Puppy Love.

My daughter has a lot of affection for one of the dogs. Both kids love all the dogs but there seems to be an extra special bond when it comes to this specific dog. Anatalina is her name and she is a playful and delightful dog that loves human attention.

This girl knows all there is to know about this specific dog. She knows its age, what it likes and is able to tell whether it is feeling good or a bit low. What the different barks and whines mean, even how to calm the dog down sometimes. I have never seen such an intense bond between a child and an animal up close. It is something special to watch.

Growing up, not many people kept indoor pets where we lived. Even now, many people keep dogs as a security measure so they are usually built for kennels outside, and let out at night to deter intruders. Getting the kids indoor pets was not anything we took seriously. Back in Nairobi we lived in a homestead with cows, pigs, rabbits and chickens and they helped out in feeding and caring for them, but we do not have deep emotional attachments as compared to keeping a little chihuahua or pet parrot, nope.

We did have a pair of love birds once some years ago…for a day or two, then they disappeared and no, it was not my fault. LOL! Even cats are out of the question for us. Animals live outside, we live inside, that is my rule and I like it that way.

When we found out we would live with the dogs here, I was obviously apprehensive but the kids and the dogs get along just fine.

Anatalina always barks happily when she senses the kids leaving for school or when they are getting in back later in the day. She has this special whine she lets out that can be really insistent and only calms down when my daughter goes to her side of the garden and pats her down.

My daughter always checks to know when the Vet is coming to check on the dogs and watches him treat the dogs as she asks why they are being given specific meds or vitamins. There is a time she cried when Anatalina was not feeling well, and could not bear to see the dog being injected.

Seeing her interact with the dog has made me learn a few things too, and made me understand a bit on why kids love animals, in this case dogs, so much.

Dogs are known to be loyal, affectionate creatures. Probably why they are known as ‘man’s best friend.’ Dogs offer companionship, loyalty and understanding. No matter how lousy you are feeling, the sight of your dog’s delight to see you will lift your spirits. Dogs are no longer just helping us to keep safe, their presence in our lives has health benefits too. Playing with them, walking with them, stroking them helps keep us active and happy. Dog owners are actually more physically active than people who do not own dogs. If the kids are sad or had a bad day, they will sense it and try to cheer them up.

Dogs are great protectors, they will alert you when something is not right in or around your home. Their behaviour and the sounds they make will let you know of anything suspicious.

Which reminds me, I have a bit of a mystery I have been unable to solve in the neighbour hood. Almost everyone around us keeps dogs and these guys (the dogs, that is), always bark and howl insistently when one of our neighbours drives back in the evening. I do not understand why it is always that specific neighbour. At first it was a bit amusing but it has never stopped, and it has been over a year now since we moved in here. Every night this guy comes home just before 9.00 pm, ALL the dogs in our immediate area howl and bark like crazy for 3-5 minutes. I wonder why?

Anyway, back to why kids love dogs. I have also read that playing with dogs can calm down hyperactive kids, helps kids with special needs, and also teach kids a few skills. By caring for the dogs, the children learn responsibility and commitment. Knowing that there is another living being they care for will also boost their self confidence, teach them kindness and to be trustworthy.

I may have not liked dogs in the past, but I am definitely developing puppy love vibes recently. Watching my kids play with the dogs so gleefully and interact with them so freely, has taught me to also loosen up a bit, let go of my inhibitions a bit and have some fun too. What’s a little dog fur on my clothes in return for doleful eyes watching me, tail wagging crazily as I rub Anatalina behind her ears?

She is also an amazing listener. I can rave and rant and she will lie down and watch me as I vent out all my frustrations. With a few whines thrown in here and there, that I am pretty sure mean she agrees with me. She will watch me exercise or jog in the garden even dance with no judgment at all. And she keeps me company when I cook. Always at the kitchen window trying to keep up with whatever is going on with me. She is obviously begging for some kitchen scrapes but i will go with my delightful company as the reason she is always there. She is such a delightful dog.

George Graham Vest said, “The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world—the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous—is his dog.” Every time I watch how my daughter bonds and plays with Anatalina, I am reminded of how special dogs are. In this crazy world, who would not want a loyal, non judgement and playful companion by their side? Will we get a dog when we leave here? You bet we will.

(You can read on the other dogs’ escapades here and here. )

I will also be back soon with an update once I solve the mystery of the dogs’ reactions to our neighbour. Keep it locked.

Love,

Wanjoro.

Delicious Homemade Breakfast Ideas.

Breakfast time is one of my favorite meal times, and I am a firm believer in having a proper breakfast.

It is the first meal of the day, so why not make it special. Yes, I know we are all rushing out to go to work or school but even plain old cereal or oats do not take a lot time to assemble, can be prepared in advance and adding different toppings makes them more visually appealing, tastier and healthier if the toppings have added benefits. Toppings such as nuts, seeds, baobab powder and fruits, fresh or dried, add to both flavour, texture and nutrients that are essential to having a healthy body.

Traditional breakfasts were heavier and filling to provide the body with adequate fuel to farm or do labor intensive chores. They could be leftover dinner, steamed or roasted yams or porridge. These days, a cup of coffee or tea with a muffin is all some will take before heading to the office. Breakfasts these days also include more fry ups than steamed or boiled foods that people would eat in the past. I am no food purist, I believe there is room for what one wants to eat, as long as your meet your daily nutritional requirements.

In our household we like having cereals during the week, and a wider spread over the weekend when there is no rush. A small leisurely homemade brunch. The kids like their Weetabix and Hubs likes oats or muesli, or smoothies and I like oats or porridge. This is had with milk/ yoghurt. Toppings differ according to individual preferences (and moods) but our usual ones (not all at the same time though), are chia seeds, sesame seeds, black seed powder, hibiscus powder, cocoa powder, baobab powder, peanut butter, raisins, coconut flakes, sprinkles, fruits, and honey. Beverages are Coffee, tea, cocoa for the kids and fresh juice.

I sometimes soak the oats overnight, other times cook them on the stovetop and even in the microwave if pressed for time. They are an ideal weekday breakfast as they are filling but do not give one a feeling of heaviness and go so well with any accompaniment you choose.

Oatmeal porridge smothered with a nectarine, coconut and pineapple sauce, with a drizzle of honey and a pinch of nutmeg.
Oatmeal porridge made with milk, and served with sesame seeds, peanut butter and chia seeds.
Oatmeal with crushed pineapple, coconut flakes and nuts, garnished with chia seeds and honey.

Weekends are for breakfast potatoes, pancakes, sausages or bacon, potato hash, fresh juice, eggs and fruits.

Maizemeal, besan and wheat flour pancakes.
Fluffy American style pancakes with an orange chia butter sauce.
Simple Kenyan style pancakes with fruits on the side and a homemade blueberry compote on top.

Breakfast potatoes either pan fried or baked with onions, peppers, sausage and tomatoes are an ideal weekend brunch dish.

Pan fried hash of cassava, capsicum, tomatoes, onion, garlic and crumbled sausage.

Traditional foods can be had at any time too right?

Simple boiled maize, just needs some salt and pepper, or butter if you please.
Roasted sweet potatoes, baked beans and cheesy scrambled eggs are tasty and filling.
Steamed arrow root, spicy slices sausage and baked beans with a fresh vegetable salad is a another great option for a breakfast that is tasty, healthy and filling.
And I cannot forget that Kenyan breakfast staple, the Mandazi. A tasty beignet that goes well with tea, coffee or hot cocoa.

Here are a few more tasty breakfast recipes already shared on the blog:-

What do you like having for breakfast?

Kenyan Style Pancakes.

How do you like your pancakes? Fluffy and thick? Crepe like? Latkes? Scotch pancakes? Dosas?

Pancakes come in many different variations around the world but what does not change is the how loved they are. They are a perfect comfort food.

Kenyan pancakes are one of those meals that evoke nostalgic memories; Comfort, warmth and love. I have fond memories of my grandmother making them on an open fire, and no matter how hard I try, mine never seem to come out as tasty. She made them with flour, water, sugar, cooking fat and yellow yolk eggs from her free range chicken that gave the pancakes a distinct yellow colour. They were so tasty.

Kenyan style pancakes do not have definite quantities, we all have our own different ways of making them, but the basics are the same. Flour, eggs, water or milk, sugar and cooking oil. Then add your spices and flavors of choice such as cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla or lemon zest. That is the best thing about them, you can put what you wish and adjust your ingredients as you perfect your own way of making them.

I like making mine with self raising flour, natural yogurt or milk, 2 eggs, chia seeds, honey and sunflower oil. Then add my flavours and fillings depending on what I have on hand.

I prefer serving with a drizzle of honey or a pat of unsalted butter on mine. The kids like theirs with Nutella or jam. Pancakes also make a perfect lunchbox snack too for school.

I make pancakes every weekend, if not on Saturday then on Sunday. It’s become a tradition in our house. What else spells weekend more pancakes? I love mixing them slowly by hand, letting the batter rest, and taking my time cooking them as the wonderful aroma fills the house. It is also a guessing game for the kids once they smell them, as they compete who will correctly guess what is in the pancakes each time, based on the aroma.

I like using different flours to experiment a bit. Some work, some do not. I’ve already posted a rice flour pancake recipe here, as well as one with maize meal here. I also like using chick pea flour sometimes or sweet potato flour. Both flours give a lovely tinge of colour and added flavour to the pancakes.

These ones had both maize flour and besan flour added in them, and some honey drizzled on them. Tasty and filling.

My favourite pancake fillings are caramelized fruits, could be either pineapple or apple. I do reduce the butter and sugar for these as the fruits here, pineapple especially, are very sweet. I also make banana pancakes a lot. Adding ripe mashed banana to the batter with a pinch of cinnamon is how I make them more than half the time. This is one of our family favourites.

These are a few variations on how I make my Kenyan style pancakes. Not as fluffy as the American ones and a bit thicker than a crepe.

How do you like your pancakes?

Weekend Recap: Garuga Resort Beach Hotel.

Garuga Beach on Nam Lolwe (Lake Victoria), is one of our favourite places to take a weekend drive to. It is beautiful, pristine and not so crowded, which makes it perfect for a family getaway.

This is one of the views of the lake as you drive to the resort.

The first time we went there was over a year ago. It was quite empty then, quiet and peaceful. It is nice for a weekend getaway if you long for some silence. There are many vervet monkeys around so you have to make sure your keep your room door locked unless you want some uninvited guests. And do not forget your mosquito repellent and some warm jackets as the mornings can be a bit chilly.

This is the path headed to the beach.

The pros of the place. It is beautiful, quiet and serene. The proximity to the lake is their biggest asset. They have a beautiful beach and one can wade on the sandy shores comfortably. The views of Lake Victoria, the sound of the waves, the cooling breeze, the variety of birdlife, are this place’s best features. There are some stone benches outside the rooms overlooking the lake that are such a pleasure to sit on in the morning as you meditate or pray.

The grounds are not too big but perfect for a picnic and some frolicking around. There are some swings for the kids and a small play area too with some climbing tyres and bars. You can have a picnic or order from their restaurant then play your own family games, which is always so much fun. I love having my son chase me around barefoot on the grassy slopes. There is a small swimming pool too with a baby pool, and a gym though it doesn’t look like it has been in use for a long time. Their pool is small but ok, the first time there the kids and I had the pool to ourselves the whole time. Bliss!

Their food is delicious. Usual hotel fare and freshly caught fish that can be steamed, fried or stewed, and their pork chops are some of the best I have ever tasted.

This is my favorite spot, right under this tree.
It is hard to resist wading into the water and walking around barefoot.
There are some benches and chairs to sit on, or you can carry a mat, but I love the grass as it is. Perfect to sit, walk and run on, even roll and sleep on.

The cons. The road to the resort is rough and very rocky but one can get through with an ordinary vehicle. It is one bumpy ride though. The service is well, slow. Very slow, EXCRUCIATINGLY slow, but their food is great which is such an oxymoron. When we first spent a night there, the breakfast buffet was non existent, the staff made us feel like we were a bother when we should ask for what was supposed to have been ready for us. We had to order hours (I kid you not, HOURS in advance), so the food would be ready by the time we were hungry. Can you imagine having to order after breakfast so that your kids’ food will be ready by lunchtime? I remember on one of the mornings there, my daughter asked for sausages, and we were told that the chef was tired and done making sausages for the morning, never mind that some of us had not had breakfast yet. Sigh. And it was not as if it was busy at the time, we were a party of six adults and four kids, how can you not be prepared for that?

If you are wondering why we would go back to that. We have found a way to go round the poor service- You would rather go for the day, when you have already eaten, or pack some food, instead of having to spend the night there. They charge for having a picnic on their grounds but it is pretty affordable. As a family, we love their beach more than any other here so far. We go for the views, the sound of the water, the feel of the waves lapping on our feet, the cooling lake breeze, the sand that sticks between our toes, and the fact that it is off the beaten path, so does not get crowded.

You will spot some egrets, pied kingfisher, cormorants, weaver and sunbirds, or some fishermen in their canoes in the distance.
Sandplay on the grass.

This is one of my favorite places to hide away. It is about an hour’s drive away for us, so not too far for a weekend drive. The sight of the water never fails to take my breath away, and the kids’ delight at playing in the water gives me so much joy.

This is the life!

Crispy Matoke Wedges.

Remember these beautiful green bananas I had shared some time ago?

Look at the size of that matoke!

They came from one of the banana plants here in the compound and I have been thinking of different ways to use them up before they ripen.

This time round I decided to deep fry them. Not too healthy but it is ok once in a while right? This is a very straight forward recipe similar to the way I make vegetable pakora and I eyeballed the measurements.

For the batter, I used chickpea flour, rice flour, paprika, a pinch of cayenne, garlic powder, salt and pepper and mixed herbs. I did not add any water to the flour mixture.

Tip: Peel your green bananas under running water to avoid the sticky sap that’s hard to get off your hands.

Once peeled and cleaned, slice them into wedges, then add the wedges to the flour mixture and mix well.

The banana wedges will be moist as they were peeled under running water, so the wetness will make the spiced flour mixture stick to the wedges. If its too dry, you can add a little water. A little.

Deep fry them in batches till crispy and golden brown.

The fresher the green bananas, the better the flavour.
They are crispy, delicious and have an amazing aroma. It will be hard to resist to munch on them as you finish cooking.
Very tasty.

I served this with a simple kachumbari salad of grated carrot, red onion, coriander, tomato, salt, pepper and a pinch of chaat masala.

This is a perfect dish for a quick dinner, great for the kids’ lunchboxes or even as a crunchy and filling snack.

Final plate: Crispy green banana wedges, baked lentil balls and salad.

The baked lentil balls were from leftover boiled toor dal which I mashed with mixed spices, salt and pepper and baked in a 200°C oven for 20 minutes.

Toor dal balls ready for the oven, just spray some olive oil before baking them.

They were also great for leftover lunch with beetroot pilau and a simple salad.

What a colourful and tasty plate!

I have been enjoying thinking up, searching for and adjusting various green banana recipes, which are all up here on the blog already.

From mashing them up for a matoke cottage pie dinner, steaming them with groundnut sauce, making tasty breakfast porridge, stewing them, baking them as fries or a pan fry, making them into crisps or as a curry, the possibilities with this fibre rich starchy fruit are endless.

Green bananas are tasty, filling, nutritious and quite versatile, all the recipes are worth a try!