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Kale Crisps

I’ve wanted to try making kale crisps for a while as they’ve intrigued me. When a large bunch of kale popped into my weekly delivered veg box, it was time to try them.

I think for a lot of people kale crisps don’t sound particularly appetising. And the first taste is a little odd, but… then I couldn’t stop eating them! Hubby was rather dubious, but… then he couldn’t stop eating them! And Nicholas tucked into them too!

Vegetable crisps

Such a brilliant way to get some more green veg into your and your little ones’ diets, and kale is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables around. Kale crisps are also super easy to make.

Some recipes suggest putting the torn up leaves into a bag with the olive oil and salt, and either shaking or massaging to cover the leaves. I tried this the first time I made them, but found the salt didn’t spread very well meaning I ended up with some VERY salty crisps and some without any salt. If you’re not using salt at all, the bag method works well to limit the amount of oil, but otherwise I would just drizzle the oil and sprinkle over the salt once the kale is on the oven trays. Be careful about adding too much salt as they can very easily become too salty (you can always add more salt after they’ve cooked).

KALE CRISPS

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

1 bunch of kale, washed and patted dry
Approx. 1 tbsp olive oil
Salt (optional)

Preheat your oven to 170C and line two oven trays with baking paper.

Tear the leaves off the thick stalks and chop or tear into pieces about 5-7cm in size.

Spread the torn leaves in a single layer over the oven trays.

Lightly drizzle the leaves with olive oil and very lightly sprinkle with salt (if using).

Bake for 5-10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them, until the edges have just started to go brown.

Variations:

  • for kale crisps with a kick, sprinkle with chili powder before baking;
  • for zesty crisps, as soon as you take the crisps from the oven, grated over some lemon zest;
  • for cheesy crisps, sprinkle over some grated parmesan before baking;
  • sprinkle over some sesame seeds after baking.

Tip: if your kale browns too quickly, try baking them at 150C for 20-25 minutes.

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?

Carrot, spinach and cumin muffins

It’s National Baking Week here in the UK and many people across the UK are baking up a storm to raise money for the wonderful Great Ormond Street Hospital.

I thought we’d try another of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s savoury muffin recipes to start our week of baking, as we all loved his courgette and pine nut muffins. And his combination of carrot, spinach and cumin didn’t disappoint! Savoury muffins are such as great finger food for little hands and mouths, and you really can pack them full of wonderfully nutritious vegetables.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Usually for me, savoury muffins just have to have some kind of cheese (is that just me?). Cheese makes pretty much everything taste better! Yet, amazingly, I didn’t miss the lack of cheese in these at all.

The only thing I’ve changed from Hugh’s original recipe is the amount of spinach. He uses 150g of spinach, while 100g was enough for me (and left me with spinach leaves to throw into other dishes for the rest of the week).

If it’s difficult finding the time to cook, try to toast the pumpkin seeds ahead of time, even the day before. If you don’t have pumpkin seeds (they add a fabulous extra texture to the muffins) you can use sunflower seeds or a mixture of the two (Hugh’s suggestion). You could also cook the onion mixture ahead of time.

The batter is quite a stiff mixture, but still produces lovely moist muffins which freeze wonderfully (great to have in the freezer to add to lunchboxes).

CARROT, SPINACH AND CUMIN MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 18-20 mins
Makes 12
Freezable

80g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra 10g for frying
1 onion, finely diced
2 tsp ground cumin
100g spinach, tough stalks removed and very finely shredded
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
275g whole milk yoghurt
150g carrots, grated
40g pumpkin seeds, toasted

Heat the oven to 200C and line a muffin tray with paper cases.

Warm the 10g of butter in a large frying pan and sautรฉ the onion with a pinch of salt until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the cumin, stir for a minute, then add the spinach and stir until wilted and soft. Leave the mixture to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

In a jug, whisk the cooled melted butter, eggs and yoghurt.

Pour the wet ingredients over the flour and stir with a spatula until just combined. Fold in the cooled onions and spinach, the grated carrot and seeds.

Spoon into the prepared cases and bake for about 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

How are you celebrating Baking Week?

Leftover veggie pops

While the weather is getting colder and my summer tan is fading, I’m consoling myself with cooking shows. And thankfully I can watch two of my favourites at the moment (The Great British Bake Off and Australian Masterchef).

I’ve struggled to get back into the kitchen after our late summer holidays, and have had little inspiration to be creative, but watching Australian Masterchef’s kids’ week has ignited some enthusiasm. One challenge had the contestants inventing a child-friendly dish using either liver, brussel sprouts or anchovies which were tasted and judged by three children.

Thinking about what I would do if I was a contestant (don’t we all do that watching these kinds of shows?), I thought about dishes that usually go down well with kids and my three ideas were pizza, pasta and things on sticks, all of which then featured in the better dishes made.

The most creative for me was a meat and liver ‘lollipop’ which was dipped into satay sauce and then some crushed peanuts by the kids. They loved it and it was such a brilliant idea that it got me thinking about getting vegetables into something similar.

When I was clearing up after dinner and wondering what I could do the following day with some leftover vegetables, inspiration hit me! It’s one of those ideas which makes you wonder why you never thought of it before. Leftover veggie pops were born!

leftover vegetables

All of the other fussy-eater-parents out there, you have my complete and utmost sympathy. It’s a tough gig already without this extra stress. Thankfully, and very luckily for us, Nicholas’ fussiness for eating (especially vegetables) was a phase which we seem now to be through. Interestingly, I have made similar fried vegetable balls and patties in the past which weren’t eaten, but… I didn’t serve them on sticks. Why didn’t I think of putting vegetables on sticks before now?!?

Nicholas first encountered these in his lunchbox. When I picked him up and asked him how his lunch was, he very excitedly told me he’d eaten “cheesy lollipops! cheesy mummy!” and his favourite dinosaur-shaped sandwiches merely got a mention. Success!

You can use pretty much any leftover vegetables you want. So long as they’re already cooked, all you need to do is mash them and mix them with a few other ingredients you probably already have. If your munchkins tend to pick out the vegetables they don’t like (probably the green ones!), use a potato ricer or quickly blend the veggies in a food processor to make the mixture smooth and even in colour.

These are not the healthiest way to serve vegetables as they’re fried, but you could also bake them in the oven (turn them regularly so they brown evenly). Pop any remaining balls in the freezer for another fun vegetable side dish another day.

LEFTOVER VEGGIE POPS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 25 pops
Freezable

2 cups of leftover cooked vegetables (I used sweet potato, leeks and peas), mashed or blended
1/2 – 3/4 cup grated cheddar (depending on how cheesy you want them)
1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper (optional)
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Clean lollipop sticks or ice lolly sticks

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the mashed or blended vegetables, cheddar, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper if using.

Add about half of the beaten egg and mix. Add more egg a little at a time until you have a mixture just wet enough that it sticks together to shape into balls (if the mixture becames too wet, add some more breadcrumbs a little at a time).

Shape the mixture into small balls (about the size of a walnut shell).

In a frying pan, pour enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan to the depth of about 1cm. Heat over a medium-high heat then fry the vegetable balls turning them over regularly so they evenly brown.

Drain the cooked vegetable balls on some kitchen towel and when cool enough to touch, place each on a lollipop stick.

Add to the fun by serving the pops with a dipping sauce such as houmous, tomato sauce or a satay sauce.

leftover vegetables
Letting your creative juices run wild, what other food or dishes do you think you little ones would love more if they were served on a stick?

Savoury courgette and pine nut muffins

I’ve found muffins are a great way to get some extra vegetables into Nicholas’ diet. He can help me make them (which usually results in him eating more of them), they’re an easy-to-eat finger food (and very easy to pop into a lunchbox) and so wonderfully adaptable (you can pretty much throw in anything you have in the fridge!).

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s courgette and pine nut muffins intrigued me when I came across them. He makes the point that these flavour combinations work well in a pasta dish and also work in a muffin, which makes my mind wander to other pasta flavours to experiment with in a muffin form. I was also curious to discover if the addition of some oats was noticeable in the end muffin (no, although I used normal-sized porridge oats rather than his suggested jumbo oats).

Amazingly for me I didn’t make any changes to Hugh’s original recipe. After tasting them I did wonder about leaving the sultanas out next time, but they do add a lovely burst of sweetness to the other savoury ingredients which I think little people (as well as big people) will like. The added texture of toasted pine nuts also works very well. I’ll be making them exactly the same from now on! Oh and I can confirm that they freeze well.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

SAVOURY COURGETTE/ZUCCHINI AND PINE NUT MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 18 mins
Makes 12
Freezable

200g plain flour
40g jumbo oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1-2 tsp flaky sea salt (depending on how salty your parmesan is – you can easily leave this out for toddlers)
A few grinds of black pepper
8 large basil leaves, shredded
60g parmesan, coarsely grated, plus another 20g or so to sprinkle on the top
2 eggs
250g whole milk yoghurt
4 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
200g courgette/zucchini, coarsely grated
40g pine nuts, toasted
40g sultanas

Heat the oven to 200C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, bicarb, salt, pepper, basil and parmesan.

In a separate smaller bowl (or jug), whisk together the eggs, yoghurt and oil, pour this over the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until roughly combined – don’t overmix.

Add the courgette/zucchini, pine nuts and sultanas, and stir until just evenly distributed.

Spoon or scoop (using an ice cream scoop) the batter into the muffin tin and sprinkle over the rest of the parmesan.

Bake for about 18 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Leave them to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes to firm up before transferring them to a cooling rack.

What other yummy pasta flavours do you think would work well in a muffin?

 

Mini cheese and carrot scones

I’ve been trying to avoid turning on the oven during our amazing continued warm weather here in the UK (this is how summer should be!), but when the idea of savoury scones popped into my head I knew it wouldn’t go until I’d made some. The good thing is, scones are quick to prepare and quick to cook, so staying in the heated kitchen is kept to a minimum.

My first attempt at making scones when I was in my twenties was a disaster. What came out of the oven were rock cakes. I guess I overmixed and/or overkneaded the dough. You can find plenty of tips online to ensure your sweet or savoury scones are as light as possible (I’ve added some at the end of the recipe). I ignored one tip never to use any kind of wholemeal flour (I used half white self-raising and half wholemeal self-raising flour) and I think they turned out pretty good anyway! If you’re not feeling confident about scone-making, use all white self-raising flour.

mini cheese and carrot scones

I made mini scones for mini fingers, but you can make any size or shape you like. I used a 4-centimetre round cutter and also cut out a few small butterfly shapes for Nicholas. (Mummy: ‘What sound does a butterfly make?’ Nicholas: ‘Flap flap’.)

Scones are definitely the yummiest straight from the oven with melting butter on top, but these are also lovely to have for lunch filled with some ham and cheese.

These scones freeze very well and are also something different to pop into lunchboxes. You can also add some chopped ham or cooked bacon to the mix as well as experiment with other grated vegetables. I’d love to hear your variations.

MINI CHEESE AND CARROT SCONES

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 10-15 mins
Makes about 20 mini scones
Freezable

1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 cup plain self-raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
50g butter, cold
1/2 cup finely grated carrot
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp milk extra for glazing

Preheat the oven to 200C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the two flours and salt.

Quickly dice the butter and add to the bowl. Using your fingertips, quickly rub the butter into the flour for a minute or two until it’s fairly evenly distributed (the consistency should be like coarse breadcrumbs). Don’t rub the mixture too much or the butter will melt.

Using a knife instead of a spoon, quickly mix through the grated carrot and cheese then add the milk, stirring until it’s just loosely combined.

Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead it just enough to form a ball. Use your hands to flatten the dough until it’s about 2cm thick.

Cut out your desired shapes and place them on your prepared oven tray close together. Form another ball from the leftover dough and repeat.

Brush the tops of the scones with the extra milk and bake for 10-15 mins until golden.

Variations:

  • For a cheesy top, a couple of minutes before the scones are cooked, sprinkle over some extra grated cheese and pop back into the oven.
  • Add some chopped cooked ham or bacon to the dough.
  • Substitute the grated carrot with a different grated vegetable such as parsnip, courgette/zucchini or beetroot.

Tips:

  • Always use butter that’s straight from the fridge to avoid it melting when it’s rubbed into the flour (which leads to heavy scones); some cooks suggest putting the butter into the freezer for a few minutes after weighing it out, grating it into the flour and then quickly mixing it through rather than rubbing it.
  • When cutting out your scones, don’t twist the cutter after pushing it into the dough; this seals the edges and makes it more difficult for the scone to rise.
  • Putting your scones close together, even touching, on the oven tray helps them rise (a good example of teamwork?!?).

Quick Chicken Nuggets

This is another recipe from Annabel Karmel’s new book, ‘Quick and Easy Recipes for Toddlers’, which I recently reviewed. These are a much quicker and easier version of the Chicken Nuggets which feature in her ‘Top 100 Finger Foods’ book. This time she uses store-bought red pesto sauce and smashed up cornflakes.

Annabel Karmel quick chicken nuggetsWhat children don’t like chicken nuggets? Well I’m sure there must be some, but put a plate of nuggets with some tomato sauce for dipping in front of fussy eaters and you’re most likely going to have a stress-free meal. Now if only we could get some veg in there too…

To be honest, I wasn’t sure about the use of ready-made red pesto, which is a pesto made from sun-dried tomatoes rather than the traditional green basil pesto (it can also be made from roasted red peppers/capsicum). But I’ve made these nuggets a few times now and this recipe’s speed is definitely a winner! It’s also easy enough for your little ones to help you make them. They can have lots of fun bashing up the cornflakes and it’s also fairly mess-free.

If you have a bit more time or if you’d prefer not to feed your little one ready-made sauce, red pesto is quite easy to whip up, basically throwing the ingredients into a blender and whizzing them to a paste. Marthe at The Baking Bluefinger has a very easy recipe. The pesto will keep in the fridge for about a week, but it also freezes very well (freeze it in ice cube trays so you only need to defrost a small portion when you need it).

The original Annabel Karmel recipe adds seasoning to the chicken pieces before covering them in the pesto, but for me there’s well and truly enough seasoning in the pesto itself without adding more, even if you’re serving these to older family members. I’ve also added the preparation time as unfortunately this is lacking for all of the recipes in Annabel Karmel’s new book (that’s a super important piece of information to know for busy mums and dads!.

The nuggets are best eaten immediately as the coating loses some of its crunchiness as they cool down. However, they’re still yummy cold and leftovers can be popped into the next day’s lunch box.

I’m still thinking about how to get some vegetables into a chicken nugget. I’m eyeing up some pea puree left over from a scallop and chorizo starter I made hubby and wondering if it would work instead of pesto. Hmmm… I’ll get back to you!

QUICK CHICKEN NUGGETS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 25 nuggets

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp red pesto
50g cornflakes
15g Parmesan, finely grated

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan and line an oven tray with baking paper.

Slice the chicken breasts into small cubes (you should get 10-12 pieces from each breast). Put the chicken into a bowl and mix in the pesto to coat the chicken.

Put the cornflakes into a plastic food bag and bash them with a rolling pin to make fine crumbs. Add the cheese and half of the chicken to the bag. Shake the bag to coat the nuggets, then transfer them to a plate. Add the remaining chicken to the bag of crumbs and repeat.

Lay the nuggets on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10 minutes.

What foods do your fussy eaters always eat?