Monday, 22 April 2013

Sneaking Fruit into the Kids’ Favourite Cake

An Orange by Any Name Would Taste as Sweet

I’m having a bit of a thing with oranges at the moment. I blame the weather. This seemingly interminable winter of frigid mornings, oppressive fog and unpredictable frost is seriously penetrating my sunny disposition. The kids are already harassing me about summer camp (which I’m yet to book, unbeknown to them) and I’m actually looking forward to the kid-free week that August brings. Does that make me a terrible person? Probably. 

Until summer arrives in all of its hot and sticky glory, oranges are injecting a bit of Californian calm into my anaemic days. How sad. However, as with all wholesome relationships, things have got a little complicated. Although oranges and I are still on good terms, my kids’ are niggling me for another staple of the British pantry: cake. It doesn’t matter if I cut their fruit into orange smiles or blend it with a little of their favourite Snapple, they will always want the sweet stuff and deep down, I know I do too.

The summer before last, when I sent them to camp with a hamper full of fresh fruit and veg, it was returned to me uneaten. Whilst a diet built around citrus segments makes my conscience feel virtuous and infallible - viruses, I mock you! - the brood doesn’t care much for the bodily benefits of raw food, particularly when they’re revelling in the liberty of a parent-free environment.

A Spoonful of Sugar

So when your mind is telling you no but your body is telling you yes, what’s the solution? Well, it’s a trick that every hardy parent and guilty foodie knows all too well: the old bait and switch method (or, as Mary Poppins memorably sings, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”). Whilst this is an old favourite amongst well-meaning mums and dads, it’s a surprisingly effective way of hoodwinking your own cravings too.

Indeed, getting the little darlings to pack away enough fruit and veg whilst abiding by the all-hallowed “5 a Day” doctrine yourself is undoubtedly a troublesome task. By disguising vitamin-rich foodstuffs in a gooey get up (a beetroot brownie here, some zucchini bread there) they’ll get all the goodness their active bodies need –particularly during summer camp- whilst sating the devilish shoulder demon of sugar lust.

A personal favourite of mine is this great recipe for cheap and easy orange and walnut cake (what else?). Whilst orange is a notoriously difficult flavour to maintain in the oven, this version uses ginger to prevent the orangey zest from flat-lining. It works a treat and when I fired up my beloved cooker with a zester to hand, the orange-loaded fruits of my labour were eaten up before the cake had cooled down.

Now, cooking is a game of deception and disguise. Biscuits are laced with lemon, ice cream is frozen yoghurt and there’s heaps of spinach wilted into every savoury pasta dish. Carrot and orange lollypops are lunchbox staples and, when I don’t have the time to take to the kitchen with the conviction of a super-veg villain, I simply sneak a smattering of flax seeds under the ham of their sandwiches. This year’s summer camp hamper is going to feature a plethora of godly greenery; the kids just won’t be able to tell.

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