Crunchy Granola

Crunchy Granola

The delicious goodness of home baked ‘Crunchy Granola’

Starting the day with a bowl of home-baked ‘Crunchy Granola’ is something my kids love. For so long I served them bowls of cooked oats for breakfast (because it is my favourite!) and for a long time they happily devoured it …  but then they started to get a little bored with porridge and the complaining and moaning started to creep in each morning. Living in Singapore where it is always hot, also meant it was time to mix it up and  try something new and more suitable to the warmer climate. 

This granola still has all the complex carbohydrates, fibre and goodness of a bowl of porridge but a completely different taste and texture. I love that it’s crunchy but also satisfyingly chewy and moist. Although the oven time is a little longer and I usually cooking smaller batches for best results – this part is flexible. You can cook it at a higher temperature for less time and you can put it all in and mix it up periodically as it bakes rather than small batches. This depend on your available time and individual tastes. 

My family’s favourite ways to eat Crunchy Granola are: 

 + For breakfast with a splash of milk, chopped fresh berries or banana & a big dollop of organic yoghurt

+ Sprinkled on top of a cup of coconut or greek organic yoghurt with a little berry sauce drizzled on {I make the sauce by heating a handful of frozen berries in a pan with a 1/3 cup water until berries are softened and warmed. Then blitz in blender until smooth and runny} 

+ In a breakfast trifle cup with layers of chia pudding, fresh fruit, granola, yoghurt. 

+ As a snack in a small container in lunch box. 

+ Served with some grapes and berries as a pick n mix snack.

 

++++++    Recipe   ++++++

Ingredients:

++  5 cups of organic rolled oats (Gluten Free where possible, or you can substitute rolled quinoa for naturally Gluten Free option)

++ 2 ripe bananas – mashed 

++ 2 apples, grated core and all  

++ Juice from half an orange, freshly squeezed

++ 1/3 cup Coconut oil (or melted organic butter). 

++ 6 dates, pitted and soaked in cup of hot water (then blitzed to a sauce with a stick blender)

++ teaspoon of cinnamon 

Optional: 1/4 cup coconut sugar if you need some extra sweetness (the dates and bananas are usually enough to sweeten it though). 

Optional additions for once baked & cooled : coconut flakes, puffed quinoa, chopped dates, chopped (unsulphered) apricots, dehydrated apple rings, buckwheat puffs, raisins, chopped nuts, chopped seeds.  

 

Method: 

Preheat oven to 140′ C

In a large bowl combine all ingredients with a wooden spoon or your hands. Massage the liquids and fruits into the oats and set aside for a few minutes for the oats to soak up the flavours and soften. 

On a baking tray, roll out a sheet of baking paper (I use a re-usable silicone baking sheet which is naturally non-stick ). Spoon out half the mixture, spread it around the sheet and flatten it down. I usually do this quite unevenly so it gives chunks and crunchy bits as well as larger, softer cookie-like bits. 

Put it in the oven and bake for 45 minutes and then pull it out and check on it. If its still very moist you can put it back in for 10 minute increments but check regularly (ovens tend to vary greatly so best to keep an eye on it first time!). If there are bits on the thinner side that are dry and crispy remove those before putting back in. The best way is to keep trying/tasting small bits until it is to your liking. I like it when it is like little oat cookie chunks / crumbles. You don’t want too much moisture left inside the chunks though as they won’t store for as long. 

Repeat with the remaining mixture until its all baked and broken into spoon size chunks. 

Once cooled you can add any additional extras as listed above or of your own liking and store in a big air tight jar. Can be stored in fridge or in a pantry and lasts around 1-2 weeks (but not in our house!!). 

Now watch it disappear … 

 

 

 

Healthy ideas for your next kids’ party (with the focus on fun and yum)

Healthy ideas for your next kids’ party (with the focus on fun and yum)

Parents who are looking for healthy food  ideas for kids’ parties can have a difficult time seeing past the mountain of  processed foods laden with refined sugar, artificial colours, e-numbers and chemicals, that sadly seem synonymous with kids’ parties these days!

I’m sure many of you have experienced the post-party melt down. They run around like a lunatic at the party then come home with a huge sugar (and processed food) hangover and it’s  not pretty!

It was my son’s birthday party a few weeks back.

It got me thinking.

Knowing all that I do, it didn’t feel right for me to serve those usual suspects up to our little party guests.

But kids expect party food at a party don’t they?

Surely they will screw up their noses if it’s all too ‘healthy’?

Of course they want party and celebration food. I’m certainly not suggesting kale smoothies all round … But why does the party food have to be the crappiest stuff possible for their precious little growing bodies? That’s a cultural norm we’ve all bought into and the big food companies love to further perpetuate this belief. I promise there are plenty of delicious, fun and nourishing party foods that can be served up, that the kids will love. Highly processed, fake ‘foods’ aren’t the only foods that fit the term ‘party food’.

Here are my tips for a healthier and happier party for your little peeps plus oodles of food ideas to get you started  …

1 – Allocate the party time between meals

You can make it between meal times so they don’t arrive super hungry and the food isn’t the main focus. You can have some sandwiches available for those who arrive hungry and then you don’t need to put out the snacks until you are ready for them to dig in.
If the party does happen over a meal time, give them a proper meal that will fill them up. My son’s party was outdoors and we bbq’d a whole bunch of delicious, high quality sausages from our local butcher and stuck them in some sourdough buns from our local bakery and served these to both kids and parents. Everyone devoured them and some kids came back for seconds. This filled them up so they didn’t need to hover over the table for snacks. I also had loads of fruit sticks and big bowls of popcorn out for those wanting to snack.

2 – Choose a location that keeps them busy and active.

We went for the  pool party option (what else do you do in Singapore?).
The kids spent the whole two hours swimming and playing with the pool toys. They barely noticed the food table. They were too busy having fun in the pool.

If we keep kids busy they don’t need to hang out at the table for a food overdose.
Any party that involves activity and movement is always going to be a winner as it provides exercise, wears them out and keeps then busy.

Some simple ideas to get them moving and having fun.:

  • Mini sports
  • outdoor playground/park
  • adventure park
  • pool party
  • yoga
  • dancing
  • indoor rock climbing
  • pool party
  • skating
  • bowling
  • mini golf
  • treasure hunts etc.

There are also plenty of activities that require concentration and are brilliant at keeping their minds and hands busy and the focus off the (junk) food.

  • craft skills
  • painting
  • flower arranging
  • DIY essential-oil potion making
  • weaving
  • bead making
  • Fimo clay modelling
  • drawing class
  •  lego design & construction
  • detective party solving the mystery

Or Maybe Try a Different Angle?

Another idea where the focus is on food but in a slightly different way… is a cooking party. The kids can prepare the food (pizza +simple salad + garlic bread or baking cookies and rolling bliss balls or even as simple as making beautiful food art fruit creations ). Then finally at the end they get to devour their creations … make sure to keep it simple and have everything prepared and ready to go in advance. Safety is also an important consideration here.

3 – Choose delicious and nutritious food and present it in a fun way.

I’m not  suggesting a total ban on sugar, but it is possible to serve nutritious foods that are sweet but also full of other goodness. I also believe if you are going to make something sweet, go for quality ingredients and make it a feature such as a beautiful home baked cake or sweet treat rather than the pre-packaged ones full of damaging ingredients.

Presentation: remember presentation can be the difference between the food being devoured or left untouched . One quick search into pinterest for ‘healthy party for kids’ and you will be bombarded with ideas for cute presentation and a never ending supply of ideas.

Here are some ‘party food’ ideas to get you started.

Savoury

+ Good quality sausages (preservative free from a good butcher)  in a sourdough bun.

+ Popcorn with sea salt

+ Kale chips with a little sea salt (I promise when made properly they are delicious). My free ebook (see bottom of post) has a recipe for these or just google it. 

+ Home made Potato wedges. Just roast some potato and some sweet potatos in wedge shapes. They work best if parboiled in advance then drizzle some oil over and roast. Sprinkle with little sea salt at end. 

+ Homemade sausage rolls are very quick to make. You can simply take the sausage meat out of some quality (preservative free) sausages from the butchers and place them along one side of a rectangular sheet of puff pastry, roll the pastry around the meat, brush with egg wash,  and then cut into bite sizes and bake for 15-20 mins in a moderate oven (200′ C) or until golden and cooked through.

+ Mini meatballs on a little stick are fun and easy to dip into sauce. Can add some cucumber or cheese cubes to the kebab stick.

+ Sandwiches ( for little ones cut them with cookie cutters for extra fun appeal). Filling ideas :  cheese, chicken + mayo, avocado + tomato, egg, cucumber, cheese + shredded carrot, vegemite, nut butter (if no allergies) + banana .

+ Mini pizzas – use small flat bread/pitas and top with tomato paste, cheese, pineapple, mushrooms and red peppers, nitrate free ham or shredded chicken. I have found simple is always best when catering to variety of taste buds!

+ Homemade chicken or fish nuggets – simply coat small chunks of fresh chicken or white fish in one coat of plain flour, one coat of egg wash and one coat of breadcrumbs then drizzle over a little oil and bake in moderate oven until golden and cooked inside … the cooking time will depend on size of meat chunks, so keep an eye on them.

Sweet
+ Bliss balls (Nut free if there are any allergies) – pop them on a lollipop stick for extra appeal!  (google or search on pinterest and you will have a million recipes or try my one here)

+ Fruit skewers – always a favourite! Chop some fruit or scoop fruit using melon baller and slide onto sticks. In very hot climates you can freeze watermelon, rockmelon, strawberries, grapes & pineapple on sticks and they are beautifully refreshing.

+ Fruit Salad inside a Watermelon shark. Sounds Fancy but just google ‘watermelon carving’ or ‘Watermelon shark’  and you will have ideas and instructions galore and they really aren’t hard to do I promise. They do entice the kids over to the fruit area all the more. Have little party cups ready for them to scoop their fruit into.  

+ Frozen Popsicles (Ice -blocks) – I whizzed up a huge batch of delicious home-made ice popsicles {ice blocks}  that were made with fresh fruit blended and poured into ice-block moulds with a stick.

I blended:

  • pineapple + watermelon + orange
  • banana + raw cacao powder (for a chocolate flavour),
  • peaches + cream,
  • lemon + pineapple + mint,
  • lychee +  strawberry
  • creamy coconut milk + crushed fresh berries

{Much to my disappointment my freezer decided to malfunction that day so they were all soggy and I couldn’t serve them in the end, but my kids and everyone who visited my house enjoyed them for weeks afterwards}

+ Jelly made with blended smoothie or fresh juice and good quality gelatine. Kids love these and they are actually very beneficial to children’s digestive health. 

+ Gummy square lollies –  If you increase the amount of gelatine in the jelly you can set it into small cute shaped silicone ice moulds and make mini gummy lollies that  benefit the gut health. (I love and use this simple recipe) 

+ Homemade cookies cut into fun shapes or big sized Anzac cookies.

+ Popcorn with a tiny drizzle of rice syrup.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

So there you have just a few simple food ideas that are fun, delicious and nourishing. This isn’t an extensive list as there are so many more options, but this is a good starting base.

Keep it simple. Don’t over complicate it. A couple of sweet and a couple of savoury then take the focus off the food and get them dancing, singing, playing, outdoors being active or indoors being creative with their minds and hands.

I took “keeping it simple” to the next level for my son’s party. Being 5 months pregnant with number 4, I admit I wasn’t at my most creative or energised so wanted to keep things as simple as possible!! But my son proudly told me one of his little party guests said it was the best party he had ever been to!  The verdict is in – Kids like simple fun…

Most of this food can be made in advance and popped in freezer or made the day before and kept in the fridge ready to reheat, so you aren’t rushing crazily on the day. { Unless, like me, your fridge and freezer decide to die the week of the party and the new one only gets delivered few hours before the party…}

It might take a little more time to plan and prepare theses foods than buying huge bags of crisps and lollies, but I whole heartedly believe it is worth it!

One last tip to avoid the sugar overload at the parties your children attend. 

You definitely don’t want your kids to feel like the health nerd who isn’t allowed any of the food at the parties they attend. Nor would I want my kids to stop being invited to parties because the parents think I wouldn’t approve ( I’m not here to preach or judge!). Kids are kids and when it is right in front of them they will often eat it!  I talk to my kids a lot about the food choices we make and why we make those choices but they still indulge in these foods on certain occasions. I’m passionate but definitely not a purist.

I just make sure they eat before they go to a party. I usually make sure they’ve had a meal of some kind but preferably one that has some healthy fats and proteins so they feel fully satisfied, are already full and although they still eat the party food, this is usually enough to prevent a sugar and junk overload.

 

Happy partying,

Elisha x

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7 tips for making the best smoothies for kids

7 tips for making the best smoothies for kids

Smoothies for kids are my favourite way to get a delicious boost of nutritious goodness into their bodies, even when we are rushing around like crazy coconuts.

Kids seem to love the novelty of drinking their breakfast or snack and the bonus is that they don’t have to sit still for long before they can zoom off to play.

All that you need to do is add chosen ingredients to a blender, whizz and off you go. You can take them with you and sip on the go if need be.

You don’t need an expensive blender, I use a basic one with a glass jug.  A powerful blender will just the make the job a little easier and the smoothie a bit … smoother.

The flavour combinations are only as limited as your imagination. But there are definitely some combinations that work very well together.

I will give you a few tips on how to create your own smoothies for kids. I highly recommend getting them involved in coming up with their own combination of flavours too.

 1  CHOOSE A BASE LIQUID – About 2 cups 

It can be water, coconut water, coconut milk, nut milk ( home made is best as it is free from preservatives etc). If your children can tolerate dairy in their diet you could use milk but always full fat & prefferably organic. I often use a herbal tea that has been appropriately diluted for children such as chammomile, sencha, roobious, mint, lemongrass, lemon or ginger. They add extra flavour plus other health benefits too. Keffir (fermented) milk would add a whole boost of probiotic goodness. Add your liquid first as it is gentler on your blender blades.

2 -Add GREENS FIRST – or other fibrous fruits

This is to ensure they blend properly so you dont get leafy, green lumps in your smoothie. Some good options are kale, baby spinach or argular. Go easy with these at first so as not to overpower the flavour, little people will become suspicious. A sweet fruit such as banana or pineapple usually disgiuses any flavour or bitterness from the more bitter greens. If you are making smoothies for kids it is important it is appealing in flavour and apearance.

3 – CHOOSE A CUP OR TWO OF FRUIT 

Bananas make it creamy and sweet. Avocado is an excellent way to make it creamy and add in some highly beneficial healthyfats (which are crucial to your child’s brain development and will assist assimilation of the other nutrients too). Berries make a delicious and colourful addition adding in some anti oxidant benefits and some vitamin C. Mango, passionfruit, pineapple, dragonfruit (especially the megenta one!) also make excellent choices. You can grate in apple or pear or chopped stone fruits.

4 – WANT IT THICKER?

If you freeze your fruit first it will make your smoothie chilled and deliciously thicker.

Add some healthy fats

By adding coconut milk, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, macadamia oil (or butter) or some avocado. Shelled hemp seeds are creamy and full of healthy fats as are chia seeds. Blend them in and then let sit for 5 minutes to soak up the liquid and swell. Ground flaxseeds also work well to thicken and add extra fiber.

5 – WANTING MORE ‘OOMPH’ – to keep tummies full longer?

Nut butters (if your child is over two and doesnt have allergies) will boost the protein and keep your child feeling fuller for longer.

Soaked, cooked and cooled grains will add a body to the smoothie and make it more filling. Choose those that are most gentle on young digestive systems. GF oats, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat. Add a little at a time to test and ensure it doesn’t make it too thick and gluggy.

6 – IF YOUR LITTLE SWEETIE PIES WANT IT SWEETER 

I ususally find the fruits are enough to sweeten it. If you are low on the sweet fruits and your kids are needing it sweeter, you can add a little pure vanilla extract (especially good with mango/banana/coconut/creamy combos). Other sweeteners would be brown rice syrup, pure organic maple syrup, a sprinkle of coconut sugar or soaked and pitted dates. If your children are needing it really sweet perhaps try to cut back a little each time so it becomes less sweet over time and you can rely on the natural sugars from the fruits.

7 – IF YOU WISH TO ADD SOME EXTRA SUPER POWERS

Raw cacao powder would be my first pick of superfood powders, as it is high in minerals and makes everything taste chocolatey! This is best suited to creamy smoothies and works beautifully fruits like banana, mango, strawberries. My other recommendations would be a spirulina powder which is a highly nutritious blue-green algae sold in powder form. It is high in protein, essential amino acids, cleansing chlorophyl and makes your smoothie a luminous green! A liitle goes a long way and the flavour is easily disguised with a sweet fruit such as banana, pineapple or mango. You might also like to crack open a  probiotic capsule and blend that in.  There are many other superfood powders I love  but these are my top picks, both can be found in health food stores or the healthy aisle of the supermarket.

Click here for  three of my kid’s favourite breakfast smoothies 

+ THREE WAYS TO USE SMOOTHIE LEFTOVERS 

Often when I make a big smoothie, it gets demolished in seconds and if I’m too slow I miss out altogether. Howevever on the odd ocassion that I have left over smmothie I do one of three things…

1) Freeze in popsicle moulds and make delicious dessert or refreshing snack for your kids later.

2) Freeze it in small fun shaped silicone icecube moulds (we have cars, boats, dinosaurs, fairies, mermaids and happy faces) and when you need a fun topper for your child’s cooked porridge it sits on top, melts and adds flavour and colour to your bowl of breakfast. The creamy ones are best for this. This is great for encourigning fussy eaters to eat their porridge.

3) Stir or blend in chia seeds and make a chia pudding for dessert. Depening on how much you have leftover and how thick you want it , add approximately 1-2 Tbsp of chia seeds per cup of smoothie.

TWO MORE THINGs … 

++ If you are beginning to experiment,  is to start off with the basics and add a little something each time – not all flavours and ingredients are going to taste great together. Experiment slowly so you don’t end up wasting your precious ingredients.

++ Also note if you’re wanting a pretty colour avoid mixing greens and reds as you will end up with a not so pretty brown. It will still taste yummy but might be aesthetically challenged 🙂 

Enjoy, Elisha

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For more smoothie recipes and healthy eats for breakfast lunch and dinner you can download my e-book for free here

 

Creamy Coconut Buckwheat Porridge

Creamy Coconut Buckwheat Porridge

Have you heard of buckwheat porridge?

Confused about what buckwheat even is?

Buckwheat is often categorised as a grain because it is similar in it’s appearance and use. But despite its name, it is no relation to wheat and is actually not a grain at all, it is a fruit related to the rhubarb family, making it naturally gluten free.

It boasts an impressive range of nutrients and minerals. It is high in vitamin B, niacin, magnesium, manganese, fibre and protein (particularly lysine).

I remember  first being introduced to it by my naturopath while I was pregnant with my daughter,  she recommended I eat it regularly to support the veins in my legs … as it is great for promoting vascular health with its high levels of flavonoid Rutin.

It also makes a fantastic gluten free breakfast for young babies once they are weaning onto solids, as it is gentle on the tummy.

My favourite way to eat it is as a nourishing, creamy breakfast porridge, but it is delicious as a substitute for other grains in savoury dishes too.

I buy the raw groats and if I have time, I soak them in some water & a squeeze of lemon juice for a couple of hours to increase digestibility. Then I drain and cook.  If I don’t have time for this I quickly toast them on a dry pan for a few minutes (you can buy them already toasted they are called kasha). The roasting increases the nutty flavour.

This  is one of my favourite recipes for buckwheat porridge.

Ingredients

+ 1 cup of buckwheat groats (pre-soaked) or dry roasted kasha.

+ 2  cups of milk of choice ( I use 2 cups of homemade coconut milk but you can use your preferred milk or substitute 1 cup of water as well ) … may need extra as it is cooking and absorbing. 

+ handful of fresh or frozen blueberries 

+ 1 apple, roughly grated.

++ Extra Coconut milk or cream for serving and some fresh berries to sprinkle on top.

Directions

Add the buckwheat, liquid and apple to a pan and gently cook over a medium heat, keeping a close eye & stirring often to ensure it doesn’t stick and monitor the liquid level. About 30 minutes should be long enough for the buckwheat to be soft and creamy, but times will vary on the liquid you choose as well as the heat source on your stove top.

Serve with some coconut cream or milk and top with your choice of berries or other fruits. If you require more sweetness you could add a chopped date or a drizzle of rice syrup or pure organic maple syrup.

I make a large batch and keep it in a glass container in fridge and reheat with a little extra liquid the next morning.

Enjoy,

Elisha

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