Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lamb, Vegetable, and Barley Soup

A warming winter soup with low GI pearl barley. I used homemade chicken stock made the night before from a leftover organic BBQ chicken carcass.

For the healthiest version of this soup, make it a day ahead to skim the fat off before reheating and serving.

Lamb, Vegetable, and Barley Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
Chicken stock
600g lamb neck/shoulder on the bone
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, diced
1 swede, peeled and diced
2 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
1/2 cup pearl barley
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat oil in pressure cooker. Cook onion until soft.

  2. Add lamb and seal on all sides.

  3. Pour in chicken stock until meat is covered

  4. Add remaining herbs, vegetables, and barley

  5. Simmer with lid on until meat is tender and begins to fall off the bone

  6. Season to taste with iodised salt and cracked pepper

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to use up old fruit and vegetables?

So you had great intentions when you went shopping. A week ago, your fridge and fruit bowl was filled with gorgeous, shiny fruit and vegetables. Some of it was put to good use, but what are you to do with the stuff you simply didn't get time to use. Here are some ideas on how to reduce wastage and still use that healthy produce.

Apples, pears - Peel overripe fruit, dice, steam, puree or mash then freeze in 1/2-1cup portions. This cooked fruit puree makes a great addition to crumbles, cakes and muffins and can help you cut back your sugar and fat content when baking.

Bananas - Peel, cut away any bruises, wrap in cling film and then freeze. Perfect for smoothies, muffins, cakes, pikelets, or dipped in chocolate for a frozen dessert.

Carrots - Peel and cut off any bad spots. Steam, puree, and freeze for use in bolognese or tomato based sauces. The sweetness of carrot balances the acidity of tomatoes.

Courgette, cauliflower - Steam, puree, and freeze in ice cube containers. You can add a sneaky cube to many different dishes to boost the vegetable content of your meals.

Herbs - Finely chop wilted herbs. Place in ice cube tray, cover with water, and freeze.

Tomatoes - Dice overripe tomatoes in lots of 3-5. Freeze cut tomatoes in small containers or bags. These make a great substitute for tinned tomatoes in pasta, meat sauces, and stews. 

Roast Sweet Potato and Baby Spinach Salad

This salad is delicious on its own. But it also makes an easy weekend dinner if you throw in some torn strips of roast chicken. Make sure you keep the chicken carcass to make a soup stock for the following week. Two meals from the one chicken will make your purchase of an organic free range bird great value!

Roast Sweet Potato and Baby Spinach Salad
900g sweet potato, peeled, cubed and roasted
600g pumpkin, peeled, cubed and roasted
120g baby spinach leaves
1 bunch coriander, chopped
100g, toasted pine nuts

2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

  1. Simply toss together roast sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach, and coriander with dressing.
  2. Sprinkle with toasted pinenuts and serve.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chickpea Tabouli

Not traditionally what you would call a kid food. But a perfect example of why you should never assume what a toddler will and will not eat.

It is surprising how many children love chickpeas and they are such a nutritious meat free alternative to the diet. To reduce choking risk, it is important to supervise meals and encourage children to sit whilst eating.

My daughter learned to love this through natural progression. First, we prepared it together, her stirring and picking out all the chickpeas to eat. The next time, we ate it together. I served myself, and she wanted to eat most of mine off my fork. Finally, on another day entirely, I served her a bowl and she ate the whole lot with her own spoon.

Chickpea Tabouli
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 red capsicum, finely diced
2 tomates, finely diced
1 bunch of parsley (or other herbs), finely chopped
400g can chickpeas, drained
1 avocado, finely diced (optional)

1/2 lemon, juiced
3tbsp French dressing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Apple and Pear Crumble Mini Muffins

I made these as mini muffins but you could also make them as large muffins. They were a real treat and not too sweet for little tastebuds either. They are more fruit than cake with as little added sugar as possible. The crumble topping adds a delicious crunch to the muffins and contains almond meal for protein and oats for extra fibre. 

You will need to make two mixtures in this recipe. The muffin base is added to the muffin tins first and then a pinch of crumble topping is placed on each muffin. I recommend using silicon muffin trays or lining each first with paper cases.

Apple and Pear Crumble Mini Muffins
Muffin Base
I apple, finely diced into 1/2 cm cubes
1 ripe pear, finely diced into 1/2 cm cubes
3 tbsp raw brown sugar
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp canola oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
50mL low fat milk (optional)

Crumble Topping
1/4 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup oats
3 tbsp raw brown sugar
35g margarine

  1. Add apple, pear, and sugar to a saucepan. Cook with lid on until fruit is soft. Set aside to cool.

  2. For muffin base: Combine sugar, flour and spice in a large bowl. Fold through fruit and remaining ingredients gently until just combined. You may not need to use all the milk. This will depend on the ripeness and water content of the fruit used.

  3. For crumble topping: Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Rub through margarine until cumbly and well combined.

  4. Place a teaspoonful of muffin mix into each paper case

  5. Top muffin mix with a good pinch of crumble topping

  6. Bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 min or until crumble starts to colour and muffin is cooked through. Longer cooking times will be needed if making full sized muffins.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sushi Rolls

Sushi is a wonderful kid food. Nori rolls are easy for little hands to manage and they come in many sizes and varieties of flavours. They are also a great way of introducing children to different fresh flavours including seafood.

Nori rolls are so simple to make and are a nutritious snack or meal for the whole family. The seaweed is also a source of iodine for your children. All you need is a bamboo mat and most supermarkets now stock this as well as all the other ingredients you need to make them.

I usually make mine with salmon (fresh cooked or sashimi), sashimi tuna, prawns, avocado, tofu, capsicum, cucumber, and carrots. You might also like to try chicken, egg, tinned fish, smoked salmon, lettuce, asparagus, or snow peas.

Sushi Rolls
 Nori sheets
Sushi rice (any medium grain rice will work)
Sushi rice seasoning (buy ready-made or you can make your own with rice wine vinegar, sugar, and salt)
Fillings of your choice

Friday, July 16, 2010

Best Ever Bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese is a family favourite in most homes. Kids love it and so do adults. I probably cook a dozen different versions of this sauce, but I have to admit that this is probably one of my favourites.

Usually, I finely grate or dice most of the vegetables, but in this version I have added them in cooked puree form. This naturally increases the volume of vegetables used and also thickens the sauce up nicely. The puree red capsicum adds real depth to the flavour and in conjunction with the red lentils, it boosts the antioxidant content of the meal. But make sure you add the lentils early on with enough liquid to allow them to simmer long enough to soften and dissociate.

Don't worry about the anchovies giving the dish a fishy flavour. You won't be able to taste them. However, they are a great way of adding salt to the dish as well as a few omega-3's. Italian dishes often list anchovies as a seasoning in recipes.

Best Ever Bolognese Sauce
1 tpsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 red onion, finely diced
2 anchovies
600g lean beef mince
1 tbsp mixed dried herbs
2 bay leaves
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup red lentils (plus extra water)
4 ripe tomatoes, diced (or 400g can tinned peeled tomatoes)
1 cup red capsicum puree (equivalent to 2-3 peeled cooked red capsicums)
1/2 cup carrot puree
1 zucchini, finely grated
8 button mushrooms, finely sliced
Fresh chopped basil
Cracked black pepper and salt to season

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan

  2. Saute onion and garlic, then add mince to brown

  3. Add tomatoes, purees, sauces, sugar, herbs, and red lentils. You may also need to add a little extra water at this point to make sure the lentils are covered.

  4. Bring to simmer then add remaining vegetables

  5. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally until lentils soften and begin to break up. Continue simmering until sauce thickens to desired consistency.

  6. Season with cracked black pepper and salt to taste

  7. Stir through a handful of fresh chopped basil and serve on fresh linguine topped with grated parmesan

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Corn and Leek Savoury Pancakes

These turned out way better than I expected. They were so moorish even without any added salt or condiments.

The recipe calls for a whole leek, finely sliced. This may seem a lot, but it adds a wonderful texture to the pancakes without being overpowering, or even seeming obvious. The cauliflower also adds extra nutrition and flavour to the recipe. My toddler certainly didn't seem to notice the extra vege content. She was even happy to eat them cold for lunch the following day.

Serve them hot with avocado and tomato salsa, and for that extra wow factor, top with grilled prawns.

Corn and Leek Savoury Pancakes
1 cup SR flour
Kernals from 2 cooked corn cobs
1 leek, split lengthways and finely sliced
1/2 cup cauliflower puree
1 tbsp grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated reduced fat chedder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup low fat milk
Cracked black pepper and salt to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl

  2. Use a spoon to drop mix onto a hot, lightly oiled pan

  3. Cook pancakes until bubbles start to form on their top side, then turn them over to cook on the other side.

  4. Make larger sized ones for the adults or mini pancakes for the kids

  5. Best served hot

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Puree Vegetables

Believe it or not, I can actually commiserate with parents who resort to convenience foods or commercial baby foods. This is not to say that I condone it, but I do recognise just how difficult it can be to find the time to be the perfect parent in the kitchen.

In my house at the moment, I have to cater for an infant just starting on solids and a toddler who, despite being a very good eater, would still prefer to fill up on anything but vegetables. I also cook for myself and my husband, and whilst far from fussy about what we eat, we do like a bit of flavour in our foods. In some circumstances, this could equate to three separate dinners on the table each night, and an inordinate amount of time spent at the stove, time which is valuable and could be better spent elsewhere.

There is obviously no getting around the simple single puree vegetables and fruits that a six month old requires. However, I have found that I can put these purees to other uses too. Like many mothers, I freeze them in bulk, in tablespoon portions that can quickly and easily be defrosted in the microwave. And by incorporating different puree vegetables into my regular family meals, I am not only ensuring that my toddler gets her vegetable fix, but I also feel as though I am utilising my time in the kitchen a little better. The flavour hit they give to recipes is also an unexpected added benefit. And this is much appreciated since the foods I cook for us, the parents, are the foods my toddler is expected to eat as well.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Banana Berry Muffins

These muffins are super healthy and perfect for a kiddies lunchbox. They are high in fibre, full of fruit and antioxidant rich blueberries, and also contain very little sugar. The sugar can even be omitted from the recipe if you are feeding toddlers or 9-12mth olds. However, if omitting the sugar, my husband highly recommends a liberal spread of margarine and honey.

I often buy more bananas than I need. Most bananas get eaten pretty quickly around here, but a few will inevitably start to brown and spread that sickly sweet overripe banana smell that we are all so familiar with. I like to peel these overripe bananas, wrap them in cling film, and then freeze them to use later. They are an absolute staple in my freezer. Once defrosted, they can be used as a sugar substitute in cakes, muffins, pikelets, smoothies, and other desserts.




Banana Berry Muffins
2 large overripe bananas, mashed
1 apple, finely grated   
150g frozen blueberries
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp Light Greek yoghurt
75mL canola oil
1/2 cup milk
1 cup SR flour
1 cup wholemeal SR flour
2tbsp brown sugar

  1. Line large muffin tin with 12 paper cases
  2. Sift flours into a large bowl and mix well with the sugar
  3. Combine all wet ingredients together in another bowl
  4. Gently fold in wet ingredients to the flour mix, until just combined
  5. Spoon into paper cases
  6. Bake in moderate oven (180 degrees) for about 30 min or until lightly golden and skewer comes out clean

Friday, July 2, 2010

Strawberry Love and My City Garden

Strawberries are absolutely sensational at the moment. They are so sweet and juicy with that pungent sugary aroma that makes you think of jam and pink milkshakes. Being seasonal, they are also of great value in the supermarket too. I have to admit that I am buying at least one punnet a day right now. They are definitely nature's way of adding a bit of sunshine to a grey winter's day.

When it comes to strawberries, organic is always going to be the best option. However, strawberries are one of those simple pleasures that I can't help but make an exception for. One day, I hope that my little city patch of garden will provide me with a bounty of organic strawberries. However, this is perhaps a long way off yet.

Over the past year, I have experimented with growing different veges in my little six square meter patch. Some things have done well, but others haven't. I have discovered that spinach, lettuce, and carrots are loved by snails and slugs. And we have particularly crafty ones around here that have managed to evade every one of my organic pest control strategies.

However, much to my delight, there were also some plants that flourished. Cabbage, peas, and tomatoes grew well in my garden. We all enjoyed the Chinese cabage, and Coco ate every single one of the sugar snap peas off the vine. Unfortunately though, despite the abundance of tomatoes that grew, very few made it to the dinner table. This was courtesy of one very small 'nano' picker. I never quite managed to convince Coco to wait for the green tomatoes to turn red. Inevitably, they would all appear in one of her secret green tomato stashes; beneath the seat of her push car, down the drain, in my shoes, or else hidden somewhere in her toybox. All were green, some with bite marks, and my tomato plants remained steadfastly naked.

I also have a small strawberry plant in the corner of my garden that I grew from a seed. It is a heritage variety that produces small sweet berries and is currently the only plant remaining in my garden bed over winter. I assume the strawberries it produces have been delicious, although I haven't as yet had the pleasure. Not that there have been many to eat so far. Nevertheless, I can certainly attest to the delight displayed by one little girl when she spots a new red berry in the garden. She checks the patch daily now, and I have even seen her whispering quietly to the plant, bossily demanding that it grow.

I wish I could make my strawberries grow faster for Coco. However, until they do, I have been contenting her with the supermarket variety. We love strawberries on their own, blended in smoothies, sliced in ice cream, or dipped in organic Greek yoghurt.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Steamed Chicken Porcupines

I love creating family foods that can be enjoyed by everyone. These chicken porcupines are a great nutritious finger food for toddlers. They also make an enjoyable meal for adults. If feeding babies under 18mths, avoid adding any salt to the recipe. After this age, I usually add a little for taste (iodised salt of course).

Like other recipes I have listed, the addition of vegetable purees boosts the nutrition content of this meal. Ground flaxseed also adds omega-3s.

Serve with steamed veges or a spinach and rocket salad and sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Steamed Chicken Porcupines
1 onion
1 garlic clove
4 button mushrooms
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
kernals from one cob of cooked sweetcorn
1 cup freshly ground breadcrumbs (wholemeal chia bread)
2 tbsp ground organic flaxmeal
1 tbsp smooth peanut paste or sunflower butter
3 tbsp cauliflower puree
500g chicken breast mince
Basmati rice to roll balls in (about 1 cup)

  1. In a blender, puree the onion, garlic, mushrooms, chilli sauce and sesame oil
  2. Combine above puree with remaining ingredients (except rice) in a large bowl
  3. With clean hands, mix well and form into small balls about the size of a plum
  4. Roll each ball in uncooked basmati rice
  5. Place a single layer of formed balls in a bamboo steamer and steam for about 30min or until rice is cooked and balls cooked through.