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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Groove Book Report: Wick Nixon's Healthy Lunchbox Love - $29.95

We heard about Wick's new book through the grapevine and were keen to try out new ways of brightening up that 'ol boring lunchbox.  She has a 'whole-listic' approach to food.  And by that we mean using as many vegetables, nuts, grains and beans as possible.  This box is a sort of snapshot of what she offers in her workshops for individuals and corporates.  Better still she's a real person.  A parent of three, so she's doe the hard yards and can talk authoritatively about what works with kids - and adults.   This is her second book - her first was 21 Marvelous Lunchbox Makeover, which won the coveted Gourmand Award for Best Food and Family Cookbook in New Zealand (2015).

Wick is not a nutritionist or a vegetarian or a paleo.  She claims her style of cooking comes from piratical learnings and general life.  So that's refreshing.  What she offers here is not original.  I've pretty much come across every recipe in someone else's cookbook at one time or other.  But what is cool is that it's all in one place.  That's especially true for the gluten, nut and dairy free options.  Also, most of the morsels here within can be made into small 'lunchbox' portions, for little hands.  And, for you older peeps, who can't bare to face another egg salad sandwich, there's hope for you, too.

Wick Nixon
Opening up at a random page my two girls (6 and 8yrs) fell upon the Brown Rice Sushi Balls (pg 12 if you are reading along).  Sushi is popular in our household - especially anything with chicken or prawns in the filling.  I'd have to say our efforts were not entirely successful on first go. Mainly, because this particular recipe calls for a few different ingredients - items that we don't usually stock.  And this, I guess, was the first hurdle.   This recipe calls for brown rice.  we were out of that, so we substituted white basmati.  A trick for young players - you need to slightly overcook it, otherwise it wont stick together.

Number two problem was that we needed runny honey.  We had the firm clover variety which works if you melt it in the microwave a little.  But the main issue was that this version of sushi needs tahini.  Not exactly something I have kicking around in the fridge.  Also a decent pot will set you back about $7.00 so you need to be committed or have other uses in mind.  Hummus is probably the main one.  Kids love that, so you're likely good there.

Anyway, the tahini was strangely vacant.  We decided to go with peanut butter as a substitute.  Crunchy!  So now the whole thing is turning into the something resembling the 'blue soup' incident in Bridget Jones's Diary.  Nonetheless we soldiered on.  They came out pretty good considering.  Considering the stain on my trousers when my 'sushi ball' disintegrated whilst giving it the taste test.

But joking aside, this incident does show if you buy this book, you need to be prepared to try and purchase a few new larder items.  That's not a bad thing.  Today, you can get anything at your local supermarket and health store.  And there's one in every mall.

A case in point is psyllium husks...  Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant's seeds. It sometimes goes by the name ispaghula. It's most commonly known as a laxative.  Price-wise, they cost about $7 and are available in most health stores.  Along with sunflower seeds, linseeds, chia seeds these can be blended into a dough for her Super Seedy Crackers.  They taste delicious and are pretty easy to make if you keep an eye on things as you bake them on a low heat for the best part of an hour.  Again I was going to have a crack but I'm all out of - well, all of those things.  And when priced up at the best part $15 to buy everything, I'll have to wait until the next pay day to get stuck in.

What I did have was rice paper rolls.  So we made up her Vietnamese Spring Rolls - the secret is adding a spot of maple syrup to the usual soy sauce dipping sauce.   That was a major hit with the small mouths.

One of mine now devours her Banana and Avocado Toasts and is gunning to try the Zuccinni, Cheese and Corn Muffins.  There's a top tip in this one - use Parmesan, it has a good bite!  Another fav, already is the Cheesy Kumura Slices topped with Bacon.  And the cool thing about these is that in an airtight container they last for days.  I just whipped up a batch for tomorrow's lunch.  These are like gourmet, gluten free mousetraps, an really easy to throw together.  If you can bake a potato you can do these.

Also dead easy are her potato chips - you need a mandolin, though.  And a microwave.  Yep you read right!  You won't need one for the Honey Soy Sesame Chicken with Rainbow Slaw was a firm dinner favorite on Saturday night.  The difference was using natural yogurt in the mayo dressing.  Yum to that!  OK, so maybe that one's not a lunchbox filler.  There are some dinner dishes for little one here too.  The emphasis is on healthy food that both adults and kids will eat - even if the tomato sauce bottle can't be permanently banished!  Enter her Chickpea Burgers with roasted cauliflower - next on my menu choices.  These are a mic of edamame beans and chickpeas with cumin and a few other spices.  Chili optional.  Again another different ingredient.  You could substitute edamame for peas - if well drained.

For the sweet treats, she's gone for the favorites - lemon coconut bread (a twist on good ol' banana bread); Oaty Chocolate Chunk Biscuits using sugar free chocolate; a Non Bake Macaroon which is bound with flax seed oil: and my favourite - Lemon Bliss Balls - which I made so strong they were like Lemoncello!

This book asks you to try what you know differently.  It will work best if you are prepared to invest in a few new ingredients.  Some are a little outside the specials aisle.  But then, when you think about it, olive oil could only be bought from chemists in the 1970's.  Now it's available at my local Z station - at 25% off!  So, hopefully some of these ingredients will become staples, too.  If you are planning a crusade for better lunches and dinners (oh yes there are some cool desert options in here too) then start here.  It's as good a place as any.  And good health is good.  Best of all, kids will eat this health food.  That's a bonus!

Below are a few photos from my efforts to make Sushi Balls (without following the exact recipe!  Lesson learned - use the exact ingredients because this one is not adaptable!!!) I also had a go at Chickpea burgers and Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

Using Basmiti instead of Brown Rice

Using Peanut Butter as a substitute for Tahini

Labelled and ready for the lunchboxes
My Vietnamese  Rice Paper Rolls came out OK 
My Chick Pea Burgers

The book can be purchased here:

Find some of her recipes here:

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