Rio pasta with squash, corn and black beans

Rio pasta recipe with squash, corn and black beans

This delicious and unusual pasta recipe is inspired by the Olympics, which are starting in under a fortnight in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It's estimated that around 15% of Brazilians are descended from Italian immigrants. As a result, Italian food is widely available in Brazil nowadays. But there's more to it than that. Food is so integral to Italian culture, so important, that the early Italian immigrants didn't just import pizza, pasta and risotto, they created a whole series of new dishes. Popular Brazilian dishes that were created by Italians include Galeto, Frango com polenta, several types of sausage and the amazing-sounding Chocotone (Panettone with chocolate chips). Source: Wikipedia.

For my Olympics-inspired meal I decided to create a vegetarian pasta dish using ingredients typically found in Brazil. Squash, corn, black beans, coriander and lime are all common in Brazilian cooking. But do they work with pasta? Well, yes, they do! I was so pleased with how this dish turned out - the flavours go really well together and it was lovely to eat pasta with an unusual flavour combination. I'm pretty sure I haven't had pasta with coriander before. But, how did this go down with the kids? Well, Baby S enjoyed his, Miss R ate the pasta and the corn and R was not at all keen. But us grown-ups gobbled it all up and had seconds!

Bertollini pasta with squash, corn and black beans

Bertollini pasta with squash, corn and black beans

I made this dish using Bertolli with butter. Celebrity chef Gennaro Contaldo and Bertolli have launched a limited edition pasta shape, known as The Bertollini, which is cone-shaped. It particularly appeals to me as it comes in three flavours: spinach, beetroot and egg. A lovely use of sneaky vegetables! To buy the cone shaped pasta visit Delicatezza. To see Gennaro's Bertollini pasta recipes go to bertolli.co.uk.

I was lucky enough to meet Gennaro Contaldo at a cooking demo put on by Bertolli. Gennaro invited members of the audience to pick ingredients for him to cook with. Watching him at work was amazing. In an hour he created five separate pasta sauces for the audience to try! It really was proof that creating delicious home-cooked food doesn't need to take a long time. 

Gennaro Contaldo demonstrates the Bertollini: a  new pasta shape from Bertolli

Gennaro Contaldo demonstrates the Bertollini: a  new pasta shape from Bertolli

Gennaro Contaldo creating a delicious vegetarian pasta dish in minutes

Gennaro Contaldo creating a delicious vegetarian pasta dish in minutes

Here's how to make my Brazilian-inspired pasta:

Ingredients
1 tbsp Bertolli with butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
350g butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1cm pieces (prepared weight)
150g sweetcorn, tinned, fresh or frozen
1 x 400g tin of black bean
50g chopped coriander (replace with parsley if you don't like coriander)
One lime, cut into wedges
300g dried pasta eg penne or 300g bertollini pasta
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pan of water to the boil.

Heat the Bertolli in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once melted add the onion and cook, stirring frequently for 5-7 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute.

If using dried pasta put the pasta into the pan and cook until al dente. The Bertollini pasta only takes a couple of minutes to cook so you can do this just before the sauce is cooked.

Add the butternut squash to the pan, along with a ladleful of cooking water from the pasta. Reduce the heat and cover, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes, or until the squash is soft. 

Cook the bertollini pasta now if using.

Stir in the corn and black beans and warm through. If you're using fresh corn you may need to cook for a little longer and add a little more water.

Drain the pasta and mix with the vegetables. You can either stir the coriander through, or serve it at the table along with the lime wedges for people to help themselves.

Season to taste, or serve salt and pepper at the table for the adults to add if you're serving this to children too. 

Serves two adults and three children.

Rio pasta recipe with butternut squash, sweet corn and black beans. A delicious and simple vegetarian pasta dish to celebrate the Olympics

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Bertolli

 

 

Gooseberry upside down crumble bars

Gooseberry-upside-down-crumble-bars-sneaky-veg

As you're sure to know if you've visited Sneaky Veg before, I'm keen on reducing the amount of sugar in my children's diet and love experimenting with different ways of sweetening baked goods that we are used to making with sugar.

These gooseberry upside down crumble bars are made with Tate & Lyle agave nectar, a natural sweetener, made from the Blue Agave plant. The bars were a massive hit with all three of my kids, and with us grown ups too. I made them with vegan margarine but you can use butter instead if you prefer. Either way, they're refined sugar free and are perfect for an after-school snack or even as dessert. The oats and nuts provide some lovely energy and protein and anything that gets my six-year-old eating fruit and asking for seconds gets a thumbs up from me.

I mustn't forget to give my dad a shout out as he grew these gooseberries in his garden - thanks dad! 

Tate & Lyle offer lots of different types of sugar but if you're interested in reducing the sugar in your family's diet, take a look at their Better Balance products. As well as agave nectar they offer sugar mixed with stevia, fruit sugar, and sugar mixed with sweetener.

Here's how to make the gooseberry upside down crumble bars.

Ingredients
360g gooseberries
125g oats
100g almonds
100g butter or vegan margarine
1 small banana, mashed
4 tbsp Tate & Lyle agave nectar

First prepare the gooseberries. Wash them then snip off the ends if there are spiky bits. Place in a small non-stick saucepan, cover and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until starting to break down. Stir occasionally. If you prefer you can add a couple of spoonfuls of agave nectar to the gooseberries at this stage. We (yes, even the Sneaky Veg kids) quite like the slightly tart taste of gooseberries so I don't add any sweetener at this stage.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C fan. Prepare a 20cm square cake tin by lightly greasing the sides and lining the base with greaseproof paper. 

Grind the oats and the almonds in a food processor until you have a powder. Add the butter or margarine, the banana and the agave nectar. Pulse until combined.

Scrape out into the cake tin and level the surface. Pour the gooseberries over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.

Gooseberry upside down crumble bars, refined sugar free, can easily be vegan. Healthy after-school snack or dessert for kids. Delicious for grown-ups too.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Tate & Lyle.

CookBlogShare

Perfect summer puddings and #CookBlogShare linky 19-25 July 2016

Finally it feels like summer here in London. The kids are getting suntanned, we're eating a lot of ice cream and the paddling pool is out. After weeks of drizzle, wind and generally un-summery weather, this is most welcome indeed.

When the weather is hot there is a particular type of dessert that I fancy. Nothing too heavy, something fresh and light, often with fruit. Here are four lovely dessert recipes that I'd love to eat at this time of year from bloggers who linked up to last week's CookBlogShare over at Hijacked by Twins. You'll find this week's linky below as well as a recap of how to join in, just in case you're new here.

White Chocolate Lime and Raspberry Cake with Yoghurt Popcorn Topping by Mummy Mishaps

Summer Pudding by Recipes Made Easy

Graham Tiramisu by The Not So Creative Cook

Bilberry and spelt muffins by Only Crumbs Remain

Now onto this week's linky. You can link up any foodie post that you have - both old and new posts are welcome. We just ask that you:

  • Comment on this post
  • Add the badge so others can find us (you can find the code below)
  • Comment on some of the other recipes linked up
  • If you tweet me at @sneakyvegblog with your recipe I will retweet them throughout the week
  • I will comment on and pin all posts.

I can't wait to see what you've all been making.

CookBlogShare

 

 

 

Pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup) with Cirio tomatoes

Pappa-al-pomodoro-recipe-bread-and-tomato-soup-cirio-sneaky-veg

Cirio has been canning and bottling Italian tomatoes for 160 years and the company celebrated this anniversary by inviting Italian chef Antonio Carluccio to cook with its products in front of an audience of bloggers and journalists at the Good Housekeeping Institute in London. Thanks to Lisa from Lovely Appetite, who couldn't go at the last minute, and a tag team of excellent babysitters, I was able to attend.

At the event Carluccio told us that his love of the tomato as an ingredient started when he was a child, and he remembers loving the smell of the tomato plant as a youngster. I can identify with this as my dad grew tomatoes ever summer and the smell of the plants, especially just after watering, is one of the smells that means summer to me.

Carluccio has lived and worked in Britain since 1975, and opened up the first Carluccio's restaurant in Covent Garden in 1998. He's been on our TV screens since the early 1980s and has published many cookbooks. His next book, Vegetables, will be published in October 2016 and is one that I will definitely be adding to my collection. I had the chance to ask him a question and I opted to find out what his favourite vegetarian dish is. He was obviously finding it difficult to choose just one as he mentioned several, but he did tell me that he loves parmigiana with courgette (the dish is traditionally made with aubergines) and beetroot lasagne. He also said that the regions of Puglia and Calabria are the best places to get vegetables in Italy.

Pappa-al-pomodoro-recipe-antonio-carluccio-cirio

What I love about Carluccio's style of cooking, and Italian cooking in general, is how he focuses on great ingredients and simple recipes - yet with fantastic results. He even has a little slogan, mof mof, which he explained means "minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour". I love this. Although I do enjoy a challenge in the kitchen, with three kids around time consuming dinners are out of the question. 

Carluccio cooked two dishes for us - mussels alla tarrantina (mussels in a tomato sauce) and pappa al pomodoro (Tuscan bread and tomato soup). Being veggie I didn't try the mussels, but the soup was delicious.

I've made my own version of pappa al pomodoro using Cirio passata (finely sieved tomatoes) for you here. This is adapted from Carluccio's version in the Cirio anniversary recipe booklet.

Ingredients
300g ciabatta, ideally stale
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1000g Cirio passata
1 litre vegetable stock
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and black pepper
Fresh basil leaves and olive oil to serve

Slice the ciabatta and cut each slice in half. If the bread isn't stale, lightly toast it in the oven at a low heat (50°C fan) for 10 minutes, turning half way, to dry it out. 

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan. Add the garlic and fry for a minute. Stir through the bread, then add the passata, vegetable stock and balsamic vinegar. You can also add a little salt now although I left this out as I was serving to children as well.

Cook over a low heat for 40 minutes until the liquid has thickened. Serve warm with salt, black pepper, fresh basil leaves and extra olive oil.

Pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup) recipe and Cirio 160 anniversary event with Antonio Carluccio

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend a Cirio event with Antoni Carluccio. I received no payment for this post and all opinions are honest.

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Mini calzone with beetroot, thyme and pumpkin seed pesto and cheddar cheese

Mini-calzone-beetroot-thyme-pumpkin-seed-pesto-cheddar-haywards-pickles

This vegetarian recipe for mini calzone with beetroot pesto and cheddar cheese is made using Haywards Pickles cooked beetroot. It's a great unusual way to use beetroot and makes a delicious veggie lunch or dinner.

Have you ever had a jar of piccalilli at the back of the cupboard? Or some pickled onions you weren't quite sure what to do with? Well wonder no longer because Haywards Pickles are out to change the face of the pickle and have a whole load of gorgeous recipes on their website to help you out, including lots of ways to use pickles to liven up salads. 

Plenty of people, Mr Sneaky Veg included, like nothing more than to tuck into a pickled onion or a gherkin. My Granny was never without a jar of bright yellow piccalilli in her pantry. For the rest of us however, pickles can be something we're not quite sure about. 

When we were invited to join Haywards Pickles at a cooking event I jumped at the chance, as there's nothing I like more than to challenge myself by cooking something new. At the event we were shown how to make a couple of these recipes - including a piccalilli curry and a slaw made with pickled cabbage and onions. We then had the chance to make a recipe of our own and I helped to make a caramelised onion goats cheese tart - using Haywards pickled onions of course! The tart was delicious, and the onions caramelised beautifully.

In case you've ever wondered, this is what I look like after I've eaten a 'strong and zingy' pickled onion.  Photo: Kaye of fordtography.co.uk

In case you've ever wondered, this is what I look like after I've eaten a 'strong and zingy' pickled onion.  Photo: Kaye of fordtography.co.uk

It was certainly an eye opener to see what you can do with a jar of pickle. My favourite idea - although I didn't try it because it wasn't vegetarian - had to be the piccalilli curry. When you think about it the idea of using piccalilli in a curry makes complete sense as it's largely composed of cauliflower, onion and spices. 

We were sent home with a selection of pickles to try including some pickled beetroot. I made the beetroot into a pesto using pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and thyme leaves and used this as a filling for calzone with some cheddar cheese. They turned out to be delicious, although only had a semi success rate with the kids. Baby S loved them as beetroot is pretty much his favourite thing in the world. Miss R tried them and ate a little bit. R, of course, refused to go anywhere near them. But us grown ups loved them and I'll definitely be making them again.

Mini-calzone-beetroot-thyme-cheddar-haywards-pickles-sneaky-veg

Here's what to do:

Ingredients (makes eight)

For the dough
400g strong white bread flour
200g spelt flour
1 tsp fast action yeast
1.5tsp fine sea salt
400ml warm water
2 tbsp olive oil

You can use any pizza dough to make this recipe but if you choose to use this one the method is based on Dan Lepard's pizza dough recipe from his cookbook Short and Sweet. I love how he makes bread as the kneading time is so much less and I find it works much better for me with kids around. If you've never made bread in this way and don't believe it'll work - trust me - it really does! Dan goes into it in a lot more detail in his book. Incidentally you'll have more than you need to make these calzone. I usually divide the rest into three balls, wrap in greaseproof paper and store in the freezer to make pizzas another day.

To make the pesto
1 x 400g jar of Haywards Sliced Beetroot (260g cooked beetroot), drained
50g pine nuts
50g pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked and roughly chopped

50g grated cheddar
1 egg, beaten

To make the dough put the flour, yeast and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the water and olive oil and mix everything together with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it for 10 minutes. Lightly oil your work surface, turn out the dough and knead it for just 10 seconds. Put it back in the bowl and leave it for another 10 minutes. Repeat this kneading and resting process twice more then leave it for an hour until it's risen in size by a half.

While the dough is rising make your beetroot pesto by placing all the ingredients into a food processor and pulsing until smooth. Grate the cheese and beat your egg.

Divide into five pieces and freeze three of them as mentioned above for use another day. Shape the remaining dough into eight small balls with flour and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. 

On a lightly floured surface roll out your dough into a circle. Place a large spoonful of the beetroot mixture into the centre and sprinkle over some of the grated cheese. Be careful not to overfill. Fold in half and press the edges together with your finger tips. Transfer to a baking tray and brush with the egg wash. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Serve with a green salad.

Mini calzone with beetroot, thyme and pumpkin seed pesto and cheddar cheese. Vegetarian calzone made using Haywards Pickles beetroot.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Haywards Pickles.

 

Butternut squash cheese straws

Butternut-squash-cheese-straws

Puff pastry cheese straws must be one of the easiest things out there to make. Simply roll out your pastry - or just unroll it if you've bought ready rolled - grate cheese over it, roll again, cut into strips, twist and bake. Hey presto - you have a delicious, moreish, if not particularly healthy snack.

But what if you add a vegetable into the mix? Is it still as easy to make? Do they still work? Are they still tasty, moreish and loved by kids?

The answer to all of these questions is yes!

Butternut squash macaroni cheese is one of our regular meals these days. Miss R won't eat it so it's not the perfect family meal for us, but seeing as R LOVES it and it's pretty hard to get him to eat any vegetables, I make sure we have it at least once a fortnight. So when I was thinking about what might work in a cheese straw, butternut squash seemed like the obvious choice. 

The first time I made it I put in far too much pureéd squash and they kind of exploded in a cheesy mess in the oven - tasty but not too photogenic. So I started again and this time they've turned out perfectly. 

Here's what to do if you'd like to give them a go:

Ingredients
1 x 320g puff pastry sheet
100g pureéd butternut squash - either steam it or roast it, then blend. You could probably even use a jar of baby food!
100g grated cheddar cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Unroll the pastry sheet. Spread the butternut squash evenly over the top, then sprinkle two-thirds of the cheese over.

Fold in half and gently squeeze the edges shut. Roll the pastry very gently until it's about the same size that you had originally. 

Cut into 1cm wide strips, twist a few times and place on a non-stick baking tray. Scatter the remaining cheese over the top and bake for 15-18 minutes until golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Best served warm from the oven but fine the next day too if stored in an airtight container.

Makes around 10

Easy recipe for cheese straws with hidden butternut squash inside
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Raspberry cashew oaty bites and Berry World raspberry masterclass with Adam Gray

Raspberry-cashew-oaty-bites

A couple of weeks ago I spent a delightful evening at the stunning Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings learning about cooking with raspberries with chef Adam Gray. It was one of those rare summer evenings (this year anyway) when the sun was shining and the air was warm. I'd taken a coat and regretted it as I didn't need it and had to carry it all the way back home.

And what better way to enjoy a summer's evening than by cooking with, and eating, delicious summer raspberries. I love evenings like this and it was very welcome to have a break from putting the kids to bed to learn about Berry World raspberries and to taste, and cook, some lovely raspberry recipes with a great chef.

We started off with an Eton Collins cocktail - inspired by the Eton Mess dessert - made with gin, raspberry syrup, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, sugar and soda. This is a seriously delicious cocktail. I don't usually choose fruit-based cocktails as I find them too sweet but I loved this one.

We then watched Adam do a demo of how to make a soft lemon meringue with raspberry salad before we got cracking with cooking our mini raspberry and almond tartlets with custard. I proved, once again, that I am completely incapable of following instructions and nearly ruined my frangipane filling by adding the eggs too quickly. Luckily, when you have a Michelin-starred chef on hand they usually know how to save the day. All was not lost and the pudding recovered!

The event was hosted by Berry World. The company grow berries in the UK and Europe and one of their top products has to be the incredible Jewel raspberries. They are larger and sweeter than your average raspberry and, honestly, they are totally delicious. We were given three punnets to take home and my kids (with the exception of fruit-hating R of course) ate the lot in a day. For more ideas of how to cook with berries visit the Berry World site.

Raspberry cashew oaty bites

I decided to make a healthy raspberry-based snack for the kids to enjoy to show you an alternative way of using raspberries. It's dairy free, vegan and free from refined sugar. As long as you have a food processor you will find this recipe really simple and it's perfect for a hot summer's day as you don't even need to turn the oven on. 

Here's what to do:

Ingredients
150g oats
50g cashew nuts
50g desiccated coconut
200g raspberries
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse until you have a fine powder. Add the raspberries and vanilla extract and continue pulsing until well combined. 

Scrape everything out into a 20cm square cake tin lined with greaseproof paper. Freeze for an hour to allow to set. Remove from the freezer, cut into squares or bars, and store in the fridge.

Raspberry cashew oaty bars - a delicious healthy snack for kids and grown ups alike that is vegan and free from refined sugar

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Berry World. All opinions are honest and my own.

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Our Two Week Veg Pledge with Ella's Kitchen and Pebble baby rattles giveaway

When Ella's Kitchen asked us as a family to eat a new vegetable every day for two weeks I said yes immediately.

14 days, 14 vegetables, 3 kids, 2 confirmed vegetable haters and a bad track record of trying new things. Never say I'm not up for a challenge!

The baby and children's food company are trying to encourage people to start weaning with vegetables, rather than the traditional fruit or baby rice, to encourage tiny taste buds to get used to having lots of lovely veg in their diets. To find out more about weaning with just vegetables visit ellaskitchen.co.uk/vegforvictory. They've also kindly given me some lovely baby rattles in the shape of vegetables by Pebble Child to give away. You'll find the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

When our crate of vegetables arrived the kids were as excited as I was - which made me hopeful that they might actually eat some of the contents.

Here's what was inside:

Ellas-Kitchen-Veg-For-Victory-Veg-Challenge

There were parsnips, aubergine, green beans, butternut squash, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, courgettes, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, avocados and swede in the crate, as well as some pouches of vegetable puree and a sticker chart to help us to record our vegetable consumption.

So how did it go? Well here are some of the dishes we tried:

Well, we had some surprise hits - the swede and potato mash for example went down astonishingly well with the six-year-old. Baby S loves most veg, but especially squash and sweet potatoes so those got gobbled up too. Probably unsurprisingly no-one (apart from me) ate the sprouts, and the parsnips were another fail. Despite me going to the trouble to make an Ottolenghi recipe with them none of the kids would even touch them. Still all the more for me.

Baby S is pretty good at eating his veg anyway and out of the three kids he tried the most new things. I loved the challenge of thinking of ways to serve up new veggies to the kids that they might agree to try. And it was undoubtedly good for R & Miss R to be exposed to new foods - even if they weren't always up for actually trying them.

So all in all it went pretty well. Even if our sticker chart didn't get entirely populated.

If you're looking to increase the amount of vegetables in your diet challenging yourself to try a different veg every day is a great way to start. 

Take a look at the recipes below for some ideas if you're looking for some veg-based inspiration:

WIN! One of these four lovely Pebble vegetable rattles

Pebble-Rattle-Giveaway

To help encourage little ones to love their veg, Ella's Kitchen has given me four lovely Pebble vegetable rattles to give away. The rattles are handmade in the shapes of broccoli, aubergine, cauliflower and carrot by community businesses in Bangladesh.

To enter please complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Open to UK entries only. You can see the full terms and conditions next to each entry option. If you haven't used Rafflecopter before check out this useful guide by Super Lucky Me.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Ella's Kitchen. All opinions are honest and our own.

 

Sensational summer berries recipes and CookBlogShare linky week 26

Berries just seem to be everywhere at the moment now that it's officially summer (although I think we'll need to call Noah in soon to build us an ark we've had so much rain over the last week) and with Wimbledon about to start it really is well and truly berry season. I'm going strawberry picking on Wednesday with my daughter and her nursery class - please join me in hoping for a dry day.

There were heaps of mouth-watering recipes shared with last week's CookBlogShare linky over at Hijacked by Twins. It's always hard to choose which ones to add to a round up but this week it just had to be those that used berries. So without further ado here are four gorgeous looking berry recipes from my fellow bloggers. You'll find this week's linky just underneath.

Strawberry and basil pavlova by Only Crumbs Remain

No bake berry cheesecake by Basement Bakehouse

Quick toasted oats and strawberry breakfast bowl by Everyday Healthy Recipes

Strawberry bliss balls by Free From Fairy

Now onto this week's linky. You can link up any foodie post that you have - both old and new posts are welcome. We just ask that you:

  • Comment on this post
  • Add the badge so others can find us
  • And comment on some of the other recipes linked up
  • If you tweet me at @sneakyvegblog with your recipe I will retweet then throughout the week
  • I will comment on and pin all posts.
     
CookBlogShare

 

Here's this week's linky:

Buckwheat drop scones (pancakes) with courgette and banana (refined sugar free)

Buckwheat-drop-scones-with-courgette-banana-refined-sugar-free

These lovely little drop scones, or pancakes, are packed full of goodness making them a perfect breakfast or snack for anyone. They're free from refined sugar and work well for baby led weaning as they are easy for little fingers to grasp. All three of my children absolutely devoured these leaving me feeling great that (for once) they'd started their day with not only a fruit and a vegetable in their breakfast but some lovely wholegrain goodness as well.

Well, I say wholegrain, but in reality buckwheat isn't a grain - it's not even related to wheat. It's gluten free and is sometimes described as a pseudo-grain. Several countries around the world use it to make pancakes, such as the French galettes, Russian blinis and the Ukrainian Hrechanyky! I used Rude Health sprouted buckwheat flour to make these pancakes. Sprouted buckwheat flour uses buckwheat that has been soaked in water and allowed to sprout. This makes it more nourishing and full of goodness.

I was worried about the courgette and what kind of reaction this would lead to. We have a bad track record with "green bits" in food! I didn't peel them so there were green flecks in the drop scones. To avoid this problem you can peel the skin off making the courgette pretty much hidden. I was pleasantly surprised on this occasion though, as all three kids gobbled these pancakes up and didn't even notice - or if they did they didn't comment on - the green bits.

Buckwheat-drop-scones-with-banana-courgette

Ingredients
150g buckwheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
200ml milk (I used almond)
2 small courgettes, grated
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup, optional (remember no honey for under-ones)
Oil for frying (I used coconut oil)

1. Place the flour, baking powder and ground cinnamon in a mixing bowl and whisk until well combined.

2. Pour in the eggs and half of the milk and whisk, then gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking all the time until you have a batter.

3. Stir in the grated courgette, banana and honey or maple syrup if using. 

4. Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan over a low heat. Drop spoonfuls of the batter onto the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes before turning over with a spatula to cook the other side.

5. Serve with fresh fruit, honey or maple syrup, yoghurt, jam - or however you like them. Enjoy!

These keep pretty well overnight in the fridge if you're like me and struggle to find time to make breakfast in the morning.

Buckwheat pancakes with courgettes and banana. Refined sugar free. Great for baby led weaning.

Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post with Rude Health. To find out more about Rude Health, their products and recipe ideas visit rudehealth.com.

Beetroot and poppy seed oaty bars

Beetroot-and-poppy-seed-oaty-bars-baby-led-weaning-recipe

This recipe for beetroot and poppy seed oaty bars is perfect for baby led weaning and as a toddler snack. They are free from refined sugar, full of goodness and really soft. They're also a great snack for bigger kids, especially as an after-school snack for kids who don't do too well on refined sugar on an empty stomach.

I love how easy these vegan snack bars are to make. You simply put all the ingredients in a food processor, whizz them up and bake. If you don't have a food processor you can make these with a hand-held stick blender, but you may need to add a little water to help get the right consistency.

If you're avoiding nuts you could replace the almonds with sunflower seeds or extra oats. (I haven't tested this so let me know if you do make them how it turns out).

Here's how to make them:

Ingredients
120g oats
40g almonds
100g dried fruit (I used a mix of raisins and dried cranberries
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 apple, grated
2 small cooked beetroots ((130g), roughly chopped
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey (remember to avoid honey for babies under one)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and base line a square 20cm cake tin or similar sized dish.

2. Put all the ingredients into the food processor and pulse until broken down and well combined.

3. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula.

4. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until firm to the touch. Cut into bars or squares while still warm, then leave to cool completely in the tin.

5. Store in an airtight container.

These beetroot and poppy seed oat bars are a perfect recipe for baby led weaning. They're free from refined sugar and make a great after-school snack.
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Honey spelt freezer snack bars with Rude Health honey spelt puffs

Honey-spelt-puff-cherry-freezer-snack-bars

This recipe for snack bars is so easy and they are so good for you that I'll be making it time and time again. They're made with natural ingredients, including spelt, honey, almonds and dried fruit. They need to be stored in the freezer to keep them together, which in theory means they'll last for ages. The reality here was rather different with the whole batch disappearing in just a few days. In fact they should probably come with a warning along the lines of "Watch out! These bars are dangerously moreish."

The bars are made with Rude Health organic honey spelt puffs. This is Rude Health's first product that is specifically aimed at children. It has just two ingredients - honey and spelt - and lovely packaging with gorgeous drawings of an owl and a mouse.

Rude-Health-Honey-Spelt-Puffs-Sneaky-Veg-Review

All three of my kids absolutely love this cereal. R has it with milk and the other two prefer to eat it dry. It's great for breakfast, it's great for a snack and it's also great for keeping a toddler in his highchair just a little bit longer while you clean up - because the small grains take time to pick up and eat one by one.

Here's what to do:

Ingredients (makes abour 20 squares)
20g coconut oil
110g honey or maple syrup
100g honey spelt puffs
70g ground almonds
75g dried fruit - I used dried cherries
40g raisins
50g cacao nibs or chocolate chips - optional

1. Grease a 20x30cm baking tray and line with baking paper.

2. Heat the coconut oil and honey together in a small pan over a low heat until the coconut oil has melted. Allow to cool a little.

3. Place all the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir.

4. Pour the coconut oil and honey mixture over the top and stir well until thoroughly combined.

5. Tip into the prepared baking tray and smooth out with the back of a wooden spoon.

6. Freeze for an hour, then remove from the freezer and cut into squares or bars. Transfer to a Tupperware dish with a lid and store in the freezer.

Honey puff and cherry freezer snack bars with Rude Health honey spelt puffs

Rude Health Honey Spelt Puffs are available to buy now from Waitrose and selected independent retailers. They'll be on sale in Wholefoods from 10 June and from the Rude Health website and Ocado later this month.

NB: This recipe is adapted from one for Healthy Rice Crispy Squares by Cooking Them Healthy.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Rude Health. All opinions are honest and my own.

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Oven-baked strawberry and rhubarb risotto

strawberry-rhubarb-oven-baked-risotto-vegan-schwartz

This recipe for an oven-baked strawberry and rhubarb risotto is seriously delicious. It might even be one of the best things I've ever made - my husband certainly thought so. It is a fantastic summer dessert that tastes just as amazing the next day eaten straight from the fridge with a spoon. I might have done this while hiding behind the fridge door so the kids didn't see me.

Baking it in the oven, rather than cooking it on the stove top, means no wrist-straining stirring to be done. Prepare your fruit, throw in the other ingredients, leave it in the oven for two hours and you're done!  I made this vegan by using almond milk but if you prefer you could use dairy milk - I haven't tested this but I'm pretty confident it would work ok. It's also free from refined sugar.

The sweet risotto is spiced with Schwartz ground cinnamon, juniper berries, cloves and a vanilla pod and the flavours are just gorgeous. I was really impressed with the quality of the Schwartz spices - the smells as I undid the lids were divine. I didn't know much about what to use juniper berries for - apart from gin of course - but it turns out that they are used for flavouring sweet dishes and cakes, as well as many meat dishes.

Strawberry-rhubarb-oven-baked-risotto-vegan-schwartz

Here's how to make it:

Ingredients
200g arborio risotto rice
400g tin of coconut milk
750ml milk (I used almond milk)
250g mixed rhubarb/strawberries
75ml maple syrup or honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp crushed juniper berries
4 crushed cloves
1 vanilla pod

1. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C. Lightly grease a large, shallow ovenproof dish (I used coconut oil for this).

2. Using a spice grinder, or a pestle and mortar, grind the cloves and the juniper berries to a powder.

3. Slice the strawberries and rhubarb and put in the bottom of the dish. 

4. Cover with the rice, milk, maple syrup or honey and the ground spices.

5. Pour the coconut milk into a bowl and whisk until it's combined. Pour this over the rice and fruit mixture.

6. Stir the lot gently. Place the vanilla pod in the centre.

7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for around 2 hours until the rice is cooked through and the pudding has set.

8. When serving, remove the vanilla pod.

Delicious warm or cold.

Strawberry and rhubarb oven-baked vegan risotto - perfect for a summer dessert - free from refined sugar

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Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Schwartz. All opinions are honest and my own.

I am entering this post into the following blog linkys:

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Could you go dairy free for a day a week?

What do the following recipes have in common?

That's right - they're all completely dairy free. Many people eat a dairy free diet through choice - such as vegans - or through necessity - such as those with an allergy. But lots of people are now choosing to reduce the amount of dairy in their diet for another reason - the environment.

According to research published today, which is World Environment Day, by the Carbon Trust, in partnership with Flora Freedom, eating plant-based alternatives to dairy products is much better for the environment. The Carbon Trust found that plant-based foods have a significantly lower impact on climate change, freshwater consumption and land use. 

Flora is on a mission to educate kids and families on where their food comes from through their Powered by Plants initiative.  As part of this mission the company has launched Flora Freedom - a new dairy free spread. It's certified by The Vegan Society and is suitable for those with a lactose-free diet. It can be used as a spread instead of butter and also in baking. 

Earlier this year we tried out some Flora Freedom and the whole family enjoyed it. It's particularly good with Marmite on a slice of toast! And I'm convinced that it melts into toast better than some of the other dairy free spreads on the market. It's a great choice if you're trying to introduce more plant-based foods into your diet.

The Carbon Trust's research shows that if a family of four were to swap butter for Flora Freedom for just one day a week the family would reduce its carbon emissions by the same amount used to keep a TV on standby for seven years!

If you'd like to have a go at eating less dairy then take a look at these recipes from me and some of my fellow bloggers for inspiration (or click on the photos above to be taken through to the recipe).

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Flora.

Blueberry fromage frais fairy cakes with My First Petits Filous - Baby S's first bake!

Blueberry-fromage-frais-fairy-cakes-my-first-petits-filous

We've entered a whole new phase with Baby S over the last few weeks. I'm sure that his two siblings weren't this energetic - he is just so, unbelievably active. He literally doesn't stop for a second. Unless he's eating. Which is he still extremely fond of. 

His new favourite game? Climbing on the table. I get him down. He climbs back on top of the table. Repeat x infinity/we leave the house.

We popped into a local cafe yesterday for a brief respite from London's completely unseasonal freezing cold weather. I seriously considered asking them to top my coffee up with cold water so I could drink it quicker as he decided that it would be great fun to push all the vacant chairs around the cafe.

Playgrounds? Yep, he's the toddler climbing the slides, trying to push four-year-olds off the roundabout and screaming blue murder if you try to put him in the swing.

Our local park has a wonderful bandstand, duck pond and woodland area perfect for toddler scamping and he has no trouble at all keeping up with his four-year-old sister and six-year-old brother. He even tries to follow R up trees!

Amidst all this newfound energy we've found the time for some gentler first experiences as well. This week we did our first baking together.

Now this was a bit of a first for me as well - I'm pretty sure that I didn't bake with either of the two Rs when they were this little. I was slightly worried that the whole cake mix would end up upturned on the kitchen floor.

In the end that didn't happen - but he did put some cake cases in the mixture and had a brilliant time licking the spoon. (I know, I know, raw egg, probably shouldn't have let him do it.

We made blueberry fairy cakes together. There's no added refined sugar in this recipe and I reduced the amount of butter by substituting a pot of My First Petits Filous for half of the butter. The recipe is below, at the end of the post, if you'd like to make them yourself (toddler involvement not necessary!).

My First Petits Filous is a brand new fromage frais on the market from Petits Filous. It's vanilla flavour and low sugar and contains only natural ingredients - so it's suitable for weaning from six months. There is 0.7% sugar in each pot compared to 6.2% in a normal pot of Petits Filous - and quite a lot more in some other children's yoghurts on the market. Baby S loved the taste of the fromage frais and asked for more, or rather "mo", every time he had one. It's good to know that not only is he enjoying his pudding, he's also getting a healthy dose of calcium and protein for good measure. He'll be needing strong bones if he's going to carry on trying to climb trees from such a young age after all! My First Petits Filous are available in Asda and Morrisons.

Here's how to make the fairy cakes. Because of the maple syrup, which is rather sticky, they can stick to paper cases a little. I'd recommend using silicone cases if you have them or giving the paper cases a little spray with some non-stick baking spray. If you don't have either of these/can't be bothered then paper cake cases are fine - just peel them off carefully! Either way they seem to peel off fine the next day.

Blueberry-fromage-frais-fairy-cakes-my-first-petits-filous

Ingredients
50g butter or margarine
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp maple syrup/honey (remember no honey for under ones)
1 small ripe banana, mashed
1 x 47g pot of My First Petits Filous
100g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g blueberries, fresh or frozen

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line a fairy cake tin with 15 paper cases or use silicone ones if you have them (see note above about sticking).

2. Beat the butter until it is creamy. Beat in the eggs, then add the maple syrup and mashed banana. Mix until well combined.

3. Gently fold in the fromage frais followed by the flour and baking powder.

4. Stir through the blueberries

5. Spoon a little of the mixture into each cake case - you are aiming for each to be about half full.

6. Bake in the centre of the oven for 12-15 minutes until well risen, firm to the touch and golden brown.

7. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

This post is an entry for BritMums #PetitsFilousFirsts Linky Challenge, sponsored by Petits Filous.

Disclaimer: we were sent vouchers to buy some My First Petits Filous. All opinions are honest and my own.

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