Thursday, 20 October 2016

3 ways you can teach your child to read

Yes, your children will learn their letters, their sounds and how to spell, but it takes work at home as well as at school to teach them to love books and read confidently. Stumbling over words and struggling to read at a decent speed will follow them into adulthood and can be a bit embarrassing when they're asked to read out loud. Help your child find the love of reading! 

Here are three really simple ways you can help them progress:

Read to your child every day.
You can start in the first few weeks when you bring them home from the hospital – it is never too early! From when they are tiny babies you can show them that reading is fun and it can be a special bonding time. Just before bed is the perfect time to settle down with a book.

Ask your child questions before, during, and after reading.
When your child is a bit older, make sure they are taking in and understanding what you are reading to them. After you've read a page, talk to them about what they see in the pictures, point to animals and say their names so your child starts to learn vocabulary. Reading without comprehension is pointless.

Let your child see you reading.
You might not be a big reader yourself, but if you want to promote strong reading for your children you will need to set an example. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to sit and read a novel cover-to-cover every week, but having books in the home is a good start, even magazines and recipe books. General knowledge books for children that have small bits of information and lots of pictures are a great way to encourage learning. Sit with your child each day after school and read a new fact to them and chat about it. Or, for older children, get them to read it to you.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Butternut, cheese and rosemary quiche

This is so good with a crisp green salad.


1 roll puff pastry
2 large eggs
1/3 cup cream or full cream milk
1 small butternut, peel, seeded and cut into cubes
½ cup cheese, grated
1 tbsp dried rosemary

1. Toss butternut cubes in oil and place in a single layer in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary and roast in an 180ºC oven until tender (about 20 minutes).
2. Remove from the oven and keep warm.
3. Press the pastry into a greased ovenproof quiche dish and bake for seven minutes until golden. Whisk together milk/cream and eggs in a bowl.
4. When the crust is done, add the butternut cubes and cheese, pour over the egg mix and sprinkle with rosemary.
5. Bake on a rack in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 175ºC and bake for a  further 10 minutes.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Tips for a good night's sleep

How often do you wake up feeling like the girl in this picture? Probably not that often. There are lots of things that can make people feel sluggish, but one of the main reasons is a restless night. Here are a few helpful hints for a good night's sleep.

1. Regular exercise definitely helps you sleep better, even if it's just 20 minutes of activity. Try to exercise in the morning and early afternoon – physical activity late in the day can act as a stimulant.
2. Make sure your room is as dark as possible. Use heavy blinds or curtains to cut out any light from streetlights and early morning sunlight.

3. A nightcap may help you fall asleep, but you'll end up waking up in the middle of the night when it wears off. Caffeine and smoking will also reduce your quality of sleep.

4. Comfort is key to a good night's sleep. Is your bed big enough for you to stretch out and move around? Is your mattress giving you enough support? Are you warm enough?
5. Noise from a TV, loud neighbours or traffic noise is often a key factor in disrupted sleep. Try and eliminate as much as possible and consider earplugs if you can't control the noise level. Just make sure you can still hear your alarm!

6. A bedtime routine will help you fall sleep and stay asleep. Make time in your routine to do something that relaxes you, like taking a warm bath or listening to soft music.

7. What you eat can affect how you sleep, so eat supper early and avoid heavy, rich and spicy foods before bed.

8. Take the TV out of the bedroom. Not only does the TV stimulate your mind, making it more difficult to settle down, but you tend to stay up later because you're tempted to watch something and a habit of falling asleep in front of the TV is a very difficult one to break.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Lentil and mince cottage pie

Cottage pie is definitely one of our favourite comfort foods. Mince can be a bit pricey so to bulk up the dish and make it go further we added some lentils to the mince mixture. They add nutritional value and your kids won't even notice. We also mixed in some vegetables to help those fussy eaters get their veggie fix.


500g beef mince
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can brown lentils, washed and drained
1 small can sweetcorn
100g frozen peas
2ml cumin
2ml paprika
1 cup beef stock

Mashed potato topping
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
¹/³ cup milk
30g butter
Salt and pepper to season

1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
2. Lightly grease a two-litre ovenproof dish.
3. Heat oil in a large saucepan on high. Sauté onion and garlic for three to four minutes until onion is tender.
4. Brown mince well in same pan for four to five minutes, breaking up lumps with the back of a spoon as it cooks. Stir in tomatoes, lentils, stock, cumin and paprika. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
5. Add corn and frozen peas and simmer uncovered for five minutes until sauce thickens. Spoon the mixture into prepared dish.
6. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and bring to the boil.
7. Partially remove lid and cook for 10-15 minutes, until very tender. Drain well.
8. Return potatoes to pan and mash with milk and butter until smooth. Season to taste.
9. Spoon potatoes over the mince mixture and swirl a fork through the mashed potato.
10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until potato is golden.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Cooking with beans

Beans are an important part of our daily diet and they are a great alternative to pricey meat. They are rich in nutrients, great for making meals go further and most importantly, they're cheap!

Canned beans vs dried beans
• Canned beans have more added salt, artificial flavours and preservatives which are unhealthy.
• Dried beans are completely natural and you can control what you add to them and their flavour.

• Canned beans are convenient and ready-to-use.
• Dried beans have a longer cooking time and they need to be soaked beforehand.

• Canned beans are more expensive because you get less in a can than in a bag of dried beans.
• You get more dried beans for a similar or cheaper price than canned beans.

Verdict: Dried beans are the healthier and more affordable option even though they take a little bit more effort to prepare.

Cooking with dry beans
• If you've got some time, soak your beans overnight: cover dry beans with water two and a half times the volume of the beans and soak overnight. Drain and cook.
• If you're pressed for time, try quick soaking. Soak dry beans in warm water rather than water at room temperature. Cover beans with water two and half times more than the volume of the beans. Boil the beans for five minutes, cover and allow to soak for one hour.

Did you know?
• Beans can reduce the risk of heart disease, stabilise blood sugar levels and are an important source of vitamins, minerals (potassium in particular) and nutrients. They can also help to prevent or combat anaemia.
• Dark beans are preferably used with red meat, while white beans are best used with fish, chicken and pork.
• Use one teaspoon of salt for every one kilo of cooked beans or 500g raw beans.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Easy vegetable lasagne

Your family will be happy to eat their veggies when they're served in this delicious lasagne.

1 jar tomato pasta sauce
12 lasagne pasta sheets, half cooked in boiling, salted water, drained and rinsed in cold water
500g ricotta cheese or 1 tub plain smooth cottage cheese and two beaten eggs
250g mozzarella cheese

3 baby marrows
100g broccoli
3 carrots
1 onion
100g spinach
1 brinjal
1 butternut
1 firm tomato
Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
2. Slice the baby marrows, carrots, onion, butternut and brinjal. Lightly sauté the vegetables in a little olive oil until they start to colour slightly and soften. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.
3. Chop spinach. Place in a dry saucepan on high heat, to cook quickly. As soon a spinach starts to wilt, remove from saucepan and drain in a colander.
4. Place broccoli florets in boiling, salted water until tender. Refresh under cold running water.
5. Spread a little of the tomato sauce over the bottom of the lasagne dish. Cover with a layer of pasta sheets. Slice ricotta (or spread cottage cheese and egg mixture) and lay on top of the pasta.
6. Layer half the vegetables over the riccota and add a layer of sliced mozarella.
7. Continue to layer pasta sheets, then sauce, the other half of the vegetables, and the remaining cottage cheese.
8. Place the last sheets of pasta over the ricotta and spread the remaining tomato sauce.
9. Slice tomato and place on top layer, together with the remaining mozzarella. Bake for 45 minutes.
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