Thursday, October 21, 2010


It may be bad manners to suck and slurp on spaghetti, but with noodles it's the only way.

And Billie has become a pro noodle-sucker. At times tonight she seemed to be competing with me for how fast she could slurp them back. While she managed to dodge any actual vegetables, she at least sucked back a fair few sesame seeds and bits of fresh coriander.

This is a delicious meal that's quick and easy to prepare, and is designed to be eaten cold (perfect for feeding the whole family).

Note that I've used honey - so best avoided if you're feeding an under-one-year-old. Substitute with maple syrup, which is what the original recipe calls for (yes, it's American).

You may have already guessed where this salad came from - Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family. I've just made a couple of changes.

 Lair suggests serving this tasty vegetarian dish with salmon. However, it's served us well twice this week as a main - just add a vegetable or two.

Feeding the family


1 pack of soba noodles (225g/8oz)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped coriander/cilantro leaves

2 T sesame oil (Lair suggests toasted, but I just used plain)
3 T tamari or shoyu
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 T honey/maple syrup
1 T olive oil
fresh cracked pepper

Optional extras:
I used broccoli florets on Saturday and both broccoli and thinly sliced carrots tonight.
Lair suggests chives, red cabbage, radishes and scallions.

Toast sesame seeds in dry cast iron fry-pan/skillet on medium heat for about five minutes.  Stir frequently and remove when browning and crackling. Don't over-do them.

Cook soba noodles in medium-sized pot of boiling water for a few minutes (check package). Drain and rinse under cold tap immediately. 

Steam any vegetables, such as broccoli and carrot.

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Combine with noodles, coriander and sesame seeds. Gently stir through any vegetables.

Billie masters the art of noodle-eating

Monday, October 18, 2010


I warned you a few posts ago that I was busy stocking the kitchen with Japanese ingredients.

Triple A Salad - Arame, Almond and Avocado Green Salad
So here comes the Japanese-inspired dishes, or at least Japanese ingredient-inspired. I strongly recommend you make a note to grab the bits and pieces for this delicious salad next time you're wandering the aisles of a well-stocked supermarket or little Japanese/Asian grocer.

This is food that makes you hum. Tonight after Miles and I devoured the whole salad bowl we almost bounded around the house, both eager and energetic to take on the Billie-bath-bed routine - rather than sluggish and impatient to crash on the couch.

Okay, I admit Billie didn't eat this one, but then she wasn't actually offered it. Instead I was very happy she chowed down the spinach dahl left-overs, mixed with brown rice, yoghurt and mango chutney. Very happy, because lately vegetables have not been winning the popularity contest at Billie's end of the table. Here's the dahl - I just swapped the red lentils for brown this time: billie bites lentil dahl recipe

This is a superb salad. Extremely tasty and satisfying. It does need to be served with some protein and carbohydrates - we just had a small amount of dahl and brown rice, which obviously isn't the best team mate, but it worked as two courses. Tofu, tempeh, fish, soba noodles, potato...any of these would work well. But you don't need anything with much flavor.

This is just slightly adapted from a Mary Shaw recipe. Mary taught at Bastyr University and ran a cooking program for the Ashland Food Co-Op in Oregon. Another credit goes here to my recent wonderful kitchen companion, Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family, which published the recipe.


Arame, Almond and Avocado Green Salad
1/4 cup raw almonds
4 cups salad greens - try spinach, rocket/arugular, and lettuce
1/8-1/4 cup arame, soaked in 1 cup cold water
1 ripe avocado, sliced into long strips

3 Tablespoons sesame oil
3 Tablespoons brown rice vinegar
2 tablespoons runny honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Heat oven to 180C/350F. Roast almonds on dry, flat tray for about 7 minutes or until giving off that nice almond smell. Set aside to cool and then coarsely chop. 

Wash the salad greens and spin or pat dry with tea towel.

Combine all dressing ingredients in large deep salad bowl and whisk. Drain arame (don't need the water) and add to dressing with salad greens. Toss well, gently fold through avocado, and sprinkle cooled almonds on top. 

FOR BABIES 6 MONTHS AND OLDER: Mash avocado or offer slices. 
FOR BABIES 9 MONTHS AND OLDER: Offer salad, minus the almonds (for choking purposes)
FOR BABIES/TODDLERS 12 MONTHS AND OLDER: Offer the whole salad (good luck)

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Black bean pasta with pumpkin, mushrooms and feta
 Saucy pasta can be a bit messy with toddlers and babies. Especially while they insist on eating with their hands.

An Auckland restaurant I worked in when I was 17 made these chunky-style sauce-less pasta dishes. Sometimes the chefs at Sour Dough used to whip up some for the kitchen-hands, and I'm still trying to mimic those tasty lunches.

The great thing about this way of serving pasta is that anything goes. Almost.
Here's the version I made the other night, but I've also added a list of good vegetarian alternatives at the bottom.


I used a black bean spaghetti for a healthier, more interesting dish but any will do. The black noodles didn't score so well in the office lunch-envy stakes. But Billie sucked them up with gusto.

Packet of spaghetti or other pasta
1/4 pumpkin, skinned and chopped into bite sized chunks
1 broccoli head, washed and chopped into chunks
3-4 spring onions
handful of mushrooms - large brown ones better but button will do
half block feta, chopped/crumbled
fresh pesto

Roast pumpkin in olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Before adding pasta, get broccoli and mushrooms cooking. Saute mushrooms in hot cast-iron pan with a little olive oil and butter. You'll need to cook in several lots in a single layer. Cook on medium-high until just browned. Cook broccoli in little bit of water or in steamer until tender. Fry up spring onions and a couple of cloves of chopped garlic in some oil, or add to mushrooms.

While all this is going on, cook pasta. Drain and stir few generous tablespoons of pesto through. Pour into large serving bowl and gently stir through cooked vegetables and feta.

Chunky pasta dishes also work well: cherry tomatoes, red onions, olives, artichokes, capers, ricotta, courgette/zucchini, red pepper/capsicum, aubergine/eggplant, walnuts, English spinach, asparagus, rocket, fresh herbs, blue cheese, peas, sun-dried tomatoes etc etc.

If you've been missing your billie bites of culinary inspiration the past few weeks, I do have a good explanation for my absence. The first program I was assigned upon my return to the office was food-related...'Organic Food'. Check out the link below:

Friday, October 1, 2010


While Billie has taken to throwing the vegetables out of the highchair, she still devours beans like they're almost as good as sliced bread. She also still appreciates vegetables if they're mingling with beans in a stew or casserole. Not sure on the logic here, but we are dealing with a toddler.

Three Sisters Stew
Three Sisters Stew is a marvelous all-in-one dish which teams well with whatever grain you have to hand. We tried a whole wheat cous cous the first time I made it, and then quinoa this week. However, because corn is a whole grain it doesn't need the grain for nutrition purposes.

I doubled the recipe this week, which was great to keep us in lunch for several days - Billie and I had it four days running. However, I wouldn't recommend doing this unless you have a party to feed, as I reckon a bit of the flavour was lost.

This hearty vegetarian stew comes courtesy of my latest culinary find. Feeding the Whole Family By Cynthia Lair is a fantastic cook book I stumbled across in a second hand shop a few weeks ago. It's all about using whole foods to create meals suitable for a range of ages. Sound familiar? Yes, there goes my book idea...

Anyway, expect to see a few more recipes where this goody came from. The core ingredients diverge a little from my kitchen shelves, so I need to do a re-stock before I can approach many of the others. She uses lots of Japanese ingredients.

Cynthia Lair credits author Jackie Williams with this stew. "Native Americans grew corn and planted the beans at the base. The corn stalks served as a bean pole. The ground space between the stalks was used to grow squash. The three sisters (corn, beans and squash) lived harmoniously," writes Lair.

I have made a couple of little adaptations to the original.


1 cup dried black beans (Lair suggests Christmas lima beans but any dark beans will do)
3 cups stock
2 tspn ground cumin
1 T extra virgin olive oil or ghee
2 tsp dried oregano or 1 T fresh, chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamin
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
3 cups pumpkin (Lair uses squash), peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tin tomatoes (400g)
1 tsp chilli powder or paste
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn (I used fresh)
1 cup grated cheddar
sour cream (optional)
 Cous cous, quinoa or rice 
Seasonal greens - bok choy, broccoli, or asparagus work well

Soak beans for 6-8 hours, or less is fine if using pressure cooker. Place soaked beans with 2 cups of stock and 1 tsp cumin in pot or pressure cooker. Bring to boil and then simmer on low, covered, until tender. Takes about 50-60 mins or 45 mins in pressure cooker.

Heat oil in large pot on medium and saute the onion and garlic in the remaining spices and salt. Cook until onion is soft (about 5 mins) and then add pumpkin/squash, tomatoes, oregano and chili. Add 1 cup of stock, bring to a simmer and cook with LID OFF until pumpkin is soft (about 20 mins). If getting dry replace lid. Add corn and cooked beans, simmer until corn tender (won't take long). Season to taste and serve over a bed of grains with a generous side of cooked greens. Sprinkle with grated cheddar, and sour cream works well on the side if there's some about.

I SUGGEST FOR BABIES 6 MONTHS: Put aside some pumpkin chunks, steam and puree.
FOR 8 MONTHS: Put aside some cooked beans and puree with pumpkin.
FOR 10 MONTHS: Offer some cooked beans and pumpkin, not pureed
FOR 12 MONTHS AND UP: Offer complete Three Sisters Stew. Billie loved!