Coconut rice

Finally the end of the Easter break. Three and a half weeks of fun, fun, fun, but The Boys and I were just a little bit pleased when they went back to Montessori yesterday. I love my boys so much but I also love my two mornings to myself and I’m sure they make me a much better Mummy. And I’m looking forward to having a little more time to play around in the kitchen. By myself.

Keeping things simple, we’ve been eating mostly tried and tested meals this holiday, just gently trying out new things along the way. This is one of our favourite meals and we’ve eaten it a lot lately but every one of us gobbles up every morsel so I think it’s here to stay. It’s deliciously creamy and feels naughty but isn’t bad for you at all. It is also great for us as a family because Boy O who doesn’t like creamy / cheesy sauces loves it, Boy A LOVES coconut with a passion and doesn’t notice the lumps in it and Daddy’s favourite supper is risotto. Me? I’m just thrilled to get more ticks on the veg-o-meter.

In fact, just thinking about it now is making me want to cook it tonight…

It’s extremely flexible and I’ll try to highlight below a few ways it can be adapted, however not much can go wrong if you have a play around yourself too. It pretty much takes care of itself and is delicious reheated for lunch the next day, so I always make an extra portion for Daddy to take to work.

Here goes…

Ingredients required:

1 dsp of coconut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into tiny cubes (or however big you can get away with)
2 cubes of frozen spinach

NB/ at this point I’ll add that you can interchange these vegetables for any others you like, just chop them nice and small. Last time I made it with a leek which I cut into quarters lengthways and then sliced thinly and a courgette which I grated. Most veg will work well but I like to include one with a little bite like carrot, green beans, broccoli, squash, etc

2 free-range chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces (we generally don’t use much meat so this is enough for our family of four plus extra portion for lunch, however if you like more chicken then use however much you would use for your family)

2 tsp low-salt vegetable boullion
1 400ml tin of coconut milk
risotto rice (we measure ours using an espresso cup – one scoop of rice per person and two scoops of water per scoop of rice)

A handful of fresh kale leaves, hard stalks removed (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 200*

Melt the coconut oil in a large pan then add the onion and gently cook for around 10 mins until soft. Add the chopped carrot and spinach (or any other veg you are using) and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the rice, stir thoroughly then pour in the coconut milk followed by the water and boullion. Give everything another really good stir, allow it to come up to a simmer then cook for approx 15/20 minutes (according to your rice instructions, which will vary). Stir occasionally, however there is no need to stand over it the whole time.

Meanwhile, wash and pat dry the kale with kitchen paper and spread it out on a flat baking tray. Resist the urge to sprinkle it with salt or sugar, there really is no need. Pop it low down in the hot oven and cook for 4-5 minutes, until nice and crispy, but not burnt. You may need to turn the tray halfway through and shake the kale around a bit to get it all evenly crispy.

Serve the risotto in bowls with a the crispy kale on top. Delicious!

(I’ve spared you a photo of Boy O eating it as he just shovels it in using his spoon and fingers and picks most of the kale off, so here is Boy A eating it…he too picks the kale off but first and eats it before tucking in to the risotto – I couldn’t get a photo in time before he’d eaten all of the kale.)

Coconut & fruit slices

The Boys have been begging to help bake all week, even though we’ve been out and about every day and have barely eaten a meal at home, so today, with rain forecast, I decided to have a baking day.

We didn’t get much done as the sun ended up making an appearance and the call of digging mud in the garden with toy excavators was too strong and they ran off halfway through…

But what we did make was delicious and loved by us all so will definitely be a lunchbox staple from now on.

Now unusual for me but this one is a little labour intensive, however I promise you it is worth investing in a little preparation time as they’re quick to cook and very satisfying so with a little willpower will last you a good while in an air tight tin. As long as you keep the tin out of reach of little hands.

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The version I’ve made here is dairy free and with a couple of minor tweaks could easily be gluten free, vegan, nut free or even all of the above, so delicious whatever your dietary requirements.

Firstly, ingredients:

400g chopped dried fruit such as dates, figs, prunes or apricots (I used a mixture of figs and prunes but any combination would work well)
150g spelt flour (for GF use 75g rice flour and 75g coconut/quinoa/amaranth/etc flour)
200g rolled oats (if GF make sure you use GF oats)
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tbsp milled nuts (GF) or wheatgerm (NF) (leave out for both NF & GF or sub for some milled seeds or sesame seeds)
120g coconut sugar
150g extra virgin coconut oil
1tsp vanilla extract
2tbsp 100% peanut (or other nut) butter (omit for NF or swap for a good quality tahini paste)
2bsp honey (swap with maple / corn / golden syrup if Vegan)
2tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp coconut flakes

Preheat the oven to 175* and line a swiss roll tray with parchment.

Place the chopped dried fruits in a small saucepan with 200ml water and the vanilla extract and cook over a gentle heat for around 10 minutes until the fruit has absorbed all of the water. Scrape the fruit into a food processor and blitz until you have smooth puree. Set aside to cool.

Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, oats, desiccated coconut, milled nuts & bicarbonate of soda) and set aside.

In a separate saucepan gently heat the coconut sugar, coconut oil, peanut butter and honey and gently whisk until all of the oil has melted and the sugar dissolved. At this point the mixture will separate into an oily liquid and toffee-like substance but don’t worry as this is what it should be doing, just carry on whisking until the sugar has dissolved as it will come together as soon as it is mixed into the dry ingredients.

When you’re ready, quickly mix the contents of the saucepan into the dry mixture and stir thoroughly to combine. Mix in the fruit puree and again, stir, stir, stir.

When you’re happy everything is mixed together nicely, firmly squash the mixture into your prepared baking tray. Sprinkle the coconut flakes and poppy seeds on top and gently press down to ’stick’ them, then pop the tray in the preheated oven. Cook for 15 minutes then turn the tray and pop back in for another 10-15 minutes.

When it’s ready allow it to cool in the tin before cutting it into squares.

I promise you it is delicious and so adaptable beyond what I’ve highlighted here. Try it out. And let me know what you think. I dare you…

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Back to basics. Part 2

Hello again. I promised a follow-up and this is it.

Prepare to be excited by this one, I’ve really pulled out all of the stops and have a complete meal for you, which was a resounding success and resulted in two empty plates. I repeat; TWO EMPTY PLATES (and not because they’d thrown it all on the floor, or I’ve tossed it into the compost bin in anger, which are usually the only way plates get cleared in our house).

I’m calling it… Pesto Pasta. Groundbreaking, no, but if I say too many times out loud what is actually inside it, then either Boy A or Boy O will cotton on that it contains Actual Vegetables. Yes, Actual Green Vegetables. In fact, two different types of horrid green things. And for once they’ve not been blitzed in my food processor until they are microscopic. I’m very proud of myself.

I’ll keep it brief, because honestly there’s nothing new here, and also, it really did only take 10 minutes to prepare. Even less for Boy O to eat.

First-up, boil some pasta. Boy A picked up a packet of spelt pasta whilst in the shop today which I gladly bought for him, so we tried that out (it was yummy by the way, with lots of extra goodness and fibre, yet not at all tough like wholemeal pasta can be – bonus!)

Meanwhile, thinly chop a small leek and a couple of handfuls of curly kale. The key here is to chop the Offending Green Items very small. Also chop a chicken breast into small pieces (or not so small if chicken isn’t an Offending Food for anyone at your table).

Now, heat a little oil in a pan and gently fry the leek and kale for 5 or-so minutes until they’re nice a soft and even turning a little brown and / or crispy. Pop the chicken in and fry for another 5 minutes until cooked through. The chicken should be nicely coated in the Offending Green Items. Stir in a tablespoon of pesto and two tablespoons of soft cheese (or creme fraiche, should you prefer) and toss the sauce through the pasta to thoroughly coat it.

Serve with a sprinkling of black pepper, resisting the urge to offer grated cheese to go on top (it has cheese in it after all) and hold your breath, waiting to see whether they pick out the Offending Green Items and just eat the pasta and chicken. Or just the pasta in Boy A’s case.

Two. Empty. Plates. Hurrah.

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Back to basics. Part 1

This week mealtimes have been somewhat more challenging than usual.

Our ‘eat it or go hungry’ ethos has meant more hungry bedtimes than I would have liked. My ‘at least if there’s bread on the table’ school of thought has meant they have eaten a LOT of bread. And the reliable fall-back of ‘douse it in ketchup / stir in some pesto / sprinkle cheese’ has not helped at all, instead has resulted in lots of sucked ketchup fingers and forkfuls of pesto consumed. Gah! I give up.

Well, inside, perhaps. But I won’t let them win!

So, a new week, a new slate.

First stop, a quick trip to the supermarket with Boy O: “Pick whatever you would like for lunch”, I hear myself saying. Uh-ho. Given genuine free reign I’m certain he would have chosen pasta, with pesto and peanut butter. Today however, my luck was in and he asked for fish fingers. So we headed to the frozen aisle where I looked for our usual blue box of chunky more-fish-than-crumb fingers, when he piped up with “what about these ones Mummy? My never had the red ones before” and promptly grabbed a box of crumbed haddock fillets. Man-sized. Fine. In fact, great! Now what to go with it… “Wraps Mummy!” Again, great! Especially when he proceeded to pick up the wholemeal ones. But I then went and ruined his flow with my vegetable obsession by asking him what offending greenery he waned to accompany his wrap. Cue meltdown; he, in the only way a two-year old knows how, and me, flapping and rushing us through the checkout embarrassed by his public tantrum. During this we somehow compromised on a carton of ready-made carrot and squash soup (surely that counts as one of your five-a-day?)

So here is the resulting wrap Baked crumbed haddock fillet gently broken up and rolled in a wholemeal wrap. With a mug of carrot and squash soup on the side, to dip the wrap into.

And some ketchup for Boy A. Don’t forget the ketchup.

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Bingo!

Feeding two boys each with different tastes can be challenging and so I’m always looking for ways to please both, rather than serving a ‘supper-of-two-halves’.
Sometimes I cave in and we’ll have a something-for-everybody kind-of spread – especially weekend lunchtimes, as it really does make for a better afternoon if all three of my boys have a full stomach.
Recently however, I stumbled upon the perfect all-round supper and needless to say I am thrilled. Even better it’s healthy, full of amazing nutrients, super cheap, (did I mention healthy?), as well as quick and easy to throw together.
I challenge even the trickiest of eaters to find something to whinge about with this.

So, this post should be entitled “How to successfully feed the Vegetarian Who Doesn’t Eat Veg Except Roasted Carrots and Pasta Boy”

Here’s how…

Roast a couple of peppers drizzled in a little oil next time your oven is on. Set aside until needed.

When ready to go, take said peppers, remove seeds and stem then pop in a food processor. Throw in a tsp of garlic paste (yes, super lazy, I know but a brilliant fridge stand-by staple), a tin of chopped tomatoes and a handful of basil leaves. Whizz until obliterated.

Scrape the tomato sauce mixture into a saucepan and throw in a couple of handfuls of rinsed red lentils. Be generous as they disappear so you can sneakily load up on fibre, protein and important minerals like iron and zinc without fussy Little People being any the wiser. Cook for around 20 minutes until the lentils are soft and disappearing, adding a little water if necessary to loosen the sauce.

Meanwhile, cook some spaghetti as per the instructions on the packet, grate some cheese and when ready, serve.

Voila, tomato pasta with cheese. No hidden goodness here. None. At. All.
I Promise [wink, wink]

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Vegan Brownies

Recently I catered a mostly vegan party and wanted some scrummy vegan brownies on the menu (who doesn’t like brownies aside from Boy O who doesn’t like chocolate?)

Now over the years I have tried many vegan or ‘healthy’ brownie recipes and was constantly disappointed with them either being labour intensive or simply not quite right, so I set about making my own. After lots of trial and (lots and lots) of error, I’ve finally created my own recipe, which still isn’t ‘quite right’, but is pretty damn good.
They were the star of my menu at the party and got lots of compliments and requests for the recipe so I challenge you to make them and let me know what you think!

Now, in my true signature style this is a lazy ‘bung it all in and mix’ recipe.

Firstly, pre-heat your oven to 175* and line a swiss roll tin with baking parchment.

Then, you’ll need:
150g coconut oil
90g pure cacao (I love Willies 100% Venezuelan Black but any will work fine)
170g wholegrain SR flour
180g coconut sugar
50g ground almonds
200ml soya milk (or any other milk substitute of your choice)
50g nuts, coarsely chopped (Daddy and I like walnuts but children can find them bitter, so I generally use pistachios unless the brownies are not for sharing with Petite People)
1tsp baking powder
1tbsp rose water
130g frozen raspberries

Step 1> Gently melt the cacao and coconut oil over a pan of simmer water, set aside to cool.

Step 2> Pop all ingredients EXCEPT the raspberries into a mixer and thoroughly combine. Add the raspberries and quickly mix for another minute (don’t be afraid of them breaking up).

Step 3> Fill the lined baking tray and pop the brownies into the oven for 30 minutes, turning halfway through cooking.

Step 4> Remove from the oven (use a skewer to ensure they’re fully cooked through – if it comes out clean when poked in then it’s ready) then allow to fully cool in the tin before removing and cutting into slices.

These are best eaten within a couple of days of making and are yummy hot or cold and in fact, are delicious the next day re-heated in the microwave for approx 45 seconds and served warm with coconut ice-cream.
Daddy’s favourite.

 

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Breakfast Bars

There are a lot of people making ‘healthy’ snack bars at the moment which is great, I’m all for anything healthy, however we must remember all these sugar and fat alternatives are still forms of sugar and fat (coconut oil is still FAT, raisins are fruit SUGAR etc…)

Instead of thinking we can eat as much as we like if it is made from all natural, non-processed ingredients and laden with fruit, therefore good for us, we should be thinking these snacks are better for us than the alternatives and like all food, should still be eaten in moderation.
Rant over.

Bake these and enjoy. Just in moderation.

Breakfast bites

200g oats
100g spelt flour
4 ripe / overripe bananas
50g pitted dates
2tbsp desiccated coconut
2tbsp raisins/currants/sultanas/cranberries/etc
3tbsp honey (or maple syrup if vegan)
100g coconut sugar
75g coconut oil, melted and cooled
75g coconut yogurt
200g rozen raspberries
2tsp baking powder
1tbsp poppy seeds

First-up, pre-heat your oven to 150* and line a swiss roll tin with baking parchment.

Then roughly whizz the oats in a food processor until they resemble a coarse flour. Pop them aside in a large mixing bowl and add the spelt flour and baking powder.

Next, pop the bananas, dates, coconut oil and yogurt in the food processor and blitz until it forms a kind of paste. Add this to the mixing bowl along with the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly until fully combined.

Spread the mixture evenly in the baking tin and pop in the oven for approx 45-50 minutes. You’ll know it’s cooked when poked with a skewer and it comes out clean.

Leave it to cool fully on a cooling rack before cutting into cubes.

The cubes will keep for around 4-5 days in an airtight container and I actually think taste even better when a day or two old, but they also freeze and defrost well so make a big batch and remove from the freezer an hour before you want to eat them.

I seldom manage to freeze any as Boy A, Boy O AND Daddy demolish them within a day or two. Boy O in particular, who when allowed likes two for a mid-morning snack; not bad after a breakfast comprising two ‘wheat biscuits’, some multigrain hoops and half a bagel with all-nut peanut butter. I’ve no idea where he puts it all.

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