Market Day Inspiration: Carrot and Cashew Dip

Each week we visit our amazing local markets. I buy most of our fruit and veg from one of the stalls, and while it’s not organic it’s all chemical free produce. The best thing is that, along with being affordable, it tastes like food should. Carrots taste richer and sweeter, apples are amazing and quite frankly, we’ve never eaten as many mushrooms in our lives. When food is seasonal, picked very recently and sold by the grower (so you can ask questions about how best to cook, store and utilise it) it is at its best.

Last week, I wandered by one of the other stalls and found “juicing carrots” for $2/kilo… not bad for organic carrots that were perfectly edible but just a little odd looking. I bought them for juicing but decided to try something different as Dash’s vegetable intake has recently left much to be desired. As we all eat the same food in our household (except for Mr Incredible’s wheat free) I don’t cook anything special for the kids… Adventure Girl knows she won’t get dessert (yogurt or a gold kiwi-fruit which she loves) if she doesn’t eat all her food but Dash is a lot more choosy as well as being younger – he still gets dessert regardless!  With this in mind I created the following dip, which, I am pleased to report Dash devoured for afternoon tea AND dinner, along with roast pumpkin bites and cauliflower mash with some marinated chicken.

IMG_6304.JPGCarrot and Cashew Dip

An original recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 carrots
  • A handful of cashews
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of cumin
  • A Tbsp Olive Oil

Method

  1. Cut and steam carrots until soft (but don’t over cook)
  2. Blend all ingredients
  3. If too soft add more cashews and if too thick add cooking water or olive oil.

 

Cooking for Kids : The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook

In Australia the recommendation for when babies are to start solids is to start purees at 4 months and solid foods at 6 months. How to do this though can be a minefield, especially for first time parents like us. For some though, when to transition to a full “solid” diet can be the most difficult part. As an example, I was recently involved in a market research group where some of the parents where still feeding their one year olds pureed foods out of “pouches” bought from the supermarket for the majority of meals. For me though, while I started by pushing banana through a sieve and finely processing sweet potato for Adventure Girl, I soon realised that this wasn’t the direction we wanted to take. Simply, and honestly, I was too lazy to do it all myself, didn’t want to use pouches and wondered if there was another way. In my  research for alternatives, I came across the practice of Baby Led Weaning which encourages not feeding your children purees and instead, holding off until your child is 6 months and at that stage introducing solid food. I’m no expert but this has been the best thing for us as a family and this is the direction we’ve taken with Dash as well.

One of the greatest concerns with this form of feeding is choking. The best advice I ever read on this was from Baby Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. It said that the gagging reflex is entirely natural and something a parent doesn’t need to be concerned about. The trick is to know when it’s gagging and when it’s choking. To do this it’s simple: count to three. When your child is eating (yes, you really should be there with them!) if they start to gag/choke count to three, if they’re still doing it after the count of three THEN you intervene (watch this video from St John’s ambulance for more details on what to do if they choke). If they sort it out themselves, good work kid! And good work parent… I reckon it’s more stressful for us sometimes than them – I don’t think I’ll ever stop counting 1..2…3 if I see a child gagging.

9781408807569The premise of baby led weaning is that, from a young age, they and you eat the same things – not adults eating purees but kids getting to eat real food that hasn’t been processed already for them. The book that has helped us the most is The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. The recipes and knowledge within it enabled us to have the confidence to make this step and enjoy it. I’ve loaned it out to a few friends and each of them has gone on to purchase their own copy. It’s a great resource and one of our regularly used cookbooks. I can remember the first time I made the courgette [zucchini] polpettes and how Mr Incredible exclaimed that he couldn’t believe they were in a baby cookbook. The flavour, especially with the lemon zest and garlic, was great. We make them with quinoa rather than breadcrumbs but otherwise leave the recipe as it stands and I include it below as an encouraging “taster” for you to try, especially if you have young kids.

Courgette Polpettes [aka zucchini balls)

River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, by Nikki Duffy

Author notes: These vegetarian ”meatballs” are inspired by a wonderful recipe from Italian food writer Ursula Ferrigno. Her original uses aubergines, but I really like this fresh-tasting zucchini version. You can easily double the quantities but you’ll probably need to cook the zucchini in batches.

Freezer-friendly: freeze the uncooked polpette. Defrost before baking.

For babies: these make nice finger food and will introduce your baby to lots of different flavours.

For grown-ups and older children: try adding a few toasted pine nuts to the mix.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 500g zucchini, finely diced
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 generous tbsp grated parmesan, pecorino or other well-flavoured hard cheese
  • 1/2 ball of buffalo mozzarella (60-70g), diced
  • 50g breadcrumbs or cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Oil a baking tray or line with a non-stick silicone liner.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the zucchini for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Set aside to cool a little, then combine them with all the other ingredients to make a thick, sticky mixture. Season if you like (remember that the cheeses already contain salt).
  3. Take walnut-sized blobs of the mixture and roll into balls. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden.
  4. Serve hot, warm or cold, on their own or with pita bread and a tomato salad or sauce.
  5. Makes about 12.

 

Weekly weeknight dinner: Chicken and Veggie Pasta Bake

We make this meal at least once a fortnight and we’re not board with it yet! The best thing about the meal (as we make it) is that with the additional load of vegetables it makes enough for our family (including leftovers for lunch) as well as a meal to give to another family, or a meal to freeze. I find that cooking on a budget often means boosting the vegetable to meat ratio in most of the recipes I find. Even though we eat organic vegetables, it still works out MUCH cheaper (and healthier) to use more veg than is often specified. As I heard someone say yesterday, meat in meals should be an addition rather than the main ingredient.

The base of the recipe is from Amanda at Foodbefore5, however, as you’ve likely guessed by now, I’ve made a few changes! The main change is that I’ve included a LOAD of veg (again, are you surprised?). Try it – unless you’re a vegetarian you won’t be disappointed… but if you are a vegetarian, i reckon it would work without the chicken and bacon too!

Ingredients

  • 500g packet dried pasta
  • 500g chicken thigh (if you get your chicken from a butcher, ask them to dice it for you – it saves so much effort and makes the meal able to be easily prepared with a wee one at your side!)
  • 100g bacon – chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic – finely diced
  • 600ml cream
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste (salt free)
  • 50 gr semi-dried tomatoes – diced (more if you like – I just ask for a small scoop from the deli so there’s no wastage, or I make my own if tomatoes are in season)
  • 50 gr olives (more if you like,  I just ask for a small scoop from the deli so there’s no wastage)
  • 1/2 cup cheese – grated (plus extra for topping)
  • 1 broccoli – finely chopped including most of the stalk
  • 2 zucchinis – chopped
  • 3 flat mushrooms – chopped
  • 1 bunch silver beet – chopped (Kale, spinach or beetroot leaves can also be used)

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to packet directions
  2. While pasta is cooking, fry chicken, bacon & garlic in a frypan over high heat until chicken is cooked through
  3. While chicken mix is cooking, in a large bowl whisk together cream and tomato paste.
  4. Add chopped veg, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and 1/2 cup of cheese to the cream mixture and combine
  5. Add cooked chicken mixture (minus the oil – I use a slotted spoon to only get the bits I want)
  6. Drain the pasta and line the bottom of the dish you want to use with the pasta (as the meal makes quite a lot, I use about half the pasta for a standard casserole dish)
  7. Add the proportionate amount of the food in the bowl (i.e. if you used half the pasta use half the mixture)
  8. Mix that together in the casserole dish (if you have an enormous bowl you can mix it with the pasta before putting them all in together, I find though that this is much less messy)
  9. Once combined, top your pasta bake with cheese
  10. Either cover and refrigerate until required or cook immediately. If cooking immediately, cook for 20 minutes covered and a further 10 minutes uncovered. If cooking from having been refrigerated, cook for 30 minutes covered and then a further 10 minutes uncovered.
  11. With the remaining food, make up another pasta bake for friends or else pop it in a freezer bag (combining the pasta and mixture) and freeze for up to three months.

Thank God it’s Friday Adventures: #1 Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden

For some time now, Adventure Girl and I have been celebrating the end of the week by going somewhere new, having lunch and an explore. While we’ve been to the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden before for an hour’s walk around the paved loop track, I really wasn’t up for pushing her pram up the quite steep hills (come to think of it, I wasn’t up for it the first time either!). We decided instead to check out the playground we passed on our walk the time before and had a wonderful time looking at the swamp wallaby (and her joey) along with enjoying the outdoors.

The Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Gardens are located on Mona Vale road, quite close to St Ives. There’s ample parking 3 minutes walk from the playground marked as Lambert’s Clearing Picnic Area. There’s bathroom and BBQ facilities along with a covered seating area that can be booked for parties.

Ku-ring-gai Wildflower GardenPregnancy Rating: 3.5 – The play area isn’t enclosed so there is the possibility for needing to run after children, but there’s also plenty to children entertained and tables to sit at. The walk from the car park isn’t too strenuous and can easily be accomplished while pushing a pram.

*warning: please be aware that the loop track (taking about an hour) is considered wheelchair friendly and is marked easy. When I did this in the early stages of pregnancy I was exhausted by the steep bits and did find the walk much harder than anticipated. It was doable but only just.

Toddler Rating: 3.5 – Adventure Girl rather enjoyed her outing but the bark chip playground was used a bit like a sandpit (sigh) and the play equipment soon got crowded with bigger kids. There is quite a lot to explore though and given a carer with more energy she could have stayed much longer.

Older Kid Rating: 5 – The bike paths are great, along with quite a lot to explore and enjoy.

Healthy snacks: The quickest, easiest, tastiest dairy, nut, egg and sugar free muffins ever!

The origin of this recipe is an old 1980’s school cookbook which I’ve modified it over time to be egg, dairy and sugar free – I’ve also added some wholemeal flour along with frozen berries. We make this recipe at least once a week and I’ll often get a nudge from Mr Incredible if we’re low on stock – it’s not a problem if we are though – they take less than 10 minutes to whip up (if you use egg instead of chia then they are even faster)!

It’s easy enough to revert the recipe back to having dairy and egg – just replace the oil with melted butter and the chia and water mix with an egg. Making it with chia and oil though has the added bonus that they’re always on hand if I run out of eggs or butter.

Ingredients

  • 3 very ripe large bananas (or 4 normal sized ones)
  • 1 tbs Chia seeds
  • 3 tbs water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup of plain flour (alternatively 1 1/2 plain flour and no wholemeal)
  • ½ cup plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp baking soada (bi-carb soda)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Frozen berries to taste (I use about 1 -2 cups) – if you scrimp on the berries though you won’t have enough batter for 12 muffins.

* if I’m making these for our family half of the recipe is usually topped up with some chopped chocolate / choc chips. This of course means that the rest of the muffins are no longer sugar free or dairy free, but Mr Incredible LOVES chocolate muffins!

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan forced oven)
  2. Place chia seeds and water in a small container and leave sit for 5 minutes until they become gelatinous
  3. While the chia seeds are soaking, squeeze the bananas in their skins to start the mashing process, remove bananas from their skins and place them in a medium sized bowl. Continue to mash with a fork in the bowl
  4. Add oil and mix (this is the melted butter replacement)
  5. Add chia seeds and mix (these are the egg replacement)
  6. Add flours, baking powder and baking soda. Mix with a wooden spoon until mostly combined.
  7. Add frozen berries and finish mixing until all ingredients are combined
  8. * at this point you can either add the chocolate or not – or, as we do, dispense half the batter and then add the chocolate.
  9. Spoon batter into muffin trays (I use liners in the trays)
  10. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes (depending upon your oven you may need to get them out after 12).

Enjoy!

These will keep in the fridge for a week, although may become crumbly towards the end of their life due to the lack of sugar.