Monday, September 29, 2014

50 things I've told Sara to persuade her to eat her food.

Whenever I meet other members of my family,friends or readers who follow my blog most begin by saying, "Oh, so that is your little chefling!" “Yes she is”, grins her mother. This is followed by, “We read your blog. You are such a lucky mum. Your girl eats everything and our children...sigh!”

“No! I am NOT”, I want to shout out loud.

Hmm…I understand that this little blog gives you an impression that my little girl ALWAYS wipes her plate clean. Each and every time. From the steamed broccoli to the stir fried mushrooms (Okay, broccoli she does but hey she doesn’t even touch those mushrooms). 

It is time to show you that a child who eats everything is work of fiction. Mine definitely doesn’t. I always try my best to practice my three commandments and a lot of times I fail. I pick myself up and restart.

  • Convince her to at least try. She may or may not like it but that is not important. What is important is that she is open to tasting.
  • Try and not offer desserts/TV/ playtime as a reward for finishing the meal. Ahem. I am lying. Guilty as hell. I am a mum after all.
  • In this house we don’t waste food. If we don’t finish our food. We get leftovers. May be sometimes dressed up as bestovers but we eat them. Period.

The times I fail are often. These are just some of the lines that I have "used" in the past to persuade her to eat and to finish her meals on time. Don't you judge me? :) I am a mum, okay? Mums are allowed these kinds of things.

  1. If you eat this walnut you will become really smart. Do you see the shape of this walnut? It resembles our brain. Walnuts are good for your brain.
  2. If you eat this carrot your eyes will sparkle. Do you know it has this thing called vitamin A, something like a magic potion for eyes?
  3. If you eat this tomato, your cheeks will become all red. You will look so cute and mamma will get red and juicy cheeks to kiss.
  4. If you don’t eat carrots then you will have to wear specs like mamma. Then how will you read more books? If you don’t read more books, then how will you become smarter? But I am already eating walnuts to become smart, mamma? Gulp.
  5. But this morning you didn’t eat your walnut. If you don’t eat that walnut then you will become silly. Do you want to be silly? Yes, I want to be silly. Silly is fun.
  6. Fish is so good for the brain. Look at papa he quizzes. He quizzes because his mum fed him fish. Don’t you want to quiz? No, I want to do ballet and become a fairy.
  7. Then you must finish your fish. Children who finish their fish can fly. Really, if I finish this fish I will be able to fly? No, not now. When you eat a thousand fishes that will make your magical wings stronger and then you can fly. At the age of 18, okay? Okay mamma.
  8. Dinner? What dinner? I never gave you dinner. That was snack. This is dinner. Sometimes when she has had a really early dinner and I know she is getting going to get hungry come midnight or she has had inadequate dinner according to her mother, her mother fools her into thinking she never ate dinner. The poor little thing believes her mum. Totally mean. But that is okay. She can do the same to her kids. I swear I won’t stop her.
  9. You can watch another episode of Charlie and Lola ONLY if you finish this entire bowl of dal.
  10. You need to taste this and then decide if you like it or not? All chefs need to. They must. Else they are fake chefs.
  11. Almonds help you remember things. Do you want to forget that Sofia song or what? Here, eat these.
  12. Come on finish your food quickly. We also need to eat those brownies, right?
  13. I want EVERYTHING on that plate finished. Do you hear me?
  14. If you don’t finish your food then God will get very upset. So many kids don’t have food to eat and look at your plate, it is full. We are so lucky and we must appreciate that.
  15. If you eat this cabbage your hair will grow longer than even Rapunzel’s.
  16. Alright, this is the last bite. Okay, one last bite. This time I really really promise last bite.
  17. If you want to go down and play, you have to finish that glass of milk.
  18. Oh my goodness look how tall you’ve become after drinking all that Horlicks (Read: 5 ml)
  19. If you don’t eat then that kitty who is hiding somewhere in our house, she will. Here, my eyes are shut now. Kitty Kitty come and finish off Sara’s food. Oh kitty ate? Surprise!
  20. Can you roar like a lion? She opens her mouth. Quicky shove food inside. Can you roar like a tiger now? Cheetah?
  21. Oh for God’s sake put on that obnoxious Barbie song on your phone so that I can force feed her while she is busy watching that mindless video.
  22. We have all finished our food.
  23. Don’t you want to go for that party or not?
  24. What do you mean you don’t like eating a banana? You have always loved bananas.  Now I don’t. What do you mean by now you don’t? Mamma, people change.
  25. But you loved it when masi made it.
  26. But you loved it when nani made it.
  27. Because I said so.
  28. Because my mamma told me it is good for health and mammas are always correct.
  29. God told me. How can God tell you mamma? God doesn’t talk to people. Sssh…he does, only to mammas. I don’t believe you. Then I don’t believe that you can talk to fairies. Mouth shut. Food in.
  30. Oooooh but you can’t call any food “bad”. God gets very upset. Ok, mamma I dislike this. Now ok?
  31. You are not getting up from your chair till you finish that porridge.
  32. This is khicdhi. It is yum. It is good for your tummy and will make your fever go away. But it is yukh. No problem, don’t eat.  We can get a suppository from Dr.Menon instead.
  33. Should I put Nutella on it?
  34. More Nutella?
  35. Should I sprinkle some chaat masala on it? With lemon.
  36. Don’t keep that food in your mouth. You are supposed to chew it.
  37. Chew faster.
  38. Faster Sara. Faster.
  39. No, you give me THAT spoon. I don’t have all day to watch you sit and eat.
  40. Fine you are still on your first bite let me call your friend’s mum and tell her we won’t be able to come for the playdate because Sara is still eating.
  41. Come let’s see who comes first? Papa, you or me? Mamma, this is not a competition. Please let me enjoy my food.
  42. Zucchini is good for you. Pumpkin is good for you. Brussels sprouts are good for you. Asparagus is good for you. If they are all so good for me then how come none of them taste good?
  43. How is it possible that you like to eat coconut pieces but don’t like coconut milk in a curry? I don’t.
  44. Do you want to faint while doing PE at school? Finish your breakfast now.
  45. You will miss your school bus if you don’t eat quickly. Don’t you want to meet your friends?
  46. Okay let me call your teacher.
  47. Fine. You don’t want to be a real princess. That is fine by me. Real princesses eat everything.
  48. I am counting till ten.
  49. Now I am going to take away that plate from you and won’t give you food even if you are hungry.
  50. Sara last warning and I mean it.

Mussels and Orzo One Pot Meal.

She tried. Made a horrible face and then ate her “plain” orzo stir fried in some olive oil with sun dried tomatoes, olives and oregano.

Serves 4


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • ½ tsp garlic paste
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • About a litre of any homemade stock (store bought is also fine)
  • 150 grams of orzo or any tiny pasta you like
  • 200 gms of mussels
  • Fresh herbs like parsley, basil
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Take the olive oil and stir fry the onions till they are soft and pink.
  2. Add the garlic paste and sauté the onion-garlic for 2-3 minutes on low heat.
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook till they leave oil.
  4. Allow the contents of the pan to cool down and then blitz to make it into a smooth paste.
  5. Put the smooth mixture back into the pan.
  6. Add the homemade/store bought stock and salt and bring it to a boil.
  7. Add the orzo and cook till it is almost done. About 10-12 minutes.
  8. In the last five minutes add the cleaned mussels and leave it to simmer.
  9. Add the herbs. Check for salt and add some pepper.

Images: If you like any of the pictures on the blog and would like to use those please write to me. I put in hours of work behind each post and would love to share it with you but it would hurt me if  use those without my permission.Just ask!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Because she loves tea parties.

Sara likes tea parties. She loves “hosting” them. Most afternoons after school she likes to make tea for me. Sometimes her dolls join us too.
Often there are sandwiches, cookies and a pastry or two. I get directions on how to hold the cup, “with your pinkie out because a princess ought to behave like a princess”.

While “drinking” our tea I ask her how was school? There are days when she has a lot to tell. There are days when she doesn't. "It was good", she says. Then there are days like yesterday when she said, "Oh! it was very exciting". "Wow! Tell me all about it Sara", I said.

“I can’t remember what we did. But I remember it was very exciting!”

Umm. Alright.

But I digress.

I can’t remember if as a kid I loved tea parties as much as she does. Perhaps it has got to do with overdose of all the princess books she has been reading. Alice in Wonderland too.

A couple of weeks back she got back from school and asked if she could have her friends over for a tea party. "Tomorrow evening mamma. Like real tea, mamma. Wearing princess gowns".
"I will need to make invitations", she added. "They need to go out today. I will give it to them at the park this evening".
With very little time on hand we downloaded this free printable and she wrote out her friends' and her own name in a “Royal” font no less (Read: curly plus wiggly handwriting equals royal)
"But what will we serve Sara"? 

"It is my tea party, can I cook"?, she asked. "There has to be tea and cookies and those tomato squares that we made the other day".

We agreed. I did a little prep work the next morning so that she could “cook” after school.
Chocolate milk for tea in “royal” cups: Years back I was gifted these dainty china cups which I always ended up using for dips and desserts. We took them out and she helped me fill each one with some “tea”.
Teabag cookies: Because to make tea we need teabags and we also need cookies to go with it. I had been waiting for a chance to make these ridiculously cute teabag cookies ever since I saw them everywhere and now was my chance :) I prepared the dough in the morning and kept a teabag stencil ready for her to cut them out. From there on it was easy. While she dipped each teabag into the warm chocolate ganache I tried very hard to be okay with it not being “perfect” and not dipping it back in. For my little chefling's cookies were more than perfect in every way. I attached the tea bag labels (free printable) and she squealed with excitement.
Tomato, basil and goat cheese squares: These happen to be Sara’s favorite and I feel they are a nice change from the usual pizza/pasta for a kid’s party. Since they have both the tomato and the cheese the children are willing to try. Plus they look like “grown up” food which was perfect for her “grown up tea party”.  
I prepared the dough and sliced the tomatoes before she got back from school. We then cut them into squares and she adorned each square with tomatoes slices, a generous sprinkle of  basil and goat cheese. We painted them with egg wash and they went into the oven.
We also had some gooey brownies which were a surprise for the chef who had spent all afternoon cooking for her friends.
The girls had so much fun that evening. They sat on the chairs wearing their pretty dresses and dipped their teabags into their tiny cups. They drew teacups and kettles and milk pots and sugar pots and played some more pretend tea. They talked. They laughed.

My little girl was exhausted by the end of it all. "Was I good hostess mamma"?, she asked.

"The best", said her proud mum.

Does your little one like playing “tea party”?

For us this party was much more than just a game. See for yourself.

Sara learnt:
  • It is nice to invite friends over and it is even nicer when the invitation is handwritten. It makes our friends feel special.
  • There is a lot of work that goes into cooking for friends and family. It is exhausting but there is no greater joy than feeding your loved ones.
  • Toys when shared with friends multiply your happiness.
  • When you take care of your little guests you go on to become a great little hostess and get many many hugs from all of them.
  • Lastly, when we pour too much of chocolate milk into a tiny cup we get a chocolate puddle on the kitchen slab which then trickles down to the floor and that means lots of cleaning :)
I learnt:
  • All get togethers needn’t be planned. Yes, I am Monica types. Sara taught me a great lesson. Sometimes impromptu plans are way more fun than planned ones.
  • What they make doesn't have to look "perfect". What is important is leading them to the kitchen and allowing them to touch, feel and see where their food come from. Trust me whatever they make with their two little paws will be beautiful and will leave you teary eyed. 
  • You don’t have to necessarily DIY each little element of your party. Didn't I already mention I am Monica with a DIY obsession? It is okay to take help from others. These two ladies helped us with invitations and tea bag labels and tons of you inspired us to try out your super creative tea bag cookies.
  • I love having her with me in the kitchen. The questions that she asks, the advice she gives me, the talks we have, the mistakes she makes and the mess she makes, All of this and more makes my day brighter.
Would you like to have a cup of tea?

Tomato, basil and goat cheese squares.
  • 450 grams puff pastry (readymade is fine) I use this recipe
  • One egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp of dry basil plus more for sprinkling later
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Salt
  • 4 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 100 grams goat cheese, cut into tiny wedges
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with some parchment paper.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry thin and cut it into squares or any shape that you like. We made ten medium squares.
  3. Put them on the baking sheet and fold the sides of each of the squares to make a sort of slightly raised border (about 1 cm). Brush these borders with the egg wash.
  4. Mix the garlic paste, olive oil, basil and salt together and brush all the squares with it.
  5. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on the squares, overlapping a bit. About two to three slices per square. Bake for about 15 minutes. The tomatoes will be tender and light brown.
  6. Take the baking sheet out and add a wedge or two of the goat cheese and sprinkle some basil on to each square. Return to the oven for another 7-8 minutes. The cheese will  be melty but will still hold shape.
  7. You can serve it both hot or at room temperature.
Images : Personal Album. All images belong to orangekitchens and are subject to copyright. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chowing down with chai and companions.

Ask most Indians and they would agree that there is something about garam garam chai (hot tea) that makes chilly winter mornings’ warmer and sultry hot summer evenings tolerable. Weekends when there is no rush are calmer when you have a cup in hand and the breathtaking sunrise for a view. Weekdays when one is running around like a headless chicken the same cup of chai (or cha as my maternal grandmother would say) when multiplied by three or sometimes four helps you keep your sanity. Chai simply makes your life better.

Or for me it was always what came with the chai; the conversation, the people, the place and the snacks; yes especially the teatime snacks.

As a kid I would love cupping my hands around my mum’s hot mug of tea and dipping Parle-G or a rusk that would inadvertently break and fall into her cup of tea and she would give me that look that simply said I told you so. But never were we allowed to drink tea, “kids don’t drink tea”, she would say and we would eagerly wait for the day when we would make the transition from enjoying the tea-dipped soggy biscuits to drinking our first cup of that magical masala chai. Till then my sister and I made peace with having tea parties of our own with our toy kitchen.

Cream biscuits were my favorite while my sister stuck to her Nice biscuits which I for some reason totally detested. You know those that come with little crystals of sugar. She preferred those more than “my” cream biscuits which came with fluorescent synthetic cream (Now when I think about it. Uggh!); I mean who in the world doesn’t like pulling apart the two biscuits, licking the cream in between and then dipping the jhoote biscuits as my mum would call it in her cup of tea!

Growing up I fell in love with coffee over tea (blasphemy I know for a north Indian!) but the taste of what was served with the tea never left me. Hot Pakoras straight out of the kadhai, samosas from the bagal wale Sharma ji ki dukaan, steaming hot jalebis on a rainy afternoon, bhujjias for those still evenings; those that mom kept in her Tupperware dabba lest they lose their crunch, a packet of Bikanerwala kaju namkeen opened hurriedly when sudden guests came along and the regular tea partners that kept changing depending on mum’s mood; glucose biscuits, rusks or a Marie.

Weekends would mean mum would make us a cake in her round oven and we would eat it the minute it came out of the oven while mum would have it sipping her adrak wali chai (ginger tea). Tea pairings have just started doing the rounds in the culinary world today but ask any Indian, there has always been a chai for every occasion and reason. Ginger, green cardamom, black cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and sometimes even saffron, sometimes added individually and mostly in various permutations and combinations but all brought together depending on the mood, the need and ofcourse the accompanying snack.
But I digress. Coming back to life around that cup of chai.

Once I began college, some of the best memories that I have are from the tapri as my hostel mates from Mumbai would call it. In between classes, on the evenings when the mess would be shut or late nights when the innumerable projects kept us awake; we were there all the time. Laughing, talking, cribbing all over that little glass of chai  with a packet of biscuit or packaged dhokla bought from the very same tapri or when we really lucky some homemade mathri couriered by a loving parent.

Tea time was sacred for it was here we shared both our excitement and fears of an unknown future that awaited us after college; jobs that come with both financial independence and responsibility. Those that came with bosses we learnt to love and hate and came with the sacred chai time. The first organization that I worked for there the brand management office was part of the factory premises which meant there were fixed tea times. You couldn't just walk out of your cubicle and order tea. You had to wait for it to arrive. It was like a ceremony where tiny steel glasses came along with a mammoth steel coffee vending dispenser complete with a tap. We would queue up to fill our two drops of chai and dug out of our pockets mini packets of murruku that we had been handed over at lunch time on our way out from the factory mess. Over those crispy round spirals we felt sorry about how each of us had landed a heartless boss. Each Friday the murruku were replaced with cake that had multi-colour glaced cherries in it. Life was good. There was a certain comfort in following that routine much like the regular cup of chai brings with it.

And now if you can excuse me please, I have got to join my girlfriends on our monthly date who are all very happy that the kids are finally at school and we can all have our cup of tea over some adult conversation. Ahem, I’ll have a chai lattee please ! One day I promise to give you my heart dear tea till then we’ll settle with the snacks that you bring along. Pakoras, anyone?

Here are some of my favourite teatime snacks? What are yours? I’d love to hear.

My favourite teatime snacks*
Allu tikkis
Deep fried potato cakes, served with a spicy coriander and mint chutney.
Banana chips
Deep fried or dried slices of bananas enjoyed as chips
Sliced or ball of vegetables, fried in usually a gram flour batter. Best enjoyed with tamarind chutney.
Crispy yellow deep fried snack  prepared by using gram flour and spices like red chilli, black pepper, cardamom, cloves and salt.
Biscuits or biscoot as it is also known as
Needs no explanation. The likes of Parle-G, Nice, Marie, Bourbon, etc all Indian kids grows up with.
Collective term for snacks like dhokla, kachori, khaman, khandvi, muthia, etc all enjoyed with tea.
Flattened ball stuffed with spiced lentils, potato, or beans and enjoyed with a variety of sweet and sour chutneys.
Flaky biscuits made from flour, water and cumin seeds
Depending on the state it is may be a combination of fried lentils, peanuts, chickpea flour noodles, flaked rice, fried onion, curry leaves, etc.
Crunchy twists made from rice and urad dal flour.
Pakoras/ Bondas
Vegetable/s or minced  meat, coated in batter (usually gram flour) and deep-fried.
Dry biscuit bread that has been baked twice.
Triangular savoury pastries fried and containing spiced vegetables (usually boiled potatoes and peas) or minced meat.
Shakarpare/ Namakpare
Diamond or square shaped, sugar coated, crisp sweets made with all purpose flour. Savoury ones are called namakpare

Allu Bhajjis with Hari Chutney (Serves 4-6)

For the Hari Chutney
  • 125 grams coriander, stems removed and chopped
  • 3-4 green chillis, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 gooseberries, chopped
  • Juice of a lemon
  • ½ tsp rock salt (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • Salt to taste

For the Potato Bhajjis
  • 500 grams potatoes, sliced and immersed in ice cold water
  • 150 grams chickpea flour
  • ½ cup coriander, chopped
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ajwain
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 150 ml water
  • Sunflower Oil to deep fry
  • Chaat masala to sprinkle 


For the Hari Chutney:
1. Simply blend together all the ingredients for the chutney.

For the Bhajjis:
  1. Mix all the ingredients except the potatoes into a thick batter. 
  2. Drain the water from the sliced potatoes and immediately put it in the batter. See that all the pieces are coated evenly.
  3. In the meantime heat the oil in a wok. Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a drop or two of the batter. If it sizzles it is ready to fry.
  4. Take four-five batter coated potato slices and carefully drop it into the hot oil. When it becomes golden yellow take it out on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.
  5. Do the same with all the other slices and sprinkle chaat masala on it if you like.
  6. Serve with the Hari chutney and enjoy.
Images : Personal Album. All images belong to orangekitchens and are subject to copyright. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lunch boxes, little hands & lovely memories.

Those School Days. Whenever I sit down and reminisce about them I am transported back into the world of polishing shoes at night, biology dissection lessons that I for some vague reason loved, that one time a really good looking young professor came to teach in an all girls’ school, running around the corridors, that annual day for which we practiced for months, those much dreaded quizzes and all of us waiting for the recess bell to strike so that we could take out those lunch boxes and finally get some much deserved rest. Most days the goodies in the lunch box were consumed much before the lunch hour.

Each year when the time came to progress to the next grade mum would take me to choose a new lunch box. Getting to choose that one box made me feel very grown up, very adult. My name and grade were written on it with a permanent marker and the lunch box was shown off to all on the first day of the class. Next came what would go into it. There were of course the favourites like the grated cucumber and carrot sandwich, parantha (Indian flatbread) with jam and vegetable poha (beaten rice with veggies) amongst many others that weren't rated that high. But to be honest I don’t remember a single lunch that I disliked. Perhaps it was to do with the fact that back then we had limited choices. There was also an occasional slice of homemade cake that was given as a special treat. And yes, noodles, which were a favourite with all of us.

Sharing our lunchboxes was what lunch breaks were made of. A dear friend’s lunch box was my favourite for her mum always sent homemade dosas with spicy red chutney. Food was what brought us all together at school. Food was how we understood our differences and similarities.

Move to April, when Sara began taking lunch to school. After we got past the challenge of getting all of the princess lunch boxes and water bottles ever manufactured the bigger challenge was staring me in my face; what to put in her lunchbox (she takes two snack boxes; a lighter one for the 15 minute break and a heavier one for the 30 minute break) so that it comes back empty like mine always did and also so that she remembers her lunch time as fondly as I do and makes beautiful memories around it.

Interestingly, what has helped me the most is getting her into the kitchen and letting her make “important decisions” like choosing what she’d like and letting her “make” her lunch every day. And now she loves it and helps me “cook” all her meals. Letting her take this decision has helped reducing her anxiety of what will be there in her lunch box the next day and become less resistant to new foods. It is usually something really small like choosing which vegetable or fruit would she like in her box or letting her choose between two fillings or wanting to take her carrots sliced or cubed. She once “made her own recipe” for a sandwich filling and that till date is her favorite. She is obviously very proud of her creation and makes it a point to remind me that the recipe is hers each time I make it for her lunchbox.
Helping me make her favourite whole wheat pasta salad with broccoli & feta for her lunch box

Of course it doesn't mean that I give her only what she decides to like! Each time I want to introduce her to a new food (Read: food she instantly said no to without even tasting) I pack it along with a current favorite. Makes me one happy mamma when I see a “new food” doing the vanishing act.

I also noticed that ever since we started planning and making the lunch boxes together it is helping her to make better choices. We've been talking about where her fruits and veggies come from, how brown bread is better for her tummy and fresh juice is so much tastier than the packed one (the difference between good food and the not so good food) When she is helping me decide the options she also learns (without me being preachy) what she needs to put into her body to be able to study/run/swim/do ballet/paint and build houses for fairies (With a third of a child's food intake for the day being consumed at school it is important that food in your child's lunch box provides the much needed vitamins and minerals for energy and growth).

Need to add:  That occasional store bought chocolate custard or pretzels are still very much part of our lunches and a little indulgence/ cheating is and should be part of childhood, agree? Us parents too). Along the way she is also learning that a lot of work and love goes into preparing each meal and did I mention her lunchboxes comes empty each day and leaves me beaming?

We also like to shop for her lunch together. Sara loves grocery shopping so much so that on our recent vacation she asked me if the grocery store guy was missing her & me! Yes, that is the kind of love I am talking about. It just makes her so much more willing to eat what she “bought” from her very own grocery list.

Do you ask your little one to “help” you fix her/his lunch? I’d love to hear your views on this and if you don’t then give it a try and let me know how it went.

Tiny Tasks

Here are some ideas to get you and your kids into making lunches together (All done under supervision & with assistance).

Age group
Tasks that they can do

Making it easy
 3-6 years

  • Choosing between two fruits/veggies/sandwich or wrap fillings
  • Deciding the shape they would like their food cut into or the lunchbox they’d like to carry the next day
  • Oiling baking trays or sprinkling crumble toppings
  • Rolling truffle balls/shaping cutlets
  • Lending a hand with spreading jams or whisking a muffin batter
A pictorial checklist with items under each head like whole grain, dairy, fruits, veggies and snack will encourage them to ascertain their independence and also understand that they need one thing from each of the above groups in their lunch box.
6-9 years
  • Filling their own water bottle or a thermos for soup
  • Washing and drying salad leaves, etc.
  • Chopping ingredients with a child safe knife.
  • Wrapping their food
Make good nutrition convenient for them by having snacks, fruits, veggies, proteins in designated boxes in the fridge. That is all they need to put together their lunch and you could take charge of the one big carbohydrate and the hot items that they will need to refuel their minds at school.
9 years and above
  • Encouraging them to come up with ideas to turn their leftovers from last night into a creative lunch. 
  • Drawing up a weekly lunch plan with your help and chopping & semi preparing ingredients for the same
  • Emptying and cleaning their lunch boxes and bottles
Setup a lunch making area where they can find everything they are going to need (lunch boxes, bottles, cutlery, napkins, zip-lock bags, foil, chopping board, knives, etc.). Also helps them learn the value of being organized.

Please note: A part of this story was originally written for BBC Good Food by moi. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Eid Mubarak to you and yours.

Images : All images belong to orangekitchens and are subject to copyright. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Understanding and Appreciating Ramadan.

We moved to Dubai a year and three months back. It was both an unexpected and a sudden move but one that we welcomed. They say that there are two gifts that you should give a child. One is roots and the other is wings. Moving to a country that is unfamiliar to you, experiencing a new way of living, becoming one of “them” and making it your home is part of the roots and wings course.

In little more than a year, home for Sara means only one place on the globe; Dubai. What do you like about Dubai we ask her? I love that park with swings, all my “best friends” are here, I like going to the beach (with truckloads of beach toys), I love my school because it is the best in the world, she says. UAE is my favorite country in the world,she adds. I smile. What is home after all; a place where you are surrounded by friends & family and where you make memories and this is exactly what my five year old is happy doing. Dubai is her home.

There is another side to it though and that is embracing the culture of the country you start calling home and ever since we moved to Dubai we are helping her do that. Be it learning the national anthem of UAE or taking baby steps to learn Arabic. Social science lessons at school were very pretty interesting this month where she studied both India and UAE and it made me grin with joy that the school was making her revisit her roots and helping her understand and see UAE closer.

Last year during Ramadan we were not in the city. This year things are a little different;  we are here, Ramadan has come much earlier, Sara has graduated from kindergarten and is a “big girl” now which means she can understand and appreciate Ramadan more than she could the year before. At school the children were taught about Ramadan and how some of her Muslim friends might be keeping their first Ramadan and it would be nice to support them.

We too have been discussing the significance of this holy month with her. I want her to understand why this month is so special for all her friends who are observing it and how she can be a part of this.

A couple of weeks back she got an opportunity to be a part of the Haq-Al-Lailah celebrations here where she received dates and sweets from some of our friends and we made fruit bars to share with everyone. We also had a little chat with her about the why’s and what’s of Haq-Al-Lailah. I am looking forward to doing the same with her for Ramadan and ofcourse Eid. I’d like her to appreciate the traditions associated with Ramadan and how sharing and giving are the fundamental principles behind it. Just like during Diwali when we share what we have with the less fortunate and thank God for what we he has blessed us with I’d like her to do her own little bit this year during this month of introspection, charity and gratitude.

Here’s what we have planned. 
  • She is going to be giving away toys and clothes (some new and some old) that belong to her to the needy. Giving away what is hers will make her understand that sharing is about having a big heart. 
  • She has a little piggy bank where she has been collecting coins for over a year now. It is not a huge amount but they are a invaluable for her. They are hers. We are going to take some of them and buy some icecreams or a candies or a doughnuts (clearly her list and not mine :)) for some children who have never had one for no childhood is complete without licking a lollipop or licking the ice-cream off your lips. 
  • Sara loves to bake and we have planned an entire afternoon of baking some yummy goodies that we are going to pack in pretty boxes and give away as gifts to both the underprivileged and our lovely neighbours for only when you make something with your own hands you realize the amount of work that goes into making someone happy. Sharing them with her neighbors and friends will teach her the importance of building a community spirit.
All of the above are really simple gestures for often simple is most meaningful.

I also came across some lovely books for the kids for the Non-Muslim expat children to understand Ramadan better. They ofcourse are great for kids who are observing their first Ramadan this year as well.
My little chefling & I wish all those who are observing Ramadan; Ramadan Kareem and are sharing a healthy recipe we often make at home. Also here is a little gift to all those little kids who are fasting with their mums and dads this year. 
A countdown calendar of sorts to encourage them and reward them for nothing excites a kid more than a star sticker (take it from me). You could print this and give your little one a star sticker at the end of the day for being able to complete their fast successfully and ofcourse to keep a track of how many days until Eid :)

Brown rice, spinach and pomegranate salad
This power packed wholesome salad is a great way to introduce your children to the joy of eating brown rice and green leaves.  It is a salad but doesn’t quite feel like a salad for it has rice and kids love rice. There are dates and peaches take care of the sweetness that they love and cutting down any little bitterness from baby spinach. In addition this one pot meal has the goodness of the coconut oil, the anti-oxidant properties of turmeric & pomegranate and the vitamins and minerals from dates and ofcourse the good fats from the peanuts. Just what the little bodies will need after a day of fasting.

Ingredients (Makes 4 large portions)
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 tsp coconut nut oil
  • 1/8th  tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar or any other of your choice
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp sumac or any dry herb available
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 cup peaches or any stone fruit
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 100 grams baby spinach
  • 1 cup salted peanuts

  1. Cook the brown rice according to instructions on the pack. Simply add turmeric to the water in which you are going to cook it.
  2. Combine the vinegar, olive oil, 1 tsp of sumac, salt, chilli flakes, lemon juice and salt if using to make the dressing.
  3. To the dressing, add the dates, red onion, nectarine, pomegranate seeds and leave it to develop flavours.
  4. Place the spinach in a large salad bowl.
  5. Just before serving, dress the salad. Add the boiled rice. And mix gently Sprinkle the remaining sumac and the peanuts and shake some extra olive oil on top if you like. 

Images : Personal Album. All images belong to orangekitchens and are subject to copyright. The printable is only for personal use. 
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