Almost Healthy Breakfast Bars

Following a special request from the youngling for ‘breakfast bars’, we did a little research and knocked up a batch. I’d say they’re fairly healthy, but they do contain condensed milk..

Compared to shop-bought alternatives, who cares!

Ingredients:

  • 397g Condensed Milk (standard can)
  • 250g Oats
  • 100g Dried Fruit (Sulatanas, Cherries, Goji berries, Cranberries – whatever you have/fancy)
  • 75g   Dessicated or Shredded Coconut
  • 125g Chopped Nuts (whatever you like – we used Cashews)
  • 125g Seeds (Sunflower, Pumpkin, Linseed, Sesame…)

Method:

Full-on simple.

Pre-heat your oven to 130°C

Grease a (9×11 inch) baking tin.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Warm the condensed milk in a pan and then stir everything together. Fill the baking tin and firm it down until even.

Bake for 1 hour and then cut them to your desired size once they have cooled slightly.

Enjoy.

(Tea is optional but highly recommended).

Healthy Breakfast Bars

Baking Bread

April challenge #3 for the Food Revolution Ambassadors: Family cooking time for Easter.

We’ve been making bread, and this little helper just loves getting her hands dirty. Basic bread is super simple and a great basis on which to build your bread-making skills. There’s so much rubbish in everyday loaves – why not just make your own satisfying loaf. Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll be knocking out stunning bread whenever you need it. Did I mention that it’s unbelievably cheap?

I’ll admit that I’d migrated to a machine for a few years (obsolete Panasonic), but now the younglings are big enough to get involved it’s just gathering dust in the cupboard.  They find it so much fun and I never fail to get a “Wow!” when the oven door opens.

So, basic bread consists of just a few core staples – the Olive Oil is optional to be honest.

Ingredients:

  • 500g Strong Bread Flour
  • 320ml Tepid Water
  • 15g Fresh Yeast (or 7g dried)
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1tbsp sugar

Method:

If you’re using fresh yeast, mix it with the sugar and it will magically turn into a liquid.

Making a well in the flour

On a nice clean surface (or in a large bowl), mix your dry ingredients together, make a well in the middle and pour in the water/liquid. Bring it all together and then knead it for 5 – 10 minutes. You want to have a nice silky and elastic dough.

Winter kneading dough

Leave the dough to rest in a warm place under a damp tea towel until it has doubled in size. I put it in a lightly floured or oiled bowl and pop a disposable showercap over the top. The first prove should take about 30 minutes.

Once it’s doubled in size, ‘knock it back’ by giving it another knead or a bit of prodding for a few seconds. Shape it and pop it onto the tray you intend to bake it on.

Cover it again and leave it for its second prove which will take about an hour to double in size.

Bread dough ready for baking

Gently slide your dough into a preheated oven (180°C/350°F/gas 4) and bake it for about 20 – 30 minutes until beautifully golden. The bread should sound hollow when you tap it on the bottom. Pop it onto a rack and allow it to cool down.

Standard Loaf

Winter was particularly taken with her miniature loaf which she shared with Felix as soon as he got home from school.

Miniature loaf We’ve been baking all sorts of bread and I’m starting to feel the benefits of all the exercise!

Standard Loaf of Bread

Must dash, more dough needs my attention.

Reflecting on FRD2014

I was appointed as a Food Revolution Ambassador a mere 10 days before the big event on 16 May 2014. I still remember exactly how I felt receiving that email – simply overjoyed. And then it hit me… what am I actually going to do?!
A few days later I’d secured a slot with my son’s primary school, St James’ in Cheltenham – the relief I was feeling after getting a gig for Food Revolution Day was mixed with bouts of panic as I fretted about what I was actually going to do on the day.. Thankfully, the Ambassador’s Facebook pages are filled with helpful folk and fantastic ideas.
The message for the 2014 campaign was that “We need every child to understand where food comes from, how to cook it, and how it affects their body. This is about setting kids up with the knowledge they need to make better food choices for life.
I settled on something simple yet effective and chose to take a selection of fruits, herbs and vegetables in to do a little ‘Show & Tell’ for the reception children. I hoped to relay key messages about seasonality, healthy eating and balance. Did I forget that there were 2 reception classes? Maybe. Was I slightly overwhelmed having 60 eager 5-year-olds sitting in front of me? No comment.
Selection of fruits, vegetables and herbs
Alas, it was the most brilliant and enlightening of experiences. The children were engaging and intrigued, enthusiastic and seriously switched-on! They looked, touched, smelled and identified before jumping at the opportunity to taste. I had to enrol the teachers to help with cutting as we just couldn’t keep up!
Teaching the children
I foraged some Wild Garlic from next to the stream on the walk to the school thinking that they’ll definitely learn something new here.. How wrong was I! “Oh yes Alex, they’re Ramsons – we have them in the garden at home”… Unbelievable. Big tick for that little girl’s parents.
Wild Garlic
An hour flew by and I wished that we’d had more time. Great kids, great attitude and lovely feedback. #exhausted (but thinking about what we can do next).
Note to self; look for local sponsorship to cover the costs next time. What to do with all these offcuts and leftovers?
Voilà!
using leftovers
This year, Food Revolution Day will be held on May 15th and I can’t wait to get involved. The campaign is focussing on making practical food education compulsory in all schools. Have a look at www.foodrevolutionday.com, sign the petition and support the movement.

The Plough at Ford

The setting was fabulous, the architecture and décor transported me back in time and warmed my soul. The service really was wonderful and the food was reasonable. Local game (mostly in season) and homemade food, honest and well-proportioned.

The Plough

I liked it. But… what’s with children’s menus being so lame? I understand that you get fussy children that are fed rubbish most of the time and that restaurants want to cater for the masses, but it breaks my heart to see fantastic local Gloucestershire Old Spot sausages chucked on a sea of baked beans and piled high with nasty looking chips. #uninspired

I couldn’t even bring myself to photograph the plate.

Kids menus are equally important, and if we start to think about building good food habits and laying the foundations for our future generations… you can see where I’m going with this.

I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time in France as a child, eating out most of the time and experiencing a broad range of gastronomic delights. I’m fairly convinced that my views on food were forged during that time and led to my current fascination with all things edible. I don’t recall ever seeing a ‘kids menu’. We ate what our parents ate, and never questioned it; we didn’t know any different. Snails, fish on the bone, frogs legs, clams, wild boar…

Our children are adventurous when it comes to food, and it’s all down to getting in there early and sowing the right seeds in their minds. Most people don’t like the thought of eating, say, tripe. Urgh. How many of those people have ever actually even tried it? Do you think that maybe they’ve simply been influenced by those around them?

Back to the Plough, and needless to say, our 4 and 6-year-old tried the rabbit, venison and pheasant. No fuss, no complaints.

The weather was great, allowing the children to make good use of the awesome fort in their spacious beer garden. It’ll certainly be a destination for us in the future.

www.theploughinnford.co.uk

Felix

Fighting For Food Education

Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation has launched this year’s theme for the Food Revolution: ‘Fighting For Food Education‘.

What’s it all about? It’s about teaching children all over the world about food, where it comes from, and how it affects their bodies. The aim is to curb the dramatic rise in diet-related diseases through the provision of practical, fun and engaging education and giving children (and adults) the skills and knowledge required to lead healthier and happier lives.

How can I get involved? Visit www.foodrevolutionday.com and sign the petition!

Together, we can tell the G20 countries exactly how we feel about it.

Sign the Petition

Signed it? Good. Now get out there and share it wherever you can.

I signed the petition because I honestly believe that this campaign will make a difference and instigate change. I think the benefits are obvious, and as such, the general public are going to support the cause and make it impossible to ignore.

Share It image

Follow the campaign across social media with the hashtag #foodrevolutionday 

St James’ Junior Chef

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the absolute joy of helping out at my son’s school as they prepared for the Cheltenham Food & Drink Festival Junior Chef competition 2015.

Logo for St James' St James’ Primary School has devoted precious time and resources to coaching and mentoring a group of 10 children after assessing all of their Year 5 (9/10-year-old) students. Having been provided with a set of recipe cards by the organisers, the children embarked on their culinary journey in an attempt to master the specified dishes: a poultry recipe, a vegetarian option, a salad and an Eton Mess. I was really pleased to have been invited in to observe, and I couldn’t resist rolling my sleeves up and pitching in as the children practised. Visiting St James' Primary Is there a child in the UK that doesn’t know who Jamie Oliver is? I don’t think so. Chatting to the children, it was heart-warming to hear their reactions to the Food Revolution and its aims for food education around the world. The first thing that struck me was how dedicated, engaged and enthusiastic the children were; some of them had brought in their own meringues that they’d made at home!

Teaching children how to cook really makes you think; we take so much for granted and forget that it’s the unknown for them. Can you eat the outside of an onion? Well, no… but how would you know that. At least they were asking the questions. I learnt a thing or two as experience and assumptions were regularly challenged; “Why do we cut the white bits out of the red pepper?”, “good point, let’s try some” – tastes just like, well, red pepper.

The first and probably most important skill their teachers helped them perfect was, understandably, knife skills. “Bridge cut, bridge cut” as the adults wince.. Now, when I was at school I was fairly spoiled in terms of facilities. A lot has changed. The logistics of making this class even possible really was testament to the ingenuity of the teachers.  One little oven, a few baking trays and re-purposing whatever we could find to complete the recipes. As far as teaching younglings about cooking, this was actually ideal though, as it showed them the real-life skills of how to adapt and innovate.

As we went through the motions, it made me think that perhaps there shouldn’t be any dumbing-down in the kitchen. Some jobs require a large, sharp chef’s knife – yet generally we arm children with relatively blunt little paring knives for the fear of them hurting themselves. Is this right, or is it likely to lead to frustration? I guess there’s a sweet-spot in terms of the ratio of children to supervisors. At least they didn’t have to use plastic knives.  At what age are they responsible enough to use the appropriate tools I wonder. I think that in terms of making progress, the right equipment in the kitchen has the same impact as switching between counting beads and calculators. Cooking skills are real-world skills and I can’t help but think that the majority of children are prevented from learning through our generalised fear of exposing them to what could be perceived as potentially dangerous situations. Here’s my reasoning: the majority of adults don’t know how to use a knife properly. Discuss.

Back to the cooking, and I have to say that I was impressed with the level of thought they were putting in. Much of this could probably be attributed to the plethora of cookery shows on television and the emphasis on presentation as much as flavour. The children could really articulate why they had chosen to shape the vegetables or arrange the plate in a certain way.

eton mess at St James' school

Eton Mess 1.0

Salad & vegetable bakesSo after a couple of hours of listening, learning and crafting their dishes, a really wonderful and potentially game-changing twist that I never had the pleasure of experiencing at school – the children got to invite a friend in to sample their food.  Not only that, the classroom was rearranged like a little bistro!  How nice is that!

By the end of their fourth and final session, these kids were cooking up a storm. It was terrific to see the transformation and how confident, efficient and competent they’d become. They really cared about what they were putting on the plate and I even overheard them having little conversations about food amongst themselves! Inspiring stuff.

The Junior Chef competition spans 12 schools in Cheltenham with each putting one contestant forward to the semi-final. Decision time.. What a hard job the teachers had, and what a shame that only one of these little stars could be put through.

St James’ Lulu Thornley headed to All Saints’ Academy to battle it out, and I’m over the moon to report that she made it through to the final! Next stop, the Chef’s tent at the Cheltenham Food & Drink Festival at noon on Friday 12th June. Well deserved and best of luck Lulu – we’ll all be cheering you on. Lulu Thornley at the semi-final I have to add that I spent a lot of the time thinking about how I could help them further or better support food education in the school. Imagine if we could do this with all of the children…

Handy that Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation has just launched a new Food Revolution website and global movement to petition the G20 to make food education compulsory. Take a look at www.foodrevolutionday.com and I implore you to Sign and Share.

Working with these children has been so much fun that it’s really made me think about a change in career…