Whose child doesn’t prefer cookies to carrots, or cheese puffs to peas? The trick for handling picky eaters is, of course, to present healthy ingredients in a guise even toddlers will find palatable, and we found inspiration from an unlikely source. Gina Pistone, who is taking a hiatus from her popular blog Pastry School Diaries to concentrate on her baking business Whipped, is well known for her wickedly indulgent desserts and her passion for all things sweet – her son Mateo could say the word ‘cookie’ at just 18 months. But as it turns out, she’s also a deft hand at creating healthy and tempting treats for toddlers too. Here she shares three of her recipes that are not only wholesome, but simple enough to prepare so the kids can get help out…
A sugar-free snack that’s easy to pack
Makes 16 biscuits
3 ripe bananas
2½ cups rolled oats
½ cup coconut
1 cup mixed dried fruit, chopped (raisins, cranberries, apricots or dates)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)
¼ cup canola oil
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp Chinese five-spice
1 Preheat oven to 350° and line 2 cookie sheets with baking paper and set aside.
2 In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a potato masher until till puréed. Add all remaining ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until well combined.
3 Use a ¼ measuring cup to scoop dollops of the mixture on to the cookie sheet.
4 Gently press each dollop down to form a cookie shape. This step is important due to the lack of leavening agents in the recipe – the cookies will come out of the oven looking exactly the way they went in, so shape them beforehand!
5 Bake cookies for about 20 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden. Allow cookies to cool for a few minutes on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.
Wholewheat choc-chip cookies
Gina’s fibre-filled answer to an old favourite
Makes 42 cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
2 cups chocolate chips
1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cookie sheets with baking paper and set aside.
2 In the bowl of a stand up mixer (or using a hand mixer) cream the butter and brown and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
3 Add the egg and egg yolk, one at a time, until combined. Add the vanilla and combine.
4 In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch. Whisk to combine.
5 Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each. Mix in chocolate chips.
6 Bake for 8-9 minutes until edges are golden brown. Allow cookies to cool on the sheet for a few minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
7 Store in an air tight container.
A simple savoury treat to get your kids baking
Makes about 17
115g sharp cheddar, shredded
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 Preheat oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with baking paper and set aside.
2 Place cheese in a large microwave-safe bowl. Soften for two minutes on 50 per cent power. Immediately add the flour, baking powder, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper. Use a rubber spatula to combine. If the cheese becomes too thick to stir, return to the microwave and heat for 10 seconds on full power.
3 Form the mixture into 2cm (3/4-inch) balls, rolling gently between your hands (this is where the kids can really get involved).
4 Place on prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until they puff up and turn golden brown. Serve immediately
You can find Gina at the Arte Market, Times Square, every second Friday of the month or on Instagram @whipped_dubai.