Winter Warmers for Little Bellies

Keeping Winter Bellies Warm

It is very easy to reach for the stodgy and starchy comfort foods at this time year. It’s cold outside, and little bellies need warming foods to help keep them satisfied all day and to fight off colds and ‘flus. A lot of the food we crave at this time of year is high in sugar and starch, so I am going to share some recipes with you that are perfect for this time of year and are healthy and packed full of nutritious goodies.

The best way to start a winter’s day is with something filling and energy boosting for breakfast like porridge or natural muesli with warm milk. I like to make my porridge with wholegrain oats that are more nutritious than the instant variety. Use half water and half milk for creaminess and add fruit for sweetness rather than sugar; sliced banana, a teaspoon of sultanas or grated pear are just some ideas. You can add a very small amount of maple syrup or honey if you really have to, and try sprinkling the porridge with linseed, sunflower and almond meal or chia seeds. These add essential fatty acids, protein and dietary fibre.

The best thing about the main meals we eat in winter is that they tend to be one-pot dishes such as bolognaise, casseroles and stews that we can make ahead. A recent survey into Australian cooking habits shows that the main cook of the household prefers one-pot meals for convenience. Slow cooked meals can be made at whatever time of day is convenient for you, and you can cook enough to freeze for another occasion or have the next day. They often use cheaper cuts of meat, which are nicely tenderised during the cooking process and are perfect for smaller mouths and the household budget.

Beef and Pear Casserole recipe

One of the best things about winter food for me is stewed fruit. It is naturally sweet and deliciously warming on a dark, winter evening. My top tip is to add only a dessertspoon of sugar, with the exception of rhubarb that may need four or five, and the juice of a lemon. The lemon juice brings out the flavor of the fruit. You can add a crumble topping for a classic winter dessert. This only takes 15 minutes to prepare and can incorporate ground nuts, coconut oil instead of butter and maple syrup instead of sugar.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble recipe

The most important thing to remember when preparing winter food is that we still need to keep to the same ratios of the main food groups. It is all too easy to increase our carbohydrate and starch intake at the expense of proteins, fresh fruit and vegetables. Keep snacks simple, make the most of easy one-pot recipes and the occasional hot chocolate is definitely allowed.

Posted by Cherie | Categories: Featured Post, Food | 0 Comments

Beef and Pear Casserole

Beef and Pear Casserole.JPG

Adapted from the ‘Made In Morocco’ cookbook by Julie Le Clerc and John Bougen. A delicious iron and zinc rich family meal. When cooking beef this way, the results are always usually very tender making it the perfect texture for younger kids. And complimented with sweet pears, you can’t go wrong!

Ingredients
1 kg beef (chuck, blade, gravy, round or topside), fat removed and chopped into 2cm pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp ginger, finely grated
1 cup beef stock (no salt)
1 cup water
3 large ripe pears, skin on (for extra fibre), cored and cut into eights
2 cups green beans or any green veggie of choice

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Heat oil in a medium – large casserole dish and lightly brown meat in batches. I like to use chuck as it breaks down more in a casserole. Put meat to the side and add onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté for 5 minutes then add meat back into casserole dish. Cover with stock and water and bring to the boil. Cover dish and bake for 1 ½ hours.

3. Add the pears and green veggies gently mixing it through and bake for another ½ hour. Then season with a little salt and pepper once you’ve already served up, as younger kids don’t need the extra salt.

Delicious served over mash (sweet potato or potato), a cooked grain or even pasta.

Note for a richer tasting meal add 2 cups of beef stock rather than 1 cup of beef stock and 1 cup of water.

Prep 15 minutes
Cook 2hrs 15 minutes

Posted by Cherie | Categories: Food, Recipe of the month, Recipes | 1 Comment

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble 02.JPG

A delicious healthy wintery dessert that’s packed with vitamin C and wholesome goodness.

Ingredients
1 bunch rhubarb, chopped into 2cm pieces
1 punnet strawberries, quartered
1 large lemon or orange, juiced
1/3 cup raw caster sugar

Crumble Topping
2 dessertspoons coconut oil or butter
3 dessertspoons maple syrup or brown sugar
1 ½ cups wholegrain traditional oats
½ cup almonds or walnuts, roughly chopped
¼ cup shredded or desiccated coconut
1 tsp cinnamon

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Mix together the fruit, lemon juice and sugar in a shallow baking dish. I use a baking dish that’s approx. 18cm x 29cm in size.
3. Heat coconut oil and maple syrup in a medium sized saucepan, until warm. Then stir in the rest of the crumble ingredients until mixed through.
4. Spoon the crumble mix over the top of the prepared fruit making sure it covers the entire surface. Bake for approx. 30 mins or until crumble is golden and fruit is bubbling.

Serve warm with yoghurt (natural or vanilla) or warm custard.

Note if using butter and brown sugar, no need to melt both ingredients in a saucepan. Just roughly rub the butter into the rest of the crumble mix with your hands or whiz in a food processor for a less than a minute before spreading on top of the fruit.

Prep 15 minutes
Cook 30 minutes

Posted by Cherie | Categories: Food, Recipes | 0 Comments

Making Sense of the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines for Children.

fruits-and-vegetables-for-kids1

As health conscious parents and carers we often seek advice on what the latest research shows we should be feeding our children. Whilst most of us understand that common sense is usually the best approach, there are still a growing number of obese children in Australia every year. We have to question what we are feeding our children, and with so many ready-made products on supermarket shelves and time-poor parents whizzing down the aisles, it’s no wonder sometimes we get things wrong.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines for children have recently been updated and published by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and is funded by the Department of Health and Aging. These guidelines are important because they are evidence-based and not only do they offer basic advice to parents, but they can be implemented by pre-schools, schools, out-of-hours school care facilities and other centre-based care establishments. If everyone is following these guidelines, you can be sure that your child’s nutritional needs are being met wherever they are.

What do the guidelines say? Well, in all honesty the research supports what most of us already know; eat more wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, fish, poultry, eggs, low-fat yoghurts, cheese and nuts and eat less foods high in sugar, salt, saturated fat, refined cereals and sweetened drinks.

However, it is worth delving into a bit deeper. For example, many of us think that red meat is bad for us, but research has shown that young females would benefit from an increase in red meat in their diet, whilst adult men should eat less. Also dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese should generally be of the low-fat variety, but under 2 year olds need the full fat version. It gets confusing, but we must acknowledge that our lifestyles are very different to that of our grandparent’s, and revisiting conventional thinking is an important exercise.

The Guidelines also help us be clear about the nutritional requirements of babies. Breastfeeding is still recommended up to 12 months, but when to introduce solid foods, water, and what formula to use are questions that the Guidelines have also addressed. Serving sizes and types of solid food are detailed in the report, and offering babies a variety of colours, tastes and textures help develop their eating patterns throughout their lives.

In addition to what we are feeding children, the report also looks into activity levels. Anyone who has more than one child is probably guilty of leaving their younger child/children in a car seat or bouncer for longer than they did their first child, just because juggling everyone’s needs and schedules becomes a military exercise. The Guidelines recommend that no child should be restrained for more than an hour a day when they are not asleep. This may not be practical in our day-to-day lives, but simply being aware of this makes us more likely to make subtle changes that accommodate the whole family’s needs.

Every child and every family is different, and the advice outlined is there to help us make informed choices. Here at Watermelon Kids we offer suggestions and recipes that help us give our children the best possible start in life. Our advice is to print off the following poster The Guidelines Australian Dietary Guidelines Poster and stick it to your fridge, and every time you plan a meal or snack think about what you are feeding your family. Remember – healthy food is tasty and can be quick to prepare.

To gain a copy of the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines that apply to both children and adults visit Australian Dietary Guidelines

Here are some fun, healthy and tasty recipes for all to enjoy.

Baked Semolina Gnocchi with Bolognese Sauce
Pear & Chia Bircher Muesli/

Stay tuned for some Autumn News coming soon.

 

 

Posted by Cherie | Categories: Featured Post, Nutrition | 2 Comments

Baked Semolina Gnocchi with Bolognese Sauce

Semolina Gnocchi with Bolognese Sauce

This delicious style of gnocchi combined with my beef, lentil and veggie bolognese is  packed with protein, carbohydrate, iron, zinc and calcium.  Fun to eat, this recipe makes eight toddler servings or two adults and two children servings.

Semolina Gnocchi Ingredients:
500ml of cows’ milk
Generous pinch of ground nutmeg
100g fine semolina
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup parmesan, finely grated

Bolognese Sauce Ingredients:
1 small-medium carrot
1 stick of celery
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp olive oil
250g lean beef mince
1Tbsp wholemeal flour
250ml beef stock, no salt
200g tin tomatoes, diced
200g tin lentils, drained and rinsed
1Tbsp tomato paste
1 big sprig of thyme
Generous pinch of ground nutmeg

Prep:
Line a small baking tray approx. 15cm x 22cm x 2cm deep or something similar with glad wrap.

Method:
Heat milk and nutmeg in a medium size pot until hot, but not boiling. Stir in semolina and allow to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in eggs and parmesan. Pour into prepared baking tray and let cool completely, until set approx. 30 minutes (or stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes if short on time).

Meanwhile, in a small food processor, whizz the carrot, celery, onion and garlic until chopped to your liking.  Heat a large deep frying pan and add oil. Empty the contents of the food processor into the frying pan and saute for a few minutes. Add the beef mince and saute, stirring constantly to break the mince up. Once browned, add flour and stir through. Add stock, tomatoes, lentils, tomato paste, thyme and nutmeg and stir through. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or less if you like your sauce not as thick, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly oil a baking tray. Turn gnocchi out onto a chopping board and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter or with a wet knife into 24 small triangles approx. 5cm x 5cm. Place onto prepared baking tray and cook in oven for 20 minutes until lightly golden, turning the gnocchi over once whilst cooking. Serve on Bolognese Sauce or even the Quick Baked Beans (see recipe section), with a sprinkling of finely grated parmesan and a BIG green salad or steamed veggies on the side.

Storage:
Refrigerate any uncooked gnocchi for 1 day or freeze for up to 1 month. Allow to thaw before cooking. Bolognese sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days otherwise frozen for 3 months.

Serves 2: Adults and 2 Children
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes

Posted by Cherie | Categories: Food, Recipe of the month, Recipes | 2 Comments

Pear and Chia Bircher Muesli

Pear and Chia Bircher Muesli

A yummy wholegrain breakfast that’s easy to eat from a young age and quite different to many packet cereals. Oats are a superfood packed with B vitamins making them great for the nervous system as well as being low GI and high in fibre. Combined with other nutritious foods, this energizing breakfast is a great way to start the day.

Serving Size: 2 kids serves

Ingredients:
½ cup wholegrain rolled oats
½ cup of milk of choice
1 tsp white chia seeds
½ tsp maple syrup, honey or agave nectar  (can omit)
½ ripe pear skin on, grated
1 Tbsp natural yoghurt
4 raw almonds, chopped

Prep:
In a small bowl or container, mix the oats, milk and chia seeds and leave in the fridge overnight.

Method:
In the morning, combine all the ingredients together in a larger bowl including the oat mix and serve.

Note: Grated apple, berries or chopped banana also work well.

Prep time: 10 minutes + overnight
Cook time: Nil

Posted by Cherie | Categories: Food, Recipes | 0 Comments

Kids’ Parties

Kid's Party Food

I recently got chatting to a Mum who was looking for healthy lollies and biscuits for lolly bags for her 6 year old’s birthday party. Now I know kids love parties, and I am not one to preach about how bad lollies are for your child, everyone knows that. But the kids love them and what’s a party without something to take home? There is an alternative – bring on the “fun bag” instead.

Why not fill the bag with cool stationary such as pens, stickers, erasers or crayons for the younger ones? Think of all the small, inexpensive toys children play with, such as football stickers, playing cards, plastic dinosaurs, dressing-up accessories like plastic rings and wacky glasses. Both my children have had themed parties and the fun bags were given out at the beginning so the kids could play with the contents.  My daughter’s princess party called for lots of pink, glittery accessories and jewellery. These items don’t need to be expensive, just …. FUN.

Sugar intake can affect a child’s mood, and parties will inevitably mean they eat more sugar than normal. So when you send a child home with his or her fun bag, how about sending them home in a good mood because they have had fun, not because they are on a sugar high. I am not a complete party pooper, but there are ways to make party food more nutritious. And let’s face it, sometimes you feel like your child’s party calendar is more full than your own, so knowing they are not eating bad food week in week out is important.

The simple rule with party food is to use fresh ingredients, and present them in an interesting way. Fruit platters with a yoghurt dip are yummy, or mini sandwiches made with wholemeal bread, which can be cut into shapes using a cookie cutter. My mother-in-law makes delicious homemade sausage rolls with proper tomato sauce that are always devoured, and always remember plain water or 100% fresh juice or if you are up to it fruit smoothies are great too. Often a pretty plate or princess cup is enough to make eating party food fun.  If you are catering for large numbers of children, try packaging each child’s food in individual themed lunch boxes, this way the novelty is in the box, and as a parent you know each child is eating a balance of sweet and savoury items.

If everything else is healthy, then bring on the cake. Although watch out for artificial colourings in the icing, home made is always better where possible.

As parents we often get caught up in the catering when it comes to a party, but kids will remember the games and the experience, not the sandwich fillings. We are teaching children to make sensible food choices later in life, and presenting them with the healthy options now, is the only way to ensure they eat a balanced diet going forward. So put on your best party outfit, think about food presentation, fill your fun bags with trinkets and dance the afternoon away.

Posted by Cherie | Categories: Featured Post, Food | 1 Comment

Summer News

SUMMER NEWS
Happy New Year from Watermelon Kids.

Welcome to the  Watermelon Kids newsletter. We wish all our readers a happy, healthy 2013, and now that you have survived the festive holidays, sit back, relax and read our news, views and top tips.

What’s New?
It’s been a busy time here at Watermelon Kids.  We, along with our friends at The Cooking Room, will be supplying healthy and nutritious meals to Long Day Care (LDC) and Out of School Care Hours (OOSH) starting this month. One thing we are passionate about is that kids have access to healthy, nutritious meals throughout their day, and our aim is make sure that children’s nutritional needs are met whoever is looking after them. If you are interested in our meal service for your centres, please call Cherie on 0412415823 for more information.

As for more hot news, stay tuned and we’ll update you with more in our autumn news.

At the Markets
The Watermelon Kids range of healthy muffins is available every Saturday at Eveleigh Markets and NOW every third Saturday of the month at Northside Produce Markets at the Children’s Food Education Foundation Stall (also part of The Big Feed charity). The Children’s Food Education Foundation is a charity that helps to educate children and young people through various programs about basic nutrition and the importance of healthy food. Check them out at www.childrensfoodeducation.org.au. We’d love you to come and say hi and try out our very popular fruit and veggie muffins, which whilst big on taste, are low in sugar, salt and saturated fat making them a nutritious energy filled snack.

Top Tips
Now that the summer holidays are well and truly over and kids are back at kindy and school, let’s talk lunchboxes. Maybe you had a little one starting school for the first time, or you are simply out of creative ideas for tasty, healthy lunchbox meals. Either way, here are our top tips on making sure your child stays energised throughout the day.

  1. BREAKFAST for the body and mind. Don’t let your child run out the door on empty. Start the day with an energy boosting meal that will keep them going ‘til snacktime or lunchtime. We recommend wholegrain cereals like natural muesli, kids weetbix, porridge and sultana bran with milk or yoghurt and some fresh fruit. For variety try something savoury like wholegrain toast with boiled eggs, avocado with fresh ricotta or a yummy nut butter.
  2. Cover all the FOOD GROUPS. One of the most important things to remember about packing a lunchbox is to make it varied, interesting, exciting and balanced.  Children need a lunchbox that has fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, dairy and protein components. Also remember to keep it colourful, as different colour fruit and vegetables have different nutrients; it’s natures way of ensuring variety!
  3. Keep the food REAL. Minimise overly processed and packaged food, which are usually high in sugar, salt and fat, as well as overly packaged. By adding plenty of fresh food from all the food groups as listed above, you can ensure that chips, flavoured crackers, bickkies, and high sugared cereal bars rarely get a look in!
  4. Keep it COOL. No one likes soggy sandwiches and wilting fruit! There are many ways of keeping lunchboxes cool at this time of year. You can invest in cooling packs, insulated containers, or simply be creative. Drink bottles ¾ filled with water freeze well or try freezing yoghurt pouches/tubes overnight, popping them in the box before school and by lunchtime they have defrosted enough to eat, and they have kept the lunchbox cool.
  5. Get your child INVOLVED. As ever, we recommend your child is as involved with making food choices and preparation as possible. They are more likely to eat something they have chosen themselves, and it is comforting for them to have that little reminder of home during their busy day.  If your child is starting school for the first time, a shopping trip to buy a new lunchbox with lots of compartments and drink bottle makes them excited about their new eating routines.
  6. Check LABELS when buying off the shelf. Many of us simply do not have the time to hand prepare everything we put in our children’s mouths, it’s just not realistic. But you can still ensure that you are buying products with the best possible ingredients. For example, a lunchbox yoghurt is a fantastic way for your child to get calcium during the school day, but always check out the sugar content on the label. Ideally you should aim to buy fruit or flavoured yoghurts that have around 10g of sugar per 100g and not too much more. We recommend the Jalna range of yoghurts, which are free of nasties, lower in sugar than many other kids range of yoghurts as well as packed with probiotics, which is great for kids’ tummies. Equally, processed foods can be high in salt, so look for meats or products that contain less than 120mg of sodium per 100g. Cooking lean proteins in advance and keeping them in the fridge is a better option, either bulk roast in advance of just cook a little extra at dinner time the night before.
  7. WATER is the best drink. If you want your kids to have fruit then eat it don’t drink it.  Whilst fresh fruit juice contains some vitamins, it’s low in fibre, high in sugar and in excess can lead to tooth decay. In addition, all those extra calories can add up if your child is drinking juice like water.  Water is the best way to keep your children hydrated when they are very active throughout the day.

What works for you? Do you have any clever tips for exciting and nutritious lunchboxes you can share with us? Contact us now through our website www.watermelonkids.com.au/contact-us/
 
And finally….
Watch out for our autumn newsletter where we will be looking at the NEW Australian Dietary Guidelines, which are currently under review, as well as some exciting news and more.
 

Posted by Cherie | Categories: Newsletters | 0 Comments

Healthy Snacks for the Summer Holidays.

Girls at Party in Park

Take two…Yes I’m resending this blog for the second time! First time round was very confusing as recipes were listed without ingredients, and the blog was somewhere between the recipes. Hopefully, second time round is nice and clear. Hope you enjoy the read…

It is coming up to the long summer holidays and Christmas; a time when it is all-to-easy to reach for unhealthy snacks. Here at Watermelon kids we have been looking at ways that can help busy parents give children healthy snacks on those lazy, hot summer days when kids are constantly pestering us for food.

It’s a well reported fact that child obesity rates are at record levels, with government surveys showing that a quarter of all Australian children aged between 5-17 years old being overweight (Australian Bureau of Statistics).  As parents we know this, but the question is how do we make sure our kids are not in this group? Paying attention to what we give our kids between meals can help keep our kids healthy, and making it easy for ourselves means everyone’s happy this summer.

Here are our top five tips for tasty, nutritious snacks.

Get your kids involved. Trying to find the time to spend in the kitchen is tricky with little ones under your feet and keeping children entertained all day is hard work. It’s very tempting to turn on the TV and hand over another shop-bought, sugar-laden treat. Instead, try combining the two – make food preparation a fun-filled activity. Kids love getting messy and spending time with you being creative in the kitchen. Not only will they begin to learn about food and nutrition, they are also more likely to eat something if they have been involved in the preparation.

Set a good example. Kids learn from the people closest to them, so if they see you tucking into a bag of chips or an ice cream, they will want one too. Set a good example and eat the same food. Some food may have to be adapted; little teeth may find munching on a whole apple difficult for example, so cut it up and share the bowl.

Go Savoury. The more sugar we eat the more we want, and it’s the same for your kids.  What’s more, sugar highs and lows can lead to mood swings and behaviour problems. Offer vegetables such as celery, carrots, cucumber or capsicum cut up as crudités with a yummy hummus, ricotta cheese or yoghurt based dip to add some variety. It’s quick, easy, nutritious and the perfect finger food for all ages.

An occasional treat is OK. You don’t have to say no all the time, but think about giving your child the food with the best possible ingredients and as few foods with no nutritional value as possible. Opt for chocolate with 70% cocoa instead of high sugar lollies or milk chocolate, or choose a wholesome biscuit like an anzac.  If you like to bake, then think about decorating cakes with more natural ingredients like fruit, or try whipping cream cheese and berries together to create a lovely pink topping.

Try something new. Time-poor, busy parents want to kick back and enjoy the summer too.  It’s a good time to break bad habits, pick up a new recipe book and spend time thinking about ways to introduce new foods and flavours into your child’s diet. There are lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables available at reasonable prices at this time of the year, and visiting local markets, letting little ones select weird and wonderful fruits can also be lots of fun.

Need Inspiration? Here are some plan-ahead snacks for busy parents and hungry children.

Cheddar, Corn and Roast Tomato Muffins
Ricotta, Tomato and Pesto Dip
Strawberry and Mango Frozen Yoghurt

Merry Christmas, happy New Year and enjoy the holidays! Look out for our January Newsletter with the latest Watermelon Kids update, as well as tips on how to pack a healthy lunchbox for the kids and more.

Posted by Cherie | Categories: Featured Post, Food, Nutrition | 0 Comments

Strawberry and Mango Frozen Yoghurt

photo

A fresh fruit frozen yoghurt high in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium. A Summer treat that’s quick, easy and a healthier alternative to most commercial frozen yoghurts available.

Ingredients
300g full-cream vanilla yoghurt
125g strawberries (half a punnet)
125g mango (half a large mango)

Place all ingredients in a blender and whiz until smooth. Or for a creamier version, put the mixture into an ice-cream machine and churn for 25 minutes. Pour into six 100ml ice block moulds with lids, and then freeze for 6 hours or until set. Best eaten within a couple of weeks.

Tip: To remove frozen yoghurt from ice block mould, run under hot water for a few seconds then gently remove.

Makes: 6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Freezing time: 6 hours

Posted by Cherie | Categories: Food, Recipes | 2 Comments