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Tag Archives: gluten-free

Healthy homemade microwave popcorn

Making your own popcorn means you can snack away guilt-free whether you’re watching a movie or not. It’s healthy because unless you add other toppings, simple plain popcorn with a bit of salt is a low-calorie snack.

healthy microwave popcorn

Since learning how easy it is to make at home when I was a teenager, I’ve always made it in a pot on the stove. For making larger amounts, this is still the best way I think. Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot, stir through 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels until they’re coated, put the lid on and put over a medium heat until the kernels start popping; shake the pot around putting it back on heat when the popping slows down; add salt if desired.

Of course you can buy prepackaged bags of popcorn kernels to go in the microwave. However, you’re paying lots of money for the packaging and often getting lots of added ingredients. Just buy a (much bigger) bag of simple kernels.

Making popcorn in the microwave is perfect for a quick snack or for when you just want a couple of small servings. This method uses a paper bag (think brown paper lunch bag), but you can also pop them in a large microwave-safe bowl with a plate over the top. Either way, be very careful opening the bag or bowl, keeping your fingers away from the escaping steam.

I’ve tried making microwave popcorn with oil and without. I’d encourage you to try both. Without the oil is definitely healthier, but it’s only a small amount and, for me, the taste is so much better with it.

But before we get popping…

WARNING: popcorn can be a choking hazard for babies, toddlers and even bigger children. Even if your little one has teeth, she may swallow rather than chew them. Large pieces of even the fluffiest popcorn can block a little one’s throat, and unpopped or half-popped kernels and the husks can also be very dangerous. The common advice is to not give popcorn to under twos, but some experts say avoid them until four years of age. When you think your little one is old enough to eat popcorn, break bigger pieces up, check for unpopped and half-popped kernels and husks, and have them eat sitting down and supervised.

HEALTHY HOMEMADE MICROWAVE POPCORN

Prep time: 2 mins
Cook time: 2 mins
Makes 1 adult serving

1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1 small clean paper bag such as a brown lunch bag
1/2 tsp olive oil (optional)
pinch of salt (optional)

If using oil, put it in a small bowl, add the popcorn kernels and salt (if using), and stir until the kernels are covered. If not using oil, skip to the next step.

Place the kernels in the bag. Fold the top over 2 or 3 times to close.

Place the bag in the microwave and cook for 2 minutes on high or until there’s more than 2 seconds between pops.

Be careful of the escaping steam when opening the bag.

Variations:

  • sprinkle over nutritional yeast for a low-calorie cheese flavour
  • add a pinch of cinnamon
  • add a pinch of garlic powder or onion salt

Tip: Take out the popped popcorn from the bag and microwave the unpopped kernels briefly again.

Super quick dough-free pizza

Have you ever had a craving for pizza, but couldn’t be bothered making pizza dough? In the time it will take you to pick up the phone and order one, you can make your own, much healthier, dough-free pizza from what you probably already have in your kitchen.

This great idea comes from the lovely Jennifer Cheung over at Kidspot, and I love the fact you’re getting some extra veg in your diet instead of extra carbs. They’re also the perfect size for little fingers to feed themselves.

dough-free pizza

Instead of dough bases, these pizzas use slices of grilled courgette/zucchini. You could also use grilled aubergine/eggplant as the base. Toppings are entirely up to you, but be careful not to put too much on, as the vegetable bases are floppy. Why not get your munchkins to help and decide their own toppings?

The original recipe uses ready-made pasta sauce, and a ready grated and blended mix of pizza cheese, which is super convenient. I used a little tub of concentrated tomato paste and some fresh mozzarella which you just tear into small pieces with your fingers, so not that much more time-consuming.

Allow one courgette/zucchini, cut into 4 slices, per adult. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for the next day and they’d be ideal for popping into lunch boxes for a change from sandwiches.

SUPER QUICK DOUGH-FREE PIZZA

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 8 – 10 mins
Makes 2 toddler servings or 1 adult serving

1 courgette/zucchini
1 tsp olive oil
4 tsp tomato paste (or ready-made pasta sauce or homemade tomato sauce)
approx. 75g fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
3-4 slices cooked ham, diced

Cut the ends off the courgette and then cut lengthways into 4 slices.

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over a med heat, and grill the courgette until just soft and golden (about 3 mins each side).

Remove from the pan. Spoon over the tomato paste or sauce, and top with ham and mozzarella. Place under a hot grill for a minute or two until the cheese is golden.

Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.

dough-free pizza

Variations:

  • use slices of grilled aubergine/eggplant for the bases
  • leave out the ham for a vegetarian pizza
  • add whatever other toppings you like

What would be your perfect dough-free pizza topping?

Roasted carrot soup for the whole family

Happy International Carrot Day! Bet you didn’t know that even though this year marks a decade of celebrating the root vegetable. I certainly didn’t!

After our Easter indulgences, I though it was time to return to my mission of getting as many vegetables into Nicholas as possible (and soup’s the least stressful way). I’m sure the exhausted Easter bunny would also happily relax with a large bowlful.

This is a super simple soup (try to say that quickly as many times as you can!) the whole family can enjoy from weaning babies (omit the seasoning) to adults. It freezes well and can also be used as a pasta sauce for a quick healthy lunch.

roasted carrot soupRoasting the carrots and onion, before adding them to the stock, creates an extra depth of flavour. Ordinary carrot soup becomes something more interesting to the palette. While roasting the vegetables means the cooking time is longer, you can always roast them earlier in the day (if you’re at home) or even the day before.

Like most soups, don’t be too worried about exact measurements; slightly less or slightly more carrots won’t make much difference to the end result. If you don’t have enough carrots, add some other root vegetables like parsnip, turnip or potato.

If you’re not serving this to a baby, you can add some warming spice like coriander (you could sprinkle some ground coriander over the vegetables before roasting).

ROASTED CARROT SOUP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Makes 4 adult servings
Freezable

750g carrots, roughly chopped
1 large onion, quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Lay the chopped carrots and onion in a single layer on a roasting tray. Drizzle over the oil, and season with salt and pepper (if using). Roast for 3o minutes or until the vegetables start to turn golden.

Heat the stock in a medium to large pot until lightly boiling. Turn the heat down to low, add the vegetables and thyme, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat and let it cool a little if you have the time. Purรฉe until smooth. Check if you need to add any more seasoning.

Variations:

  • use a mixture of carrots and parsnips
  • sprinkle the vegetables with ground coriander before roasting (you can also add fresh coriander later)

Other Uses:

  • Mix through some cooked pasta (or rice) for a quick lunch

Coconut and lime macaroons

While Easter is over, although the tempting chocolate eggs linger, I wanted to share one last Easter-inspired recipe. The great thing is you don’t need to wait until next Easter to make them. Shape them into circles or other shapes, colour them or not, and they’re a great dairy-free sweet morsel.

coconut and lime macaroon eggs

This recipe (apart from the food colouring) is an unchanged Jill Dupleix recipe and, following her food philosophy, they are a wonderfully light treat. The non-traditional lime zest and juice add a fresh zing, and contrast perfectly with the chewy coconut interior, making it easier to eat another one, and another one, and another one!

I wanted little bite-sized macaroons so I used a very small round cookie cutter approximately 4cm in diameter. I then shaped the circles into egg shapes by gently pinching the top. Jill uses the rim of a small liqueur glass to make slightly bigger macaroons. Because mine were smaller than the original recipe, they cooked quicker. Do watch them closely as they can colour very quickly at the end (as you can see in my photo!).

Nicholas had great fun helping me squish and squeeze the ingredients together with our hands. He also enjoyed cutting out the circles, but because of the sticky consistency of the mixture he needed help to get them on the baking tray.

making coconut and lime macaroons

Make them plain like the original recipe or add some food colouring for fun. We also made multi-coloured macaroons by pressing stripes of different coloured mixture together. With so few ingredients they’re perfect for your munchkin’s next cooking activity.

COCONUT AND LIME MACAROONS

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 8-12 mins
Makes 30 bite-sized macaroons

2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
160g desiccated coconut
1 tsp grated lime (about 1/2 a lime)
1 tbsp lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
food colouring of your choice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Put the egg whites, sugar, coconut, lime zest and juice in a bowl, and use your hands to mix and squeeze until they lightly come together.

If using food colouring, divide you mixture into smaller bowls and add a drop or two of your desired colouring. Mix until evenly coloured.

On a piece of baking paper, press the mixture into a flat shape (about 1cm high) using wet hands.

Use a small round cookie cutter (approx. 4cm in diameter) to cut out small rounds, and place on your prepared baking tray.

Using wet hands, gently pinch the top of each circle to create oval shapes.

Bake for 8-12 minutes in the centre of the oven until just starting to colour.

Cool the macaroons on a wire rack (move them carefully as they’ll still be quite soft while they’re still warm), and store in an airtight jar.

Happy belated Easter from my own little Easter bunny!