Wednesday, 23 April 2014

NO JUNK - Yogurt Topped Raspberry Flapjack #nojunk

Next week Organix is launching the No Junk Campaign.

This is a good campaign. 

It's an important campaign.

You should get involved.

It's all about good food for children - and who doesn't agree with that? Last year Organix worked with The Soil Association on the Out to Lunch campaign which took restaurant chains to task about junk on their kids menu. And this No Junk campaign is another rung on the ladder towards better food for kids.

What you do is this: you pledge to feed your family real food for a week. Real food that contains ingredients like 'tomatoes' instead of polymonoglockenspieldioxide*. The idea is, you read the label before you buy something and if it's got waccy sounding stuff in it, you ditch it. 

It's blindingly obvious why this is a good idea for your family, but what is perhaps less obvious is that signing this pledge is a powerful thing to do. Why? Because the plan is to start a food revolution. Organix is calling for the government and the food industry to do their part too and it will be helpful to point out how many parents feel strongly about this. We want tough controls on salt, fat, sugar and artificial additives. We are all starting to realise the stuff that has somehow become the norm in kids food and I think I'm right in thinking, that parents have had enough.

So, I’m right behind the campaign and will posting more about it next week, including some easy, easy no junk recipes. I've already taken the Organix #nojunk pledge and thought I'd kick things off with this spirit lifting recipe - Yogurt Topped Raspberry Flapjack. A nice little reminder that things don't need to be full of crap to be good.

And also a reminder that healthy food can be EASY. As I like to say, it's about convenient food not convenience foods...

So, this tasty little number is not junky because:

  • It’s not got much sugar in it. Just a teaspoon in the topping and then honey in the flapjack. About a ton less than most shop-bought flapjacks...
  • It’s got fruit in it. Fruit = good.
  • It’s got nice, slow-release energy oats too.

But, you might actually bother to make these because:
  •  It’s very quick to make – just mixing, baking and a little smearing. We made during the 'grumpy hour' after school - that's how untaxing it is.
  •  It uses  frozen raspberries, meaning it’s okay to be eating raspberries in April and that you don’t have to have fresh ones in. 
  • The kids can make it.
Here's Alex and Emma (sort of) telling you how to make it, proper recipe below if this isn't crystal clear...

Yogurt Topped Raspberry Flapjacks 

1. Mix together 300g oats with 150g very soft butter and 100g honey.
2. Press half the mixture into a square cake tin (which you’ve lined roughly with greaseproof).
3. Crumble over a handful of frozen raspberries and then cover with the over half of the oat mix.
4. Bake for 20-25 mins at 180 degrees.
5. When it’s cool-ish top with about 150g of thick Greek yoghurt (I used 0% fat) with a tsp. of icing sugar stirred through it.

This is a commissioned blog post, full of things I fully support and think.

* I may have made up polymonoglockenspieldioxide...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Easter Bunny Salad

I have a memory of this salad from a children's cookery book we had, not sure if I ever actually made it, but I always wanted to. It is, of course, totally one of those recipes where the idea is better than the dish. Yeah, a pear half kind of resembles a fat assed bunny, but the almond ears and raisin eyes are always going to be a bit crap. Still, Em loved it and was utterly convinced that it looked like a rabbit in a garden (you got that, right? It's a rabbit in a garden.)

Taste wise it's not bad, Em had the idea of using grated parmesan to make the bunny fluffy, so there is a bit of deliciousness in there. You don't need a dressing, just mix in those yoghurty, parmesan-y cotton tails.

Excuse the vacant stare in the photo, she's actually VERY proud.

Here's a video how-to by Emma.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Do not fear 7 a day!

Apparently 5 a day is not enough. That’s what I heard on the news yesterday morning. It was April Fool’s Day, but still, I’m pretty sure this isn’t a joke.

I know many people, maybe parents in particular, might be letting out a groan as the advice suddenly jumps from 5 a day to 7 a day. But do not fear. For one thing, the government is apparently sticking to its ‘5 a day’ advice, maybe they’ve just had loads of posters printed or something. They say it is ‘sufficient’. However, if you fancy doing more than just being ‘sufficient’ in your diet, then go for the 7. It’s okay, it’s not going to be that hard.

Really, we should be eating more fruit and veg than anything else shouldn’t we, and we know it too. There’s that famous quote from Michael Pollan; ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ And that seems to be a lot more helpful than a trying to stick to a number. I’m not really sure I need all the stats and facts about cancer and heart disease either, I’m pretty sure that I just know it’s a good plan.

The BBC’s news story on this says, and this really is a quote: ‘Fruit juice conferred no benefit, while canned fruit appeared to increase the risk of death’ - perhaps this is an April fools story after all… And again, this seems to be a bit obvious doesn’t it? Not the death bit, that’s weird, but a fresh pear has just got to be better for you than a tinned one and I say this as someone who has absolutely no intention of giving up tinned pears. Ever. I love them.
So, do not panic. Be calm and eat more fruit and veg. There are lots of ways. Insert it into meals where it’s missing, like fruit with breakfast, replace a few biscuit snacks with a banana, or mush one in toast if you haven’t done that in a while, it’s all good. The current government advice says you can include frozen veg too, and dried fruit and pure juice. So, buy nibbling a few dried apricots and sinking a glass of OJ, you’ll hit 7.

You could think about getting a lovely organic fruit or veg box too. There are lots of great ones available and they nearly all come with recipe suggestion cards. You could switch a few meaty meals to veggies ones too if you’re a meat eater. You could grate a carrot into your pasta sauce or throw in a lump of frozen spinach. Grill a tomato to have alongside your steak – there are very few meals that aren’t made better by a bit more veg.

So there we go, no stress, just more veg or fruit additions to your day and you’re there... What two things could you do to make your 5 up to 7?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Easter Nest Cupcakes

These are painfully simple. Just vanilla cupcakes with a bit hollowed out, then iced with melted chocolate and sprinkles, then egg-ify the hollows and there you have it - an Easter cakey treat thing that isn't totally vile. Enjoy!


If you need a recipe, use this one:

125g caster sugar, butter/marg
250g self raising flour
2 eggs
4 tbsp plain yoghurt
Vanilla seeds or essence

  1. Mix everything together - I just give it a good beating with a wooden spoon
  2. Blob into cake cases and bake for about 12 mins at 180 degrees
I only used a scant tablespoon of mix in each case, because I wanted the cake level with the case. This meant I made 12 cakes, but had leftover mix to bake in a bigger tin - or just make more cakes.

For the topping, use the cheapest, crappest chocolate you can find because that's the stuff that melts best. You could even use 'cake covering'. 

Add a few mini eggs and scoff the rest yourself. LOVE mini eggs.

Smoked Haddock with Sweetcorn & Paprika

I found these packs of smoked haddock in Aldi - they are £2.50ish each and are MSC certified. That's pretty ace, isn't it?

So, here's a nice, easy way to cook smoked haddock. I used one pack (250g) because it was just me and the kids, but the quantities of sauce below would be better with two packs or up to 500g of fish.

Smoked Haddock with Sweetcorn & Paprika

  1. Slice one onion and one clove of garlic and fry in olive oil until just browning a little.
  2. Add a teaspoon of fennel seed and a small teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika. Then chuck in a tin of chopped tomatoes and half a tin of water.
  3. Add the haddock (I took the skin off) and some sweetcorn from a tin or the freezer, bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 mins.
  4. Serve with brown rice.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Broccoli and Smoked Salmon potato topping

 Adding smoked salmon to anything automatically makes it delicious. Probably why it's so expensive - guaranteed deliciousness. Also means children will devour it with a fervour that suggests they are trying to break you financially. It also means you can add it to something as mundane as steamed broccoli and cheese sauce and its tastiness infuses the whole thing  and the bairns wolf it down without a moments veg-pause. Just saying...


Monday, 3 March 2014

The Insanity of Snacking

The insanity of snacking

What is it about the after-school snack? Every day at pick-up time I watch parents press pre-packaged goodies into outstretched hands before hellos have been exchanged. Biscuits, bars, brioches; honestly, lots and lots of brioche. 

This is not as much of a judgment as it sounds. I might not bring the biscuits to school with me, believing as I do, that my children can probably make it up the hill before collapsing with hunger. But once we’re home, more often than not I reach for the malted milks. Administering a snack to post-school children can feel like a medical emergency. A few wilted cucumber sticks simply isn't going to cut it.  Get some calories in them quick before something terrible happens and they get hungry.

But, surely we’re getting this a bit wrong. What if we do let the kids get a bit hungry? What would happen then? The major risk is a serious condition my friend calls being ‘hangry’ and the symptoms are irrationality, bad behavior, despair and then rage. The only cure is food, but the recovery is pretty immediate. So, snacking can ward off the dreaded ‘hanger’, but it is fine balance and I can’t help feeling we might be tipping the scales in the wrong direction. Tipping towards a situation where children are protected from feeling even the slightest pang of hunger.

Why do we give kids snacks anyway? Just to play devil's advocate for a moment, to we really need them?  I had a chat with a mummy the other day, who said, ‘I give them these snacks after school and then I wonder why they won’t eat their tea.  Crazy, isn’t it?’ So, what are the options here? No snacks and a good dinner with a dose of grumpy hunger? Or a cheerful, snack-filled child followed by dinner rejection?

There has got to be a middle ground. What I tend to do if I’m worried my snack allocation has reached dinner-damaging proportions is to do a mental scale-up. I look at what I’m offering as a snack and picture it scaled it up to my size. I’m about three times the size of my daughter, so I figure her eating three malted milks is like me eating nine and then expecting myself to want dinner two hours later. There’s no scientific basis for this little exercise whatsoever, but it does make you think. My child eating a mini-roll is a bit like me eating a whole Swiss roll. Not saying I couldn’t do it; but I’m not going to want my spag bol afterwards. Most ‘snack sized’ food is actually epic when scaled up this way; in fact I’d like to do a photoshoot with adults posing with giant snack foods to illustrate the point.

So, to snack or not to snack? Do we cut out the snacking completely, and ride the wave of stroppiness all the way to dinner? Or do we stuff them full and resort to cajoling, bribing and threatening to get the tea down too? Or, maybe, there’s just something to be said for a small banana, a glass of milk and a good bit of hunger left over for dinner; after all, there are few things as satisfying as seeing a child fall upon their dinner with gusto.

How do you do snacking in your house?