Passover: A Healthy Diet for Kids How-To

Passover: A Healthy Diet for Kids How-To

Passover Matzah

Apologies for my brief hiatus. I usually try to post every single day but I guess I have to admit my human fallibility in that I have not been able to keep up these past few days. I’ll try to get caught up now, but I hope in the meantime everyone will accept my sincerest apologies. I’ve been busy trying to come up with ways to feed my kids a healthy diet, even during Passover.

You see, we have a holiday coming up: Passover. Passover is a healthy diet killer. Basically, we have a week and a half of really strict dietary restrictions. We don’t eat any leaven, which basically eliminates all major grains, with the exception of matzah, a type of unleavened flatbread. We also keep additional restrictions as part of our family tradition. These prohibit eating pseudo-grains like rice, corn products, and beans, legumes, and pulses. Because of my husband’s family traditions, we also avoid any combination of matzah with any liquids (so we do not use it in cooking), and we also eat only vegetables we can peel, unless prepared before the festival begins.

Of course, these restrictions cut a lot of the healthy food out of our diets. Usually beans (including tofu or tempeh once a week) and pulses are our main source of protein during the week (along with some eggs and a small amount of fish once per week). We typically eat wheat (bread) just once a week, unless it’s a special occasion that calls for sandwiches. Instead, brown rice is our main staple.

Most families I know during this holiday eat an incredibly unhealthy diet. Meat is a main feature of almost every meal. Some families do not even use oil during the holiday, replacing it instead with schmaltz, or chicken fat. When families are not eating meat, they are eating lots of fish and dairy. A lot of matzah is eaten and many families cook with it, too. The main vegetable staple during this holiday is potatoes because they are versatile, filling, and are easily peeled. Because of the dietary restrictions during this period, or perhaps just because it is a celebration, families often see this as a chance to shower their kids with treats, like chocolates, candies, coconut macaroons, and marshmallows.

In short, Passover is a diet killer.

But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ideas for ways to make your Passover diet healthier and potentially more tasty, too!

Eat More Fruit

Resist the urge to snack on specially produced Passover treats, like potato chips and chocolates. Try not to make batches of French fries just for snacks. Instead, make sure you have a ready supply of fruit on hand. Buy fruit you really enjoy, even if it’s more expensive. Processed Passover food is incredibly expensive, so instead of spending money on snacks, buy the fruit that you like best. Strawberries, mangoes, and papaya are good treats (the latter two can also be peeled easily). We buy a lot of melons for the holiday, plus pineapples, apples, and oranges.

You can also substitute fruit for desserts. Rather than baking some sort of cake, chocolate dessert, pudding, pavlova, or other sweet treat, go for natural sweetness. I like to serve hot baked or stewed apples with nothing but cinnamon and a drizzle of date syrup to complement the natural sweetness. Or simply cut up some fresh fruit and serve that!

Find Potato Alternatives

Potatoes are ubiquitous during Passover. They seem to be in everything. There’s potato and leek soup, potato kugel, potato pancakes, baked potatoes, potato salad, potato omelets, French fries… the list goes on and on. Potatoes aren’t the worst food in the world, but they’re not exactly the most nutrient dense either. Try substituting sweet potatoes for regular potatoes in almost any recipe. You can also use pumpkin for some recipes and vegetables like zucchini to make fries.

Think Outside the Box

Many people who think of Passover food have a certain set of classic dishes in mind. Chicken soup, brisket, maybe some matzah balls. But why restrict yourself? During the year I make lots of healthy dishes that are Passover friendly, but because they’re not “Passover food” we don’t think to make them on Passover. Ratatouille is one I make year round (on Passover, serve it over quinoa rather than rice, unless you’re Sephardi). Fresh, homemade pesto is beautiful over roasted fish or vegetables. The list goes on and on.

You can also consider changing existing recipes to make them Passover-friendly. Make a pizza base with (slightly overcooked and thin) sweet potato kugel, then top with homemade tomato sauce. We don’t do much dairy, but you can sprinkle with a bit of cheese if you want – other great toppings include fresh basil or sliced tomatoes, roasted capsicum (bell peppers), broccoli, sautéed onion, garlic, or olives. Replace rice, bulgar wheat, and couscous in traditional recipes like tabbouleh with quinoa. Instead of using noodles in soup, cook up well blended egg into very thin pancakes, roll them up, and slice them into strings. Instead of serving spaghetti as a dish, make zucchini noodles or use spaghetti squash.

Salad, Salad, Salad

It’s no secret that traditional Passover diets cause constipation. All that hard-to-digest matzah coupled with a diet heavy in animal products like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, supplemented largely by floury white potatoes, leads to a diet low in fiber and constipation is the inevitable result. Some people say to counteract constipation by giving kids sugar water, but that is definitely not the healthier option. Instead, counteract constipation by giving your kids lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Make salad part of their daily diet. There is no end to the variety of salads you can give kids on Passover. Israeli salad, with diced cucumber, tomato, and capsicum (bell pepper) and finely diced red onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, is refreshing. Kids love the bite-sized cubes of fresh vegetables. Coleslaw can be dressed with a citrus vinaigrette rather than mayonnaise. Jazz up potato salad by using boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets in equal amounts, dressed with orange juice, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil. Make plenty of green salads and don’t restrict yourself to iceberg lettuce – romaine lettuce is much more nutritious.   Try making spinach salads with sweet fruits like strawberries, mango, or kiwi fruit, with nuts (like slivered almonds) sprinkled on top for some crunch and protein, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables will give your kids the fiber they need to “stay regular” even in the face of a massive onslaught of matzah.

Make it a Fun Challenge

I love a challenge, and one of my favorite kinds of challenges is how to use a new type of food in my cooking. At the market, select a fruit or vegetable you’ve never used before and try to integrate it somehow into your Passover menu. (This year I’ve got quince – can you believe I’ve never had quince before?!) By doing this, you guarantee you will have something new and novel in your Passover menu. This forces you to think outside your Passover food box and also gives your family something new to try.

Chag Sameach!

“Chag sameach,” or “happy holiday” is a traditional greeting and well-wish for any Jewish holiday, so I extend it to you now. Jewish or not, there is no reason why Passover has to be any less healthy or nutritious for your family than any other time of the year. Have a happy, healthy holiday!

Homemade Rice Milk – The Healthy, Cheap Dairy Alternative

Homemade Rice Milk – The Healthy, Cheap Dairy Alternative

For various reasons, which will be further explored on this blog in the future, I choose not to give my kids much dairy. I certainly never give them cow’s milk (I do give them some dairy products, to help prevent them from developing allergies), but at the same time, I prefer not to give them a lot of commercially purchased milks. My solution is to make my own milk substitute: rice milk!

Using leftover brown rice to make rice milk

There are a lot of concerns about feeding kids too much soy (yet another blog topic for the future – I’m going to be busy!), so I rarely give my kids soymilk. I prefer to limit their soy intake to tofu and tempeh. Almond milk is great, but it does contain nuts, which means it’s not a good ingredient to include in dishes for guests or that must be nut-free to be sent to school (it’s also a bit more difficult to make at home). Even oat milk and rice milk purchased at the store can contain additives, sugars, flavorings, and preservatives. Even if you do find a milk substitute that meets your standards, it becomes incredibly expensive to purchase on a regular basis.

Adding the rice to the blender to make rice milk

What if there was a healthy milk alternative that was both cheap and easy to make? Enter homemade rice milk!

Most people are amazed when I tell them how easy rice milk is to make. It really does take 5 minutes or less to make, per liter.

And how about the cost? Mine comes in at about 30 cents per liter, which is up to a tenth of what it costs to buy it in the store (of course where you live affects your savings, but where else can you get organic brown rice milk for so cheap?!).

Rice milk in blender ready to be made

Because the rice milk I make at home is so easy to make and so cheap, nobody in my family has any qualms about using it in large quantities. I substitute it for milk in almost every recipe.   Sometimes I even substitute it for water in recipes to give some added nutrition to a dish, added creaminess, and added flavor.

Bear in mind that rice is gluten free, so this is a good substitute for people who are allergic to many major allergens like wheat, soy, or nuts.

The best thing about making your own rice milk, which trumps even the time and money factors, is that you can customize it. Want it sweeter or less sweet? Adjust the amount of sweetener you add. Want it flavored? Add your own preferred amount of essence or flavoring – the sky is the limit! Now you don’t have to be limited to just vanilla and chocolate flavorings. Want your rice milk thinner? Add more water. Want it thicker? Add less water.   No matter what you want it for or what your personal preference is, you can make it to be exactly the way you want it to be.

Blending the rice milk

The only downside I find is that no matter how much I blend mine up, it still separates a bit in the fridge. But is this really a downside? After all, even commercially produced rice milks with homogenization equipment available still have to be shaken before use. And how much effort is it to shake up some rice milk before using anyway? But this is actually the only bad thing about homemade rice milk that I could come up with. I’m really grasping at straws here!

My kids love this rice milk and actually… so do I.   I can’t stand the flavor of commercially produced milk substitutes. They just do not have the right kind of texture to compare at all with the cow’s milk I grew up on. But fresh rice milk, straight out of the blender and ever so slightly warm…. Oh, yeah, that’s creamy and delicious, I have to admit!

At the very least, this recipe is worth a try. At best you and your kids will love it and it will revolutionize your cooking. It will help you and your kids to lead healthier lives and consume a healthier diet. And at worst? Well, you have a liter of rice milk that cost you 30 cents – add it to some baking and never worry about it again. But somehow I don’t think that will be the outcome.

Rice milk ready to drink and use, still frothy from the blender

Homemade Rice Milk


1 cup cooked rice (I recommend organic brown rice, but you can use any kind of rice left over from dinner – I have used basmati, jasmine, and other kinds of rice and they all turn out delicious)
1 pinch salt (I recommend pink Himalayan salt)
1 tbsp sweetener (I use agave nectar or honey, depending on whether or not I want the resulting milk to be vegan, but any kind of sweetener will work – I have used date syrup, unrefined molasses sugar, and maple syrup – just be aware these may slightly alter the resulting flavor)
4 cups filtered water




  1. Cook rice if not done already. Whenever I cook rice for a meal, I make extra to use for this purpose. Alternatively, make a big batch and freeze one-cup servings of rice to use for making rice milk. Cooked rice freezes surprisingly well!
  2. Add all ingredients to blender.
  3. Blend on high for 4 minutes in a conventional blender or 2 minutes in a Vitamix/professional catering blender.
  4. Serve, use in cooking, or put in a container in the fridge. Keeps in the fridge for approximately 5 days.
  5. Shake before using if it has been stored in the fridge.



  • Add flavorings to make your rice milk more exciting and varied. Pureed strawberries for strawberry milk (or add whole strawberries when you blend the milk), cacao powder for chocolate milk (you may need additional sweetener), vanilla essence for vanilla milk. But don’t think you need to stop there. Why limit yourself? What about mango milk? Or try adding some interesting essences for different flavors. Almond essence can fool people into thinking they’re drinking almond milk, or better. Mix some mint essence into chocolate rice milk for mint chocolate milk. Any flavor you can imagine can be mixed in to make this drink more palatable for picky kids!


A glass of delicious rice milk

I use rice milk for everything. Pancakes, muffins, and bread in baking. I mix it into scrambled eggs, frittatas, and quiches. I use it in smoothies and desserts. And, of course, I use it on its own, for drinking or for cereal. Try using flavored rice milk with plain cereals like Weet Bix, pure shredded wheat, or plain puffed cereals. Adding a flavored milk like chocolate or strawberry will give the cereal the impression of having the fun flavor, too. This can help you cut the heavy artificial sweeteners and flavors out of kids’ diets by enabling you to eliminate heavily flavored and sweetened cereals from their diets.


I hope you enjoy this recipe for rice milk as much as we do!

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Roasted root vegetables

Following on my last couple of posts about roasted vegetables, here is an alternate and incredibly easy use for roasted root vegetables: soup!  My husband loves soup and although he prefers chunky soups to purees, I find a hot and hearty pureed soup really comforting.  This is another way to repurpose one meal into another.

Roasted root vegetable soup is so simple to make, I don’t even think I need to post up separate instructions:

  1. Dump roasted root vegetables into a blender.
  2. Add some vegetable stock.
  3. Blend.
  4. Serve.

The thing about making roasted root vegetables is that I find it incredibly easy to make a massive amount at once.  But eating roasted vegetables every night for a week can get a bit boring, so it is worth it to find alternate uses for them.  If it is possible to make a huge amount of something one night so I can do minimal cooking the other nights of the week, I am game.  Who doesn’t love a life hack like that?

Often when we repurpose leftovers, it’s tempting to just change them marginally.  But they still retain the same mouthfeel, even if the flavors change a bit.  By turning the roasted root vegetables into a soup, you completely alter their texture and taste.  Normally when we eat roasted root vegetables, we taste each individual vegetable.  You can close your eyes and tell if you are eating a potato, a carrot, or a beet.  Even if you get a couple of different flavors in one bite, they are only marginally mixed and still identifiable.  But once they are blended into a soup, the flavors meld seamlessly and create a new taste.

Simply adding all these vegetables to a pot, boiling, and blending will not give you the same result as roasting.  Roasting is a process that tends to intensify and concentrate flavors.  The caramelization process that takes place during roasting naturally intensifies the sweetness of even the most bland ingredients.  Boiling and then blending will leave you with a soup that is much more bland and flavorless, whereas blending up roasted vegetables will give your soup all the oomph and power of sweet, concentrated flavors.

Another bonus of turning leftover roasted root vegetables into soup is the freeze factor.  Roasted root vegetables cannot just be frozen as they are because some vegetables just will not maintain the right kind of texture and flavor when later defrosted, plus you’ll lose all the crunchiness that comes from roasting and be left with soggy cubes.  Not appetizing!  But once you blend all the vegetables up into a soup, you can definitely freeze it.  Just remember that if your mixture contains potatoes, you will need to stir well when you reheat it to redistribute the moisture in the soup evenly throughout.

Perhaps the best part about this soup is that it is so easy and fast.  Once you have your roasted root vegetables, you basically just need to spend one minute blending them.  If they’re cool, then just heat and serve.

And of course, it is versatile, too.  You can change the flavor of the soup dramatically depending on what vegetables in what amounts you’ve chosen to roast.  Is it a sweeter soup with lots of things like pumpkin and beets?  Or is it more savory, with flavors like potato and celeriac?

Changing the seasonings on the roasted root vegetables also dramatically changes the flavor profile of the soup.  Make Indian-style curried root vegetables and you’ll have a curried soup.  Italian herbs give you an Italian style soup.  Virtually any flavor combination that works for roasted root vegetables works for roasted root vegetable soup, too.

Finally, jazz it up with different toppings.  A soup heavy in orange colored vegetables, like pumpkin, carrot, and sweet potato, begs for a sprinkle of nutmeg and some toasted pumpkin seeds.  Pine nuts and soaked raisins are the perfect topping for a Moroccan-style blend.  Try sour cream and spring onions (or finely diced jalapenos) on a Mexican-style blend.  A curried soup goes great with some yogurt and chutney on top.  As far as toppings go, they sky’s the limit!

Because roasted root vegetables often include more starchy or high-calorie ingredients, a big bowl of this soup is satisfying enough to constitute an entire meal.  Alternatively, serve it up as a pre-course, or even during the meal itself.  A curried soup can be a nice side during a meal of thali while a Moroccan-style soup could even be poured over a mound of couscous.

Heat it up really hot before school and fill a thermos to send with your child as a healthy school lunch choice – it should still be hot, but not too hot, by the time they are ready to eat it.

To me, roasted root vegetable soup is the ultimate comfort food.  It’s easy and fast and is a great way to repurpose leftovers.  I hope you enjoy!  We enjoyed it so much I completely forgot to take a picture until it was all gone!

(Raw) Vegan Gluten Free Pizza Crackers

(Raw) Vegan Gluten Free Pizza Crackers

Maybe it is because I am a child of the 80’s that I remember eating pizza-flavored crackers as I grew up. I’m probably thinking of the Combos Pizzeria Pretzel, pizza flavored bugles crackers, or the inimitable Combos Pepperoni Pizza Cracker, although the thought of pepperoni-flavored anything pretty much freaks me out now.  Still, I love pizza and it is probably one of my favorite foods.  So what could be better than a pizza-flavored snack?  A healthy pizza-flavored snack, of course!

Carrots, beets, and red capsicum/bell pepper cut up and ready to be juiced.

Carrots, beets, and red capsicum/bell pepper cut up and ready to be juiced.

So here it is, the ultimate snack of goodness that your kids will love because it tastes like pizza and that you will love because there is nothing that could even remotely be construed as unhealthy in it.  That’s right, they are vegan, gluten-free, raw (if you keep the temperature on your oven below 115 F/46 C), fat-free, and they are even kosher enough for the strictest of Passover-keeping Jews (and there is no diet more strict than that – they make gluten free and paleo look like wimps).  I am honestly convinced that this recipe is the snack recipe to end all snack recipes.  Because it is made of amazing.

Add spices to juice pulp to flavor it.  When the pulp is dehydrated, the flavor concentrates and makes these crackers FULL of flavor!

Add spices to juice pulp to flavor it. When the pulp is dehydrated, the flavor concentrates and makes these crackers FULL of flavor!

The key ingredient in this recipe is juice pulp, so you actually kind of get a two-for-one deal in this recipe.  Sure, you get a crunchy snack cracker that tastes like pizza, but you also get some super healthy (and yummy) juice to drink.  It really is an all-around winner.

Juice pulp and spice mix spread on a baking tray, ready to be dehydrated into crackers

Juice pulp and spice mix spread on a baking tray, ready to be dehydrated into crackers

Vegan Gluten-Free Pizza Crackers


4-5 packed cups juice pulp from red/orange veggies (I used carrots, beets, and red capsicum/bell pepper)
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
1 heaping tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tsp rubbed oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt (I use pink himalayan salt)


  1. Juice your vegetables and discard the juice.  Just kidding! Drink the juice and keep the pulp to make these crackers.
  2. Mix all ingredients.  I recommend using your hands to ensure all ingredients are evenly distributed and to break up any clumps of pulp.
  3. Using the flat of your palm, press pulp mixture evenly onto 2 cookie trays lined with baking/wax paper.  Depending on how thick you want your crackers to be, this will fill 2 medium or 2 medium-large trays (or 1 giant tray).  Alternately, press into the trays provided with your dehydrator.
  4. If you are making thicker crackers, score the pulp with a knife so you can break the crackers apart easily later.
  5. Optionally sprinkle top of crackers with sea salt.
  6. Place the trays in your oven on the lowest setting.  I use 50 C fan forced, but keep it below 46 C if you are going for a raw option.  (Although this designation makes me confused, as it definitely gets above 46C in the Aussie outback on a regular basis, so I suppose nothing grown there could be considered raw… but I digress.)  Bake until crispy.  Times vary depending on your oven, settings, and thickness of the crackers.  I make mine quite thin and with fan force on it takes only 3 hours to fully dehydrate these crackers.  If you are doing thicker crackers, do not have fan force, or use a centrifugal juicer that does not get out as much juice as a masticating juicer, it may well take 5 hours to complete this.
  7. Break apart crackers and test.  If you made thicker crackers, break on the lines you scored.  If you made thinner crackers like I do, you will find they have shrunk and cracked on their own during the dehydrating process.  They won’t be perfect little squares, but who cares when they taste so good?!  If crackers are not crunchy and brittle, return to the oven and check again in 30-60 minutes.
  8. Enjoy crackers on their own or with toppings that pair well with pizza, like sliced olives, sun dried tomatoes, etc.  Store extra crackers in an airtight plastic container or ziplock bag.


  • Finely chop up “pizza” toppings and mix them in.  My favorite is olives but other toppings such as sun dried tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, roasted red bell peppers/capsicum, crumbled tofu, mushrooms, tempeh, or vegetarian meat substitutes.  Be sure not to overdo it with the “toppings” as you still want your crackers to be crackers!
  • Change the spices added.  These crackers really smell and taste like actual Italian pizza, but mixing in other flavors like basil won’t hurt.  Or change the spice mixture completely, swapping for instance with Mexican spice mix to make “taco” crackers.
The final juice pulp crackers have a nice reddish-orange color that suits their pizza flavor.  They're very high in fiber and also have lots of great nutrition.  Because they are so highly concentrated, they also have a delicious flavor - you will be really surprised!

The final juice pulp crackers have a nice reddish-orange color that suits their pizza flavor. They’re very high in fiber and also have lots of great nutrition. Because they are so highly concentrated, they also have a delicious flavor – you will be really surprised!

I hope your kids love these crackers as much as mine do!  I’ve actually had to restrict my older toddler from eating too many or he’ll eat the whole lot of them.  Of course, if you have a child who suffers from constipation, eating the whole lot of crackers might be a good move – these snacks will keep your kids very regular!  But given that most kids today do not enough enough fiber, these crunchy crackers are a really healthy addition to your kids’ diets.  In fact, even my “big kid” had been sneaking crackers from their box constantly – and he’s the one who’s supposed to be doing a juice fast!

The Healthiest Hamantaschen Filling: Plum Butter!

The Healthiest Hamantaschen Filling: Plum Butter!

A spoonful of plum butter prune hamantaschen filling

Hamantaschen, those triangular cookies that are the most delicious and traditional of Purim foods, can be filled with all sorts of things.  Usually I buy a jar of jam and just spoon it in.  This works just fine if you don’t care about how healthy it is – I have yet to find a store-bought jam that meets my high standards regarding processed sugar.  Of course, there is always the option to make your own jam, without using processed sweeteners, but golly that’s a lot of work! Who has time for that?  I need something healthy, easy, and fast.  Enter: prunes!

Prunes?! Yes, I know it doesn’t sound very romantic, but it is my husband’s favorite hamantaschen filling.  There’s a reason it’s such a traditional hamantaschen filling.  Cooking the prunes enhances their natural sweetness, giving you a filling that is sweet and gooey.  It’s just plain YUM.

Normally I turn to The Shiksa in the Kitchen for all my hamantaschen needs.  In my experience, she’s just got it right.  She even has an amazing recipe for plum filling.  Perfect!

Except… not so perfect. Her recipe calls for things like orange zest, which I generally can’t be bothered with, and brown sugar, which is basically just white processed sugar with a bit of molasses added back in.  Her recipe calls for sugar because it helps bind the filling together and acts as a preservative.  What I wanted to know was, ‘Is it possible to find a healthier alternative?’

So I did some experimenting.  I made a couple batches of plum butter.  I made over 4 dozen hamantaschen.  And I think I’ve figured it out.  It’s vegan, gluten free, and free of processed sugar.  And it’s even easier than Tori’s version.  Win!

Plum butter prune hamantaschen filling before cooking

Plum Butter (Prune Jam)


2 cups pitted prunes
1 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup organic pure Canadian maple syrup


  1. Mix all ingredients except maple syrup in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil and let boil for one minute.
  3. Lower heat so pot is at a constant simmer when covered (for me this is low heat, but depending on your stove and pot it could be medium-low).
  4. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. (I used this time to de-clutter and just stirred every time I walked past the pot on my way to put something away – by the time I finished making this sweet treat my tables were all clutter-free and I really deserved a big test taste!)
  5. Simmer uncovered for another 3-5 minutes, stirring almost constantly to ensure prunes don’t burn, until liquid reduces and only approximately 3 tablespoons of liquid are left.
  6. Add the maple syrup and mix it through.
  7. Simmer uncovered another 2-3 minutes to allow liquid to reduce again. (This is a very important final step in the cooking process, as failing to reduce the liquid sufficiently will render your plum butter runny and not good for filling hamantaschen!)
  8. Use a potato masher to break up the prunes.  You may want to use a fork to smush up any pieces that remain too big.  If you like your fillings more smooth, you can whiz it a few times with an immersion blender.  (Just using the potato masher worked for me – I like nice big chunks of fruit in all of my jams and fruit spreads!)
  9. Cool to room temperature, but preferably refrigerate before using.  (Refrigeration will allow the mixture to congeal fully and will give you best results when making hamantaschen.)


  • Try adding some orange zest, as in Tori Avey’s version of this recipe.
  • If maple syrup is not your thing, substitute a mix of agave nectar and molasses (treacle).  Agave nectar on its own is probably too thin to get the desired consistency but molasses on its own is going to give over too much flavor and not enough sweetness.  Try mixing 2/3 agave and 1/3 molasses to get the right consistency and flavor.
  • Increase the amount of orange juice and reduce the amount of water.  I haven’t tried this, so if you do and it doesn’t work out, you’ll have only yourself to blame.  That said, this is the next alteration I’ll experiment with because I think the only thing better than plum butter might possibly be plum and orange butter.
  • Add some spices.  Cinnamon is my number one recommendation – the combination of cinnamon and orange with the cooked prunes is just heavenly!
  • Substitute the orange juice with apple juice.  Then cinnamon would really be amazing!
  • Give a hint of Indian comfort by substituting black tea for the water and orange juice, and then using chai spice to add extra flavor.

Finished plum butter prune filling for hamantaschen

This amount of Plum Butter is enough to comfortably fill about 8 dozen hamantaschen if you use just one teaspoon per cookie, although if you sample some it won’t go so far.

Not making that many?  No problem!  Extra plum butter can be used as a filling for other cookies and can even be used as a secret filling in something like cupcakes or sweet muffins.  But best of all, it is a perfect topping for toast and an amazing filling for peanut butter and jelly.  Or you can do what I did this morning – make some healthy pancakes and use plum butter as a filling to make a sandwich your kids can hold in their hands and eat.  Who needs butter and syrup?!

I hope you enjoy this yummy holiday recipe and please do share with me your feedback and if you’ve tried any of the recommended variations, or if you have any additional variations to share.

Island Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Island Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Island Kale and Sweet Potato Soup

Kale! Oh, how I love kale.  I love it raw. I love it cooked. I love it in a smoothie.  I even love it in a juice.  To me, kale is simply magical.  But to a kid, kale is not always magical.  Thankfully, I have always found creative ways to cook it to make it palatable, so my kids have always eaten it.

Sautéing onions first

The thing about kale is that the leaves are really tough.  This makes it hard to chew when it’s raw, even if it’s been languishing in olive oil for a while.  Kids don’t really want to chew something for a long time just because you tell them it’s healthy, especially if it doesn’t taste like something kids particularly like, such as chocolate or bubble gum.  So the first rule for feeding kids kale (and getting them to love it) is to cook it.

Raw kale, sweet potatoes, and peppers added to the soup

If you’re going to cook it, you basically have two really good options for kids: boil it (to make it soft) or roast it into kale chips (to make it crunchy).  Because it can withstand being boiled really well, kale is perfect for soups.  My favorite kale soup has long been Food & Wine’s Island Kale and Coconut Soup.  This was the first thing I ever cooked for my husband, back before we even knew we were dating.  It’s vegan. It’s gluten free. And it tastes amazing.

When the kale and sweet potatoes are soft, stir in the coconut milk and heat through, then it is ready to serve!

When the kale and sweet potatoes are soft, stir in the coconut milk and heat through, then it is ready to serve!

I’ve been making this soup as a regular family favorite since the beginning of 2010, before we were even a family, and there’s been an evolution of sorts.  So my version is heavily inspired by, but not identical to, Food & Wine’s version.  I’ve added and subtracted to make it significantly healthier and possibly even tastier.  I’ve also omitted elements, like spicy peppers, that put kids off, so this is a more kid-friendly version.  I’ve also changed it to make it not only vegetarian, but vegan as well.  The best part? Not only is it healthy, but it’s also an entire meal served in one bowl!

How to clean kale

Kale leaves soaking in a salt water soak

Kale leaves soaking in a salt water soak

The first step when you’re working with kale – for any recipe – is to properly clean it.  Kale, whether dinosaur kale or curly kale (or whatever other name for kale you come across), has leaves that are dimpled or curly or otherwise adept at hiding bugs.  I always try to buy organic when I am buying leafy green vegetables because they are so heavily sprayed.  But whether sprayed or not, you are almost guaranteed to find at least a few bugs in your bunch of kale.  I’m really strict about not eating bugs, but if you don’t mind a little extra protein and crunch, that’s up to you.  For everyone else who, like me, doesn’t fancy eating bugs, make sure to wash your kale well!  My husband thinks the most effective way to do this is to first wash each leaf under running water.  You just want to rub your hands back and forth on each side (placing it between your hands accomplishes this well).  This helps dislodge any bugs that might be hiding there.  My favorite way to clean any kind of greens is to do a salt water or vinegar water soak.  I use a salt water soak, which means placing the greens in cold water, mixing salt in until it dissolves, and letting the leaves sit for a few minutes.  The cold shocks bugs, the water drowns them, and the salt makes leaves a bit slippery so the bugs come right off.  Then before I remove the leaves, I rub my hands along both sides of each leaf to help knock off any little bugs that might still be hanging on.  Then I empty my bucket of water and refill it to rinse the leaves, removing both salt and any remaining dirt or bugs.

Island Kale & Sweet Potato Soup


1.5 cups brown rice

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch organic kale, washed well, stems removed, and shredded
2 banana peppers, seeds removed, sliced or diced
3 medium organic sweet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs or 3/4 kg), peeled and cut in 3/4 in dice
8 cups vegetable broth
1 cup organic coconut milk


  1. Add 1.5 cups brown rice and 3 cups water to rice cooker and press button to cook. Alternatively, follow package instructions to cook on the stovetop while you prepare the soup.
  2. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat to melt it.
  3. Add the onion and banana peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the sweet potatoes and broth, and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes.
  7. Add the kale and stir through, then simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the coconut milk and just heat through.
  9. Place a generous scoop of rice in a mound in the center of each bowl and ladle soup on top.
  10. Watch your kids enjoy eating kale!


  • If banana peppers are not available try using yellow or red capsicum/bell pepper instead.  It won’t have quite the same flavor, but it gives some extra vitamins and minerals.
  • If you’d like yours more “salty” don’t add salt, use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, All Purpose Seasoning to get a great salty flavor that complements the flavor of the soup and some extra nutrition at the same time.
  • For extra protein, try adding some black beans (rinsed well) or cubed tofu.

Akiva enjoying his kale and sweet potato soup

Gluten Free Strawberry Pancakes

Gluten Free Strawberry Pancakes

Strawberries in blender

As I mentioned yesterday, I have way too many strawberries.  I am always on the hunt for healthy recipes my kids will love.  Not only that, but I want recipes I can make a LOT of and then freeze.  One of our household favorites are Banana Oat Blender Pancakes from Mountain Mama Cooks.  So, I wondered, can I convert this recipe and make strawberry pancakes instead? If I do that, will they actually taste like strawberries?  Or will the strawberries, with their more mild taste than banana, be lost entirely?

Pancake mix in the blender, ready to go

To my mind, a batch of healthy pancakes that tastes good is quite possibly the perfect food. Because they are gluten and dairy free, even my picky hubby will eat these. Make them fruity enough at the start and you won’t even need jam or syrup.  They’re good to eat hot out of the pan, but they’re also perfect for snacking straight from the fridge.  They’re portable and hold up well even if you’re out for the day on a hot day.  Best of all, they freeze really well.  I just stick a stack of them in a bag and freeze them together (in our house, a stack of pancakes disappears in an instant), but if you want to be able to pull out one at a time, just layer a square of baking paper between each of them.

As the pancake mix blends, it creates a beautiful pink batter.

As the pancake mix blends, it creates a beautiful pink batter.

So off I went to experiment with Mountain Mama’s tried and true recipe.  With some changes, it worked!  With enough strawberries you can definitely taste them!  They also add a delightful (and somewhat romantic) pink tinge.  After my first batch, I did find I needed to add a bit more oats than the original recipe called for (alternatively, I could have reduced the amount of rice milk added).  That’s because strawberries are bit more “watery” than bananas.

Pancakes in the pan

Gluten Free Strawberry Pancakes


  • 2 1/4 cups gluten free* oats
  • 1 1/4 cups homemade rice milk (recipe for this coming soon)
  • 1 punnet organic strawberries, washed and green tops removed
  • 1 heaping tablespoon local honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 large organic egg
  • coconut oil for cooking

*I do not use gluten free oats because nobody in our house has such a serious allergy that a bit of cross-contamination would be any issue, and oats are naturally gluten free.


  1. Place all ingredients, except coconut oil in the base of a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Heat a griddle or large saute pan over medium heat and melt one teaspoon of coconut oil.
  3. When hot, pour the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake (I pour straight from the blender – no extra cleanup from scooping!).
  4. Brown on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side).
  5. Serve hot with fresh diced or sliced strawberries on top.


  • Try other flavors or types of milk for additional layers of flavor.  I bet chocolate almond milk would be amazing.  You can also use cow’s milk if you don’t mind dairy.
  • Chop up strawberries and mix them into the batter just before pouring if you want chunks of strawberry in your pancakes, as opposed to just the flavor throughout.
  • If the batter becomes too thick to pour (and it does thicken the longer it sits), just add a tablespoon or two of milk (rice, almond, etc) and mix in to thin.
  • To make them vegan, omit the egg and substitute maple syrup for the honey.  They’ll still turn out fine. 🙂
Strawberry pancakes topped with fresh strawberries and powdered coconut oil (no, it is NOT powdered sugar!).

Strawberry pancakes topped with fresh strawberries and powdered coconut oil (no, it is NOT powdered sugar!).

My 14-month-old is happy I handed him a pancake.

My 14-month-old is happy I handed him a pancake.

That strawberry pancake didn't last long!  He shoved the whole thing in his mouth at once.  It took a few tries to get it all in there.

That strawberry pancake didn’t last long! He shoved the whole thing in his mouth at once. It took a few tries to get it all in there.

Healthy No-Cook Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Healthy No-Cook Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Now that you know all about the health benefits of strawberries, no doubt you’ll want to eat some.  And save some for later.  I already explained how to freeze strawberries to use in smoothies later, but how about making some frozen yogurt, too?

It’s rare to find a treat so universally loved as ice cream.  On a hot day, there’s nothing better than a cool treat.  For those of us in the burning hot southern hemisphere, our mouths are watering just thinking about it.  But did you know ice cream consumption is actually highest in the winter?  Totally counterintuitive, right?  But I guess with so many early nights spent at home, a delicious bowl of ice cream in front of the boob tube is just what’s in order.

The problem with most store-bought ice cream is that it’s full of garbage.  It’s full of sugar and fat, and if it’s fat-free it tastes terrible.  Hardly worth the calories consuming it!  Not only that, but it’s so bad for your health.  How on earth can we inspire healthy kids if their favorite treat is so unhealthy?!  Could it be possible to make an alternative that tastes exactly like ice cream but is actually good for you?!

I didn’t know of one, so I set out to try.  My first decision was to make the ice cream using homemade yogurt.  It was a bit of a tough call for me because I try to give my kids very little dairy, due to its link with juvenile-onset diabetes (more on that in another post to come).  But soy has its own problems and I didn’t want the distinctive flavor of coconut yogurt, although I’m sure it would work beautifully for vegans.

I make my own yogurt with locally farmed organic free range cow’s milk, so I know exactly what’s in it.  No sugar, no additives, no nasties.  (Some day I will post a tutorial on how to make your own yogurt, too, but if you don’t make your own, find a biodynamic organic plain yogurt to use.) No matter what kind of yogurt you’re using, it will always be lower in fat than cream, and I’ve found that if I’m making the yogurt myself, I don’t even notice a difference between “fat free” and “full cream/2%” yogurt.  Not only that, but yogurt contains healthy probiotics that can help your child’s digestion.  Freezing is just fine and won’t harm the probiotics at all.  Technically that makes this no longer an ice cream, but rather a frozen yogurt.  But don’t worry your pretty little head, it doesn’t actually taste like a frozen yogurt.

Strawberries in food processor

My next issue was how to make it without cooking it.  A lot of strawberry ice cream recipes I found require you to cook down the strawberries to get the right consistency.  But cooking destroys a lot of the beneficial enzymes in strawberries and I want to maximize their health benefits for my kids.  So, how was I going to achieve the right consistency?  I wanted to get a good amount of juice and puree, but I didn’t want to end up without any chunks at all.  And the high speed spinning of blender blades can create friction that can kill off enzymes also.  So I decided to use my food processor to slowly pulse the strawberries until I got the consistency I wanted.

This is the consistency to which I blended my strawberries but feel free to blend yours a bit more. I have a thing for finding a big chunk of frozen strawberry in my ice cream.

This is the consistency to which I blended my strawberries but feel free to blend yours a bit more. I have a thing for finding a big chunk of frozen strawberry in my ice cream.

Another issue was my decision not to use raw eggs.  A lot of ice cream recipes call for raw eggs.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with that.  I’ve eaten raw eggs before and I’m sure I’ll eat them again.  But when it comes to a recipe for my kids (and for dinner guests) I’m less willing to take the risk, however small it may be.  So raw eggs were out.

This is the processed strawberries after I mixed in the yogurt.  I wasn't worried about mixing it perfectly to make it smooth because the ice cream maker mixes it pretty thoroughly.

This is the processed strawberries after I mixed in the yogurt. I wasn’t worried about mixing it perfectly to make it smooth because the ice cream maker mixes it pretty thoroughly.

My final issue was how to sweeten it.  I wanted this to taste like real ice cream, so I do actually want it to be sweet.  But I don’t want to use processed sugar.  This was also part of my issue on how to process the strawberries because sugar is a great way to macerate strawberries, causing them to give off their juices and making them soft enough to mash with a potato masher to the consistency you want, even without cooking them.  But with processed sugar off the list, I had to find an alternative.  Often I use date syrup, maple syrup, or honey as more natural, less processed alternative sweeteners.  But all three of those have pretty distinct flavors, so I wasn’t willing to use them and compromise flavor.  I finally settled on agave nectar.

Strawberry frozen yogurt in ice cream maker

Plan in place, I set out to make my very first no-cook strawberry frozen yogurt.

No-Cook Strawberry Frozen Yogurt


2 punnets (500 g or approx 1 lb.) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1/8 tsp. pink Himalayan salt
3/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/3 c. raw organic agave nectar
2 c. plain yogurt


  1. Wash strawberries well, then hull and halve them into the bowl of your food processor.
  2. Add salt, lemon juice, and agave nectar.
  3. Pulse gently until desired consistency reached.  (I like a lot of chunks of strawberry, but some people may prefer a more consistent puree.)
  4. Remove blending blade from food processor bowl and mix in yogurt.
  5. Pour into the bowl of an ice cream maker and follow machine instructions. (Before I owned an ice cream maker, I always hated this instruction.  Then I realized they’re really cheap! Mine is definitely not the best one out there but it does the job… most of the time.)
  6. Remove from ice cream maker and place in freezer until ready to use.  Be sure to remove 20-30 minutes before you plan on eating it to allow it to soften.


  • Decrease the amount of strawberries or increase the amount of yogurt if you want more of a “yogurt” flavor.  My aim here was to just get the “creaminess” of the yogurt while having it still taste more like strawberry ice cream than strawberry frozen yogurt.
  • Use a vegan alternative to dairy yogurt, such as soy or coconut yogurt.
  • Add a bit of fresh mint before pulsing the food processor. (I actually had planned to try this but forgot before I blended the strawberries. Maybe if I eat more strawberries my memory will improve!)
  • Reduce the amount of agave syrup to make this less sweet and even healthier.  Heck, you could probably leave it out altogether.  I would (if I wasn’t trying to make a “real” healthy ice cream).
The final product, ready for the freezer: a HEALTHY, no cook, strawberry frozen yogurt!

The final product, ready for the freezer: a HEALTHY, no cook, strawberry frozen yogurt!

My kids and guests loved it!  All agreed it was far better than the strawberry ice cream you can buy in the store, and the best part? It doesn’t even taste “healthy!”