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Seasonal eating in autumn and winter

Oh I just love this time of year! Anyone who knows me knows that I am a true autumn fanatic! The cold, chilly mornings and beautiful, sunny days. The rainy days when you don’t see the sun for a long time and the fire is constantly lit when someone is in the house. I love how relaxed this time of year can be and all the obligations seem to go away, I guess people become more recluse in winter. As much as I love to be social, this comes as a welcome break when there’s time for self-reflection and getting stuff done.

This time of year can be a hard time for people who like to eat seasonably, but I’m here to tell you it needn’t be! You might want to add a slice of tomato to your sandwich or some snow peas to your stir-fry, and capsicums grow all year around right?

Well, not quite. Sure, these days you can get more or less anything from the supermarket at any time of year, but that’s not the point.

Pumpkins – does it even get more autumnal?

For me, going to the Farmers’ Market, or connecting with some of our local growers is the best way to figure out what’s really in season. We do have some suppliers who continue to grow tomatoes and cucumbers all year around, and they use sustainable ways of heating a hot house so I don’t see a problem with sneaking the odd outlier into the menu (I’m no complete fanatic). However, I think it’s nice to make the most of what is grown within the seasonal window for many reasons.

A classic friend in the colder months – broccoli!

Here’s my top 5 reasons why seasonal eating rocks:

  1. The food is more likely to be locally sourced and thereby higher in nutritional content. No shipping around the country (or God forbid from abroad) equals less loss of nutrient. Bonus points for lower food mileage! Double bonus point! You’re supporting the local community at growers – you’re winning at life!
  2. All the colours of the rainbow are still there – just visit your local Farmer’s Market and you’ll find purple, green, orange, yellow, red and white. Including a bit of everything means you’re getting a varied nutrient profile. Win!
  3. You might get to try something new, how does a side of yakon, daikon, turnip or golden beetroot sound?
  4. Less sprays and nasties are used for seasonal growing. The produce that’s in season can handle the jandle of the weather’s antics so they don’t need a helping hand from artificial sprays. Whatever your thoughts are on organic eating, that has to make sense, right?
  5. It’s all about the taste. Ever eaten a tomato in the middle of winter? Does it actually taste like a tomato or do you have to use your imagination a lot?
Don’t disregard kale, it’s more versatile than you might think

Below is a list of simple substitutions for summer produce in winter.

Summer varieties of lettuces – kales and cabbages or winter lettuces (more hardy varieties)

Tomatoes – radishes and baby turnips, finely sliced

Cucumbers – fennel and sprouts

Capsicums – finely diced pumpkin or butternut, kohlrabi or turnips

Aubergines/eggplants – mushrooms

Courgettes – broccoli or broccolini

I encourage you to go out and find the most delicious, fresh seasonal produce and cook up a storm!

Of course we are only human and we do make the odd exception here and there…. Every now and then we throw in the odd tomato or cucumber, just to keep things interesting. Because that’s what we’re all about: interesting and delicious meals, with minimum fuss.

Have a great week and happy cooking!

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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.