Sweet potato brownies
Sweet Treats

Sweet Potato Brownies

One of my favourite parts about coming up with recipes for little people is finding delicious ways to incorporate veggies into tasty treats. With a fussy three year old, I’ll look for new ways to incorporate nutrients wherever possible. These sweet potato brownies are the ideal healthy and sweet treat to serve up at play dates or as a tasty guilt-free dessert that the entire family would enjoy.

This recipe is not only delicious but is crammed with goodness and easy enough for children to get involved in the preparation. I find my son is all the more interested in something I’ve made for him, when he’s played a part in creating it or shopping for the ingredients.

Little ones will never guess that this recipe is made with only the healthiest ingredients, with an added  boost of vitamins and fibre from the sweet potatoes.

Although coconut flour has been used, you could opt for almond flour as another delicious gluten-free option. I recommend using coconut oil to make the icing because it naturally solidifies when cooled to ensure that you have the perfect gooey consistency and for the topping. You can use any sugar-free nut butter of your choice in the icing or tahini instea (tahini is a great alternative for children with a nut allergy).

I love using dates in my recipes for a delicious natural sweetness. If you are using the dried variety to make your sweet potato brownies, then add a little hot water to the food processor for easier mixing.

For this recipe, you can use either honey or maple syrup, depending what you have on hand. Opt for raw honey* and look out for pure maple syrups found in health stores (the less processed options are the preferred ones).

Store the brownies in an airtight container in the fridge and consume within a week. These brownies can also be made ahead of time, then frozen in a ziplock bag and thawed in the fridge before serving.

This recipe makes around 16 squares.

What you’ll need

For the brownies:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes (or 6 small), peeled
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 heaped cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 100g dates, pitted
  • 1 Tbs vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch salt

For the icing:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 cup sugar-free nut butter of your choice or tahini
  • 2 Tbs honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs milk of your choice

Method

For the brownies:

  • Preheat the oven to 180
  • Grease a square medium-sized oven-proof dish or cake tin and line with baking paper. Set aside
  • Cut the potatoes into pieces and then steam for around 10-13 minutes until they are soft
  • Once steamed, add the potatoes to a food processor and pulse until you have a mash-like consistency
  • Pour the potato mixture into a large mixing bowl
  • Place dates into a food processor and pulse until you have tiny pieces (add a little hot water if needed)
  • Place the dates, along with the rest of the brownie ingredients into the mixing bowl
  • Combine using a hand mixer until well mixed
  • Pour the mixture into the baking dish/cake tin and bake it in the oven for 40-50 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean once inserted in the middle)
  • Allow the brownies to cool (it needs to be cool before topping with the icing)

For the icing:

  • Combine all of the ingredients into a food processor and mix until a sooth paste forms
  • Add a little more milk if necessary (you will need to be able to spread the icing with ease)

To assemble: 

  • Spread the icing on top of the brownies and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes for the icing to harden
  • Cut into squares and serve

For some more inspiration on sweet treats using fruit and veggies check out Hungry Little Monkey’s pancakesbanana bread, date squares and choc mousse.

*Honey is only recommended for children over the age of one due to the risk of infant botulism

The above will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

dealing with fussy eating toddlers
fussy eating

The ‘No Plan B’ Approach

How to deal with fussy eating to prevent mealtimes from becoming stressful in your home…

As a mom who loves talking about nourishing children with only the healthiest ingredients, and yet I have a toddler whom is going through an extremely fussy-eating phase, I find myself questioning whether I have actually done enough to ensure that my son has been exposed to enough of the healthy stuff.

Lately I find myself increasingly frustrated at my son’s refusal to try anything new, anything healthy and anything that hasn’t been crumbed or deep-fried. Like most parents, I worry that he isn’t getting in enough quality nutrients and that, if I don’t give him what he enjoys eating, he will go hungry.

After conducting some research on this topic around picky eating in toddlers and chatting to my paed, it is comforting to know that this phase is totally normal and can last up until our little ones are five years old. This is all information that I had already read about however, when a parent is experiencing it first-hand, our better judgement becomes clouded by the usual paranoia when it concerns one’s own child.

In one of my last posts, I discussed top ten tips for dealing with fussy easting but something I wanted to talk about specifically in this post is based on some advice I recently received. It’s something I am guilty of doing constantly and I know most parents are guilty of it too: when our kids refuse to eat their meals, we start serving them up something else that we think they’ll like, purely to get some food into their little bellies. We launch straight into ‘selling’ different dishes – anything other than the offending meal in question – describing food as excitedly as possibly, like a cordon bleu trained waiter eager to to get our tiny patron to sample anything.

This is the ‘Plan B’ – the substitute meal – or the Plan, C, D, E and F in many cases of sheer desperation.

The problem with this approach is that your child quickly learns that if they don’t like what is put in front of them, they will eventually be served up something that they do actually like: a logical connection for children and as they enter their toddler years and discover the novelty of calling the shots.

I have witnessed this first-hand in my own household: my son has worked out that he can simply ask for toast or crackers (or something he equally enjoys), in place of the nutritious plate of chicken and veggies sitting in front of him, and mama will magically make them appear. So while I understand that fussy eating is common in toddlers, after taking a step back and looking at my actions, I realise that my own behaviour has not helped the situation.

This is one of the biggest reasons, I believe, that my son feels he can call the shots when it comes to mealtimes and something that needs undoing if I want to start instilling better eating habits in him.

If, like me, you are concerned that your child is going to starve – something that is quite a controversial topic when it comes to dealing with fussy eating – here are a few tactics that I have researched, which I have started putting into practice in my own home:

  • Make the change and stick with it. As with everything else when it comes to raising little people, they need time to adjust to change and you need the patience that goes along with it. You are going to experience a few tears and tantrums along the way but soon your child will realise that they can’t always have it their way when it comes to mealtimes. Your child will soon learn that if they don’t eat the meal placed in front of them, they will need to wait until the next meal or snack time to eat again.
  • Always be mindful about what your child needs. Sometimes your child may have a genuine disliking toward a certain meal and you shouldn’t force it on them. That is not what this approach is about – rather it’s about exposing them to new and nutritious foods by breaking them out of a cycle of only being served a limited number of favourite or ‘safe’ foods.
  • Remove food after 20-30 minutes. Provide them with enough of an opportunity to eat their meal but remove it after some time. This will assist with their understanding that they need to eat during specific mealtimes or else they will need to wait until their next meal or snack.
  • Follow a routine when it comes to meal and snack times to assist your child with pre-empting when he or she will next be fed. If your child is fed erratically and constantly throughout the day (even if meals are smaller), they will soon learn that, if they don’t eat the meal in front of them, there will be something else to eat immediately afterwards. You should be aiming for three main meals and two snacks (one mid morning and one in the afternoon).
  • When offering your little one a new food, serve it up with something familiar. This will instill a level of comfort to avoid overwhelming your child i.e.: if your child has always shied away from leafy greens, but always been a fan of potato, serve the two together.
  • Serve two courses. Follow a meal with something sweet and healthy like some fresh fruit or fruit purèe. This will ensure that your child won’t go hungry if they flat-out refuse to eat their main meal, and that they’ll be getting in some quality nutrients.
  • Keep things exciting. If your child point blank refuses to eat the meal your prepared for them yesterday, wait a few days before serving it up again, and when you do, serve it up in a different way.
  • Take it slow. If you find that your child is becoming increasingly stressed at mealtimes as with your new ‘No Plan B’ approach, only try new foods every second day to give them a break.
  • Get family and caregivers on board. If you are relying on others to care for your child, you need to ensure that they are following the same approach as in your home.
  • Remove distractions. This is something that I have pointed out in my previous posts and yet something I am guilty of during many mealtimes. If you want to give your child the best shot of engaging with different foods, you need to turn off the TV, iPad, phone, toys and just about anything that is going to cause too much of a distraction.
  • Know when to seek professional help: if you are genuinely concerned that your child is not growing and developing as a result of their fussy eating, consult your medical advisor.

I hope you found this approach on dealing with fussy eating helpful – keep a look out for more posts like this one as I navigate my way through my toddler’s picky eating phase. For other posts on Fussy eating, have a look at; Top 10 Tips for Dealing with a Fussy Eater, Fussy Eating 101 and Mindful Parenting & Fussy Eating.

*The above information should never replace the advice of your paed, nurse or GP.

Lunch / Supper

Sticky Chicken

If you’re looking for a quick and healthy dish that the family will love, then this recipe is one worth trying.

A dish that you will find in most Jewish households on a Friday night is Sticky Chicken and it’s no wonder that it is a family favourite – its delicious, sticky and super sweet. The problem is that it is loaded with sugar and all the additives found in most ready-made sauces (probably one of the biggest reasons that it is loved so much!).

Looking at some sticky chicken recipes and all the unhealthy ingredients that go into making it, I decided to make my own healthy version the dish.

This really is a super easy recipe and can be served up as a healthy meal for the entire family. Portions can also be frozen and defrosted in the fridge ahead of serving it up.

If you would prefer to use chicken on the bone instead of breasts, increase your oven baking time by 20 minutes and brown the pieces in a pan with a little olive oil before baking them. Use this marinade for easy chicken kebabs or even for red meat, fish and tofu too (adjusting your cooking time as needed)!

What you’ll need:

  • 6-8 free-range chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Passata sauce
  • 1 Tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tin peaches in fruit juice (no sugar added)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 Tbs vinegar
  • Juice of 1/2 a large lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp Herbamare or celery salt
  • 4-5 cracks black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic

To serve:

  • 2 Tbs finely chopped spring onion
  • 1 Tbs sesame seeds

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180°C
  • Bring all the sauce ingredients to the boil in a medium sauce pan.
  • Allow to simmer for 35-40 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about half and is sticky in consistency.
  • Remove the mixture from the heat and remove the bay leaves.
  • Purée the mixture using a hand blender (the sauce can be slightly lumpy, no need to be totally smooth).
  • Place the chicken into a casserole dish and pour over the sauce.
  • Bake in the oven for 40 minutes.

Slice the chicken breast into pieces and toss together with the sauce. Sprinkle over the spring onion and sesame seeds (if your little one doesn’t mind them!) and serve over rice, veggies, whole-wheat noodles or baked potato. Enjoy!

*The above recipe will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.
*Never leave your child unsupervised when eating.
Food Allergies, Nutrition 101

Gluten & Wheat-Free Living

Recent statistics have shown that gluten intolerance and celiac disease are very widespread conditions however many of those affected walk around without even realising it: some children don’t always show all the tell-tale symptoms, making it tricky to diagnose. It’s no wonder we hear stories about parents who go through the run-around, over prolonged periods, trying to get to the bottom of their child’s ailments!

We hear a lot about households going gluten-free or wheat-free, but when is it really necessary and what should you know about it?  

It all starts with understanding what you are dealing with and how to get to the bottom of it:

Celiac disease is a type of gluten intolerance and a hereditary disease affecting around 1 in 100 people. It is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body will actually attack gluten (a protein found in what, rye, barley to name a few) in the intestine, causing inflammation and impacting nutrient absorption. As a result, damage is done to the walls of the small intestine, and in serious cases it may result in malnourishment and could even be fatal if left untreated.

Wheat allergy is an immune reaction to one of the many proteins found in wheat, whereby the body’s immune system will attack wheat and cause an allergic reaction. It is an extremely common allergy which children tend to outgrow (along with other allergies by the age of 5).

Non-celiac gluten intolerance is not an immune response nor is it an allergic reaction but is a blanket term to describe other adverse reactions to gluten in the body. It has become more common over the years due to a higher number of different foods including gluten, an increased gluten content in modern-day grains and overuse of antibiotics, which lead to poor gut absorption of gluten.

How to diagnose your child? 

While celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance have very similar symptoms –  cramping, diarrhea and constipation, joint pain, headaches, and fatigue – symptoms of a wheat allergy are very distinct: itching, hives, trouble breathing or anaphylaxis.

While celiac disease and wheat allergy can be ruled out with blood screening and skin-prick tests respectively, non-celiac gluten intolerance can only be diagnosed by ruling out other allergies, and then eliminating  gluten from the diet. If you feel as though you simply aren’t getting to the bottom of the problem after undergoing some of the key diagnostic tests mentioned, keep a food diary and track how your child reacts to certain foods in order to identify the culprit in the diet.

If you suspect that your child may be intolerant to gluten to wheat, make an appointment with your health care practitioner immediately to get the right diagnosis and guidance.

Note: Gluten-free living has been recommended by experts for children with neurological disorders like Autism, Cerebral Palsy and ADHD as part of their therapy treatment program, and to assist with ailments such as chronic diarrhea and stomach cramps (amongst others).

Living without gluten or wheat

After finally having gotten to the bottom of what is causing your child’s ailments, it’s time to tackle how to go about your living your lives and it all seems a little over-whelming.

You need to remember that it is up to you to make this transition as seamless as possible for your little person, and it starts with choosing an approach that best suits your household. At the end of the day, you need to do what is right your family: some families prefer to buy gluten or wheat-free products only for the affected child, while others prefer to banish all offending foods from the household entirely.

There is no right or wrong way (unless you have received strict instructions from your health care practitioner), and factors like the severity of your child’s allergy or intolerance, along with their age (and ability to understand) and other family diet restrictions will ultimately guide your decision.

It is important to become aware of foods containing wheat or gluten, and to always double-check ingredients on food labels (sometimes gluten and wheat can be found in unexpected foods and even foods claiming to be gluten or wheat-free). While gluten is found in the obvious culprits –  like bread, pasta, some oats, crackers, cereals, biscuits, cakes, cous-cous, spelt, barley – it can also be found in the less obvious foods like lunch meat, marinades, soya sauce, sweets and even in some personal care products like lip balm.

There are so many gluten and wheat-free food options available in health stores,  regular grocery stores and in many restaurants that – more than ever –  we are spoilt for choice. Almond, chickpea, rice and coconut flour are amongst other excellent alternatives to conventional flour and can be used in most cooking and baking recipes.

Without gluten and wheat-containing foods, you will need to ensure that your child is getting in enough fibre, iron and B vitamins through a healthy, balanced diet of fruit,  meat, eggs, dairy, leafy greens and alternate grain sources like rice and corn.

Get organised, get creative and get clued-up and soon gluten or wheat-free living will be a natural part of your child’s lifestyle!

To find out more information about celiac disease, non-celiac gluten intolerance or wheat allergy, read further here.

*The above should never replace the advice of your paed, GP or nurse.

 

healthy banana bread recipe
Sweet Treats

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

At the age of two and a half – like most toddlers – my son knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to tell me all about it. He flat out refuses to eat most things green and would rather avoid trying anything new unless it is coated in something sweet. I witness so many home-made meals being fed to the dog, and then cry a little inside when my hard work lands up in the bin.

In true toddler style, my son loves two things probably more than anything on earth: bananas and cake. He lived off brand muffins while we were away over the holidays under the guise that he was eating ‘brown cake’, and I was not surprised in the least when we arrived back home and he demanded cake for breakfast.

Determined to get him back into getting some real nutrients into his little body, I wanted to bake something truly delicious that would excite him as much as cake (sans the butter icing and sprinkles of course). I am also constantly on a quest to find delicious and healthy gluten-free and wheat-free recipes for all the little ones out there who aren’t able to tolerate regular wheat flour.

This gluten-free banana bread recipe is honestly one of the easiest things you’ll make and it tastes delicious (my husband gave it the thumbs up – someone else in my house who also isn’t afraid to tell me how he really feels about my recipes!).

I have opted to use coconut flour in this recipe, which is a high-fibre and gluten-free alternative to regular flour. It adds the most delicious flavour to baking and packs in a host of health benefits; lowering glycemic index (preventing those nasty sugar spikes), contains a powerful punch of protein and contains medium-chain triglycerides (the type of saturated fats that provide little bodies with instant energy).

If you would prefer to use regular flour, then use 1 cup of regular flour with 2 eggs and half the amount of oil (coconut flour requires more moisture as it soaks everything up!).

You’ll want to use very ripe bananas – the riper, the better. If you are using dried dates, then soak them in some boiling water for 15 minutes to soften and then drain them well before adding them into your mixture.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 cup pitted, chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup finely diced nuts (pecan or walnut recommended)

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl using a fork
  • Sift the flour and baking soda into the mixing bowl
  • Add in the rest of the ingredients
  • Using a hand mixer, mix the ingredients together until well mixed (do not over-mix)
  • Pour the batter into a loaf tin lined with baking paper
  • Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean, on the middle rack
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before removing from the tin
  • Allow the bread to remain on the wire rack to cool slightly before serving
  • Serve plain or with a spread of butter or sugar-free nut butter

If you have any leftover bread, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It can be stored there for up to 1 week. You can also choose to freeze the bread in individual portions and then defrost before using.

*This recipe will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients listed above.
*Never leave your child unsupervised while eating.
Snacking

Healthy Holiday Snacking

Tips for keeping snacking on holiday as healthy as possible for the kids and rest of the family…

Going on holiday generally means that routines and good habits take a backseat, and the taboos that were frowned upon all year sneak their way into the family festivities. Meals are no exception but there are some small things that you can do to ensure that your little munchkin is getting some solid nutrition between all the ice cream cones and hot dogs:

  • Plan ahead: although the words ‘planning’ and ‘holiday’ don’t necessarily gel, a little pre-thought will go a long way in stocking up your fridge, cooler bag or handbag with healthy and nutritious foods that are easy to serve up wherever you go. Pre-empting that your little one is more than likely to get bored in the car or plane on your journey, make sure you have enough entertainment on hand in the form of a variety of delicious snack choices.
  • Tools for freshness: pack a cooler bag and a few ice packs so that you don’t have an excuse not to have anything healthy on-hand. If you would rather not schlep a clunky cooler box around, look out for the fabric varieties that could double as a grocery bag/travel/beach bag.
  • Store it: instead of feeling as though you would rather avoid the mess of leftovers and debris after packaging has been opened, throw a few small storage containers and package clips (or even clothes pegs) into your packing. By doing so, you’ll have a smart way of separating serving portions and keeping leftovers intact.
  • Be practical: look for those products that are re-sealable and easy to serve straight from the packaging, and those snacks that won’t make an unholy mess! Pre-packing portions of snacks into single servings (packets or containers) will make it easier to hand snacks out when the time comes.

Here is some healthy snack inspiration to keep in mind when doing your holiday grocery shopping:

  • Fresh delights: look out for fresh fruits that are easy to eat (naartjies, grapes, strawberries, blueberries) or ready cut-up fruit and veg options to make life even easier. For more mess-free options, opt for slithers of apples, banana, strawberries and pears, or carrot and cucumber battons.
  • Skewer it: to keep little hands busy, skewer an array of mixed fruit pieces –  like banana, apple, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple- onto a skewer stick (look for blunt-ended sticks). Store these in your cooler bag for a playful and delicious treat!
  • Dried goodness: dried fruit is such a simple snack to store and dish out easily on-the-go, just don’t overdo it or your little one may end up with a sore tummy.
  • Stack it: what’s a family holiday without some home-made sarmies? Opt for wholewheat, rye and low GI options and get creative with fillings, cutting each sandwich into fingers to hand out to little people with ease. Some healthy fillings include; sugar-free nut butter and banana; egg mayo; chicken mayo; cold meat with cucumber and tomato; smashed avocado and lemon juice.
  • Meaty treats: biltong sticks and dried wors serve as a healthy, high-protein snack for the whole family. Remember to store dried meat in an airtight container once removed from the packaging (note that biltong can be high in salt, so ensure that your little one is hydrated if they are eating it and limit portions).
  • Fuss-free nibbles: Rice crackers are fantastic to keep on-hand to eat plain, add a topping to or to dunk into a dip. Dried cereal is also super easy to hand out – preferably look out for options that aren’t loaded with sugar (retailers like Woolworths keep a kiddies’ cereal range that has no added cane sugar). Organic toddler snacks (look out for awesome products from Happy Baby and Olli) also make for a fantastic healthy snack.
  • Dip it: re-sealable packs of guacamole, hummus and cottage cheese are healthy and delicious dip options for crackers, bread sticks or even veggies.
  • Something cheesy : wedges, cubes or strings are high protein options that make for easy eating on the backseat, plane, beach or whilst missioning around. Remember to keep cheese cool to prevent it from spoiling in warm weather.
  • Freeze it: pop some mini yoghurts in the freezer and keep these on-hand for hot days (not forgetting to pack some spoons!). For an even easier (and less messy) eating option that can be eaten straight from the packaging, try this with tubes of drinking yoghurt or no-sugar-added fruit purée in pouches with a nozzle – like Squish (found in most stores in the baby food section).

Note:

  • Remember to keep an eye on your child at all times when they are snacking (with one eye on the backseat if you are sitting in the front of your car!).
  • Keep your child hydrated at all times on your travels and especially when spending time in warmer weather.
  • Be prepared for some mess wherever you are. Spills and accidents happen, so keep those wet wipes close on-hand when dishing out food and drinks.

Most importantly, enjoy the time with your children and don’t sweat the small stuff: if your little one has consumed more sugar, sodium and refined carbohydrates than they probably should have over the holidays that’s OK –  2018 and the new year resolutions that come along with it are just around the corner!

Lunch / Supper, Recipes

Crumbed Chicken Strips

Since my son could run around I have been planning my outings based on whether or not a restaurant has a kiddies’ menu and a play area – something I didn’t quite grasp before I had a child of my own.

Like most parents, I find it frustrating that the kiddies’ meal choices at most places, are generally the greasiest and most nutritionally-empty dishes around: leaving you weighing up whether the pizza or hot dog is the ‘healthier’ choice for your little one (sounds a little crazy but hey…we don’t have much to work with!).

There is a reason that chicken strips are on every kiddies’ menu I have ever come into contact with: it is because pretty much all kids LOVE them (and most crumbed things for that matter). It is the same reason that crumbed chicken can be found in most home freezers across the world, ready for parents to serve up to their children in a matter of minutes.

The problem with some crumbed frozen chicken, meat and fish is that they tend to be loaded with sodium for added flavour. They are also regarded as ‘processed meat’ which should be limited in your child’s diet given that processed foods have been linked to Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. I’m not suggesting you need to steer clear of these family favourites (I am no stranger to keeping a supply in the freezer for a quick and easy meal) but it is important to remember that processed meat should be served to your little ones in moderation.

In an effort to create my own healthier rendition of the famous chicken strip, I decided to get cooking with the healthiest ingredients.

The key to this recipe is to ensure that you use a good quality non-stick pan (or you will have a bunch of batter stuck to it!) and to use enough oil at a time. That’s not to say you should be deep frying the strips at all, but rather using just enough oil to coat the pan when frying.

You could use this batter to crumb meat, chicken or even zucchini! You’ll just need to adapt the cooking time accodingly.

What you’ll need:

  • 5-6 free-range, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp celery salt/ Herbamare
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3 Tbs spring onion, very finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 cup milk (any milk of your choice)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2-3 Tbs olive oil for frying

Method:

  • Beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl.  Combine with the milk and lemon and set aside.
  • In another medium-sized bowl combine the flour, spring onion, spices and sesame seeds. Set aside.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut each chicken breast into three strips. Giving you around 15-18 strips in total (some pieces may be larger than others).
  • Heat 1 Tbs of the olive oil in a non-stick pan on a medium-high heat.
  • Then take each strip at a time and coat it in the egg wash and then roll it in the flour mixture until totally coated. Place it onto the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes a side (depending on the thickness of the chicken strip).
  • Fry strips in batches of 5 strips at a time (to avoid over-crowding the pan).
  • Once each strip is finished cooking, place it onto a clean plate with roller towel to drain any excess oil.
  • Add another Tbs olive oil to the pan for each batch of chicken strips. Continue until all the strips have been used.
  • Serve with sweet-potato fries and homemade tomato sauce (or any choice of sides).
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within three days.

* The above recipe will need to be adapted if your child has an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned. Never leave your child unsupervised when eating.

 

 

Sides

Homemade Tomato Sauce

There is no getting away from it: kids love tomato sauce.

I never thought that I would be the parent who would turn to tomato sauce to get her child excited about a meal. I honestly thought I could keep my son away from the stuff until school-going age (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration but you get my drift).

The reality, however, is that when my son stumbled upon some earlier this year, I witnessed a love affair that I knew – there and then – I would not easily intercept. Ever since that day, he will spot the shiny red bottle in any eating environment, with the precision of an eagle, demanding that he dips (or “dit” in his case) whatever he may be eating.

Tomato sauce actually provides a number of health benefits to growing little people, including its high lycopene content. Lycopene is an antioxidant, which means it protects the body’s cells from free radical damage, fighting off disease and cancer. Each serving also packs in a powerful punch of vitamin A for healthy skin, eyes, hair and immune functioning.

The problem with store bought tomato sauce is the sugar content (high glucose corn syrup and cane sugar): each tablespoon serving includes anywhere from 4 grams of sugar, which equates to roughly 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of sugar. According to The American Heart Association, children should be consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily to avoid a weakened immune system, flu symptoms and tooth decay (amongst a host of other nasties). If your child is laying on the tomato sauce with most meals, over and above consuming sugar in other food and drinks, they are most probably exceeding this recommended daily limit.

Light tomato sauce options, whilst lower in sugar or sugar-free, are packed with artificial sweeteners: OK in moderation but not regarded as nutritionally substantial enough for the growing needs of children.

With this in mind, and knowing that some sugars are unavoidable in certain foods, I wanted to make my own sugar-free sauce that packs in the flavour, but without the unnecessary sugar. In this recipe I have used unsweetened apple sauce to add in a natural sweetness, but you could also use unsweetened pear, date or prune purèe.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup Passata sauce
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce/purèe
  • 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 small lemon (1/2 large lemon)
  • 1 Tbs All Spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cracks black pepper

Method:

  • Bring all of the ingredients to the boil
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 45 minutes (until the mixture has reduced by half)
  • Remove from the heat
  • Remove the bay leaves
  • Purèe until smooth
  • Store in an airtight, glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one month

*The above will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

Recipes

Spanish Frittata

My son loves eggs. Scrambled, fried, anything goes (and if you got the green kind from Dr Seuss, he would probably love those too). So his obsession, along with my incessant hunt for wholesome and nutritious family meals is what led me back to the classic frittata.

Not only can you cram the goodness into this meal  – secretly hiding in the veggies your little one usually won’t go near with a ten foot barge pole – but there are so many combinations to get creative with.

What I love about it is that it’s an easy dish that can be eaten any time of the day and you get to put the leftover’s from last night’s supper to good use. Beyond a delicious family breakfast, it makes a fantastic lazy Sunday supper or the ideal lunch for cold Wintery days at home. It is equally delicious the next day, and can be chopped into thin slices to make a scrumptious finger food for tiny fingers to hold.

Although this recipe is vegetarian (lacto-ovo that is) you can add in just about any protein of your choosing: pre-cooked chicken/meat/fish would all be delicious. I haven’t added any salt because the parmesan adds a salty flavour but you could add a touch of salt should you wish (a pinch in this entire dish won’t harm your child).

Chop the ingredients as finely as your child needs (smaller pieces work better for younger children).

What you’ll need:

  • 5 free-range eggs
  • 1 cup full-cream milk
  • 1 small-medium red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small-medium red pepper, diced finely
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, steamed and diced
  • 1 cup shredded/grated mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp xylitol
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 2-3 cracks black pepper
  • 1 Tbs Italian parsley, finely chopped

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180°
  • Whisk together the eggs, milk, pepper and paprika and set aside
  • Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat
  • Add the onions, balsamic vinegar and xylitol and fry until the onions begin caramelising (around 3-5 minutes, stirring to ensure that they don’t burn)
  • Add the chopped sweet potato, red pepper, tomatoes and oregano and fry for a further 2-3 minutes
  • Add the egg mixture, mozzarella and parsley to the pan and stir gently to combine
  • Allow the mixture to begin cooking for around 2-3 minutes
  • Once the edges of the mixture have cooked, place the pan in the oven
  • Allow the mixture to cook through for 15 minutes. Half way through the cooking process (around the 7 minute mark) remove  the frittata from the heat and sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top. Place it back into the oven to continue cooking
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool before serving (ensure it is cooked through)
  • Cut into slices and serve with wholegrain toast fingers or toasted English muffins with a spread of butter

*The above recipe  will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to the ingredients mentioned.

*Never leave your child unsupervised while eating.

Recipes

Pumpkin & Coconut Pancakes

After eating at some incredible places in Cape Town on our most recent family holiday, we were faced with so many nutritious and creative breakfast choices along our travels that inspired me to get creative in the kitchen back at home. A healthy pancake recipe is something I knew would go down well in my house, provided I could get them tasting as good as ‘regular’ pancakes.

After three attempts, I finally found a recipe that worked and was accepted with open arms by my two, very own food critics: my son (who even got our dogs to sample his breakfast!) and my husband (who has a sweet tooth unrivalled by many and cannot be fooled by ‘imposters’ claiming to taste as good as the ‘real thing’).

By the time I got onto my third batch of batter, I had worked out 5 key ‘tricks of the trade’ to master the perfect pancake:

  1. Do not over-beat your mixture. Your pancakes will be anything but fluffy!
  2. Do not over-heat your pan. Work on a low-medium heat.
  3. Have patience. Rush through this and you’ll just have a sticky mess and broken bits of pancake to serve up.
  4. The smaller, the easier to handle. The larger you go, the greater the chance of them breaking.
  5. Keep your pan greased at all times. If not, you’ll have burnt bits of pancake batter lining the bottom of your pan.

Pumpkin is a smart way to sneak in additional nutrients and it adds a natural sweetness to the batter. I recommend purèeing the pumpkin to avoid a granular consistency to your mixture, but if you don’t mind the little bits in every bite then mashing the pumpkin works too.

If you would like to keep this recipe strictly vegan, then replace each egg with 1 Tbs chia seeds soaked in 3 parts water. The coconut milk adds a delicious flavour to this recipe but you really could use any milk of your choosing. By using wholewheat/bran flour, you are adding in a number of beneficial vitamins and minerals that are missing from the white ‘nutritionally empty’ variety. If your child has a gluten intolerance, then simply substitute the flour for another flour of your choice (remember, however, that almond and coconut flour can sometimes be a little tricky to work with).

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup pumpkin, steamed and pureed/finely mashed
  • 3 free-range eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup bran/wholewheat flour
  • 1 Tbs baking soda
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Coconut oil for frying

Method:

  • Beat the eggs in a small bowl, set aside
  • In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients using a mixing spoon, followed by a whisk to mix through thoroughly
  • Once combined, add in your eggs and gently mix together
  • Heat a small amount of coconut oil on a skillet on a low-medium heat
  • Once the pan is hot, pour in small amount of mixture at a time
  • Once the pancake begins bubbling all over, use a spatula to turn and cook on the other side
  • Continue the process until all the mixture has been used up, adding a small amount of coconut oil to the pan each time
  • Serve with your choice of toppings: crushed nuts, sliced strawberries, blueberries, sliced banana or a drizzle of honey
*The above will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned
* Never leave your child unsupervised while eating