I reckon we’re pretty good in the Bangers & Mash house when it comes to snacking healthily. Just as I sat down to write this post, my girls came in with their usual mid-afternoon demand: “Mummy, we’re hungry! Can we have a snack?” They are now happily munching their way through a bowlful each of dried apricots.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re not food saints by any stretch of the imagination. We enjoy our potato crisps and chocolate biscuits as much as the next family, but these are clearly seen as occasional treats rather than everyday snacks.
As well as dried apricots, the girls also love their dried apples, which we dry ourselves above the Aga – perfect in late summer when our apple tree is heaving. Dried apple is a perfect ingredient for our fruit & nut balls and granola, both of which make ideal snacks. Cherry tomatoes, chunks of cheese and cucumber, and carrot sticks are also snacktime favourites with my girls.
But probably the snack the kids ask for most are dips and breadsticks. We always have a pot of chunky hummus or some other dip, such as this deliciously smoky aubergine puree, on the go in the fridge. I used to spend a fortune on the shop bought varieties, until I realised just how cheap and easy they are to make at home. And so much tastier too.
Both recipes are based on ones I found in Leon cookbooks, but I’ve tweaked them slightly for my family’s tastes, in particular by increasing the amount of garlic involved in the proceedings.
Use yoghurt instead of the tahini to turn this dip into babaganoush.
3 large aubergines
juice of 3 lemons
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.
Prick the aubergines with a fork and bake in the oven, direct on the rack, for around 20 minutes until the skins have blackened.
Peel off the aubergine skins using a sharp knife while they are still warm.
Whizz up the aubergines in a food processor, together with the tahini, lemon juice and garlic. Taste and season with salt.
Pour into a large bowl to serve, drizzled with olive oil.
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp tahini
70ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
½ tsp paprika (optional)
Simply place the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, tahini and olive oil into a food processor and blitz until you reach a good consistency. I like mine fairly chunky but you might prefer yours smoother or looser. If it seems to dry, add a little more olive oil and/or lemon juice.
Season to taste and pour into a bowl to serve. Sprinkle with a little paprika if you like.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. As my children like to say. Both dips are a good accompaniment to crudités, breadsticks or warm pitta bread, or serve as part of a mezze.
I’m entering these dips into April’s Family Foodies challenge, hosted this month by Louisa at Eat Your Veg. The theme this month is Healthy Snacks. Do pop over there to take a look through the other recipes entered so far – there are some really good ones this month. In particular, I’ve got my eye on the Easy Peasy Mackerel Pate from Casa Costello, which looks delicious and wonderfully simple to make.
Now how’s that for a tempting array of food and drink? Would you believe each and every one of these is packed full of hidden goodies to tempt your children (and any other fussy eaters) to get some healthy stuff inside them?
If you are looking for cunning ways to sneak some extra fruit, vegetables, fibre, nuts or pulses into your family, then I’m sure you’ll find a tasty trick or two among this month’s fabulous Family Foodies round-up. So let’s get started…
As well as turkey, these sliders (aka mini burgers) from Heidi at Mamacook feature hidden vegetables in the form of grated courgette, along with fresh herbs and sweet chilli sauce – a great way to introduce a little mild spice to your little ones. I’m sure my children could put quite a few of these cute little burgers away. As indeed could I.
I love the idea of Caroline from Caroline Makes sneaking vegetables into her own food! That’s exactly what she’s done with this tasty broccoli, courgette and Stilton soup. “I am a pretty fussy eater,” she writes, “and don’t like a lot of veg, so had an idea of sneaking some hidden veg… into my own food! My theory was that if I couldn’t see it, and hopefully couldn’t taste it, I wouldn’t mind eating it.” I definitely wouldn’t mind eating a big bowl of this – and I’m sure I’d be back for seconds.
Heidi from Mamacook is back with a beautiful broccoli frittata, which she says is ideal for babies, toddlers and indeed the whole family. And even though this is a pretty thrifty dish, Heidi’s tip to make it even thriftier is to make sure you cook the broccoli stalk as well as the florets, as it all tastes the same. Sound advice.
Heidi is a dab hand at this hidden goodies lark. Here’s her third entry; spinach and potato bites, and don’t though look so good? They’re a great way to use up leftover mashed potato and an ideal finger food for toddlers. Heidi’s son ate six of them in one sitting, even before he touched his fish fingers, which really is saying something.
There’s sneaky carrot in this healthy take on the chicken burger, a second entry from Caroline Makes, which originates from a Slimming World recipe. They are a great way to make chicken breasts go a little bit further, and Caroline promises you really can’t taste the carrot!
Carrot is another hidden ingredient in these wonderful rice balls from My Tasty Adventures, together with peas, cheese, chicken, herbs and spices, and of course leftover rice. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, they are reminiscent of a falafel and I know my children would absolutely adore them.
Pasta sauces are an easy way to disguise a whole host of vegetables and my roast vegetable sauce contains carrots, tomatoes, butternut squash, red onion, celery and courgettes. It’s incredibly easy to make and I’ve been cooking it for my two girls since they were toddlers and they still love it now.
Martin from Spurs Cook brings us another pasta and vegetable dish with his warming cannelloni. There are all kinds of ingredients in this one from mushrooms, leeks, courgettes and carrots to chilli, fennel and anchovies and while it apparently involves quite a bit of preparation, Martin assures us it is well worth the effort. I bet – it sounds absolutely gorgeous.
Just like pasta sauces, soups are another brilliant way to introduce vegetables and other goodies to your children. Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes offers this gorgeously wholesome parsnip, carrot and lentil soup, which as well as being a great tea for little ones is perfect for anyone on the 5:2 diet as it contains just 175 calories a portion.
Ness from JibberJabberUK brings us this delicious carrot and coriander soup, which happens to be the first soup she’s made in her slow cooker since her university days, when she managed to stink out her student flat with a particularly garlicky soup while she was out at her Saturday job. Personally, I’d never complain about the smell of garlic, but it definitely sounds like this soup was much more of a success.
My roast cauliflower cheese soup is very simple to make and the ingredients list isn’t long, yet it tastes rich and luxurious all the same. It’s the ideal way to encourage people who normally steer clear of cauliflower to give it a go, and I’m convinced they’ll be persuaded to change their minds.
Jerusalem artichoke soup has to be one of my all-time favourites and I really like the addition of rosemary in this version from Shaheen from Allotment 2 Kitchen, along with the adornment of delicate Jerusalem artichoke crisps. I must admit I haven’t tried artichokes yet on my two girls, but I am very sure they would be tempted by this lovely soup.
Tina from The Spicy Pear says these delightful fritters were born out of necessity when she needed to use up some carrots and courgettes. They have become a regular feature in her house ever since, and I can certainly see why. They look like a restaurant-style hor d’oeuvre, rather than a meal of leftovers, and I bet they would get gobbled up by my clan within seconds.
Nor would these irresistible chicken cutlets from Sylvia at Happiness is Homemade look out-of-place in a smart restaurant. Sylvia says they were a staple dish of her childhood. Her mother would cook them while she was at school, as a clever way to sneak in some veggies of which she wasn’t the biggest fan at the time.
This stromboli, which Michelle from Utterly Scrummy helpfully explains is a Swiss roll type savoury filled bread thing, looks simply gorgeous. You can imagine how those roasted vegetables and spicy chorizo wrapped up in warm bread are going to come together in fabulously cheesy, oozy mouthfuls of utter scrumminess.
Breadsticks are one of my daughters’ favourite snacks and we get through a fair few of them in our house, so it would probably be a good idea to have a go at making our own. This recipe from Laura at How to Cook Good Food looks perfect, bringing together the sweet and salty flavours of dates and green olive, which I know my girls would really go for.
Fish cakes are another staple food in our house but I’m slightly embarrassed to admit they normally come out of a packet. This tasty recipe from Heidi at Mamacook shows just how easy it is to make your own fish cakes, particularly when you use ready-to-eat smoked mackerel, plus it gives you the opportunity to sneak in a few extra goodies: Heidi’s fish cakes feature butternut squash along with the mashed potato. I’ll be trying these on my girls very soon.
These yummy sausageless rolls from Helen in The Crazy Kitchen look so tempting, you’d never know they were packed full of all kinds of goodies – such as cauliflower, which Helen’s son Jack hates, yet he happily tucked into a plate of these. This recipe will make 24 mini sausageless rolls, plus you’ll have enough filling left over to make a few veggie burgers too.
My fellow host of the Family Foodies challenge, Louisa from Eat Your Veg brings this fabulous chicken stew to our table, featuring lovely pearl barley and a whole host of wholesome vegetables. Louisa has been making this stew for her “two monsters” since they were weaning and they always devoured it. Serve me a big bowl of this stew, and I’d devour it too.
Ness from JibberJabberUK is back with another treat from her slow cooker, this time a turkey supreme, made from turkey thighs lurking at the back of her freezer and an assortment of vegetables that needed using up in the fridge. This included celery, which in her house only Ness actually likes. Her whole family enjoyed the turkey supreme, and not one noticed the celery. Nice work, Ness!
These mini calzones from My Tasty Adventures don’t just look good; they also taste good and you can feel good about eating them. They are a great snack for little ones, which you can pack to eat on the go and I’m sure they’d go down very well in your kid’s lunch box. These tasty morsels are filled with asparagus, mushrooms and mozzarella, while the beautiful pastry features turmeric powder and chia seeds.
This vibrant chicken curry from Dip’s Diner gets its brilliant green colour from spinach puree and lots of coriander and is packed full of a wonderful assortment of fragrant spices. You just know this curry is going to taste divine, as well as being so good for you.
Ness from JibberJabberUK is back again with an ingenious cheat’s version of a shepherd’s pie in the form of this tasty, one-pot lamb and potato bake. It also features lots of vegetables, finely chopped up so they are barely noticeable. Plus Ness leaves the skins on the potatoes for even more hidden goodness.
My children go mad for a tasty, meaty pie and this beef pie from Kate (aka the Gluten Free Alchemist) looks like their dream dinner. Kate has a regular battle getting her daughter to eat vegetables and so she has become a bit of a dab hand at disguising them, as in this delicious pie, which is one of her daughter’s favourite meals. As well as the “evil carrot” as her daughter dubs them, Kate’s pie also contains a goodly quantity of parsley, onion, garlic, sweetcorn and tomato.
Jillian from Feed My Family offers us another beefy dish featuring all kinds of hidden vegetables in her beef ragu, perfect served up with either rice or pasta. She uses this ragu to smuggle vegetables into her husband as well as her children!
We’re moving onto sweet treats next and first up is my fig and honey smoothie, which my girls loved even though neither of them would ever normally go near a dried fig. They reckoned it tasted like a chocolate smoothie and were desperate for seconds. A definite result in my book.
In my eyes, chocolate and beetroot is an incredible combination , and don’t these lovely cupcakes from Selma of Selma’s Table look just so tempting? She recently managed to feed this to a friend’s husband who normally can’t even look at beetroot. And yes, he enjoyed them – you really can’t taste the beetroot. Instead they give the cake a marvellous moistness and a beautiful reddish hue.
Louisa from Eat Your Veg has sneaked a fair few goodies into this cheeky little cookies, with wholemeal flour, dark brown sugar, dried apricots, plain chocolate, hazelnuts, desiccated coconut and oats all on the ingredients list. What’s more, the dough keeps well in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen for a later, almost instant, sweet treat.
Kate from Veggie Desserts has also brought a batch of virtuous cookies to our Hidden Goodies party. Her gorgeously green cookies feature oats, raisins, chocolate and, rather unusually, avocado. They are super easy to make, can be whipped up in next to no time and make an ideal portable snack for children and grown ups alike.
More hidden avocado is on the menu from my Hidden Goodies partner in crime, Louisa at Eat Your Veg. Her chocolate avocado mousse looks so good, what child (or adult) could resist? Taking just five minutes, yes FIVE minutes, to make, they must surely be the speediest pud ever, not to mention most nutritious.
Rounding off our inspired menu of hidden goody delights, Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog brings us this glorious Jerusalem artichoke cake. Choclette says you’d never know there were artichokes in the cake, but they successfully added to the overall nuttiness and moistness. It is similar to a carrot cake – but even nicer.
So if you are looking for new ways of getting your family to eat more of their five-a-day, a good place to start would be to work your way through this little lot. I’m sure you’ll agree, we received some fantastic entries to Family Foodies this month. But of course this is a challenge and, as ever, there can only be one winner. The unenviable task of judging falls to Trish Tucker-May from Passion for Juice, so without further ado I’ll hand over to Trish to announce the winner.
And the winner is…
Trish says, “I loved the fantastic pictures and have pinned many of these recipes to try in the future. I particularly liked the simplicity of all of Mamacook’s recipes. I loved the Polish translation from Happiness is Homemade’s recipe for the Chicken Cutlets with Veggies. Chocolate Avocado Mousse is close to my heart, as it is one I love to make myself. It is so easy, decadent and healthy. The Parsnip, Carrot and Lentil Soup by Tinned Tomatoes stood out as well, as I liked the amount of veg plus the nutritional information for the 5:2 diet was helpful and easy to follow.
“The Beef Pie with Hidden Carrot from Gluten Free Alchemist looks amazing and I will be making this over the weekend. Beautiful pictures and the pie looked delightful covered in stars. Eat Your Veg’s recipe for Apricot, Coconut and Plain Chocolate Cookies looks amazing and I thought the layout was very easy to follow with clear prep times and lovely pictures.
“So as you can see, it has been a very difficult decision but I had to narrow it down to one recipe that I thought was unusual. I would never have thought of putting avocado into biscuits and cooking it with oats. So my choice for the winner is Veggie Desserts’ Avocado, Oat Cookies with Raisins and Chocolate. The photos look brilliant and I like the idea of green biscuits. They look very simple and intriguing. This is definitely a recipe I will be trying with my family. One of my boys hates avocado but if it is alongside raisins and chocolate it is a sure crowd pleaser.
“Congratulations to Veggie Deserts and to all the entrants. I am so inspired by so many clever cooks, writers and photographers. Thanks for letting me take part.”
Thanks to Trish for judging and providing this month’s prize. And well done again to Kate from Veggie Desserts on a very well deserved win. Your prize of a Passion 4 Juice recipe book will be in the post to you very soon.
Love is in the air with February’s Family Foodies challenge over at Eat Your Veg. This month we’re looking for your favourite recipes to cook for your family to show them just how much you love them! Can’t wait to see what you all come up with…