Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Food glorious food...

So, us working mothers like a challenge and as if running around madly at work all day, chasing pick ups/child care etc wasn't enough. It seems we are also insistent upon fine dining for our little ones.

I have a total hang up about my kids eating vegetables. I admit it, I am a freak. I will actively avoid putting a full serve of starch (eg rice) and protein (eg sausage) on my three year old's plate. Mean? Maybe. Sensible? Ohhhhhhh yeah. So her eating pattern is thus:
Hmmmm, yummy food SM. I will now proceed to eat every single grain of rice, each piece of meat and then gulp down loads of water. I will now tell my mother that "I had nuff". (meanwhile, big brother sucks down anything on his plate, as long as he can have more....).

So, my culinary delights these days tend to incorporate "secret ways to include vegies".

Here are SM's suggestions for getting vegies into a reluctant toddler's diet.
1) Pure evil. Don't let them leave before they eat those three tiny little broccoli trees. Of course any sensible woman know (and we are, after all, sensisble scientific types) this is crazy and will likely set up some nasty conditioned response that the child will bear for the rest of its life.

2) SM's fried rice. Quantities are disarmingly inaccurate, now that I think about it. I never use recipes for night time meals.
1 - 2 cups of long-grain rice
corn kernels
sliced mushroom
finely chopped broccoli heads
diced capsicum
thinly sliced carrot
shallot or brown onion, very super duper finely sliced. You could even mash it in a food processor if your kids are picky
two to three heads of garlic
Amazing stir fry sauce (sometimes I use a combo of soy, fish sauce, corn flour, water, chinese rice wine or vinegar, lime juice)
herbs (coriander, mint, basil, depending on what's not dead in the garden)
Peanut or canola oil (olive is better but the burn temp is much lower than these others so it doesn't really suit stir fry

Two helpers with plastic knives to chop mushrooms - mushrooms are easy to chop and we kind of don't care what shape they are because they always reduce down in size. Giving this task to the kids leaves me to furiously chop the hard core veg.
Wok stirrer

Cook rice in two times as much boiling water, until tender. Drain and leave it hanging out.
Heat wok
Add oil
Add onion, stir for about 30 seconds
Add hard veg (carrot, broccoli etc). Fling around for 1 minute
Add softer veg. Fling 45 seconds
Add minced garlic (yes, towards the end - it doesn't get burnt this way)
When veg is looking OK, add rice and mix really well. I like the rice to get a bit crispy so I do this for a while (it also cooks off the veg nicely)
Add a bit of sauce to taste. The idea is not to make this sloppy but to have a consistency that heaps nicely on a small spoon.
Add herbs (and maybe even bean shoots) at the end.

Serve up.

What about the protein you ask? Well, I would normally throw in left over meat or tofu. If I'm really uninspired I incorporate one egg at the end of cooking to bind it together. You can also cook two eggs in a thin omlette first, slice them up into long strips and then add to the rice at the end.

YUMMO, and what a vehicle for vegies.

3) SM's chicken and sweet corn soup
This one was a winner with the kids down the road. Their mother looked very nervous when I served it up but was impressed when they gulped it down and asked for more. I swear there were no addictive substances added. There are traditional recipes from the Chinese for this but again I just make it up.

Stuff you need
Chicken - breast is best (sorry, I couldn't resist) but thigh is cheaper and merely makes the end result a tad coarser. Aim for one piece per hungry tummy.
Tinned sweet corn (or you could food process fresh or frozen corn kernels if you really had all the time in the world, which you don't, which is why you're reading this in the first place). This also gets called creamed corn
Stock - I either use my own chicken stock from past roasts or store-bought vegetable stock. The amount depends on the consistency of the soup. I like kind of gluggy.
corn flour (about two tablespoons mixed with cold water, depending on how think you'd like your soup).
Little pasta pieces (either purpose made or broken up spare bits of spagetti or other)

How to proceed
Fling all but the corn flour mixture, sweet corn and pasta into a large pot. Simmer very gently until the chicken is cooked through.
Use a Bamix or similar to souperise your soup (ie mush it 'til it is smooth, not too lumpy).
Add pasta and cook on low heat until it is al dente.
Add sweet corn and stir
Add corn flour and seasoning (pepper and maybe salt, but I try not to) to taste


Now, you might ask how I get the vegies in?
The bastardised version of that soup has loads of two or three reasonably insipid vegies (carrot, onion, zucchini) flung in at the time of the chicken. They then get pulverised once the chicken is cooked. I don't use celery or other strong flavours as this overpowers the nice contrast between the corn and the chicken/stock.

My kids love this, particularly if I lash out and go for alphabet or number pasta. A rare treat but I suppose you could argue that it makes the dish nutritious and educational????!

Happy eating all you amazing science women.

Next food carival could be 'fancy dishes for when you've just won that grant and had a high-impact paper publisjed'. I know, some of you will argue that you'd go out for dinner and whilst that is true I quite enjoy an excuse to cook adult oriented food.

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