Baked Rice Balls.

Rice balls are a fave way to use up leftover rice in our house, and they make a perfect snack for the kids’ lunchboxes too.

Lunch box ready with tuna and cheese rice balls with a salad on the side.

Add in finely chopped vegetables, spices, herbs and cheese, they are quite versatile in terms of how you can flavour them up.

I like using short grained rice for the rice balls. It sticks together better than my beloved basmati, and the brand I use has a lovely aroma too. (I use Numa, which is a local Ugandan brand). I also prefer baking them rather than frying as its less to clean up and healthier too.

For the ingredients, I usually use:-

1. 2 cups of already cooked and chilled short grain rice.

2. 1 tsp dried mixed herbs.

3. 1/4tsp ground tumeric

4. 1 tsp paprika

5. Salt and pepper to taste.

6. 1 cup grated cheese (Cheddar, mozzarella or a mix of both).

7. 1 tbsp mayonnaise.

8. 1 egg.

9. 2 tbsp breadcrumbs.

10. 1/2 cup of drained and shredded tuna, or chopped sandwich ham or chicken.

11. 1/2 cup mixed finely chopped veggies. ( I like adding onion, garlic, and bell peppers)

(Tip: if you opt to fry the balls instead of baking, you can roll them in some all purpose / besan flour/ rice flour then fry to get a crispy layer on top).

See the crispy cheese crust?

Method.

The rice balls are so easy to make.

1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.

2. Line a baking tray with some baking paper.

3. In a large bowl, combine all your preferred ingredients well. Roll them into balls and place them on the baking tray. I usually get about 18- 20 balls at a go.

These batch contained cheddar cheese with finely chopped vegetables, ready for the oven.

4. Spray lightly with some olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Serve them with a salad of choice and ketchup. They are so yummy.

My daughter loves hers with ketchup.

Easy to make, colourful, healthy, fuss free, filling and so tasty.

Definitely worth a try!

Red Velvet cream cheese swirl muffins.

The title is a mouthful I know, but imagine red velvet and cream cheese goodness in one bite? Yum!

Decadence!

These muffins are moist, colourful, flavourful and not at all hard to make.

The cream cheese swirl makes them even more beautiful and delicious.

Ingredients.

• 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour.

• 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder.

• 1/2 tsp salt.

• 1/2 cup of softened unsalted butter.

• 1 cup of sugar.

• 1 egg

• 3/4 cup buttermilk. Made by adding some lemon juice to whole milk, and let it stand a while till it thickens.

• 1 tbsp red food colouring. ( I used liquid).

• 1 tsp vanilla essence.

• 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar.

• 1/2 tsp baking soda.

For the swirl, our ingredients are:-

• 2 – 3 tbsp softened cream cheese.

• 1/4 cup caster sugar.

• 1/2 tsp vanilla

• 1 egg.

Preheat oven at 180°C and line a 12 hole muffin tin.

Method.

• In a small bowl, add the buttermilk, then the food colour and vanilla.

• In a larger bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Mix well together.

• Mix the softened butter with the sugar, then add the egg. Mix well.

• Add part of the flour mixture then the buttermilk, mix gently then add again till it is all mixed well and smooth, but do not overdo it.

• In another small bowl, mix the baking soda and vinegar well, it will fizz up and add to the red velvet batter. Mix gently together then spoon into the prepared muffin cases.

• For the swirl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and egg till smooth. Add about 2 teaspoonfuls of the mixture on each of the prepared muffin batter.

(I always end up overfilling mine.😅)

• You can swirl with a toothpick or teaspoon.

• Bake for 15- 20 minutes. Dependent on oven. Check with a toothpick for doneness from the 15 minute mark.

Don’t they look good?

They smell, look and taste so good. They rarely last in our house, end up being gobbled up very fast.

They are so delicious but not too sweet. The cream cheese adds a lovely tanginess that blends well with the mild red velvet chocolatey flavour.

They are great for tea time or even to gift some friends. Please try it and let me know how yours turned out.

Love,

Wanjoro.

Sautéed Cabbage and Amaranth leaves.

One of the things that’s easy to take for granted in this part of the world, is having access to fresh green vegetables all year round.

If one has space to grow their own, even better. If you do not and have to buy, it is ok as they are not only inexpensive, but come in many different varieties to please different palates.

Amaranth leaves are more commonly known in Uganda as “Dodo” and in Kenya as “terere” or “mchicha.” It is on rotation in our meals a lot. It is rich in vitamins, easy to digest, low in calories and is a great immunity booster.

In this simple recipe, I used red amaranth leaves which are also rich in antioxidants, and gave the veggie mix a bright red color. Green amaranth leaves can work just as well too, minus the red colour obviously.

Let us get started:-

Ingredients.

⁃ Half a head of cabbage, chopped.

⁃ I small bunch of amaranth leaves. I used red but green can work well too.

⁃ 2tbsp ghee.

⁃ 1 tsp mustard seeds.

⁃ 1 large onion, sliced.

⁃ 1 tsp of crushed ginger and garlic.

⁃ 2 tomatoes, chopped.

⁃ 1 tsp dhania jeera powder.

⁃ 1/4 tsp ground turmeric.

⁃ Sliced bell pepper (optional).

⁃ Salt and pepper to taste.

Our spice mix for this dish.

⁃ A pinch of garam masala.

⁃ 1 small lemon halved.

Method.

⁃ Clean and chop all vegetables.

⁃ Heat pan, add ghee and mustard seeds. Once they sizzle a bit, add the onion and let cook till it is soft and translucent.

⁃ Add the ginger garlic paste and mix in well.

Once it’s cooked a bit add the tomatoes and cumin / coriander powder as well as some salt and pepper.

⁃ Let the tomatoes cook down then add the veggies.

Mix well and let cook for not more than ten minutes. You don’t want to overcook them. Leave uncovered.

They will shrink and wilt a bit. Don’t over cook them though. The cabbage is great when it still has a bit of crunch.

⁃ Check your seasoning and add the garam and squeeze half a lemon over the veggies.

The red amaranth leaves’ colour will give the dish a nice reddish, pinkish hue.

Serve hot with rice, ugali or chapati. It’s a perfect side dish but also yummy and healthy enough on its own.

Definitely worth a try don’t you think?

Try and let me know how yours turned out.

Love,

Wanjoro.

Kids’ Lunchbox and Snack Ideas.

The kids have been home for the better part of this school year due to Covid protocols where we live. Hopefully, face to face classes will resume in January and I for one cannot wait.

It has been great having the kids learn from home, but it is not easy. From longer screen time, not being able to physically interact with their teachers and schoolmates, a larger school work load…online learning is taking a toll on everyone involved.

The kids have always carried snacks and lunch from home. This has worked well for us so far- in terms of cost, being able to know what they are consuming and it doesn’t take as much time as one might expect.

Planning ahead is the greatest tip I have for this. As a Mum, my prime concern is for them to have healthy and tasty food, but I also need to take into consideration what is easier for them to consume in school; what is not time or labour intensive for me, we and will go well with the main family meal plan.

When my eldest child started carrying food from home, I worried she might not like what I have packed, so I decided to include her in the planning process. This has been working well for us so far.

Here are some tips in no order of importance:-

  • Focus on healthy, colourful, tasty food, that is easy to pack and keep. We do many cold meals, though the kids can warm from school, but cold lunches are great in this Kampala weather, they are quick to eat and clean up. No soup spills and the like.
  • Have a variety of meal options. I usually have 10-15 main meal ideas the kids like and approve, so I plan their meal choices around those options.
  • Include the children in planning for their meals. What would they like to carry? You can make a plan with them (keeping in mind the main family meal plan), so you are sure of less food wastage, they will eat what they chose and like, and you have less labour in shopping and prepping.
  • Make what you can ahead, if you can peel and chop or boil earlier it becomes easier to assemble in the morning.
  • Involve the children in packing the snacks and lunches too. My kids have become so good at this, I am really proud of them. Since they know what is on their menu, it is easy for them to pack what they are carrying for the day. For example, Fridays is a day for fries and a kachumbari salad for lunch. The kids are quite firm on this, but flexible enough on me to make plantain, green banana or even sweet potato fries, instead of the normal Irish potato ones.
  • Partitioned lunch boxes are a great option. One is able to separate the fruits and veggies, or main meal and salad. And I am also able to portion according to how much I know each kid is able to eat.
Portioned lunch boxes make work easier.
These lunch bags that come as part of the school backpacks are handy.

In terms of cost and nutrition. Fruits are a necessary snack. For this, I always put what they like and a fruit that is in season at the moment. For example, there are plenty of mangoes available at the moment, so their price is lower than other fruits not easily available at the moment.

Uganda’s great weather ensures we have plenty of sweet fruits available year round, so homemade juices are a great option too with the passion fruits and oranges that are easily available.

Basics for me in their bags are a bottle of drinking water, a small bottle of juice or flavoured milk, fruits and a healthy meal and snack. For example, a snack box for break will include a small sweet banana, popcorn, a muffin and some nuts. Popcorn is easy to make from home and doesn’t take too much time. Lunch can be rice balls, a simple salad and the fruit option can be grapes (sliced vertically), pineapple slices, or apple slices with some peanut butter on them.

Do not forget to pack some serviettes (paper towels) and cutlery for them. IKEA and many supermarkets have hardy plastic or melamine ones so you can keep your silverware safe. LOL.

This is a basic setup for the kids. Lunch boxes are at the bottom, then snack boxes and extra fruits. A water bottle and juice bottle are a must for them too.

Family main meal leftovers are also great for their lunchboxes. Leftover pasta makes a great pasta salad with some added veggies, tuna and mayo or yoghurt dressing.

Leftover steamed rice is great for rice balls, or fried rice which can be had warm or cold. Having canned tuna, chickpeas, sweetcorn and quinoa in the pantry is great to add to salads and sandwiches.

Simple sample meal : rice balls and an avocado salad.

Pancakes can be spread with jam, Nutella or peanut butter to make them more interesting and sweeter for the kids. Leftover veggies are great for savoury muffins, sweetcorn, zucchini and cheese make great options for this.

Other food options we like are :-

  • Salads- potato salad, pasta or quinoa salads are great with added cold meats such as tuna or leftover chicken. Veggies to bulk them can include chickpeas, sweetcorn, carrots, cucumber, red cabbage, beetroot, or even roasted zucchini and eggplant.
  • Fries or potato wedges. These could be sweet potato fries, green banana cutlets, plantain or yam fries.
  • Beef kebabs with a yoghurt sauce.
  • Orzo pasta is a fave here and can be used to bulk up a lentil salad.
  • Amaranth cereal bars
  • Sausage rolls.
  • Pancakes both sweet and savoury. Sweet ones can be spread with their favourite spread and sweetened with fruit. Savoury crepes work well with a veggie and cheese filling.
  • Leftover pizza.
  • Leftover chapati can make wraps of quesadillas, even frittatas.
  • Rice can be a salad, or fried rice. the kids also love beetroot pilau and celery rice which they can warm at school if they want to.
  • Carrots, cucumbers, celery stalks are great as a side salad with a small yoghurt sauce.
  • Quickbreads and muffins; banana bread, chocolate muffins, cheese and herb rolls are great options too.

Using what you have on hand and that which is easily available makes your work so much easier as a Mom.

Other tips to help the school mornings and school runs easier are:-

  • Having a good sleep routine. It is important for both you and the children to have a good night’s rest. Especially the kids who are still growing and need to let their minds and bodies rest and replenish lost energy. Having set times for bed and waking up is great for this.
  • Be prepared. Be stocked up on essentials to make mornings move faster. If you have to stop at the store on your way to drop them, chances are your kids will be late for school.
  • Have a morning routine for the family. Not a strict military style one, but a basic one that you and your family members have discussed and agreed upon. Simple ones like making beds immediately they get up, breakfast then shower and brush their teeth, oil themselves and dressed up work. This is how we teach our children independence, decision making and basic life skills.
  • Pack ahead for co- curricular activities. Sports and swimming gear can be packed the night ahead. Imagine looking for a swimming costume in the morning when they need to be out the door? it leaves everyone frazzled and not a good way to start the day.
  • An evening routine is great too. Once they get home from school, what is the first thing they do? When I pick them I always ask them to check if they have all their stuff with them. Once home, it is shower, a bit of play and tea time, homework then they can play some more before dinner is ready. Do not let them get way with dumping their shoes and bags at the door. I am firm on this. As messes such as these will end up with someone tripping on them and getting hurt, and also not teaching them how to be responsible for their things.
  • Check their schoolwork and let them also pack the books and stationery supplies before they go to bed once they are done with their homework; less chance of forgetting their homework at home or diaries.
  • Always keep the kids involved. Listen to them, talk to them, discuss with them what is going on in their school life. It makes them feel heard and seen and improves their self esteem.

As a parent, I am the adult and should lead by example. The kids being late is not their fault, it is mine if I did not take the time to ensure they are well prepared for the day ahead.

Let me also add that there is no perfect parent. We are all trying to do the best we can.

I will not lie and say I have all this down pat. No! I am still learning and I do drop the ball from time to time. However I cannot emphasize enough how much being organised has saved me time, money, energy.

Sure it’s easy for me to say do this and you will all be a calm, happy family. But as any parent will tell you, there are no guarantees. We can make the effort nevertheless. Nobody likes yelling or being yelled at in the morning to “hurry up!” And being more organized will reduce those frazzled mornings, don’t you think?

What do you pack in your child’s lunchbox?

P. A. R. E. N. T.

What is a parent’s role in a child’s life?

There is a lot that can be said, but I came across this brief version I had jotted down years ago and thought I would share.

Parenting is hard, and we are all raising our children differently. These pointers are just some things I learnt over the years, and still learning as we apply them raising our children. I ask myself these questions on a daily basis on this journey that has no perfect manual. I am no perfect parent, nobody is, but we are all trying to do our best right?

1. Provider.

Once you get a child, you know your reason for living has changed. You are now conscious of being the provider to a little helpless human, till the time they can fend for themselves. How prepared are we for this?

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Keep in mind, humans are totally helpless when young, the child cannot provide shelter or feed or cloth itself, it is up to us the parents to do it.

The first seven years are said to be the most critical in setting the foundation for the kind of adult a child will grow to become. How are we fulfilling this provision role to ensure we set a firm and stable standard?

Parenting is not just paying the bills and ensuring the child is fed. Provision of basics is not enough.

2. Available.

Are we available when it comes to our children? Are we easily accessible to them or are they to be neither seen nor heard?

Do we look them in the eye when they speak to us, or are we buried in our phones, laptops and tv screens?

Are we approachable, or do they fear us?

Do we listen to them or just talk at them?

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Obviously, boundaries and respect are important, but we should not let them fear to come to us. We are all they have in a cruel world, if they cannot turn to us and trust us, who can they trust?

3. Responsible.

It is not enough to just provide as a parent, we need to be responsible for and to our children.

How quick are we to respond to their needs? (Including young babies).

I do not mean we should drop everything and centre our lives around them, but we do need to be responsive to their needs and teach them patience too.

When playing and they get frustrated, how do we teach them coping strategies? Do we demean them or do we help them understand that it is normal to get frustrated and anxious at times.

If it is about something they want; talking to them about the difference between wants and needs, will help in this.

I also learnt something the other day about looking for opportunities to say yes to their wants, as per our resources and dependent on what it is they need. “Yes, you can have that toy, but for your birthday, or special occasion”, instead of an outright “No!”

Children learn more by what they see, than what we tell them. Are we responsible human beings in our personal lives?

How can we expect our children to learn responsibility when they see us shirk ours in various ways; Escaping work early, lying to get out of family commitments, e.t.c. They see all this.

Let us lead by example.

4. Encourage.

We should strive to encourage our children at all times. Through their successes and failures.

It also doesn’t hurt to carefully steer them towards the vision you have for them, and encourage them accordingly.

This is tricky and it is easy to steer them towards our failed dreams; visions we had for ourselves and impose (read force) them to actualise them. Let us not do that.

Ask them what their vision is, and guide them accordingly, we know our children; their strengths, weaknesses, talents and that they like. That knowledge will inform us on how best to encourage them.

Also let’s not compare our children to others. It is so easy to do this, but let us not. Comparison is the thief of joy. Do not be the one making your child miserable because they are not as good as the Joneses’ seemingly perfect child, or not doing things as well as their sibling. Just don’t. It inflicts wounds that fester inside and damage their self confidence and self worth.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

5. Nurture.

Encouragement and nurturing go hand in hand. As parents we must try to be dream builders not dream crushers.

Is your child talented? Encourage and nurture that talent but! there is a big “but” here – keep in mind they are still children. And we should still let them be children.

Let us take care of them, be protective of what we expose them too.

This is easier said than done, as we might also end up being too protective. It is a delicate balance of allowing them to explore; but still remain within our sights.

6. Training.

As parents, we will drop the ball many times. Let us not be too hard on ourselves. We can strive to not give up, delegate our role or neglect it as the sole providers and nurturers of these precious children, no matter how difficult it will get at times.

We should keep offering direction, guidance, and discipline. We are their first teachers. Language, values, manners, how they talk and how they think, is up to how we train them.

Image Source : Etsy printable picture quotes.

Guiding them through each milestone is not an easy task, and many are the times we will ask ourselves what we signed up for and if we can hack it. We can and will hack this parenting thing but we have to be intentional in steering them the right way.

Leading by example, listening to them, correcting them, teaching them with love and patience the difference between right and wrong.

Training also includes basic body hygiene and how they conduct themselves in private and public. Toilet manners, table manners, making their beds, brushing their teeth, cleaning up after themselves, respecting authority and elders, proper communication. “Excuse me,” “pardon me,” “please,” “thank you,” “you are welcome,” ” sorry”, how to be safe, money sense, and many more.

We are the ones to teach them all this. Not the nanny, not the daycare provider, not the teacher, we the parents are the ones to do this.

There are age appropriate ways we can impart that knowledge to them as well as many teachable moments in our daily lives that we can use to do it.

Parenting is not an easy task, but with knowledge and guidance, and keeping a ‘village’ aka support system around us, that is respectful and shares our values, we will become more confident and feel less alone when navigating this parenting life.

What are some of your best parenting tips? Please share in the comment section.

Love,

Wanjoro.