Tuesday 22 October 2013

Healthy spaghetti hoops, caramel popcorn and a cardboard computer

I bought a book with popcorn recipes lately.  Then I found a healthier caramel popcorn recipe online.  On the same day I also tried a homemade Spaghetti-Os recipe.  I was pleased that both these recipes were fairly quick to make and used ingredients I had on hand.  While I wont turn my nose up at convenience food when time is tight, I would far prefer to make it myself. 

Nothing like a bit of DIY.  Hey I even made Sylvia her own computer!  (Inspired by this computer.)  Well it doesn't actually work.  But you don't need to spend much time with kids to notice that their imagination is pretty powerful.  Sylvia and I had fun painting, designing a desktop and drawing in the keyboard.  Sylvia helped writing out the letters.  Then she used it for a seat and a dolls bed and kept tapping away at my own laptop at inappropriate moments!  Sigh!

Even harder was convincing her to eat the tomato sauce on any pasta.  When I was little my mum occasionally trotted out tinned spaghetti on weekends.  I loved it then.  Today it merely holds nostalgic value but tastewise is a flaccid flavourless imitation of home made pasta dishes.  I am not familiar with calling it 'Spaghetti-Os'.  However Spaghetti Hoops rang a bell.  However I think this is the British name and ours is just boring old Tinned Spaghetti. 

I am not sure I have ever given Sylvia tinned spaghetti.  Recently I have been trying to introduce her to some different tastes.  Something a bit more adventurous than the plain food she loves.  I thought these Spaghetti Hoops might appeal. 

She loves pasta.  So long as it is her way.  In her ideal world she only eats pasta with soy sauce, parmesan cheese or tomato sauce.  By tomato sauce, I mean the stuff from a bottle that Americans call ketchup and Australians call dead horse.  We had a chat about what was in the bought tomato sauce.

With a little gentle persuasion (ie cajoling and wheedling) she ate some of this slightly more sophisticated tomato sauce on pasta - covered in parmesan cheese.  So maybe there is hope that this very simple and smooth sauce might help her try some pasta sauces.  As for me, I loved it and ate the remaining sauce with more pasta for lunch the next day.

On the other hand, Sylvia will jump at any offer of sweet food.  When I suggested we make caramel popcorn she was excited.   She doesn't care if it is full of white sugar and butter or coconut sugar and cashew butter.  Just so long as it is sweet and sticky and finds its way into her hair.

I loved how easy this caramel was.  No faffing around with cooking caramel to the right colour and waiting for it to cool.  It probably doesn't last as long as the real caramel.  (Having said that I ate some about 4 days later and it was edible albeit soft and chewy.)  Even better that it was healthier and didn't make oodles.  A fun rainy day recipe.

I am sending the caramel popcorn to Ricki's Wellness Weekends and the Spaghetti Hoops to Jac for Bookmarked Recipes.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Asparagus, potato and quinoa soup, mermaids and tulips
Two years ago: How to make gravy
Three years ago: GYO Tahini Caulflower and City Sights
Four years ago: Nicki’s Nana’s Chulent
Five years ago: Sticky toffee pudding - my kind of healthy!

Homemade spaghetti hoops
Lightly adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
serves 2 (light meals for adults, a lot for a resistant child)
  • 1 cup dried pasta hoops (or other small pasta)
  • 1/2 jar of passata (about 350ml)
  • 2 tbsp milk of choice (I used soy)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder (I only have granules so used these)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3/4 tsp to 1 tsp salt (according to taste, I used 1 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp margarine (I used nuttalex)
  • 3-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp agave or other sweetener
Cook and drain the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.  Meanwhile mix the remaining ingredients together in a saucepan.  Check and adjust the seasoning. Bring to the boil and then heat for another minute or two until the margarine is melted.  Toss tomato sauce with the drained pasta.  Now all you have to do is convince your child (or your inner child) to eat it.

Healthy caramel popcorn
Lightly adapted from Sift Stir and Savour
Serves 2 (very generously)
  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 brown paper bag
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar (or other granulated sugar)
  • 2 tbsp agave (or other liquid sweetener)
  • 1 tbsp cashew butter
  • 1 tbsp soy milk
  • 1 tbsp coconut cream
  • sea salt, to taste (I used couple of good pinches)
Place popcorn into paper bag and fold over edge a few times to seal.  Microwave for about 2 minutes or until the popping slows down.  (I am not sure I got this right because I had some burnt popcorn and some that wasn't popped at all.)  Heat remaining ingredients over a low heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to the boil.  Then heat 30 seconds, remove from heat and sit another 30 seconds.  Toss through cooked popcorn and enjoy.

On the Stereo:
0898: The Beautiful South


  1. Isn't it funny how we often hit on the same ideas. I was lying in bed last night thinking I would try to make spaghetti hoops for Cooper. I had bought some of this pasta, so it seemed like the thing to do. He has never had the tinned spaghetti hoops, but I am hoping he will like the homemade anyway. I am going top sneak some extra veg in the sauce and blend it smooth. I'll let you know how I get on. It is rice that is frustrating me with Cooper just now. Having an awful time trying to get him to eat any unless it is rice pudding.

    1. Thanks Jac - I am sure extra veg in the sauce would work well - I used to put baked sweet potato in sylvia's tomato sauce for her pizza sauce and it blended in well - Sylvia eats all carbs but it is just hard to get her to eat anything with them - except soy sauce.

  2. Yum! I will take a large serve of spaghetti hoops with caramel popcorn for dessert, please.

  3. I've been wanting caramel popcorn since the Show!

    1. Thanks Veganopoulous - we bought caramel popcorn at the show and then gave it to my mum for my dad's birthday but I think there was so much sweet food it wasn't used - hmmm ... wonder where it is now

  4. Cashew butter in popcorn sounds very sophisticated (and lovely)! I am also intrigued by dried pasta hoops as I don't think I've seen any, but being easily swayed by shapes and colours, I would find hoop pasta far more appealing than regular pasta. I don't have very fond memories of tinned spaghetti either - I've only had it a handful of times in my life - so I know I'd like your version more :-)

    1. Thanks Kari - I didn't mention the cashew butter to Sylvia. I loved the hoops but had to go to the Mediterranean supermarket to find hoops - am sure it tastes better with hoops :-)

  5. Isn't it funny when you try something from your youth? It never quite tastes the same does it and tends to disappoint! I found the same thing with a Bubble O BIll. It was tiny and his face didn't even look like a face!

    1. Thanks Lorraine - at least I still love the taste of baked beans - I used to think tinned spaghetti and baked beans similar as a child but now the taste and the nutritional value seem miles apart (I think my mum sometimes gave us a choice between the two)

  6. I used to love that stuff as a kid, especially on toast (clearly I needed carbs with my carbs!) I didn't even know you could get the pasta hoops not in tins - I need to track some down!

    1. Thanks Joey - don't all kids love carbs - and they need them too so it isn't a terrible thing - better than sugar :-) The pasta hoops were from an Italian store - if you have trouble you should check out Italian stores

  7. I love spaghetti hoops and I used to eat loads of them when I was a kid :) I can't find pasta hoops like that - do you know where I can find them? Maybe at Whole Foods? Hot damn, these caramel popcorn look so good - and I love caramel with anything!

    1. Thanks Vegan Miam - the pasta hoops are from our Mediterranean supermarket and I am pretty sure they are made in Italy so I suggest you search in that direction (any Italian stores near you?) Agree with you on caramel

  8. I'm just going to start calling you Super-Mom Johanna (staying with the theme of my post today of course:) How do you manage to get so much done with a little one tugging at your heart?

    I know I spent a lot of time with my kids when they were little but, it just never seemed like all that much. Now, when I read posts like this I'm tired! I can just imagine you, lol...

    Spaghetti-O's are a favorite of Marion's. Nostalgic I suppose. I don't see me making them for her any time soon but, that popcorn recipe is calling our names. I may even be tempted to make one of those computers for Marion too. At the age of 93, she insists on learning everything about MY computer. I could let her practice on one like Sylvia's, lol...

    Fun post Johanna...Thanks for sharing

    1. thanks louise - I don't feel like a super mum - my house doesn't look perfect because I like cooking and craft more than cleaning :-) That is impressive that Marion is interested in computers - sign of a nimble mind at her age!

  9. Sylvia's cardboard computer looks amazing! When I was a child, I wanted to have a Nintendo Game Boy, and until I got one for my birthday, I played with one I made from cardboard. I also made little cardboard games I could put into a little paper pocket I sticked to the backside. Then I imagined I turned it on and played a game.

    I've eaten canned spaghetti exactly once in my life, and I remember they were bland, wobbly, and very salty. I've never been a big pasta eater because it wasn't common food in my family (we mostly ate potatoes and rice), but sometimes my mom would make maccharoni with a sweet sauce from mixed dried fruit - northern-German style, a sweet main dish. ;) I enjoyed when she put letter-shaped noodles into a soup though because they were so fun to eat, and you could make words from them.

    1. Thanks Kath - at school we were given cardboard piano keyboards to practice on - I found it absurd as I had been playing piano for years but having been watching a show about our brains that talks about visualisation now I think maybe it wasn't so silly. I think your cardboard games sound very inventive.

      Wobbly is a good way to describe tinned spaghetti. We had spaghetti quite a bit when I was young and I loved it and I loved potatoes and rice too (yes I loved carbs - still do) - though I don't think we ever had sweet sauces with our pasta. I did look for alphabet spaghetti for this dish as I really liked the idea but couldn't find any so stuck with the hoops

    2. The carbboard piano sounds like a really good idea if you're away from home and want to get some practice! At least the hand coordination thing you can practice well with that I think, and also chords and scales. :D

  10. That's the roundup live Johanna. Better late than never, or so I am telling myself LOL!

  11. I ashamedly still buy spaghetti hoops don't know why never thought about making myself, I have bought some mini alphabet pasta shapes which would be ideal !


Thanks for dropping by. I love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts and questions. Annoyingly the spammers are bombarding me so I have turned on the pesky captcha code (refresh to find an easy one if you don't like the first one)