School Lunchbox Idea: Brown rice with cumin and broccoli, vegetable kofta korma

Brown rice with Packed lunch: broccoli and cumin, vegetable kofta korma and grilled salmon

Brown rice with Packed lunch: broccoli and cumin, vegetable kofta korma and grilled salmon

I am really excited to share this recipe for vegetable kofta with everyone. It is a-mayy-zing-ly scrumptious! If it were up to me, we would be having this on the menu every other day. I can have it with rice, flat bread, even on its own. Ouf, yumm-o. Who needs meat? But wait… didn’t the child say that he did not want any rice in his packed lunch? Right…

It all started last week, when dear son came home ravenous. Apparently he finished his snack and main lunch dish at the first break, and only had rice veggie rolls for lunch. He had to wait till 4.40 pm before sitting down for dinner at home, which was wolfed down within minutes. As a mother, I felt like a failure. Another plan had to be hatched. He obviously is going through some sort of growth spurt and couple that with the 15++ hours of swimming per week, we may need to put in more calories via nutrient dense food to fuel growth and recovery activity.

So, we had another minor consultation and I requested him to re-think the idea of having rice once in a while for lunch, (this was his deal breaker before.) He had really enjoyed the cumin and broccoli rice experiment last week so, he agreed to the idea as long the rice is not just plain steamed. Right-o! The plan is to go for wholegrain and fresh veggies for 55% carbs and vary protein sources to include more legumes on top of lean meat for fibre and other nutrients. The meals have to be broken down as well to allow for a steady stream of energy throughout the day.

So, this is what his meal plan looks like:

meal plan

From what I have read, a boy going through puberty needs about 2,400 calories a day  and an athlete may need an extra 500 – 1000 calories a day depending on level of activity – just as a guideline. However, it is important to also check the weight to track gains and losses and make adjustments accordingly. Whatever it is, I am pretty sure that if my child is continuously ravenous, he probably needs the extra sustenance. At the moment, I am aiming to provide around 2,400 – 2800 calories for him a day via 3 main meals + 3 snacks for days where he has 2 training sessions, and 3 main meals + 2 snacks on days with 1 swim session. We will see how we get on.

Mid-morning snack: Fruit salad and yoghurt. Wholemeal pesto pizza for post swim to share with friends.

Mid-morning snack: Fruit salad and yoghurt. Wholemeal pesto pizza for post swim to share with friends.

So far, since the the inclusion of the mid-morning snack, dear son seems to experience a higher level of satiety. I sincerely hope that we are on the right track.

Now, back to the yummy vegetable kofta korma…. I got the recipe from veggienumnums and with minor alterations, here is my version:

Orangey yumminess!

Orangey yumminess!

Kofta Balls (makes about 12 balls):

  • 1 egg
  • 200 gm sweet potato – grate fine
  • 170 gm carrots – grate fine
  • 1 small red onion – grate fine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (I used Adabi curry powder)
  • 1-2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons  plain flour
  • salt to taste
  • vegetable oil for frying

– squeeze excess liquid from grated carrots and sweet potato.

– mix the egg, sweet potato, carrots, red onion, ginger, curry powder, oil and plain flour. Add more flour if the mixture is not sticking.

– roll into balls and fry on medium heat until golden.

Korma Sauce

  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick about 1 inch long
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 80g  raw almonds, ground
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • prepared kofta balls

– heat oil to medium, saute cardamoms and cinnamon with onion. When onions turn slightly golden, add garlic and ginger. Stir.

– Mix all powdered spices and add a little bit of water to form a paste. Add this paste to the onion, garlic and ginger mix in the pan. Lower heat. Stir till incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of water and let the paste cook until thickened and the oil starts to separate.

– add ground almonds, tomato paste and the rest of the water. Let it simmer till thickens. Add salt to taste.

– When the sauce is thick, add the coconut milk and let it cook again til the sauce reaches the right consistency. Taste again and adjust the seasoning.

– Add the kofta balls and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Brown Rice with cumin and brocolli

  • 1/2 cup brown rice – cook with 1 cup of water and some salt (do this the night before). Let it cool.
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small brown onion – sliced.
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

– Heat oil in pan. Add cumin seeds and onions. When onions turn golden, add the broccoli florets.

– Lastly add the brown rice and stir till all incorporated.


However, I must say, after all that cooking so early in the morning… this is how I feel like…

No cat was hurt in the taking of this photo... zzzz

No cat was hurt in the taking of this photo… zzzz


Beet Brownies – naughty but nice


I made these a while ago and have only just now managed to get to post about it here.

One day, while blog hopping, I came across a wonderful website : and the writer was introducing “sweet and sneaky ways to eat your veggies”. She made these wonderfully, fudgy looking brownies and the recipe looked exceedingly healthy. The only thing that I worried about was the taste of beets. It can be rather earthy and yet, there have been many cake recipes with chocolate where beets had been added to increase its moistness (is there such a word?) I had also tried making red velvet cakes with beetroot, however, the amount was so little, there was hardly any taste, yet, yes… the red velvet cake was very moist.

Looking through the list of ingredients, it looked so wholesome that I just had to run out and get a can of beetroot and make a batch to try.

How did it turn out? They were fudgy! Not too chocolaty or sweet, and I loved these brownies precisely because of this. Fudgy and not too sickeningly sweet. There is that earthy flavour from the beetroot, but it is more of an undertone as the chocolate flavour is at the forefront. I am not sure if all kids would like this though… maybe it is more suited for a ladies’ afternoon tea thing. However, do give it a try – dear son enjoyed two slices of it, however his visiting friend had difficulty finishing his portion, while the other finished his with no complaint. As for the mothers, we enjoyed our brownies, and I will definitely be making them again soon. The recipe, with very minor changes is as follows:

IMG_00000445  IMG_00000446

  • ¾ cup old fashioned rolled oats – ground fine to make oat flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ c. dark chocolate chips
  • 1 450 gm can of sliced beets, drain and blend till smooth
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoon plain fat-free yoghurt
  • 1 egg white)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 170 C and lightly grease an 8 inch square baking pan.
  2. Whisk the oat flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Melt the chocolate chips in a baine marie and stir in the blended beets, sugar, cocoa powder, oil, yoghurt, egg white and vanilla. Mix well.
  4. Add the oat flour mix to the beets mixture. Stir until just blended.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake  for 35-40 minutes. Cool overnight and cut into squares.


School Lunchbox Idea: Assemble your own falafel wraps

Chicken and Oat Soup, assemble your own falafel wraps for lunch. Fruit salad and yoghurt for mid morning snack

Chicken and Oat Soup, assemble your own falafel wraps for lunch. Fruit salad and yoghurt for mid morning snack

Middle eastern food opens up a whole new world of beans, pulses and different types of grain for anyone who wants to add a little more diversity in their diet. The salads are filled with the freshness of parsley and mint, garlic, olive and olive oil, nuts – all heart healthy ingredients worth exploring for its health benefits.

Last weekend, we had our little treasure hunt around the city of Kuching in order to re-stock our larder and as we are now rather plush with grains and legumes, today was the time to utilize what we had. A middle eastern fare was in order, and it all began with the bread.

I love making bread. There is nothing more satisfying than kneading the dough as it comes together. Knead, knead, knead – the smell of  yeast and honey, the texture of the dough as it becomes more elastic and silky..the thump, thump, thump of the work top in symphony with the movement of your arms. See.. I can get up at 4.00 a.m. just to mix a batch of dough. It also helps that you get such a lot of dough that you can save some in the fridge (in a resealable ziploc bag, but let some air out or the bag might explode! – Don’t ask how I know,) so that you can make mini pizzas for the following day. As the dough matures, the flavour develops… That’s the beauty of the Arabic flat bread dough.

The first time you have your home made Arabic flat  bread… you will never settle for store bought pita bread again …

The recipe is as follows:

IMG_00000541 IMG_00000542  IMG_00000544

Arabic Flat Bread (adapted from

  • 2 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons powdered milk
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 11gm sachet instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (add whole cup and the other half add little by little, depending on the flour)
  1. Mix all ingredients together – and knead until the dough is soft and silky, definitely not sticky. Oil a bowl and place dough in it and cover. Let rise till double in size – 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Put a pan on medium heat, take a ball of dough and roll into a circle – not too thin, about 3 mm. Put in pan and leave for 30 seconds, flip – let it puff and nicely coloured.
  3. Remove from pan and place on a plate, cover with clean cloth. Work with the next ball of dough.
  4. If you are not using all the dough, put the leftover in a ziploc bag, leave about 2 cm of the seal open and leave the dough in the fridge for later use.
Falafel "paste" after processing

Falafel “paste” after processing

Falafel Patties – healthier when baked

  • 1 can of chickpeas (about 415 gm)
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 garlic
  • a handful of fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley (if fresh is available go for fresh – use a handful)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 2 tablespoons wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.

  1. Place all ingredient in a food processor – pulse till all veggies are chopped but the chickpeas should not be too smooth. Form into patties.
  2. Oil a baking sheet and place patties on the sheet -bake till golden on one side, flip carefully to  brown the other side.
  3. Serve with arabic bread, sliced lettuce, tomatoes and a drizzle of tahini sauce.

Tahini Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic – pounded fine
  • 1 tablespoon tahini paste
  • juice of half lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the above together to form a sauce.

My lunch which turned into breakfast... it was too good to wait :(

My lunch which turned into breakfast… it was too good to wait 😦



Grilled Pacific Mackerel for Dinner – Japanese at home anyone?

Pacific Mackerels grilling in my desktop oven.

Pacific Mackerels grilling in my desktop oven.

This family loves Japanese food. If hubby had his way, we would have grilled fish and miso soup daily. If dear son had his way, we would have salmon rolls, grilled salmon belly and salmon maki for breakfast, lunch and dinner… Did I mention that dear son loves salmon in any form? Unfortunately for the two of them, there is that other person in this house… Me! The other sad thing is the fact that I am the cook, so they have to bear with whatever I can rustle up in the kitchen, ha!

However sometimes, I do get a hankering for a good ole Japanese dinner and that means grilled fish, miso soup, chawan mushi, mixed veggies and kelp salad with steamed Japanese rice. I can literally hear the hooting in the background as dad and son perform their we-are-having-Japanese-food happy dance.

We have not been to a Japanese restaurant in a while because being Muslims, we observe the halal rules and that means that all meat and meat products have to be slaughtered in accordance to Islamic guidelines, and we have to be careful that the food is free from pork and pork by products as well as alcohol. So those restaurants that state – No pork served, it does not equate to the food served being halal for us.

It also means checking all the ingredients of food items that we buy to ensure that it is free from non-halal animal products and/or alcohol (rice wine e.g. sake and mirin.) It just seems to be the better option for us, to have our favourite Japanese food prepared at home.

The good news is, my favourite fish – Saba (in Japanese) or the Pacific Mackerel is available fresh and in abundance here! Though my knife work in filleting the fish leaves a lot to be desired, I will keep trying until the fish served is boneless and free from jagged edges… (maybe in 10 years, if we are lucky.) So a meal for three with my complete menu above costs us less than USD10 – yes, try and beat that!

IMG_00000526  IMG_00000527

To prepare the Saba Shioyaki, I followed the recipe from the kitchen tigress <- click on highlighted text for recipe and step by step instructions.

For lesson on filleting Pacific Mackerels – click on this – a tutorial made by the Japanese Knife Society.

I have also previously provided the recipes for miso soup and chawan mushi in the post here 

School Lunchbox Idea: Fresh salmon cakes and black quinoa with corn salsa salad

Fresh salmon cakes, black quinoa and corn salsa salad, steamed aspraragus and broccoli

Fresh salmon cakes, black quinoa and corn salsa salad, steamed aspraragus and broccoli

As part of my ongoing effort to diversify the types of food that we eat, I decided to pair the familiar and loved with another dish that is quite unfamiliar and untried. Salmon is a favourite in this house. The first time dear son was served with Salmon cakes at about 15 months old (?? I can’t remember,) he scarfed up about 6 of the cakes in one sitting and fell asleep within 8 minutes – while still sitting in his high chair. What surprised me was the fact that the cakes were full of herbs – dill, chives, parsley… he ate them all up with nary a complaint.

So, I wanted the family to try black quinoa. As we all know, quinoa is the supposed wonder-grain and for those interested in reading about this seeds (not grain, though, it has been used as grain,) please click on the following link – World’s Healthiest Foods

The hope here is that by associating quinoa with salmon cakes, the former will forever after be viewed in a positive light.

Other strategies employed in introducing this new food to dear son are as follows:

  1. Choose a day when he will be hungry at lunch time – He has an early swimming session on Mondays, after swimming, everything tends to taste good!
  2. Pair it with veggies that he likes – corn salsa, yumm!
  3. Talk up the food item a few days ahead, get him to help you find it at the supermarket, (actually, I could not find it because it was on the higher shelves!)
  4. Associate the texture with food he loves (e.g. the texture is similar to the flying fish roe that we get with sushi and the taste is rather nutty.)

Anyway… it was a success as son came home with his lunchbox empty and requesting for quinoa salad again. Now, now, everything in moderation, so I told him it will be there in his lunchbox on a weekly basis.

Fresh Salmon Cakes (makes about 4)

  • 200 gms salmon fillet – no skin – poach in water with some salt, bay leaves, whole black peppercorns and dill stems. Once cooked, flake into large pieces
  • 1 russet potato – boil and mash fine
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped scallions
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 egg – whisked
  • wholemeal breadcrumbs for coating
  • a little oil to coat baking pan
  1. Preheat oven – 180 degrees celcius
  2. add chopped herbs to mashed potato – season with salt and pepper
  3. gently mix salmon flakes. Form into patties.
  4. Dip patties in egg and roll in bread crumbs – place on greased pan
  5. cook in oven till golden brown.

Black Quinoa and Corn Salsa Salad

  • 1/2 cup black quinoa (wash and drain)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock

Cook quinoa in vegetable stock, bring to a boil and lower heat – cook covered for 15 – 20 minutes till tail begins to appear from grain.

When the grains have soaked up the stock, switch off heat, leave the quinoa covered for 5-10 minutes. Fluff with fork. Cool.

  • 1/2 cup corn (1 used canned sweet corn kernels)
  • 1/2 onion – chopped fine
  • some red pepper – chopped
  • half green chili – remove seeds, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

– mix all the above together, add cooked quinoa. Leave for flavours to meld for a few hours in the fridge. Serve cold or at room temperature.

School Lunch Box Idea: Buckwheat soba with vegetable and Thai basil pesto

Buckwheat soba with veggies and Thai basil pesto, Pomelo and prawns salad, Dipping sauce for Veggie Rice Rolls

Buckwheat soba with veggies and Thai basil pesto, pomelo and prawns salad, Dipping sauce for Veggie Rice Rolls

Hello… it has been a quiet month on this blog. Actually, the reason for the quiet is simple – I have been so fascinated by the subject of teenage nutrition and cancer prevention through food that most of my free time has been spent on reading and website hopping. Between this, housework, and early morning chauffeur duty, the time for blogging has more or less trickled to none.

So what have I learnt? There are just so many ideas and theories out there and at this point, I know so little that it would be an embarrassment to disclose how little I know by trying to start a discussion on this. However, there are a few main themes that are sound as featured in Hadiths and outcomes of scientific research that I feel compelled to start putting the principles into practice. These are:

  • Eating more plant based food
  • Diversity in food choices
  • Food grouping

Undoubtedly,  as I learn more and feel more confident of putting into words what I am learning, the theories will be discussed in this blog. However for now, I will just share the outcome of my reading via the lunchbox menus and recipes. I do believe that one of the biggest acts of love for my child is by giving him foods that nourish and heal, setting him up for a great start in life.

Today, the menu for his school lunchbox is as follows:

Morning snack:


  • Fruit salad (an orange, grapes, red dragon fruit, nectarine, strawberries,) and low fat yoghurt


  • Buckwheat soba with vegetables and Thai Basil Pesto
  • Pomelo and prawns salad
  • Veggie rice rolls with dip

Buckwheat Soba with Vegetables and Thai Basil Pesto (adapted from vintagemixer and


  • 1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (pluck and discard stems – I planted the stems hoping for the best!)
  • 1 tablespoon dry roasted almonds
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pepper flakes
  • 1 garlic clove

Place all ingredients in a mill and blend fine. Chill till ready for use.

Soba Noodles:

  • 1 portion soba – prepare according to package instructions, leave to cool
  • 1 1/2 cup prepared veggies – I used broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, carrots and strips of red pepper (same veggies for rice paper rolls)
  • 2 tablespoons Thai Basil Pesto

Prepare vegetables. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in pan. Stir fry all veggies till cooked but still crunchy.

Mix pesto to soba and add vegetables.

Pomelo and Prawns Salad

  • 2 segments of pomelo – remove from pith and break up into small chunks
  • 6 prawns – peel, de-vein and poach in boiling water for 2-3 minutes
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • fresh mint and coriander leaves – sliced thin
  • Dressing – 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, 2 teaspoons light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon soft brown sugar – mix till sugar is dissolved.

– Toss all of the ingredients with the dressing and chill till ready to serve.