Falafel sliders (mini burgers)

Mini-falafel-burgers-sliders-vegetarian-vegan-kid-friendly-recipe

So what is a slider? I hear you ask. The term is used in the United States, to describe a mini burger, or indeed any kind of sandwich in a small bun. Sliders aren't very common in the UK but I saw them on the menu on a rare night out in a cocktail bar and it struck me that a slider is pretty much the perfect size for a kid.

So how to make a vegetarian slider that my kids would be happy to eat?

Falafel-sliders-mini-burgers-vegetarian-vegan-recipe

Despite not liking any vegetables or any pulses, R really likes falafel. I think it's because we sometimes go out to get them as takeaway and he loves the whole experience. In fact he always eats the whole falafel wrap - complete with hummus, shredded salad and garlic sauce - the only occasion he tucks into these things! But when I have tried to make authentic falafel at home I haven't had much success. Plus I hate deep frying things - too scary, too smelly and all that oil really isn't good for any of us.

So I decided to try making mini falafel burgers that could be baked in the oven. I was nervous about serving these to the kids because they look quite different to the deep fried falafel we get in the takeaway. R's first question was "are these homemade?" - which is usually a negative to him. But he was excited about having falafel at home AND about having a burger. Plus I let him have a white bread roll which is a bit of a treat for him, us usually being a brown bread household!

And the falafel sliders were a huge success! The whole family loved them and I will definitely be making them again regularly. I served these with sweet potato wedges, salad and hummus. Baby S and the grown ups ate everything, Miss R ate everything bar the sweet potatoes and R just ate the falafel burger and bun. To me that counts as a HUGE mealtime success.

I've had problems with veggie burgers falling apart in the past and so to make these I've used some of the liquid from the tin of chickpeas to help bind them together. Known as aquafaba this ingredient is increasingly being used as an egg replacer for vegans.  Read more about aquafaba and other vegan food hacks

Falafel-sliders-mini-burgers-vegetarian-vegan-recipe

Here's how to make falafel sliders, or mini burgers:

Ingredients
1 x 400g tin of cooked chickpeas
2 tsp aquafaba (the liquid from the chickpeas, see above)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp plain wholemeal or spelt flour
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Method
1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, reserving the aquafaba (see above). You'll only need 2 tsp for this recipe so reserve the rest for other uses or discard. If you like you can rub the skins off of the chickpeas.
2. Place all the ingredients together into a food processor and pulse until well combined.
3. Scrape out of the processor and form into eight balls. Gently flatten with your hands and place on a lightly greased or lined baking tray and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 
4. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas mark 6.
5. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, turning half way, until golden brown on each side. Alternatively you can lightly fry in oil for 3-5 minutes on each side. This makes for a crispier outside to the burger.
6. Serve with salad, sweet potato wedges, hummus and mini rolls. These are also delicious in pitta bread.

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How to throw a healthy kids birthday party: 20 delicious recipes for children

Healthy-kids-birthday-party-recipe-ideas

Baby S turns two this weekend! It's a cliché to say it but I really can't believe how quickly these two years have gone by. I guess I need to stop calling him Baby S soon - although he'll always be the baby of the family (having three kids is definitely my limit!).

We're throwing a small birthday party for him and a few of his little friends and because most of them are two or under I wanted to make a special effort to keep the food as healthy as possible without too much sugar. But when I thought about most of the parties we've been to recently (which are usually for slightly older kids), although there's always healthier food such as fruits and veggies on offer, my kids have made a beeline for the crisps, sweets and chocolates.

The challenge is how to make delicious food that looks like a treat yet is healthy. 

If you're looking for some inspiration check out one of these 20 delicious and healthy recipes for children's birthday party food:

Savoury

1. Butternut squash cheese straws

Use ready made puff pastry to make these easy cheese straws and add a portion of butternut squash to add a bit of extra veggie goodness. Get the recipe.

2. Skewers with avocado, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil

Chop the tomatoes in half and watch out for the pointy ends if serving these to little kids. See these and more lovely ideas from Feeding Little Monkeys over on her Instagram account. 

3. Courgette pizza bites

A gorgeous way of making pizza a lot healthier from the talented Eats Amazing.

4. Sunny picnic quiches

I love these mini quiches from Fab Food 4 All.

5. Baby friendly hummus

Chop up some sticks of carrot, peppers and cucumber or serve with breadsticks for dipping. My hummus recipe is salt free, making it perfect for kids of all sizes. 

6. Mini pepper boats

A creative and fun way to serve up peppers by Eats Amazing.

7. Guacamole

My guacamole recipe is easy to adapt. Depending on the age of the kids and their tastes you can leave out the chilli and salt and either leave this chunky or blend it up until it's smooth.

8. Cheesy breadsticks

Delicious homemade breadsticks by Everyday Healthy Recipes

Sweet

9. Healthy first birthday cake

This gorgeous cake from Healthy Little Foodies makes the perfect party centrepiece yet it's full of goodness and is sweetened only with fruit. Get the recipe.

10. Watermelon doughnuts

A gorgeous and creative way to make fruit the star of your party by Fork and Beans.

11. Chocolate coconut dipped satsumas

Jazz up a simple satsuma with this gorgeous recipe from My Fussy Eater

12. Fruit sweetened chocolate cherry muffins

Chocolate muffins with a difference - these are naturally sweetened and packed full of goodness. Recipe by Tiny Tummy Tales.

13. Raw chocolate brownie cake pops

No kid will be able to resist one of these healthy cake pops. Made with dates and nuts, the only added refined sugar is what you choose to coat them in. Use coconut for a healthier option. Get the recipe.

14. Banana biscuits

Delicious and healthy banana biscuits for little ones by Baby Led Blog.

15. Melon ship 

Get creative with fruit - see this and other ideas for a healthy pirate party over at More Than Just Carrots. Chop grapes in half for toddlers. 

16. Chocolate dipped fruit cones

The prettiest way to serve up fruit from My Fussy Eater. Chop grapes in half for toddlers.

17. Rainbow fruit skewers

These gorgeous rainbow fruit skewers by Eats Amazing would be perfect for any kids party. You could even get the kids to make these themselves as part of the party games. If serving to small children chop the grapes in half lengthways.

18. Ginger biscuits with passionfruit icing

Biscuit decorating is always popular at a party and if you use these healthy homemade ginger biscuits you can keep the sugar consumption to a minimum. Get the recipe.

19. Homemade raspberry chia jam tarts

Gorgeous jam tarts made with wholemeal spelt pastry and filled with raspberry chia jam. No refined sugar. Get the recipe

20. Chocolate cherry smoothie

Don't forget the drinks! These chocolate cherry smoothies by Tiny Tummy Tales look divine - and you can turn any leftovers into ice lollies. 

If you're looking for more tips and ideas for your birthday party - in particular how to do it without breaking the bank - check out this post by Kidgredients.

Raw chocolate brownie cake pops - a healthier option for kids birthday parties

These-raw-brownie-cake-pops-are-perfect-healthy-kids-party-food

These are cake pops with a difference. They're made from all natural ingredients with no added refined sugar. They're super simple to make - all you need to do is add the ingredients to a food processor - and you can either leave them as they are, coat them in melted chocolate or dip them in sprinkles or desiccated coconut. 

Raw chocolate brownie cake pops are perfect for children's birthday parties as they look so exciting that kids will find it hard to resist them - yet they're free from refined sugar (obviously not including the sprinkles or chocolate if you choose to use those). You don't even need to make them into cake pops if you don't want to - they still look, and taste, lovely when served as energy bites.

Baby S is turning two this weekend and we're having a little party at home for him and a few of his friends. Seeing as the kids are going to be so little it got me thinking about how to feed them fun party food without a ton of sugar and salt. I've been collecting healthy kids party recipes for a while now and I'll be pulling them all together into a blog post for you over the next few days.

These-raw-brownie-cake-pops-are-perfect-healthy-kids-party-food

You could even get the children to decorate their own cake pop. Try out some different toppings first - I found that hundreds and thousands stuck to the cake pop the best.

These cake pops are vegan - however, if you want to add chocolate or sprinkles to them be sure to check the ingredients first.

These-raw-brownie-cake-pops-are-perfect-healthy-kids-party-food

Here's how to make raw brownie chocolate cake pops:

Ingredients (makes 12)
250g dates, ideally medjool
100g cashew nuts (use sunflower seeds if allergies are an issue)
1 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tbsp maple syrup
Sprinkles, desiccated coconut, melted chocolate to cover - optional

1. Place the dates, cashews, cacao powder and maple syrup into a food processor and pulse until it comes together in one big sticky lump.
2. Lightly oil your hands and roll them out into 12 small balls. Don't make them too big or they'll be too heavy.
3. Put your sprinkles or desired topping in a bowl and roll the balls in it to cover.
4. Place a cake pop stick or lolly stick in the centre of each cake pop.
5. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

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Macaroni cheese with three hidden vegetables - perfect for picky eaters

Macaroni-cheese-with-three-hidden-vegetables-perfect-for-picky-eaters-vegetarian-dinner

This macaroni cheese looks exactly the same as a standard macaroni cheese - yet it has three healthy and delicious portions of vegetables - cauliflower, sweet potato and butternut squash - added. It's a great vegetarian dinner and is equally perfect for anyone who wants to find an easy way to get more vegetables into their diet and for picky eaters who try to avoid vegetables!

These days I'm all for transparency in feeding my kids and I try to avoid hiding too many vegetables in their meals - however on occasion I just want to make sure that my children - in particular my eldest - do eat some vegetables! That's when dishes like this come in so handy. It looks exactly like ordinary macaroni cheese. I've been blending butternut squash into the cheese sauce for ages but wanted to see if I could vary the veg a little bit. In this recipe for macaroni cheese I've added cauliflower, sweet potato and butternut squash. It all got eaten, and no-one noticed the difference. This doesn't mean that my son is any more likely to pick up a floret of cauliflower and tuck into it any time soon but at least I know that when he's eaten a plate of this he's had some goodness - not just a heap of carbs and dairy.

If you're struggling with picky eating you might enjoy my recent post over on the metro about how I relaxed about my child's fussy eating.

Macaroni-cheese-with-three-hidden-vegetables-perfect-for-picky-eaters-vegetarian-dinner

Here's how to make vegetarian macaroni cheese with hidden cauliflower, sweet potato and butternut squash:

Ingredients (serves four)

1 medium sweet potato (around 200g), peeled and diced
200g chunk of butternut squash, peeled and diced
200g cauliflower, broken into smallish florets
25g butter
1 tbsp plain flour
500ml milk
100g cheddar cheese
200g macaroni or other pasta shape
Salt and pepper, to taste
50g breadcrumbs

Method
1. Place the vegetables together in a steamer and steam for 10-15 minutes until soft.
2. Bring a large pan of boiling water to the boil, add the macaroni and cook for 10 minutes or so, until just soft. I don't usually salt the water when I'm cooking for the kids but feel free to if you want.
3. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C/gas mark 6. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir through the flour and whisk in the milk. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring often, for around five minutes. Don't worry about the sauce thickening too much as you want it to be on the runny side for macaroni cheese.
4. Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Stir until melted.
5. Add the cooked vegetables to the sauce and blend until smooth.
6. Add the cooked pasta and mix well. If you like you can serve it like this or if you prefer then transfer to an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and grate a little more cheese over the top and cook in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until bubbling and the top is golden.

If you like this you might like these butternut squash cheese straws.

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Healthy homemade raspberry jam tarts

Healthy-homemade-raspberry-jam-tarts-recipe-refined-sugar-free

Is it possible to make healthy jam tarts with no refined sugar at all that all three of my kids love? Turns out it is! These homemade raspberry jam tarts are perfect for lunchboxes, snacks, or even, dare I say it, breakfast. The raspberry jam is thickened with chia seeds and sweetened with maple syrup or honey - although I'd say this isn't absolutely essential if you don't mind a slightly tarter taste and you really do want to cut down on sugar of all kinds. 

Healthy-homemade-raspberry-jam-tarts-recipe-refined-sugar-free

Chia jam is such a revelation. My eldest son, who won't eat fruit at all, was eating this off the spoon! I got the idea for making chia jam from Nadia's Healthy Kitchen and have based the jam recipe I use here on her raspberry chia jam recipe. Check out her blog if you haven't already - it is full of delicious and healthy food. 

I've made a simple spelt flour pastry here to keep it wholemeal and to get the kids eating something other than white wheat flour. Feel free to use any kind of shortcrust pastry you want, whether that be gluten free, ready made or even a sweeter shortcrust if cutting down on sugar isn't a priority for you.

Healthy-homemade-raspberry-jam-tarts-recipe-refined-sugar-free

Here's how to make healthy homemade raspberry jam tarts:

Ingredients
350g frozen raspberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp maple syrup or honey (optional - see above)
4 tbsp chia seeds
225g wholemeal spelt flour
100g butter or dairy free alternative, diced
4-5 tbsp cold water

Method
1. Place the raspberries and lemon juice in a small saucepan and heat through until the raspberries start to cook. Bash them gently with the back of a wooden spoon so that they start to break down and become sauce-like.
2. Remove from the heat and stir in the maple syrup or honey and the chia seeds.
3. Leave to cool, then transfer to a container and put in the fridge to set for an hour or two.
4. To make the pastry rub the butter into the flour with your finger tips, or in a food processor, until you have a breadcrumb-like consistency. Gradually add the water and mix until you have a firm dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C/gas mark 6.
6. Grease a small bun tin (one that you use for fairy cakes or mince pies is perfect).
7. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the pastry out to a thickness of around 5mm. Cut out 12 rounds and press them into the bun tin. Lightly prick each one with a fork. You will probably have a bit of pastry left over. You could either make extra tarts, make some lids for your tarts or freeze it for next time. Little heart shaped lids would make these a perfect healthy treat for Valentine's Day.
8. Fill each pastry case with your raspberry jam and bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes until the pastry is cooked through.
9. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.
10. Enjoy!

If you like this you might also like these healthy raspberry cashew oaty bites. Alternatively sign up to my newsletter to receive Sneaky Veg recipes direct to your inbox.

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Four recipes for delicious sweet treats and #CookBlogShare linky week 1 2017

Four recipes for delicious sweet treats and CookBlogShare linky week 1 2017

Happy New Year to you all and welcome to the first #CookBlogShare linky of the year! Hopefully 2017 will see you all happy and healthy and cooking and eating lots of delicious food. #CookBlogShare is a place for food bloggers to share their posts. If you're a food blogger you can join in at the bottom of the page - we have a brand new badge design so be sure to check it out and add it to your posts if you join in. If you're not a blogger then please check out some of the linked recipes at the bottom of this page - you'll find heaps of inspiration.

The final linky of 2016 was hosted by Eb at Easy Peasy Foodie, who did a great job of hosting for two weeks over the festive season. Because of the time of year there were lots of delicious Christmassy recipes linked up, but as it's now January I decided that I wouldn't include them in the round up and have instead picked these four delicious sweet treats to share with you all.

Cinnamon Streusel Cheesecake

A truly delicious offering from The Baking Explorer.

Chestnut Chocolate Meringue Sandwiches

Moreish, dainty and oh, so pretty. By Only Crumbs Remain.

Cranberry Chocolate Muffins with Matcha Spread

Perfect looking muffins with a stunning bright green matcha spread by Everyday Healthy Recipes.

CRÈME BRÛLÉE

I love this classic recipe from The Not So Creative Cook. There's a lovely family story on the post as well so head over to check it out. 

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 for our brand new logo)
  • 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.

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Next week’s linky will be hosted by Kirsty at Hijacked by Twins.

Wild rice pilaf with butternut squash, cranberry and chestnut

Vegan-wild-rice-pilaf-cranberry-butternut-squash-chestnut

This recipe for wild rice pilaf with butternut squash, cranberry and chestnuts is a delicious post-Christmas vegan meal, full of warming flavours and bright colours.

It’s delicious on its own but also works well alongside leftovers such as nut roast and other veggies – particularly greens.

It's quick to throw together but looks super impressive, making it a great recipe for when you’re playing host over the holidays.

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Hearty root vegetable soup

Hearty-root-vegetable-soup-recipe-vegan

This recipe for root vegetable soup is warming, hearty and thrifty and it's a great way to use up odds and ends at the back of the fridge. If you get a vegetable box more likely than not you'll sometimes find yourself with unused root veggies at the end of the week. You can help to avoid food waste by chucking them all in a delicious and easy soup like this one.

It freezes brilliantly. Why not make a batch to use up those uneaten vegetables in the fridge and freeze it for lunch next time you need something easy?

This recipe for hearty root vegetable soup is very forgiving. Pretty much any root vegetable you can think of can be used - you might just need to add a little more or less stock or water. It's also vegan and is a brilliant way of sneaking in a few extra vegetables if you have fussy kids. Assuming they'll try it in the first place which is always the challenge we have here!

Hearty-root-vegetable-soup-recipe-vegan

Here's how to make hearty root vegetable soup:

Ingredients (serves four)
1 tbsp olive oil (or butter if preferred)
2 leeks, sliced
800g mixed root vegetables (I used swede, turnip and celeriac), peeled and diced
1/8 tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 litre of hot vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the sliced leeks, stir well, reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Sweat for around 10 minutes until soft stirring occasionally.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
3. Blend the soup until smooth. Add more water if you prefer a thinner consistency.
4. Serve hot with bread. I also like to add a little chilli oil and some toasted pumpkin seeds to my portion.
 

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Raw pecan, cranberry and chocolate snowballs

Vegan-pecan-cranberry-chocolate-snowballs-recipe

Chocolate treats aren’t always completely bad for you. These raw vegan snowballs are packed full of festive flavours like cranberries and mixed spice.

And, despite being dangerously moreish, they are actually pretty good for you thanks to the blend of pecan nuts, chopped dates and raw cacao powder.

Oh, and they couldn’t be easier to make – all you need is a food processor

Vegan-pecan-cranberry-chocolate-snowballs-recipe
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Feeding the 400 exhibition at London's Foundling Museum

Foundling boys carrying spotted dick at summer camp © Coram in the care of the Foundling Museum

Foundling boys carrying spotted dick at summer camp © Coram in the care of the Foundling Museum

I just love the photo above. Every time I look at it I smile - the sheer unbridled joy of the boys taking delight in being outside reminds me of my own kids when we don our wellies and head to the woods. Or swap them for wet suits and go rock-pooling on the beach. Also, the boys are carrying enormous spotted dicks in trays - which just strikes me as amusing! (A spotted dick is a very British traditional fruity sponge pudding in case you're wondering what I'm on about).

However, there's a serious story to the photo. The boys were Foundlings - children whose parents couldn't look after them so entrusted them to London's Foundling Hospital to bring them up. Many of the children - but by no means all - were reunited with their parents at a later date when their situation improved. The photo was taken when the children were away on a summer camp, which gave them a chance to relax, eat outdoors and be less formal.

I was invited to the Foundling Museum - a 1930s building on the site of the original 18th century hospital - to see their Feeding the 400 exhibition - a fascinating and myth-busting insight into the history of how and what these children were fed.

The Foundling Hospital was founded by Thomas Coram in 1739 to care for babies who were at risk of abandonment. As you can see from the picture below, in the Victorian period the dining was much more formal. On Sundays the hospital was opened up for the public - mostly its middle class benefactors - to visit and to see the children eating their Sunday dinner, complete with table cloths, metal cutlery and china plates. The hospital was extremely strict about manners. The children weren't allowed to talk at all during their meal and they even had to take care to use their cutlery quietly. If you have kids of your own you'll understand that getting them to use cutlery at all, let alone quietly, can be a challenge! As for no talking - well I know a certain young lady who would find this impossible!

Joseph Swain, Sunday at the Foundling Hospital, c1872 © Coram in the care of the Foundling Museum

Joseph Swain, Sunday at the Foundling Hospital, c1872 © Coram in the care of the Foundling Museum

To a modern palate the food the Foundlings were given might sound unappetising - boiled meat, rice pudding, gruel, suet pudding and bread. Poultry was considered too expensive, as was roasted meat. The Foundlings were however, served three meals a day and given full fat milk (although there was a scandal when it was discovered that the dairy had been delivering skimmed milk for 20 years!). If you compared their diet with that of an average London child of the same time you'd find it to be far superior in terms of both quality and quantity. 

Many of the children helped out in the Hospital's kitchen garden several times a week as you can see in the photo below. At the exhibition you can see a list of vegetables ordered by the kitchen in 1937 - the list includes peas, beans, cucumbers, lettuces, tomatoes and greens.

Boys in the kitchen garden at the Foundling Hospital, London © Coram in the care of the Foundling Museum

Boys in the kitchen garden at the Foundling Hospital, London © Coram in the care of the Foundling Museum

If you fancy finding out more about the Foundling's diets or perhaps trying out one of the Hospital's original recipes such as soup, bread, gruel, boiled beef or, of course, spotted dick you can get the recipes here. 

I like the sound of the Governor's Gruel which contains pearl barley, water, currants, egg yolks wine or sherry, cream, lemon and brown sugar. This sounds far removed from what my brain automatically thinks of when it hears the word gruel!

The Feeding the 400 exhibition is on until 8 January 2017 at The Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ. The museum is well worth a visit after this time too as its permanent collection is well displayed and fascinating too. (And there's a nice cafe on site too!). Find out more.

Five delicious vegetarian main courses for a perfect Christmas dinner

Five perfect vegetarian and vegan Christmas main meal recipes

Do you know what you're making for Christmas dinner yet? If you're a meat eater, it's most likely to be a traditional roast turkey. For a vegetarian however, what you cook for your Christmas meal can be a bit more challenging.

I've eaten all kinds of different things for Christmas dinner from the ubiquitous nut roast, to Delia's parsnip roulade and Rose Elliot's Christmas galette. In more recent years I've created my own recipes for Christmas. If you're interested you can read more about how my Christmas meals have changed over the years on the Vegetarian Society's website.

If you're vegetarian and you still haven't decided what to make for your Christmas dinner why not try one of these delicious vegetarian Christmas recipes. They'd all be perfect as the centrepiece for any festive feast.

Roast Stuffed Seitan Roulade

I've only recently heard about seitan. If you're like me and are currently wondering what on earth seitan is then it's a product derived from wheat gluten that is chewy and high in protein. It is said to make an excellent meat substitute. This recipe from Yumsome looks perfectly festive and is a great choice for vegans. Get the recipe.

Cranberry, Feta and Quinoa Stuffed Butternut Squash

I've never had feta cheese as part of a Christmas main but this recipe from Easy Peasy Foodie looks so utterly tempting that I just have to give it a try! Get the recipe

Vegetarian Christmas Plait

At first glance this recipe from Only Crumbs Remain looks the most traditional option on this page. Sure enough it's packed full of cranberries, chestnuts and onions but you'll also find feta cheese and mixed beans inside. Delicious. Get the recipe.

Wild Mushroom and Greens Pie

If you're a mushroom lover then this delicious looking pie from Food To Glow is perfect for you. Get the recipe.

Parsnip, Chestnut and Sage Wreath

This one's from me - the perfect centrepiece for a vegan or vegetarian Christmas meal. Get the recipe.

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Chocolate dipped marzipan stars with pistachios and freeze-dried raspberries

This is a gorgeous festive treat for any marzipan lover and it’s easy to customise.

Forget plain marzipan, you can make this almond-flavoured treat your own by adding ingredients like chopped pistachios and freeze-dried raspberries.

And, even better, you don’t need to go through the hassle of making the marzipan yourself – shop bought is perfectly fine.

Simply shape them and then dip them in chocolate to finish the look.

They’re perfect for a Christmas party, a festive after-dinner nibble or as a gift for an almond lover.

See how to make chocolate-dipped marzipan stars over at metro.co.uk

Christmas pudding overnight oats recipe

Christmas-pudding-overnight-oats-recipe

Do you like the flavour of Christmas pudding? I absolutely love it and I've been enjoying using it in my cooking over the last few weeks as we get ready for Christmas. It's so easy to replicate by using mixed spice - a pre-ground combination of cinnamon, coriander, dill, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. The addition of the mixed dried fruit also makes this taste Christmassy, especially when you get a bite of lemon or orange peel. Mmmm.

In the summer I got into the habit of making bircher muesli, or overnight oats almost every day - it's so convenient to have a ready-made breakfast waiting for you in the fridge in the morning and I think that this would be especially true on Christmas morning - because who wants to be cooking when there are presents to be opened, champagne to be opened and an enormous meal to prepare later in the day! We've switched to porridge now that the mornings are colder, but sometimes I still like to have them cold for a change. However, if you wanted to use these ingredients in your hot porridge or oatmeal instead I think it would taste gorgeous.

Christmas-pudding-overnight-oats-recipe

This recipe is really easy to adapt for different dietary requirements. As it is it's vegan but if you need it to be gluten free too just use gluten free oats and if you have a nut allergy in your family then replace the chopped almonds with seeds or use extra dried fruit. Overnight oats are extremely forgiving to make and almost impossible to get wrong! As long as the oats are covered with milk they'll be just fine.

Ingredients
150g oats
30g chopped almonds
30g mixed dried fruit
30g dried cranberries
1 tsp mixed spice (use a bit less for a milder flavour or replace with ground cinnamon if preferred)
400ml milk (I used almond)

Method
1. Start this the night before you want to eat the oats. Place the oats, almonds, dried fruit, cranberries and mixed spice into a jar or bowl. Stir to combine.
2. Pour over the milk, cover and leave in the fridge overnight.
3. In the morning simply serve with your favourite fruit - blueberries are nice - and some maple syrup if you'd like to sweeten it a little more.

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Potato kufteh recipe and win yourself a copy of Persepolis by Sally Butcher

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There's little I like more than a decent vegetarian cookbook and several hours with which to bury myself in its contents. Persepolis, the latest offering from Peckham's cook, recipe writer and shopkeeper extraordinaire, Sally Butcher, is one such book. Mainly focused on middle-eastern recipes, with a smattering of African ones, it's a delight packed full of veggie inspiration and beautiful photography.

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As well as the recipes there are some lovely stories - both from Islamic folklore and from Sally's own experience as a shopkeeper in Peckham, London. Many of the recipes have come from her customers and the book is a great insight both into Sally's life and cooking and into the varied culture of Peckham, which is home to a multitude of people from all over the world and is absolutely nothing like the Peckham of Only Fools and Horses.

Should you happen to be passing through Peckham don't miss the chance to visit her shop, also called Persepolis where you can enjoy a veggie lunch in the cafe at the back or pick up a jar of tahini, preserved lemons, some Iranian dried limes and a multitude of things you can't get anywhere else.

There are some lovely recipes in the book such as:

Somalian greens with peanuts and coffee

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Rye berry pilaf with barberries and pistachios

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However, I chose to make the potato kufteh (sometimes written as kofta or kofte) as it was a recipe that I thought there was at least a chance of my kids wanting to eat (two did, one didn't - which was to be expected). The recipe is kindly shared with the permission of Pavilion Books.

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Here's how to make potato kufteh (recipe slightly adapted from the original one in Persepolis):

Ingredients
Oil, for frying
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 small red pepper, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaped tsp ras el hanout (I replaced with ground cumin as I didn't have ras el hanout)
2 medium potatoes, boiled until soft
2 tbsp tahini paste (or peanut butter)
1/2 tsp salt (I left this out as was feeding to the kids)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp chickpea flour (gram flour)
2 tbsp white sesame seeds (I used a mixture of black and white)

Method
1. Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the onions, pepper and garlic until soft. Add the ras el hanout (or cumin) and take off the heat.
2. Mash the potatoes with a little oil or butter then stir through the cooked onion and pepper mixture, the tahini and the salt and pepper. Mix well with a wooden spoon then using wet hands form into 12 walnut-sized balls.
3. Mix the chickpea flour with the sesame seeds and roll the kufteh in the mixture before frying them in a good glug of hot oil until golden brown.
4. Serve hot or cold with hummus and salad.

For your chance to win yourself a copy of Persepolis by Sally Butcher simply enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below.

Open to entries from the UK 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

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Persepolis for the purposes of this review. I haven't received any payment for this post and all opinions are honest and my own.

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MOD Pizza Leicester Square restaurant review

The Sneaky Veg kids enjoying a MOD Pizza last weekend. As you can see they all love olives.

The Sneaky Veg kids enjoying a MOD Pizza last weekend. As you can see they all love olives.

MOD Pizza is a popular US chain of pizza restaurants, which is brand new to the UK. Currently the fastest growing restaurant in the US, the chain has opened four new restaurants here in the UK this year, with a fifth branch in Nottingham about to open.

We visited their flagship store in London's Leicester Square last weekend to give their pizzas a try and to see whether it is a good choice as a place to eat out with kids in London's West End.

The restaurant is designed as a fast food outlet - you order at the counter, moving along to choose your toppings, then ordering drinks at the end. All the pizzas are the same price, whatever toppings you choose. They have suggested combinations on the menu, but you can add as many or as few toppings as you like - and it won't cost you a penny extra. The standard size pizza costs £7.87 and there are mini and large versions available too. They also sell salads, shakes and soft drinks. Beer and wine are available for the grown ups.

Little S opted for a Maddy Marie pizza with extra black olives

Little S opted for a Maddy Marie pizza with extra black olives

So is it family friendly?

I would say that on the whole MOD Pizza is a good choice for a family meal out for the following reasons:

- It has child-sized pizzas and you can pick and choose the toppings that your child likes.
- The kids liked being able to choose and being able to see the toppings for themselves over the counter.
- There are cartons of milk and bottles of water and juice available as well as fizzy drinks and shakes, which are ideal if you're looking for a healthier option for your child.
- The food came really quickly - we sat upstairs and by the time we'd got settled up the stairs and were settled at a table the food arrived almost immediately. There are also toilets upstairs - although you have to go back to the ground floor to find a nappy changing station.
- While we were there the staff were pretty relaxed about a toddler running around and gave him a balloon to keep him happy (which his big sister promptly declared was hers).
- They made a small mistake with Miss R's order and immediately replaced it, letting her keep the wrong pizza to give her something to nibble on while she waited. Needless to say the kids managed to polish off the extra pizza too!
- It's also right on Leicester Square so if you're having a day out in the West End with the kids, perhaps visiting the National Portrait Gallery or going to the theatre or cinema, it couldn't really be more convenient. There's a great view over the square from the top floor.

However, there isn't a lift so if you have a buggy you either need to leave it downstairs or sit in the limited downstairs seating. I'm also not sure how well the kids would cope with queuing up to order if it was a really busy day.

I ordered a Tristan, but replaced the mushrooms with artichokes. It was DELICIOUS and I didn't have to share a single slice with the kids due to the artichokes!

I ordered a Tristan, but replaced the mushrooms with artichokes. It was DELICIOUS and I didn't have to share a single slice with the kids due to the artichokes!

Mr Sneaky Veg went off menu and had a pizza with roasted red peppers, chicken and jalapeños - there wasn't a slice left.

Mr Sneaky Veg went off menu and had a pizza with roasted red peppers, chicken and jalapeños - there wasn't a slice left.

MOD Pizza is at 17-18 Irving Street, Leicester Square. There are also branches in Leeds, Brighton, Gateshead and soon to be Nottingham.