24 June 2013

Healthy kid's recipes - homemade popcorn and pizza faces

Teaching children where popcorn comes from
Today's afterschool class was as lively as ever. It never ceases to amaze me how much fun children have around food. One of my children ate a mushroom for the first time. Whether he eats one again soon is another question but at least he tried it and I was very proud of him. We started off today's class by making popcorn as they were all hungry straight from school, then we made pizza faces followed by banana and strawberry smoothies. I don't suspect much tea was eaten at home tonight as the children all enjoyed today's treats.

Homemade popcorn

Popcorn is a great snack for hungry little tummies. Although salted popcorn is a popular option, my favourite is popcorn with a little sugar. Salted popcorn is also not good for small children due to it's high salt content. Shop bought popcorn is often full of too much sugar, salt, additives and flavourings so if you have never made it yourself give it a try. You will be hooked especially once your kitchen is full of the wonderful aroma of freshly popped corn. The children also love to hear it pop up on the lid of the pan.

Popcorn can burn quite easily so make sure the pan is not too hot.

Follow these 4 easy steps for delicious popcorn:
  1. Place a large pan with a lid on to the hob on a medium heat
  2. Once the pan is hot, add a tbsp of vegetable oil and then two small handfuls of popping corn
  3. When the corn starts to pop it is then time to add 2 tbsp of sugar
  4. Once the popping starts to die down take off the heat and pour immediately into a bowl
Yum. And don't forget to tell the kids what popcorn is made off!

Pizza faces

These are great fun to make and the children always love making and eating them afterwards.

Easy tomato sauce

1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped/grated
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon of oil
A little black pepper

1. Add a teaspoon of oil to the saucepan
2. Add the finely chopped/grated onion. Fry on a low heat for 5 minutes. Then add the crushed garlic and fry for a further 5 minutes
3. Now add the tin of tomatoes and black pepper
4. Cook on a low heat for up to an hour without a lid stirring every now and again
5. Once cooked, remove from the heat and allow to cool fully before using the sauce to make your pizza faces

Making the pizza faces

Sliced courgettes, sliced mushrooms, peas, sweetcorn, pepper, grated cheese, pitta breads


1. Place a spoonful of the tomato sauce on the pitta bread and spread all over
2. Sprinkle the grated cheese all over
3. Now get creative – make a face with all the ingredients available to you!
4. Once finished, place under a medium grill. It’s ready when the cheese starts to bubble.

21 June 2013

Healthy kid's recipes - Homemade soda bread in under 45 minutes

Healthy kids - Homemade soda bread in under 45 minutes

It's nearly the weekend and Saturday mornings for me are a little more leisurely these days. My children have started sleeping in a little later (until 06.45) which after nearly 4 years of being woken up at 5.30 is a welcome break.

The smell of freshly baking bread in the morning while sipping on a cup of coffee helps my senses awaken and sets me up for the day. I have a dear friend who tells me time after time that she can't cook (although she can) and says that I say everything is simple once you know how. She says I make it look easy and it is not as simple as I make out. This bread really is simple to make (I promise) and the most difficult thing about this recipe is tracking down the buttermilk in your local supermarket.

This easy peasy healthy soda bread takes five minutes to prepare, does not need any time to rise and you put is straight in the oven to bake for 35 minutes. By the time you have brushed the kids teeth, taken a shower and had your choice of morning beverage it's ready to enjoy. Whether your choice of topping be smoked salmon, bacon and avocado, chocolate spread or a simple spread of butter, what a more delicious way to start the day with your own steaming bread with no nasty additives.

Since making my own bread, I rarely buy sliced bread anymore. It has little nutritious value and due it being processed is packed full of preservatives, salt and sugar. I bought some hotdog rolls a while back and they managed to hide themselves at the back of the cupboard and when I found them they were two weeks out of date. However, they were still spongy and had no mould on them. This made me think about how bad processed bread must be for us. So, give this recipe a go, and let me know what you think.

Easy peasy healthy soda bread
200g spelt flour 
150g plain flour
A carton of buttermilk (around 287ml)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 egg
Preheat oven to 200C
  1. Place the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and mix well
  2. Break the egg into a separate bowl and whisk lightly with a folk
  3. Add the egg and buttermilk to the flour and mix well together. If the mixture is very wet add an additional tbsp or two of flour
  4. Remove from the bowl and knead for 3o seconds or so and shape the dough as you wish and with a knife cut a cross into the top of the dough (this aids the cooking process and makes sure that the bread cooks evenly)
  5. Place the dough onto a floured baking tray and bake in the oven for 35 minutes

Top tip:
If you just want a white loaf, just use 350g plain white flour

20 June 2013

Healthy yet tasty meals for kids - The wonders of thyme

A snail enjoying the taste and aroma
of my thyme
The wonders of thyme

In my opinion, simple and healthy cooking is tasty. It is completely untrue that healthy food is not tasty. By simply adding a simple spice or herb and some butter or oil you are able to turn a simple vegetable or piece of fish or meat into a delicious tasting meal. The Italian kitchen is about simplicity and letting the produce speak for itself. Most Italian recipes are simply constructed using the minimum of ingredients. I have taken this on board with my healthy children's recipes as I think we can sometimes overwhelm a child's palate too early on in this country.

Seasoning is also a very important element of creating simple yet tasty food. Without it we do not bring out the best of the produce we buy. Obviously when cooking for children we need to be careful with the salt content of our meals. When my children were very young I left out salt from their meals but after 3 years of age I added a little just to enhance the flavour of their meals. Shop bought pre-prepared meals are full of salt. Even Annabel Karmel's children's meals were found to have high levels of sugar and salt in them.

Pan fried potatoes with thyme

I have only recently (over the last 5 years) learned the wonders of thyme. I put thyme is most of my dishes now. My mother-in-law even put some fresh thyme is her Yorkshire puddings last weekend and it just took them to a different level of deliciousness. At first, my little boy used to pick the individual thyme leaves out of every meal (and they are not very big) but after me persevering he now loves the flavour and recognises thyme in the garden.

A couple of ways I use thyme to enhance my dishes:
  • Add some thyme to breadcrumbs when making homemade chicken nuggets or fresh omelettes
  • Marinade lamb chops in oil, ginger, garlic and fresh thyme
  • Add thyme to homemade tomato sauces instead of basil as a lovely alternative
  • Add thyme to roast or pan fried potatoes for extra depth of flavour
Try adding it to your meals. You'll be hooked I promise you!


17 June 2013

Healthy kid's recipes - easy cheese scones and crunchy oven baked chicken nuggets

Healthy kid's recipes - easy cheese scones and crunchy chicken nuggets

Happily creating
Well after a weekend at my mother-in-law's eating wonderful fragrant curry and being cooked for (my other half is Mauritian) I was ready this morning to start cooking again. Although I live, breathe and sleep food, I do like a little break sometimes as I then get excited about cooking again. My day started off with freshly made soda bread using spelt flour and carried on just as nicely.

Scones ready for the oven
Today in my afterschool cooking class we made cheese scones and chicken nuggets. It was again a great class and very messy. It was a quiet class too as the children were busy making the fresh scone dough, rolling it out with different shapes and making their own little designs. They then went on to make chicken nuggets which involves the children rolling the chicken nuggets in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Children love these hands-on classes and by leaving them to their own devices they happily chat and giggle with each other.

Savoury scones
These are great for breakfast, as a snack or lunchbox fillers. You could use your cheese of choice. Most of the cheese was eaten before it went into the dough so they were not the cheesiest of scones!
Preheat the oven to 180C 
125g wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g butter
150g grated cheese (add or reduce cheese to own taste buds)
A little milk 

  1. Sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixing bowl
  2. Rub in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs
  3. Now add the cheese and enough milk to form a light dough 
  4. Roll out lightly to 2inch in thickness
  5. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes and serve warm with a little butter

So the scones went into the oven and we started to prepare the chicken nuggets. Oven baked, they are much healthier than fried. They take about 15 minutes (depending on size) and come out nice and crunchy. The nuggets were polished off in minutes and all the children said they preferred them to those from McDonalds'.

Crunchy oven baked chicken nuggets
1 piece of chicken (no bone)
1 egg
¼ mug of flour, place in bowl
½ mug of breadcrumbs, place in a bowl
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C 
  1. Cut the chicken breast up into bite size pieces
  2. Break the egg into a bowl and whisk with a fork and add a little salt and pepper
  3. Firstly coat the chicken pieces in the flour, next in the egg then in the breadcrumbs and place on a clean plate
  4. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until crispy and cooked through
  5. Serve with ketchup and enjoy!

16 June 2013

Healthy kid's recipes - cooking together with your children - Homemade flatbreads

Healthy kids - cooking together with your children

I cook with my two children as much as possible.
My little boy will spend hours with me in the
kitchen. Sometimes he will make his own concoctions up in a bowl next to me whilst I cook or he will actually help me prepare a dish. Yesterday we made meatballs in tomato sauce. He helped me cut up some onions and he peeled the garlic. He sometimes complains about the onions stinging his eyes but I tell him that it is a very important job to cut the onions! By being encouraging and taking my time with him he really enjoys it. My life is very busy as I work part-time but I love to cook for my family so I use this time with Louis as our special time together. His favourite thing at the moment is to make flat breads. He usually eats them as quickly as I cook them! The recipe for these is below.

I recently bought some child friendly knives. They are serrated but blunt and can easily cut most fruit and some vegetables. I set up a little chopping board next to mine and he happily chops away. It not only gets him used to touching different foods and understanding the basics of food preparation, he also gets to practise his finely motor skills. The knives I bought are from Pampered Chef, although I am not sure if they still sell them. In my cookery classes I use either disposable plastic knives - the ones from Poundland are the best as they are really serrated and cut fruit well or use simple everyday cutlery knives.

Homemade flat breads (or Roti)


200g plain flour
100ml water
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Place all the ingredients into a mix together to form a dough. It should be soft and not too wet. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest for at least 20 minutes
  2. Take a small ball of the dough and roll it into a pancake shape 
  3. Place a little oil in the frying pan using a paper towel to spread it out. Cook the flatbreads on both sides until they start to bubble and get brown spots
  4. Serve straight away with meat balls, curry, stir fried chicken or eat jut on their own!



14 June 2013

Quick and healthy sauces are a lifesaver for any busy parent

Quick and healthy sauces are a lifesaver for any busy parent

I hope you all tried my children's healthy recipe of pea pesto. It's colour is not the most appetising but kids love different colours. My little boy is a very fussy eater and went through a period of not eating peas but ate my pea pesto that he helped to make. He is now eating peas again, so all is good.

Well, on the theme of pestos, below is my healthy red pepper pesto recipe. Pestos are quick and easy to make, tasty and also healthy. My belief is that if you have prepared and cooked it yourself, it is healthier and better for you than shop bought food. Obviously there are parameters here, as deep fat frying everything at home would not be healthy but this cooking method once in a while won't hurt you.

Our lives are all so busy these days and many of us put cooking near the bottom of our to do list. Many of us work, whether part-time or full-time and fitting everything in to our daily schedule is difficult.

Anyway this sauce is a firm winner with most kids. Get them to help you if you can. It does not involve much mess which is always bonus.

More quick, easy and healthy sauces to follow.

Red pepper pesto
4 whole red peppers from a jar (you can buy these form most supermarkets but Turkish/Mediterranean sops sell these in abundance)
3 tbsp grated Parmesan
3 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
A pinch of salt and pepper
  1. Remove the garlic clove from it's skin. Then place it with the rest of the ingredients into a mini food processor (if you don't own a food processor, a bowl and hand blender work just as well)
  2. Whizz the ingredients together until they have all combined. If a little thick, add a tbsp or two of water until the consistency is wet and easy to stir
  3. Add to freshly cooked pasta and mix well
  4. Sprinkle an extra tbsp of grated Parmesan over the top for that extra cheesy taste

10 June 2013

Fun kid's recipes - Gingerbread Men and stars & vegetable fingers

Going forward, I will be posting weekly updates from my Monday Healthy Eating Afterschool Club. Although we do a little bit of baking, we predominantly prepare and cook healthy dishes. The children are aged between 4 and 6.

Today was a very messy class but lots of fun. We started off making Gingerbread Men (or women as one of the children corrected me). We made these first as they needed to bake and cool in time for the end of the class. The kids had lots of fun watching me make the dough in the food processor, rolling out the dough themselves and cutting out the biscuits.

Gingerbread People and stars 

350g plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g butter
175g soft light brown sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons honey (or golden syrup)
Preheat oven to 190C/Gas 5
  1. Put the flour, ginger, cinnamon and soda into a bowl and rub in the butter
  2. Add sugar and stir in the honey and egg to make a firm dough
  3. Roll out to about 5mm thick and cut out your gingerbread men. If you don't have a gingerbread man cutter you can use any other biscuit cutters you have to hand
  4. Place the biscuits on greased baking trays (spaced out, as they will spread) and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Leave to firm up for a couple of minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.

We then made vegetable fingers (or balls). 99 children out of 100 devour these croquette type delicacies. They are one of my signature dishes and they go down a storm. They are messy to make but kids love getting involved so do try them at home. I promise you your kids will love them. We added peas and broccoli to the mash today but sweetcorn is also a great addition.

Vegetable fingers
For the filling;
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered 
½ mug tinned or fresh sweetcorn
½ mug of peas
For the coating:
1 egg, beaten lightly or milk
½ mug of breadcrumbs
Pepper to taste
  1. Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes until soft. Allow to cool
  2. Cook the peas and sweetcorn. Allow to cool
  3. In a bowl, pass the potatoes through a ricer (or mash with a potato masher) and add the sweetcorn and peas
  4. With your hands, mix all the ingredients together and then shape into small patties, balls or fingers, coat in the egg/milk and then breadcrumbs and fry in a little oil until the outer edges are crisp.
  5. Serve with your favourite sauce i.e. ketchup.


7 June 2013

Healthy kid's recipes - Pea Pesto

Healthy Pea Pesto


1 mug defrosted peas
3 tbsp grated parmesan
4 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of salt and pepper
2 tbsp water


1.     Place all the ingredients into the food processor
2.     Whiz the ingredients together until they have all combined. If a little thick, add some more water until the consistency is right
3.     Add to freshly cooked whole wheat pasta and mix well

Sprinkle a further tbsp of grated parmesan for that extra cheesy hit.
Top tip:

If you don’t have a food processor, place the ingredients in a bowl and blend with a hand blender.

I'm back...

It has been a while since I updated my blog with recipes and helpful info in regards to children, food and cooking. But I am back and here to stay!

Behind the scenes however, I have been busy with all my classes and workshops and have gained a wealth of experience and written lots of new recipes that I look forward to sharing with you over the coming months.

All the recipes I post are child friendly so do try and get your children involved as much as possible. One thing I have learned is that children just love to cook and are more likely to try different foods that they have helped to prepare and cook.

If you need any help or advice please don't hesitate to contact me as I'd love to help!

Enjoy cooking!

Thanks Natasha