Tag Archives: Essential Fat




Here’s a recent blog I wrote for The Parent Express: 

Follow Amanda on Instagram for healthy lunch box ideas or to register for her Eat a Rainbow course.  Alternatively, check out some of her recipes at The Healthy Happy Baby.

Collecting kids from school requires logistical planning comparative to a NASA expedition.

For working parents, wrap-around care needs to be in place five days a week; for mums on maternity leave, it’s praying for that perfectly timed break in between naps and feeds, and hoping that baby will willingly get into the variable sling, car seat and pushchair without making you (both) cry along the way.

For me, three days a week, it’s an hour-long outing, first collecting Melody from nursery, then driving, parking, and walking to collect Eliza on time. Often times I’m running from car to class, with Melody on my hip, desperately trying to avoid being the last parent at the classroom door.

The first thing that comes out of their mouths, having not seen me for six-plus hours is, “Snacky?”

Continue reading at The Parent Express

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Sweet Potato Wedges



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


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


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



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



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


– 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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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


  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


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.



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Oat & Raisin ‘No Bake’ Brownies




1 cup nut butter or seed butter

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup coconut oil

1.5 cup dry rolled oats

3 tsp raisins

50 g of 70% dark chocolate bar or 1 cup dark chocolate chips


  1. Combine the nut butter, maple syrup, coconut oil and raisins in a pot and melt on a low-medium heat, stirring as it melts. This should take 2-3 minutes
  2. Add chocolate and allow to melt for about 30 seconds. Turn the fire off and stir in the oats
  3. Pour into a baking dish lined with parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment paper, just grease the dish with coconut oil. It’ll make the brownies a little more difficult to remove from the dish, but a little patience and power, and you will do it
  4. Freeze for 1 hour. Once set, remove and cut into squares. Store in the fridge
  5. Voila!

I like this recipe because it’s a sweet treat made with natural sugars, no flours, no baking (which I tend to avoid because it’s so precise) and it reminds me of my favorite cookie – oatmeal and raisin. The ingredients make up a great toddler snack loaded with essential fats, protein and slow releasing carbohydrates. The dark chocolate, as we all know and justify daily, is not only an antioxidant, but also contains nutrients that are essential to our energy cycle as well as our body’s natural relaxation ability – it even contains a decent amount of fibre. It’s one of the healthiest and tastiest treats I’ve tasted in a long time – nutrient dense and no blood sugar spike. Great for the whole family, and definitely toddler approved!


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Broccoli & Mushroom Casserole




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


  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


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.



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Ashy Family Tabbouleh Salad




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


Mortar and Pestle aka “Knocker” (wooden preferably)

Large salad bowl

* double all ingredients for a larger batch


  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


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.



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Poached Cod in Red Sauce

Cod in Red Sauce



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


  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.


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Salmon and Quinoa Fishcakes




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)


  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


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.


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Toddler Taco Salad

taco salad



500g of ground beef (grass fed preferably)

Olive oil

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

1 red romano pepper

1 carrot

1 cup of chopped spinach

large handful of corn

3 tablespoons of tomato sauce

1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice

Spices: 1/4 tsp (heaping) cumin, 1/4 tsp sweet smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp ground corriander, pinch hot chili powder, Salt & Pepper

Side accompaniments:

Greek Yogurt Sour Cream

  • 3 tablespoons of Organic Greek Yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp lime juice
  • sprinkle of garlic granules



  1. Chop onions, carrot and red pepper and mince garlic. Saute on medium heat in olive oil and 1/2 juice of a lime.
  2. Season meat with all of the seasonings listed and mix together with your hands
  3. Once the veg have softened add the meat to the pan and mix together. Let the meat brown with the lid on (about 5-7 minutes) then add the tomato sauce and corn. Cook for 2-3 minutes
  4. Add spinach. Turn the heat off and cover

Babies grow at an exceptionally fast rate, which is why iron is an important nutrient during infancy. There is a big concern that babies and toddlers will not obtain optimal levels for their rate of growth, which is why most baby cereals and formulas are fortified with iron. As you get to know me, you will learn that I am not a fan of rice cereals as a weaning food, as I wholeheartedly think there are better real foods to help nourish your growing infant, like egg yolk, fish such as salmon and sardines, meats such as beef and lamb and even chicken – all of which are great natural sources of heme iron.

There are two types of iron – heme iron which comes from animal sources and nonheme iron which is derived from plant foods like green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds and lentils. Plant forms of iron are not absorbed as well as heme iron, so vegetarians need to be more vigilant with this nutrient.  Also, including vitamin C with your source of iron will increase absorption, so when eating meat or fish, have it with broccoli, tomato, spinach or red pepper for example – all good sources of vitamin C and all ingredients in this recipe.

I eat my taco salad in lettuce wraps with avocado, tomatoes, cheese and my Greek yogurt sauce. For the toddlers, you can serve fun veggies with the taco meat to make a salad. I added raw red pepper and raw broccoli florets, and I serve their salad with avocado or guacamole rather than yogurt sauce because dairy can interfere with iron absorption. If teeth aren’t developed, steam the broccoli and roast the pepper, and give the meat a good mash with a fork. Finally, no good Mexican dish is complete without corn tortillas chips, so throw some in for good measure!



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