Date & Coconut Squares

I’m constantly looking for healthy treats to serve up at play dates, as an energy boosting snack or something for little fingers to hold on-the-go. Most importantly, I want ideas that are easy to make and won’t have me slaving away in the kitchen for hours.

What I love about this recipe is that it includes a mix of super healthy ingredients, delicious flavour, and it packs a powerful punch of antioxidants and good fats for growing little people.

Apart from toasting the coconut, this recipe includes no other cooking – simply pop them into the refrigerator and you’re done! I have opted to toast the coconut as it adds a delicious taste to this recipe although the recipe still works without this step.

You could choose to roll this mixture into balls or you can cut them into squares like I have done in this recipe. You can opt for any sugar-free nut butter and if your child is younger than one, leave the honey out – the result will be equally delicious.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups desiccated coconut
  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup sugar-free nut butter
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • 1 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1/4 cup water (for mixing)


  • Toast the desiccated coconut on a baking tray in the oven for five minutes at 180°C, until golden brown (keeping an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t burn).
  • Combine all the ingredients, expect the water, in a food processor. Turn the speed on high and process until well mixed and there is no sign of large pieces (you want to make sure that you don’t have big pieces of nuts, which could be a choking hazard for your child). While you process the mixture, add little amounts of the water at a time to assist with the mixing (and to create a gooey texture).
  • Transfer the mixture onto a medium-sized square dish/baking tin, lined with wax paper and then push it down with your hands to pack the mixture in densely.
  • Pop the dish into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the mixture into squares.
  • These treats can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or the freezer. If storing in the refrigerator, use within two weeks.

*The above recipe will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

*Never leave your child unsupervised while eating.

Banana & Date Bread (Gluten-Free)

At the age of two and a half – like most toddlers – my son knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to tell me all about it. He flat out refuses to eat most things green and would rather avoid trying anything new unless it is coated in something sweet. I witness so many home-made meals being fed to the dog, and then cry a little inside when my hard work lands up in the bin.

In true toddler style, my son loves two things probably more than anything on earth: bananas and cake. He lived off brand muffins while we were away over the holidays under the guise that he was eating ‘brown cake’, and I was not surprised in the least when we arrived back home and he demanded cake for breakfast.

Determined to get him back into getting some real nutrients into his little body, I wanted to bake something truly delicious that would excite him as much as cake (sans the butter icing and sprinkles of course).

This recipe is honestly one of the easiest things you’ll make and it tastes delicious (my husband gave it the thumbs up – someone else in my house who also isn’t afraid to tell me how he really feels about my recipes!).

I have opted to use coconut flour in the recipe, which is a high-fibre and gluten-free alternative to regular flour. It adds the most delicious flavour to baking and packs in a host of health benefits; lowering glycemic index (preventing those nasty sugar spikes), contains a powerful punch of protein and contains medium-chain triglycerides (the type of saturated fats that provide little bodies with instant energy).

If you would prefer to use regular flour, then use 1 cup of regular flour with 2 eggs and half the amount of oil (coconut flour requires more moisture as it soaks everything up!).

You’ll want to use very ripe bananas – the riper, the better. If you are using dried dates, then soak them in some boiling water for 15 minutes to soften and then drain them well before adding them into your mixture.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 cup pitted, chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup finely diced nuts (pecan or walnut recommended)


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl using a fork
  • Sift the flour and baking soda into the mixing bowl
  • Add in the rest of the ingredients
  • Using a hand mixer, mix the ingredients together until well mixed (do not over-mix)
  • Pour the batter into a loaf tin lined with baking paper
  • Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean, on the middle rack
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before removing from the tin
  • Allow the bread to remain on the wire rack to cool slightly before serving
  • Serve plain or with a spread of butter or sugar-free nut butter

If you have any leftover bread, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It can be stored there for up to 1 week. You can also choose to freeze the bread in individual portions and then defrost before using.

*This recipe will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients listed above.

*Never leave your child unsupervised while eating.

Crumbed Chicken Strips

Since my son could run around I have been planning my outings based on whether or not a restaurant has a kiddies’ menu and a play area – something I didn’t quite grasp before I had a child of my own.

Like most parents, I find it frustrating that the kiddies’ meal choices at most places, are generally the greasiest and most nutritionally-empty dishes around: leaving you weighing up whether the pizza or hot dog is the ‘healthier’ choice for your little one (sounds a little crazy but hey…we don’t have much to work with!).

There is a reason that chicken strips are on every kiddies’ menu I have ever come into contact with: it is because pretty much all kids LOVE them (and most crumbed things for that matter). It is the same reason that crumbed chicken can be found in most home freezers across the world, ready for parents to serve up to their children in a matter of minutes.

The problem with some crumbed frozen chicken, meat and fish is that they tend to be loaded with sodium for added flavour. They are also regarded as ‘processed meat’ which should be limited in your child’s diet given that processed foods have been linked to Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. I’m not suggesting you need to steer clear of these family favourites (I am no stranger to keeping a supply in the freezer for a quick and easy meal) but it is important to remember that processed meat should be served to your little ones in moderation.

In an effort to create my own healthier rendition of the famous chicken strip, I decided to get cooking with the healthiest ingredients.

The key to this recipe is to ensure that you use a good quality non-stick pan (or you will have a bunch of batter stuck to it!) and to use enough oil at a time. That’s not to say you should be deep frying the strips at all, but rather using just enough oil to coat the pan when frying.

You could use this batter to crumb meat, chicken or even zucchini! You’ll just need to adapt the cooking time accodingly.

What you’ll need:

  • 5-6 free-range, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp celery salt/ Herbamare
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3 Tbs spring onion, very finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 cup milk (any milk of your choice)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2-3 Tbs olive oil for frying


  • Beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl.  Combine with the milk and lemon and set aside.
  • In another medium-sized bowl combine the flour, spring onion, spices and sesame seeds. Set aside.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut each chicken breast into three strips. Giving you around 15-18 strips in total (some pieces may be larger than others).
  • Heat 1 Tbs of the olive oil in a non-stick pan on a medium-high heat.
  • Then take each strip at a time and coat it in the egg wash and then roll it in the flour mixture until totally coated. Place it onto the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes a side (depending on the thickness of the chicken strip).
  • Fry strips in batches of 5 strips at a time (to avoid over-crowding the pan).
  • Once each strip is finished cooking, place it onto a clean plate with roller towel to drain any excess oil.
  • Add another Tbs olive oil to the pan for each batch of chicken strips. Continue until all the strips have been used.
  • Serve with sweet-potato fries and homemade tomato sauce (or any choice of sides).
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within three days.

* The above recipe will need to be adapted if your child has an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned. Never leave your child unsupervised when eating.



Homemade Tomato Sauce

There is no getting away from it: kids love tomato sauce.

I never thought that I would be the parent who would turn to tomato sauce to get her child excited about a meal. I honestly thought I could keep my son away from the stuff until school-going age (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration but you get my drift).

The reality, however, is that when my son stumbled upon some earlier this year, I witnessed a love affair that I knew – there and then – I would not easily intercept. Ever since that day, he will spot the shiny red bottle in any eating environment, with the precision of an eagle, demanding that he dips (or “dit” in his case) whatever he may be eating.

Tomato sauce actually provides a number of health benefits to growing little people, including its high lycopene content. Lycopene is an antioxidant, which means it protects the body’s cells from free radical damage, fighting off disease and cancer. Each serving also packs in a powerful punch of vitamin A for healthy skin, eyes, hair and immune functioning.

The problem with store bought tomato sauce is the sugar content (high glucose corn syrup and cane sugar): each tablespoon serving includes anywhere from 4 grams of sugar, which equates to roughly 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of sugar. According to The American Heart Association, children should be consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily to avoid a weakened immune system, flu symptoms and tooth decay (amongst a host of other nasties). If your child is laying on the tomato sauce with most meals, over and above consuming sugar in other food and drinks, they are most probably exceeding this recommended daily limit.

Light tomato sauce options, whilst lower in sugar or sugar-free, are packed with artificial sweeteners: OK in moderation but not regarded as nutritionally substantial enough for the growing needs of children.

With this in mind, and knowing that some sugars are unavoidable in certain foods, I wanted to make my own sugar-free sauce that packs in the flavour, but without the unnecessary sugar. In this recipe I have used unsweetened apple sauce to add in a natural sweetness, but you could also use unsweetened pear, date or prune purèe.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup Passata sauce
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce/purèe
  • 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 small lemon (1/2 large lemon)
  • 1 Tbs All Spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cracks black pepper


  • Bring all of the ingredients to the boil
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 45 minutes (until the mixture has reduced by half)
  • Remove from the heat
  • Remove the bay leaves
  • Purèe until smooth
  • Store in an airtight, glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one month

*The above will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

Beef & Veg Lasagne

If your child is averse to munching on veggies at the best of times, and you are finding it increasingly difficult to get them into his or her little tummy, you aren’t alone.

I played around with a family favourite –  lasagne – to find a lip-smacking way to sneak in the veg and cram in the nutrients…all unbeknownst to my son!

If your family or child doesn’t eat red meat for any reason, then this recipe can also be made with chicken mince, tuna or just veg.

Although I used egg lasagne noodles in this recipe, you can really use any pasta of your choice (penne,  fusilli or farfalle could all work). A little trick I discovered is that the noodles don’t need to be pre-cooked, as long as they are coated in enough sauce!

Get creative with adding in different veggies, and process them as chunky or finely as your child will tolerate.

If your child is lactose-intolerant, go for lactose-free cheese options and substitute lactose-free/almond milk for the cow’s milk.

This recipe can be made ahead of time, refrigerated and then popped into the oven before serving. It also freezes extremely well: all you need to do is thaw it ahead of time and then bake it as below (you could also make extra mince and veg mixture, and then freeze that in individual portions to use at a later date).

This recipe makes around 12 portions.

What you’ll need:

  • 1kg free-range beef mince
  • 1.5 boxes egg lasagne sheets (roughly 350g)
  • 3 x tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin tomato purèe
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3-4 large leeks, finely chopped
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 large peppers (any colour)
  • 2 Tbs parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tsp crushed/minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

For the cheese sauce:

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups grated white hard cheese (mozzarella, gouda)
  • 4 heaped Tbs wholewheat flour
  • 1.5 litres milk
  • 3-4 cracks black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg


  • Heat the oven to 180°C
  • Combine the carrots, broccoli florets and peppers in a food processor and pulse until fine (about the same size as mince meat)
  • In a large pan heat 1 Tbs olive oil and garlic on a medium-high heat
  • Add the leeks and stir until softened
  • Add the mince, stirring to get rid of any large pieces
  • Once browned, add the vegetables and mix together, cooking for a further 5 minutes
  • Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato purèe, water, oregano and parsley
  • Turn up the heat and bring to a boil
  • Lower the heat to a medium heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes
  • In the meantime you can get started on the sauce

To make the cheese sauce:

  • Heat 1 Tbs olive oil on a medium heat
  • Add the flour, using a whisk to mix it together with the oil in the pan
  • Slowly add the milk, whisking the mixture constantly
  • Add the black pepper and the nutmeg
  • Allow the mixture to thicken (not allowing the mixture to catch in the pan, rather turn down to a low heat if needed)
  • When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (not too runny and not too thick) you can remove the pan from the heat completely and add in the cheese, whisking it into the mixture until smooth
  • Your sauce is now ready!

To assemble the lasagne:

  • Using a large oven-proof dish, start with 1/3 meat & veggie mixture, followed by a layer of noodles and then 1/3 of the cheese sauce. Repeat 3 times.
  • Sprinkle parmesan over the top.
  • Bake for 50 minutes, until browned and bubbling (if the top begins burning, turn the heat down)

*The above will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

*Never leave your child unsupervised when eating.

Mushroom & Coconut Chicken

Food for thought: mushrooms are have been hailed as a superfood due to the impressive punch of nutrients found in each serving. By including mushrooms in your child’s diet, you are adding in a significant amount of B vitamins, fibre and, most importantly, selenium. Selenium is one of the most powerful antioxidants that is required by the body to fight off harmful free radicals. In addition, selenium has been linked to controlling blood glucose levels, and preventing brain nerve tissue deterioration and cancers. 

On a mission to come up with a tasty meal using the humble (and nutrient-dense) mushroom, this recipe is simple, ideal for cold, wintery days and can be dished up to the entire family (unless there are a few fussy eaters amidst the pack!).

The mushrooms work brilliantly with the flavour of the coconut milk, and the saucy consistency makes it ideal to serve over whole-wheat noodles, basmati rice, brown rice or even over mash. If you would prefer to keep this recipe dairy-free, then hold off on the cheese and use nutritional yeast flakes instead. Alternately, using cow’s milk and parmesan will be equally delicious. If your child has a soy allergy, then opt for tamari in place of the low-sodium soya sauce.

This recipe also freezes really well! I would however recommend freezing the chicken and mushroom mixture and then, once thawed, serving it with the fresh starch of your choice.

What you’ll need:

  • 1-2 packets chicken breasts (6-8 chicken breasts), cut into strips
  • 2 punnets mushrooms, finely chopped (any mushrooms will work)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 heaped Tbs almond flour (or any wholewheat flour)
  • 2 heaped Tbs nutritional yeast flakes / grated parmesan
  • 2 Tbs olive oil for frying
  • 3 cracks black pepper
  • 1 Tbs low sodium soya sauce/tamari
  • 1/4 cup chicken/vegetable stock (low sodium is preferable)
  • Noodles/rice of your choice (wholewheat, brown or basmati is preferable)


  • Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat.
  • Brown the chicken strips for about 1-2 minutes on each side, then remove the chicken from the pan set the chicken aside.
  • Add the remaining 1 Tbs olive oil to the pan, followed by the garlic.
  • After a minute of frying the garlic, add in the chopped mushrooms, black pepper and soya sauce/tamari.
  • Cook out all the liquid from the mushrooms, until the mushrooms begin browning (around ten minutes).
  • Add back the chicken, followed by the stock, and the coconut milk.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer on a medium heat setting for 5 minutes.
  • Add the flour and the nutritional yeast/parmesan and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  • Once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and set aside (the mixture will still thicken when off the heat).
  • Cook the noodles/rice according to the package instructions.
  • Serve the noodles/rice with the chicken mixture, with an extra sprinkling of parmesan/nutritional yeast flakes on top.
  • Makes 6-8 portions, depending on the age(s) of your child(ren).

*The above will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

*Never leave your child unsupervised when eating.

Creamy Veggie Mash

I know I’m not only the only mommy out there who gets a hard time from my child when it comes to getting veggies into his mouth. He has become a master at tossing the steamed pieces of carrot and broccoli onto the floor  – that I have lovingly placed on his plate – for none other than our Bull Terrier to lap up.

My favourite secret weapon to cram in a number of veggies into my son’s diet, is through a trusted childhood favourite….mash. In place of refined white potatoes and heaps of butter, however, I combine a number of tasty flavours and nutritious ingredients, to ensure that each mouthful is packed with goodness.

What I love about mash recipes is that; mash can be served to children of all ages (starting from when little one’s are still on their first foods); you can get creative with any veggie combinations you choose; mash freezes fantastically; and you can serve mash up with just about any protein. I keep a supply in the freezer to ensure that I always have a healthy dose of veggies on hand, to serve up with the rest of my son’s meals.

For babies younger than 12 months, it is recommended to rather peel all fruits and vegetables, given that skins and peels can lead to tummy upsets in less developed digestive systems. If your child is a little older, you can keep the skins on for an added boost of nutrients. Remember to always wash all fruit and veggies thoroughly, even if you have bought organic produce.

You can use any milk in this recipe based on your child’s dietary needs. For children younger than two, it is recommended to opt for full-fat dairy whenever possible.

Tip: Every now and then I toss a handful of spinach/kale into this recipe for an added kick of calcium and iron.

Food for thought: orange, yellow and red fruits and vegetables, as well as green leafy vegetables, are powerful sources of beta-carotene. This recipe contains an impressive kick of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A by the body. Vitamin A is necessary for healthy immune functioning, growth and development and for improved eyesight.

What you’ll need*:

  • 1.5 cups chopped pumpkin/butternut (skin removed)
  • 1.5 cups chopped sweet potato
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • Handful spinach/kale (optional)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbs olive oil/coconut oil
  • 2 Tbs milk

*These amounts are simply guidelines. There is no wrong or right with this recipe. Have fun and experiment with spices and ingredients and make it as runny, smooth or lumpy as your child likes!

Method (makes around 10-12 servings):

  • Steam the pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato and apple for around ten minutes, until soft.
  • Steam the spinach/kale for two minutes.
  • Combine all the ingredients into mixing bowl and purée until the desired consistency.
  • Serve with your choice of protein. For left-overs, dish out the remaining mixture into individual servings and freeze.

*The above may need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

*Never leave your child unsupervised when eating.