Romanesco, chickpea and fennel linguine

Romanesco-fennel-chickpea-linguine

Just what exactly is romanesco? Is it a cauliflower? Is it a type of broccoli? Some kind of alien life form? Well it turns out that although romanesco is a member of the same family (the brassica) as cauliflower and broccoli it's actually a unique vegetable in its own right. It not only looks spectacular but it tastes amazing too. But what do you do with it?

Romanesco-fennel-chickpea-linguine-recipe

We picked one up from our local greengrocers a few weeks ago and Miss R was fascinated by the intricate patterns. Romanesco can be cooked in the same way as cauliflower. It tastes great roasted and can even be cooked and served whole.

Romanesco-fennel-chickpea-linguine-recipe

On this occasion however I haven't roasted it but pan fried it along with the other ingredients to make a quick, veg-filled pasta lunch.

Miss R had a brilliant time helping me prepare the romanesco for lunch. When it came to eating it she was less keen but she did give it a good go. R inevitably refused to try it but he did eat some of the linguine which is something of a breakthrough because he doesn't like spaghetti. I showed him that it was a slightly different shape and he tucked in. The vagaries of picky eating never fail to baffle me! Little S, of course, loved this as did the grown ups.

Here's how to make romanesco, chickpea and fennel linguine

Ingredients (serves a family of five - two adults and three children)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 romanesco, broken into florets
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
Small handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
Small handful of pine nuts, toasted
Chilli flakes, optional
Salt and pepper, optional
250g linguine or other pasta

Method
1. Heat the olive oil in a large wok or saucepan.
2. Add the sliced onion and fennel, stir well and cook over a low heat for around 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for a further two minutes.
3. Add the romanesco florets and continue to stir fry for 10-15 minutes until softened. You can leave it with a little crunch, or cook it until soft depending on your preference.
4. In the meantime cook the linguine according to the packet instructions.
5. When the romanesco has started to soften stir through the chickpeas, lemon juice, parsley, pine nuts and chilli flakes if using. Season to taste.

Romanesco, chickpea and fennel linguine

Easy spinach pesto puff pastry palmiers

Easy spinach pesto puff pastry palmiers recipe

This is a super easy recipe for spinach puff pastry swirls, or if you want to be posh, palmiers. They are great for lunch, as a snack or in a picnic. Most UK schools don't allow nuts so I would sub the nuts for sunflower seeds if I was making these for a lunchbox.

I am on a puff pastry roll at the moment. It seems I can do no wrong in my kids' eyes if it comes served with puff pastry - they'll eat anything! Which is fine by me if it means they're getting a little spinach in their diet. 

This recipe would be a lovely one to make with your children if you're looking to get them involved in cooking. I've heard time and time again that getting children involved in meal prep, cooking - and even in meal planning - can really help with picky eating. It's got to be worth a try, right? These spinach palmiers are really easy and quick to make and even little kids can get involved with spreading and rolling.

Ingredients
200g spinach leaves, washed and shredded
50g nuts - I used a mix of walnuts and pine nuts
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 x 320g sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
50g cheddar cheese, grated

Method
1. First make your pesto. Place the spinach, nuts, balsamic vinegar and olive oil into a blender and pulse until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides to make sure the nuts are all fully ground down. I used my Froothie Optimum G2.3 blender.*
2. Roll out your sheet of puff pastry onto a baking tray, keeping it on the greaseproof paper. 
3. Spread some of the pesto over the puff pastry, reserving the leftovers for use in another dish eg with pasta.
4. Sprinkle over the grated cheese.
5. Roll the pastry up tightly along the long side to the middle, then repeat from the other side.
6. Wrap in the paper and chill in the fridge for several hours. If you're short of time 20 minutes in the freezer should do it.
7. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C/gas mark 6.  Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
8. Remove the palmier roll from the fridge or freezer and remove the paper. Using a sharp knife cut into one cm pieces and place on the baking tray.
9. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. 

Easy spinach pesto puff pastry palmiers recipe

*Disclosure: I am an Ambassador for Froothie and any links to their products in this post are affiliate links which, if purchased through, won’t cost you any more but will earn me a small commission. Affiliate links throughout are marked with an asterix. I only endorse products I am happy with and I have not been paid for this post. * Read my review of the G2.3 blender.

Win a copy of the Ingreedies cookbook

WIN-COPY-INGREEDIES-COOKBOOK

As parents we all want our kids to grow up with a healthy relationship with food, eating a good range of different foods and trying new things. Thinking ahead I also like to think that when they leave home, my kids will know how to feed themselves. And by that I don't mean they'll know where the ready meal section is in the supermarket, I mean they will know how to plan, prepare and cook a healthy meal (or ideally more than one meal!) from scratch.

The whole family loved the curry we made using the Ingreedies cookbook

The whole family loved the curry we made using the Ingreedies cookbook

We've been making a conscious effort this year to talk to our children about food. We've been involving them in meal planning - letting them choose at least one meal a week that they want to see on the meal plan, sharing facts with them about food (you can see a few examples in my cauliflower and leeks posts) and encouraging them to help in the kitchen.

Miss R needs no encouragement and she would gladly help to prepare every single meal. At 5 I haven't let her near the oven or hob yet but she is an expert peeler, chopper, stirrer and mixer. R is less interested in helping with meal prep but he can always be persuaded to help make bread or sweet treats. And Little S is starting to show an interest too.

Miss R loved making her own curry paste with a pestle and mortar

Miss R loved making her own curry paste with a pestle and mortar

So when I stumbled across a copy of Around the World with the Ingreedies: A Taste Adventure* in a bookshop I picked it up straight away. I'd only looked at a couple of pages when I knew the book would be leaving the bookshop with me. It's the perfect resource to get your kids excited about food.

Split up by continent the book is packed to the brim with illustrations, fun facts, maps and recipes. There are 13 recipes from around the world to cook and enjoy together as a family. Unlike many kids recipe books the recipes all actually sound delicious and appealing to adults too! Personally I would like to see more vegetarian recipes in the book but most of the recipes could easily be adapted if you're a veggie family - as we did with the recipe I've featured here.

The book is great for different ages too. At 5, Miss R and I sit down together and read the recipes and the facts but at almost 7, R can read much of the book himself. It would make a lovely gift for a child of any age.

Get your kids to cook dinner for you AND learn about world cuisines with the Ingreedies cookbook

Get your kids to cook dinner for you AND learn about world cuisines with the Ingreedies cookbook

We adapted the recipe for North-South Curry - which has chicken in it - to be a vegetarian curry instead and the whole family loved it. The kids, especially R, particularly enjoyed making - and eating - their own rotis (flatbreads) and Miss R had a great time bashing up the garlic, ginger and spices to make her very own curry paste.

The Ingreedies team has been kind enough to give me a copy of Around The World With The Ingreedies to give away to a Sneaky Veg reader. If you'd like to enter you can do so via the Rafflecopter widget 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

*This post contains affiliate links meaning that if you buy the book after clicking on this link I will receive a small commission. The price to you will remain the same.

Disclaimer: I have been given a copy of the Ingreedies cookbook to give away as a prize. I have received no other payment for this post and all opinions are honest and are my own.

Banana and blueberry buckwheat oaty bars plus eight bonus buckwheat recipes

Blueberry and banana buckwheat oaty bars

Should you ever find yourself with some leftover cooked buckwheat in the fridge this is the perfect use for it.

Now, you might think it's unlikely that you'll have leftover buckwheat in the fridge because you either never cook with it or you don't even know what it is! If that's you then read on - if not skip to the recipe at the end.

Buckwheat looks like a grain but is actually a seed, and despite its name is gluten free. (Check the packaging if you are gluten intolerant or coeliac to check it's certified gluten free). It is eaten in Russia and many countries across Eastern Europe and Asia, and is rapidly gaining in popularity here in the UK. I picked up some buckwheat pasta the other day and soba noodles are making their way onto our table on a weekly basis at the moment. See the end of this post for some other recipes that use buckwheat.

It has a distinctive, nutty taste, that some people aren't initially keen on. I've really come to like the flavour and am increasingly using it in place of rice. In fact I much prefer it in a salad to rice.

These banana and blueberry buckwheat oaty bars divided opinion in my house with two of us loving them, two of us not liking them and one sitting on the fence. I think that the taste of buckwheat is a little unusual but you've got the taste for it you'll love these bars. They are also vegan and refined sugar free and by using gluten free oats you can easily make them gluten free too.

Here's how to make banana and blueberry buckwheat oaty bars:

Ingredients
3 ripe bananas
115g cooked buckwheat (roughly 40g dried buckwheat will equal this amount.)
160g oats
30g raisins
100g blueberries
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C/gas mark 6. Grease a 20x30cm tin and line with baking paper.
2. Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl, then add all the other ingredients and stir well.
3. Scrape into the prepared tin and smooth over the top.
4. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is turning golden brown and the bars are firm to the touch.
5. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before cutting into bars or squares.

This recipe was adapted from these blueberry quinoa breakfast bars by Our Autism Diet.

If you'd like to cook more with buckwheat here are some other recipes to inspire you:

Sweet potato salad with blueberries, walnuts and buckwheat

Sumac roasted peppers with buckwheat salad by Veggie Desserts

Buckwheat salad with roasted vegetables by Searching for Spice

Kale and red onion dhal with buckwheat by Easy Peasy Foodie

Broccoli and buckwheat by Allotment 2 Kitchen

Buckwheat and quinoa lunch cups by Baby Led Blog

Buckwheat macaroni cheese by Everyday Healthy Recipes

Vegan mushroom and buckwheat shepherd's pie by Yumsome

Banana and blueberry buckwheat oaty bars recipe

Healthy mango and coconut creme eggs

Mango and coconut raw vegan creme eggs

If you're looking for a healthy Easter treat for your kids - or indeed for yourself - then these mango and coconut creme eggs are perfect. They're free from refined sugar and dairy and while, to be honest, they don't taste anything like a Cadbury's Creme Egg they do taste pretty incredible and my kids love them. I didn't mind giving them more than one as I knew that as treats go these are pretty healthy, and even little S, who is now 26 months, was allowed one. I was inspired to make these after my free from fruit and nut chocolates went down so well.

The kids are definitely looking forward to Easter this year, and while they will be getting some "normal" chocolate I would rather they didn't have too many so I'm sure I'll be making another batch or three of the fruit and nut chocolates as well as these creme eggs.

Mango and coconut raw vegan creme eggs

Do you like the gorgeous slate plate that I've used in the photos of these mango and coconut creme eggs? I was sent this to use in my food photos by Slate Plate.** They're designed for cheese boards but can be used for displaying any food. They have little acrylic feet that protect your surfaces and are dishwasher friendly. They're based in the US but ship internationally.

Here's how to make raw vegan mango coconut creme eggs:

NB: the quantities below are pretty tiny and make enough for ten eggs but it's very easy to scale up if you want to make more.

Ingredients (makes 10)
50g cocoa butter
1 heaped tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tbsp maple syrup - more if you want a sweeter chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp coconut cream (the solid white part at the top of the tin - you can put the can in the fridge overnight to help it solidify if it's warm in your kitchen)
1/2 tsp maple syrup
20g mango

You will also need a silicone mould.*

Method
1. Place about 5cm of water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then place the cocoa butter into a heatproof bowl and place it over the water - it shouldn't actually touch the water.
2. Allow the cocoa butter to melt and them remove from the heat.
3. Carefully add the maple syrup and vanilla extract and whisk in.
4. Next pour in the cacao powder and whisk that in until smooth. 
5. Pour a little of this chocolate mixture into each egg shape on your mould. Take care not to overfill. Tilt slightly so that the chocolate coats the base of the egg. Place in the fridge for an hour to set. Reserve the remaining chocolate.
6. Meanwhile prepare the filling. In a small bowl mix the coconut cream and maple syrup together with a fork. Mash the mango until you have a rough purée.
7. Remove the mould from the fridge. Carefully spoon in a tiny amount of coconut mixture and an even smaller amount of mango purée.
8. Pour over the remaining chocolate mixture. You may need to re-heat it slightly if it has set in the bowl.
9. Return to the fridge for at least a couple of hours, or overnight and allow to set completely.
10. Carefully remove from the moulds and store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.

Mango and coconut raw vegan creme eggs recipe

* This post contains affiliate links meaning that if you buy something after clicking on a link on this post I get a small commission.
** I was sent a slate plate to try out for free. All opinions are my own and I received no other payment for the post.

Helping children to become little foodies with Ella's Kitchen

Ellas-Kitchen-little-foodies-recipes

Last week I spent the day at the Waitrose Cookery School with Ella's Kitchen learning how to make healthy food for my family. Although the weaning stage feels like a long way behind us, we still have a way to go in helping our kids to eat and enjoy healthy foods and so I was really excited to be invited along.

Ella's Kitchen has teamed up with Waitrose on a new campaign, called Little Foodies. The campaign is all about helping people to make healthy, nutritious food for babies and toddlers, but also to really help kids of all ages learn to love food. This might be through getting them involved in cooking and shopping, eating together as a family and trying new foods on a regular basis.

The Waitrose Cookery School is an amazing place. A proper professional kitchen with all the tools you need, expert help on hand and the best bit of all - someone else does the washing up! I learnt so much while I was there and I'm seriously hoping to go back again in the future to study one of their courses.

Did you know that the skin is the most nutritious part of a potato? So leave it on if you can as it's full of nutrients that are great for you and your kids including vitamin C.

Did you know that the skin is the most nutritious part of a potato? So leave it on if you can as it's full of nutrients that are great for you and your kids including vitamin C.

We were shown three recipes by the chef, Andy. Andy gave us a demo of each recipe and then we had the chance to cook it - and taste it - for ourselves. One of my favourite parts of the day was that he shared with us a wealth of cooking and nutritional knowledge and allowed us to ask as many questions as we wanted, rather than just showing us the recipes and leaving it at that. For example - did you know that the most nutritious part of a potato is the skin? So as long as your potato isn't too old don't peel it as it's full of goodness - even vitamin C!

The chef at the Waitrose Cookery School sent us away with lots of useful tips - including the best method to separate an egg (because the yolk is heavy, simply hold the egg upright after you've cracked it and the yolk will fall to the bottom. Then hold at a 45 degree angle and you only need to tip over once to get the white out.)

The chef at the Waitrose Cookery School sent us away with lots of useful tips - including the best method to separate an egg (because the yolk is heavy, simply hold the egg upright after you've cracked it and the yolk will fall to the bottom. Then hold at a 45 degree angle and you only need to tip over once to get the white out.)

I came away from the event feeling really inspired and with lots of new knowledge - both around cooking skills and nutrition.

Here are the three dishes that we made:

1. Roasty Red Pesto Cauliflower

My finished roasted red pesto cauliflower. This is perfect for whizzing up in the food processor for a baby or serving as it is.

My finished roasted red pesto cauliflower. This is perfect for whizzing up in the food processor for a baby or serving as it is.

Everyone else made theirs with chicken but as a vegetarian I was given cauliflower as an alternative. Andy explained that reason for this choice was that many other vegetables have too high a water content and would have made the other ingredients a bit soggy. Roasted cauliflower is one of my favourite dishes so I was very happy with this choice.

2. Pop Out Mini Tortilla Muffins

Ellas-Little-Foodies-mini-tortilla-muffins

Whether you call them tortilla, omelette or frittata these are basically mini ones stuffed full of veg - potatoes, peppers, spring onion and peas - and baked in the oven. These could be served for breakfast or lunch and would be perfect in a lunchbox. We also used these incredible silicone muffin pans - the muffins literally popped out with no sticking at all. I am definitely adding these to my wish list!

This recipe also sparked an interesting discussion about picky eating and the merits - or otherwise - of hiding vegetables. The veggies in this aren't nearly hidden enough to get them past R, who at almost 7 is an expert vegetable detector, but my other two kids loved these.

The chef also shared with us some interesting facts about how it is completely natural for toddlers to start rejecting vegetables. As they begin to become more independent this is a protective measure to stop them from eating poisonous berries in the forest. The nutritionist from Ella's Kitchen also mentioned that sometimes we need to offer our children a new food ten or more times before they'll accept it, which is worth bearing in mind before you give up on broccoli or beans.

3.  Chilly Cherry Pudding Pots

Ellas-Little-Foodies-chilly-cherry-pudding-pots

We actually made this super simple recipe with berries, which was another one of Andy's tips. Get to know what each ingredient does in a recipe and you'll begin to learn how to substitute an ingredient you don't have in the house for one you do. In this case we subbed cherries for berries, but this would also work in the red pesto dish above with leeks and onions for example. This dish is a bit like an easy version of summer pudding, made with bread, berry compote and a little apple juice. We made two of these and I *may* have eaten one of them myself and made the kids share the final one. Whoops! 

The recipes above can be found in the Ella's Kitchen cookbooks - Ella's Kitchen: The First Foods Book: The Purple One and Ella's Kitchen: The Cookbook: The Red One.* They are great recipes for families because not only are they delicious, they can be customised for different ages. If you have a baby in the family the cauliflower pesto dish can be whizzed in a food processor into a purée or served as it is if you have older children or you're doing baby led weaning. The same goes for the muffins and the pudding pots. There's no need to make a separate meal for the kids as these dishes, and all the recipes in the Ella's Kitchen cookbooks are free from salt, sugar and nasties. You can of course season your portion at the table! Mr Sneaky Veg is a big fan of adding a large dollop of chilli sauce to everything I cook.

Helping-kids-become-little-foodies-with-ellas-kitchen

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Ella's Kitchen
* This post contains affiliate links which means that should you buy something after clicking on this link I will receive a small commission. The price to you remains the same. 

Colourful and easy vegetarian paella recipe

Easy-recipe-for-vegetarian-paella

The key to making a vegetable paella that your kids will love is to fill it full of things they already like. To this end I have put in red peppers, peas and black olives. With R we don’t have much in the way to go on in terms of vegetables that he likes but he did eat all the olives! I guess what I’m saying is that you can adjust this recipe to suit you. You could swap the butter beans for a meat substitute like Quorn if you prefer, although I do think the butter beans work really well in this dish.

R has been asking me to make paella for him at least once a week since we went to Valencia last year. We stayed in a tiny beach resort that only had one cafe. Every lunch time we queued up with the Spanish holidaymakers to choose our lunch from the counter and R absolutely loved the traditional paella that he had there. (I ate gazpacho, tortilla and chips on rotation as these were the only veggie options.) I'm not sure that my version will ever be as good as the Valencian paella made in the biggest pan you've ever seen, with fresh local ingredients, and enjoyed after a busy morning playing on the beach, but it's a pretty great meal nonetheless.

Veggie paella is also a fantastic way to up your vegetable intake if you're trying to get close to eating ten a day. If you can’t find (or don't like) fennel feel free to substitute another onion, more peppers, or another vegetable that you like. Broad beans and green beans also work well if you’re making this in summer.

Easy-recipe-for-vegetarian-paella

Here’s how to make this colourful and easy vegetarian paella:

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely sliced
2 peppers, red, yellow or orange, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, cut into thin strips
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp saffron (optional)
1/2 tsp chilli powder (to taste, optional)
300g paella or risotto rice (paella rice can be found in most big supermarkets)
900 ml hot vegetable stock
1 x 400g tin of butter beans
100g peas, frozen are fine
1 jar of black olives
A small handful of parsley, finely chopped
Lemon wedges to serve
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the sliced onion and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft and golden. Stir often.
  2. Add the peppers and fennel, stir well, and continue to stir and cook for a further ten minutes until soft.
  3. Add the crushed garlic and the spices. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the rice and stir so that it is coated in the vegetable mixture. 
  5. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and leave to bubble away for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. You don’t need to stir.
  6. A couple of minutes before the rice is due to be cooked add the butterbeans, peas and olives and stir in. Keep cooking until the rice is cooked and the peas beans and olives are hot.
  7. Add the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve hot with lemon wedges.
This recipe for vegetable paella is easy and delicious. It's suitable for vegetarians and vegans and is easily adaptable so you can use whatever veg you or your family prefer.
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Apple and carrot hot cross buns - vegan and no added sugar

Apple and carrot hot cross buns - vegan and no added sugar

Do your kids love hot cross buns? Mine absolutely love them - in fact I think they are their favourite thing about Easter - even more so than the promise of the chocolate that is to come! We've been having hot cross buns for breakfast and for after-school snacks recently and while there are plenty worse things to eat, shop-bought ones are still made with white flour and have lots of added sugar.

I have created a healthier version - using a mix of white flour and spelt flour, with added fruit and veg, and no added sugar. These hot cross buns are sweetened with dates, apple and sultanas - and nothing else. They are also vegan and I think are a pretty delicious and healthy snack or breakfast for anyone. It's great to start the day with a little bit of fruit and veg in your tummy - and if you saw my last post you'll know I'm trying to make the snacks my kids eat healthier and more nutritious at the moment.

This hot cross bun recipe is a great one to make with the kids, especially if you have a day at home while they are off school. My kids were so proud to enjoy their very own homemade hot cross buns.

Apple and carrot hot cross buns - vegan and no added sugar

Here's how to make kid friendly apple and carrot hot cross buns:

Ingredients
50g dates (pitted weight)
300g strong white flour
200g spelt flour
1 x 7g sachet of dried instant yeast
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 medium apples, grated
1 medium carrot, grated
50g coconut oil, melted
200g sultanas or other dried fruit
250ml warm plant-based milk (I used oat milk)
1.5 tbsp plain flour (for the cross)
Extra milk for brushing the tops

Method:
1. First make your date purée. You will need a food processor or a good blender to make this, although you could probably bash it up in a pestle and mortar if you don't have one. I used my Optimum G2.3 blender. It's a fairly small quantity so use the smaller jug - or if you don't have one you could always make a larger amount and make these salted caramel brownies. Blend the dates with 1 tsp water until smooth. Set aside.
2. Place the flour, yeast and spices into a mixing bowl. Stir through the grated apple and carrot, the melted coconut oil, the date purée and the sultanas. Mix well so that the fruit is well distributed.
3. Heat up your milk - it should be warm rather than hot. Gradually stir it in to the flour and fruit mixture, mixing all the time. 
4. Scrape out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for ten minutes. It can be fairly sticky to work with so if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook by all means use that!
5. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film or a slightly damp tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for 1.5 - 2 hours, until doubled in size.
6. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Lightly oil your hands and tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knock it back - ie squash all the air out. Divide into 12 balls and place onto the baking trays. Cover again and leave for 45 minutes - 1 hour until doubled in size again.
7. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (fan)/220°C/gas mark 7. Brush the tops of the buns with a little milk. For a stickier glaze you can make a sugar syrup (best added after baking) or use melted apricot jam.
8. Mix 1.5 tbsp plain flour with 1.5 tbsp cold water in a small bowl until smooth. Use a piping bag to mark a cross on the top of each bun. You can do this with a spoon if you don't have a piping bag but it's harder to get the lines in the right place - alternatively use a freezer bag and snip one of the corners off.
9. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped.
10. Allow to cool slightly then serve warm as they are or with spreads of your choice.

Kid friendly apple and carrot hot cross buns recipes - vegan and no added sugar
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The best savoury snacks for kids

The best recipes for healthy savoury snacks for kids

Every day without fail when I pick my kids up from school they say the same thing - “Mummy, can I have a snack?” And of course I give them one because otherwise the hours until tea time are just too painful!

I've been working hard lately at making snacks count - yes, let the kids have something after school or mid-morning on the weekend but make it nutritious. But it’s really hard to get the balance right - healthy snacks that aren’t too filling and don’t contain too much salt or sugar aren’t all that easy to come by.

To avoid my shopping bill getting high I make a lot of my own snacks but I realised that many of my favourites were sweet recipes and that it would be a good idea for the kids to have more savoury snacks. So I had a look for recipes from some of my favourite kid food bloggers and found loads of amazing ideas. Many of the recipes below are easy to make and can be frozen or keep well for several days. And most of them can be eaten on the walk home from school - before “hanger” sets in!

Here are 16 healthy savoury snacks for kids:

Zucchini (courgette) bites

By Healthy Little Foodies

Carrot and cucumber coins

By Eats Amazing

Butternut squash cheese straws

By Sneaky Veg

Baked tempura sweet potatoes and courgettes

By Feeding Little Monkeys

Pão de queijo

By Kat’s Delicious Kitchen

Rosemary and garlic soda bread rolls

By Sneaky Veg

Mini pea pancakes

By My Kids Lick the Bowl

Healthy guacadile dip

By Fork and Beans

Healthy rainbow bagel

By Eats Amazing

Chickpea nachos

By Kat’s Delicious Kitchen

Easy pizza swirls

By Sneaky Veg

Cheesy carrot and squash muffins

By Baby Led Blog

Spinach and cornmeal breakfast muffins

By Veggie Desserts

Cheesy sweetcorn muffins

By Foodie Quine

Soya Veg Momos

By Let's Cook Healthy Tonight

Curried baked chickpeas

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Easy pink vanilla cupcakes recipe

Easy recipe for pink vanilla cupcakes

I do occasionally branch out from packing my recipes full of fruit and veg and cutting out the sugar! This is one such recipe. This is a classic cupcake recipe that is perfect for a treat or a gift. Life is all about balance right? I've made this recipe for pink vanilla cupcakes as simple as possible and they can be made with a minimum of equipment.

They might not win you a place on Bake Off but they’ll certainly impress your friends.

Easy recipe for pink vanilla cupcakes

And they'd be a great choice as a gift for Mother’s Day - they're so easy the kids could make them. And of course, if pink isn't your mum's thing, you can decorate them however you choose.

Get the recipe for these cupcakes over on metro.co.uk

Easy pink vanilla cupcakes recipe

Free From Vegan Easter Fruit and Nut Chocolates

Free From Vegan Easter Fruit and Nut Chocolates

I managed to snatch a bit of time with just my two big kids to make these delicious vegan Easter fruit and nut chocolates. It probably won't come as a surprise to find out that they were VERY keen to get involved with this task - even R who is nowhere near as keen in the kitchen as his little sister.

This recipe is part of the Free From Easter recipe challenge which a lovely group of bloggers are taking part in - see the bottom of this post for more information about who's involved in this. These chocolates are naturally free from most allergens apart from nuts. If you need this to be nut free simply add more dried fruit or leave them out altogether. The chocolate tastes good on it's own but you may want to add more maple syrup depending on your personal taste. I adapted this vegan chocolate recipe from the Minimalist Baker.

Free From Vegan Easter Fruit and Nut Chocolates

Making vegan chocolate is easier than you might think. You do need a few ingredients like cacao butter and raw cacao powder that you need to buy online or from a health food shop but once you have these you're good to go. You will also need an Easter silicone mould, although you could use muffin cases instead. *

The kids can help with most of this recipe, apart from the melting of the cocoa butter. My kids helped to weigh out the ingredients, whisk in the maple syrup and cocoa butter and pour the chocolate into the moulds. As you can see from the photo below this was a MESSY moment.

Cooking with kids - it's messy and impossible to photograph well but they had so much fun!

Cooking with kids - it's messy and impossible to photograph well but they had so much fun!

Here's how to make vegan fruit and nut Easter chocolates:

Ingredients
200g cacao butter
3 tbsp maple syrup
50g raw cacao powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
A handful of dried fruit and/or chopped nuts - we used sultanas, cranberries and chopped almonds

You will also need a silicone mould. This made enough for three moulds, or around 30 chocolates, so reduce the quantities if you don't want this many or use fairy cake cases for the remainder.

Method
1. Place about 5cm of water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then place the cocoa butter into a heatproof bowl and place it over the water - it shouldn't actually touch the water.
2. Allow the cocoa butter to melt and them remove from the heat.
3. Transfer to a jug (this makes it safer for the kids as it's not hot and also makes it easier for them to pour the liquid into the moulds. Carefully add the maple syrup and vanilla extract and whisk in.
4. Next pour in the cacao powder and whisk that in until smooth. 
5. Get your silicone moulds ready and sprinkle a little bit of fruit and nuts into each one.
6. Carefully pour the melted chocolate into each mould and place in the fridge to set for at least half an hour.
7. Once set, remove from the mould and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

This recipe is part of a #FreeFromEaster blog series with the following lovely bloggers. Check out their sites for more Easter inspiration:

Mel - ‘Le Coin de Mel’ - http://lecoindemel.com
Vicki - ‘The Free From Fairy’ - http://freefromfairy.com 
Nath - ‘The Intolerant Gourmand’ - http://www.intolerantgourmand.com 
Emma - ‘Free From Farmhouse’ - http://www.freefromfarmhouse.co.uk 
Nova - ‘Cherished by Me’ - http://cherishedbyme.com 
Reneé - ‘Mummy Tries’ - http://www.mummytries.com
Laura - ‘Dairy Free Kids’ - http://dairyfreekids.ie
Midge - ‘The Peachicks Bakery’ - http://thepeachicksbakery.co.uk 
Rebecca - ‘Glutarama’ - http://www.glutarama.com 
Eb - ‘Easy Peasy Foodie’ - http://www.easypeasyfoodie.com
Kate - ‘The Gluten Free Alchemist’ - http://www.glutenfreealchemist.com 
Kirsty - ‘Hijacked by Twins’ - http://www.hijackedbytwins.com 
Chloe - The Adventures of an Allergy Mummy’ - http://theadventuresofanallergymummy.co.uk 
Grace - ‘Eats Amazing’ - http://www.eatsamazing.co.uk 

Free From Vegan Easter Fruit and Nut Chocolates

* This post contains affiliate links meaning that if you buy something after clicking on a link on this post I get a small commission.

Ten portions of fruit and veg a day - just how much veg should kids eat?

Focus on variety rather than how much your kids are actually consuming says nutritionist Alice Fotheringham

Focus on variety rather than how much your kids are actually consuming says nutritionist Alice Fotheringham

By now you’ve probably heard the news. Five a day is old hat, redundant, frankly not enough. Yep, that’s right. We should all be eating TEN portions of fruit and veg a day. Oh and don’t forget that the majority of your ten a day should be veg. So having two large fruit smoothies a day isn’t going to cut it. Sorry.

If this is news to you, you can read more in this article that I wrote for metro.co.uk, which also includes some simple tips for how you can up your fruit and veg intake. 

Now if your family is anything like mine the possibility of actually getting your child to eat ten portions of fruit and veg a day is laughable. When I told my almost seven year old about the change in guidance he cried. Yep, he knew that he didn’t ever eat five a day and he was cool with that. But ten a day? Now that’s just too much pressure.

Could you get your kids to eat ten a day? Faye from Baby Led Blog tried with great (if exhausting) results

I found that most of the news stories and advice around this new guidance focused on adults and I had a lot of questions about how this relates to kids. An adult sized portion is roughly 80g - meaning that we need 800g a day of fruit and veg a day to be healthy. To give you a little perspective, if you ate the contents of the photograph above you would have way more than 800g a day - the carrots weigh 120g, the broccoli 465g - even that little bunch of grapes weighs 96g.

But how much do kids need? Surely not 800g a day? And what about different sized kids - a two year old is different to a seven year old - yet my toddler eats WAY more fruit and veg than my older son.

Little S always loves unpacking our vegetables - but will he eat them?

Little S always loves unpacking our vegetables - but will he eat them?

After many wasted hours spent trawling the internet I decided to bite the bullet and ask a nutritionist just how much veg kids should be eating. I spoke to Alice Fotheringham, the very lovely infant nutrition specialist at Piccolo, the organic baby food range.

As you'd expect from someone whose day job is making baby food she had rather a lot of useful stuff to say. 

“Whilst any promotion of eating more vegetables and fruit can only be a good thing, a lot of people find it hard to get in their five a day, so the new research suggesting we need to get more in might actually make families more discouraged than inspired to eat more fruit and veg. A good way to ‘digest’ this research is perhaps to look at it in terms of variety – the more variety the better. If you can start the day with some fruit or even a bit of veg in a smoothie, and make it a habit to include a couple of vegetables with lunch and dinner, you are getting a good range in without having to change your eating habits too dramatically. You could also serve a small salad before, or with every dinner – Mediterranean style!

“It shouldn’t be a chore, no one wants to have to remember to count how many pieces of fruit or vegetables you have had each day. Try starting small by adding one extra vegetable to one of your meals, and work up from there. By making simple additions that are easy to do, you can start forming a habit. It is also a good idea to think about the range of different fruits and vegetables you have over the week. Getting in a wide variety of colours throughout the week is a much more realistic way than a fixed number a day, you will hopefully find the numbers stack up without having to think about it.”

So eat the rainbow then - lots of different colours and lots of variety. I love what Alice says about not wanting to count up what you’ve had each day and I think her advice makes it seem more realistic.

But I was still wondering about this portion size issue. So I went back to Alice again (sorry Alice!) and she advised me not to get too fixated on a portion size - it’s far better to think about variety. However, she then went on to say:

“If you really want to follow a portion size, I quite like the visual tool of going by the size of your palm. So, your toddler's palm is a sort of portion size, and your seven year old's is a little bigger etc. So for loose leafy veg like spinach or salad, only a leaf would fit in their palm, so it’s not a perfect guide, but a little pot of salad that fits in your little one’s hand would be more realistic. But as a tool and a fun way to engage your children into having a portion, it’s quite a nice way of working it that isn’t intimidating and doesn’t involve using the scales!“ 

To be honest with you I'm still worrying about the long term effect that not eating anywhere near enough fruit or veg will have on R's health but I will just carry on doing what I do and hoping for a change in the future!

Here are some of my favourite sneaky veg recipes if you need a little helping hand to get the good stuff into your kids.

Hidden vegetable recipes

The ultimate sneaky veg sauce
Simple curry sauce with hidden spinach
Easy pizza swirls
Macaroni cheese with three hidden vegetables
Butternut squash cheese straws
Carrot cake bircher muesli
Sweet potato pancakes

Hidden fruit recipes

Because yes, some kids don't like fruit either!

Apple and cinnamon flapjacks
Healthy raspberry jam tarts
Raspberry cashew oaty bites
Apricot energy balls

How much veg do kids need to get their ten a day

Veggie chilli with cornbread crust and pineapple salsa

Veggie-chilli-with-cornbread-crust-pineapple-salsa-vegetarian-recipe

Did you hear the recent news story that we should all be eating ten portions of fruit and veg every day? I know that a lot of people will find this really difficult and some members of my own family are no exception! With R we are lucky to get two or three portions into him.

If you're looking for a recipe that helps you go a long way to meeting that target in one meal then look no further. This vegetarian chilli contains onion, squash, pepper, carrot, beans and tomatoes and if you serve it with the pineapple salsa that's seven different fruit and veg in one meal. Of course, you would need to eat exactly 80g of each (that's for an adult) for it to count towards your ten a day target but let's not dwell on that!

pineapple-salsa-vegetarian-recipe

You can easily make this chilli without the cornbread crust to speed it up - it's delicious served with rice or over a baked potato (perhaps a baked sweet potato to help you get to ten a day!). However, I do think the cornbread crust makes it even more delicious and it's not that hard to make. The chilli on its own freezes beautifully and is easy to double up so you have a portion stashed away in the freezer for one of those days. And the same goes for the pineapple salsa, it's by no means essential but it does add a lovely sweetness to the meal, which can help if your child is reluctant to try the chilli. It's also delicious with guacamole on the side.

Veggie-chilli-with-cornbread-crust-pineapple-salsa-vegetarian-recipe

Here's how to make vegetarian chilli with cornbread crust and pineapple salsa

Ingredients (serves four adults)

For the chilli
Olive oil
Half a small butternut squash, peeled and diced (around 400g)
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp mild chilli powder (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 red pepper, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g tins of beans (I used black beans and kidney beans), drained
Salt and pepper (optional, to taste)

For the cornbread crust
110g coarse cornmeal or polenta
35g strong white bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
225g natural yoghurt
1 medium egg

For the pineapple salsa
200g fresh pineapple, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
Juice of one lime
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Salt, (optional, to taste)

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C/gas mark 6. Place the diced butternut squash in a roasting dish, drizzle with olive oil and roast for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft. Remove from the oven when cooked.
2. Heat a little olive oil in a large ovenproof saucepan (if you don't have one you can transfer to an ovenproof dish later). Add the onion, stir well, then reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and sweat for 10-15 minutes until soft. Remove the lid then add the garlic, herbs and spices. Cook for one more minute, then add the pepper and carrot. Cover with the lid again and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the carrot is beginning to soften.
3. Add the beans and the chopped tomatoes and stir in the butternut squash once cooked. You may need to add a little water as well if it looks dry. 
4. Cook over a low heat for an extra 10 minutes - or as long as you like. This dish improves in flavour the longer you leave it. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. While it's bubbling away make the cornbread crust. Place the polenta, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda in a mixing bowl and whisk to remove any lumps. In a separate bowl beat the egg and beat in the yoghurt. When you are ready to bake, mix the two together and pour over the top of the chilli. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and a knife inserted in the crust comes out clean. NB: if you transfer the chilli to a shallow dish you may need to make extra crust to cover the whole of the top.
6. While the crust is baking make the pineapple salsa. It really is as simple as mixing everything together in a bowl. Red chilli looks lovely with it, but I usually leave this off so the kids can eat some.

NB: The cornbread crust recipe is adapted from a cornbread recipe from Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet book.

Veggie chilli with cornbread crust pineapple salsa vegetarian recipe

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Froothie Optimum G2.3 blender review

Froothie Optimum G2.3 blender review

I don't think there are many food bloggers out there who have blogged for as long as I have without a decent blender! I have a food processor and a stick blender - which has actually been pretty brilliant - but I've never had a proper blender before and that's meant that there have been lots of things I haven't been able to make properly like smoothies and nut milk.

So when I got an email asking if I'd like to review a brand new Froothie Optimum G2.3 blender* my first thought was "yes please!" and my second was "Where on earth am I going to put it?!" To say that space is a little on the tight side in our kitchen is something of an understatement. However, having now used it for a couple of weeks I suspect it won't be long before I no longer need some of my other gadgets as I'm using this blender to do so many things.

Here's some cashew butter I made in my G2.3 blender

Here's some cashew butter I made in my G2.3 blender

The G2.3 blender is a great piece of kit. People who are comparing it to other blenders say that it's the quietest blender they've ever had. My two-year-old didn't like the sound of nuts grinding in it but apart from that he didn't flinch at all at the sound - I usually have to warn him every time I put on the vacuum cleaner or hairdryer or he practically jumps out of his skin.

It comes with a large 2 litre jug, which is perfect for making soups and smoothies but it also comes with a brilliant little jug. Called the 1.5 litre rotating jug this is a great addition and it is perfect for making small quantities of things like hummus, nut butter and I think would be brilliant for making baby purées. I wish I'd had it when we were weaning as I think it would have been a great addition. This jug comes with a special twisting lid which allows you to help pull the ingredients away from the side of the jug towards the blade. 

You'll also get a tamper tool to help you push down ingredients in the larger jug and a spatula to scrape things off the sides.

So far I've tried my G2.3 blender to make:

  • cashew butter
  • smoothies
  • cookie dough - specifically date and chickpea cookies!
  • banana "nice" cream
  • pesto
  • pancake batter.

It's made all of these things perfectly. I almost had an incident with the banana "nice" cream because I wasn't holding the lid down and frozen banana went everywhere but better that than mushy banana splatted on the walls, right? I've learnt my lesson now and should you ever find yourself making "nice" cream - which is simply blended frozen banana - remember to hold the blender lid down!

Banana, pineapple and mango "nice" cream made in the G2.3 blender

Banana, pineapple and mango "nice" cream made in the G2.3 blender

It also has an amazing feature which is that it can make soup. I don't mean that it can just blend pre-cooked soup - it can actually make the soup. You simply put the ingredients in, select the soup preset and let it get on with the job. Eight minutes later you have perfect soup. I am yet to try this function but my friend Eb over at Easy Peasy Foodie has used it to make this amazing sounding Spicy Moroccan Chickpea Soup and it sounds life-changing!

The soup function isn't the only preset - there are five automatic functions - smoothie, sorbet, vegetable and fruit, soup and grind. I used the grind function to make the cashew butter but it can also be used to grind spices, seeds and coffee beans. And if those don't suit there is also a pulse function and a manual setting with adjustable speed. All of the aforementioned presets and other settings are accessed from a simple LED touchscreen.

One final function that I must mention is the self-cleaning function. Well, you do have to do a little work, but in theory if you add a little water, a little washing up liquid and pulse for a few seconds you'll have a clean blender. I found this worked perfectly with smoothies and pancake batter but needed a few goes with the cashew butter.

If you'd like to try the chickpea cookies that I made you can get the recipe from My Kids Lick The Bowl. I used chopped dates instead of brown sugar and sultanas instead of chocolate chips and the kids LOVED them.

How to buy a G2.3 blender

The Froothie Optimum G2.3 blender* is currently on sale at the discounted price of £379 (RRP £599) and, as I’m an ambassador for Froothie, I can offer you free delivery – just type ‘FREE AMBASSADOR DELIVERY 4102’ into the comment box when you order and the postage cost will be refunded to your card.

Disclosure: I am an Ambassador for Froothie and any links to their products in this post are affiliate links which, if purchased through, won’t cost you any more but will earn me a small commission. Affiliate links throughout are marked with an asterix. I only endorse products I am happy with and I have not been paid for this post. *

Future Fit Training Childhood Nutrition and Obesity Prevention course

Here's my (vegetarian) real-life version of the Public Health England Eat Well plate (see below for more on this). This is roughly how the types of food we eat should be divided up. Do your kids eat like this? I know that at least one of my kids is a LONG way off of getting the balance right.

Here's my (vegetarian) real-life version of the Public Health England Eat Well plate (see below for more on this). This is roughly how the types of food we eat should be divided up. Do your kids eat like this? I know that at least one of my kids is a LONG way off of getting the balance right.

I am so excited to be able to tell you that I have just started a training course in childhood nutrition and obesity prevention. Having written about feeding children and picky eating for a few years now it's long been niggling at the back of my mind that I would love to study this area in order to understand it better, both for the purposes of the recipes I create and for feeding my own family, in particular my fussy eating eldest.

The course is offered by Future Fit. I am, of course, aware that this in no way matches up to a degree in nutrition! But I do hope that it will give me a better understanding of how to feed my children and what they need to grow up to be as healthy as possible.

This is the national Eat Well guide, which has recently been updated to show that we should be eating more fruit and vegetables than previously thought.

This is the national Eat Well guide, which has recently been updated to show that we should be eating more fruit and vegetables than previously thought.

Along with several other bloggers I was introduced to the course last week by nutritionist Tilly Spurr. You can find her on Twitter.

She did a fantastic job of explaining nutrition in terms that were simple enough for someone who struggled with science GCSE (ie me) to understand. In fact more than understanding it, I was totally inspired. 

I love this picture that Tilly showed us in her presentation - it shows the amount of healthy food you can eat to get the same calories that are in one Yorkie bar. Hard to believe isn't it?!

I love this picture that Tilly showed us in her presentation - it shows the amount of healthy food you can eat to get the same calories that are in one Yorkie bar. Hard to believe isn't it?!

I'm particularly looking forward to studying the modules on fussy eating, food labels and how nutritional needs change at different ages. My only concern is that I'm going to get even more worried about R and his awful diet! He still doesn't eat any fruit and hardly any veg...

Other areas that I'll be studying include:

  • the importance of nutrition in relation to growth, development and health
  • nutritional needs and recommended food intake in relation to different ages
  • healthy meal and snack ideas and how much physical activity children should be doing
  • how to encourage healthy eating habits
  • age appropriate portion sizes and how to understand food labels
  • the causes of childhood obesity
  • weight management and behaviour change
  • legislation on best practice.

If you'd like to find out more about the course visit the Future Fit website. The cost of the course is £129 and it is online so you can take the modules any time that suits you. I'm hoping this will make it easy to fit in around my many varied commitments and my family! I'll be reporting back to let you know how I get on.

Disclaimer: I have been offered the chance to do the Future Fit training course in Childhood Nutrition and Obesity Prevention for free in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.