Strawberries & Cream Forever

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Ingredients

1 1/2 cup strawberries

1/2 cup full fat Creme Fraiche

1 tbsp maple syrup

2 orange wedges

Method

  1. Add all ingredients into your blender of choice and blend for15-20 seconds
  2. Pour into popsicle molds and ice tray
  3. Add 3″ straws to the ice tray
  4. Freeze
  5. Voila!

Gorgeous Creme Fraiche, I love you, and I love the French for creating you! The French are a culture full of wonderful, lush indulgences – wine, cheese, butter, cream, meat, frites.  They aren’t overweight; they don’t diet. Out of the 196 countries in the world today, the French are often ranked in the top 10-15 healthiest cultures in the world. They enjoy natural, home cooked meals. They linger over their food – delight in each bite. They are getting it right. Homage.

Creme Fraiche literally means ‘fresh cream’. It’s created by a fermentation process, much like yogurt and sour cream; however, it taste very different. It’s denser, and it has a lovely, nutty tang to its flavor. It’s a wonderful addition to sweet and savory dishes like fruit, vegetable sauces and smoked salmon. The fermentation process promotes the growth of healthy bacteria, known as probiotics. Probiotics, in my opinion, are one of the keys to optimal health because they keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy. Typically, with a healthy GI tract, you will have an immune system primed and ready to go to battle for you. Creme Fraiche is just one of the many healthy probiotic foods we can include in our diet.

I will be posting a recipe for homemade Creme Fraiche soon, so watch this space. Until then, delight in this lovely, refreshing frozen treat!

Enjoy!

Number 1 loving her Strawberry Cream cube

Popcicle 1

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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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Poached Cod in Red Sauce

Cod in Red Sauce

 

Ingredients

400-500kg (1 pound) of responsibly sourced Cod

1 onion chopped

1 red pepper chopped

2 garlic cloves chopped

1.5 tbs pine nuts

3 cups tomato sauce (this is about 1 large 680g jar or about 3 cans)

1 cup water

1/2 juice of lemon

Ghee or olive oil for frying

3 sprigs of Thyme (1/4 tsp if dried), Salt & Pepper

Method

  1. Warm ghee or olive oil in a saucepan for a minute then add chopped onion, garlic, red pepper and the leaves of 1 sprig of thyme, or a pinch of dry thyme. Sauté on a medium heat, covered, for 7 minutes
  2. Season your fish with half juice of lemon, salt & pepper. Cut into 3″ pieces (prepare your rice or potatoes while your vegetables are cooking – see below)
  3. Once the veg have softened, add the red sauce, water, 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper and the remaining thyme. Bring to a boil
  4. Add the fish to the boiling red sauce, reduce heat, cover. Poach for 10-12 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Once the fish is cooked, take a spoon and separate the whole pieces of fish into tiny flakes. This will help to make the sauce lovely and thick
  5. Add pine nuts and drizzle with olive oil
  6. Voila!

I recently had a chat with a good mom friend, who has a beautiful 15 month old and a thriving career. As many moms can relate, this combination leaves her extremely time poor. Some days she’s gone before her daughter is awake and home after she’s asleep. It’s difficult to find the work/life balance for moms, and often times that can drown them in guilt. My lovely friend, driven by her guilt, will often get home from a full day, and spend her evening batch cooking for her daughter. She feels the next best thing to seeing her daughter is providing her with nourishing food. So, my good mom friend, this one is for you!

Fish in a sauce can be tricky. In my opinion, it’s not as diverse as chicken or meat, so knowing what to do with fish to enhance its flavor is essential. The simplicity of this dish is what makes it so wonderfully delicious! Cod is a light and fluffy white fish. It doesn’t have a strong ‘fishy’ flavor, so many people welcome it into their kitchen. The fact that it’s a mild fish also gives it the ‘toddler approved’ stamp. The fatty acid profile of cod is not as high as other oily fish like salmon and sardines, however, it’s a decent source of omega 3 fat, so keeping it on regular rotation will help to provide the essential fats necessary for the growth and development in babies and toddlers.

I serve the dish with either steamed and buttered potatoes or buttered white rice.  You can prepare either of those while your vegetables are sautéing. This dish should be your go to meal when you have only 20-25 minutes to prepare something nourishing and healthy for the family.

Enjoy!

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Caribbean Dream Smoothie

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Ingredients

1 papaya

8 cherries

1/2 banana

3 tbs Greek yogurt

3 tbs hemp seeds

1 tbs desiccated coconut

1/4 cup coconut water

Method

  1. Cut the papaya in half, discard the seeds and scoop out the flesh
  2. Deseed the cherries
  3. Add all of the ingredients into a blender, NutriBullet or whatever blending method you prefer. Blend
  4. Voila

Dad has been training hard lately, so I’ve been creating post-training smoothies to supply a good hit of glucose to transport energy to the muscles, protein for muscle repair and electrolytes for rehydration. This formula is also perfect for a toddler smoothie, especially in the summertime when extra hydration is needed. The protein in the smoothie with slow down the release of sugar from the fruit, creating a more stabilized source of energy, and keep the body fueled for longer. It’s a great early morning or mid afternoon snack.

I had an idea of how this smoothie would taste when I was making it, but it actually came out better than expected. Drinking it made me feel like I should be dancing in the sun, on a white sandy beach, in the Caribbean islands. Thanks to my little Caribbean Dream smoothie, for that lovely memory recall…

 

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Cheesy Flourless Muffins

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Ingredients

1 tbs hemp seeds

2 tbs chia seeds

3 tbs Greek yogurt

2 eggs

1/2 cup grated cheese (less if desired)

Any herbs you like. I added 1 tsp green tops of onion, a pinch of chopped parsley from my garden and black pepper. You can add basil, oregano or keep it simple with only black pepper. Salt is not needed in this recipe.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F, 190C, Gas Mark 5
  2. Whisk the eggs together then add yogurt and whisk
  3. Add seeds and spices, whisk
  4. Add cheese and whisk
  5. Using a 1 tsp measuring utensil, add 2 tsp of mixture to each large greased muffin cup
  6. Bake for 18 minutes or until muffins bounce like a sponge when lightly pressed upon
  7. Voila!

Dad has the sweet tooth; I prefer savory. I was a little bored of sweet breakfast muffins, but I needed something quick and nourishing with good quality protein to keep me and the family energized, so I whipped these up. They are very dense, which is a tribute to the Greek yogurt and they are very moreish. I made them in about 3 minutes, popped them in the oven, and while they baked I went to get the girls from bed.  Brilliant! Great breakfast for an on-the-go family as well.

Greek yogurt in baking is becoming more popular, and I love it! It’s more nutritious than milk and regular natural yogurt, lovely and tangy, less hassle than flour, thickens your batter like flour, the only drawback is that the heat destroys the probiotics in the yogurt.  Oh well. Or, as the British say (one of my new favorite phrases), Nevermind!  Just move on, appreciate the good, and not focus on the bad…

Enjoy!

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Mellow Jello

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Ingredients

3 cups of juice (not from concentrate)

1 cup of water

3 tbs Gelatin

Method

  1. Mix the juice and water together.  Pour one cup of the juice mixture into a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin. Let it sit and form a solid texture
  2. Heat the remaining 3 cups of juice mixture on medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes
  3. Whisk the heated mixture into the gelatin then pour into a glass or ceramic baking dish
  4. Let it set in the fridge for 2 hours
  5. Voila!

Being in control of what goes into your child’s body is so important these days. There are small changes that we can make to our food approach to give us more control. Preparing homemade and healthy snacks is a good starting point.  Little tykes typically need three meals and two snacks a day.  It’s important to remember that snacks should be small meals – not junk – but finding healthy, balanced snacks that isn’t fruit is really difficult.  Preparing homemade jello, using grass fed gelatin, is a winning 5 minutes of your time.

There are many myths about gelatin associated with store bought Jell-o. I can’t say for sure how true they are, but I can say that store bought Jell-o is very low on the list of natural, healthy snacks for kids.  However, jello made with gelatin, sourced from grass fed cows, using quality fruit juice is a wonderfully nutritious snack or dessert for your child.  I will blog about gelatin and its benefits soon, but for now just know these basic facts: gelatin is a pure protein, so mixing it with fruit juice will help to balance blood sugar, preventing your tiny human from having sugar tantrums. AND, here’s a big selling point, gelatin contains an amino acid called glycine which is well known for its calming and sleep promoting properties, so maybe serving up this Mellow Jello might have a positive outcome for your toddlers sleeping patterns!

Try these flavors: grape, cherry, orange & mango, strawberry & pineapple, apple

Enjoy!

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Mexican Rice Bowl

Mexican Rice Bowl

 

Ingredients

1.5 lbs diced chicken thigh (vegetarian option use lentils or black beans)

1 onion chopped

2 tomatoes chopped

100 grams of spinach (about 3 large handfuls)

3/4 cup white basmati rice

1/2 cup corn – either frozen or from a can

3 tbs tomato sauce

1 cup chicken stock (vegetable stock for vegetarian option)

1 cup water

1/2 lime juice

Spices: 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp garlic granules, 2 pinches of chili powder, S&P

Ghee for frying

Cheddar cheese optional topping

Method

  1. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and lime juice, let it marinate while you heat the ghee in frying pan.  Slowly sauté the onions for 5 minutes – covered
  2. Add chicken, cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Turn once. While your chicken is cooking, chop tomatoes, wash spinach, mix spices in a bowl, grate cheese.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes – cook for 2-3 minutes
  4. Add rice, tomato sauce, chicken stock, water and seasonings. Partially cover the pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat slightly. Cook until rice is soft – about 15 minutes.
  5. Turn off fire, add corn and spinach, cover. Spinach will wilt in the heat and you can stir it into the rice once it’s wilted
  6. Serve and top with grated cheese
  7. Voila

This is such an easy dish to prepare – the hard work is buying the ingredients.  Once the ingredients are in the house, the meal can be made in about 30 minutes. Once the rice is added to the dish, it’s just a matter of leaving it to cook.

White rice is one of the primary sources of starchy carbohydrate that I feed to my girls. It gets a bad reputation because it’s considered ‘refined’ and also because it elevates blood sugar levels a bit more than brown rice.  However, if you’re not trying to lose weight, and if you don’t have blood sugar issues, then white rice is perfectly fine, and in my opinion, for babies and toddlers preferable to brown rice.

White rice is basically pure glucose.  It’s white because it’s been hulled and polished, so it doesn’t contain any of the harsh fibers that brown rice contains.  Babies and toddlers have an developing digestive tract, and their mucus membrane, which is the protective barrier inside their colon, is extremely sensitive.  I followed very specific guidelines when feeding my girls, and my goal was to restrict grains and cereals for the first 12-15 months of their development.  Obviously, this is nearly impossible in the world we live in, and I understand that.  It’s OK to have ideals but being idealistic is not always realistic.  As moms, we do our best to achieve our goals, whether it’s breastfeeding, sleeping, discipline, whatever – but babies and toddlers are unpredictable, and so is life.  All we can do is try our best, and know that at the end of the day that bar of chocolate, glass of wine, Netflix marathon or hot bath is waiting to congratulate us – regardless of the outcome.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Salmon and Quinoa Fishcakes

FIishcakes

 

Ingredients

220g wild salmon fillets skinless

1 cup cooked quinoa

1 egg

1 tsp chopped onion

1/2 juice of fresh lime

Spices:  1 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 pinches garlic granules, black pepper

Ghee for frying or your oil of preference (see note below)

Method

  1. Chop raw salmon into cubes and add to food processor. I use a small hand processor
  2. Add egg, onions, lime, ginger, salt, pepper – blend
  3. Transfer mixture into a bowl and add the cooked quinoa. Mix well
  4. Heat preferred fat for frying while you shape the patties – I use ghee and a lot of it because it soaks into the patties and keeps them moist.
  5. Shape patties and line up before adding to the pan. Make large patties for adults and small 1″ patties for toddlers. I usually make three large patties and six small patties from this mixture
  6. Slow fry the patties for 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve with fresh lime wedges and preferred dipping sauce. I use Greek Yogurt with a sprinkle of salt and garlic granules
  7. Voila

Fishcakes_1

Baking salmon is by far the easiest way for busy moms to get good quality protein and essential  fats into their little ones, but a close second is dishing up a fishcake.  Essential fats like oily fish, avocado, grass fed butter, coconut oil, nuts & seeds should be integrated into a babies diet in the early stages of weaning.  Fatty acids from breastmilk is variable, depending on the mothers diet, and maternal fatty acid stores begin to deplete after 6 months of lactation.  However, fats are essential for a babies growth and brain development and are a key nutrient from 6-24 months.

Quinoa is often referred to as a grain, but it’s actually a seed.  It’s quite unique in its make up, serving as a complete protein containing all essential amino acids and also serving as a starchy carbohydrate.  It offers the variety that a grain would offer, without the irritation that wheat and/or gluten containing foods typically cause during digestion.  We are a wheat free/gluten free family, so quinoa is a great substitute to the normal starchy carbohydrates that are common in my cooking like sweet potato, white rice, potato, squash etc.  I like quinoa, and I use it for certain dishes, but I don’t find it particularly satiating, so typically I will opt for other more nutrient dense proteins and/or carbohydrates, but for fishcakes – it’s perfect!  Quinoa takes 10 minutes to cook – it’s as easy as boiling a kettle.  You can prepare it the night before, and keep the leftovers in the fridge for this recipe.

As a quick and easy side, steam broccoli and beans and serve with a dollop of butter and pinch of salt.

Additional Note

Ghee is clarified butter, meaning the sugars (lactose) and protein (casein) from butter have been removed leaving only the healthy fats.  Being that ghee does not contain lactose or casein, it’s usually tolerated by people who are dairy intolerant.  It’s a wonderful addition to your cupboard for it’s health promoting benefits, but also for its high smoke point, making it preferable to other oils commonly used for frying.

Enjoy!

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