Guest Blog by Sam Croom (Mammamix)
I could write a dissertation on fussy eating. Many people assume that because cooking is the essence of my business and I make a conscious effort for my food to be healthy and look pretty, that my children must eat whatever I put in front of them. Newsflash – they are normal kids, and we have had our fair share of nightmarish mealtimes over the years. All I can say, with the benefit of having parented my son for eight years and my daughter for six, is that it does get easier and your hard work and persistence will pay off eventually!
My son, being the first-born and a tiny dot of a baby/toddler gave me greatest concern. I constantly compared his eating habits and size to other children his age and marvelled at how much they could eat in comparison. He seemed to have boundless energy, was crazy-busy and some days ate nothing but a tiny yoghurt ALL DAY! I found myself slavishly concocting alternative meal options, not willing to accept the advice that “he would eat when he was hungry.” One particularly memorable evening, I recall making four different meals, before finally conceding (over a large gin & tonic), that perhaps he just wasn’t hungry.
When my daughter came along 21 months later, I realized I could no longer obsess over my son’s nutritional intake, having a breastfeeding new born and a toddler to contend with. It was around this time that I first bought a Thermomix, which absolutely changed my life and the time spent in the kitchen. I was suddenly able to make soups and risottos and healthy sorbet and bread virtually hands-free whilst I multi-tasked my way around our crazy life of living abroad without any family support.
A very wise friend of mine with grown-up children gave me the inspired idea of putting snacks on the floor and creating picnics at mealtimes. As so much food ended up on the floor anyway, this made complete sense and soon dinners were transformed into something magical and fun. We would always take a picnic with us when we went out for the day, giving me control over the choices and not having to resort to less healthy options (whilst saving a heap of money in the process). Picnics usually involved some fruit, crackers, cheese, carrot sticks and hummus, a sandwich, and a homemade energy-bar. I found the more I relaxed around mealtimes, the more successful they turned out to be.
Fast forward to today and I still make as much of my food as possible from scratch.
We cook curries, soup, homemade pizzas and cakes together (you can half the sugar in most cakes and they taste just as good) and I try to expand the repertoire each week. We have our emergency dinners, like everyone else – so beans on toast and scrambled eggs feature on busy nights when we have after-school clubs and activities.
The subject of whether to hide vegetables or not is controversial. On the one hand, you want your kids to get used to vegetables in their whole form. On the other hand, you want them to actually eat them! A healthy mix of the two is key. My sneaky vegetable pasta is a favourite and I do two versions. One contains spinach pureed through a cheese sauce to make bright green “Hulk Pasta,” and the other is a blended carrot, celery, onion, garlic, squash & tomato as the sauce base. I also keep some vegetables whole to serve on the side.
Lots of money can be saved in menu-planning and only shopping from this plan. Time-saving activities like batch-cooking and portioning up meals and freezing them can really help, or even half-preparing your dinner the night or morning before. Some people love their slow cookers and being a couple of steps ahead allows us to make better choices, rather than reaching for a takeaway menu when we are exhausted. I can whip up a delicious Butter Chicken with side dishes faster than I can to order a take-out and I know exactly what is in the meal and all additives, colours and preservatives are eliminated.
My top tip for cooking with kids, is the gauge their level of involvement by their attention span. Trying to make cupcakes with a 2-year-old from start to finish will quite possibly end in tears (not to mention many handfuls of sugar eaten!), so maybe get them to crack the eggs (show me a child who doesn’t LOVE cracking eggs!) or weigh in the flour. Watching them rise in the oven is fun and they will feel involved without losing interest.
For a long time, I resisted the concept of eating together as a family. Fearful of missing out on “Our Time,” when the kids were in bed and we could finally relax, I was still making two meals per night. But now they are getting older, they are going to bed later and we really don’t want to be eating at 9pm, so the “Family Tea,” is something we try to do at least once or twice per week. As the old saying goes “The family that eats together stays together.” Research has shown that eating together regularly helps to enhance communication and is a bonding opportunity.
With Easter on the way, we can become a bit overwhelmed with chocolate-induced mania and the visible impact of those sugar highs on our kid’s behaviour. There is also the invisible toll of frequent blood sugar spikes and the future health implications of such. As we have the onerous responsibility of shaping our future generation’s tastes for life, and a huge impact can be made by making simple changes and choosing better alternatives. Making as much colourful food as possible yourself will not only taste so much better, but you will have control over what the whole family are consuming and it will invariably contain more nutrients.
I’ve put together some Easter recipes for you to try at home. They are all very simple, quick and healthy and you don’t have to own a Thermomix to make them!
200g Red Leicester Cheese, grated.
1 carrot, grated.
2 spring onions, finely diced
500g cream cheese (full fat)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1.5 tsp garlic powder
0.5 tsp paprika
0.5 tsp fine sea salt
few pinches black pepper
1 bunch parsley to decorate.
Mix together 75 g of the cheese, plus all other ingredients.
Transfer to a serving platter and smooth with a spoon to form the carrot shape.
Cover with remaining grated cheese and top with parsley to form the leaves.
300g Self-Raising Flour
90g fridge cold butter, cut into pieces
150 mls milk
40g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Icing- 125g icing sugar,
1 tbsp boiling water
- Pre-heat Fan oven to 190 degrees & line baking tray with baking paper
- In a large mixing bowl, add butter into flour and rub butter through with fingertips until all the butter is rubbed through and it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add milk gradually until dough comes together and is well combined. Be careful to not over-knead
- Roll out onto silicone baking mat/ baking paper until thickness of half a centimetre.
- Mix together filling ingredients until a paste is formed. Spread this out over surface of dough.
- Cut 4 cm strips and roll into scrolls. I cut mine in half once I had done this so they were more manageable for little mouths.
- Place on baking tray and bake for 12 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before icing.
- Mix Icing and either drizzle or pipe before guzzling with the masses.
Healthy Chocolate Truffles/ Easter Eggs/ Energy Bars
180g dates (Medjool are the very best!)
180g cashews or almonds
2 heaped tablespoons raw cacao powder
Few drops of food-grade peppermint or orange oil (I use DoTerra)
Good pinch sea salt flakes
Couple of handfuls of rice crispies.
You will need a high-powered blender to make these. Basically, throw it all together, minus the rice crispies and blend for a minute at high speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary. If not coming together when you pinch it together, you can add a tablespoon of peanut butter or a splodge of vanilla bean paste. Stir through rice crispies. Decorate with desiccated coconut or dehydrated raspberry pieces (shown). The peppermint ones had a sprinkle of spirulina powder for extra nutritional oomph and a funky green hue.
Sam Croom is a Registered Nurse and award-winning Thermomix Team Leader and Advisor. Her Instagram page has a growing number of followers @Mammamix1 and she strives to inspire others to cook more, to eat more healthily and to live better. She runs Nutritional Workshops in conjunction with Tracy Land, a Registered Nutritionist and both have links with the Acorn Retreat. For more information on Thermomix click on the link to view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tMzO1OaY24
To book a FREE cooking demonstration or find out about workshops and cooking classes, please email Sam: firstname.lastname@example.org