How to make sweet potato toast

How to make sweet potato toast

Until about a week ago I didn't even know that you could make sweet potato toast. Perhaps you don't either. If you're wondering what on earth sweet potato toast even is then you're not alone. But it really is simple. It's not some kind of bread made with sweet potatoes - it is just thin slices of sweet potato cooked in the toaster.

Today (23 February) is National Toast Day and when metro.co.uk asked me to put together a sweet potato toast recipe for them I was slightly sceptical as to whether it would work or not. 

How to make sweet potato toast

Turns it out that it does work, it's delicious and it didn't set my house on fire - although the smoke alarm did go off once. 

Find out how to make sweet potato toast over on metro.co.uk

How to make sweet potato toast with smashed avocado and peanut butter and banana toppings.

Win a day at a cookery school with Ella's Kitchen Little Foodies

Feeding Baby S was a messy affair!

Feeding Baby S was a messy affair!

Ah, weaning. What a joyous, messy, fun time. Having been through it three times now, I have to say that, although there's never been a time in my life when I have spent quite as much time on my hands and knees mopping up the kitchen floor, as long as you learn to embrace the mess it can be a lot of fun.

It's also the perfect time to get your child used to lots of different tastes and textures, and introducing as many different foods and flavours at an early stage is a good idea. Back in June last year we worked with UK baby food brand Ella's Kitchen on a two week veg pledge - where the Sneaky Veg kids tried out 14 different vegetables - with mixed results of course!

With a new campaign, Ella’s Kitchen Little Foodies, the company has teamed up with Waitrose to inspire shoppers to prepare, cook and explore great healthy food for little ones. Ella's Kitchen is committed to helping children develop a healthy relationship with food and through research with the British Nutrition Foundation has discovered that involving children in cooking and eating together as a family can help establish healthy eating habits.

I have really noticed that getting the kids involved in cooking has improved the range of foods they are prepared to eat. Miss R, 5, in particular loves cooking - back in December she singlehandedly peeled enough parsnips and carrots for 16 people!

Eating together as a family isn't something we always manage to do (because Mr Sneaky Veg gets home from work too late) but we do sit down for meals together on the weekends. I also get my bigger kids involved in meal planning - although their choices aren't always the healthiest (!) they do enjoy having a say in what we eat each week.

I'll be heading off in March to the Waitrose Cookery School to get some tips for cooking for babies to share with you all but in the meantime you can enter a competition to win tickets for yourself and a friend to the Waitrose Cookery School.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Ella's Kitchen

Roasted sweet potato salad with blueberries, buckwheat and walnuts

Sweet potato, blueberry and buckwheat salad recipe with toasted walnuts

We love berries of all kinds in the Sneaky Veg house - well those of us that eat fruit do anyway (six-year-old R still refuses fruit of all kinds)! More often than not we usually eat them in sweet dishes. For example we love a handful of berries with overnight oats, porridge or granola for breakfast or as a little sweet treat after lunch.

Berries shouldn't just be used in sweet dishes though - they add a delicious sweetness to savoury dishes and I think work particularly well in salads. Here I've created a delicious recipe (see below) using mood-boosting blueberries with sweet potatoes and buckwheat. This is a great meal to eat if you need a pick me up - and is a good way to introduce salads to reluctant children. Sweet potatoes and blueberries are way more popular around here than green leaves!

Seasonal Berries challenged me to create a recipe using mood boosting berries. The company has worked with food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson, from Channel 4’s Secret Eaters on a #BeBerryBright campaign. They have come up with a list of good mood foods that can help combat the winter blues. As well as berries, foods such as oats, brazil nuts, bananas and broccoli are all great choices.

Sweet potato, blueberry and buckwheat salad recipe with toasted walnuts

Here's how to make roasted sweet potato salad with blueberries, buckwheat and walnuts:

Ingredients
4 medium sweet potatoes (I used two orange and two purple)
2 tbsp olive oil
200g buckwheat
500ml water
150g blueberries
50g walnut halves
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped
Maple syrup

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C/gas mark 6. Peel and dice your sweet potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 35-40 minutes until cooked through, stirring half way.
2. Rinse the buckwheat well in cold water. Place in a saucepan with 500ml water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.
3. Lightly toast the walnuts on a dry frying pan. If you've got small children break them up into small pieces before adding to the salad.
4. Add the cooked buckwheat to the sweet potatoes along with the walnuts, blueberries and thyme. Mix carefully and transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle with maple syrup. 

Roasted sweet potato salad with blueberries, buckwheat and toasted walnuts

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Seasonal Berries

Vegan purple sweet potato baked doughnuts with vanilla icing

Vegan-purple-sweet-potato-doughnuts-recipe

When metro.co.uk asked me if I'd be interested in creating a recipe for them using purple sweet potatoes I jumped at the chance! As you'll know if you've been here before vegetables are one of my favourite things to cook with - but getting my kids to eat them has proved to be something of a challenge.

So putting them in a doughnut seemed like a great idea - surely the kids would try them then?

Purple sweet potatoes – sometimes called purple yams or ube – have long been popular in The Philippines, parts of India and Sri Lanka where they’re used in a range of sweet dishes.

They are increasingly popular in the United States and it looks like this year they’ll be becoming more common in the UK too.

Vegan-purple-sweet-potato-doughnuts-recipe

Waitrose launched the purple sweet potato in the UK in 2015 but other major supermarkets are yet to catch on. Try Wholefoods Market, Amazon or Chinese supermarkets if you fancy trying them – but remember they’re only in season until April.

Get the recipe for how to make vegan purple sweet potato baked doughnuts on metro.co.uk.

Vegan recipe for baked purple sweet potato (ube or purple yam) doughnuts. This recipe is refined sugar free.

Leek, butterbean and roasted cauliflower freekah salad with sumac

leek-cauliflower-butterbean-freekah-salad-sumac-vegan-recipe

I've found that I am increasingly making veg the star of my meals. But sometimes it feels like while I'm loving vegetables more and more, my children are going in the opposite direction!

Thankfully my two-year-old takes after me and loves veggies - nearly always eating them before anything else on his plate. Cauliflower is no exception and it's a happy sound when I hear him shouting "more cauliflower mummy!". I sometimes get a please as well. Freekah is young green wheat that has been roasted and cracked. This is the first time I've used it, but it won't be the last - it's delicious! I picked mine up in my local health food shop.

So this recipe was perfect for a mummy and toddler lunch but not something my big kids were prepared to try. Don't let that put you off however - this really is a delicious meal!

I prefer to serve this leek, butterbean and roasted cauliflower freekah salad warm - although it's lovely cold as well - and it makes a delicious vegetarian or vegan lunch or side dish. I like to serve it with a green salad, hummus and a little pitta bread. If you're not vegan then some feta cheese is also lovely crumbled over the top. Yoghurt also goes well.

I've started a new series here on Sneaky Veg about how to cook different vegetables. The first instalment, published last week, was about how to cook cauliflower. I'd love it if you had a read and do let me know if there are any vegetables you'd like me to focus on - so far I've had requests for leeks, green beans and fennel. Please sign up to my newsletter to receive notifications of my next instalment and all new recipes.

leek-cauliflower-butterbean-freekah-salad-sumac-vegan-recipe

Here's how to make roasted cauliflower and fennel seeds with freekah, leeks, butterbeans and sumac:

Ingredients
1 medium cauliflower
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
200g pack of freekah
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium leeks, washed and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 x 400g tin of butterbeans
1 tsp sumac
Small handful of flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Break the cauliflower into florets, drizzle with olive oil and fennel seeds and roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, stirring half way. Get more detailed instructions for how to roast cauliflower.

2. Cook the freekah according to the packet instructions. Drain when cooked and set aside.

3. When the cauliflower is almost done fry the leeks in olive oil, stirring often, until cooked. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a further minutes. Add the butterbeans, cooked freekah, roasted cauliflower and chopped parsley. Stir well, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with sumac before serving.

leek-cauliflower-butterbean-freekah-salad-sumac-vegan-recipe

How to cook cauliflower

How-do-you-cook-cauliflower

Cauliflower is one of my favourite vegetables. I find it beautiful to look at, easy to cook and totally delicious. I love it so much I even have a photo of a lady at the old Covent Garden market in London holding one on my kitchen wall!

However, when I was a kid I didn't think it was so great. Over-cooked, soggy cauliflower has a nasty smell, an off-putting texture and is altogether reminiscent of nasty school dinners. As a result many people don't love it, which is such a shame as if you cook it right it really is delicious. 

So how do you cook a cauliflower?

Well, you can cook it pretty much any way you like. You can even eat it raw, as part of a salad, or as a crudité with dips. In Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book she recommends boiling it whole. Indeed you can boil or steam cauliflower - although I usually break it into florets first - and this is probably the best way if you're going to blend it into a sauce such as this hidden vegetable macaroni for picky kids. Depending on the size of your florets it will take around 10 minutes to cook this way. See below for how to prepare a cauliflower for cooking.

You can also fry cauliflower, although it can be a little slow to get going. However, my preferred method of cooking cauliflower is to roast it. If you think you don't like cauliflower, but you haven't tried roasting it then you have to try this.

How to roast cauliflower

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (fan)/220°C/gas mark 7.
2.
Cut off the outer leaves. Turn upside down and cut out the central stalk, removing any of the little white leaves you find there too.
3. Break or chop up into florets. These can be small or large depending on your preference but try to get them an even size.
4. Wash well in a colander and drain.
5. Transfer to a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and if liked add 1 tsp fennel seeds or cumin seeds. You can also roast with other vegetables or potatoes.
6. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes until cooked through. Stir occasionally.

I recently watched a series of videos about picky eating by Play with Food, an Australian children's nutritionist. In one of them she suggests talking about food to make it more interesting and since watching it we've started talking about the food on our plates and trying to get the kids more interested in vegetables that way. 

If you'd like to try the same then here are a few fun facts about cauliflower for you:

  • While most cauliflower in the UK is white you can also get purple, green and orange cauliflowers.

  • Mathematicians love cauliflower because each one of its pieces, or florets, looks almost identical to the whole cauliflower. If you want to find out more about this look up fractal dimension.

Is cauliflower good for you?

If you eat a portion of cauliflower you'll be getting a good dose of vitamin C as well as several B vitamins and vitamin K. It's low in calories, fat, carbs, fibre and protein.
Source Wikipedia. 1 February 2017

Cauliflower recipes

Roasted cauliflower is delicious with a salad, as part of a mezze or on the side. If you're looking for other recipes which include cauliflower then try one of these:

If you enjoyed reading this post why not sign up to my newsletter to get an update when I've published a new post. Alternatively visit me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

how-to-cook-a-cauliflower

Vegetarian aubergine meatballs with gnocchi, tomato sauce and olives

Vegetarian-aubergine-meatballs-gnocchi-tomato-sauce-olives

If you're looking for a new vegetarian dinner idea then look no further! These aubergine meatballs make a delicious vegetarian meal that is perfect for all the family. The meatballs are oven-baked to make them a little bit healthier. They do hold their shape, but they're very delicate, so be careful while mixing in with the sauce. If you prefer you can fry them lightly in oil for a crispier coating.

I like to serve them with gnocchi because it's something that all five of us like. They're just as good with spaghetti or pasta if you prefer that.

This meal is 100% kid approved by the Sneaky Veg kids. I wasn't sure if they'd go for these, as aubergines are not usually something they are willing to eat - however these were a success - phew!

Vegetarian-aubergine-meatballs-gnocchi-tomato-sauce-olives

Here's how to make vegetarian aubergine meatballs with gnocchi, tomato sauce and olives:

Serves two adults and three children with one portion of leftovers.

Ingredients
For the meatballs

2 medium aubergines, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
65g walnuts
A few leaves of basil, torn
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
130g wholemeal breadcrumbs (if you use white they'll be a lighter colour)

1 tsp dried oregano

Salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sundried tomato paste (or tomato purée)
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper

1kg gnocchi (2 packets)
A jar of black olives

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C/gas mark 6.
2. Place the aubergine, onion, garlic and olive oil in a roasting tin. Stir well and then roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
3. While the aubergines are cooking make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, stir and cover, reducing the heat to low. Cook for around 10 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and let it bubble away while you get on with the meatballs. You can blend the sauce or leave it as it is depending on your preference
3. Returning to the meatballs place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse, then add the remaining ingredients for the meatballs, including the aubergine mixture and pulse until well combined. You will probably need to scrape the sides down at least once.
4. Lightly oil your hands and shape into 12 balls. Place on a baking tray that is lined with greaseproof paper and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, turning halfway.
5. Once the meatballs are almost done cook the gnocchi according to the packet instructions, then add to the tomato sauce with the black olives. Carefully stir through the meatballs and serve!
 

vegetarian-aubergine-meatballs-gnocchi-tomato-sauce

Vegetarian sausage, potato, swede and cauliflower traybake

vegetarian-sausage-potato-swede-cauliflower-traybake

If you're looking for an easy mid-week dinner that is vegetarian, thrifty, family-friendly and seasonal then look no further - this veggie sausage, potato and vegetable traybake ticks all the boxes.

It uses seasonal vegetables such as cauliflower and swede - although you can substitute other veggies as you please - and is a great way to introduce children to a new vegetable. Two out of my three kids ate the swede without noticing that it was different to potato! Of course, R, my eldest, could tell immediately he sat down and just ignored the swede on his plate.  Still - there was a time when he would have run out of the kitchen crying if there was something unfamiliar on his plate so I'm calling this progress.

If you think you don't like cauliflower, but you've never tried it roasted, then you have to try this. I recently asked my Instagram followers how they like to cook their cauliflower and amongst loads of lovely ideas, roasting it definitely came out on top. Little S, who has just turned two, can't get enough of roasted cauliflower and actually picks it out and eats it all first. (He also leaves all the sausages proving that children, even siblings, can be VERY different in their food likes and dislikes). It's very nice in curry too.

Traybakes are a great way to make a tasty mid-week dinner with a lot less stress. You can often do the prep in advance if that helps, and then just bung them in the oven when it's time for dinner, leaving you free to play with the kids, help with homework, or if you're really lucky, have a cuppa. For more traybake inspiration check out my blogging friend Eb over at easypeasyfoodie.com who has been called the Queen of the Traybake on more than one occasion. She has a lovely winter vegetable traybake and many of her other non-vegetarian traybakes can be easily adapted.

Vegetarian-sausage-potato-swede-cauliflower-traybake

Here's how to make this vegetarian sausage, potato and vegetable traybake: 

Serves a family of five plus one portion of leftovers - halve this amount for a smaller family.

Ingredients
Olive oil
12 vegetarian sausages, chilled or frozen
8 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium swedes, peeled and diced
1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
2 sprigs rosemary

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C/gas mark 6.
2. Place the sausages, potatoes, vegetables and rosemary into a large roasting tin. You may need to use two. 
3. Drizzle over some olive oil and mix well.
4. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes, until the sausages are brown and the potatoes and swede are cooked through.
5. Serve with your preferred veggies on the side. I like it with lots of cabbage or other greens. It's also lovely with baked beans.

Vegetarian-sausage-potato-swede-cauliflower-traybake

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Valentine's Day shortbread heart biscuits - vegan recipe

Vegan-valentines-day-heart-biscuits-recipe

These Valentine's Day Shortbread Hearts are dairy free and egg free and would make a perfect gift for the vegan in your life! They are easy to make, look really pretty and taste fantastic.

I created this recipe for Brighthouse, and it's been published in their seasonal food journal, alongside lots of other delicious, seasonal recipes from food bloggers. Check out the seasonal food journal here.

Valentine's Day shortbread heart biscuits - vegan recipe

Here's how to make vegan Valentine's Day Shortbread Hearts

Ingredients (for 30)
100g plain flour
75g ground almonds
75g caster sugar
100g cold vegan butter
9g pot of freeze dried raspberries
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp water
Vegan heart sugar decorations

Method
1. Mix together the flour, almonds and sugar in a mixing bowl. Rub in the vegan butter with your finger tips (or in a food processor) until you have the consistency of breadcrumbs.
2. Stir in the raspberries and vanilla extract.
3. Knead together gently in the bowl with your hands until the mixture forms a soft dough. 
4. Wrap in cling film and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
5. Line two baking trays with greaseproof baking paper.
6. Dust a work surface with plain flour then roll out the dough and cut out heart shapes with a biscuit cutter. 
7. Place on the prepared baking trays and chill in the fridge for a further 30 minutes. This helps them to keep their shape. 
8. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3. 
9. Before baking prick each biscuit with a fork.
10. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden.
11. Remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

These biscuits are delicious un-iced but to make them even more special sift the icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Stir in the water a little at a time until you have a slightly runny consistency. Pour into a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle. Pipe a heart shape around the outside of the biscuit then fill in with the icing. Decorate with sugar hearts and allow to dry.

Vegan-shortbread-heart-biscuits-valentines-day

Four delicious free-from bakes and #CookBlogShare linky week 4

Four-delicious-free-from-bakes-CookBlogShare

Welcome to #CookBlogShare - 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. If you're not a blogger then please check out some of the linked recipes below - you'll find heaps of inspiration.

Last week's #CookBlogShare was hosted by Eb over at Easy Peasy Foodie. As always there wre lots of lovely recipes linked up and I've chosen to share with you four free-from bakes. Some are gluten free, some are dairy free, others are egg free and some are free from all of the above!

Vegan Vanilla Victoria Sponge

This delicious looking cake from The Peachicks Bakery is free from eggs and dairy and would make a great birthday cake.

Polenta Pizza with Braised Leeks, Yoghurt and Sumac

I absolutely love the sound of this pizza with a difference from De Tout Coeur Limousin. A delicious polenta base topped with unusual ingredients - this is going straight on my must-try list.

Pistachio, lime and olive oil cake

My mouth waters every time I look at this delicious olive oil cake by Gluten Free Alchemist - another must try.

Free From Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Apple and cinnamon is always a winning combination and this cake by Glutarama is free from gluten, eggs AND dairy. 

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.

Hijacked By Twins

Just to remind you, by joining in you are giving the #CookBlogShare hosts permission to use your pictures in a round up and on social media, if your recipe is selected as one of our favourites!

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

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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I am adding this link to the following blog link up. Check it out for recipe inspiration!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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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