A healthy Mediterranean breakfast

Almost all children love tomato ketchup, but most commercially produced ketchup have very little tomatoes in them: a well-known brand of ketchup is made up mostly of sugar, starch, artificial flavourings and artificial colours. Indeed, it is so loaded in high fructose corn syrup (sugar) that it is advisable not to consume too much tomato ketchup (or tinned tomato soup).

Thus, many children don’t know what real tomatoes taste like. Tomatoes are tasty! Is it a fruit or a vegetable? – we used to play this game with our kids when they were young. And here’s an interesting fact about tomatoes – they are from the deadly nightshade family. But we love tomatoes – fortunately, because they are a cheap form of super foods. They are rich in lycopene, phytonutrients, antioxidants and a whole host of vitamins. (Note: because tomatoes contain over 90% water, I strongly advocate organic tomatoes).

Here’s a simple but healthy and delicious Mediterranean breakfast:

  1. Saute finely chopped garlic in some olive oil (i se 2 cloves).
  2. Add 1/4 of a finely chopped onion. Saute until transparent.
  3. Add 1 cupful of ripe tomatoes, cubed. (Note: orange tomatoes are purportedly better for lycopene absorption).
  4. Saute until soft and all the flavours blended.
  5. Serve on toast.
  6. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.IMG_2435.JPG

Of fussy-eaters and two way respect

My 60 kg 16-year-old daughter is strictly a carnivore. She eats greens under sufferance, namely to neutralise the acidity of the meat she eats. She often blitzes these greens up into a smoothie, fibre and all, and chugs them down. I have her sports to thank for that. As a footballer playing in high level, demanding international tournaments, she has been taught how to pay close attention to her diet. She herself can see the consequences of not eating well.

Since commencing football training four days a week and following a professional programme, she has filled out nicely from a skinny 14-year-old into a powerfully built 16-year-old:

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Georgina has an informed and healthy attitude towards food (she does not drink, do drugs, smoke or stay out late because of the strict Academy rules) though she eats more meat than I would like.

I, on the other hand, love my greens. I could eat salads all day, fresh greens with just a light, homemade dressing. I would rather my family just eats greens, no meat. Indeed, in my militant vegetarian days in my misguided youth, I used to enforce a no-meat policy in the house. Looking back with hindsight, I realised it was the wrong decision in my household as a family who values kindness and Self very highly. I should not have tried to impose my ‘right beliefs’ on my loved ones, in the mistaken belief that I know what is best for them.

These days, I honour my family’s tastes and choices, but at the same time, I integrate my own wishes and likes into the food I make. I strongly believe that food is a two-way respect thing, not a warring turf. Unfortunately it has been that way in many families for decades – food has been used as an emotional blackmail tool and we often have unhealthy relationships with food stemming from our childhood battles with our parents and from our parents’ unhealthy attitude towards food.

Georgina has several friends who suffer eating disorders in varying degrees of severity, a couple of them requiring hospitalisation. The biggest tragedy is one who lost her life to anorexia. I do not think good eating habits alone can prevent this, but I do believe that good eating habits fostered at a young age goes a long way towards keeping children healthy. Here are my tried-and-tested tips:

(1) Never fight over food. That’s why it is important to exert your authority in this matter when your children are still young.

(2) Introduce children to a wide variety of food at a very young age. I don’t believe in cooking special food for 1-year-olds. They do not need special porridge or special bland food. They can eat what we do and they jolly well should. Just be careful about fish bones and small things like peas and sweetcorn that are choking hazards, and ensure that there is not too much salt in foods.

(3) Terrible Twos is the stage when food battles begin. This is the time to manage it right. Never allow a toddler to win the battle of wills. Be firm (but not unkind or dramatic). When I was in my early twenties, I had three children under 5 years old and was a full time student at University. There was no way I had the time or the patience to pander to food squabbles. My children simply had to eat what was on the plate. No force-feeding and no chasing toddlers with food either. Make the dining table a fun and happy place to be and everybody will eat well.

(4) If they choose not to eat then they can go to bed hungry. They won’t die or suffer malnutrition overnight.

(5) Foster good eating habits in the home.

(6) No snacking in between meals.

(7) Ensure that children understand the consequences of their food choice but no empty threats (for example, if you don’t eat carrots, you will die).

(8) With older children, have a dialogue with them. No drama. I respect your food choices, now you have to respect mine. It is give and take always, as is everything in life.

Here’s my burger, loaded with nuts, seeds and vegetables:

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Glamorous green smoothies

I have been trying to photograph green smoothies for YEARS, trying to make them look artistic but they always come out as an unappetising slimy gloop. And we expect kids to chug them down enthusiastically?

If I were business-minded, I would love to set up a health juice bar, and this is how I would present my concoction.

(1) Base cup – fruits, such as bananas, mangoes, dragon fruits, apples.

(2) Ooooph – organic greens. Lots of!

(3) Liquid – coconut water, alkaline water.

(4) Topping – chia, bee pollen, moringa powder, maca, acai.

Hope you / your children like this! ❤

green cocktail

Healthy alternative to instant noodles

I can be quite draconian and dictatorial when it comes to food for my family, and though we lived in Asia for several years, I never allowed my children to eat the ubiquitous instant noodles.  I even banned my Indonesian helpers from eating them, simply because they are so bad for you.

But we live in a world where convenience and speed are king. However, you don’t have to resort to chemical-laden fast food if you invest a little time into preparation whenever you have the time to spare.

(1) Always keep some stock handy in the freezer. Simply boil down chicken carcass (from roast diners!) or stock bones (available cheaply from your friendly butcher or fishmonger) with any surplus vegetables you have lying around.  Just be sure to include a bay leaf, peppercorns, onion, garlic and tomatoes.  The rest is up to you! Over the years, I have chucked weird things into my stockpot, such as apple core (with the pips removed), left over salad leaves, the hard part of broccoli and other greens I happen to have lying around.

(2) To make this Asian noodles, boil up the stock with a small piece of ginger.

(3) Cook spaghetti separately until soft.

(4) Add spaghetti to the piping hot soup. Garnish with chopped spring onions and red chillies, and season with salt, pepper, Braggs and sesame oil (optional).

Note: If you are making this with fish stock, boil for longer with more ginger.

Food from my childhood: British curry

A recent survey show that curry is Britain’s favourite dish.  Yet for folks like my Welsh mother, curry is something not from India.  Give her a taste of ‘real’ curry, and she will freak out.

So here’s the British version of the Indian staple:

For the spices:

1 onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peel and crushed

3cm root ginger, peel and crushed

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cumin

6 tbsp tikka curry powder (note, tikka, not madras which is more popular).

Dry roast all the spices until fragrant. Add 150g natural yoghurt, 6 tablespoon of tomato puree and juice of 1 lime. Blend the ingredients.

Marinade chicken chunks in the curry mix.  Put in a medium-heatt oven the next day until the chicken are thoroughly cooked.

Curry 1

Food from my childhood: Fish

Freshly caught fish (as opposed to commercially farmed fish) has a lot of nutritional benefits, namely omega-3 fatty acids, high-quality protein, iodine and various vitamins and minerals.

The Stanleys have been selling freshly caught fish straight off their boat in Bembridge harbour, but a few years ago, they acquired a shop in the village:

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Here are two recipes from my childhood:

FISH AND LEEK PIE

(1) Melt a knob of butter in a heavy pan. Add in flaky fish fillet (about 2 good-sized fillet).  Coat the fillets with the butter. Pour in enough full cream milk to cover.  Add bay leaf, peppercorns and a roughly chopped carrot.  Simmer until the carrot is soft and the fish disintegrates.

(2) Boil potatoes, parsnip and a carrot until soft. Roughly mash it with butter, cream and grated cheese. Season to taste.

(3) Saute three sliced leeks in butter until soft.

(4) Layer a casserole dish with fish, leek and mash. Bake until golden on top. Serve immediately.

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BOUILLABASSE

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(1) Saute 1 head of garlic and 1 chopped onion in olive oil in a soup pot.

(2) Add fish bones to the garlic and olive. Add a few chopped tomatoes, a bay leaf, a chilli, peppercorns, one carrot (cut into chunks), a celery stalk and water.

(3) Boil for several hours.

(4) Remove fish bones. Add cubed potatoes and carrots. Cook until soft. Then add fish filets just before serving.

(5) Season to taste.

(6) Serve piping hot with crusty bread.

Stuff that cabbage!

cabbage-rolls cabbageDishy Doc is still away, so it’s all about food!  I love comfort food.  Don’t we all!  Home cooked meals cooked with love, family around the table.    I love getting good veggies into my family and that isn’t always easy.  Fussy pants regularly leaves out mushrooms, rolls her eyes at egg plant or courgette and scowls at spinach or other greens with the death stare extraordinaire!     So I am always trying to find dishes that make both of us happy – me with the nutrition she is receiving and her with the taste…  not always easy, but sometimes we get a real winner!

I also adore savoy cabbage… I love the bright green colour and the wrinkles.  I don’t see them a lot here in Kuala Lumpur, so when I see one I just HAVE to buy it….  I’m crazy like that 🙂

When my niece who was visiting said “I gotta say this is really good” and my girls agreed, I knew I was onto one of those winners I look for. !   “Thanks mum” is one of those things which makes my heart burst and the time taken in the kitchen suddenly becomes all worth while.  So here is the long waited for recipe I have promised!

PORK CABBAGE ROLLS WITH SWEET AND SOUR TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients:

For the cabbage rolls:

  • 1 green cabbage, about 2 lb., bruised or discolored outer leaves discarded
  • 500 g pork mince
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 red or yellow onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 sage leaves
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 juniper berries
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil.

For the sweet and sour sauce

  • 1 red or yellow yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalk, chopped, leaves included.
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 kg tomatoes
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup bone broth
  • 1 to 2 tbs tomato paste (See my post on how to make your own)
  • 1 apple.
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar.
  1. Wash cabbage well.   Bring a large pot of water to a boil. . Remove the cabbage core by cutting with a knife and twisting it out and place the cabbage into the boiling water and cook until the leaves are done.   (5 to 10 minutes)  Set aside and cool. Once cool, remove about 12 of the nice large outside leaves (these will be stuffed).   Retain a few of the small inner leaves (about 50 to 100g worth)  to mix with the pork.  (and use any other left over leaves for a soup the next day!)
  2. Peel and quarter the onion. Chop in Thermomix … 3 seconds, speed 6. Add one tsp olive oil. Saute. 3 minutes, 100, speed 1. Chop carrot into large chunks and place in Thermomix. Add sage. Chop. 3 seconds, speed 6. Add, pork, egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper and the retained small inner leaves.   Mix ingredients at Speed 3, 15 seconds, using the thermomix spatula through the lid to stir. (do not use any other than the Thermomix spatula) .   Repeat if needed. Divide the pork filling among the cabbage leaves. Fold the white stem end of each leaf over the filling, add a juniper berry then fold in each of the sides and roll up the rest of the leaf. Repeat for each leaf. ( If you do not have a thermomix,  chop onion and grate the carrot.  Saute until translucent and add sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and add pork and egg to the mix.  Mix well.)

To make the sauce, sauté the chopped onion and diced carrot over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery. Stir and heat through. Add caraway seeds, tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, apple and balsamic vinegar. Stir for a minute or two until well mixed. .  Place the cabbage rolls, seam down, in a single layer in the pan, and then spoon sauce and vegetables over the rolls. Cover and transfer to the oven and bake in a 180 celcius / 350 F oven until the cabbage rolls are tender and the filling is cooked through. This should take about an hour.

Enjoy!

Vivienne

(Reblogged from my blog at https://nograinlife.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/stuff-that-cabbage/)

 

Soul Food: Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara is one of those simple dishes that is so difficult to get right. Here’s my version. I believe I have it to a pretty high standard – must be my 25% Italian genes 🙂

Use bacon with fatty strip. Brown those and a few cloves of garlic in some butter in a large heavy pan.

Whilst that’s browning, cook spaghetti according to packet instructions (I normally add a drizzle of olive oil and some salt).

Prepare the carbonara sauce by stirring together a cupful of cream, six egg yolks, freshly grated parmesan cheese,  salt and pepper.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into the frying pan. Stir well to coat the strands with the bacon fat. Turn off the heat. Pour the carbonara sauce over it and stir again until properly mixed.

Serve immediately.

Flavoured Fruit Tea

We all know that those flavoured drinks are soooooo bad for you, because of the high sugar content and preservatives.  Yet on warm days, they are sooooo irresistible!

Here’s how to make a simple, healthier version:

Boil filtered water and steep two tea bags in it (use caffeine-free tea if you prefer).

Mash up some strawberries and pour it into the tea. Squeeze and orange in the mixture and add crushed mint leaves. Add honey to taste.

Chill and serve. You may wish to adjust the strength of your tea by diluting with cold water or adding ice. It actually reminds me of Pimms, and being unashamedly British, I adore Pimms 🙂