Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

SPICED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
6 months+

No thanksgiving meal is complete without the quintessential autumn squash, sweetly named butternut <3. This spiced butternut squash soup, served as a starter, is sure to wake up your taste buds, revving them up for the feast that follows. Toddlers and kids will love it too for the generous sweetness and creaminess on offer. The crunch from the toasted pine nuts is a heavenly match to the luxurious, buttery quality of the soup. 

Science Corner
Butternut squash is not only delicious but alive with nutrients - carotenoids (that become vitamin A in the body), antioxidants, anti-inflammatory molecules, types of starches that aid in blood sugar regulation, B vitamins, including folate and surprisingly, a bit of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha linoleic acid, also a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Squash is abundant in winter and affordable so there really is every reason to make it part of your family table. Combined here with antioxidant-rich spices that regulate blood sugar, exhibit antibacterial effects  and boost digestion, to name a few of the benefits, this delicious and soul-warming soup is sheer health and deliciousness in a bowl. 

Yield
2 adult and 2 toddler servings

Ingredients
Note: Use the higher spice amounts if you like a more intensely flavourful version or the lower amounts for a more subtle taste
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1 medium butternut squash peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato peeled and chopped
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 to 11/2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Ceylon
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1/8 cup pine nuts (optional)

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid, heat the coconut oil on medium until shimmering. Add the leeks and sauté until translucent and softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the squash, sweet potato, ginger and stock and bring to a gentle boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potato and squash are soft.

If garnishing with pine nuts, while the soup is cooking, heat a skillet over medium and toast the pine nuts until golden for 1 minute, shaking often to prevent burning. Set aside to cool. 

Uncover the soup. Stir in the cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and salt to taste. Cook for another 3 minutes covered. Take the pot off the heat and alllow the soup to cool some. Transfer to a food processor or blend well using an immersion, hand held blender. Stir in the butter for added creaminess and sheen, top with a sprinkling of the toasted pine nuts and serve. Pretend not to be disheartened when toddler asks you to pick out all the 'white things'. It means more deliciousness for you! ;) 

You can also skip the salt and pine nuts and offer it to babies for a delicious and nutritious baby meal. 










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. 




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!