skins on, they’re not tough, especially when cooked). They also contain a reasonable amount of vitamin C to help boost our immune systems (back-to-school season, need I say more?), B vitamins essential for energy production, and potassium which is important for heart health amongst a whole host of other functions.

Anyway, with no further ado, I give you: Catherine’s courgette cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 50g sultanas
  • 150 ml coconut oil, melted (*you could substitute with butter)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g honey
  • 170g spelt flour*
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 140g grated courgette (approx. 1 large / 2 small courgettes)

*I used 85g wholemeal spelt and 85g white spelt flour – you could use regular wheat flour but I love the taste of spelt and find it so much easier to digest than wheat, and mixing the wholemeal with the white means the cakes are still nice and light but also have some extra fibre)

Method:

  1. Put the sultanas in a bowl with the lemon juice to soak. If you have time to do this the night before then brilliant, if not just soaking for the time it takes to prep will be fine, and any longer a bonus to make them lovely and soft.
  2. Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan), gas mark 4, and prepare 12 muffin cases.
  3. Whisk the coconut oil with the eggs and honey using an electric whisk or by hand, until it is light and opaque.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and cinnamon. Then add to the egg, oil and sugar mix along with the grated courgette and soaked sultana mixture. Stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
  5. Pour the mixture into you prepared cupcake cases and cook for approximately 20-25 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing to a rack.

I’ve iced this batch with some coconut cream frosting as I sent them off to the Pre-school picnic, but the naked ones are proving a lunchbox hit just as they are!