have you ever had this nagging feeling of what to cook whenever a festive season is around the corner? what mood do i want to create? i want it to be different but not too overwhelming for my guests....who am i inviting? what is the occasion? are they adults or children? big eaters or mousy eaters? well there is room for everyone... read on.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Kiddies Lunches and Wholesome Dinners

Jamie Oliver did a very noble thing by trying to change the diet of school going children in the United Kingdom. I admire that step he took cos for those of you who have seen that episode, those children are eating junk food, really! and most of them are from pretty wealthy families. Sadly, affordability is not the issue here, mindset and time constrain is. More and more parents these days are working harder and harder just to provide the best for their children. It's natural to want to be able to give our children the best but often we neglect their basic needs. Food and attention are just as important as a roof over our heads, it builds the child and that's my personal conviction. We can't change the world over night but we definitely can make a difference a day at a time. Once we change our own mindset, we can slowly change the mindset of our younger generation. The book "The secrets of why french women don't get fat by Michel Montignac" is really inspirational cos it's all about how we want to live our lives. Malaysians overall have pretty unhealthy breakfasts. Someone said to me before that our national breakfast is nasi lemak. Wow! I love nasi lemak but eating it everyday is terribly unwise. Firstly, I believe that we can change all those mindset by instilling proper meals for our children. Kiddies meals are simple, it just need a little creativity and some tender loving care. I do have the pleasure of serving kiddie meals pretty often. My own and my nieces and nephews drop by very often and I find it a real joy to be able to whip up some tasty snacks or meals when they are around. It's so fulfilling to see them tuck in and licking the gravy off their plates. A little competition is good for the body and soul!
My fall back recipe for a quick meal is beef stew. 300 gm beef shin (uncut) 5 potatoes (peeled and cut into half) 1 big Australian carrot (cut in chunks) 1 big onion (cut into quarters) 3 cloves garlic (smashed) A handful of fresh peas 100 ml tomato puree
2 Tbsp Mesquite smoke sauce 400 ml beef stock olive oil sea salt and pepper to taste
Heat a saucepan with oil, put in the garlic and sear the beef shin till lightly brown. Pour in the tomato puree and add in the stock a little at a time. Simmer for 1 hour on low heat.

Add in the rest of the ingredients except peas and simmer for another 40 minutes. (Checking the tenderness of the beef). Once the beef is soft and tender pour in the peas, cut off the heat 5 minutes later and serve with crunchy toasts.

Another of my recipe is the pork and beans platter. First you'll need a piece of pork fillet (mui yoke) - Sliced thinly and marinate with a little tomato paste, dark soya sauce, sea salt, pepper and sugar for 4 hours in the fridge.

Heat the wok and drizzle some olive oil. Throw in some smashed garlic and 2 sundried tomatoes (cut in streaks). Put in the marinated pork slices and bring to sizzle. Add in 1 big quartered onion and a small can of whole roma tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. Pour in a can of baked beans and simmer for another 10 minutes. This dish can be served with rice and boiled vegetables like broccoli, french beans or even lady fingers.

Since most of our children do not go to boarding schools, school dinners do not apply. Instead, school lunches or snacks is my priority. Some schools serve a good variety of food but still most of them still can barely pass the basic nutritional requirement. I have seen french fries so yellow in color as if dipped in yellow dye. Fried rice fried with rice ... hardly any meat or veggies. Noodle soup which is actually noodles in msg water. That's the truth and it hurts! Can you imagine your little ones eating this everyday?

I have quite a number of pack lunches ideas to share and one of them is minced meat burger.

Meat used can be pork, beef or even mutton. Just season the minced meat with a little oyster sauce, dark soya sauce, light soya sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. A drizzle of olive oil in the pan with some chopped garlic, in goes the mince meat. Stir fry for 15 minutes and scoop into a buttered bun with a lettuce leaf. In it goes into the lunch box and off to school. This can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated.

Prawn omelettes are a great source of protein children need for healthy growth. 300 gms of peeled prawns seasoned with cornflour, sugar, sea salt and pepper. Beat 3 large chicken eggs in a bowl. Drizzle some olive oil in a non stick pan and pour in the prawns, stir fry for 5 minutes and in goes the beaten eggs. There you have it! can be served with 2 slices of wholemeal bread, crunchy vegetable or just some tomato sauce.

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I'm Audrey from Somewhere in my kitchen, Malaysia.

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