Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Oh Quinoa, I Love Ya!

Quinoa (Pronounced 'keen-wa') is a type of grain that has been an important part of the ancient Inca civilization of South America. In the grocery, you would often find Quinoa in the grain/ cereal section but it is not actually a cereal grass.  Researches thus refer to it as a 'pseudocereal'.  Although it is commonly grouped with wheat, rye and oats, it is interesting to know that it is from the same food family as spinach and beets. Quinoa may not be a pantry staple just yet, but it is gaining popularity as a superfood because of its high nutritive value and various health benefits. Here are some of the qualities and benefits of QUINOA:

1.  It is a complete protein that contains all essential amino acids.

2.  It contains significant amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients

3.  It has twice as much fiber as other types of grains

4. It contains no gluten making it a perfect food for vegans and people into wheat-free/gluten-free diet

5.  It is filling and easy to digest

(Source: whfoods.org)

Cooked Quinoa: To prepare, boil 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups water. When cooked, grain appears soft and transluscent and the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of the grain

The question now is, how does it taste? Quinoa by itself has a unique texture and taste. Cooked quinoa is fluffy and chewy with a slight nutty, bitter taste. Hmm.. I know, I know.. It does not quite sound appetizing. Well, today, I'm letting my toddler be the judge.

The first time I tried Quinoa was in a salad - cooked quinoa tossed with some lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, feta cheese, pepper and cucumber. I have to admit that it was not love-at-first-bite, but I knew that it is something worth keeping in my food pantry. Just like pasta and rice, it is a versatile product that I can have fun experimenting with.

But the real question is... Will my 2-year old like it?

I did not plan on serving quinoa today, but somehow, the quinoa box I bought from the States spoke louder than the Kraft Mac n' Cheese. Oh, thank goodness! With my kitchen as my lab, and Hi-5 as my babysitter, I surveyed our fridge for what I could find and braved myself for an experiment.

Here are the Ingredients to my own recipe, I'd simply call Quinoa Shrimp Pilaf

1/4 cup Quinoa, cooked
Olive Oil
1 Onion, chopped
2 slices Cooked Ham, chopped
2 Celery stalks, sliced
2 Tomatoes, diced
1 Zucchini, diced
1/2 cup Mushrooms
2 Tbsp Tomato paste
1 cup peeled Shrimps
1/2 cup water 
1 cube Knorr Chicken broth cube
Grated Parmesan cheese, pepper and dried oregano to taste
Cheddar Cheese, grated (optional)

Cooking Procedure: 3 Simple steps for a healthy, satisfying lunch 

1.  Saute onions, add cooked ham, tomatoes, celery, zucchini and mushrooms

2.  Add tomato paste, shrimps, water, chicken broth cube and simmer. Season with parmesan cheese, pepper and oregano (I did not add salt anymore because the broth and cheese will already give it enough flavor)

3. Toss in cooked quinoa and mix with the ingredients. Top with grated cheddar cheese before serving (optional). For an extra kick, I added some Sriracha on my bowl like I would normally do on almost anything I eat. 

STEP 1:  Saute onions and add all vegetables

STEP 2: Add tomato paste, shrimps, broth and simmer. Season with Parmesan cheese, pepper and dried oregano

STEP 3: Toss in cooked quinoa and mix with the ingredients. Before serving,  top with grated cheddar cheese while it's still piping hot (optional)

The verdict: One happy tummy (make that two tummies) and another recipe on my book!

Don't you think that something this good and healthy is worth giving a shot? Unfortunately, it's not yet widely available here in the Philippines, but you can find it in the international aisle of big supermarkets like Rustan's, Metro Gaisano, SM and Shopwise. Hopefully with more Pinoy moms buying quinoa, it will be more accessible to us. Watch out for my future quinoa recipes. Hmm.. I actually have something in mind. If you did try this recipe, please let me know what you think.  Happy eating!  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Mind Museum in the Eyes of A 2-year Old

The Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City is a world-class science museum that is a popular destination for grade school exposure trips. Initially, we were hesitant to take Caleb for a tour thinking that he might be still too young to appreciate it. But since he is already familiar with planets, robots, dinosaurs and any moving matter, particularly cars, helicopters, airplanes and construction vehicles, we decided to take him on his first science tour.

December is the off-peak period for the museum because schools are on holiday break. I got a good discount at dealgrocer.com for an all-day pass for the 3 of us. Yes, we had to get him a ticket because kids 2 feet and below are the only ones who can go inside for free. Regular ticket price is P600 for a 3-hour pass or P750 for an all-day pass. Another upside is that the place is not crowded with rowdy school children.

As we walked pass the ticket booth, we were greeted by a robot that got our little boy all fired up.

The museum leads to 5 halls/ galleries - The Life, The Atom, The Earth, The Universe and The Technology gallery that covers the entire mezzanine.

After talking a walk through the dinosaur hallway, his attention was immediately drawn by the beach balls that were being lifted by tube blowers.

He marveled at the huge whale shark display, but refused to come near its mouth. When he was convinced it was not real, he came over to take a closer look.

In the Atom Gallery, Caleb tried to take a big bite of the huge chocolate. This was a good introduction of how everything is made up of small particles called atoms, even after realizing the giant chocolate is a fake. 

In what he called the giant soccer ball, he was first introduced to MOLECULES. I find it quite cute hearing him just say the word. He played with the atom balls and stuck them together as if he was just building ordinary blocks.

We have read about volcanoes and lava before so I was not surprised that this was the first thing that got his attention in the Earth gallery.

He roared like a dinosaur as we climbed up the stairs for a closer look at those sharp fangs.

In the Universe gallery, Caleb came face-to-face with an astronaut. He stood in front of the display, as if wondering how he would look like with the gear on. He said before that he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. 

We also played guessing game as he identified the moon phases by its shapes like full moon, semi-circle and crescent moon.

At the Technology gallery, he was enthralled by the different car models and airplane display as he mimicked an engine sound. What is it with boys and wheels, anyway?


We took our time in the Technology gallery, and came back for him to explore a bit longer after we went out for lunch. Caleb enjoyed playing with the moving bridge with his dad, even using it as a runway for his toy airplane.

Outside the museum, kids can also enjoy the Museum at the Park. The big drums had it for our active tot.

At the end of our tour, Caleb was so exhausted, he fell asleep as soon as we strapped in his car seat.  My husband and I could not have enjoyed it better without him. Back in grade school, science seemed quite a complicated subject. But in the eyes of our 2-year old, everything, including the seemingly ordinary can be fun to learn and explore. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

How To Make Your Toddler Eat Veggies

When other people see Caleb eat his fruits and veggies, they would always ask me, "How did you teach him that?" I may have been fortunate that he's not a very picky eater, but my encouraging husband would tell me that I must have done something right to train him. It's not to say that this came so naturally for him. Like many parents, we've gone through a phase of struggle and frustration because our tot would refuse to eat anything that was not crunchy or cheesy. Let me emphasize that there are no hard and fast rules for this. These guidelines are what we have learned from experience and so far, they have helped us teach Caleb good eating habits. Let me note that these tips should be started as early as possible (as soon as your baby starts eating solids). Because the older your child gets, the more challenging it would be.

1.  Serve natural food to your baby - Yes, instant soft cereals are convenient, especially if you are a working mom. But there is a solution! Prepare his meals in advance (good for 2-3 days). Store them in tight containers and freeze. Thaw the ones that will be consumed for the day in your fridge and reheat. We did this since Caleb was 6 months old, starting with just 1 kind of veggie. When he turned 9 months, we mixed different types of veggies, protein (usually fish, tofu, ground chicken or beef) with brown rice. Two to three days will help your child be familiar with the taste and texture of the vegetable you are serving.

2.  Eat together with your baby at the dining table- I know this is quite challenging, but this will help build good eating habits for your child. Set regular time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Do not feed him in front of the TV, when he's playing or doing something else. Sit him on his high chair and pray before meals. Later on, he will also learn to appreciate the fact that eating together as a family is a great bonding experience. 

3.  Allow your child to use his hands - As your child becomes more independent, let him explore food on his own. I tell you it's going to be messy, but just let your child be a child. You can clean up later. This was a bit hard for me to do, believe me!

4.  Take him with you when you shop for groceries - I realized that most kids don't eat vegetables simply because they are not familiar with them. Sure, books and television will teach him about fruits and vegetables. But it's a different experience if he sees them in actual! In the grocery, let him hold the broccoli and the spinach. Repeat several times that broccoli and spinach are yummy, as if you are trying to brainwash him. Before you cook the veggies, show it to him again. Personally, I don't believe in "hiding" the veggies in the dish. Let him know that that is what you are serving him.

5.  Be an example to your child - It's not really going to help if your kid sees you eating something different from what he's suppose to eat.

6.  Expose him to recipe books and/or cooking shows - Again, it's about building familiarity. 

7.  Ditch the Kids' Menu - When dining out, order what you can share with your tot. This may be quite limiting for you, but sacrifices are to be made to train your child. Most choices in the kids menu are junk anyway. Ask for a bowl/ plate and let him know that he and mommy will sharing the fish and steamed green beans and carrots.

8. Be creative - Know what foods your kid loves to eat. Caleb likes soup and noodles and eggs.  In his first year, I served vegetables in soups like minestrone, sotanghon soup, misua and omelettes.

9.  Be consistent. Never give in and never give up - Expect cries, screams and kicks. When Caleb refused to eat, we take him out of his high chair and just ask him to go to his room to play or just read. Of course he cried louder. Usually his dad talked to him and explained why he needs to eat the food that is on the table. It goes something like, "Your mom prepared that specially for you and you will make her really happy if you eat your food." We do whatever is needed to cheer him up like sing a song (This is the way Caleb eats his food, eats his food, eats his food....).  We also affirm him each time he makes a bite and give him a big hug after he tries to finish it. 

10. Let him taste of different kinds of food (even junk food)- Occasionally, we allow Caleb to eat french fries, pizza, hotdog, chips and sweets at very limited amounts.  We did not want him to crave for junk (like we do!) simply because he's deprived from them. You know that whatever is forbidden will only make you want to eat it more, right? 

There you go, I hope these guidelines will help. All the best!