Nana's Shepherd's Pie

On a recent visit to Hong Kong, Grandma, aka 'Nana', whipped up her famous Shepherd's Pie. Based on the reaction of toddler and his friends, I knew the world needed this recipe! Thanks to beautiful, talented, hilarious, full of life Nana and her guest post this week, we can now all enjoy this nutritious, heart and belly-warming spiced up classic on our family tables.

GUEST POST
Nana's Shepherd's Pie
by Stephanie Koya / Nana

When I was a little girl, I used to beg my mother to make Shepherd's Pie. It was my favorite, so simple yet yummy. I vividly remember the smell of the herbs, onion and garlic as the mince was cooking on the stove top. I make it quite often in the cooler months of Florida, spiced up with cinnamon and clove, which complement the beef beautifully. My son Shariff told me that if he had to have one last meal, it would be my Shepherd's Pie with creamy, buttery, mashed, sweet paprika-spiced potatoes on top! As you can imagine, I was over the moon, and even more so, when my grandson tried it and did his 'yummy dance'. "Mmmmmmm Nana" he said and I just felt like I was going to burst with joy. I hope you enjoy it and get a yummy dance from your kids too.

RECIPE

Nana's Shepherd's Pie
Baby Led Weaning Friendly, Toddlers, Kids, Adults

Science Corner
Iron is critical for the production of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying component of red blood cells. These cells transport oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body, including the muscles. Iron deficiency, if left untreated, can cause fatigue and weakness and more seriously, growth and developmental delays. After 6 months of age, babies', toddlers' and kids' diets must provide sufficient iron.  For kids who eat an omnivorous diet, beef is a superb source of iron. Here, it comes together with vitamin-rich veggies, anti-oxidant rich spices and natural starches to create the perfect, satisfying, balanced meal for the family table. 

Yield
6-8 toddler servings

Ingredients
2 tablespoons neutral oil like canola or ghee
1 onion finely chopped
1 celery stick finely chopped
2 large carrots finely chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
3/4 lb or 350 g minced beef (or lamb, if you prefer a more gamey flavor)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon mixed herbs (like herbes de Provence)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cloves ground about 1/8 teaspoon
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon flour
5 Russett potatoes peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup milk
1/2 stick or 4 tablespoons butter
1 cup peas
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sweet paprika

Method
Preheat the oven to 375 F / 180C. 

In a heavy bottom, preferably oven-proof pot for which you have a lid, heat the oil or ghee on medium. Add the onion, celery and carrots and sautee until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee until fragrant, about another minute. Add the beef and brown the meat, stirring well, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf, herbs, tomato paste, dijon and spices and sautee until well mixed, about a minute. Add the chicken stock and stir well. Whisk in the flour to thicken the gravy slightly breaking up any clumps. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook with the lid on for about 30 minutes. 

While the mince is cooking, In a pot for which you have a lid, cover the potatoes with water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add 1 teaspoon of salt and cook on medium-high uncovered for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain and return to the pot over low heat, add the milk, 1/2 the butter, salt and pepper to taste, stirring until well mixed and creamy. Take off the heat and set aside. 

Once you've crossed the 30 minute mark with the minced beef, add the peas, salt and pepper to taste and some water if the mixture is dry and cook covered for another 10 minutes. Taste the mince and season with more salt if necessary. Remove the bay leaf. 

Cover the meat mixture with the mashed potatoes and smooth out with a fork. Sprinkle with paprika and thin slices of the remaining butter. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the top is golden and the mince is bubbling. Serve with a side salad for an adult dinner party or as is for the yummiest toddler bash. 

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Cardamom Chocolate Energy Balls

CARDAMOM CHOCOLATE ENERGY BALLS
Toddler, Kid, Adult

This past rainy weekend brought with it an intense chocolate craving and my stash was out. In a moment of desperation, I whipped up these 'laddoos' or energy balls with the only chocolate I had on hand - raw cacao . I wasn't expecting fireworks but boy oh boy were these AMAZING. Packed with protein, iron, calcium, fiber, anti-oxidants and a host of other nutrients, these cardamom chocolate energy balls have become toddler's favorite snack and the best part - he hasn't asked for 'real' chocolate since! 

Science Corner
As discussed in a previous post, cardamom has a range of scientifically proven health benefits including anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, digestion-promoting, detoxifying and anti-nausea effects. In one study, the effect of a blend of essential oils from ginger, peppermint, spearmint and cardamom was assessed on post-operative nausea in 300 patients. Both nausea levels and the need for anti-nausea medications were reduced in a statistically significant manner in the aromatherapy treated group versus controls! Raw cacao is minimally processed cacao to preserve all the magic of the cacao bean, including anti-oxidants and polyphenols. Tahini is a wonderful non-dairy source of calcium and protein and oats have heart-healthy fiber. All of these beautiful ingredients join forces to make these ultra delicious superfood delights you can feel amazing about feeding your family. 

Yield
About 15 balls

Ingredients
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 cloves cardamom, seeds removed and ground
1/4 cup oats
4 dates pitted
1 tablespoon cacao powder (preferably raw for a nutritional punch)
2 tablespoons honey

Method
Blend all the ingredients in a good processor until smooth. Using your hands, shape the mixture into 1 inch diameter balls. Allow them to set in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes. They should last for 5-7 days in the fridge if you can wait that long to finish them! They are perfect as an energizing mid-morning snack, in the lunchbox or whenever a chocolate craving strikes. 




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Cinnamon Banana Oat Pancakes

CINNAMON BANANA OAT PANCAKES
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Science Corner
As discussed in a previous post, cinnamon has a plethora of science-backed health benefits like anti-diabetes, cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, anti-Parkinson's and female hormone balancing activities - all in once spice, that's pretty darned remarkable. Oats contain a special kind of fiber called beta-glucan which has been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, boost immune function, stabilize blood sugar and even prevent breast cancer. Bananas are an excellent source of potassium which is critical for heart function. Creamy and naturally sweet, they contain fiber to promote digestion and are a 'PREbiotic' - food that feeds the good bacteria in your digestive tract. All of these nutritional powerhouses join forces with anti-oxidant and vitamin-rich berries and omega-3 and calcium-rich chia seeds in this delicious and decadent breakfast that is the perfect, sustainably energizing and nutritious way to start your tot's (and your) day. 

Yield
8 pancakes

Ingredients

For the pancakes
2 bananas
2 eggs
1 cup oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional, for an added health boost)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (preferable Ceylon as discussed previously here)
Butter or coconut oil for cooking

For the berry compote
1 cup frozen or fresh mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon water
 

Method
In a small saucepan, cook the berries, ginger and water over medium low flame for 10 minutes until the fruit is soft and mashable with a fork. While the compote is cooking, blend all the pancake ingredients except the butter / oil in a food processor into a smooth batter. Set aside. 

Turn the heat off the compote, stir in the honey and taste for sweetness, adding more honey if necessary. Transfer to a bowl and allow it to cool. 

In a skillet or non-stick pan, heat 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or butter over medium heat. Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour in the pancake batter and cook until it sets, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for about a minute. Wipe the pan clean with a dish towel between pancakes to prevent burning. 

Serve the pancakes with a generous dollop of cooled berry compote. The compote is also wonderful with plain yoghurt or spread on buttered bread. 




Cinnamon Nutmeg Vanilla French Toast

CINNAMON NUTMEG VANILLA FRENCH TOAST
Toddler, Kid, Adult


Science Corner
As discussed in a previous post on the science-backed health benefits of cinnamon, this miracle spice can temper the effect of sugar on the body. Studies on type II diabetics have shown that even less than 1/2 a teaspoon a day of cinnamon for 4 months reduces blood sugar levels. There is evidence that cinnamon improves the function of insulin, the hormone that coaxes our cells to soak up blood sugar and use it for energy. Rice pudding flavored with cinnamon spikes blood sugar less than bland rice pudding. It's no wonder then that we encourage the use of cinnamon in any carb-heavy, sugary treat and this delicious French Toast is no exception! 

Yield
2 adult and 1 toddler portions
 
Ingredients
1 loaf of challah or soft white bread (unsliced)
3 Eggs
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon  cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Maple Syrup
Fresh fruit (banana or berries)
 
Method
Crack eggs into a shallow square bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add the milk and stir with a fork until mixed. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Stir again until well mixed and set aside.

Cut off the ends of the challah bread. Cut the middle section into ¾ inch thick slices.
 
Heat griddle (or frying pan) on medium heat. Once water sizzles and evaporates the pan is ready. Brush the pan with butter. 
 
One piece of bread at a time, dip into egg mixture until both sides are well coated, and place onto hot, buttered griddle. Cook each side for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh blueberries or a few slices of banana and a drizzle of maple syrup. Some powdered sugar is also a nice touch. 


Mouthwatering Mushroom Pizzas

MOUTHWATERING MUSHROOM PIZZAS
Toddler, Kid, Adult


Mushrooms are a MEGA superfood and so earthy and delicious but sadly for this mama, toddler hates them. Determined to find a preparation that he will eat, I created these portobello pizzas with the mushroom as the base and my homemade veggielicious paprika pomodoro as sauce. When two whole 'pizzas' were inhaled in our first test, I knew we had a winner on our hands. 

Science Corner
Mushrooms are powerful regulators of our immune system, keeping unwanted inflammation at bay while simultaneously activating microorganism-fighting capability. As a result of their anti-inflammatory effects, mushrooms are protective against cancer, particularly breast and prostate cancers, and cardiovascular ailments, both diseases linked to high levels of unwanted inflammation. Mushrooms contains powerful anti-oxidants like selenium, manganese and zinc and also boost anti-oxidant enzyme function directly. They also contain ergothioneine, a compound that works as an antioxidant and prevents DNA damage. I once heard a cancer biologist say that a mushroom a day is all you need to keep cancer away! An oversimplification most likely but these earthy delights are worth incorporating into a healthy lifestyle regularly. 

Yield
2 toddler servings

Ingredients
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
Olive oil for brushing
Salt and pepper to taste
1.5 cups pomodoro (try my deliciously simple and ultra healthy recipe here)
Block of mozarella cheese sliced into 4-6 1/4 inch slices or grated cheese if you prefer
Chopped basil for garnish
Sweet paprika for sprinkling

Method
Preheat the oven at 375F/180C.

Brush the mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them stem side down on a roasting pan and roast for 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and spoon in the pomodoro until the cavity is filled (about 2 tablespoons each mushroom). Place the mozzarella slices on top and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and slightly golden. Let the mushrooms cool a bit, sprinkle with chopped basil to humor yourself (toddler ALWAYS rejects the 'green things'), sweet paprika and enjoy! 






Paprika Pomodoro

Store-bought pasta sauce is tempting because of the convenience factor but this tangy, delicious and vegetable-infused paprika pomodoro is so easy to make that I bet you won't be as tempted at the grocery store once you've tried it. You can add whichever veggies you choose and puree for a smooth texture. We use it with whole grain pasta, over portobello mushroom or regular pizzas and even as a substitute for ketchup! 

Science Corner
Kids love tomato sauce and luckily, tomatoes are bursting with nutrients. Rich in vitamin C and biotin, anti-oxidants like lycopene (released on cooking) and a boatload of phytonutrients, tomatoes have heart and bone health-boosting as well as anti-cancer properties. Paprika contains a potent anti-inflammatory compound called capsinoid. The strongest scientific evidence for paprika is for its anti-obesity effects - researchers from Penn State University observed significant increases in antioxidant status and decreases in insulin and triglyceride levels in human subjects after a meal laced with a spice blend (containing 30% paprika) versus the same exact meal without spices. 

Yield
500 g / 4 toddler pasta sauce servings

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
2 celery sticks finely chopped
2 carrots finely chopped
2 cups tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste
splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid, warm the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and sautee for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and sautee for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the carrot and celery and sautee until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato puree, bay leaf and paprika and give the sauce a good stir. Cover and cook on a low flame for 15 minutes until the veggies are softened stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. You can also add zucchini, spinach etc (which will alter the color of the sauce) if you like. Once the veggies are cooked, season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. If you like more acidity, you can add the vinegar at this point. Remove the bay leaf and puree for a smooth texture or leave it chunky, if you prefer. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days for a quick and delicious option in a pinch. Serve it with whole grain pasta, in mushroom pizzas or as a healthy alternative to ketchup! 










Cumin-y Refreshing Spinach Soup

As far as I'm concerned, kids can't eat too many green veggies! This cold and refreshing spinach soup has been a surprising hit with my toddler and also works beautifully on the family table. Serve it with a hot grilled cheese multigrain sandwich for a satisfying and nutritious lunch or summer supper. 

Science Corner
Spinach is one of the most nutritious veggies we can give our kids and families. It's rich in carotenoids (converted into vitamin A in the body), vitamins B, C, E, K and minerals like iron, magnesium, manganese and calcium although the calcium in spinach is poorly absorbed because of it's high oxalic acid content. One way around this is to boil the spinach (which we do here) to reduce the oxalate content. Combined with Greek yoghurt, digestion boosting and antioxidant rich cumin and lemon, which boosts the absorption of iron, this cool and refreshing spiced soup is yummy and healthy for all. 

Yield
2 adults and a toddler as a side dish or starter

Ingredients
5 cups spinach leaves
1 cup water for cooking the spinach
1 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
1/2 lemon juiced
olive oil for drizzling
1 teaspoon fresh chopped coriander

Method
Place the spinach leaves and water in a pot with a lid. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Puree extremely well in a food processor or using an immersion blender. Allow it to cool. If your toddler/kid is averse to texture, particularly shreds of spinach (mine is!), you can strain for a smoother soup texture or feel free to leave as is. 

Mix the yoghurt with the cooled spinach and stir in the cumin, salt, sugar and lemon. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and coriander (if your kid doesn't hate "green things") as a refreshing and nutritious starter or side. 






Cinnamon, Chocolate Chip Pancakes

As you know, I am obsessed with healthy pancakes - spelt, oat, buckwheat - so I was rather taken aback one Sunday when hubby asked for "regular pancakes" and toddler chimed in "with chocolate chips!". To prove that I too can be fun sometimes, I whipped up these fluffy, buttermilk pancakes but, of course, added the miracle spice cinnamon to keep the blood sugar spike in check. 

Yield
5-6 4inch diameter pancakes

Ingredients
1 cup self-raising flour
1 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon (or 1/2 teaspoon of the more commonly available Cassia cinnamon)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly ground over a microplane
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Butter for the skillet

Method
In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Add the wet to the dry ingredients slowly, whisking into a smooth batter without over-mixing. Fold in the chocolate chips. Allow the mixture to rest for a minute or two to relax the gluten and prevent the pancakes from turning rubbery. 

In a small skillet or non-stick pan, heat a knob of butter over medium until melted. Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour the pancake batter into the pan. Once the pancake has set (1-2 minutes), flip it and cook for another minute or so until golden brown but not burnt. 

Serve with fresh fruit or more chocolate chips and maple syrup for a truly decadent and delicious treat. 





Cinnamon Chocolate Smoothie

Cinnamon Chocolate Smoothie
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Yield
2 toddler servings depending on appetite!

Ingredients
3/4 cup almond milk
1 banana frozen
1 date
1 teaspoon raw cacao powder (regular is fine but you really do miss out on major health benefits!)
1/4 cup chopped strawberries
1/2 teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon if using the widely available Cassia variety)

Method
Blend ingredients until smooth. Enjoy for a burst of luxurious, delicious nutrition for breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack. 

Healthy Chocolate Chip Muffins

Healthy Chocolate Chip Muffins 
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Science Corner
Oats contain a special kind of fiber called beta-glucan which has been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, boost immune function, stabilize blood sugar and even prevent breast cancer. Bananas are an excellent source of potassium which is critical for heart function. Creamy and naturally sweet, they contain fiber which aids digestion and is a 'PREbiotic' - food that feeds the good bacteria in your digestive tract. Mangoes are brimming with carotenids like alpha and beta-carotene, which are precursors to Vitamin A production in the body and potent anti-cancer agents due to their antioxidant free radical scavenging activities. Vitamin A is especially important for eye development in children - being fat soluble, it is well absorbed in these greek yoghurt muffins. Mangoes also offer a boatload of Vitamin C and some B vitamins, particularly folate - if you're pregnant and looking for sources of folic acid, you can devour these with your kids. With blood sugar-stabilizing and anti-inflammatory cinnamon, a touch of honey, low glycemic coconut palm sugar and a few indulgent milk and white chocolate chips, these muffins are just the right amount of decadent while still being so good for you. A truly delicious and nutritious way to start your day!

Yield
12 muffins

Ingredients
2 cups whole grain rolled oats
3/4 cup full fat Greek yoghurt
1 banana
1 cup chopped mango (~ 1 medium mango)
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips

Method
Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C. Grease a muffin tray or line cavities with paper liners. 

Blend all the ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips saving a few for sprinkling on top of the muffins before baking. Scoop batter into muffin cups until each cavity is about 2/3 full and sprinkle a couple of chocolate chips on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin emerges dry. Allow the muffins to cool. Serve or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes for a perfect, healthy lunchbox item too! 

 






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Veg, Raisin, Pepita Quinoa Pilaf

VEG, RAISIN & PEPITA QUINOA PILAF
Toddler, Kid, Adult

They say you shouldn't cook with ingredients you can't pronounce but quinoa is a definite exception. Pronounced keen-wa, this seed is an ancient superfood that has fed the Incas of South America for centuries. This dish is inspired by my husband who loves the idea of quinoa but finds it boring and uninspiring plain. Wanting to integrate it into our family table, I enliven it in this spiced and healthy pilaf, a winner with toddler and dad, making me a very happy mummy. 

Science Corner
A spate of recent research suggests that plant-based diets can stave off a host of chronic diseases. We incorporate organic meat and wild caught fish into our diet to ensure sufficient vitamin B12, protein and other important nutrients but we also believe that an occasional meat-free meal rich in fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients is just as important for our health. In these scenarios, I often turn to quinoa. It's a rare vegetarian source of complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids, .rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium and manganese and bursting with fiber, anti-inflammatory compounds and anti-oxidants. I make a bit batch at the beginning of the week to use in this pilaf for a light lunch, salads, breakfast porridge and a rice substitute accompanying grandma's Goan Fish Curry that toddler adores. 

Ingredients
For the pilaf

1 cup quinoa rinsed well to remove the bitter coating of saponins
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 tablespoon raisins
1 teaspoon pepitas or pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
salt to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice

For the sauce
4 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon Zataar spice (thyme, sesame, sumac, salt found in Middle Eastern markets or you can make your own! A lovely post and recipe here: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/zaatar-recipe.html)
more salt to taste 
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Method
Bring the quinoa with 2.5 cups of water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 10 minutes until the quinoa is dry and can be fluffed up with a fork. 

While the quinoa is cooking, heat the olive oil in a pot for which you have a lid on a medium flame. Saute the chopped shallot until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add the broccoli, carrots, raisins, pepitas, cumin, coriander and salt and saute for 2 minutes to mix well and roast the veggies. Add 1/4 cup water, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the veggies are softened to your liking, adding more water for additional steaming if necessary. Mix in 1 cup of the cooked quinoa. Save the rest for the week for salads, porridge and a healthy and nutty rice substitute. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and check the salt. 

For the sauce, mix all the ingredients well. Serve on top of the quinoa for a luxurious, creamy finish. Save extras for dipping with your favorite crusty bread or chopped veggies for a yummy, nutritious snack. 


 

 

 










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Cardamom Chocolate Popsicles

Cardamom Chocolate Popsicles
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Science Corner
Cardamom oh cardamom! I know we've talked ad nauseam about your health benefits but we won't stop now. Beauty is not just skin-deep when it comes to this gorgeous, aromatic, luxurious spice. Not only does it impart an exquisite flavor and aroma but carries tremendous health benefits like anti-cancer, anti-nausea, digestion-boosting, detoxification and antibacterial effects. I have a cardamom, ginger and cinnamon-spiced tea every single morning (especially when the previous night involved a bit too much wine - hey it's good for the liver this cardamom!) and when my son has a cough, he gets cardamom-scented porridge whether he likes it or not. Luckily for me, he loves his carda-mom (hehe sorry too many popsicles eaten in the test kitchen today). These tasty treats are calcium-rich, anti-oxidant packed (from the mango, unsweetened chocolate and cardamom) and gently sweet. We seriously cannot get enough. 

Yield
4-5 popsicles

Ingredients
1 cup plain, full-fat Greek yoghurt
1 cup chopped ripe mango (frozen is fine)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsweetened coco powder
2 cardamom pods dry roasted for 1-2 minutes, seeds removed and ground (skip the dry roasting if you're ok with a milder flavor)

Method
Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Pour into your favorite popsicle mold until frozen. Devour. Rinse. Repeat. 

We were honored to first share this recipe as a guest post on the blog of one of our favorite baby and kid's clothing brands Baby Hero. Theirs' is such an inspiring story where ethical fashion saves lives of moms and babies in remote corners of the globe. Please do check them out. Buying adorable onesies may never have felt as fulfilling! 


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'Badbadi' - Black-Eyed Pea Curry

Badbadi - Black-Eyed Pea Curry
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Science Corner
In addition to aiding heart health discussed here, black-eyed peas are a superb non-dairy source of calcium - 1 cup has 183 mg vs milk that has 300 mg. They are also packed with complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, some protein, low levels of fat, folate and vitamin K, which helps the body retain calcium - a winning combination! Their fiber feeds beneficial bacteria in our guts allowing them to produce important molecules like butyrate. Butyrate maintains the health of our large intestine, prevents inflammation, boosts metabolism and even prevents colon cancer! Needless to say, adding these nutrient powerhouses to your kids' and family's diet is a fabulous idea. Here, they merge with anti-inflammatory turmeric, digestion-boosting spices like asafoetida (hing), cumin and coriander (which also contains a good amount of vitamin K!) and anti-bacterial bay leaf in a curry that will warm the bellies and hearts of your entire family. Not to mention that this is also the perfect dish to sneak in those greens - spinach anyone? 

NOTE ON COOKING BEANS RIGHT
To ameliorate the gassiness of beans, it's a good idea to use digestion-boosting spices like ginger, asafoetida (hing), cumin, coriander and / or bay leaf. Rinsing and soaking the beans also gets rid of some of the gas-causing oligosaccharides. Finally, boiling the beans uncovered for 5-10 minutes and skimming the foam helps reduce the gassiness. We deploy all of these techniques here!  

Yield
4 toddler or 2 adult servings

Ingredients
1 cup black-eyed peas, rinsed and soaked overnight
1/2 onion
2 tomatoes
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
2 tablespoons neutral oil like canola
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Pinch, about 1/16th teaspoon asafoetida (hing) (optional)
1 dry bay leaf
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander / cilantro powder
1/4 cup frozen chopped spinach (can use fresh)
Salt to taste

Method
Discard the soaking water and set the beans aside.

In a food processor, blend the onion, tomato and ginger into a smooth puree.

In a pressure cooker or pot for which you have a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and allow to brown and turn aromatic, about 15 seconds. Add the turmeric and hing and sauté until the spices bloom, about 10 seconds. Add the onion, tomato, ginger puree and sauté until roasted, about 8 minutes.

If using a pressure cooker, add the beans, bay leaf and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil uncovered for 5 minutes, skimming off foam as it arises. Seal the pressure cooker and cook on high for 3 minutes until pressure builds and releases. Reduce heat to a low setting and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure release entirely, about 5 minutes. Open the pressure cooker and check the beans for doneness - they should be soft. If not, cook them longer until soft. You can also do this in a slow cooker. 

If using a pot, add the beans, bay leaf and 4.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil uncovered for 10 minutes, skimming off foam as it arises. Cover, reduce heat to low and allow the beans to cook for 60 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to ensure the beans are submerged (adding more water if not) and aren't sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the beans are soft, take the lid off and turn the heat back up to medium. 

To the cooked beans in either the pressure cooker or pot, add more water if necessary (usually 1/2 cup for pressure cooker and 1-2 cups for pot), ground cumin, coriander, salt and spinach and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for seasoning and serve over white or brown rice for a complete, nutritious, calcium-rich meal. We served it here with a delicious potato raita (recipe coming soon!)

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Garlicky Guacamole

GARLICKY GUACAMOLE
Toddler, Kid, Adult

You know you've nailed a dish when everyone requests you to make it for their parties, including kids' birthdays! That recipe for me is this garlicky guac. The mere addition of garlic elevates an already perfect classic to the upper echelons of deliciousness. The garlic adds a subtle heat, a nuance, a depth that keeps folks guessing what 'that secret ingredient' might be. And kids seem to love it too which is, for us, the ultimate thumbs up.

Nutrition
Garlic is one of the oldest medicinal foods. A sulfur containing compound called allicin in garlic is responsible for its potent biological properties including reduction in bad cholesterol (LDL) and an increase in good cholesterol (HDL), anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects, reduction in triglycerides and immune boosting activities. Avocados are a potent anti-inflammatory food, rich in anti-oxidants and a source of excellent quality fat that aids in keeping inflammation in check and prevents heart disease. The raw shallots in this recipe also contain allicin like in garlic, boosting the aforementioned health benefits. 

Yield
Serves 4 adults and 1 toddler as an appetizer/snack

Ingredients
4 large avocados
2 shallots finely chopped
1 large garlic clove crushed
2 large limes juiced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander / cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste

Method
Mash the avocado flesh in a bowl, a good activity to involve toddler in! Add in the other ingredients and mix well. Check for salt and lime, adding more if necessary. Enjoy with chips, raw veggies, in sandwiches or on its own for a delectable, delightful, creamy, nutritious treat. 




Caraway Green Beans

CARAWAY GREEN BEANS
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Nutrition
Caraway may seem less familiar to us in the West but you have probably had it in Rye bread and the German delicacy Sauerkraut (or pickled cabbage). In Eastern Europe, caraway's medicinal powers are thought to be able to "cure every disease but death"! It's used as a digestive aid, to treat skin and respiratory infections, headaches and toothaches. There is emerging clinical evidence for it's ability to regulate the thyroid gland and endocrine systems. Here, it enlivens simple green beans in a unique and delicious flavor profile that complements any meat or fish main dish nicely. We chopped up the beans for the kiddos but you can leave them long with ends trimmed for a prettier effect and interesting finger food for more adventurous tots.

Yield
Generously serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients
1 lb French green beans (haricots verts) both ends trimmed
Water for blanching the beans 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon caraway seeds 
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method
Bring a pot of water to boil and add a generous spoonful of sea salt. Add the green beans and blanche by boiling for just over a minute for crisp beans or longer for softer ones (if your kids, like mine, prefer them less crunchy). Transfer the beans to a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking and retain freshness. Once cool, drain and dry the beans with a dish towel. 

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium flame until warm but not smoking. Add the caraway seeds and sauté until they start popping a bit but not burning, about 1-2 minutes. Add the green beans and sauté for another 1-2 minutes until the beans are coated with the caraway seeds and oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve. 

Note: If your kids don't love the texture of the seeds in their mouth, you can add the seeds to the oil on a very low flame and let the flavor infuse the oil for about 5 minutes. Drain the oil into a fresh pan through a sieve that can filter out the seeds. Use the flavored oil to cook the beans. You can also puree the beans with a little water or cooked carrots for a tasty baby veggie side. 

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Avocado Tomato Edamame Salad

This salad is the perfect side for meals where you wish you had some more veggies on the table but just haven't the time or energy to make it happen. We love it with our turmeric hummus pita pocket for a quick, tasty and nutritious lunch. 

Nutrition
As discussed in our calcium series, edamame are a great non-dairy source of calcium with one cup providing 100 mg of this important mineral for bone, teeth and other health. They also provide good quality plant protein. iron, vitamin C and fiber. Avocados are the new 'black' when it comes to nutrition - everyone is eating them constantly and for good reason. With good quality fats that improve heart health and cholesterol, vitamin K which improves the retention of calcium, folate, fiber and vitamin C, these creamy treats from nature are an essential superfood. Tomatoes also provide a burst of vitamin C and vitamin K among other nutrients making this a thrown together in seconds salad you can feel incredibly good about. 

Yield
1-2 toddler servings

Ingredients 
1/2 avocado chopped
1/2 tomato chopped
1/4 cup edamame boiled in salted water for 4-6 minutes until soft
1/2 small lemon juiced 
Salt, pepper to taste
Pinch, about 1/8 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Method
Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl. Give them a loving stir. Serve as a delicious, refreshing, ultra nutritious side dish. 




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Non-Fishy Fish Cakes

NON-FISHY FISH CAKES
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Nutrition
Canned salmon with bones is the only food that can compete with dairy when it comes to absorbable calcium per serving. 100 g canned salmon contains 250 mg of calcium, almost the same amount as a cup of milk. Salmon is also brimming with other nutrients like brain and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fantastic complete protein and vitamin D! I was a tad skeptical about giving my son fish bones but in the can, they are incredibly soft and just require a bit of mashing with a fork to be fully incorporated into the fish meat. I hate strong fishy fish so I worked hard to make these canned salmon cakes as fragrant, flavorful and non-fishy as possible. I can assure you these have been toddler tested and approved. You can always use cooked fresh salmon (preferably wild not farmed) but you won't get as much vitamin D and calcium as you do from the canned counterparts. 

Yield
4-5 fish cakes

Ingredients
1 russet potato chopped
1 shallot minced
1 clove garlic crushed
180g canned salmon with bones, black skin discarded and bones mashed into meat with a fork OR 1 cooked 6 oz salmon filet (baked in a 375 C oven for about 18 minutes). 
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro / coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander / cilantro powder
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt to taste
Flour for shaping
1 egg
Bread crumbs for coating
4 tablespoons canola oil

Method
Bring the potato to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. 

While the potato is boiling, heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a small saucepan until shimmering. Sauté the shallot and garlic until softened, about 3-4 minutes. 

In a mixing bowl, add the canned salmon (skin removed and bones mashed), cooked potato, shallot, garlic, ginger, chopped coriander / cilantro, spices (turmeric, cumin, coriander), salt to taste and lime juice. Mix well. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. 

Add flour, 1 egg beaten and bread crumbs to 3 bowls in an assembly line. Shape the mixture into cakes in the flour. Coat well in the egg and cover completely in bread crumbs. Chill the patties in the freezer for 30 minutes. Heat the remaining oil in a sauté pan until hot. Fry the patties for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Drizzle the fish cakes with lemon juice and serve with your favorite veggies on the side. Add a dollop of greek yoghurt with olive oil and salt as a dipping sauce if you like.

 

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Spiced Coconut Chia Pudding

Spiced Coconut Chia Seed Pudding
12 months+, Toddlers, Kids, Adults

Nutrition
Chia means 'strength' and chia seeds are the new superfood for good reason. They are high in calcium - 2 tablespoons have 180 mg of calcium, the same as 4oz of milk! They also have plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, quality protein, fiber and anti-oxidants. They are a great addition to smoothies, salads, breakfast bars, puddings. Here, they marry beautifully with coconut milk which is great for you in moderation and fiber, protein and calcium-rich rolled oats for a decadent high calcium pudding that takes seconds to prepare and will put any other power breakfast to shame.

Yield
1-2 toddler servings (240 mg of calcium total)

Ingredients
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch cinnamon, about 1/8 teaspoon
2 cardamom pods smashed

Method
Mix all ingredients together and give them a good loving stir. Refrigerate overnight and voila, breakfast is ready. You can stir in fruit of choice (berries or mangoes work nicely here) and add some more coconut milk if your kids like a more liquid pudding.

 


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Bananatini (Banana Tahini Honey Cinnamon Slices)

Bananatini (Banana Tahini Honey Cinnamon Slices)
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Nutrition
This is a power breakfast like no other and so delicious to boot! Calcium-loaded tahini with good fats, protein and B vitamins slathered on sweet banana packed with potassium and complex carbohydrates drizzled with anti-bacterial, anti-viral sweet honey and a sprinkling of blood sugar-stabilizing cinnamon. Enough said. 

Yield
1 - 2 toddler breakfast portions

Ingredients
1 banana sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon tahini 
1 teaspoon honey or date syrup
Pinch, 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method
Slice a banana lengthwise. Spread the tahini, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with cinnamon and serve peppered with berries on the side. Combine with a boiled egg and / or a glass of milk for a calcium, vitamin D and protein-rich power breakfast. 




Spiced Semolina Porridge

SPICED SEMOLINA PORRIDGE
12 months+, Toddler, Kid, Adult

In the way that is typical of toddlers, my 2 year old has, out of the blue, boycotted his staple morning oatmeal. I am a big believer in a nourishing, warm bowl of porridge for breakfast, especially in the cooler months of the year, so I started rummaging around my pantry frantically for an alternate solution. Enter semolina! Made from ground durum wheat and yellowish in color, it's richer in iron and protein than wheat - having used it in the Lebanese Sfouf we shared recently, I had some lying around so decided to give it a go. It's been three days and it's all toddler wants. And naturally, he calls it 'Goldilock's Porridge' <smile, wink, heart slightly melting>

Yield
2 toddler servings

Ingredients
1/3 cup fine semolina
1 cup full fat milk plus 1/2 cup water 
OR
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 cardamom cloves lightly smashed to expose seeds 
Pinch or 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons maple syrup 

Method
Add the semolina, milk, water and spices to a pot and bring to a gentle boil stirring constantly about 3 minutes. Once starting to bubble, reduce heat to low and stir for another 30 - 60 seconds until the porridge is as thick as you like. Transfer to a bowl, add the maple syrup and serve. If it gets too thick by the time it cools, add a splash of milk. Using this as a base, you can stir in raisins, chia seeds, slivered almonds - the list is endless. Happy breakfasting!