Good friend to The Balcony Garden, Jessica Auswild, started her website “Whole Start” to offer families inspiration, practical advice and tips on approaching food in a wholistic but realistic way.
“Whole Start” was inspired by Jessica’s two children; while she had always embraced a healthy lifestyle having children she became even “more mindful about what we consume as a family and what my children’s growing bodies need to be resilient, strong, happy and healthy.” That mindfulness leads her to cook and creating recipes for the family with the principle of ‘whole foods’ which Jessica describes as “being able to name every ingredient in your meal and its origin! If you can do this it’s unlikely you are consuming highly processed, additive and preservative-laden foods.”
There are also two ingredients that she avoids using in her recipes even if they would normally call for it. The first is a gluten, as she has a gluten sensitivity, when a recipe calls for soy, flour or pasta she will instead substitute for “whole grain gluten-free options such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, buckwheat and amaranth.” The next ingredient is refined sugar as “they are stripped of goodness and therefore offer no nutritional value. There are so many alternatives available, our go-to’s are honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar.”
We also could not resist asking Jessica to provide us with some tips for those struggling to get their children to have a more healthy and diverse diet: “Firstly, eating as a family! I cannot emphasise enough how important this is. It fosters togetherness, communication and models healthy eating habits. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or weekend meals, the aim is to reduce the number of meals you eat separately. It’s so important for young children to see their parents eating and enjoying a healthy and diverse diet.
Secondly exposure, this starts with the purchasing of food, take your children along to your local grocery or farmers market and get them to look, touch and smell the produce. At home get them involved in meal preparation whether it be washing fruit or vegetables, spinning the lettuce, stirring ingredients, cutting a carrot or taking scraps to bin/compost. No matter the task you are getting them to engage and become more familiar with different foods, instead of it just turning up on their plate.”
We were curious to find out what the best piece of advice Jessica had received when it came to cooking. With her family being such a big influence, it was no shock to find out that advice had come from her own mother. “Keep it simple and adapt! Obviously, some of us feel more confident in the kitchen but meal times don’t have to be complicated, use simple ingredients and recipes. People often feel they need to adhere strictly to recipes but don’t be afraid of substituting, use what you have on hand, what’s in season and what your family enjoys.”
Now, time for one of Jess’ recipes!
Lamb Kofta Lettuce Wraps
I love shared dishes as they bring people together and highlight the importance of eating as a family. This is a no fuss meal, which is suitable for all ages. I like to include spices in my cooking as it exposes children to different flavours, the cinnamon adds a lovely sweetness. As with any recipe adjust to taste, if you prefer beef mince or a different spice, change it up to suit your family.
600g organic lamb mince
1 small carrot, finely grated
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ceylon cinnamon
½ tsp dried parsley
½ tsp sweet paprika
2-3 Gem Lettuces
1 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Greek Yoghurt or Tzatziki
1. Place mince, egg, carrot, onion, garlic and herbs/spices in a bowl and combine. If you’re children are sensitive to texture, you could blitz the carrot, onion and garlic in a processor until smooth before combining with the rest of the ingredients.
2. Shape your mixture into mini kofta’s. Makes approx 25.
3. Heat oil in a pan and cook kofta’s in batches. Around 3 mins each side, or until cooked through.
4. Arrange lettuce cups and kofta’s on a large platter. Scatter with cucumber and pomegranates. Serve with good quality greek yoghurt or tzatziki.