Category Archives: Lunch/Dinner

Healthy Kids Lunchbox Ideas

 

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Let’s face it – it all comes down to two things: love and food. Those are the basic essentials that as a parent you need to give your child to keep them alive. Love is a selfless act that requires no real planning – even if your kid sucker punches you in the solar plexus, minutes later, you’re right back in love. Food can be a bit more challenging. Feeding a child might not come as naturally as loving your child, but that doesn’t matter because regardless of the time, you can always bank on it somehow being only minutes before it’s food time again.  When it comes to packed lunches, we can easily get stuck in a pattern: sandwich, crisps and jelly. But there are many things to consider when feeding tiny humans, like fibre, protein, blood sugar balancing and aiming to eat the rainbow, and those guidelines can easily apply to packing a healthy lunchbox.

Healthy eating patterns

Solving Einsteins Theory of Relativity can seem easier than getting your kid to eat healthily. Offer them chocolate ice cream, and they are quiet little angels, for at least as long as it takes for the sugar to hit the bloodstream. However, we pay the price for pumping our toddlers full of sugary treats. Whether it’s that inconvenient tantrum in the middle of the supermarket, after giving into the relentless requests for Haribos, which results in the ultimate sugar crash while you’re still shopping; or their habitual desire to eat only pudding for their meal. (Does your kid anticipate dessert only two bites into dinner? Yep, been there!)

Another consequence, that’s a bit more daunting than the toddler tantrum, but part of parenting in today’s quick, grab-and-go world, is the potential lifestyle or medical condition that can develop from eating an unbalanced diet of too much processed food that is full of refined sugar, salt, additives, E-numberes and preservatives. A multi-centric study was recently published to drive home the ill effects of moving away from healthy eating habits and opting for easy-to-use, widely accessible processed food. The study outlined that these regular eating habits are more likely to lead to auto-immune inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohns Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. This is one reason why I try to be uncompromising when it comes to how I feed my children. We have fun with food, and treats when appropriate, but never too much for the little ones because it can alter the tone of their palette, and alter the balance of their gut microbiota.

Packed lunches

Packing a lunch requires time and planning. School lunches can be a godsend, especially for parents who work full time, and the only hot meal their kid might eat that day is the one served at school. However, some kids are fussy eaters, and their parents can’t rely on school lunches. Additionally, more parents are becoming skeptical of school lunches, due to their potential lack of nutritional value. I don’t think there is a parent out there who isn’t aware of how international star chef Jamie Oliver is galvanising the government to feed our children better, particularly in the school system.

I get many questions from parents about packed lunches, and how to keep it healthy and interesting. It can be challenging, but remember we are creatures of habit, so when packing lunches give kids food that they know and love, and most importantly give them food that is real. Instead of biscuits, pack some purple grapes or blueberries. A cheap and easy protein option is a boiled egg. Protein is so important for kids for many reasons, and one reason is to help keep their blood sugar balanced, which will help to keep their attention focussed. Also, make sure they get their veggies like corn, carrot or cucumber, which provides fibre and hydration. Even if it’s the same veg everyday, pack it, along with one they might not be too receptive to, like red bell pepper for example – eventually they might try it. And, truly, #truthbomb time, avoid concentrated juice at all costs – this will not serve your child in anyway – water is the best option.

Keep it healthy at lunch time, and they will thrive for the rest of the day. Kids need brain food, and biscuits, cobbler and crackers won’t do them any favours. Treats are fun for lunch, so it’s okay to include them occasionally, but sticking with natural yogurt and fruit as their dessert, is the best option. Here are some ideas for healthy packed lunches for kids.

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Note: occasionally, I offer fun treats in their box to keep it exciting. Something as simple as a marshmallow makes them happy, and in addition to all of the other food they will be eating, it won’t create a big blood sugar surge.

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Note: when buying salami, keep in mind the additives and preservatives and salt content. Kids love salami, but serve is only once in a while, unless you’re able to find good quality, organic, additive free types. This salami comes from a small farm in Italy.

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Note: organic cheese is not essential. We don’t do dairy that often, but when I do, I like to buy it organically from farms who have pasture raised cows.

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Note: corn is a great carbohydrate and fibre, so if you need a break from always packing a sandwich, corn is a great addition to a box to accompany a deli meat.

Ideas: 

cinnamon eggy muffin

– mashed banana & egg pancakes

– egg & cheese muffins

– turkey, cheese, cucumber wraps

– smoked salmon & cream cheese rolls

– tuna wraps

– cheese sandwich

– hummus & tomato sandwich

– quinoa, lemon & olive oil

– boiled egg

veggies: olives, pickles, cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, green beans, celery, frozen peas, corn, left over cooked broccoli

fruit: tangerine, grapes, berries, kiwi, sliced avocado, plum tomatoes, half a banana in skin, raisins, dates, apricots

extras: cheese, natural yogurt with a little honey, pretzels, popcorn, rice pudding, hummus, cream cheese, muffins, fruit rolls, pom-bear potato snack, leftover flour pancakes (maple syrup in mini-round compartment

Have fun and enjoy!

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Sweet Potato Wedges

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Ingredients for Coconut Sweet Potatoes

3-4 medium sweet potatoes cut into wedges

2 tbsp of coconut oil plus a bit to grease the casserole dish

Salt & Pepper

Ingredients for Buttered Sweet Potatoes

3-4 medium sweet potatoes cut into wedges

2 tbsp of ghee plus  a bit to grease the casserole dish

Salt & Pepper

Method

Preheat oven 400F, 200C, 180 Fan, Gas 6

Warm casserole dish with a little coconut oil or ghee for 3-4 minutes

Dump wedges into dish, spread out so they aren’t touching too much

Cook for 25 minutes, flipping once after about 15 minutes

Voila!

Sweet potato was one of the first foods I weaned my girls on, around the age of 6 months. At 6 months, for both of them, I did a bit of spoon feeding mixed with Baby Led Weaning, and by 7 months, they were predominately BLW. Until they were about 12 months, sweet potato was my go-to carbohydrate. It’s an easily digestible fibre, so it won’t irritate tiny digestive tracts, and as far as plant forms of vitamin A goes, this root veggie is leader of the pack. I always combine it with a good quality fat, for optimal nutrient absorption. These lovely tubers are also a great source of vitamin C, B vitamins and is a free radical scavenger, so definitely a friend of a family keen to be healthy! Enjoy!!

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Creamy Courgetti with Peas

Creamy Courgetti with Peas

 

Ingredients:

6 Courgette / Zucchini (medium)

1 Cup of Frozen Peas

1/4 + 1 tbsp Creme Fraiche

3 Cloves of garlic

2 tbsp butter (grass fed)

Spices: 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp parsley flakes, 8-10 cracks of black pepper

Courgette

Method:

Prep all ingredients before cooking because the cooking goes so quickly, if you’re not prepared, time will get away from you

Prep:

– Spiralize courgette, squeeze water from courgette so they aren’t too wet, salt courgette, add boiling water to frozen peas to defrost, cut lemon in half, measure out creme fraiche 

  1. Melt 1.5 tbsp of butter, saving the remaining half tbsp for later, on med-low heat for 30 seconds, then add minced garlic. Cook for 30-40 seconds. You want the garlic to start to color a bit, but not to burn
  2. Take pan off the fire and add spiralized courgette and lemon juice. Mix really well then add back to the fire. Cook for 5 minutes on medium-low head, stirring occasionally
  3. Add remaining butter, creme fraiche, peas and spices
  4. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes for crunchier Courgetti and 5-7 minutes for al dente ‘noodles’. I prefer a crunchier texture, but Dad prefers more al dente. It’s 100% preference.
  5. Voila!

Courgetti in Pan

I made this light, super easy dish to accompany the sea bass I was cooking. While the sea bass was baking in the oven, I made this courgetti. If you’re organized, it takes less than 30 minutes.

So much can be done with this simple dish! It can be eaten alone, as a lovely, creamy vegetarian dish; you can have it with a light, white fish or you can chuck in some bacon for a gluten-free, ‘pasta’ Carbonara. If you’re opting for the vegetarian version, the peas add a good source of protein, but also an easily digestible, gluten-free, slow releasing starchy carbohydrate, which is great for blood sugar balancing. The Courgetti ‘pasta’ is made using a fresh, green vegetable – this adds vitamins, antioxidants, natural fibre and an all-around healthy nutrient profile to what also feels like an indulgent dish. It’s great for kids, to boost their veggie intake; great for mums looking for a lighter meal to maybe shift the pregnancy weight, and great for dads who might get home late and want to avoid a heavy pasta dish. Winner!

The magic of this dish is the garlic, butter and lemon combination. The lemon lightens up the richness of the butter and cream, adding a kiss of citrusy tang. And no good Italian dish is complete without garlic!

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family does. It’s all the pleasure of a pasta dish without the heavy, bloated feeling of a pasta dish. Bellissimo!

 

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Bolognese & Sweet Potato Noodles

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Ingredients:

500g ground red meat (grass-fed preferably)

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

4 mushrooms

4 cherry or plum tomatoes or 1 medium tomato

2 cups tomato sauce / passata

3/4 cups hot water

2 large sweet potato or 3 medium

Spices: olive oil, 2 bay leaves, 1/4 tsp basil, salt & pepper

Method

  1. Season meat with salt & pepper and start browning on a medium – low heat, covered, for about 2-3 minutes while you chop onion finely. Move the meat to one side and tip pan, letting the fat from the meat drain to one side. Add the onion to this natural fat and fry with lid on while you chop the garlic. Add the finely chopped garlic to the onions and fry for 2 minutes
  2. Quarter tomatoes and add to the onion and garlic. Fry for 2-3 minutes while you clean and chop the mushrooms. I usually slice the mushrooms 4-5 times horizontally and vertically
  3. Mix onions, garlic and tomatoes and mushrooms into the meat. Let itcook for 3-5 minutes while you prepare your sweet potato noodles using a spiralizer or julienne peeler (see below)
  4. Add the leftover core of the sweet potato (cut into cubes first) to the meat, as well as your spices: 1/4 tsp basil, 2 bay leaves, salt & pepper, tomato sauce and hot water. Cover, bring to a boil
  5. Once the sauce has boiled, reduce to a simmer, keep covered and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally
  6. In a separate frying pan, warm up 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add sweet potato noodles and cook on medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring once or twice each minute. You want the noodles to keep somewhat of a crunchy texture to them so they don’t wilt under the sauce.
  7. Add sauce to the sweet potato noodles
  8. Voila!

Sweet Potato Noodles

  1. Peel the sweet potato
  2. Using a spiralizer or julienne peeler start making your noodles. I use a julienne peeler because it works just as well as a spiralizer and I don’t have space in my kitchen for another large appliance. It’s very simple. Hold the potato and using the julienne peeler, firmly start to peel the potato. I usually do 4-5 peels before turning to start on the other side of the potato. Continue to do this until you’re left with about a 1/2″ core of the potato. (This core will be cubed and added to the sauce for natural sweetness)
  3. Salt noodles and continue with step 6 in Method

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I’ve never been a fan of boiling noodles. They take ages, and I end up obsessively watching the pasta cook for the last 5 minutes, constantly testing it to make sure it’s done. Sweet potato noodles solves that problem! Not only do these ‘noodles’ increase the nutritional value of the meal, but they take about 4 minutes to cook. Super simple!

As a mother and a nutritionist, I choose to restrict many grains and refined flours. I do this as a lifestyle choice for myself and also as a guideline for weaning and toddler nutrition, especially 0-2 years. Don’t get me wrong, I love a sandwich, and one of my best food experiences from my holiday in Italy was the large bowl of four cheese pasta that got devoured with a bottle of wine.

I consider grains such as pasta and bread a treat, like ice cream, rather than a staple. Both are a carbohydrate, and carbohydrates along with protein and fat are categorized as macronutrients. A balanced macronutrient intake is essential for optimal health. As a starchy carbohydrate replacement, I prefer root vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash. I always have sweet potatoes in the house. Sweet potatoes are a nutrient powerhouse, packed with vitamins A and C, two well known antioxidants and immune supporters, as well B vitamins which our bodies require daily to make energy. Sweet potatos are also very easily digested – perfect for the developing digestive tract of a baby or toddler, and contain good fibers that when digested help to improve the microflora in the gut, contributing to a healthy digestive tract. Sweet potatoes are in season almost the entire year, making them a versatile and accessible carbohydrate.

Enjoy!

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Vegetarian Risotto

Rissoto

 

Ingredients

1 cup white basmati rice

1 onion finely diced

2 cloves of minced garlic

1 carrot

5 mushrooms

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 cup vegetable stock

1-2 cups water

1.5 tbsp grated Parmasean

2 tbsp olive oil, salt & pepper to taste

Method

  1. Mix the vegetable stock and water together and add to a saucepan and warm. In a separate saucepan heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and warm on low heat. While it’s warming, finely dice your onion and mince the garlic. Once olive oil is warm, add onion and fry for 5 minutes on low heat. Then, add garlic and fry for 3 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally
  2. Add rice and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Turn heat up to medium-high and fry the rice with the onions and garlic for 1-2 minutes, stirring
  3. After 1-2 minutes, add about 1 cup of warmed vegetable stock and some salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high fire for about 3-5 minutes, while you chop the carrot and mushrooms into small cubes. After 3-5 minutes, or when the rice absorbs most of the stock and just starts to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and the carrots and more warm liquid, mix. You want the rice to cook slowly, gaining a sticky consistency – adding liquid as it absorbs into the rice
  4. Next, add the mushrooms – you’re the judge of when and how much liquid to add, as you the one watching the rice cook and absorb, so if you need more liquid at this time, add more. All together, you will probably use about 2-3 cups of the liquid
  5. Continue to simmer, occasionally stirring, tasting the rice to check if its nearly cooked. This will probably be another 3-5 minutes. When the rice is nearly cooked, add the peas, tiny bit more liquid and salt and pepper. Let the rice now cook another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off, add the grated parmesan, mix and cover. Leave to rest for 2 minutes. This is when the rice really takes form as a risotto and becomes a lovely, sticky consistency. Mix and serve
  7. Voila!

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Risotto requires a little bit of love and attention while preparing to ensure that the rice cooks well, and the grains achieve a smooth and sticky consistency. It might be worth setting a timer, maybe on your smart phone, for each stage to remind yourself to continuously check the rice. You don’t want to overcook it, and it does require constant liquid ladling. It might sound complex, but honestly, it’s such a simple dish. Cooking risotto is like making toast – you can’t really mess it up.

White rice is as cost effective as pasta, it’s definitely toddler approved and it’s more easily digested than pasta, so it’s a good alternative to what might seem like a constant rotation of pasta dishes in your house. You can make this recipe with risotto rice, but I use white basmati rice because I always have it in the house, and it cooks faster. This recipe can be prepped and cooked in about 30 minutes, and it requires no planning – spontaneous cooking at its best! You can add whatever vegetables you have in the house: carrots, mushrooms, green beans, butternut squash, sweet potato, leeks, kale – just try to add the more dense vegetables in the early cooking process, so they have time to soften.  If you want a more hearty meal, you can use homemade chicken stock instead of vegetable stock, and add chicken or salmon to the risotto. The chicken or fish stock will add depth and flavor galore, boost the nutrient profile, and make the dish a complete protein, containing all essential amino acids. Adding an oily fish like salmon will also up the essential fatty acid profile which is so important in developing infants, babies and toddlers.

Cooking risotto fills the house with a beautiful smell that is unmistakable in its aroma. I would often cook it while both girls were taking their afternoon nap, and as Number 1 approached 2.5 years old, she would wake and come downstairs and ask, “did you make rice!?!” It’s a favorite of my girls, and of mine because they can easily feed themselves the sticky rice, there’s always enough for leftovers, it can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian and it feels gluttonous, but it’s actually very healthy. Hooray for risotto!

Additional Note

This will serve 4 – two toddlers and two adults. Or, if you’re having fish or chicken to accompany it, which is what we do, this recipe will serve 4, with leftovers.

Enjoy!

 

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Hidden Veggie Turkey Loaf

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Ingredients

2 lbs ground dark turkey meat (see note below)

2 eggs

1 cup grated zucchini

1 cup grated carrot

1 cup peas

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1 tsp thyme, salt & pepper to taste

Ghee or olive oil for frying

Parchment paper and baking dish

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, 180F, Gas Mark 4.  Saute onion in ghee with salt, pepper and a pinch of thyme until soft – about 10 minutes
  2. While onion is frying, grate carrot and zucchini
  3. When onions are soft, add vegetable stock and tomato sauce. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes
  4. While cooling, add meat, vegetables, eggs, salt, pepper and 1 tsp of thyme into a big bowl and mix well
  5. Add onion mixture to the bowl once cooled and mix well. Transfer to a baking dish lined with parchment paper
  6. Mold and smooth turkey into a loaf. Add two teaspoons of tomato sauce to the top of the loaf. Put into the oven and bake for 1.5 hours
  7. Voila!

As a child meatloaf was one of my favorite meals. My mom cooked it in a big pot with loads of tomato sauce and peas. Oh, the peas! I would have triple servings. As much as I would love to revisit that taste sensation, and make the meatloaf I grew up on, it’s not really possible. The two main reasons 1) it’s too labor intensive with an ingredient list a mile long and 2) living in the UK, I don’t have access to many of the ingredients. So I’ve modified the recipe, as I do, ensuring it ticks a) the health conscience box b) the busy mom box and c) the toddler approved box.

Now, about the ‘hidden’ veggies – I know there are two camps about how food should be presented. One camp believes present the food as it looks – if broccoli looks like a green tree, put it on the plate and talk about how lucky we are to eat a miniature green tree. Another camp believes, my child doesn’t care if it’s a tree or a pot of gold, if he can see it and it’s green, he ain’t eating it. I was watching an interview with Sandra Bullock recently and she was talking about getting a child to eat. She actually counted the hours she spends saying, ‘Can you please eat.’ It’s 720 hours a year we spend trying to persuade our tykes to eat. Her point of view, ‘If I can just blend it in a little juice, I would do it at this point.’  We all know Sandra Bullock is not a lazy woman – I imagine she works just as hard in her domestic life as she does in her professional life, and her biggest struggle seems to be getting her child to eat. I’m hoping to help parents have a little less struggle during the 720 hours we spend trying to persuade our children to eat. Let’s remember, it actually starts in the womb, something I will be blogging about soon…

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Additional Note

You can use either dark ground turkey meat or beef for this recipe. If you can’t find dark turkey mince, then I advise using beef, otherwise, your dish might turn out a bit too dry.

Enjoy!

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Broccoli & Mushroom Casserole

Casserole

 

Ingredients

4-5 cups broccoli

1.5 cup mushrooms

1 chopped onion

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1 cup double cream

1.5 cup cooked quinoa (1/4 cup dry)

Spices: 1/4 tsp salt, cracked black pepper, garlic granules

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, 180C, Gas 4
  2. Wash and cook quinoa. For 1/4 cup quinoa, add 3/4 cup of water. Bring to boil, reduce and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes
  3. Wash and prepare broccoli, mushroom and onions. Broccoli into small toddler pieces and  mushroom and onion roughly chopped
  4. Chuck vegetables in a steamer for 10 minutes to take the edge off the rawness
  5. While veg are steaming, grate cheese
  6. Tip the steamed veg into a 9×12 rectangular pyrex dish, or something similar
  7. Add cheese, cream and mix in quinoa and spices
  8. Put into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. You want the cheese to turn a nice golden color and crisp around the edges
  9. Voila!

Broc Cass 1

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When I’m craving a pizza, on a Tuesday night, but don’t want the bloated and guilty feeling that comes with eating a pizza, on a Tuesday night, I make my grandmother’s casserole dish. My grandmother was an amazing cook. She lived around the corner from us, and I spent a lot of time at her house, eating her food. One year, during the Thanksgiving holiday, I packed a bag and moved in with her and my grandfather for an entire week. This is a long time for a seven year old. But we were tight. I loved being at her house.

We always ate real food in our family. This recipe, although it might sound indulgent, is all real food ingredients. Nothing processed – nothing refined, much healthier than a pizza. I modified the original because I’m a nutritionist, and that’s what I do, but the flavor is identical. It’s healthy and it makes my family happy. Dad devoured half of the casserole, standing over the stove. That is food joy!

Diary – should we eat it or shouldn’t we?  Choosing a diary-free diet is almost as common as a gluten-free diet, and for good reason – many people are allergic or intolerant. However, if you don’t react badly to dairy, and if you consume it moderately from farms that respect their cows and produce organic, grass-fed products, in its full fat form, then I think dairy can be a wonderful and fun addition to cuisine. Real cream, real butter and whole milk not only taste better than the alternatives, but they are actually better for you. To be boring, consuming full fat dairy over low-fat alternatives will reduce insulin spikes, keep blood sugar balanced and it has a better fatty acid profile. So, ditch the low-fat, skimmed, soy alternatives and indulge in the option that is more of a real, whole food.

Enjoy!

 

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Better Than Southern Fried Chicken

BTSFC 1

 

Ingredients

500g chicken thighs

500g chicken drumsticks

1 onion quartered

3-4 cloves of garlic whole

Half a lemon

Spices: 1/4 tsp salt, garlic granules, cumin, all spice

Water

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F, 190C, Gas 5. Mix all of your spices together
  2. Wash chicken and line a baking dish, skin down. Add onion and garlic
  3. Sprinkle each piece of chicken with a pinch or two of the spice mixture. Save the remaining spice for later
  4. Squeeze lemon juice over each piece of chicken
  5. Add water to the baking dish. Enough for the chicken to be covered halfway. This will create a nice, mild gravy to pour over rice or potatoes and vegetables. *see note below* Put into the oven and bake for 20 minutes
  6. After 20 minutes take chicken out and flip. Sprinkle each piece with a pinch or two of spice mixture. Squeeze lemon juice over each piece of chicken then add the lemon to the dish. If the water is looking low, add a little more.  Put into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the juices run clear
  7. To crisp the skin, broil the chicken for 5 minutes. In the UK, this is the same as putting it under the grill for 5 minutes. The skin will brown and crisp nicely
  8. Voila!

BTSFC

I don’t often cook with boneless chicken or white meat for three reasons 1) I find white meat very dry 2) dark meat contains more nutrients 3) bones are nutrient powerhouses. When cooking chicken on the bone, with a little water, a gravy is made, and adding lemon to the water helps to extract minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium from the bone. It’s good to remember that the bones of an animal are just as important as the muscle meat, and when possible, they should compliment each other.

Baked chicken is such an easy family food – put it in the oven and pretty much forget about it. It’s perfect for baby led weaning, toddlers, growing adolescents and mom and dad.  Everyone has their comfort foods – those foods that make them happy – gives them a metaphorical hug and says, ‘everything is going to be better because you’re eating me!’ Growing up in South Louisiana, it’s almost a prerequisite to claim fried chicken and chicken with rice and gravy as two  of your comfort foods. This baked chicken is possibly better than southern fried chicken, and it goes without saying, much healthier. It’s comfort food at its best!

Enjoy!

Additional Notes

Serve chicken and gravy with your choice of side dish. Sometimes I serve with rice, sometimes with cauliflower rice, sometimes with roasted potatoes. Always with vegetables like beans, broccoli and carrots.

 

 

 

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Cauliflower Rice

Cauli Rice

 

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower

2 carrots

Butter

Salt & Pepper

Method

  1. Cut the cauliflower in half or quarters if you want to make it easier and remove the core stem. Each floret is attached to the core by its own little stem. Cut away as much of the little stem as possible, eating them as you go, and aim to only have the small florets remaining. Wash.
  2. Peel and dice the carrot
  3. Add to the steamer and steam for 10 minutes, or until soft enough to mash with a fork.
  4. Transfer into a bowl and quickly pat down with a cloth to remove water. With a large fork, mash the florets, which should be very easy.
  5. Add salt, pepper and grass fed butter (or ghee) to taste
  6. Voila!

Cauli Rice 1

 

Why cauliflower rice? Why not! I’m always preparing food with a gravy, or a stew that needs pouring over a base, and I find cauliflower rice is a nice alternative to white rice and quinoa – the two grains that I’m constantly recycling in my kitchen.  Cauliflower rice is a lovely, light substitte to grains in the summertime and it’s also a great way to get more vegetables into your little one’s tummy. It’s a inoffensive vegetable, barely containing a flavor, but packed with a nutritious punch, so utilizing this vegetable in diverse ways makes a lot of sense to me. I find white rice has a hint of sweetness to it when cooked, so as an attempt to replicate that natural sweetness, I add the carrot to my cauliflower rice.

Enjoy!

Example of my Better Than Southern Fried Chicken with Cauliflower Rice

Cauli Rice and BTSFC

 

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Ashy Family Tabbouleh Salad

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Ingredients

3 cup cooked quinoa (1 cup dry)

1.5 – 2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 tomato

4 green onions

3 sprigs of mint (15-20 leaves)

1 1/2 lemons

2 tbs olive oil

1/4 tsp sea salt

3 pinches of cayenne pepper

Equipment

Mortar and Pestle aka “Knocker” (wooden preferably)

Large salad bowl

* double all ingredients for a larger batch

Method

  1. Cook and cool the quinoa. Once quinoa is cooled, add to large salad bowl. You can either cook the quinoa the night before, or you can cook it and cool it in the fridge while preparing the other ingredients
  2. Wash parsley, onions, tomatoes and mint
  3. Start chopping vegetables. I start with the parsley – cut stems off as close to the leaf as possible. Do this in handful sizes. Bunch the parsley up and chop finely. It usually requires a horizontal and vertical chop to get it to a fine consistency. You can use flat or curly parsley; curly parsley is quicker and easier. Once chopped, chuck into your quinoa in a large salad bowl *see note below
  4. Chop onions (white and green) and tomatoes quite finely and add to quinoa
  5. Remove mint leaves from stem and chop. Add to the knocker with pinch of coarse salt. Knock and mash the mint with considerable pressure until you get a paste consistency. The coarse salt helps to grind the mint down into a paste. This usually takes 60 seconds of firm knocking and mixing
  6. Squeeze juice from lemons and add to the mint paste along with salt, pepper and olive oil Mix together well then pour over quinoa. Mix well
  7. Serve chilled in lettuce wraps
  8. Voila!

Example of how finely to chop tomatoes, onions and parsley

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Growing up in a Lebanese family, in south Louisiana, is quite a unique experience. My great-grandparents left their country in the early 1900’s and migrated to the southern parts of America. They chose the south because they were Christian, and they were French speaking. South Louisiana offered a home to both of those attributes. We southern Lebanese descendants now proudly refer to ourselves as Leba-Cajuns because of the rich cultural experience we received growing up in Acadiana Parish. Cooking, eating and drinking shaped our existence.

My mother’s father was Lebanese and her mother was French, so my mom grew up with a predominately Cajun-Creole cuisine. When my mom married into the Ashy family, she was taught through the generations the recipes of the Old Country. My mom was a great student and an even better teacher. I’m so grateful to my mom for teaching us that nothing tastes quite as good as food prepared in your own kitchen.

Traditionally, Tabbouleh is made with number 2 medium grind bulgur wheat. My ancestors might not approve, but I substitute bulgar wheat with quinoa. Quinoa much improves the nutritional value of the dish, and I actually prefer the taste. Quinoa is one of the few plant foods containing all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein, which makes this version of Tabbouleh a well balanced vegetarian salad providing essential fat, protein and carbohydrates.

I make Tabbouleh at least once a fortnight. The girls taste it & Number 1 likes it more & more. Number 2 still struggles to chew leaves, especially parsley, but she will get there. And so, the Lebanese tradition continues to be passed down through generations – with food this tasty and healthy, how could it not!

Additional Notes

Chopping parsley is the most time consuming part of the preparation. It’s worth taking the time to hand chop, so maybe plan to make this salad on a weekend. However, being a realist as well as a busy mom, I have many times chucked the parsley in a food processor and whizzed it up in seconds. If you do this, make sure not to over process; otherwise, you will end up with soggy parsley.

Enjoy!

  

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