My Top 10 Stock Cupboard Essentials with Kids

6 Jun

Cooking for kids is an art form and one that evolves as they do. I never really know what the reaction will be when I plonk a plate in front of Max, if its good he will end up wearing it around his mouth and if not I will usually end up wearing it about my person. Throw in the endless trips to the supermarket and the urge to feed your kids a healthy and varied diet and it can be a pain in the bottom. One thing that helps to minimise that painful bottom is stocking up on those versatile ingredients that so often save the day. You probably already have a fair idea of what works in your house but I thought I would share my Top 10 Stock Cupboard Essentials and some of the different ways I use them.

Tortilla Wraps – These are a staple in our house and can be used in lots of different ways. You can get all different kinds including wholemeal. As well as using them as they are intended and rolling them up with a filling (tuna mayo gets the nod from Max) I will also use them as a pizza base, I sometimes cut them into little triangles, bake them and have them with a homemade dip or Max’s favourite as a quesadilla stuffed with spinach, cheese and mushroom –once you fold them the kids can’t see what they’re eating so they become a good vehicle for veggies.
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Chick Peas – I love that Max eats these because it’s something simple and healthy that requires no prep. We take them out with us for his snack or if his lunch is looking a bit sparse I will fill in the gaps with chick peas. I will add them to soups and once they are blitzed they add an extra bit of flavour. And you can’t mention chick peas without mentioning humus, I blitz a couple of cans at a time and add lemon juice, a bit of garlic, some olive oil and Tahini (but to be fair chick peas, olive oil and a bit of water does the job).

Lentils – Lentils are very good at ticking the cheap and healthy boxes. I use the little orange ones mostly because they cook quickly and the flavour isn’t as strong as the green ones. I use them to thicken soups, they cook in about 10 mins and can then be blitzed up to make sure the soup gets from bowl to mouth without too many spillages. You can use them to make patties along with grated carrot, onion and potato. You can add them to Bolognese sauce instead of mince and again you can make dips with them, sweet potato and lentil works well.
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Risoni – Risoni is the pasta that looks like rice and is also known as Orzo. This is a great addition for the stock cupboard as it’s much quicker to cook than rice or other pastas and time nearly always seems to be of the essence in our house. I will make a sauce with béchamel, cheese, mushroom and spinach or if I need a quick fix I just add tuna and pesto and Max loves it. You can also use it to make a cheats risotto, adding stock rather than water and finishing with pea, cheese and ham for example. Its another good thickener for soups as well as it absorbs the excess liquid.

Frozen Chopped Spinach – So I keep banging on about spinach and this is my all time favourite ingredient for Max. It costs a grand total of $1 per box, it’s chopped to a size that works for little people, its super healthy and it’s not got a huge amount of flavour for them to object to. Pretty much anything that gets cooked in our house I will add a bit of spinach, if you think about it it works with cheese dishes and tomato based dishes which covers just about all bases. Pizzas, frittatas, soups, pasties, pastas, chilli’s, quesadillas, rice dishes and even a cheeky toasted sandwich all respond well to a bit of spinach.
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Pesto – Max loves the stuff and given the fact that it has such a strong flavour it can mask some of the veggies that he isn’t quite so keen on. Check the back of the jar and go for the one with the highest percentage of basil. One of the easiest meals I do for Max is spaghetti with pesto, tuna and spinach. The biggest drawback is that you will suddenly start noticing little green splatters all over the house.

Miso Soup – Max is a big fan of salty foods and this is the healthiest salty food going. You can buy little sachets from the Supermarket I think 12 will set you back around $3. Try cooking noodles/rice in it and serve with stir fried veggies or adding it to soups for a bit more flavour. Its quick, cheap and healthy.
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Cream cheese – I use it as a cheat cheese sauce for pastas, just add some to cooked pasta and stir it in. Max is quite partial to chopped veggies (carrot, capsicum and celery) and a good smear of cream cheese helps it all go down without any fuss. If I’ve made a soup and want to cool it down quickly I’ll add some cream cheese. Spreading a little on a wrap will help the sides to stick together without the contents decorating your floor.

Frozen Puff Pastry – Pastry is something that scares me a little bit but I’ve been embracing the frozen stuff more and more. I pull baked things out of the oven with a sense of pride and amazement at how damned good they look. We have filled pastries with spinach and ricotta, cheese, onion and potato, chicken and mushroom, chicken and leek, cheese and ham or a curried potato, pea and onion for the adventurous kids. You could also make sausage rolls, pies and cheese straws. Not the healthiest but sometimes you just want your child to eat some bloody food and pastry seems to help.
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Soy Sauce – Back on the salty theme, if I want to guarantee Max eats his veg I will splash a bit of soy sauce on it and stir fry it. Brocolli, carrots, peas, beans, zucchini and onion all get the soy treatment. I also use this trick with noodles, rice and tofu.

So at any given time if you were to poke your head in and around the Down Under larder you will generally find all of these ingredients, bustling and barging for cupboard space. These are the items that get me out of those sticky situations when I can’t quite face another trip to the supermarket. With these bits and pieces at hand I have a varied repertoire of meals at my disposal to keep the poor lad from going hungry and the poor Dad form tearing his hair out.

Whats always in your larder and what do you do with it?

Tampons on the Shopping List

5 Jun

Most days when Mrs Under sets off to make some metaphorical bacon she leaves behind a little list. It’s not a list of all the different ways she loves me, it’s a list of all the little chores that need doing by the Chore Fairy. I was perusing yesterday’s list;

Do something with your clothes that have been slung over the desk chair for the past 3 weeks

Clean the floors (don’t go around the high chair just move it)

Get something healthy for dinner, pizza is not healthy

Buy me a packet of tampons

I looked at the word again, hoping that I might have read it wrong and it actually says Pom Poms or Bon Bons or beer or anything but tampons. Nope I checked in the dictionary and that is definitely how you spell tampons. I would do anything for my wife but this is stretching even ‘anything’ to its outer most limits.

This is a husband test, she probably doesn’t even need them she just wants to see if I’m up to the job. I’ll bloody well show her. I stride nonchalantly into the supermarket bristling with confidence and determination. So confident am I that I even ask the man stacking packets of egg noodles “where is the tampon aisle please?”.

I navigate my way to aisle 17 and into the heart of Tampon World, I thought for a moment I was in the chocolate aisle so pretty are the little boxes. It’s not quite as straight forward as I was hoping, there are different sizes and quantities and prices and strengths, it’s a bit like buying coffee in that regard. I get some funny looks from my fellow shoppers but I imagine they are simply thinking “wow who is this guy that buys his wife’s tampons, that’s really sexy in a post modern kind of way”.
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I resist the strong temptation to buy the cheapest ones and call base camp. “You’re actually going to do it? I underestimated you Mr Ross.” I receive my instructions (I won’t share with you the particular brand of tampon my wife prefers, that would be odd) and make my way to the cashier, the young, hot, cashier. This is not fair I want an old, un-hot, man, wit hbad BO and a beer belly, where is he when you need him? I put the tampons down trying my hardest to hide them behind a packet of rice and some soy sauce. Unfortunately the purples and pinks of the box don’t camouflage all that well and I see the cashier clock them and then clock me.

Whatever you do do not look her in the eyes. I wonder what she’s thinking, I thought, is she thinking, that guy is very cool to be buying his wife tampons or is she thinking why the F is this guy buying tampons what a weirdo. She filled the first bag up with the food and asked me if I wanted a second bag? A special tampon bag? “Errr no, I think you can probably squeeze them in”.

She looked at me again, this time with a cheeky little grin, the sort of grin that suggested I might have unintentionally said something that she found amusing. And then it became a laugh and suddenly right before my eyes check out chick was laughing at a joke I accidentally made about tampons. So this is what tampon shopping victory tastes like! I got the right tampons, I did so without humiliating myself and I even managed to spread a little happiness in the process. I am literally counting down the days until I can go tampon shopping again, how many days is it again?

Would you ask your man to do this for you? Would he do this for you? If so what unintentional joke might he make to the cashier?

Single Parents I Salute You

4 Jun

Last night I watched on from the comfort of the sofa the ritual that is my wife getting ready for a night out. I have no idea what happens during the hour that passes but there is lots of noise, lots of indecision and lots of “how does this look?” ‘s. I still don’t really know the ‘right’ answer to that question, I’ve tried honesty and I can assure you that it’s not always the best policy and I’ve tried lying through my teeth and she sees straight through it.

I don’t relish the nights when me and Max are left to our own devices. He smells my fear and with 50% fewer parents to contend with he goes all out to break me. He kisses his Mum goodbye and looks for all the world like butter wouldn’t melt. But as soon as it’s just me and him he looks at me as if to say “you’re my bitch now”. Food, bath, PJ’s, books, milk, more books, teeth, more books, bed are all ticked off the list but the ticks are great big angry red ones that tear right through the page. Food is thrown, bathwater drunk, PJ’s are resisted, books are ripped, milk is dribbled, teeth clamp down on brush and bed is just somewhere to perform some toddler cabaret.
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As if that isn’t enough to have you reaching for a bottle of something strong you spend the next couple of hours, cooking, cleaning, tidying, washing up and putting out a large glass of water and a couple of Berocca’s for the party girl (this is reciprocated when I over indulge), to the backdrop of your child doing everything in their power (banging, bouncing, screaming, kicking) to resist arriving in the land of nod. At around 9:30pm all goes quiet and you allow yourself a whopping 30 mins of whatever constitutes relaxation before hitting the sack and mentally preparing yourself for a 2am wakeup call from a slightly slurry wife who can’t quite understand why you don’t share her enthusiasm for a blow by blow account of her evening.

I’ve recently made friends with a local single parent and she has become my hero. The strength this lady has to raise her beautiful child so well, to provide for them both, to run the house, to find some way of nourishing herself and doing it all with a smile on her face I find incredible and I am completely in awe of her and I tell her that regularly.
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Every single time I find myself about to complain about how hard parenting can be I stop myself. Every time Max wakes up in the middle of the night and Anna goes in to settle him I am thankful. Every time I need a quick timeout Anna steps in and I am thankful. Every time I question my ability to parent Anna is there to tell me otherwise and I am thankful. Basically every time I need someone Anna is there and I am truly thankful for that.

With this in mind I would like to pay tribute to all the single parents. I don’t often wear hats but if I did I would take mine off to you. I am sure there are times when you feel like everything is conspiring against you and I just wanted to tell you that you are all heroic in my book.
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From Mud to Mouth – Bok Choy Stir Fry with Ginger and Oyster Sauce

2 Jun

From Mud – With an impressive track record in killing plants, I seem an unlikely candidate to have a bountiful allotment. It never ceases to amaze me how much food that finds its way into Max’s eager mouth has been grown in my very own humble veggie patch with my not particularly green fingers.

To Mouth – Recipes will therefore feature a core ingredient grown by my own fair hands as the star of a delicious show. That ingredient will be transported from its muddy home to an obliging mouth in less than an hour and it doesn’t get much better than that.
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This week’s recipe features Bok Choy. About 5 weeks ago I purchased a tray of Bok Choy seedlings, I’ve never grown them before but I’ve heard they are particularly quick and easy to grow and anything that green has to be good for you too. Yesterday I went to have a look at how the plot was looking and I had a row of full sized Bok Choy ripe for the picking.

Given the amount of stir fries we get through in our house a surplus of Asian Greens is no bad thing. A few weeks back I went to a cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurant and ordered a tofu stir fry with ginger and oyster sauce, it was sweet, sticky, salty and scrumptious. I went home and played around with some Chinese flavours and I think I’ve got to a point where it’s a passable impersonation. I doubt whether it’s particularly authentic but it’s quick, tasty and easy.
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As well as the Bok Choy I use whatever veg we have handy, I tend to favour green slightly bitter veg (capsicum, broccoli, beans) because I think the sauce has enough sweetness. Carrots and onions also get the nod, while ginger, mild chilli and garlic all provide flavour. A good stir fry requires a smoking hot wok (or large frying pan), a non-flavoured oil (sunflower, peanut, vegetable) and a bit of thought about what is going to cook first. Keep the vegetables crisp and don’t overcook them, keep moving them around in the pan and don’t add too much liquid up front or they will steam/boil.

I know tofu isn’t universally popular but I’ve found that firm or fried tofu is delicious as long as you add flavour to it. I can’t do the silken stuff, it’s a textural thing and makes feels like I have a mouth of snot. It’s cheap, healthy and it lasts forever in your fridge and as if that isn’t enough I’ve managed to convince Max that it’s pretty darned good too. If you really can’t bring yourself to have it in your life just leave it out, or add prawns, chicken or beef.
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Ingredients (serves two very hungry people)
1 Bok Choy
1 Broccoli Head
1 Green Capsicum
1 Brown Onion
1 Carrot
1 Thumb Sized Piece of Ginger (cut into thin slithers)
1 Garlic Clove (finely chopped)
½ Mild Red Chilli (depending on how you like your heat)
1 Packet of Firm or Fried Tofu
1 cup of Jasmine Rice
Splash of non-flavoured oil (sunflower, peanut, vegetable)
Oyster Sauce, Soy Sauce, Sweet Chilli Sauce (1 tablespoon of each)
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Directions
Put one cup of Jasmine rice in a saucepan with 2 cups of salted boiling water and leave to simmer.

Chop your veg, try and cut the veg into sizes that will encourage them to cook at the same times. Cut the leaves from the stalk of the bok choy. Cut the ginger into thin slither and cube the tofu.

When all the liquid has been soaked up by the rice it should be ready, place a plate over the top and the rice will stay warm and steam to fluffy perfection.

Once your veg is prepped, place a wok (or large frying pan on a high heat), when it starts to smoke add your oil.

Add all of the veg and tofu apart from the Bok Choy leaves and start stirring. Keep moving the veg around and when you feel they are ¾’s cooked add the leaves (don’t overcook the veg, you want it to have some bite)

Add the garlic chilli and ginger and the three sauces. Keep cooking until the sauce thickens into a sticky caramel.

Serve up with the rice and icy cold beer.

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How to Parent Like a Dad

31 May

Given that Mrs Under and her feminine ways are at work Mon-Fri I see it as my duty to inject a little bit of Mum into my daily Dad grind. I try to be Mummy and Daddy or Dummy? That means copious amounts of kisses and cuddles. It means baking together, singing songs, passing on my dance moves and making sure his outfits pop because all of these things would happen if my good lady was on the job.
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But surely ladies this is a two way street, you could all be Dummy’s too by putting some Dad into your Mummy manifesto’s. But what does it mean to parent like a Dad I hear you cry, fear not I have compiled a comprehensive list that will help you on your Dummy way.

The little packed lunch box that is packed full of delicious goodies the night before by Mummy is to be shared with a 90/10 split with the lions share going to Daddy because in our eyes we are lions.

All household chores will be condensed into the 5 minutes before your other half gets home, 10 minutes if you’re really trying to impress them.
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You will learn which of the local Mums packs the best snacks and hang around them in the hope they will take pity on child and feed them too.

You will ignore the two and a half hour day sleep rule that your other half has imposed and milk that sucker for all its worth (my record is 4 hours 10 minutes).

You will learn to block out that voice that says five back to back episodes of Peppa Pig is four too many, you will even convince yourself it has educational value.

You will throw your child, it doesn’t matter how or where, you just will.
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You will insist on telling your other half how tough your day has been the second they walk through the door, you will then throw your child in their general direction, put your feet up and demand a cup of tea.

You will seek acknowledgement for the chores that you have completed, albeit half heartedly. “Did you notice that I washed up my cereal bowl and left it on the drying rack, impressed?”

You will spend every waking hour in the park, from the time you get up until the time you can’t actually decide when to push the swing because you can no longer see it.
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Any bumps, scrapes or falls are met with a GIE (generic injury response) – “get up and dust yourself down”

You will work on the key phrases to aid their language development – “I didn’t do it” and “it was him” or “Daddy is the best”.

If you feel anxious that your other half is on their way home and that they might have grounds to crack the shits for some reason or other, you will instruct your child to run towards them as they are opening the door screaming “I Love You”.

You will spend a disproprtionate ammount of your time teaching your child to high five, blow kisses and wear sun glasses.
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You will interpret and make use of the stroller’s water bottle holder as a piece of design genius, whoever thought to combine stroller and stubby holder is a legend.

You will come up with slogans like “a muddy child is a happy child” and “bruises = adventure” to make yourself feel better.

You will look for shortcuts in everything you do, why bother walking all the way to the bedroom to get a hanky for Max when he had two perfectly good hankies attached to his jumper also known as sleeves.

You will abandon any concerns of what the other parents think in favour of showing your child a damned good time; nothing legal is off limits.
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There you have it, if you Mums can sprinkle some of these techniques into your parenting day you too can give your child the best of both worlds and parent like a Dummy. Have you picked up any parenting techniques from the Daddy in your house? Dads do you have anything to add to the list, what did I miss?

Flogging my blog with Grace at With Some Grace

Date Night Club – Date 3 Moonlight Kayak Tour

29 May

In a bid to keep the flames of passion burning brightly I have propositioned Mrs Under with a fortnightly date night. Every two weeks I will book a baby sitter, take her out and show her a good time. The first rule of Date Night Club – you DO talk about Date Night Club! The second rule of Date Night Club is that restaurants, cinemas and bars are all banned, this is to be an unconventional Date Night. So there you have it, I will be giving you a full disclosure of what we get up to, where we got up to it and whether Mrs Under’s switch was flicked (that sounded like innuendo, it wasn’t).

Date Night – Saturday 25th May

Venue – The Yarra River, Melbourne

Cost – $99 for 2.5 hour including the best fish n chip dinner I can remember and I‘ve had a lot of them (the cool cats at Kayak Melbourne let us come along as guests)

Dress Code – We dressed for a night on a river in Melbourne in Autumn – don’t be shy get your thermals out!

So far for Date Night Club I have danced awkwardly with a roomful of women I have never met and I’ve watch on awkwardly as a man dressed in silver hotpants danced for me. It’s fair to say that Anna has been well catered to so far, but tonight was all about me us. Tonight we saw Melbourne in a whole new beautiful light and I fell in love with the city all over again.
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After establishing that neither of us are capable of reading a simple map we arrived at the venue 30 minutes late and wheezing after setting an Australian record for the 4km Couples Sprint. Our friendly guides Matt and Kent displayed amazing patience to laugh the situation off, I’m pretty sure I would have been quietly seething. By the way why is it that when I take Anna on these dates the guides/instructors always look like male models?

After some instruction on how to paddle, steer and generally not ruin the date by drowning we got into our kayaks, me at the front thrashing and splashing and making a lot of noise, with Mrs Under at the back gently steering us both to where we want to go – it’s as if it’s a metaphor for our relationship? Matt tells us the double kayaks are also known as “divorce boats” because of the rapid descent into argument once couples start paddling, sounds ominous.

We started paddling around the Docklands area, the sky lit up in reds, oranges and purples as the sun began to set. I couldn’t see her but I suspect Mrs Under was trying to catch glimpses inside the lavish homes that line the Yarra to see how the other half live or even better see someone emerge from the shower. Sure enough Mrs Under soon revealed herself to be a kayaking expert and saw a few flaws in my technique that she couldn’t help but point out.
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The kayaks are pretty easy to paddle leaving you free to soak up the views and dare I say the romance. When I asked readers about their favourite date nights the overwhelming winner was fish n chips straight from the wrapper and before we knew it we were tucking into the best fish n chips straight from the wrapper just the way you like it…….only in a kayak. The best bit is you don’t even have to feel guilty about it because you have an hour and a half of paddling in front of you.

We shimmied up to and under the Bolte Bridge, little old us in our kayak dwarfed by this colossal structure that you normally drive right over. We headed back towards the city centre for the ‘wow moment’ as the Crown Casino puts on a little show involving great balls of fire, if my neck was longer I would have leant over and given Mrs Under a little kiss but as it was I touched her paddle tenderly with mine.

I can’t emphasise how different the view of Melbourne is that you are privileged from a kayak. The sights, the lights, the colours, the noises are all slightly different from the water. You feel special as you gently bob along without anyone truly realising you are there. As you can probably tell this was my kind of date and judging by Mrs Under’s smile when we got off the kayak she enjoyed herself too. We had a little hug although the life jackets it felt like we were wearing fat suits.
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Inspired by our new lives on the river we stopped for a drink in a cool little bar that hugs the bottom of a bridge and is nestled nicely on top of the water, we drank mulled wine in a bid to warm up and excitedly swapped best bits and paddling tips. This was a goodie, a real goodie, and I recommend anyone who finds themselves at a loose end in Melbourne to make it happen.

‘That’ Racist Remark – Why I Wasn’t Shocked

27 May

It’s interesting to read all of the outrage being aimed at the young girl who made racist remarks about a sportsman this week. What was it that shocked people, the fact that it was said or the fact it was said by a 13 year old or the fact it was said by a 13 year old girl? It didn’t shock me that it happened, which is a shocking statement but it’s true.

The fact that the person who made the remark was female didn’t shock me. A few months back I was waiting at some traffic lights next door to a bus stop. The bus stop was scattered with school children waiting to get home. Also waiting at the traffic lights was a car with two women in it, I watched on in horror as they openly pointed and laughed at one of the children at the bus stop, a young black girl. Of course I don’t know what they were saying but I have a fairly good idea. One of them looked at me to join in the joke and seemed taken aback that I looked at her and shook my head. I felt for that girl because that is probably something she will have experienced before and will go on to experience again.

If people were shocked by the age of the aggressor, I wasn’t. Working in primary schools I was initially shocked to observe racism on a regular basis. This may take the form of a child continuously refusing to work with another because of their different skin colour all the way up to full verbal attacks consisting of the most explicit forms of racist language. The fact that this nasty little seed is sown in people of such a young age is shocking but given that this behaviour takes place in Prep classrooms I wasn’t particularly shocked by the age of this girl.

The fact that the incident took place within a Footy ground didn’t shock me either. When I first moved to Australia I thought I would try and blend in and get my head around this ‘footy’ business that everyone was babbling on about. The Footy Show seemed like a great place to start, I watched in horror as one of the hosts used the word “monkey” to describe a picture of a Malaysian man he was poking fun at. This was followed up with “that man is not long out of the forest”. That shocked me. It shocked me that this all played out on a major television channel. It shocked me that this show is supported by leading figures in the world of AFL. It shocked me that the same bloke was allowed to show up the following week and it shocks me that he gets away with that sort of thing because it’s expected from him. This is a show that is aimed at the core footy culture and that is one reason why this week’s incident didn’t shock me.

The most shocking thing about the incident for me is that it wasn’t really all that much of a shock. My expectations have been lowered. Were you shocked?

What Does it Mean to be a Dad?

27 May

It occured to me recently that despite writing all manner of father and son content for over a year I have never addressed the most fundamental question; what does it mean to be a Dad? So without further ado I will put on my serious hat and try to do it some justice.

What it means to me to be a Dad changes often. In those early days I saw my role as a protector, overtime I felt that it was my job to make sure his days were full of fun and love, then I realised it was my job to teach him good behaviours and now I understand that I need to be doing all of those things each and every day. I’m not interested in Max having an ordinary upbringing; I want it to be extraordinary.

I try to be guided by my instincts as much as possible and pick up on the cues and clues Max leaves for me. I also reflect on my own upbringing a lot and think about my relationship with my Dad and some of the things that he did really well. Like any parent I make mistakes along the way but those mistakes are less frequent as I begin to appreciate the importance of being proactive to nullify potential problems rather than reacting to them once they happen.
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Being a Dad is also about leading by example and challenges me to push myself to be a better person. I want Max to grow up with a sense that he can achieve anything and to get every little bit of happiness out of life he can. I want him to realise, as clichéd as this sounds, that you do only get one life and to get the most from it. I have this absurd notion that we will be best mates all the way through our journey and that he is going to keep me feeling young and alive.

I am appreciated very much as a father by my wife and that’s very important to me. I know that she would rather be the main carer but she sees that he is getting everything he needs from me and trusts me implicitly. Attitudes towards Stay at Home Dads are certainly a lot more progressive these days and whilst I still get the odd comment or quizzical look, I feel overwhelmingly accepted. Most importantly the fact that Max is such a happy smiley little boy informs me that he appreciates the job I do.
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Above all else it’s important for me to expose Max to what I would call a ‘real childhood’. That means climbing trees, building dens, making bows and arrows and generally being a boy. I hate the idea of wrapping him in cotton wool removing all potential for adventure and yes a little bit of danger. I am also a stickler for good old fashioned manners and will do my best to raise my son to know the difference between right and wrong.

Parenting demands so much of you, it requires a level of selflessness that I didn’t previously possess. I’m honest enough to admit that there are days when I wish I didn’t have to do it but then he flashes me a smile and all that melts away. I always had a notion that I wanted to be a dad. I even convinced myself it was my calling, some people are here to be doctors, some people are here to be lawyers, some people are even here to be traffic wardens, I thought I was here to be a dad and I still do. For some people that might sound unambitious but for me it’s the height of ambition.
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As always linking up with Jess at Essentially Jess

Sunday Suppers – Crispy Skinned Salmon in a Miso and Mushroom Broth

26 May

Since the arrival of our little plus one Sundays are about spending time together as a family, there may be a nice day trip, there will usually be a walk to the park and we make sure there is always a nice grown up supper to look forward to once max is tucked up in bed. This is one of those awesome recipes that I stumbled across by accident and is now well and truly a part of the household repertoire. It requires 4 ingredients, about 10 minutes from start to finish, it looks the part and it tastes like its straight out of a fancy Japanese restaurant. Being pescetarians we eat a lot of fish and top of that list seems to be salmon. It’s delicious, healthy and the clincher is that Max digs it too. I’ve been getting into Miso soup recently after making friends with the local sushi takeaway they’ll throw some in with my sushi rolls. I have noticed a few recipes that combine Miso and salmon, so I thought I’d try using Miso soup as a broth for the salmon to sit in and by golly it works!

Ingredients (per serve)
1 Sachet of Miso soup
1 Small Handful of chopped spring onion greens
1 Portion of Salmon Skin On
1/2 very finely sliced medium sized Swiss Brown mushroom (or whatever mushroom works for you)
Coriander leaves and a few slithers of mild red chilli to garnish (optional)
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Directions
Heat up a frying pan on a high heat without any oil. Run your fingers across the salmon and using tweezers pull out any bones. Turn the salmon skin side up and generously season with salt and pepper. Massage a little non fragrant oil (sunflower/vegetable/peanut) over the skin and flesh. Place the salmon skin side down in the pan and using your fingers push down to ensure all of the skin crisps up.

Empty your Miso sachet into a bowl, add the chopped spring onion, the finely sliced mushroom and the recommended amount of boiling water (for 1 sachet of Miso). Add the coriander leaves and your delicious broth is finished. The raw mushroom will cook in the broth and help to flavour it.

Back to the salmon, it takes maybe 2 minutes on a high heat for the skin to crisp, you want to get it as crispy as possible before you turn it over, have a sneaky peak to see how it looks. Once the skin has crisped turn the heat down to a low/medium setting and turn the salmon so the flesh side is down.

Look at the shape of your salmon and understand that one side might be much thinner than the other. This means you want to lift the thinner side off the pan so that it isn’t making contact, the residual heat form the skin will cook a thin piece of salmon. The colouring on the sides of the salmon will indicate how cooked it is, you can also give it a squeeze and it should feel firmer rather than squishy. Bear in mind that the salmon will continue to cook in the broth and that there is no danger in eating salmon that is under (I actually prefer it).
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Once your happy the salmon is cooked the way you like it, place it into the broth and voila you are done! If that looks a bit meagre for supper you can put some stir fried Pak Choy on the side or add some noodles/rice to the broth. If you prefer white fish I think snapper would be more than up to the job. And if you’re not a fan of fish I reckon a nice chicken breast would work too.

Parenting: The Global Approach

23 May

I was talking to a Russian Mum in the park last week, we were talking in English as my Russian isn’t what it used to be. I noticed that her little girl seemed to be wearing no nappy. I gently brought this up with Mum, maybe she forgot to put it on, and she explained that it’s not uncommon to potty train from 6 months in Russia. She went on to point out that at that age the child can’t get up and make last dash for freedom, that the child is quite happy to sit on the potty for longer periods of time (like a Bumbo with an extra dimension) and that ‘no’ and tantrums are not yet part of the vocabulary and by the time they are the child is already used to the potty. Bloody hell, the Russians are onto something, I think if I had my time all over again I might actually have tried that.
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This made me wonder what other parenting gems are hidden away overseas and bereft of anything better to do I embarked on a little research.

In Japan when two children are having a blue the parents will often let them battle it out like a couple of gladiators. Turns out they are not sadists and there is no gambling involved, they are letting the two children reach a point where they can settle their disputes between themselves rather than always having their parent manage them. Not sure I’ll try that one, Max has got acquainted to me bailing him out.

Apparently Aka Pygmy fathers who hail from the Democratic Republic of Congo are some of the most committed fathers on the planet taking on a whopping 50% of the responsibility of care. Not only will they take the babies out on hunts with the boys, they also offer the baby their nipples (tried it it doesn’t work). Go Aka Pygmies!

In Mayan villages, children are expected to participate in family work at a very young age. From the time they walk, they contribute to household productivity, not for fun but real genuine child labour help. Apparently the little mites even like it making them feel useful and proud that they are contributing. This is definitely an approach I will be trying with Max, the car needs a good clean and the oven is filthy.

In Australia we have the ‘dummy fairy’ and lots of sleep deprivation but in Denmark there are trees at the local parks where toddlers can hang their dummies from branches as a ceremonial way to say goodbye. It looks fairly attractive I suppose and it sounds good in theory but I wonder how many times a child goes to the dummy tree and returns with a fistful of ‘new’ dummies to try out?
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The French feed their bubs stinky cheese and mussels, such a cliché. Korean children throw their teeth onto the roof of their house and make a wish, sneaky Korean parents saving money on tooth fairies. And in Sweden 2 of the 13 months full paid parental leave must be taken by the father, kerching!

And finally I have just finished booking my flights to emigrate to the Polynesian Island after discovering that parents hand over their just walking bubs to local children or siblings to learn some of the skills of parenting like changing nappies and feeding. Presumably the parents gather round for a group hug and a congratulatory high five or two before retiring to their hammocks for a siesta.

Have you stumbled across any international parenting tips you’d care to share? Will any of the tips above make it into your repertoire?

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