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Category Archives: cooking with toddlers

Banana and nutella muffins

Hannah at Mums’ Days has made a fabulous list of recipes to use up browning bananas. Her 10 ways to use up old bananas includes banana milkshakes and smoothies, banana gelato, banana pancakes, banana bread and also my sugar-free flapjacks (which is without a doubt the most popular recipe on my blog).

Yesterday I needed a ‘pick-me-up’ and seeing the bananas in my fruit bowl that looked like they were very close to walking to the bin on their own, I thought of Hannah’s list, especially The Londoner’s Nutella swirl banana muffins. Perfect!

Banana and nutella muffins

Even though I wanted to eat something indulgent I couldn’t help myself from trying to make Rosie’s original recipe slightly healthier. So I reduced the sugar by a third and substituted some of the white self-raising flour with wholemeal. For muffins, the slightly heavier and denser cousins of cupcakes, you can definitely get away with adding some healthier wholemeal flour.

My taste-testers made no comment about the lack of sugar (and hubby ALWAYS comments if something I make isn’t sweet enough in his opinion). The fact that very ripe bananas are super sweet, plus the addition of Nutella makes it very easy to reduce the sugar content significantly without losing the necessary sweetness needed for it still to be a sweet treat.

I do love Nutella, in particular for how little you can add of it to make something seem much more indulgent than it is. I like adding it to porridge as only half a teaspoon makes the porridge taste wonderfully chocolatey and incredibly indulgent.

When I showed the muffins going into the oven yesterday on Instagram, one of my lovely IG friends asked if I’d tried Lindt ball muffins. I’d forgotten seeing them and was very glad I had! But if you need a more indulgent muffin, why not try popping a Lindt ball into the centre rather than the Nutella; I’m sure they would be divine.

BANANA AND NUTELLA MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins
Makes 12 muffins

115g unsalted butter
80g wholemeal self-raising flour
150g white self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp Nutella, at room temperature

Gently melt the butter (I prefer to use the microwave) and leave to cool.

Heat the oven to 180C and lightly grease your muffin tins (or line with paper cases).

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the wholemeal and white flours, the sugar and salt.

In a jug (or smaller mixing bowl), whisk together the melted butter, beaten eggs, mashed bananas and vanilla extract.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (mixing too much can make your muffins dense and chewy).

Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin tin holes (they’ll be about half to three-quarters full depending on the size of your tin). Add a small dollop of Nutella on top of each muffin and use a skewer (or knife) to swirl it through the muffin (not too much or you won’t see any swirls).
banana and Nutella muffins

Bake for 20-25 mins until golden and cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Variations:

  • instead of Nutella, place a piece of chocolate (or Lindt ball!) in the centre of each muffin before baking to make oozing chocolate banana muffins
  • add 1 tsp of ground cinnamon to the mashed banana
  • make banana and Nutella bread/cake by cooking the mixture in a loaf or cake tin

Tip: if your Nutella is still rather hard at room temperature, either place the jar into a sink of hot water or pop the jar (without its lid) in the microwave and zap at a low temperature for intervals of 10 seconds each until it’s slightly runny.

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Cute lunches: Spider crackers

Cute lunches: Spider crackers

I came across these super cute spider snacks on Pinterest and knew they’d be great for Nicholas’ Spider-Man birthday party. They went down very well, even with the adults! Nicholas now asks for them regularly and they’re an easy snack to prepare.

Ritz spider crackers

Sorry for the very blurry photo, but…

For each spider you’ll need two round crackers (I used Ritz crackers). Using an edible ink pen, draw eyes and a mouth on the top of one cracker (you can also use raisins or sultanas for eyes stuck in place with soft cheese or even mayonnaise). Spread some soft cheese on the other cracker and press in the spider’s legs (I used Twiglets broken in half, but you could also use pretzel sticks or thin bread sticks). Spread a little bit of soft cheese on the top crack and position it on top.

Spider crackers

someone couldn’t wait to eat his spiders!

Can you think of any other animals you could make out of crackers?

Refined sugar-free Easter nests

Nicholas’ preschool has had an Easter display up for a couple of weeks now so Nicholas is already getting excited. We had lots of fun making these simple nests together and even more fun eating the eggs that unfortunately wouldn’t fit in the nests!

AAA1

The nests are based on a recipe all Australians know. Honey Joys were pretty much a prerequisite at birthday parties when I was growing up and now they give me a wonderful feeling of nostalgia.

The standard Honey Joy recipe uses butter, sugar and honey, which are melted together and then stirred through cornflakes. I wanted to make a slightly healthier version, and so replaced the sugar and honey with Sweet Freedom (a natural sweetener made from 100% fruit). You could also use agave nectar, or even honey (as you’re still cutting out the original refined sugar). The end result is just as sugary sweet as I remember but with fewer calories. And I believe that means you can eat more of them!

I’ve also successfully made a dairy-free version of these, using a dairy-free spread instead of the butter. They turned out just slightly softer than using butter, but otherwise I was very happy with the result.

Sweet Freedom nests

SUGAR-FREE EASTER NESTS

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 12 nests

45g butter or dairy-free spread
2 tbsp Sweet Freedom (or agave nectar or honey)
2 cups cornflakes
Some small chocolate eggs

Preheat oven to 150C and line a cupcake tray with paper cases.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and Sweet Freedom over a low heat until the butter is frothing a little (if using a dairy-free spread, just melt as it won’t froth).

While you’re waiting, put the cornflakes into a medium-sized bowl.

Pour the melted sweetened butter over the cornflakes and quickly mix to combine.

Spoon the cornflake mixture into the cupcake cases, making nest shapes by leaving a hollow in the centre of each.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Cool a little and while the nests are still sticky, push in some small chocolate eggs.

Cool completely.

Sugar-free peanut and date bites

While I’m not a vegan (and never could be), I like following people who are on Instagram for healthy food inspiration, especially trying to come up with different healthier snacks for Nicholas. One of my favourite vegan Instagrammers is the lovely Two Minute Vegan (@twominutevegan).

A few weeks back she came up with a great idea for a two-ingredient healthy snack bar using just dates and peanuts. I just had to try it!

veganBlending up the dates into a sticky purée produces a wonderfully sweet caramel-like flavour in the finished bites and a seemingly naughty chewy texture. They really do taste like a sugary treat rather than a healthy snack.

The original recipe has a layer of peanuts on the bottom as well as on the top which works well if you’re cutting them into bars, but I just put peanuts on top. Even after cooking they’re quite squidgy, so it’s better to cut them into smaller pieces to avoid a sticky mess particularly with little ones.

Because of their squidgy soft texture, I think this recipe would also be great as pop-in-the-mouth balls, rolled in crushed peanuts before baking.

You really must try making these addictive bites!

SUGAR-FREE PEANUT AND DATE BITES

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins plus 30 mins in the fridge to harden
Makes 16 squares
Keeps in the fridge for a couple of days

1 1/2 cups unsalted peanuts
1 1/2 cups dates, roughly chopped

Heat your oven to 175C and line a square baking tin (mine is 20cm x 20cm) with baking paper.

Put 1 cup of the peanuts in a food processor and grind until they’re fairly evenly broken up into small pieces.

Add the chopped dates and blend while pouring in two tablespoons of water. Keep adding a little water until you have a thick paste (similar in consistency to a thick peanut butter).

Spread the date and peanut mixture into your prepared tin using the back of a spoon (wet it if the mixture keeps sticking to it). Sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 cup of peanuts and press them in.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Put the bites, still in the tin, in the fridge to harden (at least half an hour) then cut into squares.

vegan

Cute Lunches: Hearts

The only theme we could have for lunch on February 14th is hearts!

Valentine's bento lunchI made my Super Quick Cheat’s Pizza, cutting out heart shapes from the tortillas and topping them with a drizzle of olive oil, a smear of tomato puree, chopped ham, shredded spinach and grated cheese.

I added red grape hearts (slice each in half diagonally and turn one half 180 degrees) and strawberry hearts (slice in half and cut out a small V-shape at the top).

Eats-Amazing-Fun-Food-FridayI’m linking our hearts lunch up to Eats Amazing’s Fun Food Friday, a weekly round-up of fun and creative food.

Pink (Beetroot) Pancakes

Like pretty much every other toddler, Nicholas is a creature of habit. For more than a year, his breakfast had to be puffed rice cereal with milk in a yellow bowl with a particular blue spoon, together with a banana milkshake he’d often help me make, even throwing in a small handful of spinach leaves himself. Oh, and the milkshake had to be in his robot mug with two straws (usually one green and one orange). If you’re nodding your head as you read this, rather than chuckling, then I’m sure you have your own creature of habit.

But the routines that little ones so need can suddenly change to another. Now breakfast must be pancakes with a mug of cold milk. I pushed a lot for him to still have his milkshake as I loved being able to get a serving of fruit and a serving of veg so easily into him first thing every day. In hindsight my pushing was never going to work! So that has made me experiment with adding different ingredients to the pancake batter. We’ve had green pancakes (spinach) and now pink pancakes. And I’m a happier mummy knowing he’s getting a little extra dose of ‘healthy’ every morning.

beet pancakes

PINK (BEETROOT) PANCAKES

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins
Makes about 12 medium pancakes

375ml (1 1/2 cups) full cream milk
2 tsp (10ml) lemon juice
35g (2 tbsp) sugar
225g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp allspice (or 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and a pinch of cloves)
1 large egg
30g (1 1/2 tbsp) butter, melted
1 medium-sized beetroot (about 150g), peeled and finely grated (about 1/2 cup)
Extra butter, for greasing pan

Mix the milk, lemon juice and sugar in a medium bowl, then set aside for five minutes. (It might develop a slightly curdled look during this time.)

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda together into a large bowl. Mix through the allspice.

Break the egg into the milk mixture and add the melted butter and grated beetroot. Whisk until the egg has combined with the milk (don’t worry it the butter just floats on the surface).

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk quickly until almost smooth (the batter should still have a few small lumps). Don’t overmix the batter as this can make the pancakes tough. Leave the batter to rest while the pan is preheating (at least two minutes).

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Melt a little butter in the pan to lightly grease it.

Give your mixture a quick stir to get a more even pink colour. Use a spoon to pour heart shapes into the pan (start with a dollop at the top then let the batter fall into the heart’s point at the bottom; repeat for the other side). Cook only two or three at a time, otherwise turning the pancakes will be difficult.

Cook the first side until small bubbles appear and burst on the surface (about 1-2 minutes).

Turn over with a spatula and cook until the second side is lightly browned and the pancakes are cooked through (another 1-2 minutes).

Cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm while you finish making the others. Add a little more butter to grease the pan each time and keep checking the temperature of the pan as it will probably need to be reduced as the pan heats up with use.

Tips:

  • Little ones love pancakes in fun shapes. You can simply use a spoon to pour the batter into a shape as you cook the pancakes, or you can put the batter into a piping bag or squeeze bottle (the squeeze bottle won’t work for these pink pancakes as the grated beetroot will get stuck in the nozzle!). An even easier way is to make normal-shaped pancakes and use a cookie cutter after they’re cooked.
  • To avoid getting beetroot juice everywhere, use disposable gloves to keep your hands stain-free and place the grater in a bowl to catch as much as the beetroot as possible.

Baked Tortilla Santa Crisps

Baked tortilla crisps or chips are a healthy and very easy snack to make, and something your little ones can help you make.

I was inspired to make these Christmas-themed crisps after seeing Grace’s snowflake tortilla crisps on Eats Amazing.

We added some tomato puree to make our Santas jollier, but they’re just as yummy without it. For adults you could add some red by sprinkling on some chili powder, paprika or cayenne pepper.

These would be great for Christmas parties as well as popping into lunchboxes. You can eat them on their own or use them to scoop up dip or salsa (we also like to dip them in soup!).

Christmas

BAKED TORTILLA SANTA CRISPS

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cook time 5-7 mins

Tortilla wraps
Tomato puree

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Cut out shapes from the tortillas and lay them in a single layer on non-stick oven trays. Using the back of a teaspoon, smear on a little tomato puree for Santa’s hat and jacket.

Bake for 5-7 minutes (keeping a close watch after 5 minutes) until the edges are starting to brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool and crisp up more.

ChristmasWhat Christmas shapes would your munchkins love to eat?