Salmon Cous Cous with Raisins

Having to come up with different dishes using primarily the same meats or veggies most of the time while still keeping it healthy for the kids can be quite difficult at times. When I get stuck, I tend to get inspiration just from what I personally like to eat.

This dish comes from one of those ‘inspired’ moments. I’ve always loved Thai pineapple rice for the savoury flavours of chicken and pork floss in fried rice tossed with the tangy sweetness of pineapple. If my son’s taste resembles anything like mine I thought he’d really like it too except Thai pineapple rice is not quite something I’d feed him yet.

What I did instead was combine salmon cous cous with one of his (and I’m sure many a kid’s) great loves: raisins! With this recipe, the raisins are boiled first so they become plump and juicy and you get the same savoury sweetness in one dish. Plus it’s an easy way to entice the kiddo to the dinner table. Be warned though, younger toddlers may just pick the raisins out and eat them only hah).

Ingredients (10 toddler servings)

  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbs diced yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 cups cous cous
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cup butter milk
  • 1 cup greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tsp raw sugar
  • 4 tbs white cooking wine
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbs chopped garlic
  • 1/4 red pepper
  • 2 fillets of Salmon, skinned and de-boned
  • 1/4 large carrot, diced
  • 3 florets of broccoli
  • 1 tbs dill
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 packet of cooking cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup virgin olive oil

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease a muffin tray and another 4 ramekins.

Season the salmon with the dill and black pepper. Remember to take the salmon out from the fridge some time before you cook so that it is not cold entering the pan.

Put the raisins in a sauce pan and add just enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil then lower the heat. Simmer the raisins for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top up with a little bit of water midway if you find that most of the water has evaporated. You want to keep the raisins mostly submerged. Remove from heat and let cool. This step helps to moisten and plump up the raisins – makes them extra yummy.

Add 2 cups of water to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Throw in the broccoli florets and diced carrots and boil for about 5 minutes or to desired softness. Remove the vegetables and set aside. In a large bowl, add to the cous cous 1 1/2 cups of the still hot water used to boil the vegetables and cover for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and fluff the cous cous when done.

Heat up the frying pan with the butter and saute the garlic for a couple of minutes then add in the onions and red pepper. Stir fry for a few minutes then place the salmon in the middle to cook. When the salmon has turned colour halfway through, flip the salmon over to cook the other side. At this point, pour the white cooking wine and lemon juice over the salmon. Next, add the butter milk, cooking cream, and basil, and bring to a boil. The salmon is done when it can be easily flaked. (It’s okay to leave the salmon slightly under cooked as it will still be cooking in the oven and you don’t want to dry it out by overcooking it.) When done, remove the salmon and let cool on a plate. When cool, flake the salmon to small pieces.

To the same frying pan with the red pepper, add the cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Lower the heat and add the greek yoghurt, honey and sugar. Mix well together and remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, add the raisins, brocolli and carrots to the cous cous and mix well. You could add the raisin water as well for some added sweetness. Then add the flakes of salmon and stir to combine. Lastly pour the cream sauce into the bowl and mix altogether well.

Portion the salmon cous cous equally in the muffin tray and ramekins.

For the topping, add the Parmesan and oil to the panko bread crumbs and mix very well. Sprinkle on top of each portion and slightly compress the cous cous to compact it.

Place in the oven on the top rack for about 10 minutes or until the topping has browned. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 20 minutes before serving.

To store, when the cous cous has thoroughly cooled, wrap the muffin tray/ ramekins in cling film and place in the freezer. Once frozen, pop each portion out and store in a labeled freezer bag. Steam in a pan of water for about 20 mins to re-heat when required.

 

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Fish and Cauliflower Pie

One of the aims of my cooking for Atticus is to pack as much nutrients and goodness into one dish while I still have some say over what he consumes (although truth be told it’s more like he doesn’t know what he’s being fed – that’s the great thing about one dish meals). There will come a day when I can’t be around to monitor what he’s eating, like when he starts pre-school *sob* and a classmate celebrates a birthday with party packs of forbidden treats, which of course my toddler will probably demand that someone opens for him.

Such a day looms on the horizon and I find myself trying to figure out what else I can pack into his little body to give it a head start. As I thought about it, it struck me that I’ve never used cauliflower. Maybe because it’s white and can’t compete with all the greens demanding my attention in the supermarket. Maybe it’s the shock my palate suffered a while ago when I had unwittingly ordered a side of mashed cauliflower to go with my roast chicken thinking it was potato (yes, what a face palm moment). Regardless, I had eschewed cauliflower for all 21 months of Atticus’s existence but no more. It was time for him to be introduced to this unassuming vegetable so rich in vitamins, minerals, and choline (which is good for brain development apparently).

I took an old favourite of his i.e. baked fish pie and topped it off with cauliflower puree and cheddar cheese. Thankfully it was a winner – grandma had no trouble feeding him dinner that day!

This recipe produces a meal that is quite mushy, which also makes it great for younger toddlers who haven’t quite got the hang of chewing. To be sure they can manage, you can dice the ingredients finely and boil the carrots and corn until soft before adding it to the mix.

The dish has three components: mashed potato, cauliflower puree, and the fish pie. If you don’t have time to do it all at once, you can always plan ahead and make the mashed potato and/or the cauliflower puree in advance to be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use the next day or so. Just remember to cover the puree/potato closely with cling wrap. Press the cling wrap so that it touches the surface of the mash or puree to prevent a layer of film forming.

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Ingredients (approx. 8 toddler portions)

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dill
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 piece of cod fish
  • 1/4 carrot, diced
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 red pepper, diced
  • 4 medium asparagus, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 70g cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 1 large egg

Mashed Potato

  • 2 medium sized potatoes
  • 1/4 cup milk

Cauliflower Puree

  • 1/2 large head of cauliflower (about 700g)
  • 1/2 tub cream cheese
  • 1 tbs olive oil

Method

Season the cod fish with the dill, garlic powder and wholegrain mustard and let sit for awhile.

Steam (this retains more nutrients than boiling) the cauliflower over high heat for about 30 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat and in a blender or food processor puree the steamed cauliflower with 1 tbs of olive oil. Leave to cool in a large bowl. On a separate plate, use a fork to mash the cream cheese until soft. Then add 2 to 3 large spoonfuls of the pureed cauliflower and combine well with the cream cheese. Pour the cream cheese cauliflower mixture back into the remaining puree and stir well. Doing this allows the cream cheese to be easily and evenly mixed with the cauliflower. Set aside for use when ready.

Peel and boil the potatoes until soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from water and in a large bowl, mash the potatoes until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of milk (or as needed) and combine well to get a creamy texture. Set aside.

In a frying pan, heat about 1 tbs live oil and add in the onions. Fry until slightly translucent then add in the white wine vinegar and stir for a minute or two until the onions have caramelised. Throw in the asparagus, carrots and red peppers to saute. Push the ingredients aside and place the cod fish in the centre. Saute each side for about a minute.

Pour in the milk along with the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add in the corn and return to a boil then lower to a simmer, with the pan covered, over a medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes until the cod fish is just about cooked i.e. the flesh has turned nearly opaque white and can be easily flaked. Remove the fish and set aside on a plate. Once cooled, remove the skin and flake the fish into small pieces. I like to use my hands for this so that I can feel for bones to remove them. (You could throw away the fish skin but it makes a great addition to salads when fried crispy so I would keep it for later!)

Remove the bay leaves from the milk mixture and transfer to a small jug or bowl for easy addition to the cream sauce later.

To make the cream sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Next add the flour and stir to form a roux. Add some of the milk mixture to the roux and combine well. Continue to add the milk mixture gradually and constantly stirring. Once all the mixture has been added in, the roux will have changed from a paste-like consistency to a creamy liquid. Over a medium heat keep stirring until the sauce thickens. It is ready when the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the ladle you are using. Add a handful of grated cheddar cheese in (or to desired taste) and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

At this point, pre-heat the oven at 190ºC /375F and grease your muffin tray/ramekins well.

In a large bowl, combine the sauce with the fish flakes and mix in the mashed potato together with the egg (beaten) as well. Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin tray/ramekins.

Cover each portion generously with the cauliflower puree and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top. I was feeling creative so I used a piping bag for the cauliflower puree but a spoon works just as well.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 20 minutes – any sooner and the pie will likely collapse when taken out of the tray/ramekin.

Use a wide spatula to transfer each portion of the fish pie from the tray/ramekin to a container. Once the portions have cooled, place the containers with their covers on into the freezer overnight. Pop the frozen fish pie out of their containers and keep them in a freezer bag marked with the date on which they were made.

When ready to eat, to reheat I recommend steaming to retain moisture rather than microwaving it. To steam, fill a deep pan with an inch of water. Place one portion of fish pie on a plate and place it in the pan, covered, over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes.

Remove and serve!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Savoury muffins, yea or nay?

I wasn’t keen on them and to be frank, probably never gave them a real shot. That was until I had some pumpkin left over and was rather bored with making raisin muffins for Atticus’s breakfast for the umpteenth time.

I He needed variety.

I looked online to see what I could do with pumpkin and realised pumpkin muffins are a thing. Who woulda thunk?

So I found a recipe that had chocolate chips in it (I figured in case savoury wasn’t a hit,  a touch of sweetness was necessary to entice me Atticus to eat them or they’d all go to waste) and tried it out with some modifications based on the reviews. 

The verdict?

A slightly dense but still moist muffin (that was none to sweet at all) with just a hint of pumpkin to make it interesting. And surprisingly the chocolate chips complemented the pumpkin, giving each bite a little bit of melted goodness to bring the flavour home

Did Atticus like it? Yes, he did! He also liked that the muffin was sturdy enough for his tiny hands to hold so that he could feed himself (at 21 months, they just want to do everything by themselves don’t they).

A while back, he could only finish 2/3 of the muffin. I suppose it’s quite a heavy serving for his toddler tummy. But now that he’s weaning off milk in the mornings and hungrier, he just about managed to gobble it all up.

I’m adding this recipe to my collection of go-to breakfast foods that I can make in advance. Muffins freeze really well and having another flavour to add to the stock makes this breakfast option work even better.


Ingredients (approx. 6 large muffins or 12 small ones)

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh pumpkin, steamed and pureed
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (or milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 ºC / 400 F.

Grease a 6-muffin pan or use paper liners.

Mix the sugar, oil, and eggs. Add the pumpkin and buttermilk. In a separate bowl sift and mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir in the chocolate chips to combine. Be careful not to over mix the batter.

Fill the muffin cups to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tester comes out clean. I recommend checking at the 20-minute mark.

Remove and let stand for about 10 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan to cool on a cooling rack.

Once cool, wrap each muffin with cling film and place in a freezer bag with the date on which they were made to freeze.

To reheat, I recommend taking out the muffin(s) to thaw on the counter for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the cling film and microwave on medium or high power for about 30 seconds (no more than 40 seconds to preserve the nutrients in the muffin).

Best served warm!

Beef Mac and Cheese

There are days when Atticus just flat out refuses to eat something he has previously taken without any problems. If I needed to make sure that lunch or dinner goes smoothly because we’d be in a restaurant or tight for time or just because I needed it for sanity’s sake, I wanted to make sure I had a fail-proof go-to meal I was sure he would like. And that my friends, is the mac and cheese.

I am a fan of mac and cheese – that creamy intense flavour is something I can’t say no to and I thought neither would he. But the typical mac and cheese seemed a little too indulgent and rich for toddler tummies  and I really did not want to serve him one of those instant nonperishable packaged dry mac and cheese in a box. So I searched for healthier options and came up with this toddler version of the mac and cheese.

This is the one dish that has worked every time and when he is a happy camper eating, so am I (especially when I know he’s getting all the protein, dairy and vegetables I could pack into the meal).

What’s great is that mac and cheese freezes really well and can be made in advance. This recipe is also easy to adapt to create variety. Just switch up the main ingredients e.g. from beef to shredded roast chicken, broccoli to thinly sliced asparagus or carrots, red pepper to yellow zucchini… you get the idea. It’s really versatile not to mention easy to cook. Don’t worry so much about following the amount of ingredients strictly. We’re busy as it is and don’t need a recipe that can be foiled by inexact measurements. Use what you have in the fridge and it will still come out pretty tasty I reckon.

One thing to note if you’re going to add other types of cheese is the amount of salt they contain. An indication that it’s too salty for your little one is if he or she drinks a lot of water during or after the meal so be watchful:)

 

Ingredients (approx. 10 toddler portions)

  • 300g macaroni (or any healthy pasta of choice preferably broken into child-friendly sizes)
  • 2tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1/4 red pepper, diced
  • 3 broccoli florets, sliced into small pieces (and boiled until soft, if your child prefers it)
  • 3 brown mushrooms, diced
  • 1 packet of minced beef (about 300-400g)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder (don’t worry, this adds flavour without the spiciness)

Cheese Sauce

  • 45g unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 150g mascarpone cheese (about half a tub)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (or cheddar cheese)
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh butternut squash, steamed and pureed
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary

Topping

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (or baby oats)
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 tbsp olive oil

Method:

Season the minced beef with the  garlic powder, sweet paprika, pepper and curry powder by gently stirring it in. Try not to squash the beef patty style when seasoning as this tends to make it tough to chew. Let the beef sit for a while.

Boil the macaroni/pasta of your choice according to the instructions on the packet. (I would leave out the salt that’s commonly added to the pot of water to which the pasta is added.) Try to keep the pasta closer to al dente so that the pasta doesn’t break apart later when stirring (in any case, it will soften further in the oven).

Pre-heat the oven to 200 ºC/ 392 F.

In a frying pan, heat the oil and the minced garlic. Once slightly darkened (be careful not to let it burn), saute the onions then add the minced beef. Once the beef is nearly cooked, add the mushrooms, red peppers and broccoli. Set aside to cool.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter over a very low flame and add the flour. Whisk to form a roux (it should look like very thick mashed potato). Add the milk a little at a time, constantly stirring until well combined before adding more each time. (I recommend using a wooden spoon for this.) As more milk is added, the mixture should transition from the mashed potato-like consistency to a creamy mixture. Once all the milk has been added, turn up the flame slightly and heat the mixture (but not to a boil). Stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the mascarpone cheese and the butternut squash. Add the grated parmesan cheese according to taste (the more parmesan added, the saltier it becomes).

Add the sauteed beef to the cheese sauce and mix well. Next mix in the pasta and stir to combine well.

Grease a 6-muffin baking tray and 4 large ramekins well. Spoon the combined mixture evenly into each portion.

For the topping, mix together half a cup of grated parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs and olive oil. Sprinkle the topping over each portion and pat it down to compress the mixture.

Bake on the top shelf of the oven for around 20 minutes (or until the topping browns).

When done, remove from the oven and let it rest for about 15 minutes. Use a wide spatula to transfer each portion of the mac and cheese from the tray/ramekin to a container.

Once the mac and cheese portions have cooled, place the containers with their covers on into the freezer over night.

Pop the frozen mac and cheese out of their containers and keep them in a freezer bag marked with the date on which they were made .

When ready to eat, to reheat I recommend steaming to retain moisture rather than microwaving it. To steam, fill a deep pan with an inch of water. Place one portion of mac and cheese on a plate and place it in the pan, covered, over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes.

Remove and serve!