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Tag Archives: vegetarian

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.

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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.

Beetroot, feta and thyme muffins

Beetroot is one of those vegetables I often think about using but never do. Perhaps it’s because growing up, beetroot only came from a can, precooked and sliced, its bright juice ready to stain as much clothing as possible on the way to your mouth. I was never a fan of its earthy flavour.

Well I can finally say I have cooked with it, although I took the easy option this time of buying it in a vacuum sealed pack already cooked (next time, next time). And I also managed to come out the other end stain-free!

Beetroot is a very good source of potassium and manganese, but while it’s very low in fat, it’s also high in natural sugars.

savoury beetroot, feta and thyme muffins

I paired the earthy flavour with feta and thyme for these savoury muffins. Feta and beetroot are a classic combination; goat’s cheese would also work well. I used a mixture of white and wholemeal flour, but you can certainly use just white flour if you prefer.

I was very happy to see my muffins still had a lovely pink hue on top when I took them from the oven (although you can’t really see that in my photos). But when I broke one apart, the inside was a normal muffin brown colour (can anyone enlighten me about this?).

BEETROOT, FETA AND THYME MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 25-30 mins
Makes 12 regular-sized muffins

200g self-raising white flour
100g self-raising wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g feta, crumbled or diced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
200g cooked beetroot (1 large beetroot), finely grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
210ml milk
90ml vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Either lightly spray a 12-hole muffin tray with cooking spray or line with paper cases.

Mix the white and wholemeal flours, baking powder, feta and thyme in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl or jug, combine the grated beetroot, eggs, milk, oil and salt (if using). Add this to the flour mixture, mixing until just combined (mixing as little as possible keeps your muffins light in texture).

Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin holes.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Tip out onto a wire cooling rack.

Savoury beetroot, feta and thyme muffins

Variations:

  • use goat’s cheese instead of feta.
  • if you don’t have any fresh or dried thyme, substitute with chives or parsley.

Tip: to avoid getting beetroot juice all over your kitchen when grating it, put your grater into a good-sized bowl to catch the juice and wayward pieces as you grate.

 

Cute lunches: choo choo

A cute choo choo lunch to happily take us into the weekend.

cute lunches choo choo

I used my train sandwich cutter to cut the shapes from a peanut butter and banana sandwich. I love this cutter with its interlocked train shapes which minimises the wastage from a slice of bread.

The windows are banana slices and the wheels are fruit buttons (a recent find in the healthy snack aisle of my supermarket). The tracks are fruit peelers (a similar idea to cheese strings but using fruit purees) and the smoke is popcorn (which I broke up into smaller pieces for Nicholas after I took the photo; see my warning about giving popcorn to children in my previous post).

Wishing you a weekend that’s choo choo exciting!

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. Purée 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