Tips for happy mealtimes

After the many kind words and questions about my post on eating at our table, I thought I would give you a few tips on how I get everyone in the family sitting up and ready to enjoy their dinner together. I would also like to point out that I am definitely no expert! This is just what I have found works for our little tribe x

– Above all, don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Some meals are always going to be a disaster no matter what you serve your children.

– Make sure everyone is coming to the table hungry- if your children have been snacking all day they are less likely to eat their meal.

– Try and eat the same thing all together as a family. Although this can be difficult in our fast paced lives, it can become such a special part of your daily ritual. Put your children in charge of setting the table nicely- younger ones can put around napkins, older ones can fill water glasses or write menus. Light a candle or collect flowers to put in the middle of the table to show it is a special time for the family to come together at the end of the day.

– Try starting the meal with a salad or vegetables. This can be accompanied by a dressing or dip they can dunk their food into. It is amazing what will be eaten when you’re really hungry and there is nothing else to choose! 

– You don’t need to enforce old school rules of finishing everything on your plate. Encourage your children to try everything, but they don’t have to finish anything. You don’t want meal times to become a battle of who is most stubborn in the family! Trying a little of everything will help them get used to new foods. To start with you might get a nibble, but over time they will learn to like most things. For some children textures are what puts them off, for others it is flavour. If they don’t like boiled carrots, try them grated in a salad, roasted with seeds, or cut into sticks for dunking in hummus. 

– Just as some children are more adventurous playing, some are more adventurous with eating. Make sure there is something on their plate that they know and like so a hesitant eater isn’t too overwhelmed with a plate full of unknown food.

– Try not to label food as good or bad. Just talk about enjoying food and how it makes you feel. These green fritters make us so strong, we will be able to play at the playground for ages! Eating ice cream for every meal would give us a sore tummy, but how delicious does an ice cream cone at the beach on a sunny day taste?

– Never assume what your children may like or not like. One of mine loves nothing more than a pickle but won’t go near a cream filled donut! 

– For dessert, chia pudding or greek yoghurt with some honey or fruit is a great way to fill up any gaps and keep everyone sleeping through the night. 

 What a gift to give your children. A love of good food shared with those they love.

Books for Children all about Cooking and Eating

After the lovely feedback on the post about our favourite picture books about winter, I thought I would put together a list of our favourite picture books about food! We have had a few ‘children’s cookbooks’ in the past, but to be honest, they have never been very popular. Instead, they love reading books about food and cooking so here are our favourites.

Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear

I love anything with Julia Morsted’s illustrations, and this book is no exception. A take on the story of Julia Child but really a reminder of the power of food, cooking for others and not taking yourself too seriously.

1000 Things to Eat by Hanna Wood

The children spend hours poring over the pages and deciding exactly what they would eat from each category. It can be a good way to introduce a new food too- if you have talked about it in a book, it doesn’t seem as strange when you encounter it on your plate.

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

This is an all time favourite in our house. Who doesn’t want to read about a magic pasta pot that won’t stop bubbling and fills a whole village in Calabria with pasta???

Alice Waters Cooks up a Food Revolution by  Diane Stanley

I snapped this one up for my dear friend Lou’s children when I saw it recently. Lou and her family lived in San Francisco at the same time as us and we shared our farewell-to-California-meal at Water’s famous restaurant, Chez Panisse. Beautiful illustrations and a reminder of the importance of real ingredients to make real food.

Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins

This is perfect to have in your handbag when you are out for a meal and need to keep everyone occupied while you wait for your food to arrive. Draw all the fruit in the blender for a smoothie, fill Maisy’s plate with foods that start with P- this can be enjoyed by all ages. Including grownups!

Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street by Felicita Sala

Come along and visit each apartment at 10 Pomegranate Street to see what they are cooking to bring to a shared lunch in the back garden. This gorgeously illustrated book includes recipes from all different cultures and is an inspiration for both children and adults alike.

Vegan Lemon Curd for a Grey Day

On grey days such as these, I crave something bright to eat. This vegan lemon curd is super quick to make and can be enjoyed in all sorts of ways. We slather it onto greek yoghurt, use it to top chia puddings or just spoon it straight from the jar.

Vegan Lemoncurd

Adapted from the Two Raw Sisters cookbook- makes one big jar

1 1/2 cups of raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours and then drained and rinsed.
4 Tbsp coconut oil
Zest and juice of 4 lemons or limes
4 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp numeric powder
Big pinch of salt

Simply blend all the ingredients in a blender until completely smooth and then pop in a jar in the fridge for 2 weeks. I guarantee it won’t last that long though!

Picture Books for the Winter Months

After such a mild autumn, it is hard to believe we will officially be in winter by the end of the week. It has me reflecting on my favourite books to read the children during the colder months and I remembered a post I had done for the Nature Baby journal a few years back. I thought I would pop it here for the parents to get some ideas of what to read with your little ones when the rain is drumming at your window. Because what better way to pass some time than with a pile of good books?

City Moon  by Rachael Cole
“In the fall, when leaves are coming down, it get darks before we go to bed. After dinner, after tooth-brushing time, we put on pyjamas then coats and shoes…we are going on a walk to look for the moon”  Take an evening walk through the city streets with this mama and toddler, then go for an evening walk yourselves. It’s amazing how your own neighbourhood changes by darkness when seen anew through little eyes. 

Chirri & Chirra. The Snowy Day by Kaya Doi
Translated from Japanese, the third magical book in the Chirri and Chirra series will captivate everyone who reads it. Discover icy worlds filled with bears sleeping in igloos, hot springs with scented flower petals and warm cinnamon apple drinks. An absolute favourite in our home. 

Tiny, Perfect Things by M.H. Clark
Walking along the street can be transformed when you take the time to stop and look for tiny perfect things. A glint of the light on a spider web, the colour of an autumn leaf, this book is a testament to slowing down and looking around. Walk with a little girl and her grandfather and discover that “The world is full of perfect things when you come look with me”

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
First published in 1962, this was first picture book with an African American protagonist to win a major children’s award. Beautiful collage depicts Peter’s slow and gentle discovery of the first snow of the season. 

Out and About Shirley Hughes
Join Katy and her little brother for a year – first the bulbs growing in pots, then trips to the beach, leaves falling from trees, and cozy dark evenings. The beautiful illustrations and sweet rhymes makes this a lovely way to teach about the four seasons. 

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano
Another book of poems following the different seasons, this makes for a beautiful introduction to poetry. The illustrations and poetry make it a joy for both the one reading and the smaller one listening.

Today by Julie Morstad
Not officially a book about autumn or winter, but a firm favourite in our house with lots of ideas on how to keep yourself busy at home. What do you have in your room? What do you like to do when it is raining outside? Choose your favourites and make it a different book every time you read it. 

After School Muffins

These muffins are great when you realise it is already 2 o’clock and you don’t have anything to feed hungry mouths when you pick them up from school. We always have the ingredients in the house and they take only a few minutes to put together- depending on how many little hands you have helping you. They work well with whatever fruit is looking a bit past it in the fruit bowl- our favourites are apples and pears in autumn (I add a little cinnamon to the mixture if doing this combo) and fresh raspberries in summer. They also happen to be dairy and gluten free and not loaded with sugar.

2 large ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/3 cup almond butter
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup of fruit cut into small pieces

Simply mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the eggs, almond butter, maple syrup, baking powder, salt and coconut, mixing as you go. Lastly, prepare the fruit- peel core and cube the apple/pear, stone the peaches/plums, or simply measure a cup of berries and fold into the mixture. Cook for half an hour at 180C and dust with freeze-dried berries if you want to add a little colour. Enjoy with a cup of coffee as you listen to stories from the day at school.

An Autumnal Salad

We love salads in this house. I’m not just talking a few leaves on a plate, I like a salad that makes a whole meal. Something with substance, texture and flavour. To start with, I always had to separate out the different components for the children. But gradually over time I have been able to mix parts together so that now we can just put one big dish in the middle of the table. In saying that, if I know there are a few items that are not favourites (a polite way of saying supposedly inedible for a four year old), I still serve a ‘deconstructed salad’ and find the meal much more successful.

Here’s a wild rice and mushroom salad that tasted even better when topped with halloumi. It’s lovely for this time of year when mushrooms, radicchio and walnuts are in season. I haven’t given measurements on any kind of precise instructions as it’s more of an idea for you to try next time you feel like a fresh yet hearty meal.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Salad
Wild rice
Black Olives
A mixture of nuts and seeds
Lemon juice and olive oil

Simply cook the wild rice according to the packet instructions, fry the mushrooms in plenty of olive oil and salt, and once they have cooled slightly (the radicchio can discolour if it comes into contact with something too hot) mix together with the rocket, radicchio, radishes and olives. To add a nice crunch, I fried some pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds to toss on top- texture is everything. Dress with some olive oil and lemon juice and add some fried halloumi if you would like to turn it into a main meal. I served this salad with some freshly baked sourdough (thanks Ollie) and hummus. Delicious.

Around our table

When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth baby, the first thing I thought was HOW MUCH FOOD WILL I NEED TO MAKE WHEN THERE ARE FOUR TEENAGERS IN THE HOUSE!? Perhaps moments like this don’t bring out the most rational thoughts, my husband’s main concern was whether we were going to have to sell our car and buy a mini van, but this is a thought I come back to a lot. Already I feel like all I do is buy food, cook food, clean up after eating food. Luckily there is that golden moment in amongst this that is the eating food.

I love that meal times act as an anchor in our days. Now that we have two at school as well as a preschooler and a baby in the house, life can feel a little manic. There is always a sock that needs finding, a question being asked, a baby with a marble in her mouth, a boy who needs you to find the specific small dolphin toy immediately.

Breakfast, lunch (during the weekend when there’s no work and school) and dinner we sit up together at the table as a family. We try to never snack between meals, but come to the table hungry and ready to eat. We try to set the table nicely every evening with napkins and candles and water in a jug. We try to have a dessert every night, even if it is generally some greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey and some stewed fruit. We try not to go completely crazy dealing with our four year old. We try not to drink the whole bottle of wine on a Tuesday. This moment, when we come together as a family and talk about our days and gossip and share food together is everything to me.

I hope that one day they all look back and remember at least one of the hundreds of banana breads I made for afternoon teas that we ate on autumn afternoons after school, the bowls of spaghetti alla puttanesca we ate on Friday evenings as we made plans for the weekend, the scrape of the knife across a piece of toasted sourdough as the butter was spread on thick and the smell of coffee in the air, the pop of a pea jumping from its pod as the first sun of spring warms our skin.

Although I feel like the time that isn’t spent in the car driving everyone to different activities is spent in the kitchen, these are the small moments that make up a life and there is nothing better than sitting round the table with family or friends that I love. And it is because of this that I thought I would get back on the blog and start sharing some of these recipes that I come back to time and time again a little further beyond our table.

So, what shall I start with?

Ready to write again.

It’s been almost nine years since I sat at a borrowed apartment table in a San Francisco airbnb and wrote the first post for Flowers in my Hair,. Today I find myself sitting with my computer open at a slightly bigger table in our home in New Zealand. Four children, a move across the world, and many, many meals later.

I didn’t think this would be a place I would come back to. But I received the email saying my domain had expired and it stirred something in me. A desire to write, to documet the chaos of our kitchen with so many little mouths to feed, the desire to take a snapshot of this stage in life that is flying past so fast that I am sure to blink and miss it. I am finding that the fast paced scrolling through recipes and snapshots into people’s lives on instagram isn’t doing it for me anymore. I am getting recipe books out of the library and finding a moment here and there to actually sit and read and immerse myself in thoughtful stories and photos of food. Perhaps this blog could be an extension of that? Perhaps only my husband will read it and that’s ok too.

I’m here.

I’m ready to write again.

The cool grey summer of San Francisco

As summer begins in earnest elsewhere in the country, the fog and wind arrives in San Francisco. Leaving the playground in the evening, Lilias and I battle our way through the blustery streets home to our warm apartment. The market is now filled with glowing red tomatoes and blushing stone fruit, warming the grey Sunday mornings. June and July in this city means eating summer while it feels like winter outside.

Here is a salad perfect with a glass of white wine that will make you feel like it is summer, even if the weather tells you otherwise.


The Taste of Summer in a Salad

Three sweet, ripe peaches
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
Six slices of prosciutto
A handful of basil
Juice of a lemon
Olive oil

This really is as simple as slicing the peaches, tearing the mozzarella and lying them with the prosciutto over the leaves. Finish with a simple lemon, olive oil and salt dressing and you have yourself a meal! This would be lovely with fish or chicken, but we just had some fresh bread and butter and a glass of wine.


Crunchy Market Salad

The weather has been crazy and spring like here in San Francisco. Just a few days ago it was stifling hot, still 28 degrees outside at ten o’clock in the evening. It felt wrong to waste it, so after a few glasses of wine with dinner, Ollie and I thought it would be a great idea to wake Lilias and go for a walk in the park. She thought it was the best game ever, crawling through the grass in the dark with the lights of the city surrounding us. A few days later though and the clouds and rain had rolled in putting us right back in winter. Thank goodness for the market full of green things to keep us feeling fresh.


Here is the crunchy salad we ate after the market on Sunday. Making the most of all the good green things, especially for my sister in law who has come to stay and managed to land herself with the flu.


Crunchy Market Salad
Feeds four 

1 cup of cooked quinoa
1 fennel bulb
1 green apple
1 avocado
A handful of sugar snap peas
A handful of snow peas
A handful of lettuce leaves
A couple of basil leaves
A handful of pinenuts
Goats cheese or feta to top
Juice of a lemon
Olive oil
1 tsp whole grain mustard
Sea salt

While you cook your quinoa, slice the fennel, apple, avocado, sugar snap peas and snow peas. Place these in a bowl with a dressing made of lemon, olive oil, salt and mustard – the lemon will stop the vegetables discolouring. Once the quinoa is cooked, leave it to cool and then mix it in with the vegetables, adding the torn lettuce and basil. Top with a sprinkling of pinenuts and some goats cheese. Enjoy!