Dates! They are my favourite go-to natural sweetener. I use this date caramel every single day to make hot cereal for my kiddies. I usually make a batch on Sunday so it can last the whole week. I used to use honey and maple syrup but I still felt that there was no real nutrition. They were simply another sweetener and I don’t think breakfast needs sugar so I started experimenting with the dates and I found a recipe that works for me and guess what?! My kids never noticed the difference! They just kept on eating.
So why dates? Well, dates are just a nutritional powerhouse! They contain an impressive list of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, all of which are crucial for growth, development and well-being.
It is also rich in dietary fibre, which prevents LDL (bad) cholesterol absorption in the gut.
Dates are excellent source of iron making it an especially good snack for pregnant women and young children who need greater quantities of iron.
The high level of potassium found in dates offers protection against stroke and heart disease.
Date fruits are also rich in minerals like calcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium.
So with all this goodness, who wouldn’t love dates!
25 – 30 dates
- Soak dates in boiling water for 10 minutes
- Drain dates and reserve water
- Add dates to food processor and blend
- Add about 3 tablespoons reserved water and process until smooth*. Add more water to reach desired consistency.
- Store in refrigerator and use in hot cereal, oats, smoothies as a natural sweetener.
*If you find that the caramel is not smooth you can also use a hand blender. It works amazingly well.
Recently, there has been a lot of hype about sugar and the high levels of consumption of sugary drinks in schools which has led to the decision to ban all such drinks. While I applaud this move I do think that we need to look deeper and to address this “culture of snacking.”
I do not believe that it is just about the over consumption of sugar (and I spoke about this in a previous post). I strongly believe that it is about the choices we give our kids.
Lecturing our kids on healthy eating and suddenly banning them from sugary or salty snacks will not automatically change their minds about food. We, as adults, as parents, as teachers, need to provide the best options for them and then allow for dialogue. My son will eat all his veggies and fruits but he still loves chocolate and this is where the choices become important. He gets to pick from a selection that is 67% (or higher) dark chocolate and only one to two blocks. The idea is not to deny them but to provide better options.
I am always appalled and, I will admit, a little bit angry every time my 5 year old comes home with a party bag filled with candy and chocolate and cookies because a kid was celebrating his/ her birthday. By all means, celebrate the birthday – a bit of ice cream and an appropriate sized cupcake is enough. There is no need to send home a bag of snacks that have no nutritional value.
Finding the balance
My point is, we need to curb the excesses. If we’re celebrating birthdays and Valentine’s and Easter in school there a many alternatives to candy and chocolate (Here’s an awesome list from Super Healthy Kids). Our schools should and must take a stand and create guidelines for parents about appropriate/ alternative items. I am certain parents would be open and willing.
We have staggering statistics about the number of adults and children living with Type 2 diabetes and we have to do our part to stop its continued rise. Kids need to be shown that candy and cookies are special occasion treats and that default snacks should be whole foods like fruits and veggies, granola, cheese, yogourt (unsweetened), etc.
Like anyone else, I too like the occasional sweet treat but I believe in balance and in moderation. I know it’s easier and quicker to hand our kids a package of chips or cheese sticks but I think we can just as easily give them an apple or some carrots. Pick water or milk over juices and sodas. Most importantly, let your kids see you enjoying whole foods.
Just so there are no doubts… I love farro! And my kids do too! It is very versatile and easy to use. Now you must be asking, what exactly is farro? Well, it’s an ancient wheat grain that was very popular in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Over the years it has been overshadowed by other grains like quinoa and bulgur.
So why do I like farro so much? Well, you can treat it like you would rice or pasta but you have the added benefit of this awesome super grain. To give you an idea of what a punch farro packs, here are some nutrition tidbits. About 1/2 cup serving of uncooked farro provides:
- 34g of carbohydrates
- 7g fibre
- 8g protein
- 4mg niacin (good for metabolic health)
- 60mg magnesium (prevents muscle cramps, helps with sleeping better and digestion)
- 2mg iron (improves energy, prevents anaemia)
- 2mg zinc (crucial for brain function)
- 80mg calcium
Add some veggies to farro and you have a power packed meal. As an added bonus, although farro is a wheat grain, the gluten is considerably lower so it is easier to digest especially for those with gluten sensitivities.
When buying your farro, look for whole grain farro as opposed to pearled or semi-pearled since those have been more processed.
For this recipe, I used mushrooms and carrots but you can use any vegetable you have available.
Just cook the farro according to directions, leaving it slightly undercooked.
In medium pan, sauté onion and garlic over medium heat.
Then add farro with 1 3/4 cups unsalted vegetable stock.
Add grated carrots and chopped mushrooms as well as Italian seasonings. Stir to combine.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. Add salt to taste and 1/2 tablespoon of butter for creaminess. Mix well.
Serve hot as is or add some pasta sauce for additional flavour.
1 cup farro
1 3/4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup grated carrots
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tbsp butter
salt to taste
- Cook farro according to package directions, leaving it slightly undercooked.
- Remove from heat and drain excess liquid.
- In medium saucepan over medium heat, add farro and vegetable stock.
- Then add carrots, mushrooms and Italian seasoning.
- Mix well and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until all liquid is absorbed.
- Add salt to taste and butter for creaminess. Mix well.
- Serve hot as is or add some pasta sauce for additional flavour.
I’ve been making these veggie rice balls for quite sometime now and my kids really love them! It might have something to do with using chopsticks but hey! If it works who am I to complain? I don’t recall where I first saw them but I remember thinking that this would be a great way to get a whole meal in one bite.
So these rice balls are actually a take on the traditional Japanese onigiri that uses a piece of fish wrapped in a ball of rice. In my version, I omit the fish but you can feel free to add pieces of any meat or meat substitute when you’re making this. I also chop the veggies instead of leaving whole pieces since I find the kids are more willing to eats small pieces as opposed to big ones.
With these veggie balls you can also add a dipping sauce or plain old ketchup or soy sauce would work too. I actually serve these with my Honey Garlic Tofu so it’s a nice, complete meal!
Now you know I’m a fan of the whole grains and the brown rice but for this recipe you really do have to use white rice because of its starchiness. You need the rice to be sticky for it to hold the shape of the ball. Brown rice just doesn’t do that.
So first off you need to wash your rice about 3 to 4 four times then soak covered in water for about 30 minutes.
Drain rice and add to pot with about 1 cup water. Bring to a boil for about 3 to 4 minutes then let simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave covered for another 15 minutes. The rice should absorb all the water and be sticky.
While the rice is cooking you can steam your veggies either on the stove or in the microwave. When I’m short on time I use the microwave. Just sprinkle a bit of salt on the veggies while steaming. Once cooked add to food processor and chop into bits.
Add veggies to rice and mix well. Adjust salt to taste.
Now this part may burn your hands a bit but you can’t let the rice cool too much or it won’t hold as well. Scoop about 1 to 2 tablespoons into your hands and roll into a ball. Quick tip: keep your hands a bit moist and the rice won’t stick to them.
That’s it! They’re ready to serve!
1/2 cup white rice
1 cup water
4 baby carrots
1/2 cup broccoli
Salt to taste
- Wash rice 3 – 4 times.
- Soak rice in water for 30 minutes then drain.
- Add rice to pot with 1 cup water and bring to boil for 5 minutes.
- Reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
- Turn off heat and leave covered for another 15 minutes.
- Steam carrots and broccoli with salt then chop in food processor.
- Add vegetables to rice and mix well.
- Scoop about 1 to 2 tablespoons into your hands and roll into a ball.
Ready to serve and simply nutritious!
Happy World Breastfeeding Week!
What better time to talk about the benefits as well as the challenges of breastfeeding.
Before we get to that though, i just want to say that I also celebrate the moms who have made the decision to bottle feed for whatever reason. I know there is a lot of judgement out there about moms who breastfeed and moms who don’t but being a mom who bottle fed my first and then breastfed my second, I think I know a little about how each feels. Whichever way you choose make sure it’s the right choice for you. Both my kids are happy, healthy and thriving which I think is the most important.
But being World Breastfeeding week and all, I thought I’d talk a bit about some of the benefits of breastfeeding.
- tend to have fewer ear and respiratory infections
- have fewer allergies
- have easier digestion
- absorb more nutrients
- have less postpartum depression
- have less osteoporosis
- are less likely to have breast, uterine and ovarian cancers
Breastmilk is designed to meet the needs of your growing baby, changing as your baby changes. If even changes depending on if you’re in a warm or cold climate. Once you get the hang of it, it really is a wonderful thing but the challenge sometimes is exactly that – how to get it right. Many moms, myself included, really struggle in those first weeks. You’re exhausted and sleep deprived and you’re not sure if the baby is getting enough and it hurts sometimes! A lot! You forget all the things you’ve read about it taking a few weeks for your milk supply but breastmilk really is wonderful.
It supplies all the fat that your baby needs for brain development and it is regulated so the baby gets the most fat to feel full and satiated at the end of the feeding. Of course, it is also the best source of Omega 3s, proteins, vitamins, minerals and iron.
Your breastmilk will always be nutritious for your baby but part of making sure your baby gets all that she needs is making sure you get all that you need. That includes rest and good nutrition. I know it’s hard to find time to eat when you have a baby but try making things that are quick and nutritious and that can be stored in the fridge like my Power Up Protein Smoothie or my Peach Pina Colada Smoothie.
Remember to celebrate being a mama!