We love the Cooking Them Healthy girls. Not only do they know all about nutrition and what immune-boosting foods we and our children should be eating, but they also create ridiculously delicious recipes that are easy to make, and perfect for all the family (you can read our interview with them here). As it’s now officially cold, Georgie has created an amazing one-pot chicken, rice and butternut squash recipe for us, and because I need all the help I can get when it comes to the kitchen, Cooking Them Healthy’s brilliant nutritionist Jo has written a list of her shopping essentials. Enjoy!
Winter Warmer One Pot Chicken
This is a wonderfully easy one pot family recipe and combines most of the key ingredients in our essential shopping basket (see more below). Not only is it packed full of immune boosting ingredients, you can also pop all the ingredients in one pot, allowing you time to focus on other things. It is full of seasonal wintery goodness, including butternut squash (which is rich in antioxidant beta-carotene) and iron-rich leafy green kale. Brown rice is a useful source of fibre to aid healthy digestion and is rich in nutrients such as iron, magnesium and B vitamins for energy. Chicken is of course a great source of protein – important for growth and repair, particularly after a bout of illness.
2 tbsps coconut oil
4 chicken thighs, with skin
150g brown rice
400ml fresh chicken stock, ideally home made
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves, garlic finely sliced
1 small butternut squash (approx 5-600g, see note on what to do with extras), cut into inch cubes/bite sized pieces
60g kale, roughly chopped
1. Place a casserole dish (with a well fitting lid) onto a medium high heat, add the oil and heat. Next, season the chicken pieces with salt and place into the pan skin side down – try not to over crowd the pan. If you think it’s going to be a squeeze, you can do it in batches. It will take about 5-10 minutes to get a lovely brown crispiness to the skin.
2. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside on a plate while you assemble the rest of the dish. Remember at this stage the chicken is not cooked, just browned – the more you brown your meat the more flavour you will bring to your dish.
3. Add the sliced onion to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes until they have lost their raw edge but are still not cooked through. Next add the sliced garlic and mix for up to a minute. If the pan is looking at all dry at this stage add a small splash of water to prevent the onions sticking.
4. Next, stir through the butternut squash pieces, kale and rice. Mix everything together, coating with the oil and flavours in the pan.
5. Make sure your pan is not too hot, then pour in the chicken stock. Place the chicken pieces on top, slightly submerged in the stock, vegetable and rice mix.
6. Bring the stock up to a boil first, and then down to a gentle simmer before adding the fitted lid and leaving it to cook gently for 30-40 minutes.
7. When you lift the lid the rice should look full and soft and the butternut squash is tender and cooked through. Always test your chicken is cooked thoroughly. Pile up your bowl, placing your chicken thigh on the top (for small children its easier to cut this into little pieces and stir through)
If you have any butternut squash left over (they can often be quite large), chop your butternut into thick strips and place into a roasting tray, drizzle lightly with coconut oil and sprinkle over some cinnamon and roast in a pre heated oven for 20-30 minutes until caramelised around the edges.
STOCK – It really is worthwhile (and pretty easy) to make your own stock by cooking down chicken bones after a roast with an onion, celery & carrot submerged in water on a gentle simmer for a few hours (you can add parsley, peppercorns and other herbs to taste if desired). It is deeply nutritious (see more on our website) and freezes brilliantly so it’s always worth having some handy to add to your favourite recipes.
Our Essential Shopping Basket
We are all too aware that family life is fast paced and a constant juggle! Many of us struggle with a lack of time, so we often tend to stick to the same items in our shopping basket week in and out. Here at Cooking them Healthy we would like to share with you our ideal shopping basket – packed full of nutritious ingredients to help you and your family stay healthy and strong during the challenging winter months. Many of these ingredients provide the mainstay for the majority of the recipes on our website. If you can, do try to add a few of these onto your weekly shopping!
Chicken is a brilliant source of lean protein. This provides the mainstay for so many fabulous recipes and the number of ways we can use chicken is simply endless. Don’t be afraid to use the whole chicken (our family paprika chicken with roasted cauliflower and sweet potato – pictured above – is a must!) once the meat has been eaten and the chicken stripped, it can be used to make delicious and nourishing bone broth/stock to be used as a base for soups, risottos and casseroles, as well as a nutritious snack.
Chicken is very versatile, so feel free to partner it up with simple flavoured butters (tender chicken finger dippers) or spicy curry pastes for example.
Eggs are one of the only food sources to provide small amounts of important vitamin D. Do not be concerned about eggs causing high cholesterol and ignore the Old Wives Tale that they may have a constipating effect. Here at Cooking them Healthy, we simply can’t get enough of them. We try to make a frittata part of at least every weekly meal – adding various different ingredients – why not try our Sweet potato Frittata for starters.
Please note that for some, eggs are a potential allergen – so if this is the case for your child, please take care.
Salmon is fantastic and versatile fish and is often a big hit with children. It is known as an oily fish and contains valuable omega 3 fats which are important for brain health as well as for skin and for helping to reduce inflammation. It is a brilliant source of protein, quick to cook and a genuinely healthy addition to any kitchen. It’s also a robust fish: brilliant for roasting, lightly frying, grilling or poaching. Serve it cooked through or lightly blushing in the middle. When buying fish check to see that the flesh looks fresh and in one piece. You want it to smell of the sea – not “fishy”. Try and cook fish soon after buying as it does not stay fresh long.
Sweet potatoes – these are a brilliant food for feeding young children. Their naturally sweet flavour provides instant appeal, and the glorious rich orange colour provides a generous hit of beta-carotene which is converted to Vitamin A by the body (important for immune system health as well as nourishing skin). So why not swap your white baked potato for a sweet potato?
Brown rice is white rice’s healthier cousin. It is regarded as a whole food as it does not go through the polishing process, and as a result, retains many of its important nutrients. It’s full of fibre to help support a healthy digestive system and to keep us feeling fuller for longer, plus it contains B vitamins for energy.
Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is actually a seed rather than a grain – although it is commonly used to replace pasta, rice or couscous. It is the only complete source of vegetarian protein, and is not only easy and quick to cook, but easy to get hold of in most supermarkets and health food shops. We really do recommend giving it a try to help add variety to your recipes.
Green Leafy Vegetables are an incredibly rich source of nutrients – from vitamin C (important for immune, skin and connective tissue health), magnesium (for energy and healthy muscle function), folic acid (supporting blood cells and DNA repair) to iron (for healthy oxygenated blood). They are also useful for helping support optimal liver detoxification. We do realise that it can be tricky to get children to eat leafy greens but we encourage you to include them wherever you can. Here are a couple of our top ‘sneaky green recipes’ – Secret spinach sauce and our green rice
Nuts – Don’t under estimate how much children like seeds and nuts (unless of course they have an allergy or they cannot tolerate them). Nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, cashew nuts, walnuts, etc) and seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, etc) are a rich source of protein as well as beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which possess important anti-inflammatory properties and support heart health. Protein is vital for growth and repair in the body. Nuts and seeds also provide essential vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin E, selenium and chromium.
Coconuts deserve a special mention as they are the ‘health heroes’ of the nut world, with fantastic antibacterial properties in addition to the good fats they contain. We try and use coconut oil in many of the dishes we create, as well as coconut milk in curries etc or as a great alternative to cow’s milk.
Berries are usually always very popular with children. They have a lower GI (Glycemic Index) than most other fruits which means that the release of sugar into the bloodstream is more steady leading to a more sustained energy release and avoiding the horrid post-sugar dip us mothers know so well! Fresh berries, when in season, are of course wonderful – however don’t forget about frozen varieties which are just as good and often much cheaper. When defrosted, they often break down differently with a higher water content but are generally just as good to use in baking and of course perfect for smoothies.
Make life easy and have a batch of our blueberry muffins in your freezer to hand any time you might need a berry burst!
Ginger is a remarkable food, containing plenty of healthy boosting properties. It is a fantastic natural antibiotic, helps protect against heart disease and even offers protection against some cancers. Chopping or crushing garlic helps stimulate its health benefits. Use it generously and liberally in your cooking. Having a batch of fresh homemade pesto is a brilliant staple to have in your fridge – it’s full of garlic and lasts for ages.
Ginger is excellent for the digestive system and can be helpful in stimulating digestion and reducing nausea. It also possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties and best of all, it adds a real zing to recipes. Peel ginger with a teaspoon. Like most things, a lot of the best nutrients are just below the skin so simply scrape with the side of a teaspoon. One of our fav recipes is Chinese Cashew Chickenfor a great ginger and garlic boost.