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Getting kids to eat vegetables

If you’re a parent, you will know that getting kids to eat their vegetables can be somewhat anxiety-inducing… My daugther, who is three and a half, is just like your typical pre-schooler, and before that she was a typical toddler and baby. We’ve had some food fights, don’t get me wrong, but I would like to think that she is growing up to have a fairly balanced palate. As a nutritionist, it’s important to me that she has a healthy diet, so I have given this a lot of thought, and some research… Here’s my personal experience from being a mum, and previous to that a nanny, when it comes to getting young people to eat their vegetables.
Emma, Kenzie and a box of food
  1. Chill out
If the mama’s and daddy’s of the household are super tense about something, then of course the tiny people will sense that and instantly feel the need to rebel. If we approach vegetables with an air of “it doesn’t worry me if you eat your veges or not” then kids will be more likely to eventually experiment or give them a try. Remembering that kids are natural born scientists – they want to experience new things, it’s in their nature – if we just make the veges available to them then at some point the curiosity will take over. Sadly, you can’t fake this…. You need to genuinely work on your own attitude to your kids’ eating habits and know that you can’t control everything, and trust that everything will be ok in the end.

  1. Be a role model
If you don’t eat vegetables, try new foods and keep an open mind to new flavours, then why would you expect your kids to? Again, this can’t be faked. If you’re not excited about certain vegetables, and you’re not keen on passing on your own limitations to your children, then be brave and try some new ways of cooking them. You might still not like them but at least you tried. Have an honest and open chat to your kids about how you never used to like this food but now you’re trying some new recipes. Our kids are watching our every move, even when we think we’re being super sneaky…
  1. Hide them in plain sight
Sometimes I don’t want to fight, but I know she needs vegetables in her body. That’s when I start to get creative with hiding vegetables in the foods I know she will eat. Or blend them in a smoothie. But I will also (almost always) put whole unadulterated vegetables on the side. Just to keep her exposed to them…  I’ll also casually display vegetables and fruits where she can see them, like on the kitchen bench, so that if she comes into the kitchen looking for a snack, she might see a glass with a celery stalk in it and feel the need to chomp on that. That’s when I go outside and practice my evil-master-genius-laugh…
In spite of my best efforts, these were Kenzie’s least favourite. She refused carrots in any way, shape or from until very recently.
  1. Offer, offer, offer
Here’s a radical idea. If you don’t put a food in front of someone, then they can’t possibly try them. I remember the fist time I offered mushrooms to Kenzie. I thought, of well, she won’t eat them but at least she will see them (I based this assumption on what other people had told me “kids don’t like mushrooms”). She ate them all up and begged for more! Still to this day mushrooms are one of faves, and she almost always eats them. Imagine if I hadn’t put them in front of her on that day? Another important aspect of offering up foods is when they don’t seem to like a particular vegetable. My recommendation would be to still offer it. For the first three years of her life Kenzie wouldn’t eat lettuce or carrots. We kept putting them on her plate from time to time, just to normalise them and now she eats them (sometimes)
  1. Get them involved
I don’t know about your kids but once I started getting Kenzie involved in the kitchen, she became more and more excited about learning the names of vegetables and trying them (sometimes only by licking them, but hey…) When she first started asking to help cook dinner I was aware that I needed to allow the extra time and mess that it would mean to have her there… I didn’t want to discourage her even though I knew that it was going to slow the dinner making process down. Now I quite often set aside a simple task for her to do, but I make sure that it’s a meaningful one so that she really feels like shes contributed to the family dinner. Growing vegetables at home is another great way to do this. I feel like some days Kenzie gets 2-3 of her 5-a-day in the garden – cape gooseberries, raspberries, cherry tomatoes, apple cucumber and even kale…
In case you needed proof of that, here’s Kenzie at the age of 2… Eating kale with gusto.
And here’s the bonus tip: Make it fun! Everyone loves to have a good time, right? So why should eating vegetables be any different? The bonus there is that if you are relaxed and allowing some laughter into the kitchen or dinner table, then kids will sense that there is nothing to be worried about and instantly relax as well.
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Free Recipe Friday: Chicken Mozambique served on paella rice with fresh coriander

It’s Friday! And more often than not that means a free recipe for you to enjoy and possibly cook for your loved ones at home. Or better yet, print the recipe for a loved one and wait for a beautiful plate of food to appear in front of you – be warned, this tactic can be hit and miss, you may end up going hungry… This recipe was born just over a year ago from our recipe designer Debby, who originates from South Africa and used to spend summer holidays in Mozambique. This recipe is equally delicious with a “meaty” fish or prawns, and any seasonable vegetable such as capsicum, carrot, cauliflower or courgette. From our foodie family to yours – enjoy!


For the rice:

300g Paella rice (or short grain rice) 2 Chicken stock cubes

For the chicken:

600g Diced chicken breast 1 tsp Salt 1 tsp Pepper 2 tbsp Olive oil 3 tbsp Butter 1 Brown onion, chopped 2 Carrot, sliced 1 cup Chicken stock 2 tbsp Piripiri or hot sauce (optional) 1 Lemon, juiced 4 tsp Sazon goya spice mix

To serve:

20g Coriander, torn

Spice mix recipe (makes roughly 30g):

½ tbsp salt 1 tsp black pepper 1 tbsp garlic powder (not salt) 1 tbsp ground coriander ½ tbsp ground cumin 1 tbsp dried oregano 1 tsp ground turmeric


For the rice, bring a small pot of water to the boil and crumble in the stock cube. Stir in the rice, partially cover with a lid and cook for 12-15 minutes until tender. Drain well and steam out for a minute or two, then cover with a lid to keep warm and set aside until serving. Prepare the rest of the meal once the rice is underway. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, on a medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and fry for 6-8 minutes turning occasionally until browned. Peel and finely dice the onion and slice the carrot into rounds while the chicken is browning. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Handy hint: If using a stock cube for the chicken, boil the kettle and pour 1 cup of boiling water into a jug, crumble in the stock cube and mix with a fork to dissolve the cube. Using the same pan the chicken was cooked in, reduce the heat of the pan to medium and add the onion along with half the butter. Stir as it cooks for 3-4 minutes, then add the carrot and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Pour half the stock into the pan and stir to deglaze the pan. Add the chicken back to the pan along with the hot sauce (if using), lemon juice, spice mix and the rest of the butter and stock. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat, while stirring occasionally. To serve, place a mound of rice onto each plate, spoon over the chicken and garnish with torn coriander to taste.  
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From Italy to Hawaii, with a quick stop in Sweden

Love fusing various nationalities together on a plate? Come here then….

This week we feature Hawaiian pizzas on wholemeal base with Swedish pizza salad on the Express and Family Menu (5 meals).
Hawaiian pizzas are a classic, a real favourite for the little kids in the house especially. You might not find it in your most authentic Italian restaurant though. My foodie father informs me that it was invented by a man of Greek origin, who lived in Ontario, Canada! There’s a fun foodie fact for you! Traditionally it’s made with tinned pineapple, but we like to freshen things up, so we use a real fresh pineapple.

On the side of this hammy, cheesy fruity-liciousness we provide our customers with the ingredients and recipe for a Swedish classic side dish. Where ever you go in Sweden – order a pizza and you get a pizza salad on the side. You would just never eat pizza without it. (Well, perhaps in the most authentic Italian restaurant.) I remember going to Italy as a child and being appalled at the lack of pizza salad on the side of my pizza. It’s basically cabbage and onion in a vinaigrette, with some local variations of course. I would recommend making it earlier in the day or even the night before, because the flavours develop as time goes.
For the Swedish pizza salad:
3 cups cabbage, shredded ½ cabbage
1 spring onion, sliced
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the pizzas:
4 wholemeal pizza bases
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
150 g champagne ham, sliced
100 g cheese, grated
1 crown pineapple, sliced
Pinch of dried oregano (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.
Slice ham into thin strips. Grate the cheese, removing the rind; trim, core and slice the pineapple into rings.
Spread tomato paste onto the pizza bases then place the bases in the oven and pre-bake for 5-6 minutes until a little golden and crisped up.
While the bases are in the oven, fry the pineapple rings. Add oil to a large frying pan or griddle pan and once the oil is shimmering, add the pineapple rings and char for 2 minutes per side. Meanwhile make the Swedish pizza salad. Slice the spring onion and finely shred the cabbage using a sharp knife, mandolin or cheese slicer. Place in a large salad bowl and mix in vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the pre-baked pizza bases from the oven and top with the cheese, ham and charred pineapple rings in that order.  Pop the bases back into the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and browned a little.
To serve, place pizzas onto a large board and cut into slices. Sprinkle with dried oregano to taste. Serve at the table with the pizza salad. I hope you give this a go, and enjoy the culinary trip around the world.
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Free recipe Friday: Pork schnitzel with celeriac slaw and apple and walnut sauce

mmm…. Friday. How sweet is that?
It’s been a busy week here at Emma’s Food Bag HQ, with preparations for Auckland Food Show next week and a big batch of new delicious recipes to trial (it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it).
We are featuring this stunner on the dinner table tonight for our Inspiration and Original Menu foodies. If you like a crunchy slaw with a difference and a delicious crumbed piece of somethin’ somethin’, with a side of tart, sweet and bite, I urge you to give this a try. And I feel like that that should sum up pretty much the entire population of the world.
I know some of our customers have already enjoyed this dish, and can you blame them? (No you can’t and I am one of them). The feedback we’ve had has been great, unsurprisingly.
Celeriac is a fun vegetable to play with too. It looks fun, it tastes fun and it’s quite uncommon, which I personally think is the funnest.

Pork schnitzel with celeriac slaw and apple and walnut sauce.

Serves 4

For the schnitzel:
4 pork schnitzel
3 tbsp flour
2 eggs, beaten
120 g breadcrumbs
3 tbsp olive oil for frying
For the apple and walnut sauce:
4 green apples, sliced
1 tbsp honey
4 tbsp water
40 g chopped walnuts
For the celeriac slaw:
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 pots natural yoghurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
600 g celeriac, julienned
2 carrots, grated
½ cup curly parsley, chopped

To prepare the schnitzel, place between layers of clingfilm and bash with a rolling pin or mallet to tenderise and flatten. Sprinkle both sides of the schnitzel with flour then season with salt and pepper. Whisk eggs in a bowl and place breadcrumbs in another bowl. Dip meat in egg mix, drain off excess and then coat with breadcrumbs. Set aside.
For the apple sauce, peel, core and slice the apples and put in a saucepan with honey and water. Cover and cook over a medium heat until apple is just cooked through – you don’t want the apples to end up too soft. This will take about 6-8 minutes. Stir in chopped walnuts and season with a pinch of salt, then set aside covered until the rest of the meal is ready.
Prepare the celeriac slaw while the apple sauce is cooking. Firstly, mix lemon juice and yoghurt in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Peel the celeriac, remove any brown bits, and cut into paper-thin slices (a mandolin or slicing attachment on a food processor is handy for this). Stack a few slices and cut into thin matchsticks then add into the bowl with the lemon yoghurt dressing. Alternatively, you can coarsely grate the celeriac to save time, but the salad will not have quite the same crunchy texture. Peel and grate the carrot and stir into celeriac salad. Chop the parsley and stir through the slaw.
Heat olive oil for the schnitzel in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once shimmering, add crumbed schnitzels and cook on each side about 1-3 minutes until golden. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches.
To serve, spoon celeriac slaw onto plates, place schnitzel on the side and top with apple and walnut sauce.

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Free Recipe Friday: Emma’s Berbere spice mix

Oh yes. Friday, you sweet thang!

I’m sure many of you out there have had an interesting week – it’s school holidays after all. From what I can gather from parents of school-age kids, that’s a thing.

We had our own version of a school holiday kinda vibe at out house this week, even though young Kenzie is only 3. She got sick. The kind of sick that meant she was contagious enough to have to stay at home, but not sick enough to stay still. Conjunctivitis – you’re a special kinda hell raiser….

But I’m gonna be honest – I kinda loved being home with her for three whole days. It felt like a holiday (even though I was working most of the time – but you know what they say: “love your job and you’ll never work a day in your life”) A couple of yeas ago, when the business was still so young and we were still finding our feet, there is just no way I could have had three whole days out of the office, regardless of the staff we had. There is just no way, it would have been so overwhelming! But now, I can proudly say that the business is systematic enough to “run it self” in a way. I can take time out with a sick child, and the world doesn’t end. I am proud of that. So proud.

So we hung out. We played around with some slow cooked meals, because as you might know, there might maybe, possibly, hopefully be a slow cooker menu on the cards for this winter. yay 🙂 We ate lots of food. It was good. In the evening time, we enjoyed out “regular meals” from the Inspiration Menu, much like many of our customers. One of the absolute highlights was the “Crispy Berbere spiced chicken thighs served on puy lentil and vegetable medley “.

You might not know this, but this meal first appeared when the business was only 4 months old. I was just finding my feet in the recipe creation gig, and I fell in love with this spice mix! Then, somehow, this meal went into hibernation for a few years, until one day when I was flicking through the archive, reminiscing about the good old days (haha). I stumbled upon it and thought I have to cook this again! So i did. Here it is.

Berbere spice mix. In all its glory.

Emma’s Berbere Spice Mix

Serves 4

1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1  tsp ground fenugreek
1  tsp ground all spice
1  tsp cardamom powder
1  tsp salt
1  tsp pepper

It’s a beautiful, fragrant (not hot spicy) spice mix originating from Ethiopia, featuring ground fenugreek, paprika and cardamom, just to name a few. It’s commonly used in meat dishes and vegetarian stews alike, to add a depth of flavour and richness to a meal.

So go ahead, get your creative hat out and start making dinner magic. Or, if you prefer the tried and tested recipe, here’s what we did with the Berbere spice mix.

Crispy Berbere spiced chicken thighs served on puy lentil and vegetable medley

Serves 4
Gluten free
Dairy Free


For the lentil medley:
240 g puy lentils, rinsed
2 brown onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Berbere spice mix
4 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

For the chicken:
800 g chicken thigh, skin on
2 tbsp Berbere spice mix
Drizzle of olive oil


Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.

For the lentil medley, rinse the lentils in a sieve, then drain. Finely chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottom frying pan with a lid over a medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and sauté for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the spice mix (reserving some for the chicken), tomato paste and then pour in the stock. Add the lentils, cover the pan partially with a lid and cook for 30-35 minutes, until lentils are tender yet firm. Check the liquid in the pan towards the end and adjust as needed – the goal is a saucy lentil medley, but not a soup.

Handy hint: If your pan does not have a lid simply cover it tightly with a double layer of tinfoil.

Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and place into an oven dish, skin side up. Sprinkle with the remaining Berbere spice mix, ensuring even coverage all over the chicken. Place in the oven with the skin side up, and cook for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time.

To serve, slice the chicken with a sharp knife and serve on top of the vegetable and lentil medley.

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Lussebullar – Swedish saffron buns

Today is Lucia Day in Sweden, one of my favourite traditions. This beautiful celebration of light takes place during the darkest time of the year, right in the middle of winter. It’s celebrated by a procession of men and women, dressed primarily in white gowns, singing traditional songs. One woman, who represents Saint Lucia, a Sicilian saint, carries a crown of candles on her head. The remaining participants carry a candle in their hands. The men have cone-shaped hats with stars on them…

Don’t look at me like that, I’m not making this up!

Growing up I didn’t really reflect on how odd this tradition actually seems to someone who isn’t Swedish… I think Kiwis especially find it a bit odd because there is just nothing quite like it here. I love Christmas in Sweden, and the build up to it! When I’m over there the excitement builds up for weeks before the big day (which, by the way, is the 24th in Northern Europe – we celebrate Christmas Eve). The anticipation, the preparations, the decorations, I love everything about Christmas! One thing that makes Christmas in a cold and dark country very special is how it lights up one of the darker months of the year – it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Here in NZ, because it’s lovely and sunny and warm… I actually forget that Christmas is coming… Until someone randomly asks me if I’ve bought all my presents, and I panic, and then forget again until next time someone asks. In the few years that I have been here I have sort of started making Lucia Day my start of Christmas. I can now start decorating, preparing and anticipating the big day (which in our household more accurately is days because we celebrate both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). For the last few years I have attempted baking Lussebullar on Lucia Day, as is the tradition. My first attempt was not great (rock hard and nowhere near enough saffron) and I think the last two years were ok-ish but I don’t know what recipe I was following so I wouldn’t be able to replicate it. This year though… This year I wanted to make a recipe of my own. It pretty much follows the same style as the traditional Swedish recipes but it makes it a bit more Kiwi friendly. In Sweden fresh yeast is commonly used along with ground saffron and a unique curd cheese called kesella. Here in NZ dry yeast is much more common and saffron is bought in threads. Instead of kesella I used natural yoghurt and it worked really well. So here it is, my start of the Christmas season, enjoy!

Lussebullar – Swedish Saffron Buns:


800g-1kg white flour (approx. 6 cups) 120g sugar (approx. ½ cup)
3 tsp dry yeast – dissolved in ¼ cup warm water or 50g fresh yeast
130g unsalted butter
1-1.5g saffron
400 ml milk (I used full fat Organic milk from Jersey girl)
½ cup natural yoghurt (I used De Winkel’s Natural yoghurt)
Pinch of salt (optional)
1 egg, beaten (for brushing)
Sultanas or raisins for garnish


Measure out all the ingredients before starting, I find his really helps because I am a cook, not a baker. The saffron needs to be ground so if using saffron threads bash them up in a pestle and mortar until finely ground.

Place the butter in a small pot over a low heat and gently melt. Add the milk once the butter is liquid and warm gently. Add the ground saffron and sugar, and stir to dissolve. The mixture will now change colour to an intense dark yellow – that’s the saffron speaking!
While the butter is melting dissolve the dry yeast in warm water (ideally about 40-42°C) in a small bowl. Mix in a teaspoon of sugar to really kick the yeast along. Cover with cling film or beeswax wrap  and keep in a warm place. If this has worked properly, the mixture will start to bubble and rise. If not throw it away and start again.
Pour the butter-saffron mixture into a very large mixing bowl and add the yoghurt. Mix in about half of the flour and combine well. Stir in the activated yeast and mix in. Sift in the remaining flour and work the dough with your hands. Add enough flour so that the dough is still a little tacky and shiny but not totally sticky and hard to get off your hands. Transfer the dough to another large, completely clean bowl (I don’t know why it needs to be clean but this is what my grandmother taught me so I am sticking with it). Cover with a tea towel and keep in a warm place to let it rise. Now is the time to close all the windows – the dough will never rise if it’s drafty and cold. Set aside for 30-45 minutes, the dough should just about double in size. This is a good time to catch up on something you’ve been meaning to do for a while. For me that was writing Christmas cards…

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured workbench and divide into four pieces. Cut each of those into eight small pieces – this dough will make 32 saffron buns. To make the traditionally shaped saffron bun; roll out each piece into a long snake and then twist in the opposite side of each end towards the middle, creating a short of S-shape. Keep the others covered with a tea towel in the meantime.          Place a raisin in the centre of each twist.  Repeat this for all the pieces of dough and transfer to a baking paper lined oven rack – make sure they have enough space between them to double in size again.
Set aside to rise for 20-30 minutes in a warm place and heat the oven to 200°C. Brush the buns lightly with the beaten egg just before baking. Place each tray in the oven for 5-8 minutes (the others can sit and rise for a little longer – I ended up with three trays). Keep a close eye towards the end – they want a light golden brown colour. Cool on a wire rack. Promise me you will enjoy one straight from the oven with a glass of cold milk. Promise?
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Lagom – one of the most useful words ever


Today I learnt that the word lagom has become a bit of a phenomenon in New Zealand and the world, which is funny because to me, and other Swedish speakers, it’s just a word that we use almost daily. I can see though, that upon greater reflection, this word signifies more than just a quantitative adjective, it’s a mentality. In many ways I can’t help but wonder how this word has shaped the psyche of the Swedish people, it’s so ingrained in our culture and has naturally affected our lifestyle choices as well.

The word lagom roughly translates to not too little, but not too much – just right.

As far as I know, the word stems from the Viking age. The story goes: the Viking dudes (and perhaps dudettes, what do I know) would gather around the table in the evenings (or middle of the day – again I don’t know, I wasn’t there) and drink beer. Rather than having a handle of beer each, they would have one drinking vessel for everyone to share (hygienic, right?). They would pass the cup around the table and each take a sip. The idea was that once everyone had had a drink, the beer would be gone, and everyone would have their fair share. You see lag means team and om means around. So the drink would go around the team and in order for everyone to get the fair amount of beer, you would have to drink lagom – not too little, and not too much. Just right.

For me it’s such a useful word, it can answer almost any question: “How much coffee do you want?”, “Was the weather hot on your holiday?”, “How spicy should I make this curry?”, “How big is your house?”

I think this word also reflects a beautiful way of life, and I guess that’s why it has gained some attention around the world in 2017. We have done the consumerist lifestyle, and the pendulum has swung the other way to minimalism. However, for most people a lagom way of life would be much more realistic then wither of the extremes. It’s comfortable. It’s easy. It’s just right.

This word resonates with me personally because lagom is how I would like to see us use the worlds resources. If we adopted this to everything we do, imagine how different the world would be. Help yourself to the food at the buffet, but ensure there is enough for your whanau. Pick the flowers in the park, but remember that someone else might want to enjoy them as well. Build a house that is comfortable to live in but don’t use up more resources than you need, leave something for the future. Let your friends and your village help you, but not to the point that there is an imbalance – it’s give and take. Buy enough food, but not so little that you go hungry, or so much that you have to throw it away. Boom. Game changer! Don’t drain the beaker so that the last person around the table goes thirsty.