Broccoli, potatoes and bananas are chock-full of family-loving nutrients and when spring swings around the new crops are just coming in.
As spring arrives we're full of anticipation for warmer weather and the delicious foods that summer brings. But apart from asparagus and a few baby carrots it's a waiting game until the berries, new peas and other goodies arrive in plentiful supply.
In the meantime we have our favourites - potato and broccoli - heralding the new season and bananas remaining top of the list for packing a great nutritional punch.
Here are some of the ways to make the most of your seasonal produce and present them to the family in new and appealing ways.
You can't beat a banana for being a good source of potassium (with a possible link to reducing the risk of strokes) as well as vitamin C, B6, folate and fibre, all wrapped up in its own eco-friendly yellow packaging.
Storage: Buying bananas green and then finding them covered in brown spots just a few short days later is frustrating so how are they best kept? Try to buy bananas with varying levels of ripeness, take them out of the plastic bag when you get home and place them in a cool, dry spot, away from sunlight. Bananas will keep in the fridge but their skins go an unattractive black in a short time. If you still find yourself with a bowl of over-ripe bananas you can always toss them in the freezer, skin and all, to pull out at a later date for making banana muffins.
Cooking/eating: Straight out of the fruit bowl or on the run is how most people eat bananas but if you're trying to up the banana intake for kids who don't like them consider the following:
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and place four or five bananas cut in half lengthways onto an oven dish and drizzle with butter. Add brown sugar or golden syrup, cinnamon and/or lemon juice. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Try a smoothie with berries, yoghurt and banana.
- Freeze whole bananas in their skins. Once frozen the texture is more like ice cream - delicious!
- For something fancier, peel and halve the bananas crossways before freezing. Then take them out and dunk them in chocolate flakes, lemon juice and coconut or honey and rice bubbles. Place on a tray with an ice cream stick poked in and then refreeze for half an hour.
In a world of too much information, potatoes are in turn praised or panned in the media.
But don't disregard this staple of Kiwi cuisine, says Glenda Gourley, food and education consultant for Potatoes New Zealand. At current rates of consumption potatoes provide a third of our daily recommended intake of vitamin C.
Glenda says, "The important thing to remember is to leave the skin on as it's an important source of fibre and many of the good nutrients are just below the surface." However, whether the skin is on or off, potatoes remain a good source of vitamins C and B, as well as iron, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants.
As the author of upcoming nutritional guide, Love Life Food Kids, Glenda says red-skinned potatoes or ones with yellow flesh have a slight nutritional advantage over white potatoes as the red skins contain the antioxidants - anthocyanins, and those with yellow flesh have health-giving carotenoids.
Storage: Like onions and kumara, potatoes should be stored in a cool dark place but not in the fridge. A thick paper bag or cardboard box is perfect. Don't be put off by old potatoes with thick, wrinkly skin and small off-shoots - they're still just as good for you as new ones - and they're delicious as oven wedges. However, if you see green on the potato, chop off that part.
Cooking: The good news is new season potatoes are arriving in the shops now so small, steamed or boiled potatoes with a bit of butter, parsley or chives will be very appealing.
If you've still got old potatoes sprouting in the cupboard try roasting or baking them so you can leave the skin on and they'll still be tasty.
The vitamins C and B in potatoes are water-soluble so they slowly disappear in boiling water. If you can, steam potatoes, otherwise use as little water as possible and cook them in big chunks to avoid leaching as much as possible.
"If you boil them in a lot of water for a long time potatoes will have significant loss of vitamin C, but they also won't taste as good," says Glenda.
Meal ideas: Every family has its favourite potato recipe but here are a few more ideas to get your inspired:
- Bake whole potatoes with a topping - try a tomato and mince sauce with corn, lots of parsley, and cheese on top. Or tuna and mayonnaise, just add peas or broccoli on the side.
- Potato salad with chopped hard-boiled eggs, chives, broccoli florets and carrot strips. It's a complete meal in a bowl.
Potato, zucchini and herb frittata
2 medium potatoes, peeled and grated
3 zucchini, grated
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup (75g) wholemeal self-raising flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbs of dried or fresh mint
2 tbs fresh basil, chopped
Olive oil for shallow-frying
200ml plain yoghurt
1 tbs fresh mint, chopped (extra)
1. Remove the excess liquid from the grated vegetables by squeezing in a strong paper towel or in a colander.
2. Combine the vegetables, onion, garlic, flour, egg, mint and basil in a large bowl.
3. Prepare the oven to a hot heat.
4. Heat the oil in a shallow pan.
5. Shallow-fry level tablespoons of the mixture (fattened into a patty shape) until golden brown on both sides.
6. Place grease-proof paper on an oven tray and then lay the frittatas on the tray and bake in a hot oven, uncovered for about 10 minutes or until crisp and cooked through.
7. While the frittatas are baking prepare the yoghurt dip by mixing the yoghurt and extra mint.
8. Serve with a dollop of dip.
Known as a super food, broccoli is packed with nutrients. As well as vitamin C, folate and fibre, it provides beta-carotene and phyto-chemicals said to fight many chronic diseases.
Storage: Broccoli should be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge. One school of thought says broccoli, along with other leafy greens, cabbage and cauliflower, should be kept away from ethylene-producing foods, such as apples, avocados, tomatoes, melons, peaches and pears, which speed up the ageing process, quickly reducing the quality.
Cooking: For best nutritional results cook broccoli briskly by steaming or boiling in a little water. It's best when it's still a deep green and slightly crunchy.
Meal ideas: Some children love broccoli, but if you're struggling to make it appealing try these suggestions:
- A basic cheese sauce can make broccoli more palatable, but depending on your child's taste buds you could try a simple vinaigrette with oil, vinegar and a teaspoon of mustard or try sesame oil, honey and a dash of soy sauce.
- If you're feeling adventurous try broccoli croquettes. Cook and mash or purée the broccoli and mix with egg, grated cheese and lots of breadcrumbs until the consistency is like scone dough. Fry in spoonfuls with a little oil.
- Make a pasta salad with bacon pieces, spiral pasta, broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, parsley and mushrooms or feta. Toss in a light, sweet vinaigrette.
Baby recipe (seven months plus)
3 small florets of broccoli
1/4 cup of chopped sweet potato
A little turnip
1. Wash and steam/boil the vegies until soft.
2. Thin the vegies with fluid until it is a smooth paste.
Sneakys' Narnar Cake or Muffins
This is a very healthy option as it is sugar-free but yet still sweet and can easily be made dairy-free for children with allergies.
60g of olive oil
1 tsp of vanilla essence
2 large ripe mashed bananas
1 and 1/2 cups (250g) of wholemeal self-raising flour
4 tbs of soy milk (or your choice of milk). You may need more
2 tbs of natural unsweetened yoghurt
1. Beat the egg, oil and vanilla essence until smooth.
2. Add the mashed bananas and alternate with the flour and milk.
3. Bake in a lined cake tin in a moderate oven for 25-35 minutes. Or pop into patty tins and bake for 20 minutes for great little muffins.
* Recipes supplied by OHbaby! nutritionist Leanne Cooper are available in her books Recipes for Fussy Foodies and What Do I Feed My Baby?