Tuesday 20 May 2014

The National Fostering Agency talks about healthy and fun family recipes

During the current Foster Care Fortnight, I'm delighted to be hosting my first ever guest post from the National Fostering Agency, one of the most experienced fostering agencies in the UK.  You can read more about their work and find out if you have what it takes to be a foster carer on their website.

Missy loves cooking and has some lovely photos of her baking with one of her previous carers and so this guest post is all about cooking (the last recipe is awesome and very moorish!!)

"Why healthy and fun family recipes are great for kids in more ways than one"

The health of our country is coming under intense scrutiny right now, with particular emphasis on the health of our younger generations. The proliferation of junk food, processed meals, and sugary sweets and drinks is causing grave health concerns for many children.

Being overweight at any time in life is never ideal or recommended but it has particularly serious long-term consequences for young people. Which is why it is so important to get kids into good habits early on life. And what better way to do this than by making cooking and learning about food in a family atmosphere really fun.

If you can really engage with the kids and spark their imaginations by teaching them to cook early then you can help them to develop a really healthy and life-long relationships with food. This will ensure that they understand the importance and benefits of nutrition, eating sufficiently without over-doing it, as well as learning valuable life skills in the kitchen.

For foster parents especially, cooking is a great activity for bonding and opening up lines of communication with foster kids. There aren’t too many activities that grown-ups and kids can all enjoy together but cooking and eating is definitely one of them. By engaging with the kids in your care, finding out what food they like, encouraging their creative side and giving them responsibility for preparing meals, cooking together is a very valuable experience.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with some great family recipes that are really fun to make and that will also help to teach kids that healthy food can be just as exciting and alluring as all those naughty sweets.

Spaghetti with meatballs (and hidden veg sauce)
Pasta is full of energy and relatively low in fat, making it great for kids. And who doesn’t love meatballs? Besides, making them out of sausage meat is a really fun way of doing it.

For the meatballs: 300g good quality pork sausages, 500g lean beef mince, 1 small onion - coarsely grated, 1 carrot - finely grated, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 50g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve, 1 medium egg, 1 tbsp olive oil.

Squeeze the sausage meat into a bowl and add the mince, add all the other ingredients and squish up nicely. Then roll into balls and place in a tray ready to cook. This is great for the kids to do themselves.

For the tomato sauce: 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 courgette - coarsely grated, 3 garlic cloves, finely grated, 1 tbsp tomato purée, pinch caster sugar, splash red wine vinegar, 2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes.

Adults can make the sauce by adding the ingredients one at a time, and blending the larger veg, if that’s an issue for the kids.

Brown off the meatballs and add to the sauce. Cook through until done then add to pasta.

Chinese chicken salad
With only four main ingredients and taking only a few minutes this couldn’t be easier. And any kind of salad is great to get the kids to eat.
For the salad: 2 16 oz. bags romaine lettuce, 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, 2 11 oz cans mandarin oranges, completely drained, 2 cups Asian wonton strips or chow mein noodle
For the dressing: 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup hoisin sauce. 3 Tbsp. canola oil, 3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. honey, salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.

Simply mix all the salad ingredients together in a bowl, then do the same with the dressing ingredients and pour over the top.

And how about something for pudding?

Fruit salad
Fruit salad is easy, flexible and delicious. Get the kids to pick their five favourite fruits (a clever way of getting them to eat some of their five a day). Then set up a small production line of chopping and peeling, even making some fun shapes if you want. Then mix all together. And if they have extra fruit you might even let them have a little bit of cream or ice cream with it too.

Easy bake cookies
Again, it shouldn’t be too hard to get the kids to eat biscuits but teaching them how to make cookies gives them a better idea of what is in them, plus you can control the amounts of sugar and butter. Getting kids interested in baking so early is much better than just buying packets from the shop. Plus, the homemade ones always taste better.

Ingredients: 180g softened butter, 1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar, 395 g sweetened condensed milk, 1 1/2 cups (225g) self raising flour, 250g chocolate bits.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C and grease two baking trays. Using an electric mixer beat the sugar and butter until creamy. Add the condensed milk, stir in some flour and then the chocolate bits. Make some heaped tablespoons into balls and place on the tray, pressing gently with a fork. Then bake for 15 minutes or until ready in your oven. Leave to cool before eating.

Here are the details for the NFA:
Phone:0845 200 4040

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