Putting together a party is such a big thing isn't it?! Even the simplest of parties still requires thoughts about food, decorations, entertainment, other supplies such as napkins, cups etc etc etc!!!
I've just gone through another party - my son's 6th birthday! He wanted a science themed birthday so we ended up hiring a company called 'Scientwists' to come and host the first hour of the party, with the second hour being about eating and free play! Just as a side note, the Scientwists were fantastic and kept all 15 kids attention for the whole hour! We had the rockets party and after a brief science interactive display show, the kids all donned a lab coat and pair of safety glasses and got to work on making a little rocket which they all launched towards the end of the party! It was so fun and they got to take home their homemade rockets for more fun beyond the party!
Anyway, as all of you regular Mellymaks readers know, my passion is providing real foods to kids, avoiding as many additives as possible and fostering an appreciation for whole foods, real flavours, 'clean' home cooking, and a respect for food and where it has come from.
I would suggest parties are inherently the most difficult places to find these values, and much of this has come from an expectation of sugar laden, highly processed, 'treat' foods that have little nutritional value and a high additive content. WHY?!!! I go into this more in this blog post so will leave it there, but only to say that this blog post is designed to make it as easy as possible to create a mostly additive free party that kids will love. I certainly had no complaints from our little guests and believe me there wasn't much food left over when they all shut the gate and left with their rockets in hand!!
So below I have listed each food item that was on our table and the recipes or links to recipes I used so that hopefully you can just print this out and have all the information you need in one place to make your next party an additive free one. Who really wants kids high as kites on colours, flavours, other additives and processed sugars and fats?? How is that celebrating?
Whilst you may think this is a lot of time and effort compared to picking up a heap of frozen and packet items from the supermarket the day before, I just spread out the tasks over the week or two before and didn't find it too hard with some pre-planning.
DRINKSI had NO soft drinks at our party. Mineral water was available, as was 'free from concentrate' orange juice (this is important as the concentrate loses any nutritional value and is further processed. Also then generally synthetic vitamins are added back into the juice after processing to replace what was killed off in the process).
I also made homemade cordial which is super easy to do - with or without a Thermomix (although probably a little less messy and less dishes with a TMX). Here is the recipe (taken from the EDC cookbook)
Ingredients130g berries of choice (I have always used frozen organic raspberries)
approx 370g raw sugar (rapadura will impart a flavour and colour into the cordial so for this recipe I either use coconut sugar and whiz it up first in the TMX to almost icing sugar consistency or otherwise organic raw sugar)
Method (TMX and conventional)Place the berries and water into TM bowl and mix for 20 seconds on Sp 4. (or whiz together in blender, food processor (make sure it is water tight!) or you could even use a stick blender to blend the fruit then mix through the water)
Heat for 5 minutes at 90 degrees on Sp 2 (or in a saucepan until just at simmering point).
Strain through a fine sieve (making sure you press out all the liquid you can) into a jug and weigh it back into the TM bowl. Add the same weight in sugar. It always weighs in at around 370g so for those of you who aren't using a Thermomix, pour the strained liquid back into your saucepan and add 370g sugar.
Heat for 6 minutes at 90 degrees on Sp 2 or on the stove at a low simmer until the sugar has dissolved (approx 5 minutes).
Cool slightly and pour into clean jars or bottles. Store in fridge.
This will keep for weeks so make it in advance and it will be ready for the party with ease. This quantity made approx 3-3.5 litres of cordial which seemed adequate for this sized party (approx 16 kids plus some big kids sneaking cordial!!)
SAVOURYOur party was from 10.30-12.30am and the kids ate from 11.30 so I was catering for 'brunch/almost lunch'. Therefore my savoury spread was:
- Mini meat pies (home made shortcrust spelt pastry and slow cooked meat filling)
- Homemade 'sausage' rolls (with lots of vegies as well as minced rump steak).
- Cheese platter with carrot and celery sticks, tasty cheese cut into small squares for the kids, hommus dip and a spinach and cashew pesto, and wholegrain rice crackers.
- Mexican Dip (layers of mashed avocado, diced tomato, grated cheese and served with corn chips.
- Mini organic sausages (I bought the Macro brand available in Woolworths supermarkets) served with preservative free wholemeal bread and tomato sauce.
- sushi platter
- homemade sandwiches with fillings such as cheese/tomato, tuna/mayo mix, shredded roast chicken/avocado, cream cheese/cucumber.
- mini homemade quiches
- mini noodle boxes filled with homemade fried rice or vermicilli rice noodles.
- mini homemade pizzas using preservative free pita breads
- little spinach/ricotta/feta filo pastry triangles
- homemade popcorn
- 'Little franks' - we all know those fluro red cased hot dogs are nothing but a super concoction of preservatives, colours and stuff far removed from actual meat!!
- Prepackaged frozen foods such as chicken nuggets, pies and sausage rolls all have an ingredient list as long as your arm! I know they are quick and easy but if you are looking to reduce the additives/preservatives/colours etc, these are food to avoid. The recipes below can be made well ahead of time so a little bit of pre-planning can mean that the workload is spread over a few weeks making it more manageable.
- Artificially flavoured/coloured potato crisps. Best to stick to plain flavours that don't contain a huge ingredient list. Putting a bowl of plain crisps next to a nice guacamole or hummus can be a perfect flavour combination naturally!
Mini meat pies
PastryI used the shortcrust pastry recipe from the Thermomix EDC recipe book although used organic spelt flour instead of plain wheat flour.
200g organic spelt flour
pinch of salt
50-60g chilled water
Method1. Place flour, butter and salt into the TM bowl or food processor and mix for about 10 seconds on speed 6 until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
2. If using TMX, set dial to closed lid position. Add water and knead for 10-20 seconds on interval speed to form a dough, adding more water if necessary. If using a food processor, add water to flour mix and pulse until mixture just comes together into a ball.
3. Take mixture out onto a large piece of plastic wrap (or Thermomat) and bring together kneading lightly into a ball. Press down into a disc and wrap, placing in fridge for at least 15 minutes. This dough will last like this for a couple of days in the fridge so can make ahead of time.
4. When you take out of the fridge to use, knead lightly until just pliable, and roll out on floured board to about 2mm thickness. I used mini muffin trays and cupcake trays for my pies. For this qty of pastry I made approx 20 pies (a mix of both sizes) so you may wish to double the pastry qty if you are having a larger party. You'll need to find a round cutter slightly larger than the width of the hole for the base and about the size of the hole for the lid.
5. Push the cut out bases into the trays, fill to 3/4 mark with cold meat filling (recipe below) and place pastry lid on top, pressing the base and lid together around the sides with the prongs of a fork. Brush with a little beaten egg if desired.
6. These can be frozen at this stage (proving the meat filling has not already been frozen separately) or cooked and then frozen, if making in advance. Thawed pies need to be cooked in a 180 degree oven for approx 25-30 minutes. (cooking times will vary depending on size of pies and individual oven variances)
Gluten Free PastryYes you can do this gluten free!! I had some great feedback on this pastry and I managed to sneak a few mini gluten free pies in during the party too! YUM! This pastry recipe came from a dear friends mum so thank you Althea!
Ingredients1 1/2 c organic cornflour (I used 1 c cornflour and 1/2c Orgran gluten free plain flour)
1/2 c organic soy flour
1 heaped tsp xanthan gum
1 egg yolk
1/4-1/2c chilled water
Method1. Place dry ingredients and butter into TMX or food processor. Pulse (Turbo button for TMX) until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Add egg yolk and water (start at 1/4 c and add more if necessary to obtain a dough ball) and pulse/turbo until dough just comes together into ball.
3. Follow steps 3-6 above.
This qty of gluten free pastry made 12 mini pies for me.
Meat Filling700g beef steaks (I used rump only because it was half price that week however you would normally use a cheaper cut such as Chuck Steak)
2 tbs oil
2 tbs plain flour (gluten free if making gluten free pies)
1 brown onion
3 cloves garlic
5 mushrooms (organic preferable),
2 tbs vegetable stock concentrate (made in TMX), 1 1/4c liquid stock, or 2 tsp commercial stock powder (try to stick to something without MSG and other additives, such as Massells)
1 1/4c water (only add this water if using stock concentrate or stock powder. NOT liquid stock as it will be too much liquid!)
2 tbs tomato paste
cracked pepper to taste
Method1. Finely chop up the meat into a fine dice. Set aside.
2. If using a TMX or food processor, chop onion, garlic and mushrooms very finely. Set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over high heat and add chopped meat. Stir through and once browned add flour and stir through.
4. Add onion/garlic/mushroom mix and stir through. After a couple of minutes, add stock, water if using, and tomato paste. Stir through and bring to a slow simmer. With the lid on, cook on a very slow simmer for an hour or until meat is tender, checking every now and then to stir and ensure the mix isn't catching on the bottom.
5. Remove lid and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens to a gravy consistency.
6. Place in container, allow to cool slightly and then place in the fridge until cold.
NOTE: This mix can be frozen until required and therefore can be made up to a couple of months before using. However note that the thawed filling mix could not then be frozen again in the pastry cases without having been cooked first.
I had a lot of filling over after making the 20 spelt pastry pies and 12 gluten free pies. A couple of days later I was able to make a family size pie for us for dinner! If you double the pastry recipes above, you should have enough meat filling from one quantity.
'Sausage' Rolls.Sausage mince is NOT used in my sausage rolls!!! No way ho-say!! A good quality mince can be found at most butchers for well under $10/kg so please stay clear of that stuff in the sausage-looking packet!! Could you really say what is in that mush?
My recipe can be found at this link. Check out the feedback from 'happy customers' at the end of the page if you are at all concerned about the recipe!!If you do not have a TMX, the filling could either be made in a food processor or the veggies could be chopped/grated by hand. NOTE - make sure you squeeze as much liquid out of the veggie mix as possible to ensure your sausage rolls do not turn out soggy. Although I did make these using commercial puff pastry, it was Pampas Butter Puff Pastry which is free from additives. There is a recipe for puff pastry in the TMX EDC recipe book if desired.
These can also be made up to a couple of months prior to the party and a batch will use 8-10 sheets of puff pastry which, when cut into 6, will give you approx 48-60 mini sausage rolls, plenty for most sized kids parties although we certainly had none left and we probably served up about 40, thinking that would be plenty!!
SWEETOk so its a party and there is inevitably going to be sweet stuff on offer! And why not?! But sweet stuff often comes with a trailer load of chemicals making food look all the colours of the rainbow... artificially!
At our party we did have a couple of little bowls of Natural Confectionary Company snake lollies and Nestle Smarties. Whilst these aren't foods we eat every day by any means, they are at least options that come without the harsh and bright artificial colours and flavours. Apparently Nestle Australia removed them from Smarties back in 2009. Other confectionary suggestions would be white marshmellows, plain chocolate, the Natural Confectionary lolly range, and some other great organic options can be found here.
My sweet spread was:
- Natural Confectionary Company snakes (1 large bag spread across 3-4 ramekins on the table)
- Nestle Smarties (1 large share bag spread across 2 ramekins on the table)
- Platter of sliced watermelon
- Cheesecake brownie slice (recipe below)
- Chocolate crackles (a recipe I always use from the amazing 'Natural New Age Mum'). Link here. This recipe made 15 crackles for me.
- THE BIRTHDAY CAKE!!! ( recipe below)
Other sweet suggestions would be:
- Pikelets with jam and cream.
- mini homemade custard tarts or lemon curd tarts
- fairy bread using 100s and 1000s that contain no artificial colours or flavours (available in supermarkets or at this link)
- homemade shortbread bikkies (my gluten free recipe here) or choc chip bikkies (my gluten free recipe is here)
Cheesecake and brownie slice
110g (1/2 cup) rapadura sugar
250g cream cheese
1 egg (preferably free range organic)
1 tsp vanilla bean extract
125ml (1/2 cup) cream
1/4 cup organic vanilla yogurt
85g sunflower kernels
85g pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
40g rapadura sugar
150g dark chocolate
35g raw cacao powder
Method:1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
2. Place the 1/2c sugar (cheesecake ingredient) in the TM bowl of TMX and powder on speed 9 for 15 seconds. Set aside. No need to wash the bowl. If you don't have a Thermomix, skip this step.
3. First make the brownie layer. Recipe here. Do not bake the brownie. Just pour the mix into the tray and set aside while you make the cheesecake layer.
4. Wash out the TM bowl or food processor. Place the cheesecake ingredients in and whiz on speed 5 for TMX or medium speed for food processor until smooth.
5. Pour out onto brownie layer and gently smooth over the top.
6. Place in preheated oven and bake for approx 20 minutes. As long as the cheesecake can be touched with a skin on it, it is ready. Overcooking this slice will dry it out and it won't be as creamy and moist. Better undercooked than over cooked actually!!!
7. Allow to cool in the tin. Carefully pull up and out using the baking paper to pull and slide out onto a cooling rack. Place in the fridge uncut in a slice container. Once chilled, using a clean knife for each cut, cut the slice into squares approx 2cm x 2cm.
This slice will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. It also freezes well so could be made up to a month prior to your party!
THE BIRTHDAY CAKE!OK. So this is always my favourite part of the kids birthday parties! I have always loved cake decorating and I seemed to have passed this passion onto my boys as they now start thinking about the cake that they want even a few months prior to their birthdays! You can check out pics here of most of the boys cakes to date (scroll down to the bottom of the post).
The cake that I made for this birthday was chosen by Liam himself. I had made it a few months earlier for a dear friends 40th and Liam had managed to sneak a taste when I wasn't looking and loved it!!! So the cake is a caramel mud cake sandwiched between two moist vanilla bean cake layers. Three layers of decadent, gluten free, moist, deliciousness...... oh yes, if I do say so myself!!! I can't take credit for creating these cake recipes though so I have included the recipe links below. I did make a few changes to both recipes though and these will be detailed below. Between each layer was a vanilla bean buttercream icing, so yes this cake does have a processed element in that I have used pure icing sugar for the icing. I used whipped cream to decorate the sides of the cake which cuts through the sweetness nicely, while giving a nice white finish to the cake.
Whilst chocolate is normally the crowd favourite, I think these flavours appeal to both kids and adults alike, and really there is nothing to not like about this flavour combination, other than the pull it has to sneak another piece from the cake board!
Like all good cakes there is no shortage of butter and sugar in these recipes however I use minimally processed rapadura sugar (which also contributes a caramel/butterscotch flavour) and hey, its the birthday cake!!
So here is the Caramel Mudcake link
Changes to the caramel mud cake -
- Rapadura instead of brown sugar
- Organic vanilla bean extract with the seeds, instead of vanilla essence.
- Gluten free plain and SR flour instead of normal wheat flour (same qtys)
- I used the TMX so placed all the ingredients they put in a saucepan into the TM bowl instead. Melted at 60 degrees for about 4 minutes on speed 1 until all melted. Then added one egg at a time on speed 3 and then added the flours and stirred through on speed 1 until just combined but with no flour lumps. I used a rectangle cake tin 25 x 20cm.
Changes to the vanilla cake recipe -
- Rapadura instead of granulated sugar
- Raw organic coconut oil instead of vegetable shortening
- Gluten free plain flour instead of all purpose flour (same qtys)
- Organic vanilla bean extract with the seeds, instead of vanilla extract.
- I have to be honest and say I didn't use any ingredients at room temperature as suggested and mine still worked out fine! I'm not that organised!
- I used the same rectangle cake tin as above and cut the cooled cake in half lengthways, making way for the caramel mudcake layer in between.
- I used the TMX so creamed the butter and coconut oil on speed 6, scraping the sides down a few times. Then added the sugar slowly and continously on speed 3, then the eggs on the same speed one at a time. I then decided to take this creamed mixture out of the TM bowl and into a big mixing bowl to be able to get the air into it and mix it carefully and properly with the dry ingredients and milks, alternatively.
Once the cakes were cooled and the vanilla cake halved, place one half of the vanilla cake on a cake board (with a smudge of icing on the board to stop the cake from slipping), cover it with almost half the icing. Place the caramel mud cake on top (making sure it is relatively even and if not, shave off some of the cake to even it so that you get a flat top). Ice the mudcake with most of the remaining icing (leaving some to fill the gaps in the layers on the sides). Place the top half of the vanilla cake on top.
Then whip 300ml cream flavoured with a splash of vanilla bean extract and a spoon of icing sugar until it is firm (but don't curdle it whatever you do!!)
Patch the gaps and unevenness up with the remaining icing. Cover the outside of the cake with the cream. I would generally do a thin layer over the entire cake first to keep the crumbs contained to this layer. Leave it for 20 minutes or so and then cover with the remaining cream evenly to make a perfectly white cake!
Decorate as desired.
So I hope this blog post has given you some ideas and direction for making your next party a 'clean' one! I'm sorry I didn't have a lot of great photos for you but will hope to add them over time (The party went so fast I didn't get my camera out fast enough!) If you have any more questions on my 'mostly clean party', please either leave a comment here or on my Facebook page. Enjoy...