Friday, 1 June 2012

I'm going wild for puffs!

Puffed rice and puffed corn seem to come in and out of my pantry.  At different times I have rediscovered and found new uses for these foods and then just like that they go again.  Well, they are back now!  The reason this time was my quest to find more healthy snack solutions for my kids (and us!), a quest that seems to be both never ending and much more scarce than the junky alternatives.

In the last few days I have found just how versatile these two products are!  There are other grains that you can purchase in a 'puffed' format (millet, kumut, amaranth, quinoa, wheat) however these two are probably of the mildest in flavour and therefore are a good place to start with kids.
Nutritionally they tick a lot of boxes and don't have any salt, oil or sugar added!  In fact nothing is added!

They contain varying amounts of fibre, protein and potassium and only trace or small amounts of naturally occurring fat and sodium.  
Oh and by the way, I am in no way endorsed by this company!  They are just the packs I use that can be found in supermarkets but I'm sure there are many other options, including those in health food stores.
So what can be done with these products??  Well I am getting the sense as I start to play around with them that it is limited only to your imagination!
  • Meatballs can be made, rolled and coated in puffed rice (or puffed quinoa or amaranth) then pan fried.  A crunchy, fun and nutritious addition to meatballs (a puffed take on the traditional 'porcupines'), and could even be applied to veggie burgers too.

  • They can be eaten just as is, or make a snack mix by adding some dried fruit like sultanas or apricots and even seeds such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds.  Young kids especially seem to love them (but I probably wouldnt give them to kids much younger than one year old due to choking risk).
  • Instead of those sugar and colour laden lolly bracelets and necklaces that are often given at parties, thread the puffed corn onto string and make your own jewellery to add to party bags.
  • Any recipes you have using rice bubbles can be substituted with the brown rice puffs which will reduce salt, eliminate additives (from the bubbles ingredient anyway) and increase fibre and other nutrients.  
Ok, so these two recipes are ones I have made this week and have been a big hit with the kids (and us big kids too!).  They are from another blog that I have much respect for - and I have also added some variations I think would be fun to try out.  They are egg free, dairy free and gluten free and yet full of flavour.  For those on a fructose free diet, just substitute maple syrup for the honey in the second recipe.

The first one comes from Natural New Age Mum and are Chocolate Crackles!   Obviously still a 'sometimes food' but much better for you than the traditional ingredients!!
I have written the recipe below as I made it but just click on the link to see the original recipe.  This is what I would consider to be a  'recipe renovation' too!  The traditional chocolate crackles are filled with copha (hydrogenated coconut oil - hydrogenated being the process that forces hydrogen gas into oil at high temperature and pressure, causing the fats to become trans fats - BAD BAD BAD!!!  Stay away from any hydrogenated fats!), icing sugar (containing no nutrients other than highly processed carbohydrates), and rice bubbles (highly processed with added salt and sugar).  Hmmmm, yes a recipe that could do with improvements indeed!!!  

Chocolate crackles


2 cups brown rice puffs
1/2 cup desiccated coconut (organic coconut generally means no sulphites which some people react to)
1/2 cup sugar (rapadura is my sugar of choice now due to the minimal processing and therefore maintenance of nutrients but otherwise use brown)
3 tablespoons of cocoa (I am now using raw cacao nibs which for this recipe I just blended in the Thermomix until it was a powder consistency)
125g virgin, organic coconut oil (you can now find this in Safeway stores in the Asian section.  Its in a jar and is white in colour.  Much better for you than the hydrogenated stuff!)


  1. If you dont have a Thermomix, mix rice puffs and coconut together in a large bowl.  Add the sugar, cocoa and oil to a small saucepan and gently heat just until oil is melted and ingredients are well mixed.  Pour over the puffs and mix thoroughly.  Divide mix immediately into 12 paper patty cases and place in the fridge until set.
  2. If you have a Thermomix, pulverise the sugar for 5-10 seconds on speed 5.  Add the oil and cocoa and heat for 2 minutes/50 degrees/speed 2.  Add puffs and coconut and mix on REVERSE/speed soft for 1 minute.  Then divide the mix immediately into 12 paper patty cases and place in the fridge until set.

Now this second recipe is from the same blog, Natural New Age Mum (who got it from a book written by Julie Maree Wood called 'Feeding Fussy Kids').  It is a recipe for gluten free cereal although in typical Mel style, I have tweaked it and have the amended recipe below - finding it quickly became more popular as a snack in this house than a cereal with milk!  I added nuts and changed the apple juice concentrate to honey just because I didn't have the concentrate and figure honey is probably an ingredient more of you have on hand.  Once cooled you could add dried fruit, seeds such as flaxseed and chia, or even for those of you who aren't Coeliac, you could add oats to the mix as well!  Below the recipe is a savoury idea too!

Crispy Corn and Rice cereal


1 1/2 c puffed corn
1 1/2 c puffed brown rice
1/2 c shredded or dessicated coconut (preferably organic)
1/4 c slivered almonds
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs virgin organic coconut oil
2 tbs honey (or maple syrup if avoiding fructose)


  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celcius.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl mix together corn, rice, coconut, almonds and cinnamon.
  3. If you have a Thermomix, place coconut oil and honey in bowl and heat at 50 degrees/speed soft for 2 minutes.  If you dont, do this in a small saucepan and heat gently until oil has just melted.
  4. Pour oil mixture over puffs and mix thoroughly to ensure all dry ingredients are coated.
  5. Spread mix over the lined tray and place in oven for 10 minutes, taking care not to let it burn!  They should be crunchy and will get more crunchy once cooled.  
  6. Allow to cool before placing in an airtight container.

 A savoury version of this recipe could be great as a 'nibbly' with drinks or even as a healthy snack to eat at your desk at work!  Just omit the coconut, honey and cinnamon and add 1/4c raw peanuts, a tablespoon of brown sugar or rapadura (you can cut this back if you want the mix to be more savoury than sweet), and 2-3 tsp of mixed ground spices that take your fancy (try cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, paprika) and season with salt and pepper.  Add an extra tablespoon of the coconut oil.

What versatile, healthy ingredients they are!  Stay tuned for more........


  1. Ah Mel, thank you for the tip about organic coconut! I've been feeling that every time I eat stuff with coconut in it I get a pain in my stomach, now I k now why! Can this be the same for nuts in general??

    Would you recommend these puffed corn for babies too? I've tried quinoa but I find its too hot and messy when I cook it in the microwave and my baby is way too impatient to wait for it to cool. So what I'm asking is do the puffed rice and corn go soggy enough for a little one to eat with no teeth?!

    1. Hi Elly. To my knowledge nuts are not treated with sulphites however if you were eating flavoured nuts or the like, there may be added sulphites in the mix. To help you, the sulphite preservatives are numbers 220-228 in the ingredient lists of products. So if you find you react to sulphites, they are the preservative numbers to avoid. Having said that, products that arent labelled can also be sprayed with sulphites - ie grapes so it will just take a bit of research to know the common uses of those preservatives.
      As for the nuts though, determine if there are specific varieties of nuts that affect you and go from there. It may be the natural oil content of the nut that doesnt sit well in your stomach.
      I would avoid puffed corn for babies Elly. Even by softening it as it doesnt really go mushy and can still be considered a choking hazard. A more appropriate corn alternative for babies on solids would be polenta. It is really easy to make up and I just add grated cheese stirred through for flavour. Liam, who is nearly 4 now, still loves it! Puffed rice though should be fine when added to milk or water as it does break down a lot more. Add a bit of boiling water to really soften it and then a bit of milk if you like.
      Hope that helps?!

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