Category Archives: Meals for Kids

School Lunch Box Biscuits

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I try to come up with snacks for my son’s school lunch box that meet both his and my criteria. Ideally, the snacks are:

  • Wholesome/healthy/nutritious (mine)
  • Delicious (both)
  • Able to be carried outside in one hand and don’t require spoons, containers etc (his)
  • Able to be made in batches and frozen (mine)

After experimenting with muffins with no success (putting too many healthy ingredients into them makes them dense and unappetising) I came up with this biscuit and it’s a real winner.

It’s packed with healthy ingredients – oats, wholewheat flour, dried fruits and seeds – yet it is based on a traditional biscuit recipe so it’s as delicious as it is wholesome. The little bit of chocolate makes it very appealing, and importantly for schools, it is nut free.

My son has been taking this biscuit to school for his morning tea almost every day for a while now: he’s happy he’s got something yummy that he can easily walk around with and I’m happy that he’s getting some wholesome foods into him.

This batch makes about 8 decent, morning tea-size biscuits, but you could make them any size you like. I roll them into balls and freeze them individually, then pop one in the oven as I need.

A word on muscovado sugar: if you can get hold of this, it will improve your baking out of sight. It gives a mouthwatering, melting crumb. Look for it in good supermarkets, delis and grocery stores.

  • 120 g butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed light brown muscovado sugar, or light brown sugar if you can’t find muscovado sugar.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of wholemeal flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup each of dried cranberries and sour cherries (you can substitute with other small dried fruits if you wish, such as blueberries, currants or sultanas)
  • 30 g dark chocolate chopped into small pieces (or use dark choc chips)

Preheat the oven to 180c

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar for about a minute until it has turned pale and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

Combine all the remaining ingredients in another bowl and mix. Add to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and combine to form the biscuit dough.

Line a baking tray with some baking paper, roll out into balls of whatever size you choose and place however many you need on the baking paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on how big they are, until golden and brown on top. Let them sit for a minute or two, then carefully slide biscuits onto a wire rack and allow to cool. They will fall apart if you try to pick them up too soon.

Wrap the remainder, uncooked, in cling wrap and freeze. When you need to use the frozen biscuit dough, you can put them straight from the freezer onto the baking tray and in the oven, but you will need a few extra minutes’ cooking time.

School Lunches

For every child you have who completes Year 12, you will have made some 2600 school lunches. Little wonder then, when you utter the dreaded words “school lunches” to parents you see the eyes roll, the shoulders drop, and a deep sigh escaping. Along with sleep deprivation, exasperation at school lunches seems to be one of parenthood’s universally defining characteristics.

My son started school two weeks ago and I have been steeling myself for this experience.  We did have to make his lunch for kinder (preschool in other states) during school holidays last year so I’ve had some limited exposure to the trials and tribulations of making four meals before 8 am and somehow getting yourself ready for work and all out the door by 8.30.  I know I’m not the first parent to arrive at work feeling like they’ve already put in a full day’s toil. In fact, if you see a parent in your workplace who has got a child off to school that morning, they have made it to work by 9.30, their hair is combed, and they don’t have food stains on their clothes, high five them. If they are a single parent, use two hands.

One thing I am quickly realising is that when it comes to school lunches, you can never get enough new ideas.  So here are some of mine, as well as some  advice and tips from a few school lunch veterans who have been kind enough to submit. Thanks Lorena and Charlie for their input!

And please – I would love to hear from other parents with their tips, ideas and suggestions. After all, there’s about 2,592 to go…

Lorena

Lorena is in her 9th year of making school lunches for her son and daughter. A full time working mum, Lorena rides out the frustrations of this fraught daily ritual with great humour.  Here are her tips.

1. If your child wants the same thing every day, just make it. My darling son has been eating the same sandwich, off and on, since kindergarten.

2. In summer, freeze the drink bottle to halfway, and fill it up in the morning. By lunch time it will have thawed and be nice and cold.

3. Before kindy (or prep) starts, let your child practice to make sure they can actually open the lunch box, have worked out the mysteries of glad wrap and/or how to open – and close – containers. Label everything. Have spares of everything. Be prepared to sift through lost property and possibly contract a disease while doing so.

4. Before they are too grown up to find you embarassing, you can leave them love notes. Or a sticker for eating all their fruit.

5. Make sure containers don’t leak. Not easy to do, as a not-fully-closed-but-half-consumed lunchbox can render a school bag a bit grotty at the end of the day, especially in summer.

6. Carrots can be cut up in a multitude of ways – sticks, stars, wheels … so can celery.  Sweetcorn. Dips of every kind.

7. Freeze yoghurt. Even in winter.

8. Encourage them to unpack their bag EVERY day. Talk about their lunch –  how long it took to eat, or what they did and didn’t like. A not-eaten lunch is not the end of the world but can be a sign that other things are going on.

9. Hommous solves everything. As do organic corn chips, tahini, rice wheels and home-made muffins.

10. Baked beans (especially home made) are a very healthy option. Buy napisan, however.

Charlie

My sister Charlie has been making school lunches for her four children for most of her life. She’s passionate about nutrition, and goes to great lengths to make very healthy lunches for her kids. As one of her children has a reaction to chemicals, just about everything is organic. She avoids food with any artificial colours, flavours or preservative, which her kids call “bad numbers”.

A lot of canteens with the healthy tick really aren’t that healthy. I make things like smoked chicken & caesar dressing, and other salad bowls. You have the luxury of doing that now because of ice packs and cooler bags. I stick to one juice per day, an appple or pear that is not acidic. Cloudy juices are best. Sandwiches – avocado with lemon, cucumber and lettuce on wholemeal. Squeeze the seeds out of tomatoes.

For snacks:

  • Natural cheese sticks;
  • gluten free rice bread or wraps;
  • boiled eggs which are great nourishment;
  • organic popcorn in the airblower seasoned with organic Herbamare seasoning;
  • carrot/celery/capsicum sticks (boil the carrots a little so they are soft and easy to digest); organic sultanas are great;
  • Rice Wheels sold in supermarkets have no artificial anything.

The Abbotsford Kitchen

I have limited experience so far in making a school lunch day in day out, so I am mindful that some of my suggestions may, once the 5 day a week routine settles in to a grinding reality, be a little idealistic. But there is nothing wrong with aspiring for the best school lunch we can manage.

For me, there are two important things about school lunch. And the first is breakfast. A child who goes off to school in the morning well fed will learn and play better, and be hungrier in a good way by lunch time.

The second thing is nutrition. A balanced morning snack and lunchbox is so important to the attention and energy levels children will have throughout the day. I aim to make every lunch box item as nutritious as it can possibly be. But treats are important too, and I always pack a little piece of dark chocolate, or some of my healthy chocolate slice.

Here are some of my lunchbox ideas and recipes that I have practiced over the last year at kinder, and on summer holidays when packing lunches for pool and beach visits.

1. The No-Spill Roll

I came up with this idea of a hollowed out roll filled with sandwich filling in order to stop the contents ending up on your child’s lap, or the floor. It’s simple and effective and great for school lunches.

Step 1: Take a round bread roll (preferably wholegrain), and cut the top off, not halfway through, but close to the top, leaving most of the roll on the bottom.

Step 2: With a small serrated knife, cut a circle out of the middle and scoop out the inside. Discard the inside (I use this for breadcrumbs).

Step 3: Fill with sandwich filling of your choice.  This one has chopped barbecued chicken breast, avocado, lemon juice and chopped salad leaves. Put the lid on, press down a bit and wrap. You can also cut some of the bread off the corners if you think you have more bun than your child will eat.


2. Savoury Muffins

Muffins are one of those many foods – along with mashed potatoes, pasta, rice, polenta – that I see as carrier foods, in other words, food that acts as a vehicle to deliver nutrition to your child. For example – mixing chopped cooked broccoli into mashed potato. A savoury muffin can be an entire meal packaged in something that appeals to children.

Take any basic savoury muffin menu off the internet (but where there is plain flour substitute it for wholemeal), and add whatever vegies, herbs and cheese your child will tolerate.  I like these combinations:

– red capsicum, corn kernels, coriander, fetta cheese

– spinach, tasty cheese, shallots and dill

– sweet potato, goat cheese and basil

– cherry tomatoes, garlic, parsley, parmesan

– zucchini, mint, shallots, fetta

I keep mine vegetarian, as there is usually no problem getting kids to eat meat. I am not big on]ham for children’s lunches – it is full of salt and preservatives and there is little in the way of nutritional value.

4. Chocolate Date and Blueberry Slice

Dates are a great way to give kids a healthy and nutritious energy boost and the chocolate flavour makes it appealing.  My son would not eat a date if you gave him one, but the secret is to finely chop them.  This slice has no sugar other than what is in the dark chocolate, and is butter free, so it’s very nutritious as well as yummy.

  • 1 cup quick oats (I use organic wholegrain quick oats)
  • 1 cup pitted dates, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons dried blueberries (use currants if you can’t find blueberries)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 60 grams 70% dark chocolate, plus extra for grating
  • 1 tablespoon rice malt syrup or honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, ground in a food processor or pestle and mortar

Preheat oven to 180 c.  Put the oats, dates, and sunflower seeds in a bowl. Mix the cocoa powder in the hot water and add to the bowl.  Heat the chocolate with the honey/rice malt syrup in the microwave until the chocolate is melted. Add to the bowl and mix to combine well.  Press into a small, oiled shallow baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.  Cool, refrigerate for a few hours and slice.

5. Sandwiches – Thinking Outside the Square

Here are some ideas to help break out of the ham, cheese and vegemite mould.

Fillings:

  • roast pumpkin, hummous, avocado, cheese, lettuce;
  • salmon, thinly sliced celery, crushed walnuts, mayonnaise;
  • chopped chicken, avocado, lettuce;
  • tuna, egg, mayonnaise, lettuce;
  • mashed white beans with tuna and avocado;
  • cheese with lettuce, grated carrot, tomato with the seeds squeezed out; avocado
  • cream cheese and olive paste
  • goat cheese and pesto

Instead of butter and margarine, try some of these as spreads:

  • hommous
  • avocado and lemon juice
  • roast pumpkin
  • light cream cheese
  • goat cheese
  • ricotta

I like to put combinations of these spreads on “roly poly sandwiches” pictured above, which my son loves because they are different. Cut off the crust of a piece of bread, slice in half, spread, roll up and hold with a toothpick.

Kids’ Parties – Without the Junk

Before Christmas my son turned 5, and in the lead up to it, I did a lot of thinking about kids’ party food.   I was inclined to put the brakes on the junk and sugar that inevitably goes with kids’ parties, but feared I would be branded the grinch who stole the fun from children’s birthdays. I talked to a lot of other parents about the subject and found that many felt the same as me about the unwelcome and unnecessary sugar and junk overload.

But what about the kids? Its a party, and you want them to enjoy treats they don’t get every day.  But consider that typical kids’ party fare includes chips, nuggets, sausage rolls, party pies, biscuits, cake, lollies, soft drink and a bag of lollies as they leave. Now consider that kids are attending more and more parties, and are increasingly having “treats” all the time, and it becomes a very unhealthy norm.

Surely there’s got to be a balance?  Will children really have a terrible time at a party if healthy and delicious food makes up the majority of what they eat, with the treats kept to a minimum? Will they go home in tears unless a plastic bag filled with nasty sugar products is thrust into their sticky hands on departure?

I suspected not, and I was determined to draw a line in the sand – no junk food, and no sugar overload.

Because we had lots of games and physical activity planned, I wanted to feed the kids nutritious food that would give them energy. Now don’t break out in a sweat, you are not about to read about carob cakes, soy sausage rolls or dried fruit platters.  That is not my way.  Yes, there will be butter and sugar and cream, but it will be kept to a minimum, it will be homemade, and it will be served alongside food that is wholesome and delicious.

We received only positive feedback from parents – the kids had a great time, the absence of rubbish food was appreciated, and all went home happy, well fed and exhausted.

So here is my son’s birthday party menu, with recipes and how-tos.  No doubt, more work is involved to make a healthier party, but I didn’t do it alone. My son’s father took over games and entertainment duties, leaving me free to be in the kitchen, and I was greatly assisted by my trusty helpers on the day – Adam and Susan – as well as some parents and other guests.

Do you have any healthy/fun kids’ party food ideas? I’d love you to share them here! 🙂

1. Cupcakes.  I just don’t think you can have a party without them, because they make children almost inexplicably happy.  You don’t have to overload the toppings with artificial colours and flavours. The kids just loved the ones with plain icing and a raspberry on top.  This is the cupcake recipe I use:

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/yellow-cupcakes?backto=true&backtourl=/photogallery/easiest-cupcakes#slide_3


2. Pink sausage rolls. Do you think you could get your children to eat fresh beetroot? I bet most wouldn’t. But here’s the thing: you can put just about anything in a sausage roll and kids will eat it. These chicken sausage rolls have grated beetroot, carrot and zucchini, and they were devoured.  The beetroot turned the chicken mince pink, making it even more appealing to children.  You could make these a few days in advance and freeze.  You will need: 4-5 sheets of puff pastry, 500 g free range chicken mince, handful of coriander chopped, grated fresh beetroot, carrot and zucchini (about a cup), 1/2 teaspoon cummin powder, salt & pepper, 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, 2 eggs, sesame seeds.  Mix the chicken mince with the herbs, spices, vegetables, breadcrumbs and one of the eggs.  Spread mixture along one end of each piece of pastry, roll and cut to your liking.  I made them fairly small.  Beat the second egg, brush the tops, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake at 180 c for 30-40 minutes.

3. Chicken drummettes.  You can get little “frenched” drummettes which give kids an easy handle, or just use regular ones. I marinated mine overnight in tamari, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and honey, and just put them in the oven along with the potato skins on the morning of the party.

4. Potato skins.  These are perfect kids’ party fare as they will give them a nutritious energy boost, whilst being appealling because they are like chips.  Plus they are a cinch to make.  Take 6 large, long potatoes like pontiac or sebago, rinse, and roast whole and unpeeled for about an hour, longer if they are really large.  Stick a skewer in to check if you are unsure.  You can do this step the day before.  Set aside to cool. When cool, cut in half.  Scoop most but not all of the potato from inside, you want to leave a layer.  (I used the scooped out potato in the egg mixture for the rolls, below).  Slice the halved skins into quarters, scatter with some grated cheese of your choice, and sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 15 minutes.

5. Slimy jelly snake swamp. This was my nod to a little junk and sugar. The kids were mesmerised by this, and each had as much scooped into a plastic cup as their parents allowed, providing parental control over how much sugar they got.  I used Coles brand jelly crystals as they have no artificial colours. You have to start making this early on the day before, making one layer of jelly at a time.  Make up the jelly mixture, and when its cooled but not yet set, pour into a glass bowl over some snakes.  Allow to seat. Its important that the mixture is quite cooled down before pouring, or the snakes will melt into the jelly.  Repeat until you’ve got as much as you want. Use two mixtures at a time when you get to the top layers, if your bowl is wider at the top like mine.  This can take up to 2 days so be patient and watch for little hands sneaking into the fridge for a dip!

6. Dinner rolls with fillings. Little dinner rolls from the supermarket are a great size, are appealing to kids and adults and provide lots of wholesome energy. I would have used wholegrain or wholemeal ones but they didn’t have any.  I made two fillings: 1) chicken, basil mayo and lettuce and 2) egg, sour cream, potato, chives and lettuce.   You could use any combination you like – cheese and grated carrot, zucchini, and beetroot; salmon, crushed walnut, thinly sliced celery and mayo; avocado, chicken and rocket etc.  You can make up the mixtures the night before.

7. Hundreds & thousands icebox biscuits.  These were the treats I made for the party favour bags at the end.  As we had a pinata with lollies (and little toys), I felt it was highly unnecessary for more lollies on departure. Not a single child complained.   I also popped a few little toys – dinosaurs and butterflies – in each one.  Icebox biscuits are easy to make because you just roll the dough into a cylinder then slice it. I used Martha Stewart’s icebox shortbread recipe, but mixed in orange zest (for a lovely flavour and aroma) and hundreds of thousands for a colourful effect.  As the name suggests, you can make the biscuit dough, roll it, and freeze in advance.

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/icebox-shortbread?backto=true&backtourl=/photogallery/icebox-cookie-recipes#slide_9


8. Homemade punch.  Keeping soft drinks away from a kids’ party will make a huge difference to the state they are in later in the day.  A homemade punch allows you to control the sugar. Try combinations of: ginger beer, soda water, fresh fruit juice, the juice and seeds of fresh pomegranates, fresh berries, sliced fruit, and mint leaves.

9. Fruit and water.  Kids will be less likely to end up on a sugar high if they are kept hydrated in a healthy way – with fresh fruit and water.  If you have a fruit platter, and few other sweet treats, kids will eat the fruit, but if there are too many other sweet options they will be less likely to.   An urn or cask of water with a tap  that they can help themselves to is also a great idea.

Super Mario Brothers Birthday Cake

Last weekend I made a birthday cake for my son’s friend’s birthday.  In a moment of insanity, I agreed to a Super Mario themed cake.  I have to say it was challenging and a lot of work. But really, the looks on the little faces made it all worthwhile. Happy 8th birthday Anthony!

I thought I would take you through how I did it step by step, in the event you have a Mario and Luigi obsessed young’un in your midst.

Here are some key pieces of advice up front:

  • Be prepared to give up a fair bit of your time to do this.  All up, the searching and shopping for ingredients and decorations, practicing and making the decorations, and baking the cake was done over a week.  I practiced some of the decorations a few days before.
  • Start making the decorations the day before, but don’t  make them any further in advance than that, as they will dry out and the colour will fade and bleed.
  • If you’re not used to baking and decorating cakes, I would really recommend buying an un-iced cake to decorate.  Having to make the cake after spending a day and a half on the decorations nearly tipped me over the edge especially as the first cake failed and I had to start again from scratch.
  • Don’t attempt the decorations on a hot day in an un-airconditioned room.  The paste will melt in your hands as you’re working with it, and will be hard to set.
  • Don’t buy expensive cake decorating utensils – you can usually improvise with things in your home already.  I did however buy a $10 pottery/clay tool kit from the craft section of an Asian import store, and it does most of the jobs of the stuff from kitchen supply stores at a fraction of the price.
  • Cut your fingernails short or use latex gloves.
  • Enlist grown up help. Get children involved in some way by all means, they will love it, but not for the whole task. You’ll end up killing each other.  Another set of adult hands will be invaluable for cleaning up and assisting however. I could not have done this without my very helpful assistant and Super Mario officionado – thanks Adam! 🙂
  • Make the decorations in the day if you can. At night, you can’t see the icing colours so well. I learned this the hard way.

What you will need:

  • Cake decorator icing/modelling paste (from a cake supply shop). There is a confusing array of cake decorating products out there.   You don’t want marzipan, or fondant, but a paste or icing.  Don’t get anything that is already hard. Soft icing can have icing sugar added to it to make it firmer, but I found it hard to soften anything that had already hardened.  If in doubt, tell them at the store what you want it for and they will advise you.
  • 1 kg icing sugar – for thickening the paste up and making the frosting.
  • Food colour gel pastes – I use Wilton pastes, they are so much better than the cheap and nasty liquid stuff
  • Fudge for the mushroom stalks
  • Nigella (black sesame) seeds for the eyes
  • Mario & Luigi figurines
  • A tube to shape the pipes around – I used the tube of a turkey baster
  • A small sharp knife
  • A small firm spatula or flat knife
  • Lid of a texta, for the mushroom spots
  • Rolling pin
  • Egg white for gluing
  • Toothpicks to hold the mushrooms in place
  • A very small paintbrush, for the egg white
  • Baking paper, as a work surface
  • Clean tweezers, for the eyes
  • A cake
  • Butter for the frosting

To make the mushrooms:

Get the paste/icing to the right consistency – it should be a little like cookie dough but not as moist.  It needs to be thick and dry enough so it doesn’t stick to your hands, but still pliable.

You’ll need about a third of a cup for the red and about half a cup for the green, for the pipes as well.  Do the red first. Put the icing/paste in a bowl and begin to add the colour, mixing until you get the right colour.

Be patient.  Getting the mixture to the right colour and consistency is more time consuming than you would think.

When its right, roll little balls to your desired size in the palm of  your hands.  I used an image I googled on the computer as a guide.  Make a little indentation with your thumb in the bottom of the mushroom, where the stalk will go.

When finished, set aside. I made four red and four green.

To make the spots: roll out a white piece of the icing very thin.  Cut out spots using the lid of a child’s texta – I found them to be the perfect size.  They are a little difficult to get out of the lid, I tapped them against the rolling pin. You’ll need 5 spots per mushroom. This will take time.  Paint spots with a dab of egg white and fix on the mushrooms in the appropriate place.

Make the stalks.  Take a piece of fudge and cut it to the right size – this is just guesswork so do your best. Roll it out on a work surface until its cylindrical.

Dab a little egg white where the eyes will go, and using tweezers, press two nigella seeds into the stalk, using your image as a guide.

Set aside on a plate covered in baking paper in the fridge. Don’t assemble the mushrooms on top of the stalks just yet.

Now do all this again for the green mushrooms. 🙂

Make the tubes.  Using the leftover green paste from the mushrooms, measure out the size you will need – by width to hold your figurines, and lengthwise, about 8 cm. If they are too long they will not stand up, as the icing will begin to soften out of the fridge.

Roll out the piece of green icing until its about half a cm thick.  Get the tube shaped object you are using to make the tube (eg turkey baster) and spray it with olive oil spray.  Drape the icing around it to fashion a tube then slide the object out.  Cut it to shape.

Roll another long thin piece out to make the lip of the tube, and fix it to one end  with a little egg white.

Smooth out any cracks, bumps or seams with a tiny bit of water on your fingertips. Take care as the icing can crumble, and don’t worry if you have a few fails here and have to start again, I did. You’ll get there!  Keep the tube upside down so the top heavy end doesn’t put too much weight on the pipe.

Make two of these and put in the fridge.

Now make the stars.  Draw the shape of the star onto a piece of baking paper and cut out.   Make up a small amount of yellow paste and roll out.  Use the star paper as a guide to cut the shape out.  Make another star that is slightly smaller and sit it on the top, to give it that 3d look.  Use a small knife or scraper to smooth it all out and shape it into the star.  Add the nigella seed eyes with a dab of egg.

Put in the fridge on baking paper with all the other decorations.

Make or buy the cake now. I used Nigella’s old fashioned chocolate cake recipe – http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/old-fashioned-chocolate-cake-119 For the icing – I used Martha Stewart’s butter cream frosting, http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/basic-buttercream-recipe?backto=true , which I added the food colouring to.

Place the cake on a piece of baking paper and start to cover with the frosting.  Smooth it out as you go. Using a flat metal knife or spatula, smooth the surface as best you can.  Add the decorations, using toothpicks to the hold the mushrooms in place on the top.  I used a little edible glitter to create starlight shimmers off the stars, and just sprinkled clear sparkles over the whole thing to give a bit of a shimmer.

When ready, transfer the cake to the plate or board you are presenting it on, sliding out the baking paper.  Keep the cake refrigerated right up until you are ready to bring it out. If you let it sit out for long, the decorations will start to soften and anything could happen then!

Now pour yourself a well-earned glass of champagne, or make a cup of tea, and sit back and enjoy the priceless looks on the children’s faces. 🙂

Stores I use for cake making supplies:
Key Ingredient, Clifton Hill
Matchbox, Victoria Gardens
Cake Deco, Flinders Street
Essential Ingredient, Prahran Market

Caveman Drumsticks!

Why is it that children love either oversized things (think Macaulay Culkin’s pancakes in “Uncle Buck”) or tiny, miniature versions of things – like railways?

With this in mind, when I came across these giant turkey drumsticks, I swooped. Even for a turkey, these were big! Each one weighed nearly a kilo, and took as long to roast as a whole chook.

I worded up my son and his friend who came round for dinner this week about cavemen diets, then presented them with these babies.  They attacked them with a highly satisfying degree of caveman gusto.

Tuna and Broccoli “Mac and Cheese”

This is definitely one that is in the kids’ dinner category: even though any adults around will no doubt eat it if making it for kids (I do!), its not something you’d make for a grown up night.  But its perfect for hungry little mouths – most kids love pasta, cheese and tuna.  This is one of those hybrid dishes I came up with when I was torn between making macaroni and cheese, and a tuna mornay.   The broccoli is just for some extra goodness – it can be substituted with whatever vegetable your offspring will tolerate. Spinach would be perfect in this also. The crunchy breadcrumb topping makes it irresistable to all.

You will need a large frypan that is ovenproof.  If you don’t have one, you can use a flameproof baking dish.

Serves approx 4 adults / 6 kids’ serves

1 small leek, finely sliced

1 celery stalk, finely sliced

1 cup steamed broccoli florets, finely chopped

1 x 185 g tin tuna

1 cup grated tasty cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1 cup small uncooked pasta (such as shells, elbows)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup plain flour

450 ml milk

3/4 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon olive oil

Get all your ingredients ready – grate the cheese, slice the leeks and celery, open the tuna and drain, and steam the broccoli (or other veg) and chop finely.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and when its boiling, toss in the pasta.

While you’re waiting for the pasta to cook, heat the oil and butter in the frypan and add the leaks.  Saute until soft and turning golden, about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the celery and saute until soft, about another 5 minutes.

Add the flour and stir through the mixture until absorbed.  Reduce the heat to low, and start adding the milk, stirring quickly so it absorbs well.  Keep stirring and adding the milk until its all absorbed and you have a thick sauce.

By this time the pasta should be cooked.  When its al dente, drain and set aside.

Stir the tasty cheese, broccoli, tuna and some salt and pepper into the sauce and mix through.  Stir in the pasta.  Sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese.

In a separate bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the olive oil using your hands until all the oil is evenly mixed through.  Spread the breadcrumbs over the pan.

Turn on your grill, place the frypan under and grill until the breadcrumbs are golden.

“Poo and Wee”

This was a hit at my son’s 4th birthday party. He loved playing a practical joke on his friends by pretending to eat poo & wee, and he got the desired reactions.   I have Red Symonds to thank for the idea.  I was listening to his morning radio program on the ABC once and he was discussing the demise of the Polly Waffle.  He described making this and I immediately knew it would be a hit with my son, with his scatalogical sense of humour.

By the time I went to make it the Polly Waffles were sadly a thing of the past, so I used little Bounty bars.  I had to soften them for just a few seconds in the microwave, then mould them into little poos.  I know what you’re thinking, and no, I could not believe I found myself doing this.

12 mini Bounty bars, softened a little, and moulded into little “poos”

1 packet of lemon jelly

1 packet of passionfruit or pineapple jelly

12 clear plastic cups

Combine the jelly mixtures and make up according to the instructions.   Allow to cool but not set.  The jelly must not be warm or it will melt the chocolate, but it needs to be pourable.

Place a bounty bar in each cup and when the jelly mixture is cool enough, pour over each one to cover.

Refrigerate until set.  You know what to do next.

The Simplicity Project ~ Jenn Pike

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The Abbotsford Kitchen

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