Brrr, Party Food Fit for Jack Frost – December is (almost) Here!

Jack's Chrissy Tableau is up

It’s been 3 years now since I starting writing recipes for this Shiny Bright new blog. Three years of experimenting with food, testing it out on family, friends and complete strangers. Three years of cutting back on white sugar, salt and white flour. And many long years learning that ‘home-made’ is in danger of always becoming ‘store bought’ and full of hidden sugars and bad fats.

It’s been quite the journey for a technophobe such as me but I like to think, it has been a delicious and relevant one. I passionately believe that we should all know how to cook and where our food comes from. I absolutely believe that we must pass on our skills in both the culinary world and the gardening one to our children. And in this increasingly complicated world I still believe that anyone with a common cold will benefit from a hot lemon and manuka honey drink, that a meal made with love will bring joy to a sad heart, and a gift such as chutney or jam will send a wave of goodwill to a friend or neighbour.  I hope you find these recipes useful. I wish you a holiday season full of good, honest food and someone to share it with, all the very best, Kathy Voyles, The Hague, The Netherlands.

fritartia

 

Here are some requests from friends and food colleagues and some ideas for the party table!

Sweet Potato (Kumara) and Feta mini Frittarta 

2 medium sweet potatoes

olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin

fresh basil, parsley or chives

baby spinach leaves

half a cup of either grated parmesan, feta or cheddar (whatever is in the fridge)

6 eggs

160 mls cream

Method

Roast the peeled cubed sweet potato in olive oil with the ground cumin at 180 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes and leave to cool

Mix together the cream and eggs with chopped herbs and baby spinach leaves

Line 12 greased muffin cases with paper muffin cups or cut round from baking parchment to line the muffin tin bases. Place the sweet potatoes in the base of the muffin tins, pour the cream egg mixture over.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes at 160 fan forced oven. Allow to cool and gently loosed and turn out. Serve with a chutney or a spice yoghurt dressing.

 

Whole Wheat Oattie Quinoa Cookies

This is based on a recipe from 101cookbooks.com. I have changed some of the ingredients and amounts. This recipe makes enough dough to make about 40 cookies. All I can say is hide them because if you don’t, they won’t last! They are simply too delish!

 

 

 

101 cookbooks cookies

2 and a half cups of rolled oats

1 cup of whole wheat flour (can use spelt)

2 thirds of a cup of quinoa flakes or puffed quinoa

1 tsp Baking Soda

half a teaspoon of sea salt (not coarse)

225 grams of soft butter

1 cup of dark brown sugar

half a cup of palm sugar (101 uses 2 cups of light and dark brown sugar)

2 large eggs

2 tsps of vanilla extract

280 grams of dark chocolate (I use the Sligro dark choc drupples) Break half up but leave some large rounds for decoration

Combine the dry ingredients and put aside.

Place the butter and sugars into the mixer and cream together. Add in vanilla and eggs, mix

Add in dry ingredients and the broken chocolate pieces. The mixture will be moist but not too liquid

Place large teaspoonfuls of mixture on baking parchment. Place a large round piece on each cookie in the centre. I fit in about 20 on each tray. They will spread a little. Bake at 175 fan bake for about 12 minutes. If you like them chewy then cook them for about 12 minutes. For a crispy darker cookie then leave them for about 15. It really depends on your oven. Cool on a rack and store in air-tight tins. Prefect for a class party or trip. The Quinoa is protein so will really keep you going!

Other ideas for class parties

Spanish Tortilla cut into squares

Kappa Maki – simple cucumber sushi

Morning Glory Muffins

Cheese, tomato and basil tooth picks

Stuffed eggs

Corn, coriander and panner bagjees with yoghurt sauce

Ottolenghi’s sweet potato fritters served with a minty lemon thai chilli sauce

Omelettes rolled and tied with chives

jack's Chrissy Tableau

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Super Squishers – Delish Spring Smoothies made by 10 teams of year 3 kids

ImageOh, it’s a grand thing to do. Work with eager young minds who are keen to learn, try, taste and enjoy, which is why I look forward to doing workshops with kids, even if they take place in halls, rather than fancy master chef style kitchens and stretch me, mentally  and physically.

Yes, there is a lot of bringing stuff hither and thither, unloading, reloading, shopping and schelping but you know it really is all worth it, particularly when kids try new stuff, like a pomegranate seed, a piece of pale green celery, a crimson piece of melon and when we talk about eating “a Rainbow”  they are all for it!  Two weeks ago I was back in another hall, working with 10 groups of six, a great band of teachers and parents amid the happy blending of various combinations of veggies and fruits. This time we made 2 lots of green smoothies using apple juice as a base and nut milk bags to squeeze the best of our green juices into our jugs.

This is what the kids called their smoothies: The Bubbly Banana Whizz (banana, strawberry, yoghurt, and a little honey), The Healthy Pink (banana, pineapple, raspberry, butter milk and honey), The Alien Surprise (pineapple, cucumber, apple, celery, mint, banana, spinach, and apple juice), The Sunset Smoothie (strawberry, pineapple, mango, and natural yoghurt), The Beach Smoothie (banana, apple, rice mil and mango) The Bitter Honey (watermelon, lemon, orange juice and honey), The Jazzy Razz Smoothie (raspberry, oatmilk, strawberry, banana and strawberry) and The Super Green Energy Smoothie (green apple, spinach, cucumber, water and honey)!!  Now, how is that for a great bunch of glorious, healthy, delicious drinks. That sure beats a blue drink, anytime! Well done, year 3 at BSN Vlaskamp and if I have missed any of your smoothies, do contact me and let me know. Remember you are now Master Smoothie Chefs, one and all!

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And  is it worthwhile, teaching our kids about food. Oh absolutely, they will so need to know about what they are eating/drinking because there are huge companies out there determined to make them (me and you) buy fizzy drinks (and ‘foods’)  in flamboyant colours which are overprocessed, over-sweetened and over-coloured, plus non-nutritional!  The best thing we can do as parents for our kids is to cook with our kids from scratch, make lovely things that smell of real plants and gardens. So, how do you make a smoothie? The year 3 children from Vlaskamp are all experts and they will tell you.

Smoothies

There are no hard and fast rules and I do encourage you to experiment. I will give no measurements because you will quickly get the hang of how much fruit/veggies to use and what consistency you like.

Choose and prepare your fruit. We used mainly frozen fruit as summer is most definitely not yet upon us. Choose from fresh or frozen strawberries, raspberry, mixed berries, mango, banana and citrus. Prepare and peel, taking out cores and stones.

Add these frozen or fresh fruits to a water or fresh juice base with some ice if you have any. Or use a dairy or non-dairy type base. We experimented with rice milk, nut milk (can make it from soaked almonds or cashews using a nutmilk bag), oatmilk, butter milk, natural yoghurt and water), Blend, and taste for sweetness. You may need a little maple syrup or honey to sweeten your smoothie.

And Green Smoothies… honestly these are really, really good and you don’t need a fancy blender. I use a fairly normal blender and squeeze my green juices through a nutmilk bag. You can purchase these via ebay at myworld.ebay.co.uk/nutmilkbags for a very reasonable cost. You can also use these to make your own nut milk from almonds, cashews and brazil nuts as well. It is best to soak the nuts overnight before you make your milks.

Blend 2 chopped apples, cores removed but peel left on. Add in a variety of lettuce, spinach, cucumber, bok choy, courgette, water and ice. Blend  and place your nut milk bag into a large jug. Pour the green juice into the bag and gently squeeze the juice through. Adjust for taste and you may need to add in some more water. The result should be a lovely, clear green juice delicious for breakfast. Keep cool. Can add ginger and honey, mint to flavour.

Lastly, a tip from Jack. He asked for a hot drink last night and suggested that chocolate might form a part of it. Oh no, said I, Chocolate will not help you get to sleep. Instead we heated some milk, grated in a little nutmeg and cinnamon and called it a sleeping drink. Worked a treat on a cold, damp evening!

I have recently created a Facebook page to post quick recipes, ideas and workshops. Do please join it if you like via Facebook at My School Lunchbox! And do plant some salad leaves/herbs on your balconies or in your gardens if you are lucky enough to have one. I have a rather damp balcony full of various lettuces, red basil, dill, parsley, rosemary and chives which I use every single day. And at the market you will find 75 different herbs to experiments with!!!

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High Tea, ANZAC Biscuits and Being Sweet….

Hi ho, it’s been 14 days at home on school hols with the kids.  It’s also been chilly, greyish and hovering near freezing. My dreams of loading up bikes and heading to places unknown had proved unlikely. Plans of walking in daffodil yellow fields filled  neither my kids (or myself) with inspiration and even I had to force myself out into the small urban garden to plant a few beans and herbs. All and all we needed some sort of motivational tool to make this dull rainy afternoon feel radiantly spring like. So, I decided to celebrate our late spring with a high tea to be served only after rooms had been cleaned, jobs had been done and various things accomplished. It certainly cheered me up immensely and proved to be an excellent “clean room” tool. We practiced drinking tea in tiny cups with our pinky finger extended. I made up a recipe for apricot, cardamon and palm sugar scones, Jack pulverised the cardamon seeds and I served them with lemon curd, natural yoghurt and passionfruit. The combination worked very well (I was my own best customer!) …… oh and I cheated a little and purchased some of the sweetest little tea cakes from Philipe Galerne, in Statenkwartier….www.philippegalerne.nl

Gorgeous little cakes for high tea

Gorgeous little cakes for high tea

We served egg and radish open sandwiches, scones, fresh strawbs (a big treat from Ekoplaza), organic baby heirloom tomatoes, natural yoghurt mixed with lemon curd, lemon zest and passionfruit pulp and local salted butter from the Farmer’s market on a lovely old bit of linen with some cups from the second hand market! I haven’t met a better high tea in The Hague, except at my friend Jilly’s house!

I will also admit that I am developing a menu for a pop-up  New Zealand wine-tasting with shades of Kiwiana – Antipodean style – party finger food with an emphasis on Madmen, hostess trollies and paper doliles. I do so adore a paper dolilie and look what you can do with them – http://pinterest.com/questforbeauty/pretty-paper-doilies

The menu I am working on, will celebrate my home country, New Zealand and will take place on ANZAC day, April 25,  in The Hague so in honour of that, I am sharing the ANZAC biscuit recipe with you in this blog.

These are cookies with history – as wives and sweethearts sent these long lasting eggless treats to soldiers abroad in WWI, ANZAC being short for The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Made with rolled oats, coconut, butter, sugar, and syrup, they are dead simple, smell of far off golden shores and never last long in our house.  If you are in the lowlands and want to come to a wonderfully fun event with 10 New Zealand wines to taste (and food from yours truly), email jarrod@cellar-door.nl for more details and to reserve. I am fairly excited about this event as it will allow me to showcase some great local products from The Netherlands while stirring up a pot full of New Zealand food memories.

ANZACs  are great cookies for a lunchbox for any soldier big or small, and you can healthy them up by experimenting with using different flours and sweetners – maple for golden, etc.

ANZAC Biscuits

Preheat oven to 175 fanbake and grease a biscuit tray

1 cup of spelt flour

3/4 cup of light brown sugar  – have used palm sugar as a substitute (note that most recipes call for a full cup but you could take this down to half a cup and they would still be sweet enough in my opinion)

1 cup of coconut

2 cups of rolled oats – place all these ingredients in a bowl and mix together

Melt 125 grams of butter with 2 tbsp of golden syrup (have used maple instead) in a pot on the stove top

When the butter and syrup has melted, add in 1 teaspoon of baking soda that has been mixed with 3 tbsp of boiling water – it will froth up. Add to dry mixture and form into small balls, placing on an oven tray that has been greased or has been covered with baking parchment. Flatten the balls with the back of a fork, and bake until golden at 175 for exactly 12 minutes. Do keep an eye on them as they can burn easily!

tea cakes

Yep, we’re are making those school lunches again! Soggy Sandwiches, humble pie and squishy fruit!

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I’ve been chatting to the odd mum and dad over the holidays, who say they get a sinking feeling about making school lunches. They do their best (at some hideous hour in the morning) to put together a snack and lunch only to find a returned soggy sandwich in the lunchbox at the end of the day. Or their lovely little creatures  might just say “I wanted the ….. and you gave me the …..! Or I didn’t have time to eat it…..

Shame on you, you dreadful parent. It’s your fault they didn’t eat their lunch. NOT!  I am willing to bet you are giving your utmost especially at that time in the morning and our darlings should appreciate you big time. I do. Give yourself a gentle pat on the back and make them part of the solution. It took me a while to realize that some my creations (shock, horror) were perhaps not quite as delightful as I thought they were according to my greatest critics – my kids. So, I made an extra one or two wraps, bagels, pasta salads, etc and tried them out myself. Those kids were right, the wrap was a tad soggy, the bagel filling was a little tasteless, the peach had started to go bad. So I ate a bit of humble pie, which leads us right into this post and the joy of continuous learning. Hopefully my upcoming recipes and tips will stop you falling into a quagmire (don’t you just love that word) of bad baps, sogginess, muddy flavours and lifeless lunchboxes.

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Tips

Tip no. 1 – if they don’t eat your lunches, suggest they may just like to get up earlier and make them. They will probably decide suddenly that you are the best lunch maker in town.

Tip no. 2 – Ask them what they want ( within reason and excluding chocolate, processed cookies, juice drinks (or worse!), crisps etc). By the way I am not ruling out homemade cookies using an alternative to sugar but I am suggesting that crisps, pop-tarts, iced biscuits and so-called juice drinks are not very helpful to your child’s nutritional needs.

Remind them that food is their fuel and it’s meant to keep their minds ticking over, the bodies in full throttle and they energy levels at an even balance. They need a good balance of different foods, particularly those of a low GL or Glycemic Load (spreading the energy load for longer). They need some protein, some good carbs, good fats and fibre-rich vegetables and fruits. Water is just great by the way and we need a good amount of it all through the day (imagine how much you will save money not buying juices and just by filling their water bottle).

Tip no. 3 – Test out a smidgen of your child’s lunch ( have a portion for lunch or afternoon tea) and see what it’s are like after a few hours in a warm environment. You may want to consider buying a gel salad container, or a better thermos or some small freezer pads. Check the internet for the best types of containers.

Tip no. 4 – Make you child part of the equation, yes, and share the knowledge. Food is expensive, good honest, organic food is even more expensive. The crop failure this season and last season will see a sharp increase in food prices around the world. Make your child understand that their lunch is a special treat to be valued. It has been made with a few yawns and much love. I will be looking at creating some fine, frugal dishes this school year to share with you all.

Tip no. 5 – Make it as colourful, and as beautiful as can be. Celebrate that lunch, and thank yourself for making it. It should be a treasure trove of good, delicious food.  OK, I know we are not talking haute cuisine here (see pic below of a salad made by my current favourite restaurant De Kas in Amsterdam for an example of fine, honest, arty food) but  by using the best containers and the right foods, your school lunch be something akin to a prefect picnic for body and mind.  By the way, Isn’t it just beautiful that salad – and it tasted just as good. But I digress!

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This is what we have been putting in our lunch boxes this week.

Snack – greek yoghurt with fresh raspberry sauce and an oatie cereal combo!

Snack – dried mango, banana, a spelt flour pinwheel scone and butter with Eva’s homemade raspberry jam (thanks Eva)

Snack  – separate small containers of blueberries, plums, watermelon chunks in a cooled thermos

Lunches – Jack requested his current favourites – toasted wholewheat bagel with smoked salmon, chives, lettuce and cream cheese or with paper thin prosciutto, with boiled egg, lettuce and sliced tomato.

Wholewheat pasta with pesto, peas and parmesan. We served all the lunches with locally grown organic apples and fresh clear water. Those lucky kids!!!

One of the food bloggers that I follow is The Botanical Baker. She does a lovely blog with gorgeous recipes at  http://thebotanicalbaker.wordpress.com

This month she is supporting the UK’s Better Breakfast Week (Sept  24 – 30), a great initiative which is asking for your ideas for fruity breakfast inspiration. Me, I adore breakfast and have been heard to say on more than one occasion “that it is the best meal of the day and surely the most important”. I leave you with a pic of our home-made cereal: dehydrated raspberries, hazelnuts, almonds, apricots, oats and dried cranberries, yumo!Image

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