How we eat

January 13, 2017

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There are few things my baby girl enjoys more in life than sitting at the table with her favourite people and a big plate of food in front of her (and to be honest, a second big plate of food to her left that she can steal food from). Since Ben and I introduced Joan to solids at six months of age, she has taken to it with gusto. We have ourselves a girl who will try everything that is put in front of her, mood permitting, and usually enjoy it, which makes the whole experience fun and rewarding. On reflection, I think her readiness to eat is a combination of nature and nurture. Joan definitely has food-love in her blood, from both sides of her family. In addition, while I was pregnant I ate a wide range of foods, which they say encourages babies to have an adventurous palate. And finally, perhaps most importantly, Ben and I have been strict from the beginning in how we approach food with Joan. We’ve put a lot of effort into being relaxed about it all, which seems totally contradictory, I know, and I’ll explain more below.

Over the past six months I’ve received a number of requests to talk about what Joan eats and to share a few tips on raising an adventurous eater, and at last I’ve written a bunch of thoughts down. But before we get into it, I want to note that I am completely aware that I have one child and hence only one point of reference. Yes, I am also a dietitian, and have studied ways to encourage healthy eating habits in children, but that’s not the same as having a child who is very challenging in this regard and being able to share real life experience. I am not standing on a pedestal saying that this is the only way, it is simply what works for our family. Furthermore, I know that although Ben and I try hard with this eating business, our babe has made our job easy. We will see how much of Joan’s (so far) easy eating is down to nature vs nurture when we have more kids. Therefore, as with any advice or sharing of experiences that you receive as a parent, take from this post whatever resonates with you, tune out the rest and ultimately do whatever works for your family. Always and forever.

Alright, let’s start at the beginning.

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Salmon Fishcakes

January 6, 2017

For the past six and a half years, since I started Apples Under My Bed, I have always written a Christmas post. I’ve shared pictures from our day of feasting with family and reflected on how grateful I feel for my people. My family are always keen to get together and celebrate, and while we are not religious, Christmas is an important time for us, even more so since losing my brother on the 22nd December 2007. It’s a hard time of year and a wonderful time of year. We focus on the food and being together, and although there’s a sombre undercurrent to it all, Christmas is always lovely. This year was no different, however, for whatever reason, I don’t feel the desire to share the pictures I took on the day. The food was the same, which is not to say that it wasn’t outstanding, we are just sticklers for tradition (and my brother would possibly refuse to sit at the table if we didn’t serve the usual pork), and we were gifted some beautiful presents. After spending the day with family, we came home to watch Love Actually on the computer in bed, snuggled next to our sleeping babe. We are blessed and our hearts are full.

Joan was not delighted by Christmas lunch, which was a surprise. I assumed she would attempt to bathe in the gravy while grabbing fistfuls of pork from the serving platter, but no, she preferred to sit with a bowl of peas, outside on the grass where no one would look at her or try to get her to open a present (introverts, unite!). Despite Joan’s underlying desire to simply be home with Ben and I, she did have moments of joy (like discovering and falling in love with shortbread) and Ben and I got that special, Christmas morning moment you dream about when you have kids. When bubba woke, I said that we should say “Good Morning!” to the Christmas tree, just as we had each day since bringing home “the smallest possible tree” from the local Scouts. I told Joan that I thought there was a special present for her under the tree, and we should go and see what it was. Curious, she ran out to the lounge room and when she laid eyes on a toy lawn mower (which is identical to one she has played with/bogarted at playgroup), her eyes grew even bigger than they normally are, and her face lit up! Her mouth dropped before turning into the sweetest grin, a mixed expression of “Oh my goodness!”, “What is happening?!” and “Is it mine?!” on her face, as she looked back and forth between us for confirmation. And then she let out a squeal. It was magical.

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Date + Coconut Freezer Fudge

December 24, 2016

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Joan adores dates. I can totally appreciate why she does, as to me, they are nature’s ultimate candy. They’re sweet, rich and energising, and completely satisfying if I’m low on energy or craving something sweet. It tickles me to see that Joan feels the same way. Sultanas? Nope, she’s very dubious. Dried figs, yeah, she enjoys them…but dates…dates, she loves.

When making smoothies together I give her a little portion of date to nibble, and I always throw a few in my bag for emergencies, like if she’s grizzling in the car or if she hurts herself and is inconsolable. In our attempts to gradually and gently wean bubba, I am finding dates are a wonderful breastmilk replacement, offering comfort and distraction from whatever has made my babe upset.

One hot afternoon last week, I had an urge to make a sweet and refreshing snack that required very little preparation and no time in the oven. Dates are delicious on their own, even more so with a spoonful of tahini, but on this day I wanted to do something a little different. The week prior I had been gifted some festive cookie cutters that I was keen on trying out, and I imagined a fast, freezer fudge made with dates + nuts + coconut oil would satisfy both my appetite and my desire for gingerbread people-shaped treats. As it turns out the date fudge was insanely easy to make and tasty to eat, but it fell short in appearance, as the gingerbread-people didn’t resemble people at all, rather brown blobs. Delicious blobs, indeed, but blobs nonetheless. So I set the cookie cutters aside, fashioned the fudge into squares and took our plate of snacks into the garden, where Joan and I sat with our feet on the grass and stuffed our faces with our happy food.
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Happenings 19.12.16

December 19, 2016

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DOING: typing on my computer while Joan naps. NEXT to me, this time. Not in the carrier. Big changes. See this post for details.

HEARING: The cicadas outside – boy are those things loud! It negates the need for a white noise app.

DRINKING: right now, a coffee. It’s 11:52am and until this dreamy cup of coffee I hadn’t had any caffeine. That’s weird for me, usually I need a cup of green tea to revive me. My smoothie must have done the job! We’ve been having smoothies practically every morning, mostly green or cacao+oat.

EATING + COOKING: it finally feels like SUMMERRRRRRRR. So we’ve been having a lot of salad bowls, as well as mangoes and cherries. Joan remains obsessed with sardines, so we’ve continued to eat a lot of those. We made fish tacos with friends, which included this corn and a fresh cabbage/carrot/ coriander slaw – perfect Summer entertaining food. Oh, and our Transition Farm seasonal box has started again (woop woop!), which is why we’ve been loving on salads so much. Their greens are divine, nothing else compares and I’m reminded of this every year when the weather warms up. Their spinach is fantastic in those green smoothies – I add spinach, frozen banana, oats, chia or hemp seeds, yoghurt and milk, and then blitz it up. I pour out a portion for Joan then jazz mine up a bit, adding a bit more spinach and milk to the blender, along with a Medjool date, a bigger portion of hemp powder or hemp seeds, coconut oil and then sometimes other things based on cravings and what I have on hand.

Oh, and we’ve also been nibbling on dried fruit (organic and preservative-free – always! I’m picky with my dried fruit). I decided to make fancy trail mix for gifts this year, which explains the picture at the top of this post. I wanted something that people could munch on that was a lighter alterntive to all the baked goods on offer during this time. It could be a car/plane trip snack, or sit in handbags for those pekish moments. Or obviously it can be used as hiking fuel too! Anyway, here’s the recipe mix, in case you feel like doing it too.
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Meal Prep

December 12, 2016

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I’ve always known that vegetables make me feel good. Even as a kid I recall viewing my mum’s lentils as “power food”, and to this day my brother and I regularly request a serve when we’re run down or busy or just need a dose of home. As I grew, I continued to recognise that food was powerful stuff, and that what you eat acutely influences the way you feel and function. This became really apparent to me as I moved out of home and began preparing all my meals (well, except for those deliveries of lentils and bolognese), while at the same time diving into my University studies and all the funky projects we were required to do in order to become nutrition experts (like collecting our urine for an entire weekend and then analysing it in a lab. True story. People gagged). Being on a major student budget meant I had to get crafty about my vegetable consumption. Dinners looked like frozen peas + rice + chickpeas + soy sauce and and lunches were big salads with cans of tuna I “borrowed” from my parents’ pantry (and giant cheese cubes, too. Man, I love a good cheese cube) with bread. Sometimes I’d splurge on a turkey+ cranberry+spinach focaccia at the University cafe (remember the days of big, toasted focaccias?) and cheap sushi rolls (though let it be known, the words “cheap” and “sushi” should never follow each other), but mostly I saved my pennies and put them towards groceries (and overseas travel, but that’s another story). Only occasionally would I curse my inclination to buy vegetables and rice and “borrow” my roommate’s food (Pippa, I’m sorry for all the Pocky I took). I’ve just always been a vegetable girl.

In my early twenties I developed a mouth infection following my wisdom teeth removal (this isn’t a complete departure from the topic of vegetables, stay with me). Oh, that was a charming period! The pain killers I took messed up my bowels something shocking, which lead me to become committed to vegetables with more emergency (well, vegetables AND psyllium husks in water. Gag). I’m sorry, is this too much toilet talk? Come to think of it, is there ever an acceptable amount of poo talk? Dietitians are used to talking about this stuff so I find myself lacking social graces in that department. My point is that vegetables are my number one category of feel good foods for a well functioning mind and body, and my love for them only increases as the years go by. This isn’t news, I have spoken many times on this topic, but today I wanted to share a little on how I make sure I eat them. It’s easy to grab a carrot, and many days I do just that, but I mostly fancy meals that are slightly more interesting than straight up raw veg. This requires time. And so, to make sure I’m eating in my feel good way, I meal prep.

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Everything Bars

December 2, 2016

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Ok, folks, this will be a quick one. Joan is to my left, napping peacefully after 50 minutes in the bed. See my instagram posts here and here for some details as to why this is such a big deal for us. Actually, you know what? I am going to copy what I wrote and post it below and then throw a few more thoughts at you. I guess this won’t be a quick one anymore (surprise, surprise, the lady loves to talk).

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Happenings 18.11.16

November 18, 2016

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DOING: typing on my computer while Joan naps.

HEARING: rain. Isn’t that the best sound, when you’re all snug and cozy indoors and it’s positively pelting outside?

EATING + COOKING: Other than smoothies I’ve been slow-roasting tomatoes and red onions with oregano, then eating them with salads, alongside meat and in quinoa bowls. Joan adores tomatoes and a big batch lasts us a while. We’ve also been eating a bit of rice with greens, fried eggs and chickpeas, and a few frittatas. Oh and I’ve been making sweet potato toast a bit. Lastly, I’ve recently come across Fish4Ever brand filleted sardines, and they are AMAZING. They’re a fabulous way to get in omega-3 fats if you are kinda squeamish about opening other sardine tins to find a head staring at you. My whole family loves them (Joan most of all) and on the weekend we have been sharing a tin in various preparations. I’ll share some recipes soon.

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Things we love

November 7, 2016

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It must come down to control. At least I think it did for me. With babies and birth, a great deal is unknown and unforeseeable. There is only so much you can prepare for and even less you can plan, and they’ll still surprise you and come out bottom first. And even though parents-to-be know this, that we really have no idea what is in store, before our babies are born many of us spend a huge amount of time researching and organising, doing our best to prepare for this new life we are about to find ourselves living. I don’t want to ever know how many hours I actually spent looking up cots and bedding and organic mattresses, because Joan slept in her cot all of three times. In hindsight, I wish I had just bought an IKEA cot and called it a day, but that’s easy to say now, isn’t it? At the time, “non-toxic finishings” and organic mattresses felt exceedingly important. And perhaps it was, for my peace of mind. I certainly don’t mean to patronise my past self or any parents-to-be out there who may be doing as I did. As I said, so much about this baby stuff is unpredictable that I think there’s some comfort in making sure you get a pram that ticks all your boxes and a cot that is safe and secure. It makes you feel safe and secure.

The thing is, and this is something Ben and I didn’t even consider while I was pregnant (though I wish we did), so much of what you find useful when your baby comes will depend on their personality, as well as your parenting style. And these are things you cannot possibly know before they arrive. Cots and prams were not really Joan’s thing, while baby carriers and a high chair that let her sit at the table were. And had we borrowed before buying, we would have saved a little money and our rooms would be less cluttered. So as I write this post on the things that we love and the things we have found most useful as first-time parents from birth-12 months old, keep in mind that this is a very personal thing and what helped us may not help you (and may not even help my next child!). In fact, I encourage you to do as many of my wise friends have done, and wait until after bubba gets here before you make some key purchases (ones that aren’t immediately important, like a car seat and some clothes) and borrow what you can. At least until you find your groove and know your baby. Now, having said all this, does anyone want to buy a cot? I’m not even kidding…

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Hot Cacao with Turmeric

October 29, 2016

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Every now and then, I get a mad craving for hot cocoa. There’s something special about a warm cup of chocolate that makes you feel at once comforted and energised. Years ago, in 2006, Ben and I took a trip to Europe. It was January, and verrry cold. In between brisk walks along boulevards we’d duck into heated cafes and order huge, hot mugs of thick, rich, sweeeeeet cocoa. We would take off our gloves, hug our mugs close and as we sipped we would write in our travel journals and discuss whether to go out for dinner or wander the streets with nutella crepes. Occasionally we would ordering a baguette or pastry to share alongside our drink, but more often than not it was all about le chocolat chaud.

Back home we continue to make this drink regularly, though our version is a little different. Rather than using super processed cocoa powders or chocolate with added sugar, I reach for raw cacao and honey to go with the milk. That’s it, three ingredients, warmed gently on the stove. It’s heavenly.

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Happenings 21.10.16

October 21, 2016

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DOING: typing on my computer while Joan naps. I’m 2.5 days into a virus sickness thing and it’s kinda floored me. I’ve been out of action – not doing work besides replying to emails, not going on walks, not doing much of anything. I’m a firm believer in resting when unwell. But today I feel a little more up to things. I’m even typing, look at me go! Update: it’s been a week since I began this post, and I’m all better now. I wrote it mostly when I was unwell, with a few updates here and there.

HEARING: my neighbour take their bin down their driveway.

DRINKING: right now, a coffee with CoCo Quench.

EATING + COOKING: bleh, food has been highly unappealing during this sickness. My nausea was reminiscent of first trimester days, it REALLy took me back and got me both excited to hopefully fall pregnant in the coming years and curious as to how I will manage caring a little person while being sick. Update: over the weekend when my appetite returned I made my favourite banana pancakes and they were gooooooooooood.
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