New mums are faced with a deluge of conflicting information about what they should and shouldn’t do about almost everything when it comes to parenting!
The dilemma of modern day parenting is nicely summed up by a recent post doing the rounds on Facebook. It goes something like this:
How to be a parent in 2017: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are met while being careful not to over-stimulate, under-stimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body-positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-storey, multilingual home, preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two years apart for proper development; also, don’t forget the coconut oil.
How to be a parent in almost every generation before ours: Feed them sometimes.
While obviously mostly a leg-pull, there’s a certain element of truth in there. Given love, a caring home and good food, opportunity to laugh and explore, a little bit of structure and guidance, and a chance to be a part of the community, most people do OK.
So providing good food is actually a major part of being a parent!
Fortunately, it isn’t really all that hard, especially if you have the chance to get together with friends and neighbours and share produce, and maybe share the cooking tasks as well sometimes.
There are possibilities with food co-ops as well, especially if a group of people join up together to take advantage of bigger supplies, which are often cheaper, but can be a bit of a challenge for one family to deal with.
Getting together with other like-minded people, with children of a similar age, provides not only moral support but the opportunity to pick each other’s brains for good, tasty, easy-to-make recipes that might keep almost everyone in the household happy.
If you have a young baby just starting on solids, it can be a lot cheaper to make your own baby food and freeze it as ice cubes, than to buy the prepared stuff in tins or jars.
You can also incorporate what you know your child likes, and is therefore most likely to actually eat. Common first foods include things like pumpkin, kumara, stewed apples or pears, and these can be prepared really cheaply if you have a vege garden and some fruit trees, or have friends and family who have surplus produce.
For older children, and the adults in the household, keep it as simple as possible.
If you can incorporate plenty of fresh (and even better, organically grown) stuff out of the garden, so much the better. With a small baby in the house (and very tired parents!), no-one wants to be messing about with haute cuisine.
Use what you have, and find recipes that older children and partners can cook! To get you going, here are some very basic ideas for things that might make life easier at the end of a long, tiring day.
This sounds weird but tastes really good. The amounts given here produce 4 large servings.
1 medium onion, sliced in half and then into half rings.
1-2 sweet dessert apples, peeled, quartered, cored and finely sliced (Lemonade apples are particularly nice for this)
½ a small cabbage, finely sliced (1/4 of a large one will be ample)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp sugar
Butter or oil for frying
In a heavy-based frying pan, heat enough oil or butter to cover the bottom of the pan to 1-2mm.
Add the onion and apple and fry gently until the onion and apple are well softened.
Add the sliced cabbage, salt, pepper and ½ tsp sugar, and stir fry the mix over high heat for a minute or two until the cabbage is just tender but still bright green and with a bit of crunch.
Serve with risotto, casseroles, or almost any savoury dish you like!
Smoked Fish Kedgeree
This recipe has been modified from several others to make it as easy and tasty as possible. Be aware that basmati rice varies, like any other natural product, and some types may yield quite dry rice grains, while others may produce a slightly stickier outcome. Both are delicious and equally edible and it will just be a matter of experimentation to find which brand of basmati produces the texture you like best. Vegetarians please note: this tastes almost equally wonderful without the smoked fish – just omit it!
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cardamom pods
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 cinnamon quill
½ tsp ground fenugreek (you can grind your own in a coffee grinder)
2 fresh bay leaves
300g basmati rice
700ml chicken-flavoured stock (I use Massel gluten free “chicken” which is actually completely vegetarian)
200-300g fresh smoked fish (our farmers’ market does smoked gem, which is delicious)
6 eggs, hardboiled, peeled and chopped
3 Tbsp chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
Cook the smoked fish by covering it with water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then cool the fish, remove the skin and bones and flake it finely. Set aside while you prepare everything else. If you’re doing the vegetarian option, ignore this bit and carry on with the rest of the recipe!
In a large, deep-sided frying pan, melt the butter and cook the onion until soft.
Add the spices and bay leaves and cook for about a minute, stirring.
Add the rice and stir until evenly coated with butter and spices
Add the stock and bring to the boil.
Cover the pan and simmer for about 12 minutes, until all the water is absorbed.
Remove the bay leaves, cinnamon quill and cardamom pods.
Gently stir in the fish and eggs, along with the parsley and lemon juice.
Adjust seasonings by adding salt and pepper to your taste.
Eat what you can and store the rest in a covered container in the fridge. It reheats well in the microwave but do be careful – the eggs and fish can be explosive if you overdo the heating! To avoid messy microwave clean-ups, heat in a covered bowl and only for a minute at a time, stirring and checking the temperature as you go.
Singapore Fried Noodles
This is a great quick dinner. It can be made with or without meat, and is an ideal extendable dish in the event of surprise dinner guests! Again, it’s very easy to do and older children can help with the cooking.
250-300g rice vermicelli noodles – you can cut these into about 10cm lengths with kitchen scissors if you find the full length difficult to eat!
3 – 4 tbsp mild flavoured cooking oil (light olive oil is good)
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 medium courgettes, trimmed and julienned
1-2 celery sticks, washed and cut into thin matchstick lengths
4 – 5 spring onions, trimmed and sliced into short lengths
300-400g leftover shredded roast pork, cooked chicken, cooked mince, or any other cooked meat you enjoy. This is optional – the dish is equally nice made just with eggs and vegetables
2 tsp curry powder
2-4 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
salt to taste
Soak the noodles in boiling water in a large bowl for 20 minutes, turning with a fork to loosen the threads from time to time.
Drain the noodles and rinse in cold water to stop them from sticking together.
Lightly whisk the eggs to blend, and make a thin omelette in a non-stick pan, using a little oil.
When done, remove, roll up and cut into thin strips. Set aside.
Heat remaining oil in a wok and add carrot and spring onion. Cook until still crisp but tenderised.
Add meat and stir-fry briefly.
Sprinkle in curry powder and fry briefly to develop the flavour.
Add egg ribbons and noodles, turning to blend thoroughly and heat the noodles through.
Add soy sauce and salt to taste and mix well. Serve at once