Red Lentils (Masoor Daal)

Red lentil soup, also known as Masoor Daal, is a staple in most Indian households, with each family possessing a slight variation in how it's prepared. Jazzed up with turmeric, cumin and other spices and served with veggies and whole wheat bread (roti) or rice, daal is a fixture at every meal, packing a vegetarian protein punch as well as fibre and B vitamins. Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious and soul-warming. My four year old loves it, which is a fact that definitely warms my soul. 

RECIPE

Yield
Serves a family of 4

Ingredients
1 cup red lentils (masoor daal) found in most regular and Indian grocery stores
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 black peppercorns
Pinch hing (asafoetida) found in Indian grocery stores (optional) 
1 tomato grated
Salt to taste (skip for babies)
1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Fistful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice

Method
Wash the lentils and discard the water. Do this 2-3 times. Soak the lentils in room temperature water for 1-2 hours to expedite the cooking process. 

Discard the soaking liquid (this reduces phytic acid present in many grains and legumes, which acts as an anti-nutrient and can prevent mineral absorption). 

In a pot for which you have a lid, add the soaked lentils, 5 cups of fresh water, turmeric, peppercorns and hing. Bring the mixture to a boil, skimming any foam that arises. Boil vigorously for 5 minutes, continuing to take off the foam (this will reduce gassiness!) Reduce heat to a simmer, cover partially and cook for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are dissolved. If using a pressure cooker, use 3 cups of water, allow 1-2 whistles and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. 

Once the lentils are cooked, add the grated tomato and salt to taste and continue to simmer on very low heat.

In parallel, prepare the seasoning, also known as tadka

Heat the oil over medium flame until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and stir for about a minute until sizzling and aromatic (but not burnt). Add the garlic and stir until just barely pink, about a minute. Transfer the seasoning to the daal (expect a loud sizzle!) and stir well. 

Fish out the peppercorns, especially if feeding kids. Check for salt and adjust seasoning. Finish with a garnish of cilantro and a squeeze of lemon. 
 

Creamy Chicken Broccoli Pasta Bake

Nothing beats a one pot family dinner and this creamy, nutmeg-infused broccoli and chicken pasta bake is just that. 

I stuck to the classic elements of your typical, comforting pasta bake but elevated the nutritional content by swapping in whole wheat pasta and adding protein-rich chicken (can be omitted for a vegetarian option) and health-boosting broccoli. The heady aroma and flavour of nutmeg add warmth and complexity without overwhelming the dish and the classic bechamel and melted cheese makes it creamy and satisfying. 

We've now served this for a few playdates and the kids have been very content, which is always, without a doubt, my happiest moment. It can be prepared in advance for a dinner party and finished in the oven at the last minute, also making it ultra convenient. 

I hope your family enjoys it. 

CREAMY CHICKEN BROCCOLI PASTA BAKE
Baby led weaning, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Yield
Serves a family of 4

Ingredients
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
2 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups dry whole wheat pasta (penne or spirals)
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup gruyere cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 220C / 420 F. 

Steam the broccoli for 5 minutes until cooked, yet bright and crunchy. Set aside.

Next, cook the chicken. I like to use this genius technique from The Kitchn http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-moist-tender-chicken-breasts-every-time-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-36891

Briefly, flatten the chicken breasts to 1/2 inch thickness by laying them between two sheets of plastic cling wrap and pounding with a meat tenderiser or the flat bottom of a wide cup. Salt and pepper the chicken. 

In a heavy bottom pan for which you have a lid, heat the oil on medium high until shimmer.ing Add the chicken breasts and cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, flip the chicken, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Do not touch the chicken during the cooking process! Turn off the heat and leave the pan, covered for 10 additional minutes. 

While the chicken is resting, cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain and set aside. 

Remove the cooked chicken from the pan, slice and allow it to cool. 

Next, prepare the bechamel sauce.

Heat the milk with a pinch of salt until just boiling. Take it off the heat. 

In a heavy bottom saucepan, melt the butter on low heat. Stir in the flour using a whisk or wooden spoon and cook, stirring well for 2 minutes. Turn the heat off. Add in the warmed milk and stir vigorously until a smooth, creamy sauce forms. Put the pan back on high heat and boil the sauce for 1 minute, stirring well. Turn off the heat, add the nutmeg and salt to taste. 

In a large baking dish, mix together the cooked pasta, sliced chicken, broccoli, bechamel sauce and 3/4 cup cheese and give it a good mix. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the top with the leftover cheese and bake in the oven until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden brown, 15-20 minutes. 

Serve for a decadent, nutritious, satisfying family dinner. You can prepare the pasta mixture in advance and cover and store in the fridge until ready to bake. 

Enjoy! 

Spiced Baked Apples

Grandpa Ish or "Bacca" is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who owned highly regarded and reviewed restaurants in California in the 80s and 90s (and naturally that's why I married into the family ;) ). Dad is retired now but his imagination and culinary creativity are very much alive. On a recent visit to Hong Kong, he made these gorgeous spiced baked apples for an easy weeknight dessert and both son and grandson were floored. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, these beauties will give any ol' Apple Pie a run for its money. 

Science Corner
Cinnamon helps stabilise blood sugar so I literally throw it in everything, especially sugary treats. It lends a comforting and warming spiced aroma and flavour to anything from porridge to baked apples to chicken stews and even soups like our Moroccan Lentil Soup here. Cardamom is a luxurious, floral and peppery spice with umpteen health benefits previously discussed here. And of course, an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

Ingredients
1 apple good for baking like Golden Delicious
1/2 teaspoon coconut or brown sugar
3-5 large golden raisins
3-5 dried cranberries
2 cloves cardamom
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon preferably Ceylon
1 small square slice butter
Boiling water

Method
Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C.

Core and de-seed the apple with a sharp paring knife, a peeler with a pointed edge or an apple corer if you have one, creating a hollow about an inch in diameter. Be sure to leave a good amount of flesh at the bottom to hold the filling.  Sprinkle the bottom of the apple with the sugar and fill the hollow with the raisins, cranberries and smashed cardamom cloves. Drizzle the maple syrup on top and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place the square of butter on the apple. 

Place the stuffed apple in an oven proof dish containing 2 inches of boiling water. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes until the bottom of the apple is fork tender. Serve with vanilla ice-cream or as is for a nutritious, delicious and decadent tasting dessert. 

 

Sumac Hummus

Hummus is my best friend on a lazy day (and all days). It is delicious, satisfying, healthy and versatile. In a pinch, it makes for the perfect kid lunch, slathered into a pita pocket with some chopped avocado thrown in. A large dollop with oven-roasted potatoes and sautéed greens makes for a very happy dinner and my son and his friends love dipping veggie sticks into it for a snack! I like it best on its own straight from the fridge, it's creaminess deceiving me into thinking I'm enjoying a forbidden treat. 

Packed with plant-based protein, good-for-you fats, iron, zinc, potassium, B vitamins like folate and gut-friendly fibre, this creamy classic from the Middle East can be yours to lap up in less than minutes. It's tempting to buy but ridiculously easy to make and even more delicious in its DIY version. 

Without further ado, let's get blending. 

RECIPE

Sumac Hummus
Baby, Toddler, Kid, Adult


Ingredients
1 15 oz can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tahini (white sesame paste)
Juice of one lemon
2 garlic cloves crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon plus a few extra pinches salt (skip for babies)
5 tablespoons cold water
Large pinch sumac (or cumin and paprika powders)

Method
Bled all the ingredients except the sumac (or cumin and paprika) until smooth, adding a splash more cold water if necessary to achieve a creamy texture. Check the salt and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with sumac (or cumin and paprika if you prefer) and drizzle with a little olive oil. Enjoy with crackers, chopped veg, on pita bread, in a sandwich or on its own. It should keep covered in the fridge for 3-5 days. 

 

Jazzy Spinach

Jazzy Spinach
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Green vegetables really are all they're chalked up to be.

Bursting with cancer-fighting phyto (plant-based) nutrients, as well as fibre, vitamin C, B vitamins like folate and minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron (great for vegetarians!), green vegetables have been an integral part of many healthy ancient diets.

Sadly, the intake of green veggies in the West today is far from optimal, with debilitating health consequences. 

So what's the big deal about greens anyway? Can't we get all the same nutrients from 'tastier', more kid-friendly veggies? Not so fast. 

A recent study shed even more light on the benefits of green veggies, which contain an important type of sugar called sulfoquinorose. Complicated nomenclature aside, these SQ sugars are food for the good bacteria in our guts. A healthy gut means a healthy you - this makes gut-friendly greens even more critical in our diets. 

Getting kids to eat their greens, however, isn't always an easy task. 

We have likely tried and failed, facing vehement rejection. We may have occasionally snuck them into soups, stews, fritters and frittatas in an effort to get our tots to enjoy their umpteen benefits.

While there's nothing wrong with occasionally disguising veggies, I was determined to get my almost 4 year old son to embrace and celebrate greens in their natural, pure, unadulterated form, in order to set the stage for a lifetime of 'green veggie loving' (wishful thinking?).

And so, I played around with a bag of frozen spinach until I found a recipe that was a home run. I share it with you today in the hope that your kids and families will enjoy it as much as we have.

Here's to loving our greens! 

A Note On Spinach And Oxalates
Spinach and some other greens contain oxalic acid which reduces the absorption of calcium from that same food. As long as you are not eating boatloads of spinach daily or relying on it as your main source of calcium, this should not be an issue. For this reason I also suggest varying your greens. Kale, Swiss Chard and Collard Greens are all worth bringing into your rotation.

Yield
Serves a family of 3-4

Ingredients
1.5 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tomato, finely chopped
250 g / 8 oz of frozen spinach (fresh is fine too)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adults only :)) 
salt to taste
squeeze of lemon juice

Method
In a saucepan for which you have a lid, heat the oil on medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle but not burn, about a minute. 

Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the turmeric and mix well until the spice opens up, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and sauté the mixture for 3 minutes. 

Stir in the frozen spinach and cover the pan with the lid for 5 minutes stirring the mixture every couple of minutes. This will speed up the thawing process. Take the lid off, lightly salt the spinach and sauté for 5 additional minutes. Add the cumin and coriander powders and sauté for 2-3 minutes until most of the water has evaporated. Check for salt and adjust seasoning. Shower with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Serve as a delicious and nutritious side dish. Layer onto a grilled cheese sandwich to make it ultra healthy or roll in a pita bread with hummus for the perfect, quick lunch. Stir into yoghurt for a cool summer side or serve on top of crackers as a snack. 

Creamy Cardamom Oatmeal

Do oats make a regular appearance on your family table? If not, I encourage you to welcome this nutritious grain into your family meal plan.  

Science Corner
Oats are a nutritious whole grain, brimming with minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc as well as B vitamins, all of which are super important for growing bodies and minds. Oats have fibre to promote digestive regularity, regulate blood sugar and cholesterol PLUS feed the good bugs in our digestive tracts. They are incredibly energising and satisfying, preventing you and your kids from reaching for that unhealthy mid-morning snack. The benefits are endless but most importantly, oats are darned delicious. Here, I show you how to perk up your usual oatmeal with cardamom and cinnamon for added excitement, health and flavour. Cardamom has anti-cancer, digestion boosting, anti-bacterial and anti-nausea effects and cinnamon, in addition to having a host of other benefits, is a potent stabiliser of blood sugar. 

Yield
1 adult and 1 toddler serving

Ingredients
1/2 cup whole grain rolled oats
1 1/2 cups milk of choice (we love almond milk)
1-2 cardamom pods lightly smashed to expose the aromatic seeds
Large pinch salt
2 teaspoons almond or your favourite nut butter
Maple syrup for drizzling
Handful berries of choice
Pinch cinnamon, preferably the Ceylon variety

Method
Bring the oats, milk, cardamom and salt to a gentle boil. 

Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook the oats until creamy, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Remove the cardamom pods, ladle into bowls, top with a teaspoon of almond butter, a drizzle of maple syrup, berries and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Stir well and enjoy. 

Crispy Chicken Tenders

Crispy Chicken Tenders
Toddler, Kid, Adult

A Note On Old Bay Seasoning
Old Bay is a classic American spice blend that is particularly popular on the East Coast of the US as well as in the South. Created by a German immigrant in the 1930s in Maryland, it contains myriad spices like celery salt, bay leaf, black pepper, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg and more and, to it's many fans, is one of those immediately identifiable flavours you can't get enough of. Usually paired with crab or shrimp, my husband decided to try it to enliven his take on Chicken Milanesa and the results were rather satisfying. If you can't find Old Bay, you can use sweet Spanish paprika, salt and pepper for an equally pleasing effect. 

Yield
2 adult and 2 kid servings (about 28 tenders)

Ingredients
For the chicken tenders
2 large chicken breasts
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
2.5 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 cup Japanese Panko breadcrumbs (regular will do if you can't find these)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme)
1 Egg
50 ml / scant 1/4 cup water
Coconut oil for frying

For the dipping sauce
1/4 cup plain Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch black pepper
Pinch dry thyme
3/4 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 lemon juiced

Method
Mix all the dipping sauce ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

Place the chicken breasts between two layers of cling film or parchment paper. Using a meat tenderiser or the flat section of a rolling pin. flatten the breasts into 1/4 inch thin cutlets. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. Slice into 4 inch by 1 inch strips. You should get 14-16 strips from each flattened chicken breast. Set aside. 

Put the flour with 1.5 teaspoons old bay seasoning in a plate. Mix well. Next, whisk the egg and water together in a shallow, wide bowl and place next to the flour. In a third plate, place the breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons of Old Bay and the thyme and mix well. 

Coat the chicken strips in flour, dusting off any excess. Transfer into the egg mixture coating well. Finally coat with the seasoned breadcrumbs and set aside on a plate. 

Heat a thin film of coconut oil in a skillet on medium. Shallow fry the tenders for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Serve with the yoghurt dipping sauce, our healthy, veggie packed paprika pomodoro or good ol' ketchup! 

 

Zesty BBQ Chicken

Zesty BBQ Chicken
Baby-led weaning, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Science Corner
When meat is cooked at high temperatures like when grilling on an open flame, the creatine, amino acids and sugars in the meat form chemical compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that cause mutations in our DNA and ultimately, at high enough doses, cancer (why does everything that's fun and delicious have a downside?! Boo). Fascinatingly, anti-oxidant rich marinades containing spices like turmeric and certain herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, mint) can substantially reduce HCA formation! This marinade combines several anti-oxidant spices for a flavour and anti-carcinogenic boost. Like I've said on many occasions, if only our conventional meds tasted this good. 

Yield
2 adult and 2 kid servings

Ingredients
6 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
1/4 cup plain, full-fat Greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon plus a large pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (skip for kids)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Melted butter or coconut oil for brushing
1 lime
Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Method
Using a sharp knife, score the skinless chicken drumsticks (i.e. make slits in the meat) and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the yoghurt, tomato paste, garlic, ginger salt, pepper and spices. Add the chicken and coat well with the marinade making sure it gets into the slits for more moisture and flavour. Refrigerate for 1-6 hours. 

30 minutes before BBQing or oven roasting, remove the meat from the fridge. If using the oven instead of the BBQ, pre-heat it to 200 C / 400 F.

If BBQing, cook the chicken on a pre-heated grill until done, about 35 minutes, flipping every 5 minutes to ensure even cooking (and to reduce HCA formation, discussed above). Brush with melted butter or oil to prevent it from drying.

Alternatively, roast the chicken in the pre-heated oven for 35 minutes turning every 10 minutes to ensure even cooking. Broil on high for 5 minutes, brushing with melted butter or oil to get a crisper finish. 

Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with lime juice, garnish with cilantro and serve. 

Spiced Carrot Muffins

Spiced Carrot Muffins
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Baking with vegetables is a genius idea for three wonderful reasons - added nutrition, natural sweetness and moisture. Carrots, in particular, are the perfect addition to cakes, muffins and breads. I created these whole grain, omega-3 fatty acid-rich, refined sugar-free, spiced carrot muffins to make my mornings less stressful, more nutritious and delicious.

Science Corner
Carrots are brimming with vitamin A, which is ultra important for good vision and critical for developing kids. Carrots contain fibre which helps with regularity and feeds the beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract. They also contain phytonutrients that prevent cancer and free radical damage to our DNA during normal metabolism. Whole wheat instead of regular processed flour is nutrient and fibre rich, helping with satiety and blood sugar control. Flax seeds are an amazing vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids which are important for brain development and the prevention of unnecessary inflammation making these nutrient-rich yummy muffins a treat you can feel really great about giving your kids and families. 

Yield
12 muffins

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup grated carrots
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (preferably Ceylon)
5 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup maple syrup (or honey) plus extra for drizzling
1/4 cup raisins

Method
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C.

Line a muffin tray with paper liners and set aside. 

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, flax meal, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Add in the vanilla, melted and cooled butter, milk and maple syrup and mix well. 

Add the carrots and raisins to the dry ingredients. Then add in the wet ingredients and mix until a batter forms without over-mixing. Allow the mixture to rest for a minute or two. 

Using an ice-cream scooper, transfer the muffin mixture into the paper liners two thirds of the way to the top. Create a small dent and add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon maple syrup in the centre of each muffin. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin emerges dry. Transfer onto a cooling rack. Once cooled, enjoy dipped in milk or with a hot cup of spiced chat for the perfect breakfast or mid-afternoon energy boosting, nutritious snack. 

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Cinnamon Maple Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are simply what the moniker implies - oats soaked in a liquid of choice overnight until they are softened into a pudding-like consistency, presenting themselves as the perfect canvas for additions and toppings like fruits, nuts, sweeteners and spices! The most fun aspect of this dish is getting your kid to make breakfast with you the night before. Talk about serious skin in the game. 

Science Corner
Oats contain a special kind of fibre called beta-glucan which has been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, boost immune function, stabilise blood sugar and even prevent breast cancer. Cinnamon has myriad health benefits including anti-diabetes, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, cognition-boosting, cancer-prevention and female hormone-balancing effects. Raisins are every kid's favourite and chockfull of fibre, potassium, iron, B vitamins and anti-oxidants. With calcium, vitamin D and magnesium from milk, this breakfast is a yummy nutrient powerhouse your kids and you can enjoy for an energetic and delicious start to your day. 

Yield
2 adult and 1 toddler serving

Ingredients
3/4 cup rolled oats (not steel cut or instant oats)
1 1/2 cups plain milk (or almond, soy or other milk of choice)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (preferably Ceylon)
1 tablespoon raisins
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
Few slivered almonds or walnuts (optional)

Method
Mix all the ingredients except the raspberries together and partition into 3 glass jars. Cover and store overnight in the fridge. Top with fresh raspberries or any fruit of choice and slivered nuts right before eating for a delicious and nutritious yet speedy breakfast. 

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Spiced Granola

Spiced Granola
Toddler, Kid, Adult

I must admit I've usually bought granola, thinking it's too complicated to make on my own, but boy was I wrong! Homemade granola is so easy to whip up and so much more nutritious and delicious when you play around with add ins yourself. Not to mention the irresistible aroma that floods your kitchen when its baking. It also makes for a thoughtful gift for a friend and is ideal for travel. I am sure this will become a breakfast and snack staple in your household just as it has in ours.  

Science Corner
In addition to the nutrition benefits of oats mentioned here, the nuts in this recipe are rich in protein, fibre, good quality fats, minerals like calcium and magnesium and vitamins E and B. Cranberries and raisins provide anti-oxidants and vitamins, coconut oil can prevent unwanted inflammation and the gentle sweetness of maple syrup is energising without setting off that dreaded sugar rush. 

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not steel cut or instant oats)
1/4 cup almonds coarsely chopped
1/4 cup cashews coarsely chopped
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (preferably Ceylon)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins

Method
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 F.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the cranberries and raisins. Mix well. 

Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet into a thin layer. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and transfer into a fresh bowl. Add the dried cranberries and raisins and allow the mixture to cool. Store in an airtight container for 2 months. Enjoy over yoghurt, layered in a fruit and yoghurt parfait, with your milk of choice or on its own as a crunchy, toast, sweet, slightly salty and spiced nutritious and delicious breakfast or snack. 

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Vroom Vroom Energy Balls

Vroom Vroom Energy Balls
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Yield
12-14 balls
Each bite contains 33 mg of Mg or 41% and 25% of the daily required intake of Mg for 1-3 and 4-8 year olds, respectively. 

Ingredients
1/2 cup almond butter
3/4 cup oats
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon (preferably Ceylon)

Method
Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blend well until the oats are broken down into granules and the ingredients are well combined into a crumbly dough. Shape the mixture into 3/4 inch diameter balls between the palms of your hands. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour to set. These will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks in an airtight container but they will most definitely not last that long, if my tot's obsession with them is any indication :). You can also freeze them for longer enjoyment. 

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Cumin Carrot Pea Potato Puree

Cumin Carrot Pea Potato Puree
6 months+

This jazzed up version of the classic combination of carrots, peas and potatoes is sure to enliven baby's taste buds and health. 

Yield
8 oz or 2 baby servings

Ingredients
1 medium carrot peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 medium potato peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon coconut or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid, place the carrots, peas and potato with 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a medium-low heat and steam for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. 

Take the lid off and add the oil and cumin to the vegetables, stirring well for about a minute, until the spice is well incorporated. Puree or mash and serve for a classic and tasty baby meal or leave in chunks and serve for baby to pick up and enjoy. Alternatively, add salt and serve as a veggie side dish for toddlers and older kids. 

Grandpa Ish's Peach Melba

Grandpa Ish's Peach Melba
Toddler, Kid, Adult

One of the best things about meeting my husband 14 odd years ago, besides the man himself of course <insert wink emoji>, was getting acquainted with his father. Ish, as he's lovingly called, is not only an amazing, loving and fun dad, dad-in-law and grandpa to toddler but also, as I mentioned here before, a Cordon Bleu trained professional chef and ex-restauranteur. You can safely assume that many recipes I concoct are in some shape or form inspired by him. Having grown up on the Fiji Islands, trained in classical French cooking and run restaurants in culinarily cutting-edge California, Ish cooks with precise technique married to tradition with truly innovative flavours thrown in, all without compromising heart and soul. 

On a recent visit to my in-law's home in sunny Florida, Ish whipped up an old classic, the Peach Melba, and we were all blown away. This French dessert, invented in the late 1800s by the renowned chef Auguste Escoffier, consists of a poached peach, vanilla ice-cream and raspberry sauce, and like most French desserts, does not disappoint. I was especially pleased that Ish's innovative spin on the dish included spices like cardamon, clove and star anise! In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion Monsieur Escoffier might have preferred this spiced, delicious interpretation of his famed creation. 

RECIPE

Yield
12 servings

Ingredients
6 peaches, cut in half and de-seeded
5 cardamom pods gently smashed
8 cloves
2 star anise
1/2 vanilla bean sliced lengthwise and scraped
6 tablespoons sugar
Water
10 oz frozen raspberries
1/2 lemon juiced
3/4 cup orange juice
vanilla ice-cream or plain Greek yoghurt
few leaves of fresh mint (optional)

Method

Place the peaches cut side up with the cardamom, cloves, star anise, vanilla bean and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a wide saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes until the peaches are fork tender. Take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a fresh dish. Skin the peaches by hand (the skins should slide off easily at this stage but you can use a small knife if necessary). Chill the peaches for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator. The peaches will keep for 2 days covered in the fridge.

Place the raspberries, lemon juice, orange juice and remaining sugar in a blender. Puree well and chill. 

When ready to serve, place a peach half in a serving bowl. Cover with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream or Greek yoghurt (for a healthier version). Drizzle generously with the raspberry sauce. Garnish with fresh mint and enjoy as a refreshing summer dessert. Don't forget to think of Auguste Escoffier and Grandpa Ish :).

Twice Baked Potato With Broccoli And Chicken

Twice Baked Potato With Chicken and Broccoli
6 months+, Baby-led weaning, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Note: Vegetarians can skip the chicken and still enjoy the recipe. A good protein-rich substitute could be shelled and cooked edamame. 

Yield
2 adults and 1 toddler

Ingredients
3 medium Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
Salt to taste
12 broccoli florets
2 cooked chicken breasts shredded, about 1 cup
(leftover roast chicken works well or use this brilliant method http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-moist-tender-chicken-breasts-every-time-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-36891)
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons grated Gruyere cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 425F / 220C. 

Jab the potato all over with a fork. Season generously with sea salt and wrap in foil. Place in the preheated oven for 40-60 minutes until fork tender. 

(If you're in a tearing hurry, you can also cook the jabbed and seasoned potato in a microwave for 5 minutes on each side.)

While the potato is cooking, steam the broccoli florets until cooked yet firm. If you don't have leftover shredded chicken, this is a good time to cook the chicken breasts using this fast and wonderful method: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-moist-tender-chicken-breasts-every-time-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-36891

Remove the cooked potatoes from the oven and carefully open up the foil. Cut each potato in half and gently scoop out the steaming flesh into a mixing bowl, retaining a thin layer near the skin to keep it intact. 

To the hot potato, add 3 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of grated cheese, nutmeg, broccoli, chicken and salt to taste and mix well, taking care not to mush up the broccoli florets. Scoop the mixture back into the potato skins. 

Divide the remaining butter and cheese on top of the potato boats and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and the tops are golden brown. Remove, allow to cool and dive right in. 

For babies, you can add some breast milk or formula to the potato, broccoli, chicken mixture and puree until smooth or encourage them to pick up chunks of the mixture and feed themselves for a perfect and delicious baby-led weaning experience. 

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Chinese Five Spice Meatballs

Chinese Five Spice Meatballs
Baby-led weaning, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Science Corner
The virus-fighting compound shikimic acid from star anise, ginger and fennel and quercetin from red onion and apple makes these delicious meatballs anti-viral bundles of deliciousness. Studies have shown that these two molecules together have potent virus combatting effects - in fact, shikimic acid is the starting point for the production of the world's best known anti-viral drug, Tamiflu! The next time the unwanted viral visitor shows, you know what to make. (Our Spice Spice Baby signature Pho recipe is also a delicious option)!

Yield
~20 meatballs

Ingredients
For the meatballs
1 slice whole wheat bread crust removed or 1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1/2 apple peeled and grated
1 carrot peeled and grated
125 g / 4.5 oz minced pork
125 g / 4.5 oz minced beef
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon homemade Chinese Five Spice (1/2 teaspoon if using store-bought)
1 egg

For the glaze
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey (swap to maple syrup for babies under 12 months)
Juice of 1 small orange

Method
Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. 

Pulse the bread in a food processor into bread crumbs. Set aside. 

In a pan, heat the oil on medium until shimmering. Soften the onion and ginger for 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, apple, carrot, meat, salt, spices and egg into the mixing bowl and mix well with a spoon or, if you don't mind, your hands. Mould the mixture into 3/4 inch diameter meatballs, placing them onto the lined baking sheet. 

Place the baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 15 minutes. 

While the meatballs are cooking, mix together the ingredients for the glaze. 

Remove the meatballs from the oven at the 15 minute mark. Brush each meatball with the glaze and return to the oven for another 5 -7 minutes. Transfer onto a serving platter and enjoy. 


 

Kid-Friendly Chinese Five Spice

Kid-Friendly Chinese Five Spice

Traditional Chinese Five Spice is an aromatic blend of fennel, clove, star anise, cinnamon and Sichuan peppercorns. I swap tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns (perhaps a bit much for the kids) with black peppercorns to make a kid-friendly blend that's perfect with chicken, pork and beef and divine in these delicious meatballs. 

Yield
3 tablespoons

Ingredients
4 star anise
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 Ceylon or 1 Cassia (regular) cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Method
Place the cinnamon sticks between a kitchen towel and smash the barks using a meat tenderizer or rolling pin. In a heavy bottom skillet or pan, dry roast all the spices on medium heat for 1-2 minutes until aromatic but not burnt, tossing the spices around every few seconds. Transfer to a coffee grinder (preferably dedicated to spices) and blend for 1-2 minutes until ground into a fine powder. Store in an air-tight container away from heat and light and use within 6 months.


Kid-Friendly Pho

Kid-Friendly Pho
Toddlers, Kids, Adults

It was during my first trip to Vietnam in 2014 that I saw star anise in all its glory, proudly displayed in restaurants, at pho street carts and local spice markets. Star anise is the distinctly Vietnamese aromatic that makes the classic noodle soup dish known as pho what it is (pronounced "fuh" like "huh"). I have modified the classic to make a kid-friendly version that's also perfect for the family table. 

Science Corner
As mentioned above, shikimic acid from star anise is the starting material for the pharmaceutical industry's most successful anti-viral drug, Tamiflu. Shikimic acid when combined with the natural compound quercetin is a potent anti-viral. I took star anise and ginger as sources of shikimic acid and combined them with red onions that are a rich source of quercetin to make a chicken broth for our pho that is an anti-viral powerhouse and delicious to boot. 

Yield
2 adult and 2 toddler servings

Ingredients
NOTE: Quercetin is a beneficial compound found in the outer layers of red onion. When peeling, try not to remove any layers beyond the thin skin! 
250 g (about 1/2 lb chicken), preferably thigh or leg on bone
1 medium red onion, quartered
1 inch ginger root thinly sliced
2 star anise
1/2 teaspoon white coriander seeds (optional)
8 cups water
4 fistfulls rice or buckwheat noodles
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
salt to taste
1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro (optional) 
1 lime quartered (optional)

Method
In a small skillet or non-stick pan, dry roast the star anise and coriander for 30-60 seconds on medium heat until aromatic but not burnt.

Place the spices, chicken, onion, ginger, and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium for a gentle simmer. Skim the foam as it arises checking every 20 minutes for more foam. Allow the broth to simmer for 1 hour. 

Once the broth has been simmering for 50 minutes, remove the chicken pieces using tongs. Shred the meat off the bone and set aside.

Cook the noodles in salted boiling water. Drain and set aside. 

Add the fish sauce to the broth and salt to taste. Strain the broth into a fresh pot.

Ladle the broth into serving bowls. Add noodles and some chicken. Serve with lime and cilantro on the side and steamed broccoli for the perfect, balanced toddler and family meal. 

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Spiced Potato Patties

My favourite savoury snack growing up in India was Aloo Tikki or Indian potato cakes, particularly the ones made by my Dadiji / Grandma. Mashed potatoes mixed with spices and bread crumbs and fried to a perfect golden brown - I mean, need I say more?! I'd get home from school and wish with all my heart that those crisp, pillowy delights were waiting for their rightful devourer. Sometimes I'd get lucky and most of the time, I'd get a plate of fruit, but regardless of the frequency, the deliciousness and joy of those potato cakes has remained etched in my memory.

If you've been reading my recent posts, you'll know that I'm currently (and probably will be forever more) obsessed with the potato. First I talked about why potatoes are a kid superfood and here, I got all geeky and excited about why cooked and cooled potatoes are essentially the new kale. 

So yes, you can go ahead and call me the potato lady. I'll accept the moniker. 

Today I present a nutritious version of my beloved childhood potato cake that is ideal for the lunchbox and the family table. Cooled in the lunchbox, these energising patties provide resistant starch that feed the friendly bugs in our colon, promoting digestive and overall health and vitality. Enjoyed hot or cold, they are brimming with complex carbohydrate for sustained energy as well as B and C vitamins, highly absorbable minerals, complete protein and fibre. Spiced lightly with digestion boosting and iron-rich cumin, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer turmeric and anti-bacterial cilantro, these are 'I can't believe it's good for me' delicious. I hope your kids love them as much as we do. 

RECIPE

Spiced Potato Patties
Baby led weaning, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Yield
12 3 inch diameter patties (you can freeze the uncooked patties for later)

Ingredients
For the potato cakes
6 Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and quartered
Salt
3 slices whole wheat bread, crust removed
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 cup loosely packed coriander leaves, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Coconut oil for frying

For the sauce
1/2 cup plain Greek yoghurt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Method
Place the potatoes in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and reduce to a simmer. Cook potatoes until fork tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. 

Dunk the bread slices in water for 10 seconds. Remove and squeeze out all the water. Break up into pieces and add to a mixing bowl. Add the cooled potatoes, spices, chopped coriander, lime and salt to taste and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Mould the mixture into 3 inch diameter patties. At this point, you can freeze for later use or store in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Mix all the sauce ingredients and set aside. 

To cook the potato cakes, fill a non-stick pan with coconut oil about 1/4 inch deep and heat on medium high until shimmering. Fry the cakes, 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel and serve with a dollop of the yoghurt sauce as a side to grilled chicken or fish or with your favourite veg or of course, pack in the lunchbox for a delicious, kid-approved meal. 

Potato Salmon Salad

Potato Salmon Salad
Baby led weaning, 12 months+ 

Loosely inspired by the traditional salade nicoise, this cold potato, veggie and salmon salad with a honey sweetened vinaigrette was the first salad toddler EVER ate so I had to share it here. This versatile option allows the incorporation of cooked and cooled potatoes into your kid's diet in a healthy and fun way. You can serve it with one of the suggested dressings as a traditional salad or as finger food with a side of our favourite hummus or any veggie dip your family loves. 

Yield
2 toddler servings

Ingredients
For the salad
4 oz salmon filet, preferably wild
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt to taste
6 small waxy potatoes (like new potatoes)
16 French green beans (haricots verts), ends trimmed
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small cucumber, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 small radish, finely sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped parsley (optional)

For the dressing
Option 1: Tahini Honey
1 small clove garlic crushed (optional)
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 teaspoons honey depending on sweetness desired (skip for babies under 12 months)
salt and pepper to taste

Option 2: Honey Dijon
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1.5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons honey depending on sweetness desired (skip for babies under 12 months)
salt and pepper to taste

Method
Preheat the oven to 375 F / 180 C.

Season the salmon with salt and paprika and cook in the preheated oven for 18 minutes until flaking. Finish with a 2 minute broil on high heat. Remove and set aside to cool. 

While the salmon is cooking, cook the potatoes until knife-tender either by boiling, steaming or using my favourite method, a pressure cooker (the low amount of water required and quick cooking ensures optimal preservation of nutrients). Allow the potatoes to cool. 

Steam the green beans until tender. Set aside to cool. 

Peel and slice the cooled potatoes and flake the salmon. Arrange in a bowl with the remaining veggies and garnish with freshly chopped parsley if your kids will tolerate it. Serve with the dressing on the side or mixed in, depending on preference. Feel free to add other veggies (avocados, peppers, carrots) and even a hard boiled egg to up the protein ante. Makes for a great lunch box option as well.



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