16 December 2012

What More sweet Treats?!

I tend to use carob more than chocolate for children's recipes as quite often with the sugar and caffeine found in chocolate they can become very hyper. I am not saying that chocolate should be banned completely - just be aware of the effects. Try it for yourself and see! 

Why make life more stressful for yourself this Christmas? And why not give them an alternative which is healthier for them in the long run?

For these carob chunks all you need is 1-2 large bars of carob (naturally sweetened with no added sugar), some chopped nuts and dried fruit such as raisins, rice syrup, orange rind and cinnamon.
  • Break the carob bar/s into chunks and place in a glass dish. Place this dish in a saucepan with simmering hot water and continue to simmer until the carob has completely melted.
  • Caramelise the nuts in a pan with the syrup, cinnamon and orange rind (1 minute in the pan is plenty) set aside to cool and harden.
  • Lightly grease a dish with a small amount of olive oil, pour in the carob and then start placing the caramelised nuts and dried fruit on top. Gently press ensuring that they are all pressed into the carob.
  • Leave to cool (cools best in the fridge) and then remove from the dish and cut into chunks.
  • If you have difficulty removing the carob from the dish you can use grease proof paper before hand or turn the dish upside down (with a plate underneath to catch the carob) and gently pour a little hot water onto the base of the dish - this will melt a little of the carob helping it to slide out easily.
Children with supervision can help chopping the nuts with a child safe knife and gently pressing the nuts into the carob.

Perfect Christmas treat for all the family. Even the fussy ones!

Sweet Potato Treats

Have some fun in the kitchen this Christmas with your little ones and made some sweet potato treats for the whole family to enjoy. This is an alternative to the traditional Spanish sweets called 'Panellets' usually made with potato flour and sugar.

In this recipe all you need is the flesh of some oven baked sweet potatoes that have been baked in a low-medium oven until soft inside (the drier the consistency the better), orange rind, and ground almond powder.  Mix together and create little ball shapes and roll into some toasted pine nuts or other nuts. (If you find they are not sweet enough for your liking you can add a little rice syrup to the mixture).

You can also create different flavours by adding some carob powder and rolling the balls in desiccated coconut.

Have fun!

ABC Soup

Recipe for this soup can be found on the recipes page - perfect way to get children involved with vegetables and warm them up this winter!

A spoonful of sugar...

Refined sugar has become one of the most widely used substances in the modern day diet. It is added to virtually everything from the usual cakes, chocolates, sweets, fizzy drinks as well as being hidden in many other products such as bread, baked beans, sauces, crisps etc - yes even savoury foods contain sugar!

Have a little read of labels when you are next in the supermarket -
more than half of breakfast cereals contain between 25%-70% sugar (especially children's brands!) Don't be fooled by the added vitamins and minerals that make the cereal seem healthy!
(There are plenty of good sugar free, natural cereals available)

So what is wrong with sugar anyway? As with anything, we all have free will, however being aware of the affects that each food gives us we can then choose what is best for us in in the moment as well as long term. Once we know and notice how a particular food can harm our health, most tend to opt for a healthier alternative.

If you find you or your children are craving the sugary stuff, try increasing the natural sweetness within main meals. Use more root and round veg roasted in the oven, mashed, in creamy soups, nourishing stews - sweet potatoes, pumpkin and carrot are perfect for this. Avoiding excessive consumption of salty foods such as meat, cheese, crisps and added raw salt will help to reduce this sugar craving too.

A few points about refined sugar...
  • The extreme refinement and concentration of sugar is difficult for the body to cope with.
  • It is known as empty calories with no nutritional value.
  • Excessive consumption can give a roller coaster feeling which can also affect emotions, giving a quick sugar rush (when kids become hyper) with a big low afterwards (when children become tired and cranky) and this doesn't just affect children!
  • Sugar consumption creates acidic blood. Regulars to this blog will know that we need a slightly alkaline pH level of the blood to function properly, if the blood is too acidic the body rebalances itself by using minerals from the bones to balance the blood - not good if you want healthy bones!
  • It is harmful to teeth, which can lead to rotting, the need for fillings and other problems.
  • After consuming 100g the body's pulse and blood pressure increases just after 15minutes.
  • Sugar can become addictive.
  • It tires the Liver, Spleen and Pancreas that all help to keep blood sugar levels stable within the body.
  • Excessive consumption can produce diabetes and obesity.
  • It can reduce the body's natural defence's and feed bacteria.
  • With the extreme energy highs and lows that come with sugar, this can increase the chances of depression, anxiety, and concentration levels - not good for school children!
...and the list goes on.

With so many artificial sweeteners (which are just as harmful), syrups, honey, raw cane sugar, fructose etc things can get a little confusing when looking for an alternative.

So what do I recommend as an alternative? Sweet and simple, syrups made from whole grains...corn and barley malt, rice syrup etc 100% natural and delicious and because they derive from whole grains they will not give the same extreme highs and lows as sugar can.

Try it out, see the difference when you and your family consume sugar vs rice syrup.

Disclaimer: If you haven't done so already check out my disclaimer on the Welcome page.

Getting into the spirit

Whether you are one of those people who is relishing in all the festivities or one of those who trying to ignore everything until the 24th December, without a doubt Christmas day is approaching fast!

I found myself wrapping a few presents last night (one of my favourite things!) and was thinking about Christmas food alternatives for this blog. Its a day usually filled with many sweet treats often containing lots of refined sugar, which we all know tends to leave the kids hyper, parents exhausted and a quite a lot of chaos in the family home (more information about refined sugar will be posted shortly).

Here I want to offer some alternatives, easy to make treats that children will love helping with the preparation. This gives the family some bonding time, fun in the kitchen and best of all, some yummy goodies to eat in the end!

Recipes coming soon...