Easy, fudgy chocolate biscuits with gluten and dairy free options

Easy, Fudgy Chocolate Biscuits with Gluten & Dairy Free Options

Easy, Fudgy Chocolate Biscuits with Gluten & Dairy Free OptionsI have this lovely friend, Kerryn, who also happens to be a wonderful cook. She always bakes for the school’s cake stalls, and her stuff always sells out first. I’ve been buying her chocolate biscuits from school fundraisers for years, and they’re always delicious. Now Kerryn is not just a fabulous cook, she’s a very generous one. When I asked for the recipe, she not only wrote it out for me, but accompanied it with another batch of biscuits. What a sweetheart!

This recipe works just as well with gluten free flour as it does with normal flour, and you can substitute a dairy free alternative for the butter. I’m not gluten free or dairy free, and neither is anyone in my family, but these are the best chocolate biscuits I’ve ever tasted. They’re fudgy and densely chocolatey and they’re just as good after a fancy dinner with coffee as they are for a school lunchbox treat.

This is such a simple recipe that older children can make it by themselves. Younger children can help out by rolling the dough into balls. Try making a batch. I have no doubts that you’ll love them, and I’m pretty sure that these will be making an appearance at your school cake stalls next year!

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Do you have a favourite cake stall recipe? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Strawberry Coconut Jelly Treats

Strawberry Coconut Jelly Treats

Strawberry Coconut Jelly Treats

Gummy bears are one of those lollies that I won’t let the kids eat (here’s why). And yet I secretly love them myself. I love the chewy texture when you bite into those little guys, but I won’t eat them because they’re so full of crap.

I happened to be cruising the web a while ago, probably looking for something completely different, when I came across a recipe for home made gummies, and thought – I have got to try that. So I did, and the first couple of tries were disastrous (think runny orange jelly). But I kept trying, and eventually came up with the coconut strawberry version that I’m sharing here.

The best part about this recipe for me is that I’ve been trying to add gelatin to my diet for a while, but I just couldn’t seem to get to grips with it. I tried mixing it with juice and smoothies, drinking it with water, and adding it to soups and stews. The last one was most successful, but it’s hard to eat enough soups and stews to get much gelatin into your diet.

These jelly treats are easy (too easy!) to eat, they’re super yummy, my kids love them, and they’re pretty easy to make.

The strawberry coconut jelly treats are ideal if you’re following the Paleo diet. And they’re also great if you’re like me, just trying to find treats for your kids that aren’t full of crap.

The jelly squares come out pretty solid, so they won’t melt in a lunchbox, which makes them a perfect treat for school. They’re also great for a kids party, because you can make them ahead of time.

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I happen to love coconut cream, which is why I’ve done two flavour layers, but you can do just the one.

I use coconut cream because it’s easier to find coconut cream that’s 100% pure. I find that coconut milk tends to have additives, and I don’t want that. If you do use coconut cream, thin it with a little milk as it makes it much easier to work with. If you’re using coconut milk, you don’t need to add water. Just increase the amount of coconut milk to around 375mls.

This recipe also works really well with mango, and if I ever see a bag of passionfruit that I don’t have to remortgage my house for I’ll be adding them to the mango mix, too.

They’ll keep for up to two weeks in the fridge, or pop them into the freezer to keep for up to 3 months.

What’s your favourite homemade treat? Share below!
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Middle Eastern Lentil Soup

Middle Eastern Lentil Soup - from your store cupboard!

Middle Eastern Lentil Soup - from your store cupboard!

Soup is my go-to comfort food in the cooler months. I can’t live without it. Normally I make ‘leftover’ soup, which is whatever vegetables are leftover in the bottom of the fridge at the end of the week. But sometimes I actually follow a recipe, or at least try to recreate one.

Way back in my early twenties, I backpacked through the Middle East. I remember eating heaps of lovely lentils and beans – they were cheap and super delicious. Back then I wasn’t much of a cook, so the thought of making some of these dishes at home never occurred to me.

Then one day late last year, I was stuck in Abu Dhabi airport waiting for an onward flight, and I wanted to eat something that was healthy and real and wholesome. So when I spotted lentil soup on the breakfast menu (yes, really!) I couldn’t wait to try it again.

I wasn’t disappointed. It’s tasty, it’s wholesome and filling, and yet it’s fresh, too. And the best thing about it is that it’s so easy to make, and you’ve probably got all the ingredients in your pantry.

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You can easily adjust this for baby or toddler, too. Make sure that you’re only using a homemade stock that’s low in salt, and leave out the tumeric and cumin until after about 9 months. Introduce spices one at a time, just like you would with any other food.

Another thing I love about this recipe is that it keeps really well in the freezer. So make up a big batch, divide it into portions, and freeze.

What’s your go to winter soup?

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Easy Homemade Crackers

Oh So Simple Homemade Crackers

Oh So Simple Homemade Crackers

My youngest loves crackers. LOVES them. He’ll eat half a box of Vitawheats in a sitting. No dip, no cheese, no topping – just crackers. You could say he’s ‘crackers’ about them.

In fact, it was one of the things he was worried about when we decided to go supermarket free for three months. Today was the day he ran out of crackers, so I’ve been on a baking marathon this afternoon.

I must admit that I wondered if homemade crackers would be more trouble than they’re worth. But it turns out crackers are pretty easy, and they’re so much yummier than shop bought ones. Cracker dough is basically flour and water, and you can add a bit of fat for flavour and to bind them together. I wanted to add some seeds for fibre and nutrients, and also to make them a bit more interesting. You can mix them up with different seeds like sesame and poppy, and you can add spices like cumin, rosemary, or parmesan and oregano. Simple!

Needless to say, after making a few different batches of crackers this afternoon, I am the ‘best mum ever’ according to the young bloke.

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These yummy homemade crackers would be great for toddlers, too. Leave out the salt, and choose seeds and spices that your little one likes. Your toddler could even help you cut out crackers shapes using a biscuit cutter. Serve with a healthy homemade dip for a great snack.

Have you ever tried making homemade crackers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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No Bake Oaty Seedy Energy Bars

No Bake Oaty Seedy Energy Bar Recipe

No Bake Oaty Seedy Energy Bar Recipe

You know the feeling when you’re about to pick the kids up from school and run them somewhere else, you know they’re going to be starving but you don’t want to spoil their dinner. Grab one of these more-ish oaty seedy energy bars, add a piece of fruit and the kids will be good for another few hours!

They’re no bake, so they’re really simple, and you can keep them in the freezer for ages. There’s no nuts, so they’re good for school, but there’s lots of seeds so they’re really nutritious.

There’s a little bit of sweet, but not too much. I’m so happy with these that I’ll let my kids have these as a ‘rushing out the door without breakfast’ breakfast. Add a pre-cooked and cooled boiled egg, and you’re good to go.

My lovely friend Kerryn gave me the original recipe for these, but I couldn’t help tweaking it just a little. I’ve drastically cut the sweetness (the original recipe called for 175g of honey), and if you don’t have the exact ingredients, it’s easy to swap things around.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g rolled oats
  • 60g sesame seeds
  • 60g pepitas
  • 60g sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flax seeds
  • 60g shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 60g butter
  • 65g coconut oil
  • 60g honey or brown rice syrup (you can add more if you want, but even my kids think this amount is sweet enough!)
  • You can also add dried fruit or cacao nibs, nuts or swap the seeds around if you have a preference or allergies.

Directions:

Combine the butter, coconut oil, cinnamon and honey (or rice syrup) in a saucepan and heat gently until they’re melted and combined. Switch off the heat, and leave this while you do the next step.

An optional, but delicious step here is to toast the oats, seeds and coconut in a dry frying pan for a few minutes. Stir continuously, and take them off the heat when they start to brown. Trust me when I say that you need to keep your eye on them! They seem to go from nothing to burnt in no time at all.

Split the oats and seeds mix in half. Put half into a big mixing bowl, and the other half into a food processor. You want whole bits for texture and crunch, but I’ve found that giving the other half a quick blitz seems to hold the whole mixture together much better and it’s nowhere near as crumbly as leaving everything whole. Just blitz for a few seconds, then tip them into the mixing bowl to join the whole oats and seeds.

Take your warm honey mix and pour it over the top of the oats and seeds. Mix everything together until it’s combined, and all the oats and seeds are coated with the honey mix.

Empty the whole mixture into a slice tin that you’ve line with baking paper, or a silicone slice tin (which I find much easier). Use the back of a silicone spatula and press the whole mixture down firmly into the corners of the tin.

Stick it in the freezer for half an hour until it’s set. I like to leave mine until it’s quite hard, and then it’s easy to slice into squares. Pack them into a container and stick them back in the fridge or freezer to keep. I think they’d probably keep for months in the freezer, but ours have never lasted that long!

 

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Super Foods for Baby’s First Foods

Superfoods for Baby's First Foods

Superfoods for Baby's First Foods

Baby’s first foods don’t have to consist of baby rice and stewed fruits. There are lots of delicious ‘super’ foods that you can introduce to your baby early on, that are packed full of nutrients. The nutrients that are often left behind when weaning are protein, zinc, iron and B-vitamins. Supplementing breast milk with a variety of nutrient rich super foods while baby is weaning will give your baby the very best start to life.

Go with organic, fresh foods that you prepare at home and introduce new foods one at a time to make sure that your baby doesn’t have any issues. If you have any doubts, speak to your doctor or child health nurse.

Avocado

So easy to prepare, you can just take a whole avocado when you’re going out for the day and mash and feed baby on the go! Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats for healthy brain development and can be sweetened with a little mashed banana if your little one needs encouragement. Don’t be afraid of fats as your baby’s first food – after all, mother’s milk is largely fats, most of which is saturated fat. Fats give energy; help to build muscle and bone.

Meat

Speaking of fats, animal fats provide vitamins A and D necessary for protein and mineral assimilation, normal growth and hormone production. Including meat in your baby’s diet will help them to get valuable iron and zinc, which aren’t available through breast milk alone.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious vegetables available, high in vitamins A and C, able to be pureed into a creamy texture with a sweet flavour that appeals to babies.

Eggs

Don’t be afraid of eggs from 6 months onwards, unless you have a family history of allergies. Eggs are packed with protein, zinc, vitamins A, D, E, B12 and choline, crucial for brain health and development.

Carrots

Carrots cooked well and mashed are high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, converting to vitamin A and supporting healthy vision.

Fish

Fish such as salmon and fish oils like cod liver oil is a valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids for brain development.

Blueberries

Blueberries are extremely high in antioxidants, more than any other fruit, making them a true super food. They’re full of fibre, and vitamins A and C. And they taste delicious!

Peas

Peas have lots of Vitamin K, which helps to build strong bones. They’re also chock full of vitamins A and C, folic acid and B vitamins. They’re high in fibre, too. But the best thing about peas is that they make everything a gorgeous shade of green!

Beans and lentils

Packed with protein, fibre and B vitamins, they’re a cheap, nutritious and filling addition to soups and stews. Use dried beans and cook them yourself to ensure they’re not too high in salt for baby.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a great source of vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and fibre. No wonder your parents told you to eat your broccoli! Steaming, rather than boiling, broccoli helps retain more of it’s nutrional benefits.

Spinach

Rich in iron and folate, spinach and other leafy greens are great for babies, especially as their iron levels start to diminish around 4-6 months. Spinach can have high levels of nitrites, so this is an important one to buy organic.

Foods with stronger flavours, like broccoli and spinach can be cooked and pureed or mashed with other foods such as carrots or sweet potato to get baby used to the flavours.

Further reading:

Better Health

WA Health

Image credit: Carrie Stephens via Flickr

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How to make your own chai tea

How to make your own chai
How to make your own chai

I have to admit it – I’m obsessed with Chai at the moment. I was never a fan, but then a friend took me to a Chai tent where they made their own chai rather than using pre-made teabags. I’ve had teabag chai before, and I wasn’t impressed. It tasted dusty and stale and generally blurgh. However, to the Chai Tent – the day was cold and grey and wet, and it really felt like winter was on the way. A perfect day for a hot cup of chai.

So I had a cup, and it was delicious. Spicy and warming. I was instantly smitten, and decided I’d work out how to make it when I got home.

We cook a lot of Indian at home, so I was pretty sure we’d have all the ingredients.

Sure enough, we did. Now I know that not everyone will have these just sitting around, but it’s very easy to buy them in the supermarket these days.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 3-5 black peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 thick slices fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of tea leaves, or 3 teabags

Crush all the ingredients except the tea, in a mortar and pestle to release the flavours. Bring 1 litre of water to the boil in a saucepan, then pop in all the crushed ingredients. Boil for around ten minutes, then add the tea and boil for a further couple of minutes.

At this stage you can add 250mls of milk if you’d like, then bring everything to boil. I prefer not to do this as you get a skin on the chai (especially with full fat milk).

Pour the chai into a cup through a strainer, add warm milk if you want, and voila! You have deliciously spicy, warming homemade chai.

You can keep any leftover chai and warm it up later, or I’ve found that it goes brilliantly in a flask for later in the day.

Enjoy!

 

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Cauliflower Soup – for baby and for adults!

Soupe a la choufleur (sounds posher than Cauliflower Soup!)

 

We have just got a lovely new greengrocers at the bottom of our road, which I am very excited about. I’ve been known to get quite worked up about the quality of fruit and veg at our local supermarket (which I try not to shop at anyway, being rather a fan of supporting independents). Popped in yesterday to the new fruit and veg shop to check it out, and I was pleasantly surprised. Lots of lovely fresh veg awaited me, so I bought a few items to check it out.

I bought a creamy white head of cauliflower that was too good to resist. We’ve already had cauliflower cheese this week (it’s my youngest son’s favourite dinner) and I didn’t want to eat that again so soon. As it’s a cool day in Melbourne here today, I whipped up a cauliflower soup that could easily start life as a puree for baby, and be extended to make a delicious soup for mum, dad and older siblings.

I had no cream, and didn’t want to have to add chicken stock or even powdered vegetable stock, which was all I had in the house. I made French onion soup during the week for a friend of mine who is vegetarian, and I decided to do something similar with the cauliflower soup. I didn’t thicken it with flour as I usually do for onion soup, but I decided to puree it for a deliciously creamy soup. Here’s the result.

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped

1 head cauliflower, in smallish pieces

2 tbsp butter

salt and pepper

Gently soften the onions in the butter. Don’t brown them, just soften them for about 15 minutes. Add the chopped cauliflower and half a cup of water to the saucepan, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook for 20 minutes on medium low. After twenty minutes, blitz to a puree for baby.

To turn this into an adult soup, simply add two more cups of water and salt and pepper to taste and you have cauliflower soup!

You can easily add extra flavours to this by crumbling some blue cheese over the top when you serve it, or some anchovy fried breadcrumbs for crunch, or even just a sprinkling of grated parmesan.

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The One Cup Cake

The One Cup Cake

The One Cup Cake

A while ago, my lovely mum came to stay. When she left, I discovered that she had made and frozen this cake for us. It was all sliced up, so we could just grab a piece and defrost it to have with a cup of tea or for a lunchtime treat. It was gorgeous, and I’m so pleased that she finally got around to giving me the recipe. All I can say is, that it was worth the wait. Thanks, Mum!

2 cups of wholemeal self raising flour

2 cups brown sugar

2 cups coconut

2 cups apricots, chopped

2 cups milk

2 cups sunflower seeds

2 cups pumpkin seeds

Mix altogether and fan bake at 150 degrees celcius for approximately 1 hour in a loaf tin.

Note: Mum says that she only uses only 1 cup brown sugar, and it’s still good. Sounds like a good idea to me, too!

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Baby Food Recipes: Herby Sweet Potato and Rice

Weanmeister Silicone Freezer Pods

First foods for babies can seem a bit daunting when you first start out, but actually, they’re super easy. Here’s one of my favourite recipes from when my two boys were first weaning.

Baby’s First Foods – Herby Sweet Potato and Rice

Take one cup of steamed and mashed sweet potato, and mix it with one cup of cooked rice. Blitz it with a pinch each of fresh chopped parsley and basil. Yum!

Freeze what you don’t need, and defrost it for when you do. (I can highly recommend the Weanmeister silicone freezer trays if you’re looking for something non toxic to freeze baby food in!)

I did a version of this where I added a bit of garlic. I wasn’t following a recipe, just making it up as I went along. Of course, being used to cooking for grown ups, I just chucked in what I thought would work. My son ate up every scrap, but let me tell you that his nappies sure did reek of garlic!

 

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