What is your hidden vegetable masterpiece?

The Art of Hiding Vegetables

I was chuckling to myself today as I blended up some celery to hide in the chilli I was making, that hiding vegetables is a becoming an art form. It’s the most cunning way to get fussy eaters to get their 5-a-day without the tantrums. Parents up and down the country are chopping, slicing, dicing and blending to disguise healthy ingredients in children’s dinners. The hidden vegetable secret is shared in whispers at the school gate lest the kids cotton on.

I’m sure the Earth Mother fraternity will have something to say about this. It is perhaps not ethical to trick your children into eating things that they don’t know about, or want to eat? Is it an infringement on their human rights to tell then that a bit of swede is a carrot, just to get them to eat it? Perhaps so, but for me, and lots of others, hiding healthy stuff in our kids’ dinners is a way to ensure that your child is eating well, and lets you feel like you are being a good parent.

I have overstepped the mark a few times when the offending vegetable ingredient wasn’t chopped small enough to disappear from sight, or had a distinctive taste that I couldn’t mask with the sauce. Fennel, for instance is not going to be able to don any sort of disguise and get away with it. Over the years my son has finely honed his radar for things he doesn’t like, and can now identify a hidden mushroom from the other side of the kitchen, no matter how small it is.

Aubergine or Eggplant?
Aubergine… mysterious Mediterranean ingredient to some… alien eggplant to others.

Yet, I can still get away with hiding vegetables so long as I act smart and know my limitations. Onions, celery, anything that can pass for carrot, cauliflower, courgette and so on are all staples in my book. Chopped to oblivion in the food processor I challenge anyone to pick them out of a shepherd’s pie.

My finest moment in the Hidden Veg Oscars was when I added Aubergine to a lasagne.  Despite its distinctive dark colour it got with the joke and snuck into the shadows of the lasagne, never to be found by the hungry children. I could barely contain my glee, sitting eating my veg-packed layered baked dish with the rest of the family, knowing what only I knew… ha ha ha.

So, what is your finest moment in vegetable hide and seek? Broccoli anyone?

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Key Lime Pie

key lime pie

The challenge: bring a desert for 6 adults for a dinner party. Hmm. What to do? A cake would be too heavy after a large dinner and several glasses of vino, and I didn’t want to fall back on my old faithful the Bailey’s Cheesecake again.

This was a tough one – time for a cup of tea and a biscuit!

Lovely cuppa tea
Lovely cuppa tea

The solution: Delia came to the rescue like an M&S Fairy with her Key Lime Pie recipe. It looks simple and quick to make, could be made in advance and would be easy to transport. It would be tasty and not too heavy. Perfect!

I adapted the recipe by making one and a half times the base so that we had a good amount of pie. My eggs were normal medium ones so I added 4 yolks to Delia’s 3 large ones. Other than that I followed Delia’s instructions to the letter!

The addition of Grape Nuts was the only ingredient that was a bit unusual. Aside from the rude-sounding name, Grape Nuts are a bit like All-bran but firmer and more circular. They add extra crunch to the base, but I would say that the pie would be fine without them.

The result: Well, it came out well and was readily eaten by all the guests. The sides to my pie were a bit rough so it looked a bit more of a rustic version to Delia’s perfect creation, but I don’t think that affected the taste. I decorated it with flakes of dark chocolate to give it some extra garnish.

Kooky key lime pie
My rustic key lime pie
Delia's delightful creation
Delia’s delightful creation

I ate mine so quickly I don’t really remember how much it tasted of lime (I had consumed a few glasses of Vimto by then!), so I might just have to make it again to savour properly this time.

The only thing I would do differently next time would be to make sure that the digestives are completely bashed beyond recognition as the lumps in my base made it crumble a bit too readily. Actually, I might miss out the Grape Nuts too as I’m having to eat them for breakfast until they are used up (waste not want not!).

 

Quick links:

Delia’s Key Lime Pie

http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/main-ingredient/lime/key-lime-pie.html

Grape Nuts

http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/shopping/findproducts.aspx?query=grape%20nuts

(Image credit: Deliaonline.com)

Hilarious baking disaster – pink gloop

Baking disaster!

Have you ever had that moment when your carefully created baked goods look nothing like the picture on Pinterest or the magazine? Well, I challenge you to trump this!

My daughter was keen to do some baking and wanted to copy a recipe from American Girl magazine. It’s for Pink glittery cookies with Hershey’s nested inside. Despite my reservations about the way they look (nipples? dog poo? something else?) and the distinct lack of Hersheys in our house we thought we would give it a go – here’s what their cookies look like in the magazine spread.

American Girl Cookies
They remind me of something….

The first challenge was to convert the US measurements (cups) into grams, and then I left my darling Junior Baker to it whilst I supervised from a safe distance…

Now I know you may claim that I am washing my hands of this baking disaster, but my role was clear as kitchen assistant (when called for), oven operative and clean up crew.

 

 

 

 

I admit to giving assistance in the following manner:

1. measuring out the icing sugar so that the cloud of dust didn’t envelop the entire kitchen

2. stirring in the bits that she missed

3. helping cover the gloop in sugar crystals

4. putting into, and subsequently taking out of hot oven

5. cleaning up the mess

Now I have that clear I can reveal the true extent of our baking disaster….

Baking disaster
What the??

I suspect that Junior Baker got a bit carried away with the Baking Powder and/or Bicarbinate of Soda measurement and thought that the idea of bubbles in the mixture sounded really good. I don’t think we have ever seen anything quite so bad come out of our oven!

Now, I challenge you to follow this recipe and do a better job than we did!!

Carnation Cookies

Ingredients (with my conversions in brackets)

0.5 cup (100g) butter

1.25 cup (125g) powdered sugar (icing sugar)

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbinate of soda)

0.5 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoon vanilla (a few drops vanilla essence)

2 cups (250g) flour

Pink or red liquid food colouring

Pink or red sugar crystals

Here is a handy link to conversion tables.

Method

1. Cream the butter and sugar together

2. Add the egg

3. Add baking soda, baking powder and vanilla

4. Add the flour a little at the time

5. Add the food colouring a little at a time and mix/knead the dough

6. Refrigerate for 30-60 mins

7. Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and roll in the sugar crystals

8. Bake at 350F/180C/160C fan/Gas mark 4 for 7- 9 minutes

 

Ok, back to the drawing board….

Chewy Flapjack Power Bars Recipe

Chewy Flapjack

I don’t know about you but I tend to get the munchies around about mid afternoon. If I’m at home then the biscuit tin starts calling me. If I’m out then I’m like a homing pigeon seeking out the nearest Greggs for an emergency flapjack or rock cake.

My lastest plan to save the pennies (wallet) and pounds (weight) is to stock up on home-made healthy flap jacks to take with me every day.

A little bit of what you fancy
A little bit of what you fancy

This recipe is an adaptation of one I have had for years – a recipe card from Safeways (whatever happened to them??) but I have cut out lots of sugar and added more interesting ingredients to create my alternative to the traditional flapjack… the Chewy Flapjack Power Bars! Even though these are quite sweet I am able to convince myself that they are healthy due to the amount of ‘good stuff’ that I pack into them.

I add a whole selection of nice healthy (and tasty) ingredients – pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaked almonds, raisins, red berry mix, chopped dates. In the past I have added dessicated coconut, chopped nuts or chopped dried apricots. The choice is yours!
The bars will keep for about a week in an airtight container or you can freeze individual bars to make them keep longer.

 

 

 

Freshly baked Flapjack
Freshly baked Flapjack

Chewy Flapjack Power Bars

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Makes 15-20 depending on how you cut them!!

Ingredients
150g (6oz) low fat margerine
375g can UNSWEETENED Condensed Milk
15ml (1 tbsp) golden syrup or honey
350g (12oz) porridge oats
200g (7oz) healthy dried frut, nuts, seeds

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas Mark 4
  2. Line a baking tray (18 x 28 cm / 7 x 11″)
  3. Pleace the margerine, condensed milk and syrup/honey in a medium pan and heat until margerine has dissolved, stirring continuously for 5 mins.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Press into the prepared tin – but don’t squish it down too much or you will remove air from the mix an end up with a very dense flapjack. Decorate the top by pressing in pecans or walnuts.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top and edges are golden.
  7. Allow to cool before cutting out and wrapping up in baking paper as individual take-away snacks!
  8. These can be frozen to make them last longer, just make sure you defrost them before you try to eat them!
Chewy Flapjack
Yum!