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Yogurt Week: Beetroot and Yogurt Dip

This is a super easy, super quick and healthy dip, celebrating the versatility of yogurt.

My often fussy little eater kept wanting to taste this as we made it. The wonderfully vibrant colour appeals to little eyes, just be careful of beetroot stains! If serving this to a little eater, give them a variety of foods in different colours to dip in. You can also use it as a spread in sandwiches or wraps.

You still have plenty of time to celebrate Yogurt Week as well as enter the exciting Food Stylist competition (details in my last post). Did you know there is enough plain yogurt sold in the UK every year to make at least 616 million kormas?!

Yogurt Week

BEETROOT AND YOGURT DIP

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cook time: 0 minutes!
Makes 4 servings

250g cooked beetroot, peeled and chopped into chunks
70g Greek yogurt
A pinch of cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Put everything into a mini food processor and blitz until smooth. Taste and add more seasoning and cumin if needed.

Other uses:

  • use as a pasta sauce by stirring through hot cooked pasta
  • serve over rice
  • use as a crepe filling

Yogurt Week 2014Disclosure: I was compensated by The Yogurt Council to promote Yogurt Week.

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Yogurt Week: Italian-inspired yogurt cake

Today is the first day of Yogurt Week, the UK’s first celebration of that wonderfully versatile dairy product and everything you can make with it.

Yogurt Week 2014What can’t you do with yogurt? Eat it on its own or add it to both sweet or savoury dishes, it’s a great way to add some creamy lusciousness without adding too many calories. It’s also a perfect first food for weaning babies.

With its power-boosting protein and bone-building calcium as well as a load of vitamins, it’s no wonder that in the UK we spent over £1.2 billion on yogurt in the last year (that’s £38 every second of every day!).

To celebrate yogurt, The Yogurt Council is running a Food Stylist Competition for those of you in the UK, with a £1,000 prize package up for grabs. All you need to do is create and style your own recipe using yogurt. The competition runs until Monday 9 June 2014 and more details can be found here.

Discover more about yogurt, and lots of yummy recipes using it, on the Yogurt Council’s website and follow @loveyogurtuk on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Yogurt Week

Yogurt Week has been the perfect excuse for me to experiment with making something I often ate while living in Italy and have been wanting to try to make for a while.

‘Plumcake allo yogurt’ is eaten for breakfast and also as a snack for little ones. I have no idea why it’s called ‘plumcake’, especially when it has no plums (or anything resembling plums) in it! Aside from the misuse of English, this Italian yogurt cake is lovely and light, and yummy both for breakfast or afternoon tea. If you make it with low or no fat yogurt, you can have absolutely no guilt eating it for breakfast (remind yourself of the protein and calcium you’re treating your body to).

It’s an amazingly quick and easy cake to make, it’s really just beating the ingredients together, and doesn’t leave you with many dirty things to wash. It also freezes very well.

In making my Italian-inspired cake, I’ve only used ingredients that are common here in the UK. I also added some lemon zest as I like the tangy freshness it gives to the cake. (When brutally honest Italian hubby tried it, he quickly pointed out that plumcake doesn’t have lemon!) It’s just as yummy with or without the lemon; why not try both versions and tell me your favourite.

ITALIAN-INSPIRED YOGURT CAKE

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 40-45 mins
Makes 1 loaf
Freezable

250g Greek yogurt
100ml light-flavoured vegetable oil (I use rapeseed oil)
zest of 1 lemon (optional)
3 eggs
140g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 175C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Put the yogurt, oil and lemon zest (if using) into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Beat the eggs until they’re light and fluffy (a hand whisk is fine), then beat them into the yogurt mixture.

Add the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt, and lightly beat until combined.

Pour the mixture into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Tip: if the top of your cake is browning too much in the oven but it’s not cooked, cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil to protect it.

By the way, can you guess what the most popular yogurt flavour is in the UK?

Disclosure: I was compensated by The Yogurt Council to develop a recipe using yogurt and promote Yogurt Week.

 

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 vegetable bites

These vegetable bites are really a variation of my zucchini (courgette) bites, with more veg thrown in! They’re great for using up vegetables lurking in your fridge (you can really use almost anything), and leftover bites can go into tomorrow’s lunchboxes or frozen for another day.

baked vegetable bitesSince coming up with our leftover veggie pops (or ‘cheesy lollipops’ as Nicholas calls them), I often put food on sticks. If you have a fussy eater, I would definitely try putting food they don’t particularly like on sticks.

For littler ones, especially those doing baby-led weaning, these bites are the perfect size for little fingers to pick up and feed themselves.

The bites are baked rather than fried, which not only means they’re healthier but you can throw them in the oven and forget about them for a while instead of standing in front of a frying pan turning them over. Sometimes before baking them I roll the balls into some extra breadcrumbs so they end up with a thin crunchy coating.

Don’t worry too much about exact quantities. If the mixture is too wet to shape into balls, just add some more breadcrumbs; if it’s too dry, add a little bit more beaten egg.

baked vegetable bites 2BAKED VEGETABLE BITES

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15-18 mins
Makes about 16 bites
Freezable

1 medium-large zucchini/courgette, finely grated and squeezed
1 medium carrot, finely grated
1 handful spinach, finely shredded
1 egg
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
Pinch of salt (optional)
Extra dry breadcrumbs for coating (optional)

Heat oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Put all the ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and mix until combined.

Shape into small balls (adding some more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too wet). Roll balls in the extra breadcrumbs if using.

Place on the lined baking tray and bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.

 

Parsnip Soup

While my friends and family in Australia are trying to cope with heat rising above 40C, we’re snuggling together under blankets to keep warm.

We’re also trying to be healthier after the usual Christmas/New Year over-indulging, and soup continues to be an easy way to get Nicholas to eat a variety of vegetables (even if sometimes he HAS to drink it through a straw!).

Parsnip SoupPARSNIP SOUP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes 4 adult servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
500g parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 tsp garam masala
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, parsnips and carrots cook for about 4 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften.

Add the garam masala and a little salt and pepper, and cook for another minute.

Add the stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until the parsnips and carrots are soft.

Take off the heat, toss in the parsley and purée until smooth (either in a food processor or using a hand blender). Check if you need to add any seasoning.

If the soup is too thick after puréeing, stir through some milk (or coconut milk).

Variations:

  • For a curried parsnip soup, replace the garam masala with curry powder
  • Add some grated ginger with the garlic for a little more zing

What dishes to you and your family eat to feel warm?

Dairy-free one-ingredient strawberry ice cream

Since discovering how easy it is to make banana ice cream by simply blending frozen banana until it becomes creamy, I’ve wanted to try other fruit flavours. However, living in the UK doesn’t usually lend itself to eating much summery food. But this glorious summer, yes!

Banana is the perfect fruit to use in a one-ingredient ice cream because it’s naturally creamy and high in sugar. Strawberries on the other hand have a high water content (that’s why frozen strawberries become mushy after defrosting) so can easily produce an icy consistency when blended. But I thought I’d give strawberry ice cream a go seeing as it’s Nicholas’ favourite ice cream flavour.

sugar-free strawberry ice cream

The frozen strawberries blend at a very similar speed to frozen banana and you need to regularly scrape down the sides of the bowl. The result using strawberries was definitely less creamy with a texture of ice cream verging on icy sorbetto. It was sweet enough for both Nicholas and me, but hubby (being Italian and therefore believing strawberries are never sweet enough on their own!) wasn’t so sure. If you’re not sure either, you could add a little honey, agave nectar or icing sugar while you’re blending.

I’ve since read adding a handful of frozen banana slices to the frozen strawberries adds creaminess and sweetness without taking away from the berry flavour. That’s definitely something I’ll try next time.

Like the banana version, it’s easier to blend the pieces of frozen fruit if they’ve been left to defrost for a couple of minutes. If the resulting ‘soft serve’ texture is too soft for you, put the blended mix into the freezer for 15 minutes or so for it to firm up.

If there’s any leftover ice cream, put it into a freezer-safe container for another day (letting it defrost for a couple of minutes and then reblending it before eating, or mush it up with the back of a spoon if you’re lazy like me). I’ve also poured leftovers into ice lolly moulds (sometimes also adding a layer of plain yogurt).

There are lots of other fruit I want to try this with. Jamie Oliver does a similar thing with mango in his 30-Minute Meals although he also adds yogurt, honey and lime juice.

DAIRY-FREE ONE-INGREDIENT STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM

Preparation time is cutting up the strawberries, waiting for them to freeze and then blending them.
A 300-400g punnet of strawberries makes about 4 adult servings.

Cut your strawberries into quarters (or halves if they’re small) and lay them on a tray covered with baking paper. Put in the freezer for a few hours until frozen. If you’re not going to use them immediately, put them in a bag after they’re frozen and keep in the freezer.

Put your frozen strawberry pieces into a food processor. Blend and blend, scraping down the sides, until it becomes creamy (about 5 mins). Don’t worry if you think it’s not going to get creamy, just be patient and keep blending.

Variations:

  • add a handful of sliced frozen banana for a creamier texture
  • freeze a variety of berries, not just strawberries
  • add a little honey, agave nectar or icing sugar for extra sweetness
  • add a little rose water as you’re blending

Other uses:

  • pour leftovers into ice lolly moulds, alternating with layers of plain yogurt

What fruits would you love to try making into healthier ice cream?

Carrot and coriander soup

You can’t beat carrot and coriander soup. It’s simple, yummy, filling and cheap. My recipe isn’t very different to most you can find, but this is one recipe not worth experimenting with!

carrot and coriander soup

CARROT AND CORIANDER SOUP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes 4 adult servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
500g carrots, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the onions and carrots, and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften.

Add the ground coriander, some salt and pepper and cook for another minute.

Add the stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until the carrots are soft.

Take off the heat, add the fresh coriander and purée until smooth. Check if you need to add any seasoning.