OptimalHealth4Kids

Helping keep kids healthy

Cooking for Kids 8 – Delicious Home-Made “Grainy” Vanilla Fudge (Guest Blog)

cooking-for-kids-31

 

Here is my first Optimal Health4Kids guest blog recipe for this month/year 2014, to take us to the Autumn… and, for those little helpful hands?.. although I don’t want to make this a political platform, I would like dedicate this post this month, which is a blog predominantly for children – to all the children caught up in conflicts of any kind, around the world, at the moment  .. thank you..

..this may not be the healthiest recipe nutritionally, but if enjoyment is healthy- and you will get a lot of enjoyment in the making and especially in the eating of this recipe – then perhaps we can overlook the sugar content this time…

“Grainy” Vanilla Fudge

Fudge is a sweet which carries with it a certain nostalgia for me and for most I think. There is something very homely about fudge and very home made. It has to be grainy in our family – so the beating in of the sugar before cooling is muscle building and works off a few calories, but its worth it – you will end up with a grainy, more crunchy texture which I believe, is the way traditional fudge – like my mother used to make it (!) – should be. Do be careful if children are in the kitchen helping you with this cooking – like all sugar when heating, it remains extremely hot for a long time, and at “caramel stage” it sticks, so has always to be handled carefully – please refer to health and safety in the kitchen (my first Optimal Health4Kids blog) – “caramel stage” is a stage on from the fudge stage.. if you reach this with large brown, slow-popping bubbles in the pan, you will know you have over done it, which is where the ‘soft ball stage’ comes in useful (see later in the recipe*).

Enjoy…

Makes 2.5 lb (1 kg 150g)  Time taken: just over an hour

 

Ingredients

2 lbs (900g) granulated sugar

1/2 pint (3 dl) water

1 large tin sweetened condensed milk

2 oz (50g) butter

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method

– measure the sugar and water into a large saucepan

– stir over low heat unil the sugar has dissolved

– add the condensed milk and the butter

– bring the mixture up to the boil

– simmer gently

– stir occasionally, until a little dropped into a saucer of cold water forms a soft ball *

(It takes about 30 minutes and by this time the mixture should have turned to a golden brown)

– draw the pan off the heat, cool for a moment, then stir in the vanilla essence, then beat with a wooden spoon, until the mixture cools and begins to thicken.  This  “grains” the mixture and gives a smooth texture but take care that the fudge does not set in the saucepan.

– pour into a buttered, shallow, baking or small roasting tin and set in a cool place to harden

– once the surface has set, mark the fudge into squares

It may take a couple of hours to set firmly, before you can then turn it out and then break it into the squares.

* tip – if you prefer, you could use a sugar thermometer – which must reach 240 F

 Chocolate fudge with nuts (optional) notes to follow – using single cream.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

Cooking for Kids 7 – Fruit Scones (Guest Blog)

cooking-for-kids-31

This is a simple, but fun recipe to make and children love it too… they can help cut out the shapes – why not buy a heart-shaped scone cutter, for a change from the traditional round fluted cutters – they will be fascinated watching how they come out of the oven three times the size they went in! I recommend serving them warm with lashings of strawberry jam and clotted cream.  

As you can see, this is not so much a recipe I have chosen for healthy eating! – but more a fun, comforting recipe to lighten your spirit, in this misty month of mellow fruitfulness.  So, I hope you enjoy making this lovely, quintessential English recipe, to accompany a refreshing cup of tea.. or juice in a beaker, depending upon your preference (!)  Ideal after a long afternoon walk in the early Autumn sunshine.  A gorgeous little girl, who loves to watch “The Great British Bake Off” on the BBC, made these with me – using her mum’s heart-shaped cutter – and had a lot of fun in the cooking and the eating of them… and so did I!

Fruit Scones

Ingredients

1kg/2lbs self-raising flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

a pinch of salt

170g / 6oz caster sugar

170g / 6oz margarine (in a block, not the soft spreading one) or butter (softened to room temperature)

225g / 8oz sultanas

1 egg mixed with milk to approximately 400 ml / 13 fl oz

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 200C / 400F/ Gas Mark 6

– soak sultanas in boiling water for 5 minutes

– sieve flour, baking powder & salt into a large bowl

– add sugar & margarine or butter (softened to room temperature) cut into squares

– rub in lightly with fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs

– add drained sultanas, milk & egg mix

– work in liquid until mixture forms a ball

– roll out onto a floured surface approximately 3cm / 1.5 inches thick

– cut out scones  with a cutter – a large is shaped one – about 4cm in diameter

– brush the top of each scone with milk

– place on tray (placed not too close together) lined with baking paper, or lightly greased with margarine/butter, then brushed with flour (tap off the excess over the sink).

– cook in a preheated oven at 200C / 400F / Gas Mark 6  –  and check them after 15 mins to see if they are brown on top and risen (put back for 5 minutes if necessary).

tip* –  these scones will freeze beautifully.  Simply place into a plastic bag once cool.. and tie and pop into the freezer – taking them out one by one when needed and defrost/heat them in the microwave/moderate oven to gently warm through.

Serve warm with butter, strawberry jam (or any other fruit jam you enjoy), England’s West Country clotted cream (or equivalent thick-set cream) and of course… a cup of tea.

Footnote:-

You could enjoy them with a small amount of jam, if you are watching your fat intake – they will still be delicious – especially if eaten while still warm from the oven!  and, as ‘The Great British Bake Off’ team would say …

“ready…. bake!”

1 Comment »

Whine Free Weaning

Keeping our children healthy, with all the bad choices they’re faced with on a daily basis, is not easy -especially if their peers aren’t healthy eaters. The sugary fruit juices and sodas, the sweet and fatty candy bars and cookies, the artificially colored gummy bears and neon colored gummy worms: all of it is so not good. Just reading the ingredient list gives me the shivers.  However just shutting down the system is the wrong way to go and sure to ignite rebellion. There are better ways to go about it. Aside from the methods and simple tips below I’m also sharing one of our family favorite desserts, “Whipped Dream”.  So let’s get started.

From This

screamer

Photo-Credit

To This

happy kid

Photo-Credit

Soda and sweet juices

Ok, you know it’s bad but, alas, they’ve already boarded the sugar train and you don’t how to get them off it. There are a few tricks you can use. Start by adding water to the fruit juice and club soda or sparkling water to the soda. It’s a slow process but worth the time.  At first you substitute 1/4 of the juice/soda. As long as they don’t see it they won’t even notice.  After a week take it up to a 1/3, another week, ½, by now they’ll notice because the color is noticeably changing. If your child complains ask if their thirst isn’t quenched a lot quicker with the mix. The answer will probably be no, but you have their attention and they’ll start noticing. After yet another week take it to ¾ substitution.  It would be great if they stick to the juice mix and kick the soda completely. If not try putting a splash of fruit juice in the club soda/sparkling water, that usually does the trick.

Candy Bars and Chocolate

Instead of giving them the snickers, they may have become attracted to through friends, give them a chocolate or yogurt covered granola bar. There are healthy candy bars available that are quite tasty and at least have some nutritional value. Start offering dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, you’ll see that the appetite is not quite as big for this variety. Once you’ve pulled their sweet tooth you can substitute the chocolate with carob chips, add a few nuts and raisins and you have a great TV snack that’s much healthier. Have them help to come up with healthy versions of your home made trail mix by adding things like cranberries and dried fruit.

Cookies

Step away from the cookie isle. Here is your best chance of reprogramming your youngster’s sweet tooth. Baking cookies is just the best way to make healthy snacks and if they’re involved in the process they’ll like the cookies even better. You can save empty calories by using whole grain flours, substituting the butter with almond butter, walnut butter, peanut butter, there are so many options you can choose from. It’s still fat, but at least it’s the healthy kind. Don’t use white, bleached sugar; substitute it with raw brown sugar or honey- both sweeten just as well and are better for you.  Reduce the amount of sugar the recipe calls for by a 1/3; in most recipes this won’t influence the outcome negatively. Add carob chips instead of chocolate. Use raisins in your cookies, cranberries work too, I’ve even been successful with little apple cubes.

Gummy bears and neon colored gummy works

The color alone, for the most part, lets us know that this probably isn’t the healthiest choice of snack. If your child likes gummies and you want to appease them get the “Yummy Earth” or “Annie’s” -not quite as chewy but they’re pretty close. If they like chewy you can also offer raisins, craisins, figs and dates, a natural and healthy chewy, gooey pleasure. Try making your own gummy bears and have your children help, they taste twice as good if they make them themselves.

You see, there are quite a few alternatives and I’m sure there are more out there. The less sugar and grease you incorporate in your child’s diet the healthier and, eventually happier, they will be.  Below please find a dessert that my children and the rest of the family really love. It may not be totally low cal, but definitely better than and ice cream sundae or a piece of cake. Try it, you might become fans too.

Whipped Dream

 cherries    Photo-Credit

cream    Photo-Credit

lady fingers      Photo-Credit

Ingredients:

1 Pack of whole wheat Lady fingers

1 jar pitted, tart cherries

1 Pouch of Vanilla Pudding (I use Dr. Oetker because it doesn’t contain sugar, you add as much, or in our case as little, as you like. You can find it in most health food stores and online)

1 cup of low fat, plain Greek yoghurt

1 Tbsp brown sugar

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp of Honey

Cookware:

Sauce pan and a casserole dish

Preparation:

Lay the lady fingers out in your casserole dish. Use about half of the juice from the pitted cherries, mixed with about the same amount of water, to brush the lady fingers and moisten them.  Drain the cherries, reserving the liquid.

In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp of brown sugar with the vanilla pudding. Add, a bit at a time, the reserved cherry juice until you have a smooth liquid (If you add too much liquid too fast you will have lumps). You won’t need the entire juice, pour what’s left into the saucepan and add the cherries and bring to a boil.

Using a whisk slowly add the pudding mixture to the cherries, stirring constantly until it resumes boiling. Let it bubble for 1 minute and remove from stove. Spread the cherry pudding mixture on the lady fingers. Then let it cool completely.

In the meantime you can whip up the Greek yogurt with a hand held mixer, add the cinnamon, lemon juice and honey and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated and smooth. Spread on top of the cold cherry mixture. You can use the swirl technique you would to frost a cake to make it look nice. Let cool until you’re ready to eat.

Happy Healthing!

Leave a comment »

What is a healthy balanced diet for kids? (Guest Blog)

cave hand pic

Patrick Holford in his ‘Optimum Nutrition Bible’ health book, wrote a section a few years ago (1997, in fact, and still very relevant) on the misconceptions surrounding a healthy diet.  He pointed out that if we were to revert to eating like our ancient ancestors when we still were hunter gathers and sheltering in caves, from the wilderness of the savanna, we would all be the better off for it!  

That diet would have contained more carbohydrates (starch) and less protein, with no refined sugar and much more of the healthier fats.  An ancient, cave dweller’s diet would have consisted mainly of nuts, seeds and fish (particularly oily fish – salmon for example, or kippers or sardines) providing us with healthy, unsaturated fats (which fall into two groups – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) as well as vegetables and fruit – rather than huge amounts of meat and dairy products, containing saturated, or hard, non-essential, and potentially unhealthy, fats.  We would have got our proteins from eggs, nuts and pulses, rather than just from meat (there are many different proteins, so its best if the food source is varied).

Reading this, I wondered – what if these nomadic tribes were nowhere near the vast oceans in order to catch these delicious oily fish (a prime source of the Omega oils/polyunsaturated fats)… or to chew on nutrient-packed seaweed?!  Well, if they hadn’t settled close to the sea, they probably would have been living near to sunflowers or pumpkins, or berries and seeds of all kinds… so, this would have provided a rich source of nutrients… including these essential “good” oils – as they also, like fish, fall under the group of polyunsaturated fat.  This is the sort of eating, Patrick Holford believes, that we would all benefit from copying today.

Professor Alice Roberts (anthropologist and BBC TV science presenter) has said that we are young as a species and this is reflected in our dietary needs – we have not changed, or evolved, much from our days in the savanna.   We were always meat eaters, but this would probably have been a monthly treat, if we were lucky!  It would have been very unlikely to have been a daily consumption – it is much more likely that we filled up on fish and especially nuts and seeds – as these were much more readily available.

Today, its recommended we eat fish, including oily fish, twice a week.  As the Omega oils build brain cells, lots of parents have been feeding their children extra omega oil 3 & 6 in the form of pills or spoons of oil, on a daily basis – just like our grandparents used to take cod liver oil – it is the same idea, just a modern version!  My grandparents took it for supple joints!

* (older men with different physiology/hormone balances to children, have been advised to moderate their intake of omega 3 & 6 due to a recently discovered correlation with prostrate cancer – see articles in local press July 2013)

Leave a comment »

Cooking for Kids 6 – Seeded Homemade Bread – a healthy source of Omega oils (Guest Blog)

cooking-for-kids-31

Omega 3 & 6 is found in sunflower seeds (3) and pumpkin seeds (6).  These oils are great, and in fact essential, for kids’ health and so in this guest blog slot for Optimal Health 4 Kids, I have found a recipe for homemade bread, made with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, which kids will love if you toast it and add honey! 

You won’t be tempted to lick the bowl with this recipe, but I hope you will enjoy kneading!

Seeded Homemade Bread

Makes one 900g/2lb loaf

Ingredients

500g/1lb seeded bread flour – the one I found was produced by a local mill in Gloucestershire, Shipton Mill – organic -containing malted wheat & rye grains, barley, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, linseed and pumpkin seeds

tip*- you can use any bread/strong wholemeal flour – and add the seeds yourself, eg. a small handful – 100g/4oz approx.- of seeds – sunflower and pumpkin (add them at the beginning and mix into the flour)

1 tsp salt

10g butter

1 tsp fast action dried yeast

290 ml water at room temperature

100g/4oz walnut pieces (optional)

a little sunflower or olive oil

Method

– place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl

– rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (unlikely pastry ‘breadcrumb stage’ – it will be mainly flour and will take some sifting through your fingers to find the small pieces of fat to break up into small crumbs).

– stir in the dried yeast

– add the luke warm water and mix into the dried ingredients with a round-bladed knife to form a dough.  Make sure the water is hand-dipping temperature, as if its too hot and the yeast will be killed off, and too cold – will also will not work as yeast needs the heat to grow!

And now, for the kneading!

– tip the dough onto a floured worktop and knead for about 10 minutes.  This is the bit the children will enjoy if you are cooking with kids.  You may need to take over as the dough can be hard to pummel – use the base of your palms and push it first one way to the left (with your right palm) and then the other way, with your left – its very relaxing!  This is also the bit the bread makers enjoy the most!  But, you will be amazed how long 10 minutes takes, so have the radio on while you work, or, get some help!

*tip – keep lightly dusting the worktop with flour, you will only need a little to stop it from sticking – otherwise you will dry out the dough – it must be sticky and soft

– when the dough is smooth and elastic, and slightly pushing away from you/expanding – in your hands as you knead it, its ready! (if you can’t feel this happen, don’t worry – just be guided by the time check (10 minutes of kneading) and the smoothness of the dough.

– place the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover with some oiled cling film (use sunflower or olive oil – and some kitchen paper or a pastry brush, to coat a piece of cling film – spreading it out onto the worktop – its a bit fiddly!)  The oil will stop the dough from sticking to the cling film when it rises.

– leave the dough to “rest”  –  in a warm place (room temperature is ok in the summer – during the colder months, people use the airing cupboard – where the clothes are put to dry – or on top of the boiler!  – but not too close to a direct, hot pipe – as too much heat will kill the yeast.

– after one hour, the dough will have risen.  Remove it from the bowl, and “knock back” – meaning, knock out the air – by kneading it, for a couple of minutes (no longer).  Now add the walnuts, poking them into the dough as you knead, for about another minute.  Try to distribute them around the dough, rather than in one big bunch!

– form into a loaf like shape/ball,  and pop it into your lightly greased 900g/2lb loaf tin

– cover once again with oiled cling film and leave to “rest” in a warm place for 45mins – 1hour

Preheat the oven to 220 C, gas mark 7  – 210 C for fan ovens

– uncover the bread and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned and well risen (check at 20 minutes)

– cool for 5 minutes in the tin before flipping it out onto a wire cooling rack .  Tap the bottom; a hollow sound will tell you its cooked.  If you want to dry the bottom out a bit, you could pop it back into the oven up-side-down in the tin, just for a couple of minutes.  If a soft crust is preferred, wrap in a clean damp cloth.

It will keep for a week (or more, just getting firmer!) wrapped in a paper bag or in the bread bin.

To freeze : allow to cool completely.  Wrap in greaseproof paper and foil / cling film.

Happy Bread Baking!

*Nutritional Footnote – Walnuts

For every 10g (1oz) of walnuts you get 13g of polyunsaturated fat (the same group of fats as Omega 3 & 6) and 2.5g of monounsaturated fat (also termed as “good” fats – although a little less good than polyunsaturates!).  The recommended daily amount, the RDA, is roughly 30g, so a vary small handful of nuts gives you nearly half the amount you need, day to day!  These good fats reduce cholesterol in the blood, which is good for our veins and their blood flow, and help us develop healthy hearts and control our blood clotting.  In addition to these good fats found in walnuts (and other nuts) micro-nutrients, or trace elements, are also contained in a nut!  These are manganese & copper.  Walnuts contain high amounts of manganese – about half the RDA, and pecan nuts even more (3/4 of the RDA).  The body uses it, as with the Omega oils, for good functioning of the brain, as well as for connective tissue strengthening, and carbohydrate & fat metabolism.  Copper – small amounts are found in a walnut, but then the body does not need much (hence, micro-nutrient) – it provides us with energy for our nervous system and, like manganese, is for good connective tissue formation.  In addition, walnuts, along with most nuts, contain proteins and carbohydrates and roughly one tenth of our RDA of fibre, depending upon your age and gender.

So, both good fats and micro-nutrients and other food building blocks are all found in a tiny little nut! – and it only takes a handful a day – or a few slices of the Seeded Homemade Bread to help towards your good health! …

Leave a comment »

Cooking for Kids 5 – Nutty Muffins – with cool lime & lemonade (Guest Blog)

cooking-for-kids-31

I couldn’t resist something cool, over these hot Mediterranean-type days of our English summer this year- so I turned to my recipe files to search out a not-too-sugary, refreshing drink which kids will love (and adults too!) and could go well with nutty ‘breakfast’ muffins. In the next guest blog, there will be a short nutritional footnote on nuts.  This time – there is a link to the main Optimal Health website – where I have contributed to kids health news. But first, lets cool off…

Cool Lime & lemonade

Ingredients:

8 lemons & limes (a mixture – or which ever you prefer the taste of..)

100g / 4 oz caster sugar

Fresh mint sprigs and ice cubes of water to serve

Kitchen Equipment

A heat-proof glass storage jar – the ones with the orange rubber seals and flip metal clips, are good to use – often used for homemade jam or compote/preserving lemons)

tip* – limes grow more yellow as they ripen, and so more juicy, so pick out the yellowing ones.  Place in microwave for 20 seconds before squeezing, as this helps extract the juice more easily. Be careful – as they may ‘burst’ when you cut them!

Method:

– Peel the zest from the limes and/or lemons, trying not to take away the pith (as the pith/white underneath the skin, has a bitter taste).

– Squeeze the lemons & limes and place the juice, with the zest and sugar, into a heat proof jar.

– Pour 600ml of boiling water over the fruit.  Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

– Place in a cool place – maybe in your fridge, with the lid open, after having cooled it slightly at room temperature first.

– Once completely cool, strain the mixture into a serving jug, and throw away the zest.  Dilute with same amount again of ‘chilled’ water (600ml).

– Check the taste and add more sugar, stirring to dissolve, if necessary.

– Serve with ice and lime & lemon slices, and a sprig of fresh mint.

tip* – this refreshing drink will keep in the fridge for a few weeks

The next recipe has been tried and tested both in Israel and closer to home.  A lovely lady, Rachael, gave me the recipe.  Her second language was French, and one we shared and spoke in, so when she jotted this recipe down for me over a hot cup of coffee in a café under the sweltering desert sun one day, she wrote ‘poigneé ‘ which means, handful, against each ingredient!  I have tried to make it more precise for you here..

Nutty ‘Breakfast’ Muffins

Ingredients:

3-4 eggs (depending upon size)

2 large carrots, peeled and grated

1 handful of sultanas – 100g/4oz/1/2 cup

1 handful of walnut pieces – 100g/4oz/1/2 cup

granulated sugar- 200g/8oz/1 cup

1 sachet vanilla sugar (optional)

self-raising flour – 200g/8oz/1 cup  (or you can use:  plain flour with 1 flat tablespoon baking powder)

sunflower/vegetable oil – 8-9 tablespoons/4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup

milk – 8-9 tablespoons/4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup

Kitchen equipment:

Muffin baking tray (or one used for mince pies/fairy cakes, and place a muffin paper cases in each round)

Muffin paper cases

tip* – you could use a flat baking sheet with muffin paper cases, “double-up” for extra support for the uncooked mixture.

Method:

– Beat the eggs together in a small mixing bowl with a fork, or balloon whisk.

– Add grated carrot, sultanas, walnut pieces, sugar and vegetable/sunflower oil.

– Beat well for about 2 minutes.  A Kenwood mixer or equivalent, is useful here – or a hand whisk (the mixture is quite ‘heavy’) will do.

– Sift half the flour into the mixture with the milk, and mix again, more gently.

– Add the remaining flour and mix until you have a thick batter type consistency.

– Drop mixture into the muffin cases with a large spoon, until each is about 3/4 full.

And, now to bake them:

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes in the middle of a moderate oven (180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 – until risen and golden.

Leave to cool, then pack them straight into an airtight tin, where they will keep for a week – 10 days, if they last that long without you eating them!

tip* – you could cover them in icing, made with icing sugar and lemon juice!  Delicious!

Footnote:-

Quinoa is grown in the Andes of South America…it is packed with proteins and vitamins, that makes it the staple amongst staples – and it has now rocketed in demand across the world…

Click here for OptimalHealth4Kids main website article on Quinoa

Leave a comment »

Cooking for Kids 4 – Amazing Brownies – no butter and gluten free! (Guest Blog)

cooking-for-kids-31

Here is my friend’s recipe for gluten free ‘Amazing Brownies’ as promised in my last guest blog! It means children with these allergies need not  feel excluded.

When I was training to cook vegetarian options, we were always encouraged to make the food as similar to what others were eating, so the ‘special diets’ child/person did not feel unusual or left out in any way. These Brownies will do the trick at any children’s tea party, when catering for the children who cannot tolerate eating wheat or butter.

Where the recipe comes from

This is the favourite recipe of a family who became great friends of mine when I was working in Israel. The family live on a Kibbutz – things have changed a bit since the idea of Kibbutz was conceived, as the houses on them are all privately owned now, not as before when everything was shared. The communal buildings used for ‘shared dining’ where the community used to get together at the beginning of each day, and children were dropped off for child care, before the parents went out to work in the fields on the farm, or were employed in some other work, are now empty. It was good, my friend’s young daughter told me, when she showed me around one day, as the children always knew their parents were nearby, and could be called upon if they were needed. So, it all worked well in practice.. the cotton crops and watermelons were all grown and gathered, and livestock was kept there also..but, the world moved on and so did people’s aspirations. People now are financially independent. Now, although the dining halls still stand, but are empty, the post is still delivered at a central collection point, and the closeness of community is still there. Watermelons and cotton are still grown, some of them by my friend’s husband, who works as a farmer and agriculturist there, but the cattle and other livestock, have gone.

In the ground of the Kibbutz, there is a wonderful patisserie and cafe, and I hope to post some of their recipes on my guest blog slot for Optimal Health 4 Kids soon!

When I visited my friends, I would sometimes help with the cooking, but never with the dessert! – something chocolaty was always being cooked by the children (who are turning into beautiful young women now!) and I would be welcomed by lovely chocolate smells wafting out of their oven!

So, here is the Amazing (gluten free) Chocolate Brownie recipe, the last in my chocolate series of recipes for a while. When my friends make these they will probably be using the nuts that grow outside in their garden – each year I would watch them harvest large amounts of pecans from their trees! Delicious!

Amazing Brownies (no butter and gluten free!!)

(tip* they use cup measurements in Israel, as do the States, so I have included these measurements here, as this recipe is from Israel!)

Ingredients:-

200g / 8oz dark chocolate
4 eggs
75g/3oz white sugar – castor (fine)
75g/3oz brown sugar -soft brown sugar is better
150g/6oz / 3/4 cup chopped nuts (almonds or pecans)
2 tablespoons cornflour
4 tablespoons oil / 1/4 cup / 2 floz
salt – pinch
coffee – optional (put a couple of tablespoons of instant coffee
in a cup and add a couple of tablespoons (+) of hot water, mix.)

Pre-heat the oven to 180c

Method:-

– Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering / lightly boiling water – make sure no water gets into the bowl as you stir it gently, until it melts. Remove pan from the heat once melted.

– Add both the sugars to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.

– Add eggs, one by one, mixing well after you add each egg – this can be done by hand, using a wooden spoon, or better still, a hand whisk.

– Next, add your nuts along with a pinch of salt and the cornflour.

– Mix it all together, well!

– Finally, add the oil and mix in.

– Pour out, or spoon, into your buttered and floured baking sheet – (see last Chocolate Brownie recipe in my last post.)

Now, to bake them!

Bake for 30mins in the middle of the oven, at 180c and check after this time, to make sure it is not browning too quickly – if necessary, cover in foil and continue cooking for about another 10 mins – check it still has some movement – as they should not be overcooked.

I hope you enjoy these delicious gluten and butter free Chocolate Brownies from Israel!

I’ll be posting more about gluten intolerance and gluten free foods soon.

4 Comments »

Cooking for Kids 3 – Chocolate Brownies (Guest Blog)

cooking-for-kids-31

Here is the next post for my guest blog in the Cooking for Kids series. I hope you enjoyed making the Pinwheels from the last blog, and I wanted to start with a quick recap to this recipe! My god-daughter tried the Pinwheels recipe tested it and found she couldn’t spread the chocolate filling! – so, here are some additional tips: firstly, make sure the butter/margarine is at room temperature, and then, why not use an electric mixer if you have one and whizz it for a bit to really make it soft and creamy before adding the cocoa and sugar. She added water – a couple of tablespoons should be enough – to ‘let down’ the mixture. This is a very good idea, if you are mixing by hand – as I did when working with the children at the school. They are delicious so it is worth experimenting with cooking times and your particular oven heat.

Now, for this recipe : It is a favourite of mine, to eat as well as cook (!) – and its one that’s been tried and tested over the years. I owe its origins to Anton Mosimann’s book, which contains a few useful ‘signature’ recipes of his. I worked in his restaurant at The Belfry, an old members’ club in a converted Scottish Presbyterian church in London, where I learnt to prepare his famous steak tartar (meticulously weighed out to the gramme on the scales before ‘plating up’!) and Caesar salad! I didn’t cook the brownies there, but later cooked these chocolaty squares as an additional sweet accompaniment to a sandwich lunch for businesses in central London. It was quite a thing getting them across London in the rush hour, balancing trays of sandwiches and chocolate brownies all wrapped in cling film! .. I hope you enjoy them. I will be posting a “gluten-free” alternative next time – along with other recipes researched and passed on to me from friends who live in Northern Israel, which I am really looking forward to sharing with you, on the guest blog then…

Chocolate Brownies

200g / 8 oz unsweetened (high cocoa content) chocolate

100g / 4 oz butter at room temperature

4 eggs

350g / 12 oz caster sugar

150g / 6 oz plain flour

teaspoon baking powder

100g / 4 oz walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Kitchen Equipment

One baking tray with semi-deep sides to allow Brownies to rise (as if for a tray cake) 30 x 20 x 5 cms (deep) – 12 x 8 x 2 inches (you could use a slightly larger tray, and not so deep – the Brownies may take slightly less time to cook so, check 10 mins earlier with a skewer/touch surface to see whether it is set)

Method:

– Break chocolate into squares and place in a bowl set above a saucepan of simmering (not boiling) water.

– add chunks of butter and melt the two ingredients together, watching and stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

– Beat your eggs with the caster sugar (I use an electric mixer) until fluffy and slightly lighter in colour.

– with the beater still turning at a low speed, drizzle in the chocolate and butter mixture.

– Sift flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl and add and fold into the mixture with a large metal spoon.

– Mix in the walnuts or pecans.

– pour out the mixture into a greased baking tin 20 cm x 20 cm (8 x 8 inches)

(tip* you could line the baking tin, with greaseproof paper and grease the paper and dust with flour – I find greasing it well with a butter/margarine wrapping and dusting lightly with flour – knock off the excess, will be enough to stop sticking).

Now to bake them!

Bake at 180 C/ 350 F/ Gas 4 – for about 35-40 minutes (10 mins before if using a shallow baking tin) and check to see a firm crust appear on the top, but with the mixture still having a bit of ‘movement’ underneath – or, remove from the oven and put a metal skewer into the mixture to see it comes out clean – be careful not to overcook them, as they will set when cool and should not be like chocolate cake but softer in texture.

Allow to cool and cut into generously sized squares! Delicious!

These can be served as a pudding with a favourite ice cream.. or just eat for tea/or pop in a lunch box for children’s’ packed lunch – with a piece of fruit of course!  They will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.  They also freeze well.

Happy cooking!

As the weeks go on, this blog will begin to take its form and I hope you will follow its journey and provide feedback.

I will sometimes put a “nutritional footnote” at the end of each recipe, which is worth glancing at if you are interesting in looking at nutritional benefits as relates to you / your children’s’ health – and more detailed articles on health and nutrition can be found on the main web site pages alongside recommended vitamin supplements (which are, of course, always used as a “supplement” to a good, balanced daily diet).

Finally, I recommend buying the high cocoa content chocolate, if you can, when making these Brownies. I buy the Fairtrade brands; it is supplied to us from many exotic countries of origin!

Nutritional footnote:-

Why some chocolates are good for you

Eating a small square of chocolate a day (20g) is said to have cardiovascular benefits. The fat in cocoa beans are so called good fats, but they are often mixed with milk and lower grade chocolate (ie. with a low cocoa content) and this is where we need to watch out with the increased fat content – as these are the sources of the saturated (unhealthy) fats! The cocoa bean or cocoa butter is not the culprit!

In addition, cocoa interestingly contains antioxidants.. similar to the ones found in wine. These are compounds called flavonoids, and have properties good for health – like keeping your blood running smoothly in your veins reducing the risk of clotting. More importantly for children’s health, the cocoa bean contains – contrary to common held belief – very, very low amounts of caffeine, and so won’t make your child hyperactive before bedtime, as perhaps a cola drink might.

The vitamins to be found in the cocoa bean are: A,B1,B2,B3,C,E and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)!

For some health and safety tips see my first blog –  Health & Safety in the Kitchen

Leave a comment »

Cooking for Kids 2 – Chocolate Pinwheels Recipe (Guest Blog)

cooking-for-kids-31

Chocolate Pinwheels:

Here is the recipe that I mentioned in my introductory blog, a couple of days ago!

These are really fun to make with a small group of children, maybe at a party or as a
weekend activity…or just on your own.  Remember to allow to cool before
attempting to eat them!  Having made them once, I think you will want to make
them again and again!…

Kitchen equipment includes:

– x2 large mixing bowls; wooden spoons to stir, round ended kitchen knife, sharp cutting knife

– a large, flat baking tray, greased (using margarine paper/greaseproof paper and a little fat).

Ingredients:

Pastry mixture:-
100g / 4oz margarine (room temperature)
200g / 8oz self-raising flour
1 tablespoon sugar
Cocoa mixture (filling):-
50g / 2oz butter
75g / 3oz castor sugar
25g / 1oz cocoa powder
cold water

Method:

Pastry mixture:
In a large mixing bowl…
– rub 100g / 4oz margarine into 200g / 8oz self-raising flour.
– mix it into a stiff dough with cold water (using as little as possible
as it will make the pastry hard and crunchy rather than soft and
biscuity once cooked!) and bring together with hands, in the bowl,
to form a soft dough.
– roll out onto a floured board to the size of about 20 cms x 20 cms
(10 inches by 10 inches) and with the thickness of at least 5 cms
(1/4 inch thick)

Ingredients & Method:

Cocoa mixture (filling):
In another large mixing bowl…
– mix 50g / 2oz margarine, softened, with 75g / 30z castor sugar and
25g / 1oz cocoa powder – until it is smooth and all mixed in to a paste
(it may take some vigorous stirring with a wooden spoon!)
– now, dollop this chocolate mixture out onto the centre of you dough
mixture and taking a palette knife, or standard eating knife (preferably
with a rounded end) begin to spread the mixture out over the dough,
being careful not to make holes in the dough! – leaving about 1 cm /
1/4 of an inch free of chocolate mixture, around the outside rim.

(*tip – it may help if you have a glass of luke warm water handy, so
you can dip your knife into the water from time to time, to warm the
blade, which will stop the mixture sticking too much to the knife!)

– wet the edges with water (the outside rim that you left free of
chocolate mixture) using a pastry brush, or just your fingers, carefully
dabbing the pastry so that it becomes a bit sticky.
– Now, roll up the dough and chocolate mixture, as you would if you
were making a Swiss roll – making it as tight as you can, but not letting
too much of the chocolate mixture escape! – lightly sealing the edges
as you go (don’t worry too much about the edges, just as long as it
keep its long, sausage-type shape).
– Using a sharp knife (adults, this is a job for you!) carefully cut the
rolled up dough into slices, about 1cm / 1/2 inch thick.
– place onto a greased baking tray (placing quite far apart as they will spread
out a little during cooking.
Now, to cook them!…

To Bake:

– bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes at 180 C, 350 F or Gas No. 4
– if after this time, if the dough is still looking white and undercooked, give
them another 5 minutes and check again after this time.

When they are cooked:

– take out of oven and place on a cooling grid, and leave to cool before
being tempted to eat them – as the chocolate mixture will remain hot for
quite a long time.
– your chocolate pinwheels will keep in an airtight tin for at least a week!

Yum! Happy Eating!

See my first blog –  Cooking for Kids 1 – Health & Safety in the Kitchen

Leave a comment »

Cooking for Kids 1 – Health & Safety in the Kitchen (Guest Blog)

cooking-for-kids-31

Hi, I am really thrilled to have been asked to share with you a few recipes I have picked up along the way in my 21 years of cooking since my cooking college days!

I remember being asked to run a cooking class for small kids at a school local to me in Pimlico, London, England…. my friend was the form’s teacher at the time.  Everyone had a great time, not least me (!) and it wasn’t until I got the photos processed (yes, there were no digital cameras back then!) and I was quietly looking though them with my teacher friend, that I noticed something.. when given tasks during the cooking class, like – ‘who wants to stir the chocolate in this bowl’ and ‘who wants to make the biscuit dough in this one’ – all the girls had gone to one bowl and were happily giving their friends a stir with the wooden spoon (learning how to share and work as a team – all important formative skills for kids!) and all the boys.. were stirring the dough!  It did make us laugh and think about the social interplay of children at that age (8yrs old).

I can see their shiny, happy faces staring up at the camera now – waiting for the cookies to come out of the oven so they could see the melted chocolate chips and, once the dough had set just a little and the cookies were still warm from the oven, they would dig in! So, this is the first recipe that I would now like to share with you:  Chocolate Pinwheels!  … and do let me know how you get on…

Before we get started, a few notes on nutrition followed by some very basic health and safety pointers for you to remember when working near heat and with sharp objects…

Nutrition :-

Any nutritional value which I think is worth mentioning, I will add as a footnote to each recipe I post over the forthcoming weeks – please note: these are guide lines only and not specific breakdown of ingredients as they equate to health.

Also, please note where there are nuts or other ingredients like eggs, or dairy products that children can be allergic to, to either omit that ingredient – which is often easy to do without altering the outcome of the recipe too much  – or, where possible, to use an alternative product – such as a dairy-free margarine or cream: read instructions on the packet to ensure it is suitable for cooking over heat.  Please note also that nuts can cause choking in younger children, so for this reason they should be ground up into small pieces, or left out of the recipe altogether.

Health & Safety (specifically when working with children) :-

Hot things.!…

Be aware, when cooking with small children, please be extra vigilant when hot pans are being moved out of the oven or around the cooking area, by saying in a loud voice, ‘watch out, hot pan!’! or, making sure children are supervised AT ALL TIMES when ovens are on, or hobs, or kettles! 

Handling and tasting the food as-you-go-along!…

Remember before any cooking time together begins, to remind your little cooks to wash their hands! – and explain why we do this!  Also, to resist touching their faces once cooking ingredients have been handled… germs are in moderation, good for us.. they build our resistance!  but, when I cook with children, I am not shy to remind them if they want to lick the bowl, or stick a finger in the jam, they will have to wash their hands afterwards, before they can continue cooking!  In practically, no, in every case, the children thought it was worth the effort!

Just a few more healthy & safety tips…

Sharp things!…

Children should never be allowed to cut with large cooking knives.  This should be done by the attending adult, but you can always include the children, by saying for example, ‘I am just going to do this bit as it needs cutting with a sharp knife, but you can watch from over here..’  In this way, children, by observing you will quickly learn how to be careful in the kitchen, as well as having fun, and will gradually build their confidence, so that one day, they will become master cooks in their own right!

Wishing you happy, healthy cooking!

2 Comments »