Sweet cherry and Swiss cheese toastie with The Polish Bakery chia seed bread

Cherry and Swiss cheese toastie with The Polish Bakery chia seeds bread

A late afternoon delivery of breads and cakes from The Polish Bakery is probably the only thing guaranteed to mean no grumpy kids after school in the Sneaky Veg household. We were lucky enough to get just that one afternoon earlier this week - including three tasty breads and two cakes to try.

The Polish Bakery is Britain's oldest Polish bakery and they produce a range of cakes and bread products using Polish techniques and ingredients. The company has just launched a new bread made with chia seeds, which I was very pleased to receive to try out as the health benefits of chia seeds are well known (put simply, chia seeds have lots of nutrients and antioxidants and a high fibre and protein content).

We also tried out a loaf of rye bread, a pumpkin seed bread, a cheesecake and an apple cake. Both breads were great. The kids were unsure about the pumpkin seed bread but once they'd had a taste they were won over, even though there were big "green things" in the bread. Baby S didn't like the rye bread, but everyone else did. And of course everyone loved the cakes, especially the apple cake which was very popular. Luckily the slices were so big that they could be shared five ways!

The Polish Bakery's breads are well known for being good for you. When I posted a photo of the breads on Instagram someone commented on it to say that they were the only breads that their digestive system could handle.

When I was deciding what to make for Sneaky Veg to show you The Polish Bakery's products I came across this recipe from the Polish Housewife for a grilled cheese and jam sandwich. Now, I just love the sound of this. I've always enjoyed the salty taste of cheese alongside fruit. Cheese and apple was one of my favourite childhood snacks.

This particular recipe uses a Polish cheese called oscypek. I went to check the (fairly extensive) Polish section of my local shop. Alas, the only Polish cheese they had was an unspecified type of cheese cut like salami...and called salami. I've since found out from fellow blogger Monika of Everyday Healthy Recipes that oscypek is a smoked cheese made from sheep's milk that is made in the southern mountains of Poland. It's unlikely to be available here in the UK. Halloumi would probably be the closest alternative, although the taste wouldn't be the same.

I considered making a toasted sandwich with halloumi, but it just didn't seem right. I like a bit of melty gooeyness in a cheese toastie, so I opted for Leerdammer Swiss cheese (which is actually produced in Holland). So this has turned into quite a European sandwich in the end.

Instead of jam I opted to cook some sweet cherries that I had in the freezer so we weren't having a lot of unnecessary sugar. And the result? Absolutely delicious. The chia seed bread toasted really well and held the cheese and cherry filling together perfectly.

Here's what to do:

Ingredients (for one sandwich)
200g frozen sweet cherries
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp honey (optional)
2 slices of chia seed bread
Butter, for spreading
2 slices of Swiss cheese

Put the frozen cherries in a small pan with the water and honey (if using) and cook covered over a low heat until defrosted. Stir occasionally. Take the lid off, turn the heat up a little and cook for a further five minutes, stirring often to avoid sticking, until some of the excess water has cooked away and the cherries are starting to break down. Remove from the heat.

Put a non-stick griddle pan or toastie maker on to heat up. Butter one slice of bread. Turn it over and spread the cherries on the unbuttered side. Put the two slices of cheese on top. Cover with the other slice of bread and butter the outside.

Cook on the griddle pan for 2-3 minutes then carefully turn over and cook the other side.

Products from The Polish Bakery, including the new chia seed bread, are available for sale in Asda.

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

Highlights Monster Day game for preschoolers review

Children can feed a healthy breakfast to their monster in the game.

Children can feed a healthy breakfast to their monster in the game.

What's a game review doing on a food blog you might ask?

Well, tackling picky eating isn't just about real, physical food. It's about making food fun, making it real and making it normal. And that's just what this game does. 

In Highlights Monster Day, little kids get to care for their monster friends, helping him to wake up, brush his teeth, play with him - and feed him (nothing too unhealthy either - fruit and bagels are on the menu for the monster today).

Don't forget to brush your monster's teeth - it's very important to do this after breakfast!

Don't forget to brush your monster's teeth - it's very important to do this after breakfast!

The company behind the game, Highlights for Children, Inc, who produced the game in partnership with Colto, say that the game is designed to help young children to develop compassion, kindness and independence. It also helps them to learn about the world around them, and as well as being bright and fun, it's simple and the activities in the game are recognisable as things from their own lives.

All of my kids enjoyed playing it. R, at the age of 6, is definitely not a pre-schooler, but he still enjoyed playing a new game. Miss R, 4, loved it - it took her a little while to work out what to do and when she had got the hang of it she had a lot of fun caring for her monster. She is a big fan of both fruit and bagels, so I think they bonded over that. Baby S is 16 months and isn't quite ready for games yet, but he had a good time prodding the screen!

Tablets, technology and games are going to be a big part of our children's lives as they grow up. I like the fact that this game has been produced with the aim of encouraging children to care for others - it's aiming to be something more than just screen time. And I think it succeeds. 

Here's the trailer so you can see the game yourself:

If you'd like to try out the game for yourself you can find it on iTunes, Google Play or Amazon. It costs £2.29 to download.

Disclaimer: we were sent a copy of Highlights Monster Day to review. No other payment was received for this post and all opinions are honest and my own.

Cauliflower, potato and chickpea curry wraps with raita and crunchy cabbage relish

Cauliflower, potato and chickpea curry wraps recipe

This is such a delicious way to fill a wrap that I ate it for three meals in a row - I kid you not. The mildly spiced curry, the crunchy cabbage salad and the refreshing raita, served together in a wholegrain wrap - for me that's pretty close to heaven on a plate.

The cauliflower, potato and chickpea curry is mild, because it has no chilli in it, but it's still packed full of flavour. If you aren't serving this to kids you could add in some chilli powder or flakes. I figured that there would be zero chance of my kids eating the crunchy cabbage salad so I covered it in chilli flakes - then of course Baby S tried to help himself. Another lesson learnt (always give your kids a chance to try new things...and don't coat them in chilli just in case!). 

I served this like fajitas, so put all the dishes out on the table, with a wrap on each plate, so we could all help ourselves. R just ate the curry BUT ate all of his cauliflower and chickpeas, as well as the potatoes, and thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful. How's that for progress? Miss R and Baby S had curry and raita. Miss R at first just ate the potatoes - she ate her wrap in a deconstructed style - ie not wrapped up - but eventually ate her cauliflower too. Baby S ate everything and had seconds - I'm keeping everything crossed that his amazing eating continues.

I love serving meals in this way as it means that everyone feels like they've had a say in what they eat and you know that even if they just eat one element of the meal, they're still getting some goodness. Even the raita has cucumber in it so if that's all your kid wants to eat then it's not a total disaster. And having one element that is super spicy means that my husband is happy too.

This meal was served with Mission Deli wholegrain wraps. Mission Deli Super Soft wraps are easier to fold and hold fillings better - just be careful not to overstuff them and they hold together really well.

Come back to Sneaky Veg next week for another way to use Mission Deli wraps - this time for dessert! 

Cauliflower, potato and chickpea curry wrap recipe

Here's what to do:

Ingredients

For the cabbage salad
50g red skin-on peanuts
1/2 small white cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, grated
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes (or to taste)
Juice of one lime
Salt

For the cauliflower, potato and chickpea curry
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Chilli flakes, optional, to taste
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
6 medium potatoes (850g), peeled and chopped
1 medium cauliflower, broken into florets
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp garam masala
Boiling water or vegetable stock, around 600ml

1 pack of Mission Deli wholegrain wraps (contains 8) 

To make the salad

1. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C. Roast the peanuts for 10 minutes, remove and allow to cool. 

2. Heat the oil, mustard seeds and chilli flakes until the seeds start to pop. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. 

3. Once cool mix together the shredded cabbage, grated carrot and peanuts with the dressing. Squeeze over the juice of one lime and season with salt, to taste.

To make the curry

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan with a lid. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and chilli (if using). Cook for a minute or two until you hear the mustard seeds start to pop. Add the onion, stir well, turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.

2. Stir in the garlic and ginger, cook for a further few minutes, then stir in the turmeric.

3. Add the potatoes, cauliflower and water or stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow the pan to simmer with the lid on until the vegetables are cooked. Stir often. If the vegetables aren't cooking you can add a little more water but be careful not to add too much as you don't want the curry to be too liquid. 

4. When the vegetables are soft, stir through the chickpeas and the garam masala. Warm through.

Get the raita recipe here.

Serve with wraps and either roll up and eat like a burrito (how me, D and R ate ours) or tear off bits of the wrap and use them to pick up the food like a chapati (how Miss R ate hers - Baby S sort of did this too).

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Recipe for cauliflower, potato and chickpea curry served in wraps with raita and crunchy cabbage relish. Using Mission Deli wraps. Vegetarian recipe.

Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post with Mission Deli. More information and wrap recipes can be found at www.missiondeli.co.uk

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Banana almond muffins (refined sugar free)

Recipe-for-banana-almond-muffins-refined-sugar-free-bake-with-stork

This recipe for delicious banana and almond muffins is completely free of refined sugar. The muffins are sweetened with dates, honey or maple syrup and bananas. They're the perfect snack for anyone looking to cut down on sugar. I find them particularly good for kids who are affected by sugar. One of my kids always gets a massive sugar high, followed by a sugar slump - and plenty of bad behaviour. That doesn't happen with cakes and muffins that are sweetened naturally like these.

My kids love these and they have never noticed that they aren't as sweet as shop bought muffins or other homemade cakes. I don't mind giving one of these to my toddler either as I know he'll get plenty of goodness from the fruit, the almonds and the dates. You could make them even healthier by using wholemeal flour - though I haven't tested this. They're great for baby led weaning as well - just make sure you use maple syrup instead of honey as honey is unsuitable for babies under one. 

These muffins are made with Stork, a baking spread. Stork is celebrating the Queen's 90th birthday this year and you'll find loads of tasty recipes on Bake With Stork if you're planning a street party or picnic to celebrate too.

Here's how to make the muffins:

Ingredients
3 ripe bananas, mashed
50g chopped dates
50g honey or maple syrup (remember no honey for babies under one)
125g Stork tub 
2 medium eggs
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tin with 12 muffin cases.

Mash the bananas in a bowl. Blend together the chopped dates and the honey or maple syrup until you have a paste. I use a small processor to do this that came with my hand held stick blender, which does the job perfectly but any blender or food processor should be ok.

Beat the date and honey paste with the Stork until well mixed, then beat in the eggs.

In a clean bowl sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Stir through the ground almonds. Fold this mixture into the Stork mixture, then stir through the bananas. 

Spoon into the muffin cases then bake in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven, leave in the tin for a few minutes then cool on a wire rack.

Refined sugar free banana almond muffins. Suitable for baby led weaning, children and adults alike. Sweetened with honey or maple syrup and dates.

This recipe is adapted from one on Bake With Stork.

Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post with Stork.

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Simple rhubarb compote (refined sugar free)

Simple-rhubarb-compote-sneaky-veg

Rhubarb compote must be the quickest and simplest way to cook this strangely fruit-like vegetable that there is. In this simple recipe all you need to do is chop it, add in some sweetener and some vanilla and pop it all in a saucepan for 15 minutes. 

It's a lovely dessert with some yoghurt, or why not have it for breakfast with some bircher muesli? That's my favourite way to serve it. See below for some other ways that you could use your rhubarb compote.

Rhubarb has rather a tart taste that many people don't like. For this reason it is usually cooked with lots of sugar. I took a quick look online for other rhubarb compote recipes and found that sugar was added that weighed anywhere from a tenth to a sixth the weight of the rhubarb used. That means that if you used 1kg of rhubarb you'd add at least 100g sugar. As I'm trying to cut out unnecessary refined sugar from our diet wherever possible I have used honey here. Personally, I rather like the tart taste of rhubarb and so I just used a small amount. If you prefer a sweeter taste you can increase this of course - just taste as you go. And if you want to go traditional and use caster sugar go for it - I'll never know!

How to use your rhubarb compote:

- on top of pancakes for breakfast
- stirred through bircher muesli
- with granola
- mixed into Greek yoghurt
- as a crumble or pie filling
- with strawberries for a gorgeous summer pudding
- with mead in a semifreddo as in this recipe by Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger
- as a filling for Danish pastries as seen on Jess Cantoni's blog.

Here's what to do:

Ingredients - serves one adult
2 stems of rhubarb, chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 tbsp honey or more to taste
1 tbsp water

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan over a low heat. Stir well, cover the pan, and cook for 15 minutes, until the rhubarb is soften and broken down. Stir occasionally to stop it sticking.

You can also roast the rhubarb if you prefer.

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Recipe for simple rhubarb compote without refined sugar and suggestions for how to use rhubarb compote.

If you like this you might like one of my other rhubarb recipes:

Rhubarb and custard cake
Rhubarb and earl grey tea loaf
Vegan rhubarb and ginger muffins
 

The purple meals round up and Cook Blog Share week 20

What an amazing week Cook Blog Share had last week! Over at Hijacked by Twins, 28 delicious looking recipes linked up. And the thing that caught my eye the most was how colourful many of them were. 

I've picked four amazing recipes that include purple food to share with you today (I know, I know, technically rhubarb is pink). And in case you're wondering what I'm talking about - Cook Blog Share is a weekly link up, where food bloggers can share their posts. If you're a blogger you can link up your posts below. If you're not a blogger take a look at the posts that have linked up - there's bound to be some great foodie inspiration for you.

So without further ado here are the gorgeous purple recipes I've picked out for you from last week:

Beetroot and polenta cakes with chives


Plain polenta isn't my favourite thing to eat and I love how Everyday Healthy Recipes has jazzed it up a bit with beetroot and herbs. 

Plum, rocket and feta salad

Adding fruit to a salad is a relatively recent discovery for me - if you haven't tried it then please do - it really is amazing. This gorgeous recipe from Lovely Appetite is definitely one to try asap.

Vegan rhubarb and custard scones

How amazing do these look? And they're completely vegan too. I can't wait to make these scones from The Peachicks Bakery.

Beetroot and goats cheese salad

I've long known that beetroot and goats cheese are a match made in heaven but with pecans? Never tried it but I'll be rectifying that asap. Thanks Searching for Spice for linking up!

Now onto this week's link up. Here's what to do: 

  • Link up your foodie posts - both old and new welcome
  • Comment on this post
  • Pop over and comment on some of the other recipes that have been linked up
  • Add the CookBlogShare badge using the code below
  • If you tweet me @sneakyvegblog with #CookBlogShare I will retweet you.
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BKD Mini Bakers Club Review

BKD-Mini-Bakers-Club-Review-Sneaky-Veg

Do your kids like baking? I know mine do. Miss R (4) in particular absolutely loves helping me with anything in the kitchen, especially when cakes or biscuits are involved. R (6) is not quite so keen on helping with everything but he does like to help with sweet treats, especially when he gets to eat them at the end!

They also love receiving things through the post. So I was really excited to see what they thought of the BKD Mini Bakers Club subscription box that we were sent to try out.

Here's Miss R examining the goodies in her box. R was at school when it arrived and I couldn't wait until 3.30 to open it myself! Luckily he didn't mind.

Here's Miss R checking out the box 

Inside were the following goodies: a pack of gingerbread biscuit mix, some biscuit pop sticks, white icing writing, a let's play bakery game to colour and cut out, coloured pencils, plastic gift bags, stickers and further suggestions of activities to do. There was also a certificate - these people clearly know what kids love! There's nothing my kids love more than a certificate. R sometimes asks me to make him one if he's been particularly good! He has one in his collection that says "Congratulations for not getting angry about the ice cream" - I can't for the life of me remember the story behind it now.

We tried to do all the activities in the box so we could give you a really good idea of what it's like. Both kids enjoyed the colour and cut out bakery game. Miss R was very considerate in only colouring in half of the pretend cookies and saved the rest for R to do when he got home. Then they had a brief fight involving a pair of scissors which resulted in the scissors being confiscated and me cutting out the rest of the items. They then made up and played bakeries happily together for a while. (If I'm honest, the two of them playing happily together - or just even co-existing without a fight - is my main aim in life at the moment!)

It was the baking itself that they enjoyed the most however. The gingerbread mix is included in the package and you just need to add butter and golden syrup. We actually used honey instead of golden syrup and the biscuits tasted great. They enjoyed the whole process, but especially cutting out the shapes and decorating them.

Here are some pictures of their creations:

We attempted to make some of the biscuits into flowers on pop sticks as there was a lovely suggested activity to make a spring biscuit bouquet using an aluminium can as a pot. This didn't exactly work out as they were both too excited and the biscuits just ended up getting eaten! Although we did manage to save a few to give to their friends in the decorated gift bags that came with the kit.

The Mini Bakers Club box would make a lovely present for the children of a friend who enjoys baking. It would also be good if you would like to bake more with your kids but struggle to get organised enough to make it happen. If you wish you baked with your kids but baking isn't really your thing then you'll find that the instructions are simple and the extra equipment that you need is basic (we needed a bowl, a wooden spoon, a few cookie cutters, a rolling pin, baking trays and greaseproof paper). The cost is between £9 and £10 a month, depending on the length of the subscription purchased, and there is currently a 50% discount on the first month so now is a good time to try it out.

BKD mini bakers club subscriptions can be bought at bkd-london.com. They also sell baking kits and hold kids baking workshops and birthday parties in London.

Disclaimer: I was sent a BKD Mini Bakers Kit to try out with my children. I received no other payment for this post and all opinions are honest and my own.

 

 

Huevos rancheros tacos

Huevos-rancheros-tacos

Huevos rancheros is a rural Mexican dish, usually served for breakfast. Translated from Spanish it means rancher's eggs. It can vary a bit exactly what you get but it's usually a tomato chilli sauce with eggs and some kind of bread. In fact it's not all that different to the middle-eastern breakfast dish shakshuka. You might also get refried beans, avocado or rice on the side as well.

In this recipe for huevos rancheros I've served the eggs with a mild but tasty tomato and pepper sauce and a portion of black beans in some Old El Paso stand 'n' stuff tacos. These tacos worked better for us as a family that the crunchy corn ones because a. Mr R doesn't like the crunchy ones and b. have you ever seen the mess caused by a toddler trying to eat a crunchy taco? Personally I prefer the taste of the corn tortillas but the kids loved these. The soft taco kit comes with a tomato stir in sauce and a cool herb topping mix.

Seeing as I've just mentioned the mess that a toddler makes when trying to eat a taco this is a good time to mention table manners. R is six now and he's a pretty neat eater (when he's eating at all that is). He uses his knife and fork well and pretty much always eats with his mouth closed. Miss R is not at all keen on cutlery though. She nearly always eats with her hands usually resulting in half of the food going on the floor. Our dustpan and brush is very well used. Baby S is 15 months old and also likes eating with his hands, even tomato soup! (Mind you, at lunch time today he insisted on eating his soup with a fork.)

According to research carried out by Old El Paso, table manners are still something that us Brits take very seriously. Despite eating an estimated 188 million meals with our hands, and 42% of us claiming to be more relaxed about table manners than our parents, we still hate things like people talking with their mouths full. These huevos rancheros tacos aren't the easiest things to eat with a knife and fork though, so I'd recommend going with your hands the whole way!

To make this a hidden vegetable dish for your kids you could blend the sauce so the peppers are hidden. I opted not to do this as I'm increasingly finding that, depending on the vegetables, some of them get eaten. Well-cooked, soft peppers are starting to be accepted by both R and Miss R. Neither of them were all that keen on the black beans but Baby S goes wild for them. He picks them out and eats them like raisins. In fact, he might even think they're raisins. I really hope his good eating lasts and he doesn't become as fussy as his siblings.

Here's how to make these huevos rancheros tacos:

Makes 8
Ingredients
1 pack of El Paso stand 'n' stuff tacos
8 eggs

For the beans
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 x 400g tin of black beans in water
100ml vegetable stock
Juice of one lime
A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper

For the rancheros sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 red chillies, chopped (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 red, yellow or orange peppers, sliced
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp soy sauce*
Juice of one lime
Handful of fresh coriander

First make the beans. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the onions and cook over a medium heat, stirring often, until soft. Add the garlic and chilli (if using). Stir well and cook for two minutes. Stir through the ground cumin. Pour in the tin of black beans and water, and add the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring often, until thick. The beans benefit from being made in advance and taste even better the next day. Just before serving stir through the lime juice, fresh coriander and salt and pepper to taste.

To make the rancheros sauce heat the olive oil in a large heavy based pan. Add the sliced onion and cook over a medium heat, stirring often, until soft. Stir through the garlic and chilli if using, then the oregano and ground cumin. Cook for a minute or two then add the peppers, stir well and cover. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes or until the peppers are soft. At this stage add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and soy sauce. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Just before you're ready to serve add the lime juice and fresh coriander.

Fry the eggs and keep warm. Heat the tacos as per the packet instructions.

Serve with guacamole, salsa, sour cream, jalapeños and grated cheese as preferred and let everyone tuck in and help themselves.

*I got the idea to use soy sauce in this from this recipe on Serious Eats. I was intrigued so I tried it and it definitely adds to the flavour. Try it!

Disclaimer: I was sent some products by Old El Paso with which I created this recipe. I received no other payment for this post.

Miso udon noodle soup

Sneaky-Veg-Miso-Udon-Noodle-Soup-Clearspring

Unusually for this blog there's nothing sneaky or hidden about the vegetables in this miso udon noodle soup. The very fact that I was brave enough to serve this up shows how far we've come since I started this blog in 2013. Back then this dish would have caused all hell to break loose. Today R, 6, gobbled this up (much to my shock). Baby S wasn't keen on the noodles but ate the veg. Sadly Miss R, 4, wasn't keen - but she'd pretty much made her mind up she didn't like it before she'd even seen it. She did agree to try it if I let her have ketchup with it. But even when she'd turned it into a horrible red mess she still didn't like it (perhaps unsurprisingly - I doubt the ketchup did anything for the flavour!).

I am always up for the challenge of trying to feed my little picky eaters something new even if I often feel nervous before I serve it up and I can never predict what the result is going to be. While I was making this miso udon noodle soup - which my kids had never had before - I started to wonder about what Japanese children eat. A friend of mine has a Japanese friend (Hisako - who incidentally is an awesome illustrator and designer so take a look at her site to be wowed) so I got in touch with her to ask her what Japanese kids like to eat, and what they are fed as babies. I wondered if Japanese people have special baby food - an equivalent to our purées - or whether they practice something more similar to baby led weaning.

I would have guessed the latter, but I was wrong. It turns out that most Japanese babies are weaned on rice broth. It's nothing like the baby rice that we get over here from a packet - this broth is made with extra water so that each grain breaks down during the cooking process making it easier to digest. It's then common for them to move onto puréed food and as they get older the food gets lumpier and more flavours are used until eventually the whole family eats the same meal - perhaps with less strong flavours and salt. Well, isn't that what we all want - to cook one meal for our family? I'm sure I'm not alone though in achieving this very rarely.

So what else did Hisako say? Well, I asked her what food Japanese kids love. What's their equivalent to fish fingers, chips and ice cream? Her answer, perhaps unsurprisingly was rice. Hisako's favourite foods as a child were Japanese curry, ramen noodles, soba noodles and nattou with rice (fermented soya beans). Her toddler loves most of these things too - and miso soup - but hasn't come around to the fermented soya beans yet. I'm sure he will in time.

She went on to tell me about the amazing lunch boxes that Japanese kids have - most Japanese mums try their hardest to get a balanced meal into a portable bento box - which might include something like rice balls, egg rolls, fish/meat items and green veg. I honestly don't know what R would do if I sent him to school with a lunch box like that! Maybe I should try it... Bento boxes are like lunchboxes but with little compartments, making them easy to fill with different foods. For inspiration, and lots of non-Japanese ideas for filling a bento box check out Eats Amazing.

Miso-udon-noodle-soup-clearspring-sneaky-veg

So without further ado here is my probably not very authentic, but hopefully kid friendly, recipe for miso udon noodle soup. I picked the vegetables based on what my kids like - carrots and green beans are usually considered acceptable, and R really likes tofu (another surprise from Mr Picky), which is why I've included this. You can use whatever veg you and your family prefer.

I made this soup with some Clearspring brown miso paste. Clearspring sell high quality Japanese and European vegan food as well as lots of organic and free from products.

Ingredients
2 medium carrots, finely sliced
A handful of green beans
1 pak choi, thinly sliced
1.5 litres vegetable stock
2 tsp Clearspring brown rice miso paste
A few spring onions, sliced
400g fresh udon noodles

400g tofu (optional)
Soy sauce and sesame oil 

First prepare the tofu if using. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Drain and pat dry with kitchen towel. Slice into 2 inch pieces. Place in a roasting dish and cover with 2 tbsp sesame oil and 2 tbsp soy sauce. Stir well. Ideally leave this to marinate for at least 30 minutes but if you don't have time then stick it straight in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway until crispy on the outside.

For the soup bring the vegetable stock to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the carrots and beans and cook for 10 minutes or until soft. Bring a separate pan of water to the boil and cook the udon noodles for two minutes. Drain. The reason for doing this in a separate pan is to get rid of the starch. Put the noodles and the pak choi in the stock pan. Remove a ladleful of the broth and place in a bowl with 2 tsp miso paste. Whisk together with a fork until blended. Add to the stock pan, stir and turn the heat to low. Allow it to gently simmer until you're ready to eat it but don't let it come back to the boil. When the tofu is ready, if using, add to the soup and serve.

Disclaimer: I was sent a jar of Clearspring Brown Miso Paste to try out. I didn't receive any other payment for this post.

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Carrot cake bircher muesli

carrot-cake-bircher-muesli-recipe-rude-health

Have you tried bircher muesli? It's a real breakfast game changer - or at least it has been for us. Oats, soaked in milk overnight, then served for breakfast, has changed our breakfast table for the better. In this recipe I've given it the Sneaky Veg treatment by adding a healthy portion of carrot. If you think carrot for breakfast is weird then think again - it's perfect here. In this recipe for carrot cake bircher muesli the warming taste of cinnamon is combined with creamy oats, juicy sultanas and a healthy portion of hidden vegetables (ok they're not completely invisible - but no-one here complained). It's a delicious and satisfying breakfast and one that I know we'll be making time and time again.

I was inspired to make this after Miss R (4) and I were invited by Rude Health to an event with Frances Quinn (author of Quinntessential Baking). The event was designed to inspire kids to try exciting new foods for breakfast (and to inspire tired parents to get creative in the kitchen). Right before our eyes she created breakfast cereal monsters, magical porridges and colour-changing milk using Rude Health's dairy free milks and organic cereals and oats. Watching her at work was an inspiration as she made cinnamon gingerbread men atop bowls of porridge, fashioned giant Paddington Bear pawprints out of marmalade and turned breakfast cereal into monsters. And afterwards Miss R had the chance to get creative herself. As you can see in the photos she went for the "all the ingredients" approach.

Healthy, interesting breakfasts for my children are something that I really struggle with. We are so short of time on weekday mornings before school that there isn't much time for creativity and even making a bowl of porridge can seem like a challenge. My two older kids won't eat porridge anyway - I even bought chocolate Ready Brek to see if I could tempt them that way (it didn't work) - so if I'm making it then it's just for Baby S and I. Mind you, Miss R did try some of the porridge she decorated at the Rude Health event, so that's something I'll have to explore further at home. 

I usually have a jar of granola on the go, but during the week toast and Weetabix are the kids' preferred breakfasts. Miss R and Baby S usually have fruit as well. On weekend mornings I like to make pancakes and try a bit harder to get the kids to eat something different. After this morning's pancakes though R still wanted his usual cereal - I think his morning doesn't feel complete without it!

Bircher muesli is a great alternative to porridge. There's no cooking involved, you simply soak the oats in milk overnight, grate in an apple in the morning and it's ready to eat. The hardest part is remembering to get it ready before bed, but as long as you do that then it only takes a few minutes and you have a delicious breakfast. It's perfect for the warmer spring mornings we're having at the moment but I like it in winter too. And of course you can be as creative as you like with the decoration - see the photos above for some inspiration.

Here's the recipe for the carrot cake bircher muesli.

Ingredients
225g porridge oats (I used Rude Health 5 Grain 5 Seed Porridge)
50g sultanas
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 carrot, grated
450ml milk (I used Rude Health brown rice drink) 

To serve
1 apple, grated
Honey or maple syrup
Blueberries or other fresh fruit

Place the oats, sultanas, cinnamon and carrot in a bowl. Stir. Cover with the milk and put in the fridge. Leave overnight.

In the morning you'll have a lovely creamy bowl of bircher muesli for your breakfast. Grate in an apple, add a little honey or maple syrup and serve with fresh fruit if you like. I like blueberries best of all with this.

Rude Health are launching a new range of children's breakfast cereals this summer. Look out for them in Waitrose.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Rude Health: Frances Quinn Get Rude in the Kitchen event and received some Rude Health products for the purposes of this post. I didn't receive any other payment.

Delicious desserts recipes and Cook Blog Share week 17

If you take a look at the recipes on this blog you'll get a good idea of what I like to make in the kitchen - veggie and vegan main meals, granola and baked goods. All including fruit or veg of course. Yep, I like baking a lot and my baked goodies section has by far the most recipes in it on this site.

Desserts however are not my strong point. I love eating them but when it's up to me to make a pudding for a dinner party I often find myself lacking in inspiration. Just last week I spent so long trying to decide what to make for lunch at a friend's that I ended up having to stop at the supermarket to pick up a chocolate tart, fruit and ice cream. Delicious it was, but by no means the same as homemade. So I was delighted when I looked through all the recipes that were added to last week's Cook Blog Share linky to find so many delicious looking dessert recipes.

Here are a few to whet your appetite. And you'll find this week's linky at the bottom of this post. All food bloggers are welcome to join in - the more the merrier! 

Choc mint after eight ice cream sandwiches

These gluten free treats from Gluten Free Alchemist look (almost) too good to eat.

Key lime pie

This is one of my all-time favourite desserts but I've never made it myself. This recipe from The Baking Explorer is definitely going on my must-try list.

Rice pudding

When I was a child rice pudding from a tin was one of my favourite puddings. Especially if it was baked and had a skin on top - controversial I know! This beautifully-spiced recipe from Hijacked by Twins looks delicious.

Flourless chocolate and raspberry torte

This recipe from The Not So Creative Cook is just the kind of dessert I love. It would be a great one to make for my gluten free mum next time she visits.

To see the rest of the lovely recipes that were linked up last week visit Hijacked by Twins.

Cook Blog Share week 17 (26 April - 2 May 2016)

This week's linky is just below. Here's a reminder of what to do:

- Share a foodie post, old or new, add the #CookBlogShare badge (see below) and a link to this page and link up using the "Add Your Link" tool below.
- Comment on this page.
- Tweet your recipe using the hashtag #CookBlogShare. If you tag @sneakyvegblog I will retweet.
- Comment on some of the other recipes that have joined in.
- Share your recipes on the Facebook CookBlogShare group. 
- All recipes will be shared on the #CookBlogShare Pinterest Board.

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Smoky baked beans with aubergine

Homemade-smoky-beans-with-aubergine

Baked beans have so much potential as a meal. Not only are they filling and packed full of protein they are popular with children and count as one of your five a day. Yet shop bought ones often disappoint. They are often high in salt and sugar, and once you've tried homemade ones, just seem to lack a little something in the flavour department.

I quite often make homemade baked beans for a weekend lunch but this is the first time I've added aubergines. Rather than making a classic hidden vegetable recipe, where the veggies are blended into the sauce I've chosen to cook the aubergines for a really long time, over a low heat, so that by the end of the cooking time they can be broken down and mixed in with the sauce. In the photo you can still see the aubergine but for the portions that I served to my children I mashed it in with a fork. This worked perfectly because it was so soft.

This baked beans recipe is packed full of flavour. They are hearty, filling and smoky and make the perfect vegetarian topping for a baked potato or a side for your weekend brunch. They're also excellent on toast!

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp tamari sauce ( tamari is a light, gluten free soy sauce)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 aubergine, peeled and chopped
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of haricot beans
Freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 120°C. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof saucepan. Add the chopped onion and cook over a low-medium heat for around 10 minutes until soft. Stir often. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring well. Stir through the tamari, smoked paprika, mustard powder and maple syrup.

Add the aubergine, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Stir occasionally and cook for 15 minutes until the aubergine has softened and started to break down. Add the chopped tomatoes, the haricot beans and some freshly ground black pepper. I don't add salt because this is for the kids as well but if you wish you can add a large pinch of salt at this stage too.

Put the pan in the oven and cook for 3-4 hours until the aubergine has softened and broken down. Stir occasionally.

Serve hot with toast or on top of a baked potato.

Cold Brew Coffee Ketchup

Cold-brew-coffee-tomato-ketchup-recipe

How do you feel about letting your kids drink coffee? My guess would be that you'd say "no way". And what about a little coffee used in food - a cake, a tiramisu - or perhaps even ketchup? It wouldn't have occurred to me to use coffee in ketchup but that's exactly what the people at BRITA andThe Gentlemen Baristas have done.

I'll share the coffee recipe with you in a few moments, but first I want to think more about kids and coffee. When I was asked if I'd like to try out one of these recipes my first thought was yes, of course, because I love coffee. Hey I'm a sleep deprived mum of three and I couldn't cope without it! But on a kids food blog, really? Caffeine and kids is pretty much a no-no isn't it? But then I thought about my father in law, who grew up in South America and had a cafe con leche for breakfast every day (a milky coffee). So I did a little research on a Facebook group that I'm a member of to find out what people thought.

And the results surprised me a little. Many people said what I was expecting. Definitely no coffee as a drink until the kids are teenagers at least. And the same people were happy, in theory, with the kids eating a little coffee in food. But most kids hate the taste and wouldn't like something like coffee and walnut cake at all.

But quite a few people said something different. One child absolutely loves tiramisu. More than one were allowed a taste of coffee and loved it - and are now occasionally allowed to drink a decaf coffee. My favourite story though was from someone who remembered that their grandmother, who was a coffee drinker, used to "save me down the bottom" - leaving just a tiny sip of coffee at the end of her cup for her small granddaughter to drink. She's going to do the same with her son if and when he wants to.

So maybe it's not so bad after all in moderation. I'm not suggesting that you start fostering a coffee habit in your children but do give this lovely coffee ketchup a try if you're a ketchup fan, and see what your kids think. It's quite a different experience to Heinz, full of spice and flavour. This recipe is made with cold brew coffee, which is rather trendy at the moment. Put simply, coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for a day or so, then filtered, diluted and served at room temperature. It's nothing like iced coffee and if you're a coffee fan you should give it a go - I wasn't convinced at all at the idea but it really is a delicious drink.

Cold-brew-coffee-ketchup-recipe

Ingredients
500g on the vine tomatoes
500g cherry tomatoes
100g soft brown sugar
100ml white wine vinegar
150ml cold brew coffee
Half a cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
4 cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp mace
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 slightly crushed garlic clove

To make the cold brew coffee you'll need ground coffee, filtered water, an airtight container and a cafetiere. Put 200g of coffee in the airtight container with 1 litre of filtered water. Stir the mixture 10 times and after a couple of minutes the coffee should float on the top. Stir for another minute and seal the container. Leave it in the fridge for 16 hours. Filter the cold brew coffee twice with the cafetiere.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan). Place all the tomatoes, with the vine still attached, on to a baking tray. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil and then cook until the skins have blackened a little.

Press the tomatoes through a sieve into a medium-sized pan. Keep pressing through until all of the flesh has come through. Once you have a puree consistency stir through the brown sugar and the vinegar and gently simmer. Put all the spices and the garlic into a piece of muslin cloth and tie the top. Add it to the mixture, stirring regularly. After 20 minutes remove the muslin and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. 

Add the cold brew coffee and cook for 10 more minutes before allowing to cool. Once cool transfer to a sterilised bottle or jar.

If you fancy seeing more recipes that use cold brew coffee check out this recipe for a Wake Up Mary from Foodie Quine.

Disclaimer: I was sent a coffee pack by BRITA and The Gentlemen Baristas for the purposes of this post. I received no other payment for this post. 

 

Simple stir fry with spiralised courgette (zucchini) noodles

vegan-spiralised-courgette-stir-fry-recipe

If you're looking for a simple healthy stir fry recipe that you can knock up in minutes then this is for you. It's perfect for vegans, a meal on a 5:2 fast day or simply increasing your veg intake for the day. If you're lucky your kids might be fooled into thinking they're eating ordinary noodles. Spiralised courgettes (zucchini) are surely one of the most ingenious forms of hidden vegetables out there, right? 

There's a good chance you have most of the ingredients in your store cupboard and freezer and you can easily adapt it to what you have available. All I went out to buy was a courgette. I already had one in the fridge but I thought I'd need two. In the end I only used one as it produced way more noodles than I was expecting.

The kids definitely prefer ordinary noodles but I was really pleased that they both tried them and when I told them they were spiralised courgettes they were really quite excited! This stir fry would be lovely with broccoli as well - but there's no point wasting good broccoli on my kids to be honest as the lot will go in the bin so I didn't include any for this recipe.

I made this recipe to try out some of the ingredients that I received to try out for Lee Kum Kee. I was sent Chiu Chow Chilli Oil, Premium Light Soy Sauce and Pure Sesame Oil. I didn't use the chilli oil in this recipe as it's pretty fiery and would have been too hot for the kids. I have used it a couple of times in other dishes and it's really good - and a great way of spicing up a dish if you don't have a fresh chilli to hand.

Ingredients (serves one adult, or three young children)
A handful of frozen peas
A handful of frozen green beans
1 tbsp pure sesame oil
1 courgette, spiralised (peel it if you have kids who object to the green skin)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Blanch the peas and green beans by cooking in boiling water for two minutes, then placing in iced water or running under the cold tap to refresh.

Heat the sesame oil in a non-stick wok or frying pan. Add the courgette and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add the peas and beans, the soy sauce and the sesame seeds. Stir fry for a further minute or two until everything is well combined and hot. Serve immediately. 

Disclaimer: I was sent some products to try out by Lee Kum Kee. I received no other payment for this post.

Tropical cookies (vegan and refined sugar free)

Sneaky-Veg-Tropical-Cookies-Vegan-Healthy-Recipe

These cookies are so good. They are vegan, free from refined sugar, dairy free, egg free etc. If that makes you want to stop reading because they just sound too boring - well don't! I promise you these are gorgeous chewy cookies, full of oaty goodness and bursts of pineapple and papaya.

The kids go mad for these every time I make them and they barely last a day or two. But I don't mind because there are no nasties at all in them. You can use peanut butter instead of the cashew butter if you prefer but I've found that the peanut taste can dominate and cashew is a more subtle flavour.

Ingredients
200g oats
50g desiccated coconut
50g dried pineapple, chopped
50g dried papaya, chopped
100g honey or maple syrup (remember that honey isn't suitable for under-ones)
50g cashew butter
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with greaseproof baking paper. Mix the oats, coconut, pineapple and papaya together in a large bowl. Stir through the honey or maple syrup, cashew butter and mashed banana and mix under well combined. At this stage you can pop the lot in a food processor if you like, which will break down the dried fruit and oats - useful if your kids don't fancy the pineapple and papaya. It's not essential though - I've made them both ways and they turn out great.

Using two spoons place dollops of the mixture on to the baking trays and flatten with the back of a fork. Depending on the size you make them you will get about 20 cookies.

Cook in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

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