New Family-Focused Cook Book Turning Kids Into 'Foodies'
Family Harvest, the new family cook book by Simone Kelly is bringing healthy, whole-foods to the dinner table.
With a focus on educating, involving and engaging kids, not only at mealtimes, but also in the preparation process and sourcing of produce, Family Harvest means 'family foods' don't have to be bland, boring and all about hiding the veggies.
Inspired by Simone's own journey in introducing her young stepchildren to the flavours and foods she and husband David love, the book combines food philosophy, practical tips for involving your kids in the kitchen and inspiration on gardening with limited space, along with over 100 delicious recipes.
Between their corporate careers and busy lifestyles, preparing separate meals was not realistic for Simone and David's family.
"Because we love food so much, we always wanted to raise little human beings that loved it just as much as we did. And, to be completely honest, there was another factor: we didn't have the time or energy to prepare separate meals for the children," said Simone.
Determined to win the dinnertime war and feed the kids healthy food that she would also enjoy Simone soon realised that there was a distinct lack of helpful resources available.
"All the books, blogs and articles I read seemed to suggest that meals could only be 'family friendly' by removing every trace of flavour or interest and by disguising any form of vegetable," said Simone.
"Any parent who has faced the conflict that can occur in getting kids to eat their vegetables understands how painful it can be; but I want our kids to have a lifelong healthy relationship with food, so I'm not a big believer in tactics that could backfire down the track, like hiding the veggies," said Simone.
More than just wanting the kids to eat their vegetables, the approach Simone shares in Family Harvest, is about introducing 'the new' – new ingredients, new flavours, new dishes and new cuisines, and helping children expand their tastes.
Simone's campaign was challenging but ultimately rewarding, with both children, now 11 and 14, having a broad and varied diet and being open to trying new foods and flavours.
"The other wonderful and unexpected result is that the children have developed a passion for good food and interesting flavours. It's an interest we all share, and it has brought us together as a family – not only at mealtimes, but also on our travels," said Simone.
Author: Simone Kelly
For a long time, I was intimidated by dumplings. They take a little practice, it's true. But once you've tried them, you'll realise that the possibilities are endless. And why shouldn't you have all the fun?
Making dumplings is another activity you can enjoy with your children. Learn together, or perfect your method first, then teach them how, and impress them with your skill! They'll soon learn the best ways to fold dumplings; it's a good lesson in perseverance.
Cooking this dish together is also an opportunity to introduce children to different types of mushrooms they might not have encountered before. Invest in some tasty varieties, not the flavourless 'button' ones you find in the supermarket. I use pine mushrooms (also called saffron milk caps) to make these dumplings. Your local grocer will probably have some other interesting types.
This recipe makes 32 dumplings – enough to serve 4 hungry people.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Assembly time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
large paper bag of mushrooms, varied
2 spring onions 2 garlic cloves
ginger (a thumb sized knob)
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
500g good quality pork mince
ground black pepper
32 wonton wrappers
Remember, these will be small dumplings, so chop the ingredients quite finely.
Chop the mushrooms and toss them, with a knob of butter, in a large pan. Cook them on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
While they're cooking, chop the spring onions and garlic cloves (alternatively you could mince them) and grate some fresh ginger (about 2 tablespoons). Add these ingredients to the pan. You might also need to splash some water into the pan if the mushrooms begin to dry out. Stir and keep cooking for another 5 minutes. Splash in more water as the mixture dries out – it needs to stay moist.
When mixture is cooked, turn o heat and add the light soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir and leave to cool.
Once cool, the mixture can be transferred to a mixing bowl with the egg and pork mince. Add some freshly ground black pepper. Mix together well, with your hands.
Lay out the wonton wrappers on the kitchen bench and spoon in the mixture. Brush water around the edges of each wrapper and fold the sides together. There are many ways of folding the wrapper – I just fold all 4 corners in at the top and pinch them together. Then I pinch the seams together.
You might need to experiment with the first few, to make sure you have the right amount of filling. The dumplings shouldn't be so full that they burst; but neither should they have too little filling. If there are only very small amounts of mixture in the dumplings, the wonton wrapper folded at the top will be quite thick, will take longer to cook, and will therefore be less juicy overall.
Place wontons in a steaming basket, over a wok with simmering water, and steam for 20 minutes. Serve with a sauce of sesame oil, light soy sauce (and chilli for the adults).
Question: What inspired you to write Family Harvest?
Simone Kelly: My husband David and I were just being asked so often what our 'secret' was when they saw the way our kids ate. My husband kept telling me I had to write a book about everything we did to help others who were struggling with feeding their kids.
Also, David and the kids were always asking me to cook particular recipes, and being the kind of cook who 'throws things together' most of the time, I could never remember how I'd made previous dishes, so I thought it would actually be a good idea to start documenting my recipes - it certainly helps with coming up with ideas for dinner!
Question: How do these recipes help parents win the dinnertime war on veggies?
Simone Kelly: The book contains not just recipes, but also my tips on how to get your kids to eat the kind of healthy, delicious 'adult' food you enjoy, to do away with the need to cook them separate meals.
The recipes themselves help to achieve this by being simple and delicious. Once you get your kids into the right habits (trying new foods and flavours), then all you need to do is serve food that is wholesome and tasty.
Question: How can we simply 'green up' our plates are dinner time?
Simone Kelly: I add leafy greens to almost everything; soups, stews, pastas, rice dishes, salads. It's simply about being mindful about remembering to do it.
One way I suggest getting the kids on board is by leveraging green coloured foods they do love (such as pesto). Get the kids used to eating things they enjoy that are green so it simply isn't an issue when they see green on their plate.
It's often our own preconceived ideas about whether they will or won't eat something that influences the way they respond to it. If we don't expect them to eat something, we often (unintentionally) use language which signals to them that they won't like it, or that we don't really expect them to eat it.
Question: What's the easiest vegetables to grow in limited space?
Simone Kelly: Leafy greens such as rainbow chard, spinach and kale really couldn't be any easier to grow. They use limited space and water, they are prolific, require nearly no maintenance (other than cutting them to eat) and they are just so versatile in the kitchen.
Question: Can you share some of the practical tips for involving the family, in the kitchen?
Simone Kelly: The easiest way to get kids interested is by spending the time with them. They love doing things with Mum and Dad, so involve them. This can be hard with life being so busy, but it really is as simple as making some time to share even really basic tasks that are fun for them like crumbing chicken or fish to make 'nuggets' or 'fish fingers'. If there's a particular dish they love, then perhaps start there.
Getting them involved in growing food, even in a small pot of herbs is also incredibly helpful. Kids will always eat things they've grown themselves.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Author: Simone Kelly