Gluten Free Breakfasts on the go: Nigella’s Breakfast Bars

Mr Incredible, while being incredible in many ways is NOT incredibly good at getting out the door quickly in the morning.Since he was diagnosed as being allergic to wheat, this daily process has become harder. In my search to find an easy breakfast for him I chanced on this breakfast bar recipe by Nigella Lawson and I’m glad to say he loves it. Personally, I love it as it’s easily adaptable for whatever ingredients you have on hand – you don’t need to stick to Nigella’s recipe. Below, I’ve adapted it but you can see her original recipe here. I’m sure there’s a healthier alternative to condensed milk that you could use to bind this, but, as Mr Incredible likes it the way it is I’m not messing with what works (this time)!

img_6328

Breakfast Bars

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Ingredients

  • 1 can (395mL) condensed milk
  • 250 grams rolled oats (not instant)
  • 425 grams of mixed dry ingredients (I use a blend of almonds, cashews, shredded coconut, chia seeds, sultanas, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds and walnuts).

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 130 deg Celsius and line a roasting tray with baking paper
  2. Warm the condensed milk in a saucepan on the stove
  3. While that’s happening, mix all the dry ingredients
  4. When the condensed milk is thinner, pour it over the dry ingredients and mix (with your hands or a fork)
  5. Spread the mix into your prepared tray and press down with a spatula (or your hands)
  6. Bake for 1 hour and cut into 16 bars (4 cuts in each direction) and store in an airtight tin

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.

 

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.

 

Finally, a gluten free bread we can make at home

Almond and Chia BreadPrevious to Mr Incredible being diagnosed with a wheat allergy we made all our bread at home. We often still do for the kids and I but I lost a lot of drive to do this after diagnoses. Firstly, he couldn’t eat it and he ate a lot of it. Secondly, for those who love bread, the smell of a good loaf baking that you can’t eat can be classified as torture. Instead, we’ve been purchasing Ancient Grain’s Oat or Breakfast breads, really great alternatives for the wheat free (no additives, wheat free, tastes great and good textures) but expensive… really expensive (between $8-10 a loaf and as I said, Mr Incredible loves his bread).

I’ve been looking everywhere for a good loaf recipe but have been turned off by xantham gum and quinoa/coconut flour loaves that didn’t resemble the cravings of my hubby’s dreams. In fact, when I told Mr Incredible that I’d found a great recipe his first comment was “it’s not with quinoa flour is it?”. Thankfully, it wasn’t and finally, thank God, we’ve discovered this loaf (huzzah for amazing social media pages!). Not only is it easy to make, has ingredients we stock in our pantry already and tastes great (none of the awful texture in most GF breads), it’s also highly adaptable. Here come home made Olive and Rosemary or Fig and Walnut or Fruit loaves! Oh, and the only “kitchen equipment” you need is a bowl, a whisk, measuring implements and an oven… awesome.

Almond and Chia Bread

By Tania Hubbard of www.glutenfreegrainfree.com.au

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (soaked in 30 mL of water)
  • 30mL water (this is used to soak the chia seeds (do this whilst preparing the dry mix))
  • 3/4 cups arrowroot or tapioca (remember to sift this to remove any lumps)
  • 1 teaspoon bi-carb (baking soda) (sifted with the starch to remove any lumps)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or use lemon juice if you cannot have vinegar)
  • 3 eggs (usually no larger than 60 gram eggs)
  • pinch salt

Method

  1. preheat oven to 175C
  2. soak chia seeds in water whilst preparing the dry mix in a bowl. Stir to make sure the seeds are in the water
  3. sift arrowroot and bi-carb (baking soda) into bowl
  4. add almond meal and salt and mix well
  5. use a whisk to combine the dry ingredients to help break up lumps and distribute ingredients evenly
  6. add eggs, soaked chia seeds and apple cider vinegar
  7. combine everything well until there are no lumps (about 1 minute of whisking)
  8. don’t be tempted to add any liquid – this mix is meant to be thick
  9. pour mix into a baking tin lined with non-stick baking paper or a silicon bread mold lightly oiled with olive oil
  10. bake for 25-30 minutes until the bread is firm (single loaf) to the touch and bounces back when lightly pressed and a skewer comes out clean. The top will be golden in colour and firm to the touch.
  11. Remove bread from the oven and turn out onto a cooking rack.
  12. Adjust cooking time to 45-50 minutes if cooking a double mix (larger loaf)

COOKING NOTES:

  • This is a small loaf – a single mix – it won’t rise and rise like traditional bread so you need to use a small baking mold to “force” the rise – I purchased a single size loaf tin once I was happy with the recipe but previous to that used a pyrex dish lined with baking paper. If you don’t the bread won’t rise very well. You’ll end up with more of a focaccia loaf… which might be nice for a change anyway!
  • BIG LOAF: you will need to double the mix and bake in a loaf tin or 20 cm or smaller cake tin (lined with non stick baking paper)
  • Missing buns and rolls? Make the recipe in a muffin tin for individual GF buns.

For more information, check out the recipe on Tania’s page and read the comments for information on freezing etc: http://www.glutenfreegrainfree.com.au/gluten-free-almond-chia-seed-bread/

Kickstarting

IMG_0040_2Can I be honest with you? Of course I can… let’s face it, if you don’t want my honesty you won’t keep reading! The past three days have been exhausting. Adventure Girl, now three* has been quite ill: Fevers, not eating, not drinking. My usually great eater has cumulatively over these days only eaten a small handful of food. As such, I’ve found myself in the kitchen for 2-3hrs each day trying to create nutritious food to tempt her stomach and heal her body. At the same time, since we’ve just gotten home from a week away, I’ve found the creative energy to consider our food options more closely and try out a few things. I’m exhausted, she’s starting to get better and I’ve made a loaf of bread for my GP… all in a week’s work really!

All of this to say, I’m kick starting this blog with the following aims:

  1. To remind myself of the adventures we have, the memories we create and the food we eat. In sharing these I hope to make people envious encourage people that memories are more important than money, that you don’t have to put life on the back burner once you have kids and highlight some awesome locations in our area
  2. To inspire myself (and possibly others) to eat well and consider that what we consume has huge implications upon our lives. As a friend recently shared on social media “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison”. For me, and this blog, at the moment this means wholefoods but also looking to understand and learn from other people’s journeys and choices.
  3. To have a place to vent my rants and give my reflections/opinions – a safety valve if you will
  4. To have fun and give myself a creative outlet: something others might enjoy taking part in.

Thanks friends who have encouraged me to write again – I hope I don’t bore you to tears xx

*Since I last posted quite a lot has happened in our lives! Bump #2 aka Dash has been born and my husband has also been diagnosed with a wheat allergy, a small change with significant implications.

Parenting success: stopping a tantrum

I’m sure we all know the feeling of eyeing off a child who is building up to a full blown tantrum in a check-out line… today that child was mine and I was the parent feeling edgy due to the eyes on me, silently saying “aren’t you going to do anything?!?”. I don’t blame Adventure Girl at all – what kid wants to be in a long line, stuck in their pram and with little stimulation? She certainly doesn’t and to be honest, it’s not my favourite place either. Today though we had a parenting success, proved by the completely different looks people gave me/her as we walked out the shops 10 minutes later. The success I wholly attribute to a seminar we attended last week run by clinical psychologist Colleen Hirst from Marylands Counselling. The seminar, Raising Children, gave those that attended practical take-home ideas to implement and in less than a week we’ve noticed a difference in our ability to communicate with our 15 month old.

So what did Colleen encourage us to do? Look our child in the eyes and talk to them. Sounds really simple right? It is and I feel daft for not doing so as much before! Instead of just giving Adventure Girl something to distract her as I would have done before, I got down on her level next to the pram, looked her in the eyes, explained we couldn’t move but that she could play with the paper I was giving her… and it worked! She happily played with that piece of paper for the next ten minutes while we were in the line! When we got out of the shops, once again, I knelt down next to her pram, looked her in the eyes and thanked her. As Colleen said, the praise to disapproval ratio in our language should be 5:1 (i.e. we praise them 5 times more than we pick them up on things). While many other things were mentioned in the Raising Children seminar, this is just one small example of something working after an intentional time of reflecting on our parenting, and boy am I thankful for it!

It reminded me of how much we  need to be intentional in our parenting. Taking time to be trained in skills by people who know what they’re on about and who care enough to teach you in a manner you can learn from. Thank you Colleen!

 

* please note: Adventure Girl doesn’t have developmental delays / special needs. This post is from that view point and I apologise for any unintended offence caused to parents of those with special needs. I do understand that those with special needs have… special needs and as such, tantrums/regulation activities etc are much, much harder to deal with. No judgement to these parents at all – quite the opposite in fact: deep respect and admiration.

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.