{Recipe} Healthy Berry Muffin Bars (Cane Sugar Free, Dairy Free)

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Yesterday I had a punnet of blueberries in the fridge that weren’t being eaten, some strawberries approaching the end of their days, and 2 year old having an uncharacteristically early nap.  Basically the stars had aligned for me to get my baking experiment hat on.

I like play around with recipes to make them a bit healthier without losing yumness.  Cos healthy is good, especially with a fussy toddler, but if you ain’t got yumness, there ain’t much point, in my book.

I’m rather pleased with how this one turned out!  You can make it in a normal muffin tin but I thought a muffin bar/slice was just a bit different and fun.  I based it on this blueberry muffin recipe.

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The muffin is not over sweet and I really like how the subtlety of the flavour allows the berries to shine.  You could definitely play around with using different fruits in this one – let me know if you come up with a yummy variation!

My version is cane sugar free and dairy free, but you can adapt to taste and preference.  Although I have to say, it’s pretty darn yummy as it is!

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Ingredients

1 3/4 cups flour (I used organic white flour, I may try wholemeal next time)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup organic pure maple syrup (or 1/2 cup cane sugar if you prefer)
1/2 tsp Heilala vanilla paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 small punnet of blueberries (around 1-1 1/2 cups)
3-4 medium/large strawberries, chopped

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a large bowl, combine milk, oil, egg, maple syrup and vanilla.
4. Stir in flour mixture until just combined.  Do not overmix.
5. Fold in blueberries and strawberries.
6. Pour into greased or lined slice tray (or muffin tray).  Cook until lightly golden and an inserted skewer or knife comes out clean.  In my oven this was about 30 minutes but it will depend on the tray you use and my oven can be a bit slow, so just keep an eye on it.

Easy and yum!  Let me know if you try it!

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Chocolate Chunk and Chickpea Biscuits

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I found this rather interesting recipe on the Stay at Home Mum website (see original here) and had to give it a go.  Chickpeas are wonderfully nourishing and I love trying to find ways to make treats healthy.  I adapted the recipe slightly and I think it would be easy to play around with your own ideas.

I had mixed reviews from these biscuits.  One mum asked me for the recipe while a little boy told me they were “yucky”.  Hehe!  Personally I like them, they taste healthy in a really satisfying way with just the right amount of chocolate sweetness.

 

Ingredients

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used coconut sugar, a more nutritious alternative)

3/4 cup butter

2 large egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 can (420g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 cups choc chips (I used one chopped up packet of Green & Blacks Organic Milk Chocolate and 1/2 cup raw cacao nibs)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

3/4 cup raisins or sultanas

2 cups wholemeal Self Raising flour

1/2 cup oats

1 teaspoon bicarb soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

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Method

Cream butter and sugar.  Process chickpeas, vanilla and egg whites in a food processor until smooth then add to the butter and sugar.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix to form a thick dough.

Form into biscuits and place on baking tray.  I just used my hands.

Bake at 180 C for 11-13 minutes or until golden – they will still seem soft when you get them out but trust me, this makes for the perfect soft texture.

 

Would love to hear what you think if you try them out!

 

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Homemade Goat’s Milk Infant Formula

The Backstory

I have written on this blog before about my difficult breastfeeding journey.  I truly believe in the value of breastfeeding and did it as long as I could, but there came a point where I could not longer take it, where I felt that breastfeeding was actually interfering with my ability to bond with my baby, not aiding it.  At that point, when my daughter was 6 months old, I decided to wean to bottle feeding.

She took to it easily and quickly but I was still left feeling not quite right about feeding her commercial formula.  I didn’t want to breastfeed anymore but I didn’t like giving her this powder from a tin with no real concept of what was in it or how it was made.  Because I had given up breastfeeding by choice, not due to lack of milk, I felt it was my responsibility to make sure that what I replaced it with was the best thing I could possibly find.

I looked up homemade formula recipes on the internet but they all seemed incredibly complicated with ingredients I didn’t know how to source and method descriptions as long as my arm.  I continued on commercial formula for about two months.  My daughter struggled with constipation terribly during this time.  I switched to an organic formula but this difficulty continued.

One day, when she was 8 months old, she was straining and screaming trying to pass a bowel motion, and she looked up at me and just reached out a hand towards me in this gesture of desperation, of despair.  She seemed to be saying “help me mummy, make this pain stop.”  In that moment, I knew I had to do something.  Something had to change, I couldn’t keep seeing her in this pain.  I was also afraid it would make doing a poo a scary thing for her, which could cause difficulties down the track.

Luckily, right around this time, I had stumbled across a goat’s milk formula recipe that The Eco Mum posted in a Facebook status update one night.  It seemed so EASY compared to all the other recipes I had come across.  In fact, the recipe she outlined in her status update had only three ingredients – goat’s milk kefir, coconut water and stinging nettle infusion.

I started researching, sourcing ingredients, and tweaking, and the result was this recipe.  I remember the first time I gave it to my daughter and how happy I felt that I knew every single ingredient that was going down her throat and that I was super happy for every single one of them to be going into her little tummy.  She took to it straight away without an issue (WARNING: don’t be curious and taste it yourself.  Seriously don’t.  Ick.  Didn’t seem to bother her though!).  Within a day or two, her poos were like breastmilk poos!  Apart from the odd occasion during the transition to solids, she has never again had a problem with constipation.  No more straining, no more pain!

She had this full recipe from 8 months old to about 13 months.  Around 13 months, I started making an even easier, more convenient version with just straight goat’s milk, coconut water and a powdered probiotic, as a complement to her solids diet.  Sometimes now if I run out of coconut water, I’ll give her straight goat’s milk, but I really notice the difference in her gut health when I use the coconut water, it is really great stuff!

She is now a happy, healthy 20 month old, bang on average for height and weight, very clever and active.  She has only been sick about 2-3 times in her entire life.

My daughter and I still have our bottle cuddles :-)

My daughter and I still have our bottle cuddles 🙂

Please note that I am not a health care or nutrition professional.  All I can tell you is that this formula has done wonders for my daughter and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again in the future, should the need arise.

The Recipe

This recipe is really very easy, so please don’t be put off if you find some of the ingredients daunting or foreign at first glance.  Below the actual recipe, I will outline each ingredient in detail and where to source it.

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My collection of ingredients

To make one litre of formula, I use the following:

300 ml goat’s milk kefir
300 ml organic coconut water
300 ml organic nettle infusion
1 tsp black strap molasses dissolved in 100 ml clean (filtered/distilled) water
1/4 tsp fish oil
1/4 scoop vitamin C powder

All you need to do is mix all of these ingredients together and store in the fridge.

Scarlett has always been happy to drink this straight from the fridge, but you may wish to warm it in a bottle warmer or by placing a bottle of formula in a bowl of hot water.

The Ingredients

At first glance, you may be thinking: kefir? molasses? infusion?  What the heck?!  And where and how?!

Don’t worry – once you pull all the ingredients together and make it a couple of times, it’s really very easy and you will get into your own little routine.  I was able to make up a litre batch within a mere minute or two at the height of our usage of it.

My jars of goodness - kefir brewing and nettle infusing

My jars of goodness – kefir brewing and nettle infusing

Let’s go through each ingredient one by one:

Kefir

Kefir is a kind of liquid super yoghurt, tons of great natural probiotics, fantastic for the gut and digestion.

You can make kefir from live grains – a bit of googling and you should be able to source some grains in your area (please feel free to message me or comment if you are unable to find some).  All you do is put the kefir grains into 1-2 cups of lightly warmed milk in a large jar, cover with a plastic or glass lid, and leave in a warm (20-25 degrees Celsius) place for 24 hours.  Then just strain out the grains, put the grains back into the jar, add a touch of the kefir you have just harvested, and then add 1-2 more cups of milk and start over again!  You can keep the harvested kefir in the fridge.  The important thing to remember is that these grains are alive, so you have to keep them in milk and at a warmish temperature to keep them alive.  I just kept the jar of grains and milk in my pantry with a towel wrapped around it.  Some people muck around with thermometers and things but seriously, I can’t be pfaffed with that kind of carry on.  The grains should grow and multiply, the longer you keep making kefir.

If you can’t find live grains or don’t want to have to deal with live grains, you can buy sachets of dried kefir at good health stores or online, for example at Four Body.  You just empty the sachet into a litre of warm milk, leave for 24 hours, then add a little of the kefir to some new milk.  This can be repeated for a total of 5 litres of kefir, then you just open a new sachet.

Nature's Goodness kefir

Kefir is really great stuff and fantastic for gut health (and therefore immunity and general wellbeing), so I urge you to at least have a go making some.  If it all just seems way too hard or outside your comfort zone, I would recommend using straight goat’s milk with an added powder probiotic such as Inner Health Plus for Kids.

If you’re feeling eager, you can read alllll about kefir on this kefir information website.

Goat’s Milk

Goat’s milk is closer to human breastmilk in composition than cow’s milk is, and many people find it less irritating to the gut and easier to digest.  Many supermarkets stock UHT goat’s milk in the long life milk aisle, or you can buy powdered goat’s milk at good health food stores or online (I got mine for a while from Four Body).  While I was making my own kefir, I used the powder, as I found the grains thrived better in it.  Now that my daughter is older and I give her straight goat’s milk, I just use UHT milk.

Coconut Water

Coconut water contains higher concentrations of lauric acid than animal milk – lauric acid is a component of breast milk that helps with immunity (it is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic).  In this respect, coconut water is actually closer to breast milk than cows or goats milk. It’s also good for the gut and a fantastic hydrator. It’s important to get 100% pure coconut water, as sometimes you’ll see coconut water drinks in the supermarket with added sugar and flavours and gunk.  I sourced organic pure coconut water in bulk from Chemist Direct.

Stinging Nettle Infusion

The nettle infusion is made by soaking organic stinging nettle leaves in water for 24 hours, then straining out the leaves, which makes a concentrated liquid full of all the good stuff in the leaves (vitamins, minerals etc).  You can find loose organic leaves at Southern Skies Soap Supplies.  You can also find nettle tea in some supermarkets – just make sure it is pure nettle leaves with no other additives.  I use 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons, or four tea bags, per 1 litre of boiling water.  Put it all in a jar and leave for 24 hours.  Strain out the leaves and you are left with a green, richly grassy liquid full of goodness.

Black Strap Molasses

Black strap molasses is a completely natural by-product of sugar production, comes from sugar cane, and is really high in iron (1 tablespoon has a large percentage of an adult’s daily iron requirement), but funnily enough also has a slight laxative effect, so it helps prevent constipation. If you’re finding the poos a bit icky, you can cut back on the amount of molasses you use.  You can find black strap molasses at a good health food store or you can source it online at Four Body (and also read more about its benefits).

Fish Oil and Vitamin C

The fish oil I add for brain development, and you can find it in any supermarket or pharmacy.  Some people may wish to use Flaxseed oil as a non-animal source, however the omegas in fish oil are much more bioavailable (more easily digested) than in flaxseed oil.  The vitamin C powder you can get at health food stores and I added this for boosted immunity.

A bottle of homemade goat's milk formula

A bottle of homemade goat’s milk formula

So there it is – the homemade formula recipe that has served me and my daughter so well 🙂  It does take a wee bit more effort than opening a tin of commercial formula, but I really think it is worth it.  I really hope that this can help some mums out there who are unable to or choose not to breastfeed, but who feel that they want to ensure the absolute best nutrition possible for their babies.   Please don’t take any of this as a judgement upon those who do choose commercial formula.  At the end of the day, in my opinion, the most important thing is that you feed your baby with love, regardless of whether they are latched on to your breast or a bottle.  Hold them in your arms, look into their eyes, let them feel your heart beating on their cheek.  In the words of Jewel, “in the end, only kindness matters.”  Love your baby, be kind to yourself, go in peace xxx.

its not about breast versus bottle

Disclaimer: I am not in any way supported, endorsed by or sponsored by the links I provide in this article.  I am merely sharing what worked for me.  If you know of other sources of any of the ingredients I discuss, I’d love to hear from you.

{Healthy Snacks} Oat, Bran and Prune Biscuits

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My 18 month old daughter often has constipation issues.  (Yeah, that probably isn’t how you expected a recipe post to start out, huh?)  Anyway, so when I stumbled across this biscuit recipe on the Vegie Smugglers blog, I thought it seemed the perfect recipe to adapt to get some poo promoting ingredients into her little tummy.  I also always love a recipe that helps me get some folate rich oats into her.

I actually used Homebrand Processed Bran sticks rather than Allbran as per the original recipe, because after reading the labels, it seemed they had a lower sugar content.  I substituted prunes in for saltanas, but you could really use any dried fruit you wanted.  And I added extra bran powder, but if you don’t need so much poo power, you could definitely leave it out.  But hey, it’s always good to be regular, right?

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Oat, Bran and Prune Super Poo Biscuits (I’m so good at making things sound appealing)

Ingredient Set 1:

½ cup self-raising flour
1½ cups oats
¼ cup bran sticks (e.g. Allbran cereal)
2 tbsp bran powder (optional)
3 tbsp sesame seeds
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
½ cup chopped prunes (or dried fruit of choice)

Ingredient Set 2:

60g butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
2. Mix together Ingredient Set 1.
3. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar from Ingredient Set 2, then mix through the egg.
4. Fold everything together, roll into ping pong sized balls, put on lined oven tray and pop in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

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It is a super easy recipe to whip up start to finish and definitely one of those “blank canvas” recipes – you could adapt this to your heart’s content!   I’m imagining versions with grated apple or chocolate chips or cranberries… maybe even zucchini for hidden veggie goodness??

I was going to add chia seeds but forgot right up until the last moment, so I just rolled the dough balls in the seeds instead, which actually worked quite well.

I’d love to hear of any versions you may come up with!

Baby/Toddler Recipe: Oaty Cereal Bars

A little while ago I came across the fabulous One Handed Cooks blog, full of recipes perfect for little fingers and busy mums.  One of the first recipes I tried for my little spoon feeding boycotter was the Chew-me Oat Fruit Bars.  As soon as they were out of the oven, she devoured three big fingers of it straight away!  They have been a big hit and I have made them a ton of times since – in fact, I like to pretty much always have them to hand, they have become a staple.  They are so quick to throw together and are great for afternoon snacks or even a hand-held breakfast.  I also love that it is a way to get oats into her, with all their folate containing goodness.

Bubba has always preferred finger food, but she has been pretty much refusing spoon feeding altogether lately.  So I decided to come up with a way to get the iron-enriched baby cereal into her and this recipe seemed the perfect vehicle.  So this is my adaptation of the recipe, with a few other tweaks based on what I have in the cupboard and my general laziness (I hate grating things, hence no grated apple as per the original recipe!).  The original recipe is also wonderful as is!

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup iron enriched baby cereal (Farex or the like – I use Rafferty’s Garden)
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
3/4 cup dried fruit (I use whole sultanas, or a mix of sultanas and chopped dried apricots)
1 overripe banana
2 tbsp bran (I put this in for fibrous, poo-promoting goodness)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cup milk
1 egg

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mash/mix with a fork until combined.  Seriously, just chuck it all in at once.  I don’t even beat the egg first.

3. Pour into (baking paper lined) slice tin and cook until firm to touch – in my oven, this is about 30 minutes.

4. Cool and cut into fingers.

Not only is this recipe quick and easy, it’s very forgiving and fun to  play around with.  If you’d prefer them without the baby cereal, just substitute in an extra 1/2 cup of rolled oats, as per the original recipe.  I’m thinking of trying it with blueberries or raspberries in place of the dried fruit – yum!

Let me know if you try this recipe – or come up with any of your own variations!

Baby/Toddler Recipe: Very Healthy Banana Bread

I found this banana bread recipe when looking for healthy finger foods to make for my 9 month old baby (original recipe here).  I like the recipe because I like to give my baby good, wholesome food – I liked that every single ingredient in this was healthy and I was able to make it without any added sugar.

I made this with honey instead of sugar.  If you’re used to very sweet food, you may like to make this with sugar, possibly even extra sugar.  However, I found myself going back to this bread myself for a very satisfying and guilt free snack.

It certainly passed muster with my harshest critic, who absolutely devoured it.  I should add the caveat that my little guts will devour most anything… but I do think she especially enjoyed this bread!

Ingredient Set 1:

2 cups flour (I used wholemeal, use whatever flour you like!)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder

Ingredient Set 2:

3 large very ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 cups) – mashed
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar (or replace with 1/3 cup unsweetened fruit juice concentrate ormaple syrup or honey)
1/2 cup milk
zest of a lemon or orange (optional – I omited this, must try it next time!)
2 tsp vanilla or 1 Tbsp dark rum (obviously I chose the vanilla for my baby!)

Optional Extras:

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I omitted this for bubba)
1/3 – 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces (I omitted but must try it!)
1/2 cup chopped dates (I actually used prunes to help with bubbas bowels, actually tasted pretty good and lent a good sweetness to the loaf)

Method:

1. In two separate bowls, combine the two ingredient sets (a dry mixture and a wet mixture).

2. Mix the wet and dry mixtures together until just combined.

3. Fold in the optional extras, if desired.

4. Pour into a greased and/or lined loaf tin.

5. Bake at 180 C for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

6. Leave in the pan for 10 minutes then place on a rack to cool.

 

There you have it – an easy, healthy snack easily adaptable to your tastes and/or your baby’s!

Why not have a slice hot from the oven with a generous smear of butter?


Sweet Treat Recipe: Milk Chocolate Mud Cake

On New Years day, we were just sitting around on a lovely Melbourne day, when Daddy C said: “I feel like cake.”  Naturally, I obliged, and came up with this delicious milk chocolate mud cake (based on this recipe).  Moist, dense and muddy, and it lasted for days.  Yum!

Ingredients:

250 g milk chocolate (the better quailty, the better!)
250 g salted butter
1 tsp instant coffee granules/powder
188ml (3/4 cup) water
325g (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) plain flour
30g (1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
550g (2 1/2 cups) caster sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons (40ml) oil
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
125ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk (don’t have any? You can easily make some!)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius.

2. Grease a 23 or 24 cm round cake tin, preferably springform.  Line with baking paper.

3. Place 250g chocolate, butter, coffee and water in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. When chocolate and butter have melted, remove mixture from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm/room temperature.

4. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda together into a very large bowl.

5. Add the caster sugar to the bowl with the flour mixture, and stir the ingredients together until well combined. The original recipe recommends using a whisk to stir ingredients together.

6. In a medium bowl, place eggs, oil, vanilla and buttermilk.  Whisk until well combined.

7. Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture, and stir until well combined.

8. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg and flour mixture in a three batches, stirring until combined after each addition.

9. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes (24cm pan) or 1 hour and 30 minutes (23cm pan).  If a knife/skewer comes out clean or with moist crumbs (not gooey batter) attached, the cake is ready.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan and then remove.  It has a kind of crunchy top, which the original recipe suggests removing, but I thought it was awesome!

I iced this cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing and it was delicious!  The cake was quite tall, so I even cut it in half and added a middle layer of icing, which I think helped it stay moist for so many days.

As a finishing touch, I grated some toblerone over the top.  Yummo!!