Here's my first non recipe post where I aim to share few tips on how a smart mom should stock her pantry and fridge and be prepared for those lazy no-mood to cook days (and yeah, tired and no energy left to cook days of the working mother).
I am often bored to cook and just want to open fridge or dig into the kitchen cabinets to find something which can be transformed into a quick meal or a snack without the guilt of feeding inappropriate and unnatural products (read, ready to cook products) to my child. There are a few things I stock on a weekly to fortnightly basis which help me in such a situation. Read on to find out what they are:
1. Boiled Potatoes: Every Sunday I pressure cook about 250 grams of potatoes and store them unpeeled in the chiller compartment of the refrigerator. The potatoes come handy to create parathas for Nabeel, which he relishes the most. I also grate them and use along with the mixed frozen vegetables to make a patty as a evening snack. If the potatoes are boiled just right (meaning, not too mashy) then you may cut them into squares or French fries shape and lightly sauté in oil with some seasonings for a quick snack.
2. Makhana or Puffed Lotus Seeds: Also known as Fox nuts, makhana are the white edible seeds produced by the lotus plant, easily available at grocery or dry fruit stores. I was introduced to makhana by a fellow mother who says it's a custom to feed toddlers makhana at her inlaws place. Since then its become a custom at my place too J. Lightly sautéed in ghee (clarified butter) and seasoned with salt and pepper this makes a bowl full of goodness and taste. Its mouth feel is very much like popcorn but nutrition wise it ranks higher than popcorn. Rich in fibre, a good anti oxidant, ideal weight loss food, helps in regulating blood pressure and relieves constipation etc are its qualities which don't really matter for a child but yes it will make your child forget all chips and junk puffed products. Honeslty, in my house makhana has given pop-corn a run for its money..hahaha.
3. Chicken Nuggets: Nabeel loves nuggets from McDonalds and then one fine day I made them at home for him. Read the whole story and the perfect recipe for homemade chicken nuggets here. Convenient for you and ideal to satisfy your hungry child who has just returned from school or a good session of swimming. Your child will never want to get back to the readymade ones.
Homemade Chicken Nuggets
4. Frozen Vegetable Mix: Once a fortnight I cube/dice vegetables like French beans, carrots, cauliflower, baby corn, etc and freeze them along with peas and corn. When required I just remove and steam them. They can be used to make a quick vegetable pulao, soup, vegetable patties along with the boiled potatoes or even a nice vegetable paratha. You may choose to store them mixed or individually. However, ensure you freeze enough to last a maximum of 2 weeks.
5. Chicken Stock: I had a ritual of preparing and storing chicken stock on a monthly basis much before Nabeel was born. A nice hearty stock perks up gravies, sauces and pulaos besides being the main ingredient for soups. I now frequently make soups for Nabeel so the quantity of stock has increased. Make the stock by using the right chicken pieces and boiling it in water along with onion, carrots and whole peppercorns and cloves. You need to choose more bony pieces with less flesh on them as the bones impart the best flavour and nutrition to make an ideal stock. If your family consumes mutton then there is no better stock made from the bones of a goat or lamb. As a rule never add salt to the stock since it is being used as an ingredient. Stock freezes well for upto a month.
6. Khakharas: In comparison to other ready foods, khakhras make good off the shelf snacks. They are made of whole wheat and don't use a lot of additives (at times, none at all) . Avoid khakhras made by the industrial units instead choose the ones made by a local homepreneur. They also make a good light tiffin snack.
7. Cheese: Cheese in one ingredient that adapts to any dish and transforms it beautifully. The other good thing is kids LOVE cheese. I regularly make cheese parathas (when the potato stock gets over) for Nabeel. He also nibbles on cheese, quit often. You may stock cheese in the form of slices, blocks, spread etc but don't over stock and limit its consumption after all its high in sodium.
8. Dry Fruits: Since the time Nabeel learnt to chew I introduced him to soft dried fruits like anjeer (dried figs), apricots and raisins. Gradually, the hard nuts were introduced and he now relishes all kinds of nuts. I have devised something know as a “dry fruit break' for him where he is daily given a predetermined quantity of nuts. Dry fruits are also my ideal snack on the go for the entire family. Once in a while, I try and create something around them just to break the monotony, one such recipe is Toffee Pistachios.
9. Fresh Fruits: I know most of you must be stocking on fruits on a daily basis but what is important is to make eating fruits a daily habit for the child. Choose a fruit like apple or banana which is available round the year and make the child eat it daily. On one such day you may withdraw the usual fruit and introduce a seasonal fruit like mango, melon, strawberry, etc. The best way to make a child eat all kinds of fruits is to eat along with them. Nabeel is hooked to apples but does not readily accept other fruits so I give him an apple and take the seasonal fruit for myself this way he is attracted towards the new fruit and at least makes an attempt to taste it. A fresh fruit break like the dry fruit break should be a daily routine for the child.
10. Curds / Yoghurt: Stock up on homemade or store bought curds and use it to make lassi for the child. If the child is given more than one glass of milk in a day then, replacing one glass of milk with lassi is a good idea. A sweetened bowl of curds or a simple raita should ideally accompany a child's meal. At times, you may also blend curds with fruits like mango, strawberry, melon to create a smoothie which kids love. Smoothies are excellent for breakfasts and as an evening treat.
11. Wholewheat Dough: Whether or not you consume chappatis on a daily basis, it is advised to knead dough of around 200gms whole wheat flour and store it cling wrapped in the refrigerator for your child. The dough comes handy to make stuffed parathas or just a thick chappati which can be eaten with curds, cheese spread or butter. You can also make stuffed karanjis using the mixed vegetables and cheese and bake or fry them. Dough wrapped in cling wrap stays well for 3 days.
12. Paneer / Cottage Cheese: Fresh Paneer has limited shelf-life and sourcing it on a daily basis is quite a task, so I usually sauté big slabs of paneer and refrigerate or freeze them for use during the week. Similar to cheese, paneer can also be used as a paratha stuffing or can be stir fried along with mix vegetables and sauces as a light meal. Paneer is quite heavy on the stomach so it can easily be used to create a light meal. Fresh frozen paneer has a completely different texture, taste and nutrition content in comparison to the ready made frozen paneer so always go for the former.
Hope this article was of help to you. Write in your thoughts.
Till then, love Being a Mommy!