A Field Trip With Pasta

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Posted by Meeta K. Wolff

Last week on Wednesday Soeren went on a field trip with the pre-schoolers at the KIGA (Kindergarten). As Soeren will be leaving the KIGA in August to join the International School, he gets to join up with the KIGA pre-schoolers for many activities and trips. This is preparing him and his friends, he will be leaving behind in his group to say their farewell. It's a bit sad as he was extremely loved by teachers and peers. However, the move to the International School will help him develop his English and get him prepared for our move out of Germany in the next couple of years.

He is really enjoying being a part of all these activities. As they were out and about all day on Wednesday we were supposed to give them enough to eat for lunch, snacks and more in between.

As the meals would all have been eaten cold, his lunch had to be something which would taste and work well when not heated. The answer was quite easy - pasta. The evening before I made us all a big pot of pasta with a vegetarian bolgnese for dinner and took a portion out for Soeren's lunch box.

Contents: Pasta with vegetarian bolgnese, fresh organic white/red cherries, yellow watermelon and a handful of blueberries. The raisin bread slice is spread lightly with butter and some clover honey. A little treat - a small box of Smarties.

Prep time: 7 minutes
I added the pasta to the box the night before and placed it in the refrigerator. In the morning all I really needed to do was cut the watermelon, add the other fruit and spread the raisin slices with butter and honey. I also made a large thermos of sugar-free homemade ice-tea for him to drink throughout the day. On the side of the lunch box, I placed his fork and spoon and for the watermelon he has a skewer to pick the fruit easily.

Pasta Recipe

For the vegetarian bolgnese
1 packet organic soy tempeh - chop finely in a food processor
1 cup re-hydrated Textured Soy Protein (TSP) - this comes dry and you will need to add 1 cup of hot water to re-hydrate it
1 can of lentils - blended to a paste in food processor
salt and pepper
vegetable bullion/broth
1 red onions - finely chopped
1 red/yellow bell pepper - diced
1 aubergine - diced
1 zucchini - diced
400 ml organic fresh passata
handful of your favorite herbs - finely chopped

Fry the onion in oil until golden. Add tempeh, TSP, lentils and seasoning and cook for a few miuntes. Set aside.

In a separate pan add more oil and sautee the vegetables until slighter softer, but still have a crunch. Add the passata and the broth, allow to simmer for 6-10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and herbs. Now add the tempeh mixture and allow to warm through.

Serve this with your favorite pasta and a nice green salad.

Hope you all have a great week.

I'll be off on a short vacation next week so I have to console any readers of my "Inside A German Bakery" series till I return. In the meantime I hope you enjoy all the other great articles written by the rest of our fabulous DT girls.

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Meeta from What's For Lunch, Honey?

A sweet alternative to muddy puddles

Monday, June 25, 2007

Posted by Amanda at Little Foodies

When the children want to play in muddy puddles and you really can't be doing with it, suggest you make your own muddy puddles of the chocolate variety.... Fun to do and delicious to eat! It can be messy and yummy - surely a hit with children. I know it's a hit with mine, every time!

If your child is at the age where they can measure things out by themselves they could do most of this by themselves. My children are at the age where I have to measure things out and do the hot bits. Always show caution when you're doing things in the kitchen with children, only you know the capabilities of your child.

You need to decide if you want to make one large muddy puddle pudding or several smaller ones.

Pudding Mix
65g / 2.3oz self raising flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
80g / 2.8oz butter (at room temperature)
80g / 2.8oz soft brown sugar
3 medium eggs (at room temperature)

Sauce Mix
3 tbsp cocoa powder
50g / 1.7oz soft brown sugar
200ml / Between ¼ and ½ pint of hot water

Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 350F or Gas Mark 4.

Make the sauce first - Mix the cocoa and sugar in a bowl, add a little of the hot water and mix to a paste. Gradually add the rest of the water and mix until the sugar has dissolved.

Butter a 1 litre / 1 ¾ pint oven-proof dish (or eight ramekin sized pots) and stand it, or them on a baking sheet.
Then make the pudding by mixing all of the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth(ish), there will still be small lumps and that's fine. Here's the exciting part, you can mix it with your hands or you can use a wooden spoon. Children love doing this with their hands – that's probably obvious for some children!. If you're going to go for this option I would suggest they are wearing old clothes that don't matter if they get messed up, and have it in mind that everything they are wearing will probably need washing straight afterwards.
Pour and scrape the pudding mixture into the oven-proof dish or dishes & cover with the sauce.
If doing individual puddings half fill with the pudding mix, then add just enough sauce to cover. They should be no more than three quarters full. There needs to be enough room for them to rise.
Place the dish or dishes on a baking tray in the middle of the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes for individual puddings and 20 to 25 minutes for one large pudding. The pudding(s) should have risen well by then and the magic should have taken place with the sauce on the bottom and the cakey/pudding on the top.

Warning – Let them cool before you try or it can scald your mouth! They can be eaten on their own, but they're also delicious eaten with custard or cream or ice cream. They're also good cold straight from the fridge with a cup of coffee when the children are out - yummy!.

Note: These are not an every day food as they have a high sugar content - definitely an occasional treat!

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Amanda from Little Foodies

Weekly Reflections

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Posted by Helene

After two days of fighting the computer gods, I have to change my original plan to write another article about “4 exercise moves dos and don'ts” like I had done a couple of weeks ago. Since I seem to be able to keep my internet connection for more than five minutes tonight, I have decided to reflect on some strange and sometimes absurd things I have encountered at the gym this past week.

1/ Put the cell phone down: Do not get on the cardio machines and start chatting away, this is your “me” time. Chances are that if you can chat with your friends while pedaling away that you are not getting a meaningful workout. The latest gossip can wait until you are done giving your workout 100% of yourself. If her boyfriend just left her in tears, take the time to be with her not on the bike. Unless you are “on call” or left the babies with an inexperienced caretaker, leave your phone in the locker room. The people around you probably don’t really care that Sue wore red stripe pants with a blue argyle sweater…and remember we are always louder than we think.

2/ Do wear the appropriate shoes:
A lady came to take my plyometrics/weight lifting class yesterday but had forgotten her workout shoes. She told me she would pass on the plyo but meant to lift weights barefoot. Hello…! I was sorry to inform her I could not let her do that for fear she might drop a dumbbell on her feet…I was actually surprised I had to explain why she could not take the class.
Do not sneak on the elliptical or bike in your flip-flops hoping that the gym personnel does not notice. You only hurt yourself, your joints, spine not to mention your shins. Call it a day and come back tomorrow, or better yet, put a pair of spare shoes in your car at all times.

3/ Respect the class: If you take a group aerobics class, do not spend most of the time chatting with the person next to you. It is distracting to the people next to you. It is annoying for the instructor because we know you are getting nothing out of it and disturbing the flow of things. If you can’t wait to chat with Jane, do it after class over a nice and healthy refreshment.
If you don’t like the class, please do not decide to make your own and start your own moves while one is going on. Step aside, get on a cardio machine or check out another one at a later day. It has not happen to me yet, but I don’t think I would have kept my cool when it happened to my friend Michelle in her kickboxing class.

4/ Disinfect: The bottles of disinfectant and towels placed around the gym are not there to enhance the décor. There are hundreds of people using the same equipment everyday and even of gym employees do disinfect the machines a few times a day, it does not justify you leaving a sweaty weight bench for the next person or sweat drenched handles on the bike. No disinfectant or towel in sight, bring at least a towel to wipe off your hard earned sweat and efforts.
Do not go to the gym if you have a fever, cough or sneeze a lot. There is no scientific proof that you will “sweat your cold out by exercising” but complete backup that you will give your germs to gym employees and trainers. Remember when you used to take your kids to daycare and they would catch all the germs floating in the air at the time? Same with the gym: pay it forward by staying home, you won’t slow down your progress that much by taking some time off….in the long run your body and fellow gym goers will thank you.

You are probably wondering where sweet Helen has gone after reading this…Well, I live at the gym: 6 days a week, anywhere from 5 to 10 hours a day, which make me care about…everybody in every circumstances. By doing the things mentioned above, people fail to see the bigger picture:
1/ By not giving yourself a tough workout and being on the phone instead, it is going to take you twice as long to reach your goal. You might even stop coming to the gym altogether because you “went everyday and did cardio for 40 minutes every time and never saw results”. Then, a few months later, you rejoin and it’s not 20 pounds you need to lose but 35…not cool. Buckle up!

2/ Keep wearing the wrong shoes and your joints and spine will be so out of commissioned that you will have to stop coming, maybe get some physical therapy or surgery ( I have seen it happen) thus defeating the purpose.

3/ It is most ok to exercise and socialize: I sometimes “buddy up” on the treadmill with a friend and we talk some while walking, but I leave these instances to my “easy” days. A group class is not one of those times. You would get more out of your workout by focusing on it and more out of your friendship by giving Jane your undivided attention when the class is over.

4/ If you are sick, remember to treat your body good and stay away for a couple of days. Your body needs to hydrate, work through the sickness and heal. By constantly working out on a cold or a bug, you are taking away its ability to heal fast. Every workout is more difficult for you, you might lose your drive ad when you have recovered you find out that your training is out sick because you passed on whatever you had (as well as all others sick at the time) to her/him and it is now going to take even longer for both of you to get back on track to make you reach your goal.

I care….I am passionate about my job, so saying “no, not acceptable” is also part of it.

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Helen from Tartelette

Take Time to Relax...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Posted by gilly

It happens to everyone at some point or another... the trials and tribulations of life begin to feel as though they are piling up too rapidly. One begins to act in ways that are non-typical - maybe they are more emotional than usual, irritable, depressed, complain of headaches or stomachaches. Perhaps they become prone to sickness, or their muscles become tense. Maybe they over eat or under eat, or cannot sleep.

These are all common symptoms of stress. According to Wikipedia, "stress is the disruption of homeostasis through physical or psychological stimuli." Essentially - our sense of contentment becomes unbalanced, and our bodies respond to these disruptions in different ways.

Stress can be managed in a number of different ways. I find taking time to relax each and everyday is vital in 'staying on top' of the stresses in my life. Here are a few tips to help you relax:

  • As Helen has mentioned before regarding exercise, relaxation is another 'appointment' that you should keep with yourself. Try to schedule it in at least once a day. Sometimes only 5-10 minutes is all you need - although I prefer about 15.

  • Find a quiet place to relax with minimal distractions. This doesn't have to be within your house - if it's quiet in your yard, or in a park somewhere, that's great.

  • Wear comfortable clothing.

  • Start by taking deep breaths - the ones that engage your tummy along with your chest. Focus on breathing in for a count of 5, then exhaling for a count of 5. You can close your eyes if it helps you to focus better. Do this for a few minutes.

  • You can use guided imagery to help relax, or focused relaxation to tackle tense muscles. Or even better, do both:
    • Next, imagine a warm, safe, peaceful place. This is a place that makes you feel at ease, and is quiet. It can be a real place, or an imaginary one. Once you are there, take time to imagine how things look, smell, feel, and sound like there.
    • Allow any distracting thoughts to gently float away like a balloon, or pass by like scenery, always returning your focus to your safe place. While you are here, nothing else is important enough to pull you away.
    • Next, slowly working from your head down to your feet, sense any tension in your muscles. It may be obvious - like a sore back, but be aware of all types of tension - perhaps in the small muscles around your eyes, mouth, jaw. Or inadvertent heaviness in your chest or stomach.
    • Imagine tension as a slow moving liquid, and allow it to gently seep out of your muscles and skin, into your surroundings. Align this tension release with your slow exhaled breaths.

  • Once you have a bit less muscle tension, go back to imagining your safe place for a few more minutes - taking time to really enjoy and experience it.

  • When you wind up your session, count slowly back from 5 -> 1, and with each number, connect more and more with the outside world, noticing sounds and movement.

I hope this helps you to 'stay on top' on any stress that you experience. Do you have stress management or relaxation techniques that help you? If so, feel free to share them in the comments section.

Until next time, I wish you health, happiness, and balance!

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by gilly from Humble Pie

Wine bag holds lunch jar innards

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Posted by Biggie @ Lunch in a Box

Although I like my thermal lunch jars, the bulk and weight of the jars themselves keep me from using them as often as regular bento boxes. But when searching for the right container to hold today's meal, I realized that there's no reason not to use the internal containers on their own as little round bento boxes, and pack them stacked inside a wine carrying bag. This lunch didn't necessarily call for extended chilling or warming, so...


Contents: Nests of spinach zarusoba noodles with kizami-nori (cut seaweed garnish), green onions, wasabi and dipping sauce in the soup container. Bottom containers hold cherries, grapes, and a tinga of Salvadorean chorizo, fresh corn, yellow bell peppers, pinto beans and chili sauce. To eat the zarusoba, mix the green onions and wasabi into the dipping sauce, dip a bundle of noodles and a little nori into the sauce to flavor and loosen the noodles, and eat. Great hot weather dish.


Morning prep time: 15 minutes. The chorizo tinga was leftover from dinner, the zarusoba dipping sauce for the noodles was store-bought, and the nori was sold already cut up. The only thing I made fresh was boiling the noodles and chopping the green onions -- it just takes a certain amount of time to bring water to a boil. During that time I was able to prepare and pack everything else for the three lunches. Once the noodles were cooked, rinsed and drained, I curled them into bite-sized nests on chopsticks for easy eating. This also works well with somen and any other noodles for dipping. To make looser nests, twirl the noodles around your fingers instead of chopsticks.

070614cPacking: Since I'd decided not to use the thermal jar itself, just the internal containers, I was free to substitute a smaller metal container for the fruit instead of using the large rice container. I was drawn to the thermal jar containers because of the excellent watertight soup container with screw-on lid, which holds the dipping sauce in this meal. I stacked both this and my husband's meal (packed in take-and-toss070614b Gladware, below) in a single wine bottle gift bag, with chopsticks and a spoon tucked down the side. This was inspired by Japanese-language bento book "Watashitachi no Obento" (私たちのお弁当), which showed a stack of little round tupperware-type containers in a fabric wine bag. Clever! You could even use an insulated bottle bag and slip an ice pack down the side if you like.


Contents: Same as mine, with the addition of kaiware (daikon sprouts) for the noodles, cherry tomatoes and a mini pudding cup (Kiku brand Petit Pudding, sold in Asian & Japanese markets).

Packing: As proof of concept that bento meals don't necessarily need to be packed in expensive boxes, I packed my husband's meal in disposable Gladware plastic containers and stacked them with my lunch inside of a wine bag. The containers nested inside of each other when empty, saving space on the way home. I used reusable silicone mini-muffin cups to hold the noodle garnishes, and the mini spoon for the pudding also acted as a divider to hold back the cherries and grapes.

070614dBug's lunch has the same contents, with orange slices, noodle dipping sauce in a sauce container, and an animal surprise cap on top of the chorizo tinga to keep it from shifting around during transport. Packed in a 350ml Asvel box (Bug also wound up eating my grapes).

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Biggie from Lunch in a Box

Inside a German Bakery: Spelt Wholegrain Loaf with Amaranth

Monday, June 18, 2007

Posted by Meeta K. Wolff

Today, I thought I would show you another great bread made by my awesome baker in this series of Inside a German Bakery. This bread is called Dinkelvollkornbrot mit Amaranth or spelt whole-grain with amaranth.

A sourdough made with spelt, amaranth and wholegrain flour with a generous helping of sunflower and amaranth seeds thrown in for an extra crunch. It is then covered with popped amaranth seeds. This loaf is moist and has a subtle taste so it pairs great with savory and sweet spreads. It was actually this bread that introduced me to Amaranth.

Amaranth in actual fact is a herb and not a seed. It is also known as pigweed, as well as the garden plant we know as Cockscomb. The name amaranth originates from the Greek for "never-fading flower." There are about 60 species of amaranth and there is no definite distinction between amaranth grown for the leaf (vegetable), and the seed (grain). As a matter of fact you might even have seen the leaves of one of the species, better known as Chinese Spinach.

Amaranth is so versatile that you can cook it as a cereal, grind it into flour, pop it like popcorn, sprout it or toast it. The seeds can be cooked with other whole grains, added to stir-fry or to soups and stews as a nutrient dense thickening agent.

Amaranth flour is often used to make baked goods and it must be mixed with other flours for baking yeast breads as it contains no gluten. When preparing flatbreads, pancakes and pastas, 100% amaranth flour can be used. Sprouting the seeds will increase the level of some of the nutrients and the sprouts can be used on sandwiches and in salads, or just to munch on. It's flavor is mild, sweet, nutty, and malt like, with a difference in flavor depending on the variety being used.

The amaranth seeds are high in protein and contain high amounts of essential amino acids like lysine, which are not frequently found in grains. It is high in fiber and contains calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and C.

The fiber content of amaranth is three times that of wheat and the iron content is five times more than wheat. It contains two times more calcium than milk. Using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn or brown rice results in a complete protein as high in food value as fish, red meat or poultry.

Ever since I did this research, we have really increased the intake of amaranth seeds in our household. I use it liberally in rice dishes in our muesli and cornflakes, fruit salads get an additional crunch when a few amaranth seeds are added and pop corn has been long out - now we pop amaranth seeds when we have our family movie evenings. I often buy bundles of Chinese Spinach at the Farmers Market and use this in a mixed green salad or in the fantastic but simple sandwich I share with you below

More amaranth info on the web:

Organic Trading: Amaranth Facts
Wikipedia: Amaranth History
Purdue University: Amaranth Rediscovered

This is one of the very few breads that Soeren actually allows me to leave the crust on as he enjoys picking the seeds off of it. Soeren and I often make this sandwich when we go for our bike rides and want to enjoy a picnic on the way.

Healthy Provencal Style Sandwiches
Makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices spelt whole-grain bread with amaranth
Handful Chinese spinach leaves - as a substitute you can also use baby spinach leaves
Prepared olive tapenade
Herbed goats cheese - crumbled into pieces
Cherry tomatoes - sliced
Freshly cracked black pepper

Spread all 4 slices of bread with the prepared olive tapenade. Place the spinach leaves on two slices of bread. Add the goats cheese and lay out the tomato slices on top of the spinach leaves. Sprinkle with pepper and cover with the other two slices of bread, pressing down gently to seal. Wrap in cling film and cool for 30 minutes.

Have a great week!

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Meeta from What's For Lunch, Honey?

The Benefits Of Strength Training

Friday, June 15, 2007

Posted by Helene

By now, you have probably figured out that what I consider a well rounded fitness routine includes cardio-vascular exercise, strength training or weight lifting and stretching. I can say that 99% of the ladies I train start by telling me “I don’t want to lift weights that much because I don’t want to bulk up”. I then spend about 10-15 extra minutes explaining the many benefits of strength training and that women do not have the levels of testosterone necessary to bulk up and that would have to have a pretty intense diet and exercise routine to get bulked up. The benefits of strength training do not apply to women only so let’s talk about a few, shall we?

- Increased metabolic rate: strength training can provide up to a 15% increase in metabolic rate which is helpful for weight loss and weight management.
Cardio exercise burns calories right at the time you are exercising but your metabolism returns to normal after about 30 minutes. When you strength train, and depending on the intensity of your weight lifting, your metabolism can stay elevated for up to 2 hours after you are finished.

- Strength training increase not only your muscle mass but also you bone density. Inactivity can lead to a decrease in bone density and over the years increase your chance for osteoporosis. Once again folks, think about the big picture. What you are doing now, will be beneficial for years to come. Some studies show an increase of 1% -3 % in adults who included weight lifting in their routine.

- Some studies have shown that about 25% to 30% of the weight lost by dieting alone is not only fat but lean tissue, muscle, bone and water. Strength training preserves your lean muscle mass, increase your muscle strength and ultimately reducing your body fat.

- Strength training can reduce your risk for diabetes, or improve your blood sugar levels if you already have it: research shows that muscle training can increase the way your body utilizes glucose by 23% in just four months. Your muscles use sugar (carbohydrates) during exercise to contract and relax. Your body uses the sugar supplies in your blood to be able to meet this demand, reducing your blood sugar levels.

- Strength training lowers blood pressure: regular exercise and specially muscle building strengthens the heart and allows it to pump more blood with less effort. The stronger your heart is, the less it has to work and prevents you from exerting your arteries.
- A wide variety of sports-related or life-related injuries can be prevented by strengthening muscles and joints. Strength training also improves your balance, flexibility and mobility. The stronger your muscles get the more comfortable you will be and avoid falls and accidents, or simple muscle and joint tears and fatigue.
- I often train people who need physical rehabilitation after surgery or accidents. Because we cannot strength train the injure muscle, we work on strengthening the muscles surrounding the injure area. The stronger your muscles get the quicker you will heal.

- Strength training improves your quality of life: it is much easier to accomplish everyday activities, such as carrying groceries, pushing strollers and working in the yard if you are not struggling with your lack of strength. Building a successful strength training routine will also boost your confidence level, make you stand taller and make you feel good about yourself, thus warding off feelings of depression

Start slow and build up gradually the number of exercises, the weights and frequency of your training. If you do not know where to start and you already belong to a gym, make an appointment with a trainer. Cut out routines in magazines and start lifting with cans of soup of jars of tomato sauce. Rent a tape or refer to our new bi-weekly moves demos.

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Helen from Tartelette

Let Your Shopping List Work For You

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Posted by YumSugar

I'd like to make a confession. I love grocery shopping. I like walking up and down the aisles perusing the new products. I know some of you share my love, while others find it a big chore. For those of you that need help, I thought I'd share my grocery shopping system with you.

Start by making a list of all of the ingredients you need. The most important thing about this list is to arrange it in sections by thinking of the sections of a grocery store. Put all of your produce on one portion of the page, dairy on another, meats on another, pantry goods in another, and so on and so forth. If you are familiar with your grocery store lay out create your list according to the market's floor plan. At my Safeway I like to start in the produce section and make my way through the back of the store stopping to pick up chicken, bacon, frozen goods, milk, cheese, wine, and bread along the way. Having a list in your hands will also keep you from purchasing impulse foods that aren't good for your wallet or your weight. Once you get used to shopping with your list you will realize that you can be in and out of the grocery store in no time and you might just find you actually enjoy your walks down the super market aisles.

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Sabrina from YumSugar.com

Tiffin Tuesday - Vegetarian Barbecue!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Posted by jokergirl@wererabbits

It's summer!
Here, this means that whether or not the weather actually reflects it - you have to have a barbecue party on the weekends!

Which is nice, of course, if you eat meat. I don't - so I was regularly stuck with salad, bread and maybe a baked potato or grilled corn cob, if I was lucky. Until I decided to change this!

There are a lot of vegetarian variants to typical barbecue food, whether you are a vegetarian or simply want to add a bit of variation to your barbecue. My lunchbox contains some examples:

In the big box to the left, grilled couscous patties:
2dl couscous (the one I used was a bit too coarse - you should use really fine grained couscous so the patties stick together well!
150g feta, crumbled finely
Sundried tomatoes, chopped finely (amount to taste)
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
1 egg
Breadcrumbs (to improve stickiness, also creamcheese/creme fraiche might help)
Salt, pepper, herbs (I used fresh rosemary), olive oil for the grill

Cook the couscous according to the instructions. (for most that means to add boiling water/stock, salt and oil/butter and let it steam). Cool it.
Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl. With wet hands, form patties and brush them with olive oil.
Barbecue. (They may crumble, so best use an aluminium pan if you're unsure)

To the right and on the plate in front are grilled vegetable-and-feta spits. The idea about those is to let the cheese melt into the bread, as cheese alone on the grill wouldn't work! This also works really really well with sliced mozarella (see below).
I used wholeweat toast here, but sliced baguette would be even better.

In the small compartments are frozen strawberries, a container with chives and yoghurt as dip for the patties (bottom) and tsatsiki and tomato salad (top).

Vegetables on a spit
There are a lot of vegetables that are excellent for barbecuing. For example, the spit on the right is made of champignon mushrooms, red bell peppers, asparagus, spring onions, mini corn, yellow zucchini, and baguettes with mozarella stuck between them and melted into the bread, as described above.

The heat from the barbecue grill is especially great for cooking vegetables. Try it! It brings out the taste and juiciness really well. Vegetables that profit especially are:
-mushrooms of all kinds
-bell peppers

How to prepare your spit:
Cut the veggies to chunks of similar sizes. Put on spits, making sure that the bread and mozarella are fixed closely together by some hard vegetable (zucchini or peppers work well).
Salt, add herbs and chili of choice. I use a spray bottle with scented olive oil to add a very, very thin coat of oil as well, which is much more useful than a brush.

You can also marinate your veggies first. Fresh herbs, pepper, garlic and chili is always a good idea.
For something a little more oriental, why not try a veggie yakitori spit? A sauce of peanut butter, soy, chopped onions, ginger, garlic and coriander and some hot broth makes the perfect marinade and doubles as dipsauce. Yes, marinating with peanut butter sounds odd, but I got this from a reliable source - and mushrooms smeared with it are especially great!

Burgers without Beans
I admit it - I don't like Tofu very much.
Neither (or possibly even less) do I like any vegetarian "meat" replacement product I have tasted to date - soyburgers? No, thanks. It's... okay. I can eat it. But it has no specific taste, no texture, and seriously - I don't miss meat. I don't need anything to replace it because I didn't like it that much to begin with. My diet is not incomplete if I can't have the feeling of biting into a hotdog or a steak once in a while.

So what do I fill my burgers with?

I already posted the recipe for couscous patties above - if you are not too worried about having a starchy bun, this works. If you prefer more protein, you could replace the couscous with mashed beans or chickpeas.
On the cheesy side, we have Feta and Halloumi cheese, which is a Greek cheese that won't melt on the barbecue.
But I wouldn't be happy unless I could also add my own creation to the possible filling and make entirely vegetable burger fillings!

In the picture: Glazed champignon hats on mini-baguettes with tsatsiki and cherry tomatoes.
I bought a bunch of champignons, selecting those with very large hats. Don't wash them - rub them off with a brush or a damp towel, but don't wet them! I cut each hat in half horizontally and removed the stem (it will fall out if you cut it exactly in the middle anyway.
Then I marinated all the mushroom cutlets I got by spraying them with olive oil (I love my oil spray for reducing the amount of fat I use!) and rolling them in french herbs, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. While they marinated, I heated the grill and made my tsatsiki.

There won't be a recipe for the tsatsiki. I find that instead of being adventurous, doing it the way your family has always done it is usually the right way. I do love the thick greek yoghurt you get here, though - it makes a really lovely tsatsiki!

After putting the marinated mushrooms on the grill, I let them brown a little on both sides. During that, I poured a splash of balsamico vinegar in the bowl they had marinated in and mixed it with the spices and garlic that had remained in there and some more salt. When the mushrooms were heated on both sides, I brushed them with balsamico marinade and grilled them until they were nice and glazed - it tastes delicious! Very sweet and tasty.

Since the budget variant already tasted so nice, I wonder how portobello or oyster mushrooms will taste with the same method? I shall try next time.

What are your ideas for a vegetarian barbecue? Do you have good ideas for a healthy summer party? Comment and let me know!

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by jokergirl from Were Rabbits.

Grow Your Own in Pots for Children

Monday, June 11, 2007

Posted by Amanda at Little Foodies

This is my first post so I would like to start by saying hello to everyone, a big thank you to Meeta for asking me to be part of the Daily Tiffin and I'm honoured to be writing alongside such lovely ladies.

I'm passionate about children learning about food. I think it should be fun and exciting but natural and stress free for everyone. One thing most children seem to love, if they have the opportunity, is to have a go at growing their own food.

Growing their own food helps children to learn where food really comes from. It's only natural that they would assume it comes in plastic or paper packets from the shop if they're not told or shown any different. It also helps them to learn patience, a little science, and a little nurturing.

It can be really easy to start with just one pot, some compost and seeds. Unless you're a seasoned gardener, I wouldn't suggest doing a whole veg patch with children. We learned this to our own cost. A kitchen garden or vegetable patch is a lot of work. A little pot or two is good fun and manageable.

I would suggest basil or rocket to begin with as both grow quite quickly and can be eaten cooked or raw.

Things you will need to get you started.

A small to medium size plant pot. A mug would do but would need a drainage hole drilled into it, we used a mug but it's quicker and easier to start with a pot.
A small bag of all purpose compost. The smallest you can buy.
A packet of seeds

If you have the time you could get the children to decorate the pot before they begin. This makes it a longer activity which is great if you're looking for things to fill time in the holidays.

It's a good idea to do this outside or if you're going to do it inside then put some paper down to protect the surface you're going to work on.

Fill the pot with the compost to about 1 to 2cm from the top.
Sprinkle the seeds over the top of the compost (not too many).
Sprinkle a little more compost over the seeds.
Then very gently add a little water.

Leave on a plate (to catch any water draining from the hole in the bottom) in a sunny position on the windowsill or outside if it's spring or summer and there's no chance of a frost. You should check the pot everyday to make sure it's not dry but don't over water. After a few days you should start to see some shoots coming through the soil and then quite quickly you'll have your very own herb or salad with which you can then eat as it is or make into some very tasty food.

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Amanda from Little Foodies

4 Essential Moves Dos and Don'ts

Friday, June 08, 2007

Posted by Helene

I first thought about writing an article on “ 4 Essential Strength Training Moves”, and then I wondered what good it would do if you did not know the proper way to do them.
I plan on doing a bi-monthly installment of the sort so there will be more than the first 4 I am showing here: stationary lunge, push-up, abs crunch and triceps dips

1/ Stationary lunge:
-Stand, with hands on your hips. Place your feet hip-width apart, tighten your abs and look straight ahead.
- Take a big step forward with your right foot so your right knee and ankle are aligned (Rear leg is almost straight.) Distribute your weight evenly between your feet.
- Lower your body until your left knee is a few inches from the ground, then push back up. Next, step forward with your left foot.
Option one: do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps each on one leg and switch or alternate stepping right and left.
Don't look down. Think vertical, not horizontal: Move hips up and down, not forward and back.
Don't shift your weight forward; keep it over your hips to prevent excess pressure on your knee.


2/ The Pushup:
Position yourself facedown on hands and toes (or knees). Pull abs in and keep body aligned from head to toes (or knees). Bend elbows about 90 degrees and lower chest toward floor. Push up and repeat.
Do not raise your buttocks in the air or curve your back inward.
Do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps each.

3/ Standard Ab Crunch :
Lie face up with knees bent and feet flat on ground, hands behind head and fingers unclasped.
Contract abs as if to press navel toward spine and raise your head, neck and shoulder blades off ground as a single unit. Pause for a second and lower. Repeat 2-3 sets 10-15 reps each.

4/ Triceps Bench Dips :
Sit on the edge of a bench or chair with hands next to hips. Legs can be extended in front of you on floor, toes up, or keep feet flat and knees bent (the closer your feet are to your butt, the easier the move). Straighten arms and lift hips off bench and slightly in front of it. Keeping chest high and shoulders down and back, bend elbows 90 degrees and lower hips toward floor. Keep elbows pulled close tight behind you.
Press up and repeat.
Remember to graze the bench or chair. Do not let your butt move forward.
Do 2-3 sets with 12-15 reps each.

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Helen from Tartelette

Superfoods: Acai - Nature's Energy Fruit

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Posted by Meeta K. Wolff

It may seem odd to start this list of superfoods with one you’ve likely never even heard of. But studies have shown that this little berry is one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world! Açaí (ah-sigh-ee) is the high-energy berry of a special Amazon palm tree. Harvested in the rainforests of Brazil, açaí tastes like a vibrant blend of berries and chocolate. Hidden within its royal purple pigment is the magic that makes it nature's perfect energy fruit. Açaí is packed full of antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Although açaí may not be available in your local supermarket, you can find it in several health food and gourmet stores (often in juice form). A new product featuring the unsweetened pulp is now also available, and I highly recommend that you choose this form of açaí.

Açaí pulp contains:
A remarkable concentration of antioxidants that help combat premature aging, with 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10 to 30 times the anthocyanins of red wine.
A synergy of monounsaturated (healthy) fats, dietary fiber and phytosterols to help promote cardiovascular and digestive health.
An almost perfect essential amino acid complex in conjunction with valuable trace minerals, vital to proper muscle contraction and regeneration.
The fatty acid content in açaí resembles that of olive oil, and is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. Oleic acid is important for a number of reasons. It helps omega-3 fish oils penetrate the cell membrane; together they help make cell membranes more supple. By keeping the cell membrane supple, all hormones, neurotransmitter and insulin receptors function more efficiently. This is particularly important because high insulin levels create an inflammatory state, and we know, inflammation causes aging.

Since the Acai Berry is so perishable we are not able to go to the local fruit market and buy a basket of Acai berries. The good news is, companies like Sambazon have developed a process to export frozen Acai pulp and freeze dried Acai powder.
The highest quality Acai supplements will be made with Sambazon freeze dried acai. Spray dried and "extract" Acai supplements should be avoided at all costs.

This Post was contributed by Pintoo from Zaayka

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

Microwave mixed rice & fried chicken

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Posted by Biggie

Mixed rice lunch for toddler

Preschooler's lunch: Quick mixed brown and white rice with asparagus, kamaboko fish cake, and green onions (recipe below). Strawberries, green grapes and Ajinomoto-brand Japanese-style fried chicken ("kara-age"). Pre-cooked frozen fried chicken was great in theory, but not very good in practice as it turned out soggy and greasy -- yuck. It was moist and the flavor was good, but the breading was unappetizing. Didn't bother my son Bug (my son), though, as he devoured the chicken but left the rice untouched for reasons yet unknown...

Morning prep time: 8 minutes, using frozen fried chicken and microwave faux "fried rice" using leftover cold rice.

Packing: For the fried chicken, I used paper-lined cups specially designed to absorb the oil from fried food (bought at Daiso dollar store for US$1.50 -- look for the cartoon shrimp on the package). I was pleased with these as they absorbed a lot of oil from the chicken. This was too large for Bug, but the leftovers didn't go to waste...

Lined food cups for fried food

Mixed rice lunch

My lunch was the same as Bug's, with bigger pieces of chicken and halved strawberries instead of quartered.

I used a shortcut to make cheater's 5-minute "fried rice" in the microwave that I adapted from Japanese bento cookbook 園児のおべんとう ("Kindergartner Bentos" from Kodansha), a variation on this version that I made a while back.

Loose Recipe for Mixed Rice

  • 1.5 cups leftover cooked rice (white or brown, refrigerated, frozen or fresh)
  • a few slices of kamaboko fish cake (or any protein, such as roast pork or chicken)
  • a green onion (scallion)
  • a vegetable (asparagus, frozen green peas or corn, etc.)
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • salt
  • roasted, ground sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Chop up a handful each of protein (kamaboko), green onion and vegetable (if cutting is necessary).
  2. Put the leftover cold white rice in a microwave-safe bowl, and top it with the protein, green onions, and vegetables. Cover with plastic wrap and heat for one minute in a 1100W microwave (times will vary depending upon how much food you're nuking and the power of your microwave). If you have fresh rice made up, just nuke the protein and veggies on their own, and mix them together with the hot rice afterwards.
  3. When hot, add a couple teaspoons or so of soy sauce, a dash of salt and a drizzle of sesame oil to taste, and mix it all up.

NOTE: I keep a cheap sesame seed grinder filled with roasted sesame seeds for freshly ground sesame. If you don't have a sesame seed roaster, you can use a frying pan covered with a splatter screen to toast your own sesame seeds (cheaper and fresher than buying them pre-roasted, but slower).

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Biggie from Lunch in a Box

Inside a German Bakery: Multigrain Spelt Wholemeal Bread

Monday, June 04, 2007

Posted by Meeta K. Wolff

Now that you have met my baker and his family, let me show you around some of his delicious products. Every other week I will feature one bread, roll or pastry from Herr Becker's lovely bakery. There are so many to show you I just was not sure which one to start with. After sorting through my pictures I finally decided on this one - a Multigrain Spelt Wholemeal loaf.

In German it is known as Dinkelvollkornbrot mit Körnermix. This is a great tasting loaf, high in dietary fiber and full of health benefits. It is a sourdough made of full flavored wholemeal and spelt, packed with flaxseeds/linseed, oats and oatmeal, and sesame seeds.

Wholemeal is made from grinding the endosperm, wheat germ and bran until they are all finely broken down. This is what gives the bread a characteristic “brown” color and hence bread. As the wheat germ and bran are not removed this bread is usually high in fiber. Make sure you check the labels though; “brown” bread is not necessarily the same as wholemeal. Spelt is a green wheat grain which is low in gluten. This bread is particularly good for people who cannot handle a large amount of gluten in their diets.

Bread and other cereals are very good sources of carbohydrate and fiber and also provide a number of vitamins, minerals and protein. In comparison to white bread, which is fairly high on the GI (Glycemic Index) scale, this bread has a medium GI level of approx. 54.

We all know that bread is an important part of a balanced diet, but it has to be the right kind of bread. Stay away from the white breads ad read the labels. Choose grainy and wholegrain breads. These are best for most adults, as they are high in fibre, slow to digest, and they provide important vitamins and minerals. These types of breads are important as they work to keep the bowel healthy; this has been proven to decrease the risk of bowel cancer and stomach cancer.

This bread can be enjoyed with any type of spread - sweet or savory. Soeren and I love to spread vegetables on this bread. The nutty flavor of the seeds combined with the vegetables is unbeatable. Today, we share our favorite open faced sandwiches.

Roasted Bell Pepper and Asparagus Sandwiches

4 slices multigrain spelt wholemeal bread
1 small bunch of green asparagus - washed and woody ends trimmed
1 red or yellow bell pepper - de-seeded and cut into quarters
1 ripe tomato - sliced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgine olive oil
150g Gruyere cheese - grated
2 garlic cloves - minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In an oven proof dish place the asparagus and peppers and add the olive oil and lemon juice. Salt and pepper and give the vegetables a good toss. Arrange them on a baking sheet and allow to roast for 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then remove the peel from the bell peppers.

Place the 4 slices of bread on a baking sheet and arrange the roasted vegetables on each slice. Top with a few slices of tomatoes and a good sprinkling of grated cheese.

Turn the grill function of your oven on and grill the sandwiches until the cheese has melted and just started to brown. Take out and serve immediately.

Hope you enjoy your week!


We would like to ask you all to welcome our newest Daily Tiffin member. Amanda of Little Foodies will be enriching our blog with fantastic articles focusing on parents and children. She will share kid friendly recipes, ideas for arts and crafts, food trends and other related topics.

Here is what Amanda says about herself:

I'm a stay at home mum of two great boys, just setting up a business from home. My working life has been diverse to say the least, and includes time in the travel industry, the landscape gardening industry and before becoming a mum a few years as Training and Development Manager for a Law Firm. I never was one to follow one straight path!! My main passion is food, particularly children eating and learning about good food.

Welcome to the team, Amanda!

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Meeta from What's For Lunch, Honey?

12 Habits To Start and Stick to A Fitter Lifestyle

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Posted by Helene

The end of May marks an anniversary for me: at the end of May 1996, I reached my personal goal of losing 50 pounds. Fast forward 11 years, May 2007 and I am still going to blow a candle on that 50 pound weight loss. Yes, you read right, I have managed to keep the weight off. The only difference is the tremendous improvements in my lifestyle over the past 11 years thanks to adding “fitness habits” regarding exercise, nutrition, wellness and motivation. It’s not always fun, it does not go without pain or pushing the envelope but it is worth it.

You have probably been down this road before of starting on a healthier path only to find your walking routine derailed by the rain, a treadmill that broke down a bad day at the office or a birthday party leaving you with enough cake for 3 weeks…One excuse after the next and before you know it you are back to your old routine and you hate it…

1/ If you have a hard time starting or sticking to it (whether eating or exercise), visualize fitness as an appointment. We keep doctors, hair, dentist appointments, all necessary to make us healthier and prettier, do the same for your daily exercise. Schedule exercise into your day and before you know it, it will become second nature for you, like an extra 10 minutes walking the dog or a 20 minute play date with your kids at the park, Schedule to eat 3 healthy salads this week instead of cafeteria meals, schedule 8 glasses of water throughout the day,…little things like that add up toward reaching your goals over the years. Make fitness a non-negotiable part of your life, like brushing your teeth or washing your hair.

2/ Start a journal:
- write down short term and long term goals. Write down your moods, your hurdles, the tips and tricks that helped overcome these obstacles. Write down your planned workouts and what you have actually accomplished. It’s like balancing a checkbook: proper nutrition and exercise are like deposits that enable you to make weekend withdrawals (lounging on the sofa, brunch with friends,…)

3/ Be a body in motion:
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier and go for a walk around the block. It will allow you to visualize your day ahead. I come up with my best dessert creations on my morning jog. During your lunch break, find another 10 minutes to either go get our lunch or just walk to your favorite shop and back. When you get home, put on your tennis shoes and go for another minute walk. It will relax your brain and allow you to shift form work to home mode.
At the end of the day you would have accumulated 30 minutes of easy fitness, add a couple sessions of more strenuous aerobics activity and you are there!

4/ Bring exercise into your house : rent/purchase a stack of exercise videos or record some exercise shows on tv and do them 2-3 times a week. Clip exercises from fitness magazines and start doing them a few times a week.
- When you lean down to reach for a toy or an object, squat down instead: you will firm up your butt muscles and quadriceps and not strain your back.
- Do some leg lifts while you are stirring that sauce on the stove
- Take the stairs as much as possible rather than the elevator. Park you car little further away. Map out routes and pathway to stores nearby that you can walk to. Walk over to the neighbors down the street instead of driving there.

5/ Think like a kid: shoot hoops in your driveway, use a jump rope if you can. Play sports that make you happy like ping pong, badminton. Roll in the hay if you want to!

6/ Develop a buddy system: Meet with a couple of friends and start an exercise routine. The time will fly while you exercise, they will give you motivation and you will keep those friendship bonds strong. It may not be as good as having a trainer or being able to train hardcore, but it is better than what you were already doing…nothing!

7/ Drink water and get good sleep:
- my clients find my car analogies funny, but the thought of driving you car without gas would never cross your mind…same thing with your body. Keeping hydrating is good for your organs, your skin, your digestive and circulatory systems. Flavor it with lemon juice or brew yourself some black or green tea and sip on it throughout the day.
- make sure you get plenty of rest. Starting an exercise program is taxing on your joints, muscles and circulatory system. To prevent injury by working out tired muscles make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep. If you can take a nap while your children are resting go for it. Getting plenty of shut-eye is also beneficial to your serotonin levels and helps regulate your appetite and mindless munching.

8/ Plan your nutrition at home: I never leave my eating to chance. I know if I eat unhealthy, my body suffers. Is it fun to pay attention 80% of the time? No! Is it worth it? Yes!
-Take some extra time on the weekends to plan healthy meals for you and your family. Make a shopping list of all that is needed plus healthy snack and stick to it religiously while at the store. Cook double batches and freeze the leftovers so you can have healthy meals already prepared when you are pressed for time or too tired to cook.
- Bring colors to your plate: add variety and spice when you cook by incorporating all sorts of different colored fruits and vegetables. Don’t know where to start…visit the personal food blogs of my co-administrator and you will fins great suggestions. (mine is for the 20% remaining…when you need a sweet treat)

9/ Plan your nutrition on the go: be as diligent as you are at home, I am known as the pack rat where food is concerned. I always carry an small insulated lunchbox that I fill accordingly so that I am never stranded running errands on a pounding headache because I did not have anything healthy available.
- Pack your lunch the night before: you will find great lunch box suggestions here.
- Stock up on single servings snacks like bay carrots, string cheese, yogurts, unsweetened applesauce, whole wheat crackers. If you save money by buying in bulk, divide the snacks into portions in ziplock type bags and write in bold with a black marker: one serving.
- not sure about portion sizes? Print this handy guide (pdf) and post it on your fridge.

10/ Download fast food menus and circle or highlight their healthy options.Write them or copy them on an index card that you put in your wallet. This has become a lifesaver when traveling and eating out with a group. This site has tons of listings for restaurants and convenience shops.

11/ Don’t eat when you are not hungry:
- I always look at children for inspiration on that subject. Have you ever notice how they sit down at the dinner table and eat according to their appetite and not because there is food in front if them…we usually end up forcing them to finish their plate.
- What about the mini meals (5-6) theory? Well, to do it successfully you kinda have to plan well. Lay out on a piece of paper all the foods you should eat for the day (1800-2000 calories) and spread them out in 5-6 meals. Most people take this principle upside down and end up eating 5-6 normal sized meal.
- Think European: 3 meals, maybe an afternoon snack if necessary to tie up over until dinner time. Never skip breakfast as it jump starts your body functions and brain cells. Make lunch a sizeable one, enough to replenish your energy level and carry you until the end of your workday. If you plan on hitting the gym before going home, make sure to have a small snack (granola bar/fruit/piece of cheese). Try not to have your main meal at dinner…most of us sit down and relax and do not burn the extra calories provided by too rich a meal.

12/ Stop the voices in your head:
- only you can take the decision to start a fitness plan, but here’s the catch: you can’t say “I’ll try”, you either do or you don’t. Remember that this is not a huge mountain to climb but a series of stones to put down in order for you to reach the summit. Never listen to nagging coworkers or family members, they are just jealous that you are doing something towards improving your quality of life.
- once again, think like a kid: no fear, no self-doubts, no negative self talk, no self-criticism, no worries, no destructive anxieties or thoughts of failure.

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Helen from