Monday, 25 June 2012

Party time - healthy style!

It's been a longer time between posts than usual for me and this is the reason why!  I have been sitting on this one for ages feeling not quite right about it but couldn't put my finger on why.  Well, then it suddenly came to me and I realised that the tone of the post was quite negative and anyone that knows me knows I don't like negativity!  I'm defaulted to a glass half full person. 

Situations that have occurred in my life have made me that way and ironically even though they have been tragic events, I am thankful for the lessons I have learnt from them.  Anyway, that is soooo far off the point!

So originally the post was all about the horror of artificial preservatives, colours and flavours and copious amounts of fat, salt and sugar in all of the traditional party foods.  But it was weighing me down.  We all know that but what I decided you would benefit more from is being provided with tasty alternatives, plus a few recipes to get you started! 

Party times are busy times with so many things to organise so hopefully this will be something you can print out and just run with.  Whilst I am targeting kids parties here, most of the foods would work just as well at any type of party!
So, just briefly, if you are looking to cut out a lot of the artificial stuff here are some quick tips for typical party foods:
Fairy bread:  Last time I looked in our local Woolworths store there were naturally coloured 100's & 1000's available, located right next to the traditional brightly coloured variety.   Alternatively Hoppers produce a range of sprinkles and food colourings that are 100% natural, produced from fruit and vegetable concentrates.  They are also gluten, dairy, egg and nut free.  Their website has a list of stockists around Australia.
Mini frankfurts: Swap the fluro red variety for skinless, and perhaps delve a little deeper into the ingredients of the different brands - there will no doubt be a variance in the 'numbers' that are used.
Potato crisps: Swap the flavoured crisps for plain salted.  Most of the plain crisps contain just potatoes, vegetable oil, and salt.  
Frog-in-a-pond:  Either make your own jelly (using gelatine and fruit juices) or try lime/lemon/orange sago.
Cordial:  make your own EASILY!  Really easily if you have a Thermomix, still easy if you don't.  Throw a couple of cups of frozen or fresh strawberries or raspberries in a medium sized saucepan with double that of water.  Bring to just under the boil, mashing the fruit through the water with a fork.  Strain into a jug and pour the strained liquid back into the saucepan.  Add that same qty in sugar (it will be about 1 1/2c) and cook, stirring for a further 10 minutes or until sugar has dissolved.  Cool and pour into sterilised jars.  Refrigerate until cold.  Dilute with water to taste.
Chocolate crackles and honey joys: See this post for chocolate crackles.  For honey joys, you could make make the 'crispy corn and rice cereal' recipe on the same post and just increase the honey and coconut oil by 1 tbs and once the ingredients are mixed, spoon into patty papers and place in the oven as directed in the recipe.  Just remember to omit the nuts if you have kids with allergies attending the party (you might want to do it anyway in case someone forgot to mention it!) 
Lolly bags:  instead of lolly bags you could have a 'lucky dip' box or treasure hunt, with little token gifts such as toy cars, little packs of pencils or textas, spinning tops, hair clips etc.

OK, so here are some short recipe ideas for finger foods.

Cheese pastries

Mix together 500g ricotta cheese, an egg and salt and pepper.  Spray a filo pastry sheet with olive oil and smooth another sheet over the top.  Cut into 4-5 long strips.  Place a tablespoon of filling at the top center.  Fold the top left corner down to meet the right side and to form a triangle shape.  Then fold the point down and continue folding the triangle shape and seal with a bit of oil of water at the end.  Brush tops with melted butter or oil spray.  These freeze really well so make them ahead of time and allow just 25ish minutes on party day to cook.  Will make approx 20-25
Make them egg free by adding a tablespoon of white chia seeds or rice flour.
Mix it up by rolling the filling into a straw shape, folding in the sides as you go.
For other filling suggestions, you could also make a curried mince (or potato for vegetarian option) mix to make a healthier curry puff or add flavours into the ricotta mix such as spinach, sundried tomatoes, or olives.

Mini chicken balls

Mix together chicken mince (or mince it yourself in the Thermomix) and add an egg (or the alternatives listed above) and, well, whatever you like really!  Try finely chopped semi sundried tomatoes, crumbled feta and cracked pepper, or finely chopped bacon, finely grated carrot and chives.  Roll into bite size balls.  These can also be made ahead of time and frozen.  On party day defrost and either bake in oven until browned and cooked through or pan fried.
These could also be made with beef or lamb mince, or for a vegetarian option, use cold mashed potato or sweet potato with sweet chilli sauce or sundried tomatoes and olives finely chopped.  Add a tablespoon or two of rice flour just to assist with the binding.

Polenta squares

Cook polenta (so cheap, gluten free and easy to prepare) as per instructions on the pack (easily made in the Thermomix too!) making sure you are adding either stock or salt.  Spread out on a biscuit tray and allow to set and cool.  Cut into bite sized squares with a clean knife and place on a platter.  Top with a slice of avocado and a spoon of homemade salsa, a spoon of  herb cream cheese dip (see below) and a baby spinach leaf, or for the kids you could make them into mini pizzas by placing on top of each square a slice of cherry tomato, grated cheese and a basil leaf and grilling until the cheese melts and browns slightly.

Rice balls

Make a basic risotto and allow to cool completely in the fridge.  Roll into balls, push a small block of cheese (try mozzerella or tasty) into the middle.  Dip with egg and roll in breadcrumbs (gluten free are available in supermarkets if desired or polenta would work beautifully).  I would probably try to make these a day or two out from the party as rice doesnt tend to freeze well.  Spray with a little olive oil and bake in oven until browned and warmed through or pan fry.
For an egg free version, just press the breadcrumbs directly onto the risotto balls.

Other fresh platter ideas

Dips are easy enough to make yourself.  If you have a Thermomix you will already know that but even without, it can be as simple as mixing a few tablespoons of freshly chopped mint, parsley and thyme with a block of cream cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice and seasoning to taste.
Or a blend of chickpeas, fresh garlic, tahini, lemon juice, mint and spinach leaves, salt and pepper.  Place these in serving bowls on a platter with fresh veggie sticks and plain rice crackers.

Fresh fruit platters always freshen up a dessert laden table (see some fun ideas of fruit and veggie platters in the picture below - thanks for sourcing Amy!) and can be offered with a yogurt dipping sauce!
from offbeat mama blog

Mini lemon tarts

Brush a filo pastry sheet with melted butter and place another on top.  Cut into small squares big enough to push into and line mini muffin tray holes.  Bake in a moderate oven until lightly browned.  Remove carefully onto cooling racks and allow to cool.  Meanwhile, whip up a batch of lemon butter (try this easy recipe although I would drop the sugar to 1/2c and use rapadura for a slightly caramel edge.  If you have a Thermomix the recipe is in the EDC book and will have a batch ready in 8 minutes!).  Allow to cool slightly and place a couple of teaspoons into each pastry case.  Top with a piece of fruit in season (berries, stone fruit, orange segments, passionfruit etc).
To make lemon butter egg free, just whisk 1/4c water with 3tbs cornflour and the juice of 2 lemons.  Place over low heat and whisk in 80g butter and 1/2 c sugar.  Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens.  Remove from heat.
To make these gluten free, you could crush up some gluten free biscuits and mix with melted butter or coconut oil to make a biscuit base.  Press down into mini cupcake papers, then top with lemon butter.

The lemon butter can be made a week or two in advance and kept in a sterilised jar in the fridge while the tart cases can be made a few days in advance and kept in an airtight container in a cool dry place.

I hope these short ideas above have helped to provide you with enough ideas to ditch the pre packaged stuff and go home made?!  Simple, not overly expensive (quite cheap really) and many of the ideas are ideal for making well in advance and freezing - making the day less stressful. 

Here in our house we are ramping up the preparations for Liams 4th birthday party (my gosh is he really going to be 4??!!) and just today he finally chose the cake he would like.  Compared to the previous years cakes his choice is actually a little more simple for me so I was quick to agree and head down to our local cake supplies shop to gather the things I need.  Because I love making and decorating cakes, this becomes the focus of the theme, the day, and the few weeks prior!  I thought I would finish this post off by sharing with you Liams previous three cakes and Jakes first birthday cake I made last year.

Parties are such a joyous time - both kids birthdays and other celebrations.  And there really is something about the satisfaction, warmth and joy you get from standing back and watching your loved ones being nourished by you, all the while smiling and laughing, enjoying the moment.  That, to me, is what it is all about!
Liams 1st birthday cake


Jakes 1st birthday cake

Liams 2nd birthday cake
Liams 3rd birthday cake
Liams 4th birthday cake


  1. I've been reading these blogs for a while! You really have made me stop and think about what I'm buying and all the extra stuff that's in our food. I've started to look for alternatives and extra healthy bits and pieces I add to my everyday food. Thanks for a great read :)

    1. Thanks for your feedback! I'm glad you are enjoying it ( : Yes and it does feel a little like opening Pandoras box but knowledge is power so at least if we know about it, we can make the choice of how far down that road we want to go. And I am finding that it really can just be simple changes such as a different brand or slightly different product that can be all it takes to cut out artificial additives from our diets.

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