CUSTARD APPLE

How many times have you passed by this fruit at your local market and wondered WTH it was?

Pile of custard apples together with red dragon fruit from 123rf.com

The custard apple is a very sweet fruit as a result of the naturally occuring sugars it carries.

It is very rich in Vitamin B1 and B2(Thiamin and Riboflavin)

It is also a good source of vitamin C,magnesium and potassium.

It ripens pretty fast once mature and its pulp can be blended with other fruits  to make shakes or with milk.

You need to sieve the pulp first to get rid of the seeds.

Its best to buy them when they arent ripe yet and store them in a cool dry place.

Follow this link that has recipes from the Australian Custard Growers Association on how to use the fruit for various dessert dishes.

Once ripe the outer flesh softens and gives slightly when pressed but you need to be careful it doesnt get too ripe which then turns the pulp inside  to a mushy consistency.

The flesh inside is white/off white and that’s what you want to eat, it is simply delicious!

MATOKE STEW WITH GREEN PEAS

Anything that had green bananas i ate.

That is what my mum tells me when she regals us with our favourite foods when we were chidren.

Green bananas are cheap and in Kenya are available all season.

This is food that is low in carbohydrates and has the B2 vitamin  necessary for cell growth and engery production.

To prevent the sticky gum green bananas are famous for from sticking to your hands,apply some olive oil on both your hands and the knife you will use to peel them

Ingredients

5 green bananas,peeled and cut into halves widhtwise

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium sized onion sliced thinly

1 clove garlic,minced

1 ripe tomato chopped

2 medium sized carrots,grated medium size)

1 cup green peas(parboiled)

salt and pepper to taste

water/stock

Method

1.Fry the onions in a saucepan till the become soft and are almost turning brown,then add i clove minced garlic.Fry for 30 seconds.

2.Add the chopped tomato tomato and grated carrots and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a dash of black pepper.

3.Add enough water/vegetable stock to cover bananas and cook over low heat for 10 minutes then add the parbolied peas.

4.Let cook for a further

5 minutes or till when a fork is passed through the bananas it goes through.

Great with roast chicken,meatballs and you favourite salad

JAZZED UP GITHERI

For a total of 8 years of ,4 each in  upper primary and high school ,i spent every evening eating githeri.

Githeri is a  central Kenyan delicacy of boiled maize and beans, fried in onions, tomatoes with some potatoes put in for good measure.

Murram  as we called it in school then, was a staple and you did not have to be a rocket scientist to know what food our faithful cook Kariuki would put out to be served by whoever’s duty it was to act as  “server of food” for that week to a table of 12 hungry teenagers.

The only deviation to this routine was on visiting days and any other day  when parents trooped to school to see their young geniuses take a break from all the hard work.

Then they would bring us chapatis,pilau,chicken ,soda and anything else we were starved off in school.

Only for them to leave us with Eno to keep of indigestion that inevitably came with eating too much.

One of my first posts on this blog was turning githeri on its head and making a salad out of it in  deconstructed githeri.

Now this is another way to have this Kenyan classic ,which nutritionally speaking, by combining maize and beans it results in  a perfect protein much like rice and beans has been made famously healthy by the Mexicans.

My 5-year-old loves it and your family will love it too.

Its githeri jazzed up with some spice and lots of vegetables off different colours that make it so appealing visually.

I digress…this was meant to be a recipe.

Ingredients

2 cups dry/fresh beans parboiled

1.5  cup green corn/maize parboiled

2 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium-sized red onion,chopped finely

3 cloves minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root

1 teaspoon garam masala

4 medium-sized potatoes peeled and halved

2 tomatoes cubed

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 small green capsicum,chopped

2 medium-sized carrots

salt and pepper to taste

stock/water

Method

1.Heat a medium-sized saucepan over medium high heat and pour the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.

2.Add the red onion,saute it till it turns soft then add the garlic and fresh ginger root minced,fry for 30 seconds taking care not to brown it too much.

3.Add the garam masala and the black pepper,let cook for 15 -30 seconds taking care not to burn it, then add the potatoes and  the vegetables plus the salt and tomato paste.Let it cook covered for 2-3  minutes ,stirring often till it turns into a thick sauce .

4.Add the beans and maize and enough stock to cover and let simmer for 30 minutes till the potatoes are soft and a fork passed through them goes through and the stock has reduced to just below the level of the beans and githeri.

Serve with some creamy coleslaw or kale or you favourite salad.

HOT CHOCOLATE WITH MARSHMALLOWS

With 2 children whom i do not give tea to,i decided to come up with my own version of instant chocolate that did not have all the extra sugar added to most brands.

After reading all the ingredients contained in most brands,i came up with a version that so far seems healthy enough for me as it only requires very little sweetening or none at all.

It costs more but is definitely worth the effort.

Ingredients

100 grammes unsweetened cocoa powder

250 grammes milk powder

200 grammes dark chocolate

Preparation.

1.Roughly chop the dark chocolate or grate it.

2.Pour the milk chocolate into a bowl,add the milk powder and the dark chocolate mix with a fork then put into an air tight container with a lid.Give a thorough shake then store it .

To prepare the hot chocolate:

In a small saucepan over low heat , pour a glass of milk then  add a heaped tablespoon of the cocoa mix.

Use a whisk to mix in the cocoa mixture till there are no lumps ,make sure not to let the milk boil.Just let it heat through till the chocolate is melted and then serve.

Add a marshmallow or two to your hot drink for special effect.

The result is a frothy chocolate drink that is simply out of this world.

Enjoy.

OX TAIL SOUP

I grew up taking ox tail soup thanks to my  dad who  loved to buy this cut of meat  for soup.The ox tail is  actually the tail of any beef animal and not neccesarily ox and the reference as an ox tail is just a term used loosely.

We would throw the bones in a large sufuria (saucepan) over a charcoal grill and watch them boil and stew for hours till the meat was almost falling from the bones.

Ox-tail retains its flavour best when slow cooked over medium heat and is a wonderful base for any kind of stock.

I have been working on my own recipe for this soup and I normally include vegetables and some pepper to make one of the best soups you will ever have.

You can add some good red wine to the water to give it more body and is a wonderful soup for breast-feeding mothers or anyone who wants to enjoy a good soup.

Ingredients

1 kilo of ox -tail

1 large onion,chopped

1 large tomato,chopped

2 celery sticks chopped

2 cloves of garlic,minced

1 large potato,cubed

2 carrots ,cubed

1 teaspoon black pepper

salt to taste

2 tablespoons oil

Water

tomato paste(optional)

glass of wine(optional)

Method

1.In a large saucepan  heat the oil then add the bones to the saucepan  and brown it,turning it frequently.

2.Using a spoon transfer the bones to a large plate then add the onions to the oil,saute them till soft,add the garlic cook for 10 seconds,then add the rest of the vegetables and salt to taste.

3.Add the tomato paste if using and  black pepper,then put back the bones in the sauce pan.

4.At this point you can add some wine or enough water to cover the bones and bring to a boil then simmer for 3-4 hours.

5.The soup should be ready when the meat is almost falling off the bone and the soup has turned a milky color.

6.Serve  the soup hot  with some of the bones  garnished with some  chopped parley or spring onions

Note:The meat from ox tail makes a great sandwich filling paired with tomatoes,lettuce or coleslaw.

Make sure to keep checking on the soup incase you need to add more liquid.

A FAMILY THAT EATS TOGETHER STAYS TOGETHER

Family having a meal together

A family gathered around a meal ,enjoying it,catching up on each others lives,cracking jokes,talking about shared memories,what can be more beautiful than that?

I am a big campaigner of families sharing meals together.

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing your loved ones gathered around a table enjoying a meal.

Research has shown that children from families that eat together are less likely to abuse drugs,get eating disorders,get depressed,smoke …read an interesting article from the Time Magazine on family meal times.

Despite busy schedules and after work activities ,strive to have family meals together as much as possible . It is more likely that you will eat something more nutritious than a pack of fries and deep fried chicken .

You are more likely to get  your children eating more healthy meals and  you will get them to eat their vegetables.

Children get their habits from what we do rather than what we say,show them what healthy eating is all about by preparing healthy whole some meals for them.

They will pick up life long  healthy eating from the family table.

Enjoy a family dinner/lunch this weekend.

WHY READING FOOD LABELS COULD SAVE YOUR CHILD’S LIFE.

We all know what the Kenya Bureau of Standards does ,which is not ensuring  unsafe and harmful food substances do not get  to the consumer.Remember the illegal alcohol drinks laced with methanol that by passed all the stringent measures put in place by the standards body,yes that is how efficient we are.

In 2007 there was an article published in the Daily Telegraph that linked eating sausages with an increased risk for cancer.Reason for this was that an ingredient added to sausage meat and burger meat posed a risk to humans,the article can be found here.

Between January and July of tha year,the paper had published articles highlighting the dangers of food additives and preservatives especially for children and the risks it exposed them to.

Now in Kenya with food safety not being a major concern for the standards body and with the country lacking a strong consumer awareness movement,we as individuals and parents need to take the health and safety of our children into our hands.

We need to be more keen and informed in the choices we make especially in regards to processed foods.

Some of the ingredients used in processed foods have a wide range of effects especially on children and they may range from hyperactivity,lower IQ to putting children at risk of cancer.

Some countries in Europe are already calling for the banning of some of these food preservatives and ingredients , companies like Nestle are already working on using  naturally occurring flavourings and colorings.

In addition Europe’s food safety body EFSA carries out continuous risk assessment and evaluation of risks along the food chain and communicates the same to consumers.

In Kenya that is what we lack,that is why it is very important to arm ourselves with knowledge and information that will enable us make more informed choices .

Some of the ingredients you need to look out for are listed below and are from an article in The Daily Telegraph that equated their effect to that of leaded petrol.

Artificial flavorings to avoid,sourced from the Daily Telegraph of the UK

RULES TO WEAN BABY BY

I will never forget the time when i have had to wean my babies,i almost hired a marching band when my kids graduated from breast milk to solid food.

Unfortunately my daughter who mis now five had to take formula at two months when i had to go back to work but my two-year old was very lucky,he breast-fed exclusively for the first 6 months.

Here are some rules which as a mum and as a nutritionist i lived by,hope they can help a new mum who is thinking of weaning.And i must say this has been inspired by one of my blog friends over at Mummytales,she writes the most hilarious posts on her mummy adventures.

1.Breast is best for the first 4-6 months

Image from www.nhs.uk

Exclusive breast-feeding for the first 6 months is a very good idea.I have noticed a difference with my daughter who with 2 months of breast-feeding had more visits to the pediatrician than with her brother who got 6 months of mummy y loving.

And if you have to get back to work before the 6 months are through,get a pump.

For some reason i could never get enough milk to leave for her  and yes there are some mothers who for some reason cannot breast feed,make sure you talk to your baby’s pediatrician for advice on what formula to give the little one and for advice.

2.One food at  a time

When introducing foods to a baby The American Academy of pediatrics recommends giving  one ingredient  at a time.

That way it will be easy to pick allergies and preferences you baby may have.

3.Variety Variety

Give your child different flavours,tastes colors to experience.

DOnt stick to one thing,make it your little culinary orchestra.from mashed potatoes to baby squash or butternut,banana rice make weaning fun for both you and baby.

I have provided two links from BBC Health and NHS that provide great advice for mothers thinking of weaning their babies.

4.If baby does not like it,move on to something different

SOmetimes babies have minds of their own and may not take to a particular food as you expected,move on to something else and introduce it at a later date.

5.No fruit juices

Pediatricians advice tha that only fluids babies should take are either milk or water,packaged fruit juices are not healthy nor do they offer nay nutritional value to your child,unless they are fruit puree that you have made yourself.

commercial or packaged fruit juices have been shown to contribute to child obesity,juvenile onset  diabetes and dental caries.

You may want to hold off on the salt ans sugar when making food for your baby until they are a little bit older.

Lastly just like an adult make sure your baby get nutrients from all the food groups,fats and carbohydrates,body building foods i.e proteins and essential  minerals and vitamins that are provided by fruits and vegetables.

Have fun and share your weaning experiences here.

5 HEALTHY SCHOOL SNACKS

Snack box filled with fruit from kidsandfruit.org.auNow after my last post you must be asking yourself what your child is going to eat ,right?

Well here are some healthy and nutritious ideas.

1.Fruits

Pick fruits that retain their quality for long even after being out of the refrigerator for a while.

I am thinking of apples,oranges,tangerines,bananas,mangoes,grapes if you can afford them too are great.

2.Sandwiches

Make sandwiches for your child,toast them if you can and you can include tomatoes,cucumber,shredded chicken or beef pieces,some cheese.Very healthy and tasty too

With sandwiches there is no lack of the fillings ,be adventurous.

3.Nuts

Kenya exports some of the best cashew nuts in the world,peanuts too are good,give a taste of them to your child if they do not have any known peanut allergies.

Sesame seeds or simsim as we call it in Kenya, is readily available in Kenya and often i have seen sesame seed bars on sale .You can even make the sesame seed bars yourself if you feel adventurous enough.

4.Fruit yoghurt

Yoghurt especiialy the one that comes in little tubs and has some real fruit in it is also great,pack it that for your child together with a spoon and its good to go.

5.Popcorn is also another alternative so long as it is not too heavily salted or oily

And last but not least do not forget your childs water bottle.

What other healthy snacking ideas can you add to this list   that your child takes to school?

WHAT IS IN YOUR CHILD’S SNACK BOX?

Packaged fruit juices,biscuits,crisps,popcorn,chocolate who has not put one or two of these items for their kid to carry to school?I know I have but think about it,how healthy is it for your child to be snacking on these items loaded with sugar,empty calories and salt?

If you took a walk to a Kenyan schools from nursery through primary at around 10am in the morning when most are on tea break and took a peek at what we pack for our children to take to school ,we would be surprised to see the amount of sugar we are feeding our children.

Most of the time,its packaged fruit juice,biscuits,chocolate ,crisps and other not so good stuff.

I remember when I went to kindergarten which thankfully was for a year,we would have milk and biscuits and on some days ,which was the high light of our week,we would be given milk and cookies.Yippee!now which five or six-year-old does not love that.

At times I have even found myself packing some of these things i am talking about for my child ..but i digress.

First on the list is fruit juice or drinks.And in Kenya with no regulatory or consumer body that keeps watch,most of them are just made of sugar,flavourings and preservatives.

In some countries before a fruit juice can be cleared for sale in the market,it needs to have a specified amount of real fruit pulp.

In 2001,the American Academy of pediatrics published a paper called The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics.

And in it they decried the overconsumption of juice among infants and young children as it was seen to contribute to obesity,malnutrition,dental caries and diarrhoea

But why lie packaged  fruit juice and fruit drinks does  tastes good(because of the sugar added),is attractively packaged  and kids love it.

Next on the list of favourite snack time treats is biscuits or cookies and what are most of them loaded with sugar and calories.Same as fruit juice and drinks bad for teeth and no nutritional value if consumed in excess.

Let us not forget the flavoured brand of crisps that have hit our supermarkets from tomato to barbecue to salt and vinegar flavours,they taste so good but how healthy if eaten every day between monday and friday?

How many of us ever make sandwiches from tomatoes ,some chicken ,cucumber,lettuce and pack them for snacking?

Or include nuts and fruits and make some real juice and give them to our children.

A lot of the eating habits we have as adults start from childhood and we need to be careful as mothers to  start of our kids early in life on healthy eating.

So next time you are sending your child off to school,put a little more thought into what is going in their snack box.