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Frozen fruit pops

Frozen fruit pops

Summer has come and gone in the UK. It wasn’t a bad one at all this year, in fact I got a tan during a British summer for the first time! However I’d be lying if I said I was anything but ecstatic that we’re finally away on holiday enjoying a very hot sun on a wonderful beach.

During our summer at home, Nicholas and I got into a regular habit of going to a park a little way from home that’s much bigger than our neighbourhood ones. For warm days its paddling pool was perfect. Our ritual was paddling pool followed by a lie in the sun, moving to the large sand pit followed by all the other playground attractions. Then we’d go find the ice cream man and have a run round the park before coming home.

Of course a British summer wouldn’t be a British summer without some rain, and not just a summer shower but days of torrential rain! (I wrote my cheeky views of the summer in the UK here.)  When we couldn’t go outside and enjoy an ice lolly, we’d improvise a picnic inside and eat frozen fruit pops to make the day sunnier.

There really is nothing simpler than frozen fruit pops. Well you could just throw some fruit pieces into the freezer, but then you’d be missing the fun aspect of the stick. Why does putting food on a stick much it so much better?!?

You need plastic cake pop sticks or wooden ice lolly sticks. Don’t use wooden skewers as these can be dangerous for little ones and they’re not as easy to hold on to.

Next chop up some fruit into bite-sized pieces. We used strawberries and grapes. You can also use banana, watermelon (cut in chunks or balls), raspberries, blueberries and mango.

Thread your fruit onto the sticks, put on a freezer-proof plate or tray and put into the freezer for at least 2 hours. Once they’re frozen you can keep them all together in a freezer bag.

A healthy fun treat for summer days, or when you’re wishing for the return of summer days.

What were your favourite things to do together this summer?

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Beetroot and yogurt risotto

Beetroot is a vegetable I’ve only grown to love cooking with recently, most probably as I’ve previously written, my experience of it growing up was ready-cooked, sliced and in tins.

When it’s in season, beetroot features a lot in our weekly delivered fruit and vegetable box, and that’s encouraged me to try using it in different ways. I’ve blogged my most successful recipes to date: beetroot, feta and thyme muffins, pink (beetroot) pancakes and beetroot and yogurt dip. The dip is what got me thinking about making a beetroot risotto.

beetroot and yogurt risotto

Cook your beetroot in your preferred way (or buy it precooked to cook down on preparation time). I like wrapping them in one piece of foil and roasting them in the oven; there’s no need to trim or chop them. Once they’ve cooled, it’s easy to remove the skin. You can also cook them in the microwave.

Surprisingly, this risotto doesn’t taste overly of earthy beetroot and the yogurt gives it a lovely (healthier) richness and creaminess without adding the usual extra butter and parmesan at the end. Kids (and adults) will love the colour and Nicholas happily ate it. I used red wine to add to the colour and liked the extra depth of flavour it gave, but white wine would work just as well.

BEETROOT AND YOGURT RISOTTO

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins
Serves 4 adults

400g cooked and peeled beetroot
1 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
1 onion, finely diced
350g risotto rice (I used Carnaroli)
250ml red wine
1 litre hot vegetable (or chicken) stock
150g Greek yogurt

Roughly chop the beetroot, put the pieces in a small food processor and blend until smooth.

Heat the oil and butter in a medium-sized pot over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and gently fry until softened.

Add the rice and quickly stir it so all the grains are coated. Add the wine and stir until it’s absorbed.

Start adding the stock a ladle at a time, letting it absorb then adding more. Keep doing this until the rice is ready (cooked but still with a little bite, about 15-20 minutes, and still moist). Remove from the heat.

Gently stir through the beetroot then the yogurt. Check for seasoning.

Tip: keep a small piece of beetroot aside and finely dice it to sprinkle over the top before serving.

What are you favourite ways of cooking with beetroot?

Yogurt Week: Yogurt-filled strawberry apples

Yogurt Week: Yogurt-filled strawberry apples

We’re heading towards the end of Yogurt Week, but you still have until June 9th to enter the Food Stylist competition.

Yogurt Week 2014These yogurt-filled strawberries are a yummy quick snack or dessert that really aren’t any more time-consuming than chopping up strawberries and serving them with yogurt. Really!

I thought it would be fun to turn them into something else, so we have strawberry apples. Not quite in the same league as Heston Blumenthal’s meat fruit, but they’re still fun!

If you don’t want to turn your strawberries into apples, you could grate a little chocolate over the top (or simply plop a chocolate chip on top) or you could crumble a bit of biscuit over the top for a different take on a healthy strawberry cheesecake (you’re with me on the last one, right?!).

However you have them, they’re a yummy little healthy snack to pop into your mouth.

Yogurt WeekWash your strawberries and pat them dry. Slice the tops off, then using a small spoon (or the tip of a sharp knife), scoop out the inside of the strawberry. If you want them to stand up, also slice a small piece off the bottom.

Fill the hollowed out strawberries with yogurt and decorate as you prefer.

To make strawberry apples, cut out leaf shapes from a green apple or pear, and stems from licorice, and position them in the yogurt.

Eats-Amazing-Fun-Food-FridayI’m linking my yogurt-filled strawberries up to Eat’s Amazing Fun Food Friday, a weekly round up of fun and creative food.

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.

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.

 

Sugar-free goji berry pancakes

nu3, the European nutrition experts, have just launched in the UK. Their online store has a huge range of products, including products that are exclusive to them, all to help us lead healthier lives. You can also get advice from their team of health specialists.

The company started only 5 years ago in Germany and have very quickly grown. Now we can also enjoy their huge range of health products.

As part of their UK launch, nu3 challenged me to come up with a recipe using their goji berries. Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, grow in China and are used in traditional Chinese medicine. They’re considered a superfood by many because they’re high in nutrients and antioxidents.

nu3 not only sell the dried berries, but also goji juice, goji capsules and chocolate covered goji berries. You can eat the dried goji berries simply as they are or easily pop them into smoothies or muesli and also even scatter them over salad. I experimented with adding them to cooking and I came up with some yummy pancakes.

nu3My regular readers will know I’m a big fan of fluffy pancakes so I used self-raising flour to make these pancakes lovely and light. To complement the healthy goji berries I used mainly wholemeal self-raising flour, and sweetened them with honey and very ripe banana rather than sugar (the riper the banana the better as it will be sweeter).

I felt very healthy eating them and figured I was allowed an extra drizzle of golden syrup over the top because of all the healthy ingredients inside! And Nicholas loved them too.

SUGAR-FREE GOJI BERRY PANCAKES

Prep time: 5-10 mins (plus overnight soaking time for the goji berries)
Cook time: 10-15 mins
Makes about 10 pancakes
Freezable

50g goji berries, covered in water and soaked overnight
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (I used 1 cup of wholemeal and 1/2 cup of white self-raising flour)
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
1 egg, beaten
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1 cup milk
Small piece of butter, melted, to grease the pan

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a medium- sized bowl.

Add the honey, egg and mashed banana then gradually pour in the milk mixing until you have a fairly thick batter (you might not need to use all the milk).

Drain the goji berries and gently mix them through the batter.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and brush with melted butter. Use a tablespoon to drop spoonfuls of mixture into the pan. Cook in batches, turning when bubbles appear on the surface (1-2 mins). Cook the other side until golden brown (about 1 min). Lift out and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm.

Variations:

  • Use nutmeg or ginger instead of cinnamon
  • Add vanilla essence for more sweetness

Tip: Wipe your pan clean with a piece of paper towel after each batch and then brush with some more melted butter.

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