Category Archives: 2014 Cooking Challenge

Articles relating to the 2014 cooking challenge

July is Kohlrabi Month

The monthly challenge for July is Kohlrabi.Kohlrabi

It is so cute the way my daughter (now 27 months old) says “coal-wabby”.  Her enthusiasm for my monthly challenge has really been wonderful.  We use the new fruits or vegetables to do some sensory exploration and talk about different attributes of them, increasing her vocabulary and language skills.

We tried Kohlrabi as chips & pickled.  Homemade chips are a great way for children to experience new vegetables if they are particularly fond of crunchy textures.

Golden Beetroot, Candy Striped Beetroot and Kohlrabii sliced ready for baking into chips
Golden Beetroot, Candy Striped Beetroot and Kohlrabii sliced ready for baking into chips
Chips in beautiful winter hues
Chips in beautiful winter hues

Pickled in an asian style slaw was perfect for a few different applications
1) in a Vietnamese roll for a variation of a Bahn Mi
2) in Rice paper rolls with oyster sauce flavoured pork mince, bean shoots & fresh coriander

Kohlrabi Cooking: Rice Paper Rolls by Play with Food
Pork Mince, Bean Shoots, Asian Style Slaw & Fresh Coriander


Asian Style Carrot, Beet & Kohlrabi Slaw

Julienne your raw carrot, beetroot & kohlrabi so that they look like matchsticks.  In your bowl, make the pickling juice with the following ratio of ingredients 1 cup water: 2tbsp Caster Sugar: 2tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar: 1tsp Salt.  You will need enough to soak the vegetables in.

I like to let this sit for at least 30 min.  You can do this first and then make your chicken or pork ready to fill your rolls or rice paper rolls.

My toddler was not a fan of the texture of the rice paper roll but loved the pickled slaw.  Making rice paper rolls with a toddler is not a stress free event so I’d recommend saving this for a lazy Saturday afternoon.  Or use it as a mid-week dinner as a bahn mi style on a Vietnamese roll with some marinated chicken pieces and fresh cos lettuce.

Happy Eating!



June is Artichoke Month

Another Month = Another Challenge!

This month I took on artichoke.  This one was a real curve ball for me as the only time I have ever really used them was from a jar!  A 100g serve of Artichokes from a jar contains 320mg of sodium whereas steaming them fresh (without salt) gives 60mg of sodium. Depending on your total diet though this may not be a significant issue – it’s unlikely we are going to be adding a significant number of artichokes to our diet!  However, if you consider that the National Health and Medical Research Centre suggests we limit salt to 4g/day (1600mg sodium) and the Heart Foundation says 6g/day (2300mg sodium) and the average Australian consumes 8 or 9 times this amount, I think we should be mindful of what salt we add to our diet by using processed foods vs naturally occurring salt.

Now, I’ll jump off my nutritional science podium and chat to you about the main things I learnt during my challenge.

1) Preparing an artichoke is a bit perplexing but you can find awesome infographics on pinterest to help you!

Source of Image:

How to Prepare and Artichoke

2) Talking about artichokes was a wonderful language building exercise for my toddler.  We looked at pictures of them on the internet and talked about what they may feel like before we went to the shops to choose some to cook.  My daughter was quite the sight walking around the green grocers with her “choke fwowers”. I figured that they did look like flowers and some multi-syllable words are still a bit tricky.  (The artichoke is actually the flower bud harvested before the flower blooms).  The preparatory talks about artichokes, built some excitement about going to the shops.  As you may have seen in my previous post about vegetable exposures away from mealtimes,  I did creatively use going to get the artichokes as a “bribe” to get her off the Peppa Pig coin operated ride and into the green grocer.


3) I made an Artichoke, Lemon & Tomato cob loaf with my steamed artichoke hearts that was really yummy and simple. Lemon is in season now & so very fragrant in this bread. I loved it served with some good quality butter, fresh ham & a side salad. The loaf is big enough for a light lunch for 2 adults & 2 kids.

Artichoke, Lemon & Tomato Cob Loaf

1 Artichoke Heart
1 Tomato, Roughly Chopped
Zest from 1/2 Lemon
1/4 cup Parmesan, Finely Grated
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 1/2 cup Self Raising Flour
1 Egg
Ground Black Pepper, To Taste

To prepare the artichokes, I trimmed it as per the above infographic.  Instead of putting them in the pot with salted water, I used a bamboo steamer and no salt – this worked well and in 20mins I had lovely steamed artichokes.  I tried one with a lemon & pepper yoghurt dipping sauce, which was OK.  I didn’t actually try to get my daughter to try the artichoke like this.  Scraping the flesh away from the leaves with your teeth is interesting but a bit of work for the limited fleshy artichoke that you get.

On my remaining artichoke, I cut away the hard leaves & was left with the heart.  I roughly chopped up the heart & yielded about 1/4 cup of chopped pieces. To the bowl I added the remaining ingredients. My toddler did some stirring & kneading of the bread with me. We put it on a dusted baking tray in the preheated (180oC) oven for about 30mins (until it sounds hollow when you tap on the bottom of the loaf).


Do you have a favorite artichoke recipe?
Happy Eating!

May is Celeriac Month

For May’s Play with Food cooking challenge, I have found & put my own twist on  a beautiful dinner recipe for the family using celeriac.


 Beef Meatballs & Celeriac

Flavoured with mild middle eastern tastes, this stove top meal is enough to feed 2 adults and 2 kids.  Best served with rice, cous cous or flat breads.


  • 250g Beef Mince
  • 1/2 Medium Sized Zucchini, Grated
  • 1 Egg
  • 100g Bread Crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp Allspice
  • 1/2 Medium Brown Onion, Finely Chopped
  • 5 Sprigs of Flat Leaf Parsley, Chopped (+ extra for garnish)
  • Olive Oil (for coating pan)
  • Salt & Black Pepper (as required for seasoning)
  • 1/2 a Bulb of Celeriac, Cut into Batons
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, Crushed
  • ½ tsp ea Ground Turmeric, Cumin and Cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp Fennel Seeds
  • ¾ tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 500ml Chicken Stock
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt



In a large bowl, use your hands to mix the beef, zucchini, onion, breadcrumbs, parsley, egg, allspice, half a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Form into elongated meatballs.  Squeeze with your hand around them to leave bumps which helps add crispy textures to the finished dish.

Heat the oil in a large pan (that has a lid) or a tagine,  and sear the meatballs all over for about five minutes in total. Remove the meatballs before adding celeriac, garlic and remaining spices to the pan. Cook on high heat while constantly stirring for two minutes. Return the meatballs to the pan and then add the chicken stock, lemon juice.  Season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and leave to bubble away for 10 minutes more, until the sauce is quite thick.

Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes to settle. Taste, season as necessary and serve topped with a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkling of parsley.

April was supposed to be cumquat month

With all good intentions I wrote my monthly challenge list & published it here for everyone to see. My new years resolution was to pick a seasonal fruit or vegetable that I don’t usually use & make a family friendly dish with it.

January was off to a great start with fresh chives. February wasn’t too bad with eggplant. March was a bit more difficult with figs. However, April yielded nothing for cumquats!! I couldn’t find any, let alone develop a recipe I was happy to publish here.

I didn’t want to admit complete defeat so I decided to see how substituting mandarines would be into a recipe I planned on using for cumquats. I made a spice rubbed chicken dish with a mandarin & lemongrass sauce for lunch. It was very loosely based on a Martha Stewart recipe that you can find here. I think I got onto too much of a “substitution” roll & eventually my dish was nothing like Martha’s!

What my toddler did like was using a light rub of ground coriander & turmeric on the chicken thigh (let that sit in the fridge for at least an hour before pan frying it).

The mandarin lemongrass dressing was not loved by my daughter but she did eat rice and chicken that had some lightly drizzled on it. My version cut out lots of the sugar, strained out all of the mandarin and I added a teaspoon of soy sauce. It would make a healthy substitute for a greasy take-away lemon chicken. The citrus pairing with chicken was ok but I know it’s not a pairing we often have in our household.

Pan fried chicken thigh, rice & a mandarin lemongrass dressing

On the other hand, a big hit today was my pumpkin & sultana scones. I like to make my scones a bit more moist than most & bake them in a large circular slab. This way you can’t dry them out too much of you leave them to bake too long. You also get wedges of scone which means that you can serve to the size of your appetite. Savoury & sweet scones are great to use up left-overs & then freeze for after school snacks (see my post about afternoon snacks here!)

Play with Food : Pumpkin & Sultana Scone

I have been wanting to hone my scone recipe because I think it serves as a great base for some poached fruit & ricotta. I was hoping I could feature a poached cumquat recipe here this month to enjoy with scones. Oh well! If I see them available later on in the season, expect to see a belated post!

Happy Eating!

March is Fig Month

Another month, another ingredient challenge….

In March, I set-out to find ways to prepare figs.  I have to admit to a small defeat here.  Although, I have 2 recipes to share with you today, I honestly couldn’t beat my love of fresh figs. One of my all time favourite snacks is fresh figs with ricotta, a drizzle of honey and sprinkle of cinnamon.  I really love it!  I found that when I cooked the figs they were OK but (for me at least) fresh is best.  During this month I ventured out with my fresh fig uses and tried them with home-made chocolate chia pudding.  And loved fresh figs cut into segments and dipped in passionfruit yoghurt.  My toddler also liked the fresh figs dipped in yoghurt.

The two recipes that I want to share with you this month are: Fig and Chia Blender Bars as well as Fig and Kale Chicken Maryland.

Fig and Chia Blender Bars

Perfect for afternoon snacks (at least 2 hrs before dinner) or lunchboxes!  My toddler LOVED this freshly baked for her afternoon tea.



  • 3/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1/4 cup unprocessed bran (replace with more coconut for gluten free version)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 5 dried figs steeped in 1/2 cup boiled water for 10 minutes  (put all of this in blender including water)
  • 1 fresh fig sliced for top (optional)


Preheat oven to 180oC.  Put all of the ingredients into a blender & whizz.  Pour the mixture into a greased 20cm x 20cm cake tin / pyrex dish.  (Optional: place slices of fresh fig on top to decorate).  Bake for 30mins or until the edges are golden.  Cut into single serve bars.  These will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.   Warning: Chilling the bars does make them denser over time – so for fussy children they may not like them cool even though they enjoyed them fresh.


Fig and Kale Chicken Maryland

Debone the thigh section of 2 chicken Maryland portions. This will give you a pocket of meat that can be stuffed.

For the stuffing, mix together 1 fresh diced fig, the leaves from one stalk of kale (finely chopped) and 2 tbsp of ricotta cheese.  Season the stuffing to your taste with salt & pepper.


Use toothpicks to secure the flesh of the chicken around the stuffing.  Bake at 180oC for 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.



Do you prefer fresh or cooked figs?

You can also use dried figs in place of the mixed dry fruit in this flapjacks recipe.

Here is a link to the list of my monthly challenges – take a peek here to find out what we will be cooking with in upcoming months!

PS – here is a shot of my fresh figs topping my homemade chocolate chia pudding…  I enjoyed that the chia pudding was healthy and had that small hint of chocolate (I went for the no sugar / little cocoa version) but my toddler was not a fan of the chia pudding texture.

Fresh Figs & Chia Pudding

February is Eggplant Month

At the beginning of the year, I set out a monthly challenge to make dishes from seasonal products and see how my toddler liked them. To see upcoming challenges see my Happy 2014 Post here! The benefits of setting and sharing this challenge include:

1) Eating seasonally is budget and local farmer friendly
2) It stretches my cooking repertoire
3) Seasonal produce goes from farm to fork quicker and is nutritionally better for us!
3) It encourages new food appreciation for my family, especially my toddler.

February is Eggplant Month!


Recipe #1: Eggplant Chips

Toddler Review: She sucked the crumbs off and ate mushy inside of the chips – but left the skins behind.

Ingredients & Method:  Sliced one large eggplant and cut into “steak fry” sizes.  Coated with a drizzle of olive oil and then tossed in multi-grain breadcrumbs.  Baked at 150oC for 40mins.

Eggplant Chips served with Hummus
Eggplant Chips served with Hummus

Recipe #2: Burghal & Pork Stuffed Eggplant

Toddler Review: Toddler loved the stuffing mix.  However, was not fussed on eating the actual skin of the eggplant again.

Ingredients & Method: Take 2 Medium sized Eggplants and roast them whole in the oven at 150oC for 1 hour. Remove and let them cool down a bit.  Make up your stuffing mix next by letting 1/3 cup of burghal absorb 2/3 cup of boiling water in a heat proof bowl (takes about 5 min).  In a pan, sautee a diced brown onion in some olive oil.  Once the onion is starting to go transparent, add 200g of pork mince and cook through, add the burghal, 2 tbsp of tomato paste, 1/3 cup of diced caspisum, 1 tsp dried oregano and a handful of chopped fresh basil.  Cook all together for a few minutes until fragrant.  Remove from the heat.  Cut your eggplants in half and remove some of the larger veins of seeds.  Add the flesh of the eggplants to your stuffing mix.  Add an egg to the stuffing mix and combine well.  Put the stuffing mix into the shells of the eggplant and finish with grated cheese.

PlaywithFood-1876Return the stuffed eggplants to the oven for a further 30 min until the stuffing is fully cooked and the cheese is browned. Serve with salad.


Recipe #3: Zucchini and Eggplant Dip 

Toddler Review: “yum”  – my toddler loves dipping sauces though!

Ingredients & Method: Roast 2 medium sized eggplants on 150oC for 1 hour with 1 medium – large size zucchini.  Coarsley chop the zucchini (skin as well) and remove the flesh (including seeds) from the eggplants and put this into a food processor.  Add 1 cup no fat greek yoghurt, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp lemon juice (or juice from 1/2 a lemon) and 2 cloves of garlic crushed.  Blitz in the food processor, spoon into serving dish and then top with an additional drizzle of olive.  We had ours served with some sourdough rolls.  It is also really great chilled and served later.  A great dip to make ahead for a party or BBQ!


January is Fresh Chive Month

As you may have seen in my Happy 2014 blog post, my new years resolution is to take on a seasonal fruit / vegetable each month to expand my cooking repertoire.  It’s also a bonus if I can use this fruit/vegetable to make a kid approved meal (or snack).

January’s Challenge: Fresh Chives

To tell you the truth, I had never actually used fresh chives in my cooking before.  I found them to be a great taste booster this month and will definitely be using them again.  It is wonderful to introduce new tastes to babies, toddlers and children through using different herbs.  Herbs do still count as part of your daily vegetable intake.  However, you don’t use much of them so they don’t make a substantial impact on your RDI.  But if they make the flavour more appealing/exciting they can help increase the amount eaten of meat, cereal, dairy, fruits or other vegetables.

I made 3 unique dishes with the fresh chives in January:

  1. Baked Eggs in Tomatoes with Chives
  2. Pear & Chive Filo Parcels
  3. Soba Noodles with Zucchini, Creme Fraiche & Chives

The biggest hit with my toddler was the Soba Noodles.  However, I figured it would be a no-brainer, as noodles are one of her preferred foods and so is zucchini.  The Filo Parcels were my favourite.  I found the chives gave the pear such an amazing flavour and I love the crispy filo pastry.  See my notes below the recipe about my meal tactics and why my combination of foods would be great for you to copy if you have a fussy eater on your hands.

Baked Eggs in Tomatoes with Chives

This is a simple idea for a lunch or brunch.  Take the top off of your tomatoes and hollow them out. Chop up some fresh chives & whisk them into the egg with a small dash of milk.  Fill your tomatoes with the egg mixture and bake at 180oC for 30min.


I do have to admit to failing on this recipe once by using a bit too much milk and running out of baking time.  Under pressure from my eagerly awaiting daughter, I decided to turn her baked tomato into what I call Vegie Eggs.  Basically, what I do is chop/grate up vegetables & fresh herbs that I have, mix with a dash of milk & an egg in a ramekin and microwave for 1 min.  The egg will be cooked through and is like a little dome of omelette without the fuss of using a pan.  This is great for getting vegies in at breakfast during the mid-week rush.  Hint: you can also reserve the middles of your tomatoes from the above recipe to make vegie eggs the next day.

Pear and Chive Filo Parcels

I LOVED this for lunch with my daughter!  We had one pear between us to make 2 parcels. After I tasted it, I wished I had made us 2 parcels each because they were so yummy.

Prepare the pear with creme fraiche & chopped chives
Prepare the pear with creme fraiche & chopped chives

Take a pear and cut it in half from top to bottom removing the seeds & the stalk.  Fill the cavity (from the deseeding) with 1 tsp of creme fraiche.  Top with chopped fresh chives.  Wrap each pear half in a sheet of filo pastry and ensure it is sealed by brushing on some milk around the edges (or I just used a finger full of creme fraiche).  Cook this in a 180oC preheated oven for 15mins.  You should see that the pastry goes a nice golden colour at the edges.

Serving Suggestion for Kids:

My daughter loves filo pastry so she was happy to have the parcel on her plate.  The pear can be very hot straight out of the oven – So, I cut it up to cool on her plate.  In the meantime, I had available for her some grapes to choose (a preferred fruit) and shredded iceberg lettuce (our learning vegetable).  She was happy to talk about the temperatures of the hot pear and the cool grapes & lettuce.  We then made “wheels” out of our shredded lettuce by spinning the lettuce between our forefinger & thumb.  We drove our wheels through the “mud” – ie. Stonefruit Chutney (see recipe here).  Having a condiment and a game with the shredded lettuce helped her motor plan a new way to eat her shredded lettuce and gave her something to bite into.  Lettuce can be tricky for children as it is hard to get into their mouths and then when it is there it can be hard to maneuver with their tongue.  A thicker condiment, like a chutney, can add some bulk to it.

PWF left upper

Another part of play with food lessons that I incorporated into this lunch was my love of breaking down the barrier between fruits and vegetables by combining them on the same meal.  This is a link to some of the other topics we cover in lessons.

Soba Noodles with Zucchini, Creme Fraiche & Chives

Cook your Soba noodles as per the packet instructions.  I like to vary up the types of grains that we eat.  You could use pasta too for this meal.  Once cooked, drain the noodles and add 1/2 a zucchini worth of batons and chopped fresh chives (quantity to your liking).  Allow that to sit for 5-10mins (while you set the table & kick off your wash-up routine).  Stir through a generous tablespoon of creme fraiche and put into a serving bowl for the table.

Note: Zucchini does not need to be cooked (and definitely not over cooked to be a soggy mess).  Check that you are happy with the texture of your zucchini before serving – I like mine a bit crunchy so I only left ours in the hot noodles for 5 mins before adding the creme fraiche.

This is what we served up ourselves for lunch & what my daughter thought of it:


I can't talk or pose right now, I'm having too much fun!
I can’t talk or pose right now, I’m having too much fun!

Why is she making such a mess?  She’s LEARNING to eat.  My theory is that they have to learn to eat first before we worry about manners.  Sensory exploration of food is so important for growing minds.

Leave me some comments if you’ve tried Fresh Chives in anything else you think I should try out.  I also pin inspirational recipes for my new years resolutions on Pinterest – so have a look at my boards using the link in the side bar.


Simone Emery

Happy 2014!

Wishing you and your families a very happy 2014 from Play with Food!

This year is going to be filled with fun, tears, joy and sleepless nights!  Baby “Flash” is due in the next few weeks and although we don’t have classes scheduled for the first school term of 2014, I do have some exciting developments that I am working on for later in the year.  I am so grateful for the wonderful feedback I have received from parents who attended my classes in 2013.  I will share some of that with you in the new year and have also been very blessed with some constructive comments to help make Play with Food experiences even better.

For now, I have a few new years resolutions and I would invite you to take part in one of them with me.  As you will be aware, I love to try new healthy ingredients and turn them into kid friendly recipes.  I post recipes with mum’s lounge each month & share them on my facebook page – now I am going to be really tech savvy and blog about them here!

If you have been to classes you may have been confronted with some unusual fresh produce like Gai Lum, Brussel Sprouts, Kale, Quince, Persimmon, Fennel and all manner of other seasonal gems that I get my hands on.  As a further challenge to myself for 2014 I have chosen a seasonal vegetable or fruit in each month that I don’t usually use. In that month, I will endeavour to perfect a child friendly recipe for that ingredient.  Come along and join in the fun!  I have a pinterest board dedicated to gathering my ideas.  And when I have a final result, I will blog my recipe and share it for all of you to try out too.

This is the list of my monthly challenges:
January – Fresh Chives
February – Eggplant
March – Figs
Apricot – Cumquat
May – Celeriac
June – Artichoke
July – Kohlrabi
August – Brussel Sprouts
September – Swede
October – Pineapple
November – Cabbage
December – Cherries

Wishing you all the very best for a truly happy new year filled with gratitude and smiles!

Simone Emery