Put the lime in the coconut and drink it right up!

Okay, it’s not a drink, but I cannot write about coconut without this great song popping into my head. Blogging on Friday night, I clearly need a Pina Colada!

So here goes, play the clip and read on…

I think I may have stumbled upon a secret ingredient, although now it’s not so much of a secret…but hey I am all about the sharing people. Want a crunchy, light crumble? Easy! Add coconut to your crumble mix.

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I have been making crumble for approximately 30 years, so I don’t follow a recipe anymore. I will endeavor to weigh the ingredients next time so I can let you know.

I use butter (not margarine), plain or self-raising flour whichever is to hand, and a few tablespoons of caster sugar. I’ve added oats in the past, roughly chopped almonds, cinnamon, and or lemon rind…these ingredients all help to add a bit more flavour or crunch or nutrition. Last week I decided to do a tropical version and included mango and apple in the filling (yummy), and I added approximately 4 tablespoons of desiccated coconut to the crumble mix.  The coconut added a noticeable lightness to the crumble without it becoming floury – I will definitely use it again.

Some other fillings I have tried in the past you might like to try…
Rhubarb (with some sugar to sweeten), Apple, Pear and Apple, Rhubarb and Strawberry, Apple and Blackberry, Apple and Blueberry, Mango and Apple, and Pineapple and Apple.

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Easy Cheesy Baked Potato Boats

Lots of good fibre and carbs, a jacket or baked potato is fabulous for kids and adults alike. And add some protein (beans, tuna, cheese or meat) and its GI rating comes down too.

A whole spud can be a bit daunting for kids, so I found serving it up in halves, already covered in melted cheese and flavoursome ground nutmeg makes it more appealing and less mess at the table. No graters lying around… Plus you can add peas and corn to the filling, and pre-mash the inside too…

How to prepare my Easy Cheesy Baked Spuds…..
As many spuds as you like, wash and scrub skin clean. I found Russet work best. Start off in microwave and cook potatoes till almost done. You can do this in oven too but it just takes longer. Half the spuds and place flesh side up in an oven proif dish.

For really soft spuds, scoop out insides and mash with splash of milk, and or cream cheese. You can stir in a handful of pre-cooked frozen peas or corn here too.

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Non-mashed, slash the flesh of spud and add dob butter

If not mashing, simply slice a few diagonal lines into the potato flesh and dob some butter on each half. Season with ground nutmeg, sprinkle with grated cheese and pop in oven for 10-15 mins at 180 celsius.

How to corrupt a pancake…

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Just add a few pellets of (defrosted) frozen chopped spinach in your pancake mix, make your pancakes a pretty and distracting shape and voila! My kids said half way through ‘ what’s this green stuff in here?’, ‘what green stuff?, more jam?’ I replied, and on they ate. MOST spinach ever consumed in one sitting.

Reckon the lttle round ones I made (below) would make good bellinis ( is that the right spelling?!) with smoked salmon on top. Yum.

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What do witches eat for dinner?….

GHOULASH of course!

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Also popular with warlocks, husbands, gremlins, toddlers and babies.

My ghoulash in a hurry recipe….

Chop into bite size peices 3 peeled potatoes and slice 1 large carrot. Pre-steam, microwave or boil to soften.

Slice 3-4 pork chops into strips. Heat garlic oil in a deep frying pan and add finely chopped onion, red pepper and large stalk celery. Fry for 1 minute. Add pork fry for 2 minutes till lightly browned. Add tbsp smoked paprika, seasoning, and stir. Add tin chopped tomatoes. Add pre-cooked potatoes and carrot and approx 150ml or boiled water (I use veggie water). Simmer for 10-15 minutes and serve.

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Suggestions for make your own popsicles please!

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Trying out our new DIY ice lolly molds from IKEA which cost around $5. I made a smoothie and froze it…Kiwi, banana, yoghurt and honey flavour. Baby and me loved them, toddlers not impressed. Am trying to use fresh fruits, maybe some veggies or herbs…Mojita lollies for mummy, yes please! Please send your suggestions (alchoholic and non-alcoholic!). Maybe a Singapore Sling could work?….hmmmm….

Spinach and Cottage Cheese Cannelloni

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At least once a week I try to include a non-meat day, in the interest of our health, our wallet, and the planet. I tried a new recipe this week, spinach and cottage cheese stuffed cannelloni in tomato and basil sauce. It was based on a Ricotta and Spinach recipe but it appears there had been a run on ricotta at my NTUC! It worked just as well in my opinion and was probably a bit healthier.

Things I learnt from making this recipe were;

1. If you burn your onions a bit you can still taste it in the sauce when it’s finished! So brown them slowly, don’t be in a mad rush like I was.

2. Use a piping bag to fill your cannelloni rather than using your hands or a spoon, so much easier! Stand all your Cannelloni tubes upright next to each other in the baking dish. Then you can fill them in one go and there is less mess as you don’t need to put your piping bag down and pick it up after each tube.

1 small red onion
25g butter
1 large pack fresh spinach
A good pinch of dried thyme, or few sprigs of fresh
Small punned of mushrooms
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
250g tub of cottage cheese
1-2 tbsp grated Parmesan
1 x 350g tomato and basil pasta sauce
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
3/4 pack dried cannelloni

Preheat oven to 200 Celsius/ 400 Fahrenheit.
Fry onion in butter until it is golden brown and softened. Add spinach, thyme and seasoning. Place lid on pan and cook for 1-2 minutes till spinach is wilted. Remove from heat. Add tbsp of oil into pan add garlic, stir for 1 minute, add mushrooms and fry for 5-10 minutes till soft. When cool, blend cooked veg together with cheeses in food processor. Using piping bag, pipe spinach mix into cannelloni tubes. Place in greased baking dish. Pour over pasta sauce and chopped tomatoes. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil and Parmesan.

Sugar-free Banana and Raisin Cake

This recipe is super quick and easy, and makes a sweet, moist banana loaf. It contains no added sugar.  I’ve made it for diabetic family members, and my toddlers love it. Several friends have asked for the recipe, so finally, here it is in print…

450g/1lb ripe bananas, mashed
120ml/4fl oz sunflower oil (olive oil, grape seed…)
100g/4oz raisins
75g/3oz rolled oats
150g/5oz whole meal flour
1.5ml/ 1/4 tsp almond essence
Pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients together to a soft, moist mixture. Spoon into a greased and lined 900g/2lb loaf tin and bake in a preheated oven at 190 Celsius/375 Fahrenheit/gas mark 5 for 1 hour until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out.

Toddlertastic Crunchy Pasta Bakes

Pasta bake ready to be frozenFlexible recipe suitable for all ages – dial down the salt for babies. Just blend!

Pasta bakes are great dishes for fussy eaters as you can blend in a myriad of unattractive vegetables in the sauce, and put the pretty ones on show! You can make lots of different versions of this recipe using a vegetable sauce, or white sauce (below).

Save time by making double quantities and freezing one (pre-baked) for next time. Use aluminum foil cooking dishes from the supermarket for your frozen future dinner – just remember to defrost in your fridge and not your microwave!

If doing the vegetable sauce, you make up a very thick blended veggie soup for the sauce. I use 1/2 leek, 1 parsnip, 1 potato, 1 handful of cauliflower florets, and 100 ml  cream. Start by gently frying veggies in saucepan, add boiling water, some herbs, simmer, then blend and add cream. You can also use my Secret Seven Soup if you like tomato sauces.

The Coup D’etat according to my kids is the crunchy topping. Which is….drumroll…. blitzed breadcrumbs, dash olive oil, Italian herbs and grated cheese sprinkled on top and crunchified in the oven. The crunchy topping shown above is yellow as it uses home-baked corn bread, get me!

As this is a “guess-ecipe” all measures are approximates.

For the white cheese sauce:
large knob of butter (approx 50g)
75g flour
900ml milk
1 bay leaf
tsp wholegrain mustard
seasoning (easy on salt)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
100g grated medium cheddar cheese (save tbsp for crunchy top)

Melt butter in saucepan, add flour, stir vigorously for 1 minute. Stirring with a whisk continuously so it doesn’t go lumpy, gradually add rest of the milk. Add herbs, mustard and seasoning. Stir regularly and gently bring to boil. When sauce has thickened to yoghurt like thickness, turn off heat, remove bay leaf and stir in most of the cheese. Use the rest of the cheese for the crunchy topping mix (described above).

Pasta – your choice of shape, we have macaroni and Animaletti! Boil up enough for 4 people. Add handful of frozen peas and corn 2 minutes from end.

Combine pasta, sauce, peas and corn (and any other cooked ‘visible’ chopped vegetables you’d like to) and put in oven dish. Sprinkle with my much-sought-after crunchy topping, and pop in top of hot oven (180-200 degrees celsius) for 10 minutes and serve.

Kids Cook – Tuna Sweet Potato Fish Cakes

1 medium sweet potato
225g tuna in water
1/2 small tin of sweetcorn
handful chives
1 tsp mustard (medium)
black pepper
flour for dusting
1/2 tsp oil

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius /325 Fahrenheit /gas mark 3

Tip – everyone wash their hands with soap and warm water. Mum and dad please open the tins for your kids and decant drained tuna and sweetcorn into bowls.

Grown up to peel sweet potato and cut into chunks and boil until soft. When cool, little ones can use masher to mash it up. Add the tuna into your bowl with the potato, and mix and mash them up together. Add the sweetcorn and mix again. Use a pair of scissors to chop chives up into the bowl. Add mustard and little bit of pepper. Flour your hands and the surface. Divide the mixture into 6 medium-sized balls and flatten slightly into burger shapes, or 10 small balls (small size is better for toddlers). Place on lightly oiled baking tray. Grown up place them in the oven, cook for approx 20 minutes.

Toddlers Cook Food, Toddlers Eat Food!

Dora Little Cooks magazine cover

I only recently started cooking with my kids – mainly as a way to entertain them in the afternoon when it is too hot in Singapore for them to play outside, or the baby is sleeping. We started with cupcakes and banana pancakes, and now they get involved with pretty much anything. The more blenders, choppers and mixers involved the better.

I have also found the more they help, the more different types of food they eat. There are other benefits to cooking with them;

  • straight forward bonding time between them and me
  • improving their dexterity as they scoop, pour, whisk, and mix
  • learning about weights and measures and general literacy
  • learning about foods, their names and what they do to help our bodies (or harm if too much is eaten!

 

I discovered much to my daughter’s delight that there is a Dora Little Cooks magazine (I bought it at  Villa Market@Tanglin Mall). We have cooked the Tuna and Sweet Potato Fishcakes which were really tasty and the kids ate them all up. I have previously served the kids canned tuna and sweetcorn and both were rejected outright. However, it seems this recipe gave them just the right treatment to be palatable! Click on the link above for the recipe.