Edible, Cookable Play Dough : Wholemeal spiced cookies

It’s school holidays here. It doesn’t affect our little family much except for one thing, the parks are SO much more crowded. Big kids having a wonderful play can be a bit daunting for Adventure Girl and Dash so we tend to avoid our usual haunts and either go to BIG open spaces to ride bikes, the beach, or make more fun at home. We’re making fun at home today with my version of play dough. The cookable, tasty kind that I can bring out at various times during the week for little hands to hold, roll, squish, shape and cut. We then bake them and have the most delicious snacks. The recipe I adapted these from calls for sugar, I leave this out entirely but do add maple syrup in replacement for molasses. Without the egg it’s edible in a raw form and could possibly be made with GF flour, although I haven’t tried this. I should though, Mr Incredible always comes home to a house smelling of cinnamon and ginger and feels quite left out that he can’t share in the treats!

img_5646

Wholemeal Spiced Cookies

Adapted from http://wholesomekids.com.au/spelt-and-chia-ginger-cookies-nut-freeegg-free/

Ingredients

  • 300g wholemeal flour
  • 150g butter
  • 50g maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3tbsp water
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp bicarb soda
  • pinch salt

Method

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a small cup and let sit for 5 minutes to gel.
  2. While this is happening, in a food processor cream butter and maple syrup
  3. Combine all ingredients, including chia gel, in the food processor and mix well till a nice dough ball forms
  4. Cover dough a refrigerate for half an hour to make it easier to handle while rolling.
  5. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  6. Roll dough out to a thickness of roughly 4-5mm and cut desired shapes, transferring onto a baking paper lined tray.
  7. Cook in the oven for 12-15minutes, still should be slightly “cushiony” when ready, and will crisp up as they cool.

Cooking Notes

  • On occasion I’m so focused on cooking with the kids and forget to do step one separately and instead add the flour in the first step… don’t worry if you do this! It will still work out fine 🙂
  • The dough can be portioned out over a few days. Don’t feel like you need to use it all at once, just break off what you want to use for a moment of play and keep the rest chilled until the next day.
  • These are egg free, nut free and can be made to be gluten free.

Not a weeknight family dinner: Ottolenghi’s Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes

You know when things all come together in your pantry and fridge for a recipe you’ve heard of but never made? It’s brilliant. It’s seeing the brisket, the juniper berries, the beer and going… I think I’ve seen a recipe for this! Yesterday, when I purchased some beef brisket that had been “further reduced for quick sale” the inspiration came to make Ottolenghi’s Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes. Before I go any further, I’m a massive fan of this chef… I don’t think I’ve ever made anything of his that hasn’t had at least one person (usually everyone) exclaim with delight. It was enough, on a week that I’ve been struggling with a cold, to decide to make a meal that took 4 hours to cook… yup, you heard me right. Four hours. For a weeknight meal with just our little family of four eating it and leftovers for Mr Incredible’s lunches. Crazy right? Yeah. I hear you. When Adventure Girl refused to even taste it (in her defence she was super tired after a huge day and not having a nap) I was rather miffed. However, Mr Incredible loved it and there’s a big part of me hoping for work colleagues to be very jealous of his lunch today.

When I come to a meal like this I have to ask myself, “was it worth it?”. The truthful answer is no. It wasn’t worth it for last night’s dinner. However, should I have some people around one night it’s definitely on my repeat dinners list. For us as a family though, I should have used that brisket for something else or put it in the freezer for another night. Should you be unfamiliar with Ottolenghi please make yourself acquainted with his recipes! I’ll share more of them in weeks to come as the seasons change but his use of ingredients has changed my cooking dramatically, and, as stated above given delight to many of my friends and family.

Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 tsp Flaky sea salt (if I were making this again I’d cut this down to 2-3 as I found the dish slightly  too salty for my taste)
  • 900g beef brisket, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g baby shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5g picked thyme leaves
  • 500ml pale ale
  • 2 tbsp date syrup (40g)
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 600g small waxy potatoes (desiree or charlotte), peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 10 large pitted prunes (about 100g-worth)
    (finely grated zest of ½ lemon 80g soured cream, to serve: I didn’t use these but did serve with yogurt and a cauliflower and cashew mash)

Method

  1. Put the juniper berries and peppercorns in a spice grinder with four (3) teaspoons of salt. Blitz well, then put in a medium-sized bowl, add the two pieces of brisket and, using your hands, mix well until the beef is well coated, then set aside for an hour.
  2. Heat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 2½. On a medium-high flame, heat a tablespoon of oil in a 26cm-wide casserole or ovenproof saute pan for which you have a lid, then add the brisket pieces and fry for two to three minutes, turning them over halfway, so they brown on both sides, then lift out the beef on to a plate.
  3. Turn down the heat under the pan to medium and add another tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add the whole shallots and fry for five minutes, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, then add the garlic and thyme, and fry for another minute, just to soften. Stir in the ale, date syrup and mustard, return the brisket to the pot and bring to a boil. Pop on the lid, transfer the casserole to the oven and roast for two hours.
  4. After two hours, turn over the brisket pieces, stir in the potatoes and prunes, cover again and return to the oven for another hour, until the brisket is very tender, the potatoes are cooked and the sauce is thick. Take the pot out of the oven and leave the meat to rest for at least 10 minutes.
  5. To serve, cut each piece of meat into four to six chunks (or even shred it into smaller pieces), then divide the stew between four or six shallow bowls. Sprinkle lemon zest on top and serve with a spoonful of soured cream alongside.

Notes:

  • I served this with a cauliflower and cashew mash along with some plain yogurt
  • As noted, I’d decrease the salt in the beef rub as the whole dish was too salty for me (as Heston Blumenthal notes, salt is essential for bringing out the flavour of the dish but as soon as you can taste the salt, you have too much salt!)
  • I have seen a recipe for this adapted for a slow cooker… I might be interested to try that sometime but my previous slow cooker attempts never quite get the sauce right – it’s never reduced enough and the whole dish is compromised – any tips? Please!

Market Day Inspiration: Carrot and Cashew Dip

Each week we visit our amazing local markets. I buy most of our fruit and veg from one of the stalls, and while it’s not organic it’s all chemical free produce. The best thing is that, along with being affordable, it tastes like food should. Carrots taste richer and sweeter, apples are amazing and quite frankly, we’ve never eaten as many mushrooms in our lives. When food is seasonal, picked very recently and sold by the grower (so you can ask questions about how best to cook, store and utilise it) it is at its best.

Last week, I wandered by one of the other stalls and found “juicing carrots” for $2/kilo… not bad for organic carrots that were perfectly edible but just a little odd looking. I bought them for juicing but decided to try something different as Dash’s vegetable intake has recently left much to be desired. As we all eat the same food in our household (except for Mr Incredible’s wheat free) I don’t cook anything special for the kids… Adventure Girl knows she won’t get dessert (yogurt or a gold kiwi-fruit which she loves) if she doesn’t eat all her food but Dash is a lot more choosy as well as being younger – he still gets dessert regardless!  With this in mind I created the following dip, which, I am pleased to report Dash devoured for afternoon tea AND dinner, along with roast pumpkin bites and cauliflower mash with some marinated chicken.

IMG_6304.JPGCarrot and Cashew Dip

An original recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 carrots
  • A handful of cashews
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of cumin
  • A Tbsp Olive Oil

Method

  1. Cut and steam carrots until soft (but don’t over cook)
  2. Blend all ingredients
  3. If too soft add more cashews and if too thick add cooking water or olive oil.

 

Oatcakes : better than rice crackers any day

In our search to cut more wheat out of our lives (while the kids and I can eat it fine, it’s less to buy if we all eat the same thing. And no, I haven’t decided if I want to read Grain Brain!). Sadly, rice crackers have become an all too familiar trade off in our household as we’ve compromised a wheat free diet with accessible snacks. Thankfully, I discovered how easy oatcakes are to make and how delicious they can be, especially when you include the satisfying crunch of seeds in the mixture. As an added bonus, they’re super easy to make and quite fun for the kids to help with… there’s no egg in the dough/batter so sneaky munching of the raw ingredients by Adventure Girl and Dash is ok.

Oatcakes.jpgI’ve been  a fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ever since my mother and I watched The River Cottage on telly before he/it became famous (i.e the late ’90s!). I loved the idea of a smallholding that, with the help of neighbours and surrounding people, can be self-sufficient… I guess it’s community-sufficiency. Grow what you can, swap/sell what you have too much of and all help each other out. A romantic ideal that grabbed me from a young age and still does. Within his book, River Cottage Everyday, this recipe, along with many other gems, is found… true confession though… when Mr Incredible went to eat them today there was only one left! The rest may have been consumed by me even though I really did make them for him 🙂

BILL’S RONA OATCAKES

Ingredients

  • 300gr Oats : 150gr blended to oatmeal and 150gr blended to porridge oats (or 150r of each)
  • 1/2 tsp sea/Himalayan salt
  • A few twists of freshly ground pepper
  • A small handful of seeds (I like pumpkin or sunflower)
  • 75mL extra virgin olive oil
  • 150mL boiling water

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C
  2. Mix all the dried ingredients together in a bowl and make a well in the centre
  3. Pour the oil in the well and stir
  4. Pour in the water to bind it into a firm dough
  5. Work the dough quickly and if too watery add more oatmeal
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and rest it for a couple of minutes
  7. Roll out the dough on a non-stick surface until about 5mm thick.
  8. Cut into rounds and place onto a baking tray
  9. Combine and work the remaining dough to roll it out again and repeat the process until all the dough is gone. Try not to work the dough too much though as the more you handle it the crumblier it will become
  10. Bake for 20min and then turn the cakes over and bake for another 10 minutes.
  11. Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy! (I love to eat these with cheese and pickles)

Cooking notes

  • The oatcakes will keep for a week in an airtight container.

 

 

 

 

Cooking for Kids : The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook

In Australia the recommendation for when babies are to start solids is to start purees at 4 months and solid foods at 6 months. How to do this though can be a minefield, especially for first time parents like us. For some though, when to transition to a full “solid” diet can be the most difficult part. As an example, I was recently involved in a market research group where some of the parents where still feeding their one year olds pureed foods out of “pouches” bought from the supermarket for the majority of meals. For me though, while I started by pushing banana through a sieve and finely processing sweet potato for Adventure Girl, I soon realised that this wasn’t the direction we wanted to take. Simply, and honestly, I was too lazy to do it all myself, didn’t want to use pouches and wondered if there was another way. In my  research for alternatives, I came across the practice of Baby Led Weaning which encourages not feeding your children purees and instead, holding off until your child is 6 months and at that stage introducing solid food. I’m no expert but this has been the best thing for us as a family and this is the direction we’ve taken with Dash as well.

One of the greatest concerns with this form of feeding is choking. The best advice I ever read on this was from Baby Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. It said that the gagging reflex is entirely natural and something a parent doesn’t need to be concerned about. The trick is to know when it’s gagging and when it’s choking. To do this it’s simple: count to three. When your child is eating (yes, you really should be there with them!) if they start to gag/choke count to three, if they’re still doing it after the count of three THEN you intervene (watch this video from St John’s ambulance for more details on what to do if they choke). If they sort it out themselves, good work kid! And good work parent… I reckon it’s more stressful for us sometimes than them – I don’t think I’ll ever stop counting 1..2…3 if I see a child gagging.

9781408807569The premise of baby led weaning is that, from a young age, they and you eat the same things – not adults eating purees but kids getting to eat real food that hasn’t been processed already for them. The book that has helped us the most is The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. The recipes and knowledge within it enabled us to have the confidence to make this step and enjoy it. I’ve loaned it out to a few friends and each of them has gone on to purchase their own copy. It’s a great resource and one of our regularly used cookbooks. I can remember the first time I made the courgette [zucchini] polpettes and how Mr Incredible exclaimed that he couldn’t believe they were in a baby cookbook. The flavour, especially with the lemon zest and garlic, was great. We make them with quinoa rather than breadcrumbs but otherwise leave the recipe as it stands and I include it below as an encouraging “taster” for you to try, especially if you have young kids.

Courgette Polpettes [aka zucchini balls)

River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, by Nikki Duffy

Author notes: These vegetarian ”meatballs” are inspired by a wonderful recipe from Italian food writer Ursula Ferrigno. Her original uses aubergines, but I really like this fresh-tasting zucchini version. You can easily double the quantities but you’ll probably need to cook the zucchini in batches.

Freezer-friendly: freeze the uncooked polpette. Defrost before baking.

For babies: these make nice finger food and will introduce your baby to lots of different flavours.

For grown-ups and older children: try adding a few toasted pine nuts to the mix.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 500g zucchini, finely diced
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 generous tbsp grated parmesan, pecorino or other well-flavoured hard cheese
  • 1/2 ball of buffalo mozzarella (60-70g), diced
  • 50g breadcrumbs or cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Oil a baking tray or line with a non-stick silicone liner.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the zucchini for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Set aside to cool a little, then combine them with all the other ingredients to make a thick, sticky mixture. Season if you like (remember that the cheeses already contain salt).
  3. Take walnut-sized blobs of the mixture and roll into balls. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden.
  4. Serve hot, warm or cold, on their own or with pita bread and a tomato salad or sauce.
  5. Makes about 12.

 

Weekly weeknight dinner: Chicken and Veggie Pasta Bake

We make this meal at least once a fortnight and we’re not board with it yet! The best thing about the meal (as we make it) is that with the additional load of vegetables it makes enough for our family (including leftovers for lunch) as well as a meal to give to another family, or a meal to freeze. I find that cooking on a budget often means boosting the vegetable to meat ratio in most of the recipes I find. Even though we eat organic vegetables, it still works out MUCH cheaper (and healthier) to use more veg than is often specified. As I heard someone say yesterday, meat in meals should be an addition rather than the main ingredient.

The base of the recipe is from Amanda at Foodbefore5, however, as you’ve likely guessed by now, I’ve made a few changes! The main change is that I’ve included a LOAD of veg (again, are you surprised?). Try it – unless you’re a vegetarian you won’t be disappointed… but if you are a vegetarian, i reckon it would work without the chicken and bacon too!

Ingredients

  • 500g packet dried pasta
  • 500g chicken thigh (if you get your chicken from a butcher, ask them to dice it for you – it saves so much effort and makes the meal able to be easily prepared with a wee one at your side!)
  • 100g bacon – chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic – finely diced
  • 600ml cream
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste (salt free)
  • 50 gr semi-dried tomatoes – diced (more if you like – I just ask for a small scoop from the deli so there’s no wastage, or I make my own if tomatoes are in season)
  • 50 gr olives (more if you like,  I just ask for a small scoop from the deli so there’s no wastage)
  • 1/2 cup cheese – grated (plus extra for topping)
  • 1 broccoli – finely chopped including most of the stalk
  • 2 zucchinis – chopped
  • 3 flat mushrooms – chopped
  • 1 bunch silver beet – chopped (Kale, spinach or beetroot leaves can also be used)

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to packet directions
  2. While pasta is cooking, fry chicken, bacon & garlic in a frypan over high heat until chicken is cooked through
  3. While chicken mix is cooking, in a large bowl whisk together cream and tomato paste.
  4. Add chopped veg, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and 1/2 cup of cheese to the cream mixture and combine
  5. Add cooked chicken mixture (minus the oil – I use a slotted spoon to only get the bits I want)
  6. Drain the pasta and line the bottom of the dish you want to use with the pasta (as the meal makes quite a lot, I use about half the pasta for a standard casserole dish)
  7. Add the proportionate amount of the food in the bowl (i.e. if you used half the pasta use half the mixture)
  8. Mix that together in the casserole dish (if you have an enormous bowl you can mix it with the pasta before putting them all in together, I find though that this is much less messy)
  9. Once combined, top your pasta bake with cheese
  10. Either cover and refrigerate until required or cook immediately. If cooking immediately, cook for 20 minutes covered and a further 10 minutes uncovered. If cooking from having been refrigerated, cook for 30 minutes covered and then a further 10 minutes uncovered.
  11. With the remaining food, make up another pasta bake for friends or else pop it in a freezer bag (combining the pasta and mixture) and freeze for up to three months.

Flavour Gold: marinated stir-fry chicken with vegetables

I was searching the www for some new recipes and came along this one from Slender Kitchen. It’s for a slow cooked honey garlic chicken that I looked at and thought “elements of that would make a really nice marinade for a stir-fry”… so, I made a few changes and it appeared on our plates this evening in its updated form. The “flavour gold” title was given by Mr Incredible after his first taste… high praise as he’s not backward about being forward when the flavours aren’t to his taste! When probed for his reasons behind the name he said that “it was all there, sweet, salty, a bit of spice – YUM”. Adventure Girl also loved the meal – a bit of a treat for her as I wouldn’t usually give her something this high in salt (the tamari/soy is quite salty). Additionally, it’s not friendly for children under 1 due to the honey.

This fed two hungry adults plus a child and had enough left over for another meal to go in the freezer.  

Ingredients

  • 500 grams chicken (I used sliced organic chicken breast)
  • 4 finely diced garlic cloves
  • 2cm finely diced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup tamari (or light soy sauce, however, I prefer tamari though due to the lower salt content)
  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes (add more according to taste)
  • 2-3 cups of vegetables of preference (I used a frozen organic stir-fry mix with some added veg as it had been a long day)

Method

  1. Place all ingredients excepting vegetables and chicken in a medium sized bowl. Whisk these together and when combined add the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (I prepared this earlier in the day and had it sitting in the fridge for 4 hours until it was time for dinner)
  2. Prepare vegetables (i.e. defrost or wash and cut ready for cooking)
  3. Heat a wok / frying pan and add 2 tsp of coconut oil.
  4. Stir fry chicken and marinade (the sauce will thicken with the cooking)
  5. When the chicken is mostly cooked, add the prepared vegetables
  6. Enjoy!

Serve with rice / quinoa / cous cous.