Growing my own

So as our lives have started becoming easier and sleep more plentiful I was maybe a little too enthusiastic to our next big life event.   I was offered an allotment and without too much hesitation said yes!  

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Udi's Gluten Free

I was asked by Udi’s (launched in the UK in 2013 from the US) whether I would sample some of their products and in return write something here.   Never one to refuse food, I of course said yes.  I had a friend coming to stay who had recently been diagnosed as coeliac so I was delighted to be able to offer something other than my usual repertoire.  I also have a good friend with a 15 month old on a gluten and dairy free diet and I hoped there would be treats for her to sample too.

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Going nuts over school snacks

My eldest daughter started Reception last week.  I feel the run up to this important event in both our lives has taken some time to prepare.  There was the purchasing of the uniform and making decisions on dresses vs. skirts and cardigans with the school logo or without.  Then there was the buying of school shoes.  My daughter is blessed with Mummy’s wide feet and having failed to get any shoes in two shops I was contemplating ordering online which was a let down for my daughter and a concern for me!  Thankfully, we found a shop that had a pair of H’s and my daughter liked them.  I think by this point she would have taken anything, just to be able to walk out of the shop and announce she now had school shoes!  We sorted the bag and PE kit relatively easily and the non-iron/non-sew name tags were a life-saver.  

 

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How many fruit and vegetables should I be eating?

We all know fruit and vegetables are good for us yet we often struggle to get our children to eat them.  They may have a particular favourite and refuse any other.  You reluctantly keep purchasing the ever so expensive box of blueberries only for them to be consumed in one sitting with many escaping onto the floor.  A recent study led by the University of Leeds showed giving fruit and vegetables regularly under 2 years and offering new fruit/vegetable up to 5 - 10 times would help those children not keen or fussy about fruit and veg. 

 

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Happy St. Patrick's Day

After a very exciting weekend of rugby, Ireland not only have the victory of the Six Nations but today celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.  The public holiday will no doubt be welcomed by many following Saturday’s win. 

 image from https://www.london.gov.uk/get-involved/events/st-patricks-day-parade-and-festival-2014

image from https://www.london.gov.uk/get-involved/events/st-patricks-day-parade-and-festival-2014

It may be obvious, but when I think of Ireland I think of potatoes.  Potatoes are a great vehicle for other vegetables.  Now I rarely make just mash potato, it would be mashed potato with butternut squash or mashed potato with carrots.  I occasionally use swede but my young daughters prefer other flavours such as parsnip or sweet potato, which secretly pleases me as I am not that fussed on swede either!  

The addition of vegetables to mash potato is perfect for those children who turn their noses up at vegetables as they won’t notice you have fortified their mash just a little.  With extra vegetables brings more nutrients making the meal nutrient rich and balanced.

A dish I pretty much make on a weekly basis is fish pie.  I vary the mash topping depending on what I have available in the cupboard. I have been known to mash potato with either one of the vegetables listed or occasionally use them all!  I also add frozen peas to the fish base for good measure.  

 Click to link to NHSchoices page on fish and shellfish

Click to link to NHSchoices page on fish and shellfish

It is recommended that we include fish in our diet twice a week with one of these as oily fish.  Oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acids which may help prevent heart disease and is important in helping to develop the nervous system in unborn babies.  I am sure you are aware that mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout fit under the heading of oily fish but what about tuna?  Sadly tinned tuna has had most of the omega-3 fatty acids removed during the canning process so is not a good source but fresh certainly is.

Here is my fish pie recipe

Ingredients:

500g       Fish (haddock, plaice, cod, salmon) or 2 packets (260g/pack) Fish Pie Mix

125g        Dill and Mustard Sauce

60ml        Milk

1/2        Lemon - juice and zest (not essential)

100g         Frozen Peas

300g         Potatoes

200g        Combination of sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, parsnip, swede

80g         Butter/Margarine

 

Method:

Preheat oven at 180’C or Gas Mark 4

Peel and cut the potatoes and veg into small pieces and boil until tender; approx 20 mins

Place the fish in an oven proof rectangular dish (approx 12 inch x 9 inch x 2 inch deep) - if not using the fish pie mix then skin the fish and cut into small chunks

Dot the Dill and Mustard Sauce over the fish

Pour the milk evenly over the fish then the zest and juice of half a lemon 

Spread the peas evenly over the fish

Mash the cooked potato and veg with half the butter/marg and a splash of milk

Top the fish with the mash and dot the remaining butter/marg over the mash - oil works just as well

Cook for 45 mins or until golden brown

 

The Sunshine Vitamin

The sun is shining and suddenly life feels a little easier.  The school and nursery run doesn’t seem such a chore as the kids run and scoot happily in the warm sunshine.  Thoughts drift to picnics in the park, trips to the seaside and splashing in the paddling pool.   With sunshine comes Vitamin D.  We all need Vit-D but are we getting enough?

Vit-D can only be made when the UV light is strong enough.  This is only possible in the UK from April until September in the middle of the day (10 – 3pm) on exposed skin (hands, face, arms or legs).  You only need 15 minutes, two to three times a week during these months to get your Vit-D for the whole year but is this realistic? 

With sun we immediately slap on sunscreen, pull out the sunhats, sunglasses and cover up.  The risk of melanoma is very real.  All these factors will prevent you making enough Vit-D.  There is also the rather important issue that the sun is not very predictable.

So what about food sources?  There are only a few foods that are naturally rich in Vit-D including oily fish and eggs.  Some foods are fortified such as breakfast cereals and margarines.  The problem is that children would need to eat 8 eggs or 26 tablespoons fortified breakfast cereal every day to meet their requirement, which I think you’d agree is not a practical solution!

So what can you do?  UK Health Departments recommend all children from 1 – 5 years take a vitamin supplement containing vitamins A, C and D.  Breastfed babies should be supplemented from 6 months (or from one month if the mother did not take a Vit-D supplement in pregnancy).  Infants fed 500ml or more formula a day do not need supplements as formula milk is already fortified.  All pregnant and breastfeeding women need a Vit-D supplement.

Requirements for babies and children up to 5yrs: 7 – 8.5mcg/day

Requirements for pregnant and breastfeeding women: 10mcg/day

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For more information ask your midwife or health visitor or look at the NHS Choices website.

 

Get Cooking!

So it is Monday morning, first day of the half term holidays and you check the weather forecast to make some vague plans for the day with the kids.  The forecast is not bad, well it is not raining all day so there will be opportunities to escape outdoors and let the kids burn off some energy. 

So what to do indoors when it is wet outside?  Cook of course!  I don’t know many children who would say no to some messy fun in the kitchen and there are lots of great reasons to get cooking with the kids.  Here are a few reasons why, whatever the age of your child.

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