It’s invariably difficult to get children to even eat fruit and vegetables, let alone enjoy them. Syaza Diyana looks at a whimsical children’s cook book filled with wholesome, simple and well-balanced recipes that brings the family together in the kitchen and the dining table, whilst encouraging children to enjoy and explore the realm of fruits and vegetables.
Nurturing children with quality family bonding time will instil an assurance in them that they are safe, and it creates building blocks of trust that they are able to share with their parents and siblings. It makes them feel involved, important and unafraid to speak their mind. When this is combined with a healthy lifestyle – especially a healthy diet, that is cultivated at a young age, we are able to build an outstanding generation that passes the culture to their own children.
However, with the lifestyle change seen today, the precious time spent with family is slowly, and regrettably losing its way. This is because everyone – parents included, are either constantly on the move, busy with work or both. As a result, children tend to be deprived of important bonding time with their family. Additionally, with obesity rate among children rocketing sky high, it shows that the food children consume days is generally unhealthy and their diets are being given enough attention.
Mohana Gill, author of Happylicious understands this issue very well and provides a solution for parents with hectic schedules with a cook book that allows them to connect with their children, in the kitchen and at the dining table.
The aromas in the kitchen
Before Gill became the famous, multiple award-winning author she is today, she was just like the rest of us when we were children. She was and still is an exceptionally curious being. Born and raised in Myanmar with her five siblings, Gill explained that her mother had always wanted the daughters in the Gill’s household to be ‘complete women’. This would mean that they would need to know how to sew, do house chores and cook. However, from a very young age, Gill preferred being in the kitchen more often than anywhere else.
“I was far more interested in cooking rather than say, sewing. I just loved the aromas I could smell as I entered the kitchen. What made it more special was that during those days, there was no such things as gas, electricity or the things we have today. Everything was done the old fashioned way, and food was cooked using wood.
A vivid memory that brewed my passion for cooking was when we cooked dhall. Since it was prepared on a wood fire, it took a while before we could finally dig in. I can still remember the whiffs of goodness that wooed me as I waited patiently,” said Gill.
Observing and learning from her mother, Gill frequently experimented in the kitchen as she grew older and her ardour for food has remained with her to this day.
A rainbow platter
When the food on a plate is brimming with bright ingredients, it will catch the attention of a child and build up their appetite. Gill shares that parents had come to her in the past explaining their concerns about their children who do not find fruits and vegetables palatable. With the abundant source of natural ingredients gifted to us by Mother Nature, Gill knew that there was certainly a way that children could learn to enjoy fruits and vegetables given the enormous variety available.
“Instead of assuming that children do not know how to enjoy fruits and vegetables, why not put a platter of assorted colourful fruits and vegetables that are in different shapes and sizes in front of the child. Then, let them experiment with their senses to decide if they like it or not. If you don’t give them the option to choose, you will never know what they like or dislike.
“Nurture that in them. It is also important to teach children the kinds of fruits and vegetables there are out there. They may not even know where an actual pineapple comes from. Malaysians are gifted with an array of fruits to choose from, it would be such a waste not to teach the little ones about them, and allow them to have a taste of the natural sweetness and goodness,” says Gill.
Hectic hustling with Happylicious
The aspect that makes Happylicious significantly special, other than being a children’s cook book is that it focuses on the bonding time between parents and children. In addition to that, the book consists of around 60 delectable, well-balanced recipes that are easy and quick to whip up – all under 30 minutes, which is perfect for busy parents. Children will be able to learn more about the food as Gill has conveniently written short snippets of information that can be shared as the family cooks in the kitchen.
The book is divided into five chapters with recipes ranging from healthy light snacks to hearty dinners as well as favourite desserts that are actually good for you. On top of that, Gill has cleverly included colourful illustrations and pictures of children from all over the world, enjoying fruits and vegetables. This plays as a visual stimulant that encourages other children to try it out for themselves.
Additionally, there are a number of scrumptious recipes, such as smoothies, quesadilla and watermelon pizza in the book that are fairly flexible. This means that children are given the freedom to be creative with their meals and can have fun while doing so.
“Create happy memories. Engage with your child when you’re cooking by asking them to lend a helping hand. I believe that they would be happy with the shared bonding time you’ve had. In fact, even by making something as simple as a sandwich will give them a sense of satisfaction because they had put in effort by being a part of the whole prepping process,” says Gill
Hop on the Happylicious train, as Mohana Gill takes you and your child on an exquisite culinary adventure!