Monthly Archives: May 2012

Frozen Fruit Smoothies for Baby

I’ve always made different fruit purees for BG’s desserts and breakfast (just add some oat cereal before serving and you have a fruit porridge!) but it wasn’t until this week that I started freezing them in the ice cube tray. This isn’t a new idea- I had just never had any need to freeze them in smaller portions- special ice cube trays for freezing baby food can be bought just about anywhere. I don’t think you really need to buy a special tray other than for ease of use. All you really need is something to cover the food while it freezes (aluminium foil) and before putting the cubes into another container or snap lock bag. It’s very easy to get crumbs on top of them otherwise, especially when you rummage around the freezer later that night for your dinner ingredients. Here’s a pic of my frozen smoothie cubes:

Once they are frozen, I transfer them into another container so I can continue making more:

The frozen cubes of smoothie purees are handy when going out- just pop 1-3 cubes into a container and they can defrost slowly so that when you are ready to eat them, they have slightly defrosted (sorbet) or have fully defrosted. The smoothies also contain no added extras so you know they are just pure, wholesome goodness- what a perfect snack or dessert!

My purees include as wide a range of fruit as I can possibly get my hands on. Unfortunately, it isn’t much up here and BG gets a burn-like nappy (diaper) rash when she eats mangoes so that rules out the most common fruit in PNG for her. I am yet to try her on Pawpaw (Papaya) which is the next most commonly grown fruit here and have read that steaming it is a good method of preparation for it.

The following are some recipes for fruit smoothie purees that you can try at home but the combinations are endless and with a little imagination, you can come up with some wonderful ideas with fruit that isn’t even in season (dried fruits for example)!

Apricot and Pear Smoothie

8 – 10 dried apricots
Water
2 ripe or semi-ripe pears

Method
1. Place dried apricots in a small bowl, cover with water (just enough to cover them) and soak until plump (approx 1-2 hours).
2. Remove skin and cut pears into pieces approx 1cm to 1.5cm in size.
3. Place apricots and pear pieces into your steamer and steam for 15 minutes- remember to save the water from the apricots!
4. Once your pears and apricots are cooked, transfer to your blender with the water from steaming.
5. Blend away! You may like to add more water from soaking the apricots to thin it out.
6. Spoon puree into ice cube tray, cover and place in freezer once cooled to room temperature.

Note: The same method above can be used for apples, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries (be careful with these though! Lots of allergies), peaches, blueberries, prunes, bananas (can constipate so don’t over do it), kiwi fruit, and more!

You can also stew/slowly simmer the fruit in a small amount of water and achieve the same effect. The key is to use the water in the puree that you cooked the fruit in to ensure that all the sugars, fibres and nutrients normally lost in cooking are thrown straight back into your end product for added goodness.

Happy smoothie making! 🙂

Homemade Baby Food

Being a nurse, health is my ‘thing’ and I take it pretty seriously. Where possible (not always possible in PNG), I will prepare Organic meals to ensure the best nutrition possible and I will also take part in preventative health. I am not one to pop a pill for this or that as I believe that our bodies don’t get enough credit for their ability to repair when fuelled correctly- don’t get me wrong! I still strongly believe that there is a place for modern medicine and it is incredible in what it can do however I do not believe it is the only option and in some cases can do more harm than good (when used incorrectly for example). We need to look after our bodies as well as our mind (mental health) and spirit (that higher power- in my case this is God). I hope that I can pass this on to BG as she grows up so that she learns to find that delicate balance between all three.

My contribution to BG’s bodily health involves making baby food (and I buy a fair bit too!). I do this because I like giving BG a broad variety of foods to ensure she is getting the right nutrients she needs for her little growing body. I also make it because there is only 1 brand of organic baby foods I can buy over here and if she only ate what they were offering, she would only eat 3 different meals and two of those are very similar- Chicken Vegetable Dinner or Chicken and Sweet Potato Dinner.

When I first started making baby food, I bought the Avent Steamer Blender so that I could quickly and easily prepare nutritious meals for her. Cooking with the steaming method is very healthy because you can use the smallest amount of water in you cooking and then use that water to thin out the puree at the end ensuring that ALL the nutrients make it to her plate. Sometimes I will stew some foods or boil but I always try to ensure that ALL of the water it is cooked in is used in the puree.

The first meals I prepared were the usual pumpkin puree, apple puree, pear puree, carrot puree and so on. As I slowly built up her repertoire of foods (waiting on average 4 days between introducing another- it helps to figure out if there are food intolerances or allergies), I began to experiment with mixing more than one to make an all-in-one meal for her.

The first all-in-one meal BG had from my kitchen was Lentil Soup which is full of all the good stuff including protein (and lots of it), iron (needed from about 6 months), fiber and vitamin B- and that’s only the lentils! On top of this, she gets the benefits from carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, celery and sometimes spinach (if I can get it here in PNG). BG absolutely loves her Lentil Soup but maybe that’s the ¼ Italian in her genes coming out?

Now our food repertoire includes (recipes to come):
Frozen Fruit Smoothies– Pear & Apricot, Apple & Pear, Apple & Blueberry, Pear & Prune, Apple & Banana, Peaches & Pears, Lychee, Strawberry & Apple
Chicken soup with Quinoa or Barley
Canellini Bean soup
Black Bean, Banana and Quinoa porridge (HUGE amounts of iron in this one)
Pumpkin and Veggie soup with Quinoa
Red Lentils with Potato, Tomato and celery

Notice all the Quinoa? I will often add this to really bulk out the soup and make it into a proper meal. Quinoa is also a super food, is low GI, gluten free, has little taste (very slightly nutty) so can be added to anything, lots of fiber, complete protein* and only takes 15 – 20 mins to cook!

What do you put Quinoa with?

*complete protein means that it contains 9 essential amino acids which are essential for good muscle growth- just what our littlies need!

Ravioli with Eggplant, Mozzarella and Basil

The other night Daryl was procrastinating from doing his Uni readings. He wanted to make a meal from scratch and had a real pasta craving. He found this recipe in my ‘Cookery for the Hospitality Industry’ book and it tasted fantastic. My opinion is that Daryl can study at Uni forever if it means he will procrastinate by making such lovely meals! lol! The only complaint we had was that the basil was overpowering so I have reduced the amount of basil from 15g to 8g to get a better balance.

Ingredients

200 g Plain flour
3 eggs
65mL Olive Oil
100g Eggplant
100g Mozzarella cheese
8g Fresh Basil
10g Flat leaf parsley
45g Parmesan Cheese
4g Salt

Pasta

  1. Sift the flour and salt together and make a bay in the middle.
  2. Whisk 20mL of the oil and 2 eggs together and pour into the bay.
  3. Mix lightly with the fingers, then work the ingredients with the hands to form a dough.
  4. If the mixture appears too dry, add a little water.
  5. Knead the dough until firm and smooth.
  6. Rest in a cool place for 30 minutes.

Stuffing

  1. Slice the eggplant thinly and pan fry with 25mL of the oil in a non-stick pan.
  2. Finely chop the cooked eggplant and mozzarella cheese.
  3. Add the chopped parsley, basil and parmesan.
  4. Season mixture to taste.

Construction of Ravioli

  1. Divide the pasta dough in half and roll out each piece thinly to the same size.
  2. Brush one sheet with the remaining egg (beaten) and pipe or spoon on the stuffing in little piles.
  3. Cover with the second sheet.
  4. Using a knife or cutting wheel, cut ravioli into 4cm squares.

To cook

  1. Boil the ravioli in salted water until they rise to the top. This should take 2-3 minutes.
  2. Drain and serve immediately in your favourite tomato sauce (not the ketchup kind, the traditional Italian tomato for pasta sauce) haha!

Donated goods delivery to SCN

Last Wednesday I visited the Special Care Nursery at Port Moresby General Hospital to drop off some lovely donated goods. My sister, Bianca, and her friends from her Christian Mother’s Group made over 50 little outfits for the tiny babies. Their designs were fantastic as they enable the babies to be dressed in a warm dress without having their IV lines disturbed. They even took into account the possibility of getting pressure sores from the ties and so made the dresses in a way that ensured they would not lie on any.

I also received some donated milk formula from a Mum at my playgroup who is ‘go pinis’ (leaving PNG to return home to Australia) this weekend. Her daughter is on a prescription formula and they had too much of it so I offered to take it in for her. The babies will definitely benefit from the extra nutrition particularly those that are abandoned (a regular occurrence) or whose mother is unable to breastfeed.

When I arrived with my boxes of goodies, the nurses were very intrigued. The outfits were a source of excitement for them as they have no outfits for their babies other than knitted woollen booties and some jackets which they cannot always put on the babies due to their IV lines.

I asked if they could put one of the outfits on a baby for me so that I could take a photograph. They brought me to their smallest baby who was born on 1st May weighing only 500 grams! When I visited, she had lost weight and was only 450 grams. Considering it was more than 2 weeks after she had been born, I am wondering if she will survive because I would have liked her to have put on more weight than that. Hopefully the extra warmth and possibly the formula will help her put on that weight. The warmth will certainly help her body spend less time burning the much needed calories to stay warm and instead allow her to store those calories away.

Here is the photo of baby Emma… please be warned that I think it may be quite confronting for some people as she clearly looks unwell. In the photo, she is wearing the smallest outfit donated which I am sure that my sister and her friends thought would NEVER fit anyone!

It’s the little things…

Since living here in PNG, I have found myself being reminded of how lucky we are to come from a country that is wealthy leading to opportunities in life that we take for granted but yet are very lucky to have. I have also noticed just how much of a ‘nanny state’ Australia is but that’s a whole other story…

Last Friday night we went to dinner at the Yachtie (Port Moresby Yacht Club) to farewell a fellow Aussie family who were ‘Go Pinis’ (literally: Going Finish; meaning: Leaving/Finished here/caput). While we were there, we began to tell our funny stories that we had encountered, mostly involving our Haus Meri’s (haven’t I said before that they provide so much entertainment and so many frustrations).

One man told us of how he took his Haus Meri to Vision City. Vision City is a new MEGA MALL (said in loud Hollywood voice) which to us, is a sad attempt with its overpriced supermarket, large Chinese restaurant (great yum cha), Japanese restaurant, Donut King, Mobile shop, toy shops where all your toys break within an hour of purchase, beautician and hairdressers. Oh and I almost forgot… the excitement of the year…. *drum roll please!*… A CINEMA!!!!! Now that is exciting because it is the first one in Port Moresby although I haven’t been so I cannot comment on the quality of the movies- they could be pirated as the movies on our local pay TV movie station are. I digress once more- a blog wouldn’t be a blog from me without my little side stories!

So this guy took his Haus Meri to the MEGA MALL *evil laugh* and went to get on the escalators but as he got on, he looked back and there she was, stopped in fear just starring at these stairs that moved. The security guards had to come over and coax her on and her boss had to come back down to hold her hand. When she finally took the leap of faith, she screamed the house down and clung onto her boss for dear life! When they got to the top, she calmed down and began saying hello to everyone that walked past, exclaiming proudly, ‘My boss brought me here!!!!’

My husband flew out to the Western Province last week for one night to visit some soldiers that are working up there. He took a local soldier with him so he could fix their radio and restore their communications. The guesthouse they stay in is in no way competing with a tidy little motel back home and in my husband’s words, ‘It is a dump.’ It is the only option in the small community however so each time he visits, he stays there.

When Daryl and the soldier were in the guesthouse that night having their dinner, the soldier turns to Daryl and says, ‘Boss, I have never stayed in a hotel let alone a flash hotel. This is just great!’ It made Daryl (and myself, when he told me) stop and think about just how lucky we are. We expect high standards because we are used to them but forget how lucky we are to have those expectations.

So it’s moments like these that I am reminded of how lucky we are and we take so many little things for granted…

Are holidays a thing of the past for us?

Last weekend we ducked back to Cairns for a sneaky getaway. We didn’t tell many people we were going because we had only decided a week earlier. I was in desperate need of a ‘holiday’ because all of the trips back to Australia since moving here have been to visit family or attend a wedding. Whilst they are great reasons to return and we are glad we could go to the weddings, unfortunately we have come home each time exhausted. It is tiring going from one friend or family member’s house each time we return. So we went to Cairns for our sneaky getaway.

As with every trip back, we have to spend a day or two stocking up on the things we cannot get in PNG to take back. This is sometimes bigger than Ben Hur due to the weight and bag restrictions placed by the airlines. We have learnt which companies offer the best deal and even become members of the airlines to help us out a little (this doesn’t always work). Anyhow, we looked around for a few items: Quinoa, chicken stock, vege stock, milk teeth toothpaste for BG, a water table for BG, toothbrushes… the list of odds and ends goes on. After getting our items (but missing out on a large family sized blow up pool I am so desperate for) and ensuring we were within the weight limits, we set out to relax.

Unfortunately BG didn’t get the memo which made me wonder… ‘When will she get the memo?’ We stayed in an apartment and tried to stick to her daily routine as closely as possible however she just didn’t want to sleep till 7am. She was up at 5am every morning, even 4.30am one morning, partying in her cot (and crying out occasionally) for a minimum of 2 hours. I was so exhausted by the morning that all I wanted to do was sleep and felt so robbed of my chance to live like a normal human being again for 4 days. We could go for walks for goodness sake and BG kept us so tired the whole weekend it was difficult to enjoy those walks.

The morning of our flight home we were having breakfast at a cafe (double shot of coffee please! AND bring another in 10 mins or I may need to commit a murder!) and discussing our plans for the next few years. You see, I haven’t told anyone this but; we were considering leaving Defence and staying in PNG for a few more years. I had split feelings over this… the chilled-out-anything-goes Brooke was saying, ‘Oh goodie! I love it here! I can continue with my work at the hospital and really get things going there. Daryl will be earning a tidy wage AND we will be able to save up to half of it! Oh this is wonderful!’ The security-conscious-my-career-is-going-down-the-drain-and-BG-is-missing-out-on-so-much Brooke was saying, ‘NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I was just getting used to the idea of the big possibility that Defence is sending us to Singleton and I don’t even like Singleton!!!! I was going to go for walks every day, finish my teaching diploma, enrol BG in playgroup and have lovely play dates with other likeminded Mum’s! How could we even consider living here any longer!?!’ What’s that saying? The grass is always greener.

So back to the story… we were drinking our double shot coffees and discussing the wonderful opportunities at our finger tips with staying in PNG when out of nowhere I burst into tears. Call it sleep deprivation or call it being sick of having split feelings where the cruisy Brooke wanted to shut out the opposing Brooke (and was winning) or call it hormones- no wait. It can’t be hormones anymore… nuts! I loved that excuse for showing random acts of emotion! Oh well! Regardless of what it was… I cried.

Daryl looked at me and asked what was wrong. He has always been confused as to why I have love and hatred towards living here. He loves it here but his experience is so different to mine it is understandable.

I told Daryl how I was upset that our holiday hadn’t really been a holiday- 4 days just isn’t enough and throw in a non-compliant baby, it just isn’t a holiday. I also explained that considering I am against having a Pikinini Meri in our house, living here with a child under 18 months (child care in the International School starts at 18 months) is not fun. I cannot just duck out for a coffee or run down to the shops to get another onion because I do not feel safe driving alone with BG in the car. I have to organise a security escort everywhere and they are often late meaning I end up with a cranky baby at the coffee date rather than the happy, well slept child I had tried so hard for. So I just don’t bother most of the time. The only days I generally leave the compound are Thursdays to go to playgroup and Saturdays and/or Sundays with Daryl. It is like living in a jail- a nice one with a 50 metre pool, a bar which is never open, a small soccer field, a squash court, tennis courts and gymnasium- but jails have most of those things these days don’t they? Haha!

Daryl on the other hand goes to work every day, interacts with people outside and doesn’t have to worry about security as much because his uniform makes him an instant superstar to everyone over here. He gets high fived by local kids all the time, people honk their horns and wave at him, other children just stand in front of him and stare and the adults fall all over him with ‘Yes Boss, ok Boss, everyone make way for the CAPT! He’s in the Army you know! He is wearing cams!’ Sometimes I wish I could wear a t-shirt that says, ‘CAPT Batchelor’s wife… look out!’ Unfortunately I am not one to wear my husband’s rank on my sleeve-that would go against the person I am- such a shame as I really think it could help me over here. Lol!

A little side story: I went to a store last year on my own and had someone come up to me and say, ‘Are you CAPT Batchelor’s wife?’ I replied in shock, ‘Um… yes.’ Then we got locked in this uncomfortable stare with me cocking my head to the side wondering how on earth they knew that and what the heck has my husband been doing in a haberdashery store!?! They were just staring in a look that said, ‘Oh yes, I know him. I am special.’

So the end to my story… We live in the same compound over here but our lives and experiences are very different. We have now decided that a holiday is just not going to happen until BG is older and then the next one is older (no I am not pregnant… just predicting the future). It’s also not worth the hassle and therefore the pressure on our marriage staying in PNG so we are back to Australia next year. Singleton is to be confirmed though so watch this space.

Is that soup supposed to be cold?

Last night Daryl surprised me with a dinner for two at a new 5 star hotel in Port Moresby. I’ve eaten at the restaurant for lunch before and it was pretty nice. It is the nicest looking restaurant in Port Moresby other than another one I know of however we never expect 5 star service or cooking even though they are 5 star.

Five star over here is not the same as 5 star in Australia. An example of what I mean is that this hotel was built last year and only opened in November. We had some friends posting out in December who stayed there for a few nights before leaving the country. Everyone was looking forward to hearing about what it was like. The verdict? ‘It’s not quite the 5 star we were hoping for.’ They had a whole list of reasons with one of them being that when they checked into the room there was a rolled up towel at the door to the bathroom. Worried someone would trip on it, my friend removed it but when they had their first shower, all their soapy water was running off out the door and down the hall because of a design flaw in the bathroom. When they told concierge, their answer was to roll a towel up and put it on the floor. I suppose it is a cheaper option than fixing the bathroom, 5 star or not, right?

What’s with the soup? I hear you say? Well last night we were in our lovely restaurant and we ordered our glasses of wine first. Then we browsed the menu for our entrees and mains. We both wanted the Squid but decided we would swap half way through our entree so we could try 2 different ones so our other option was Tiger Prawns. As we ordered, the waitress told us, ‘Mmmm… no prawns… it’s finished, sorry.’ So we asked her if there was any Baby Octopus left to which she replied, ‘Yes.’ We double checked to be sure as culturally they do not like to say ‘no’ so you always have to double check. A few minutes later she came back and said, ‘Mmmm… sorry no Baby Octopus or Squid, it’s finished, sorry.’ So we were back to square one. Nothing else really appealed to us but we were hungry so we needed an entree and we had already devoured a dip and bread plate. I told Daryl to just order 2 random ones and we will see what we get as we weren’t really sure what ‘Tomato Gazpacho’ was (although having studied Spanish I vaguely remember hearing about it) and we knew we liked Duck but were none the wiser on how it would be cooked by their description on the menu but we launched in anyhow.

Our entrees arrived not long later- this is a feat in itself over here as it is not uncommon to wait for extended periods for your food… no one is in a hurry here and I suppose the logic is that your hunger isn’t going anywhere so it’s not like they’ll miss it- and I was served the Tomato Gazpacho and Daryl, the Duck thingy. I took my first mouthful of what looked like a nice Tomato & Vegetable Soup. The edges of the bowl were warm so the soup would be too right? Well no… it was stone cold and I wasn’t really sure if it was supposed to be. It’s a bit of a shock to the system as your brain sends alarm signals down to your throat saying, ‘Gag! Gag! Gag! This is not right!!!’ and then quickly follows up with, ‘Be a lady! You’re in a nice restaurant! No one wants to hear or see you choke for goodness sake!’ I now know, thanks to Googling ‘Is Tomato Gazpacho supposed to be cold?’ that it is traditionally served cold BUT last night I wasn’t sure!

Daryl and I began to laugh at the situation as we both sat there wondering if my soup and his Duck thingy were meant to be cold! The funniest thing was the shear fact we doubted the 5 star restaurant had got it right purely because we lack trust in the restaurants to ever get it right over here. Turns out we were wrong… at least with the soup in this case.

Oh and I was also surprised by a little present I was given… some locally crafted earrings in the shape of a bilum (a PNG woven bag) with green detail on them. I love them! So much for sticking to our traditional wedding anniversary presents! haha! It’s cotton this year and I got Daryl a hammock 🙂