Recipe builders

School lunches

SAME SAMBO RUT
Trying to keep school lunches interesting, and not getting stuck in a rut of the same sandwich every day from September to June, can be challenging. We’re only one month into the new school year and I’m already finding I’m reverting to the old reliables. To counteract this, I decided to root out my Recipe Builder method of food prep, and get stuck into designing one for school lunches. After watching ‘What the Health’ documentary I decided to see how school lunches work dairy, meat and nut (school policy) free.

PLANT BASED WHOLE FOOD
In our house we predominately follow a plant based, wholefood diet. My gang eats a great variety of veg at dinner time, but I find I rely too heavily on the humble cheese salad sambo for school lunches. After school they’ll most likely get a snack of sourdough or brown bread toasted with some fruit. When you add up the average week there is possibly too much bread and lots of missed opportunities for packing more variety, and higher nutritionally dense foods into their diet.

BRAIN FUEL
A well balanced plant based, whole grain lunch will keep your school goers fuelled for the day. Try minimise white breads, which have very little nutritional value, and are stripped of fibre. High fiber, whole grains help maintain a slow and steady release of energy to help them stay focused for the day. Experiment with different veg throughout the week. Don’t presume they don’t like it till they try it, they might surprise you! Veg can taste very different when cooked or prepared in different way. Adding herbs and spices to your roast veg can make them more kiddie friendly too. Try pack in some immune building foods to their lunch everyday to minimise sick days. Carrots, oranges, lemons, mangoes, sweet potatoes, kiwi, berries, onion, broccoli, kale, fermented foods and peas all boost the immune system. Adding spices and herbs like cumin, chilli, fennel seed, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, rosemary and sage also give an extra boost.

You could also use this Recipe Builder for after school snacks ideas. After school snacks needs to be fast and just enough to tide them over till dinner time. If they’ve had bread for lunch try to give them something else for their after school snack, even if it’s oatcakes, hummus and some chopped up fruit and veg.

10 TIPS FOR HEALTHY LUNCHES & HAPPY KIDS

  • A flask is a great investment to add variety and warm lunch days in colder weather

  • Keep a stock of wholemeal pitta breads and wraps in the freezer

  • Make extra veg at dinner time to pop into the lunches the next day

  • Make a big batch of flapjacks (sweet or savoury) at the start of the week

  • Adding dips like hummus is a great way to get them interested in trying new veg

  • Bring them shopping and get them to pick an experimental veg to try

  • Use a variety of fruit and veg, eat a rainbow of colours, throughout the week

  • Mix some veg in with the fruit for little break

  • Keep a few boxes of oatcakes handy for popping into the little tubs for little break

  • Stick with water, it’s better for them and not as messy if you have a spill!

Print out the above School Lunch Builder and give it a go. It’s a work in progress so you might find when you visit this page again it has evolved!

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Flapjacks, sweet & savoury

Flapjacks are one of my favourite snack foods. Sweet flapjacks are just the right amount of treat, and savoury can be used anytime of day. You will always find a batch of flapjacks in our kitchen cupboards, ready for a quick snack. They’re also a healthy school lunchbox filler, that can be thrown together on a Sunday night and used for the whole week. You can play around with lots of different flavour combinations to keep them interesting. Remember to get your kids used to the savoury versions too, so they don’t always expect sweet treats in their lunchbox!

Traditional shop-bought flapjacks are sold as a healthy option, but they are actually loaded with sugar. Homemade is always a better option for controlling the sugar content. When I started making homemade flapjacks, I found that when I adjusted the ratio of oats to sugar/fat, I ended up with a batch of granola rather than flapjacks! Over the last few years I’ve become obsessed with finding the ‘golden oat to binder ratio’, and after several frustrating crumbling batches, I’ve finally found a method that works for me! By experimenting with different ingredients that have binding qualities like tahini, nut butters, chia seed or psyllium husk, you can reduce the sugar/fat ratio of your flapjacks. Making them a better choice for a healthy treat, or a savoury snack, than shop-bought flapjacks or energy bars.

If you're still having problems getting your flapjacks to stay together, try milling about half your flakes to a flaky crumb in a food processor. I cut my flapjacks before baking and I use a coffee press to compress the mixture into the tin. I press them again when they come out of the oven, and let them cool for about 30min before carefully flipping them out of the tray and re-cutting. Cooling them is an important step, but don't let them cool in the tray for too long or your base will get soggy with the steam of the hot oats. 

A lot of recipes use banana or apple sauce to bind the oats together, but I prefer my flapjacks crunchy. You’ll see in my ‘Flapjack Builder’ there is an option for using grated carrot or apple, makeing sure you give them a good squeeze to remove as much of the liquid as possible, so your flapjack doesn’t end up more like a dense baked slice than a crunchy flapjack. I find the banana apple sauce versions end up tasting a bit soggy after a day or two. If your flapjack stays crunchy it can last for up to a week in an airtight container. I don’t store my flapjacks in the fridge for the same reason; they end up a bit on the soggy side.

My current favourite version is an oatie base with dates, goji and lots of seeds and nuts. I use about 10 dates which add just about the right amount of sweetness and help to bind them together. Have a go at making your own sweet or savoury flavour combinations. Click on the  ‘Flapjack Builder’ above, print it out and get experimenting!

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Sunshine salad bowls

The sun finally arrived last week and marking the start of salad season in our house. To celebrate the sunshine, the farmers' markets and vegetable aisles of the supermarkets are overflowing with juicy, vibrant and interesting fruit and veg, a welcome change from wintery, earthy root veg. This sudden change of season has inspired me to design my Salad Bowl Builder - based on the principles of the Buddha Bowl Builder. It's very easy to get stuck in a salad rut, always sticking to the same recipes everyday. Eating the same thing every day will make anything taste bland by the end of the week! There are so many different combinations of tasty salads that you can throw together. Having the Salad Builder at hand will remind you of the endless variety of veg you can use, keeping it fresh with every meal, and providing an abundant variety of nutrition throughout the week. 

When building the salad bowls you can either stick to raw veg, or have a mix of raw and roasted or steamed. Make sure to cool your cooked veg, or the heat will wilt your lovely fresh salad veg. Roast your veg in the morning, or the night before, and have them ready to pop into your salad just before the dressing.

Dressings can change a salad from a simple bowl of pretty veg into a taste explosion, bringing all the flavours and textures together. To save time I usually make a jar of salad dressing at the start of the week. I also try to have a jar of pesto or hummus to add to salad bowls. My gang love an interesting dollop of something that they can choose to dip things into, or mix it all up together into a salad-y mush!

Adding a handful of nuts, seeds and other 'twists', is something you can easily forget to do in the anticipation of tucking into your lovely salad bowl, but it's definitely worth doing. It adds an extra layer of flavour, and a crunch of texture.

For a speedy and tasty throw-together salad bowl, click on the 'Salad Bowl Builder' above, print it out and keep it in your culinary headquarters. Buy some veg that you'd never consider trying and see how it works in a salad. Think outside the box and get creative. I never though thought of making spaghetti out of courgettes or rice out of cauliflower, until I tried it and found it was amazingly delicious!

Enjoy!

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Bircher muesli, overnight oats

I could eat porridge all year round, but as the mornings get brighter I’ve had requests at my breakfast table for a break from it. So we’ve started introducing the more summery Bircher Muesli as an alternative, with the occasional morning with porridge to satiate my obsession! As a follow up to my Porridge Builder I’ve built a slightly different version for Bircher Muesli. The principles are the same, but there are a few different tips and flavours that work better with Bircher Muesli.

Bircher Muesli was invented in the late 19th century by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner. From his clinical test he observed the benefits of raw fruit and vegetables in the recovery speed of his patience. He was one of the first pioneering nutritionist in Europe to believe that good food could be used to keep the body healthy.

Soaking the oats overnight make them lovely and creamy. I find I use mainly water and only need a small amount of almond milk as my soaking liquid. Soaked oats are easier for the system to digest. It also breaks down the naturally occurring phytic acid, which inhibits nutritional absorption, so you can reap the benefit from lots of different vitamins and minerals from your lovely toppings.

Benefits: oats provide a slow release supply of energy, which helps balance blood sugar levels and prevent a mid morning slump, making them are a great start to the day. They also help lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease and contain a natural sedative which helps treat depression, anxiety and insomnia. They are easy to digest, making them a good choice for upset stomachs. They are also a good source of fibre, giving you 5gm of fibre per bowl. Fibre aids gut health, helps prevent heart disease and diabetes, and promotes healthy weight management.

You’ll find more information on the benefits of oats at Porridge, Oaty Goodness. Click on my ‘Bircher Muesli Builder’ above, print it out and be adventurous with different combinations, using lots of seasonal fruit and veg during the summer months!

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Abundant Buddha bowl

What is a Buddha Bowl? I noticed the name popping up in a few of the food blogs I follow and tried it out at my dinner table. It sounded more appetising than ‘mishy mashy’, which was the previous name we used, they took to it like a fish to water and even started to suggest some Buddha Bowl combinations to try out. A ‘Buddha Bowl’, also known as a ‘Glory Bowl’, is a bowl full of goodness, the kind of meal that leaves you feeling both satisfied and virtuous! It is built with a variety of flavours and textures that tick the box for plant + protein + fat. The bowl combines grains, lots of lovely different veg, a protein boost, a twist of texture and a drizzle of dressing to bring it all together. In our house we eat a predominantly plant-based diet, but it would be just as delicious with an addition of some salmon, chicken or whatever your preference for protein is.

As with my morning porridge routine, I loved browsing through all my cookbooks to find recipes, but I wanted the freedom to play around with some combinations myself. So I designed my ‘Buddha Bowl Builder’. By following the 6 steps you ensure that you don’t forget to add the little twists, textures and dressings, that make it more tantalising to the taste buds and packed with goodness. Remember to eat all the colours of the rainbow when choosing veg for your bowl. It will cover a wider variety of nutrition, and make your bowl look like a work of art. We eat with all our senses: sight; smell; sound; texture and taste. It will add to your satisfaction if you have taken a minute to make your bowl appeal to your visual sense before it even hits your tastebuds. Mindful eating uses the journey of the food - from field to bowl and through the five senses, slowing down the experience so that you are present to every mouthful!

There are endless options for your Buddha Bowl. Click on the 'Buddha Bowl Builder' above, print it out and invent a few of your own combinations. Remember to take a note of the recipe creations that are a taste explosion worth repeating. Keep exploring new combinations beyond the recipe builder and search the aisles of your supermarkets and Asian markets for interesting ingredients to try.

Enjoy!

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru