Here at HoneyKids we’re always on the lookout for healthy kids’ food ideas (and tips for getting little critters to eat their greens). Enter Terri-Anne Leske, the fairy godmother of good kids’ nutrition and the culinary genius behind Carrotsticks & Cravings. We’ve spent more time than we’d like to admit drooling over her hunger-inducing @carrotsticksandcravings Instagram. We were lucky enough to join one of her healthy snacks for kids workshops at Brettschneider’s Baking and Cooking School and left so intrigued that we had to just had find out more about this Aussie country girl who’s called Singapore home for over four years (and has no plans to leave). She’s got style in droves, a gorgeous family, and is just so super lovely that you can’t help but wish she was one of your gal pals.
This food hero mum of three gave us a sneak peek into her home, and taught us a thing or two about creating a wholesome yet delicious family spread (which we may or may not have sampled…). With a second cookbook jam-packed with healthful family favourites in the final stages, she’s one busy lady…
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey from small town Australia to food blogging in Singapore…
I’m a passionate foodie, happy wife to Tom, and mum to four year-old twins Eli and Olivia, 20 month-old Hallie, and fur baby Bao Bao. My love for healthy cooking started as a kid in coastal Bermagui, NSW (home of the most incredible produce in the world!). My mum was an amazing cook using fresh produce from our huge veggie patch and fish and abalone my dad and I caught after school.
Fast forward a decade or so, and my unwavering culinary obsession led naturally to me starting my online food business Carrotsticks & Cravings. I feel really lucky to be living in a city I absolutely adore, and to have written, photographed and self published my own cookbook Carrotsticks & Cravings: My Creative Kitchen (with the second in the works…)
What do you love about your work?
I’m crazy about cooking, and it’s true what they say that when you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work. Originally I started my blog purely to share recipes, to inspire people to get imaginative in the kitchen, and show them that healthy food can be fun AND taste amazing! Four years later I feel lucky to be also teaching classes at Brettschneider’s Baking and Cooking School, running helpers’ workshops with Liza Rowan from Health and Vitality, and doing freelance food photography and public speaking gigs.
I love that I set my own hours around my busy mum schedule (although catching that morning light for food photos can be tricky sometimes!). Recently the twins said “look mummy you’re in a book” while demolishing spinach salad, and that gave me the feels.
Where do you get your food inspiration from?
So many places! I’m always putting a healthy spin on old classics or re-creating dishes I’ve enjoyed on my travels. Some days I simply wake up with a hankering for a specific taste (pregnancy cravings never really stop!), and I’ll go on to whip-up a colourful Mexican Feast (for example) bursting with healthy ingredients.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Very Australian! I use as many fresh, natural, unprocessed ingredients as possible (food shouldn’t come from a packet). I make everything I can from scratch myself, including bread, peanut butter, protein toppings, dukkahs and ice cream. My food philosophy is all about balance, not deprivation. I try to reduce any refined sugars – except on special occasions when a glass of bubbles, cake and gourmet cheese are a must!
What’s your most treasured item in your home? And favourite Singapore find?
This is a tough one (my mind jumps straight to my Japanese peeler)! Seriously though, we have sentimental artworks dotted around the house, each of which reminds me of cherished moments in our lives. Faves include art collected in Paris on our honeymoon, a framed Hermes scarf from Tom (love a pop of colour on my walls!), a sketch of Black Caviar drawn by my exceptionally talented cousin Jason Roberts, a drawing of Tom’s late father’s first car that hangs on Eli’s wall, and the twins’ framed preemie tops. We’ve also collected a few eclectic pieces of furniture in Singapore over the years.
What are your favourite ingredients to work with?
I am obsessed with all superfoods, and love avocados, salmon and lamb. I tend to use a lot of the same ingredients time and again. My top 10 are quinoa, almonds, chia seeds, chilli, lemon, salmon, blueberries, avocado, dark chocolate, and coconut oil.
How has your approach to cooking changed since moving to Singapore?
A lot! It’s harder to source fresh ingredients from reputable sources here, but this has really improved over the last couple of years. We mainly eat at home as I love to cook, and like to know exactly what’s on our plate. We eat mainly Australian products and try and buy organic and hormone- and antibiotic-free when possible.
And since becoming a parent? What do you love about cooking for kids?
I started my blog to teach my kids healthy food values and to pass on my passion for cooking. It’s a great life skill to have and will hopefully help them make the right food decisions as they grow up. We’ve always eaten as a family (no separate meals in my house). All kids go through phases, but generally they’re great little eaters and would choose salmon and salad over fish and chips any day of the week.
What are your top three tips for cooking for little ones?
- Offer a variety of food from a young age, and use lots of colour in cooking.
- Get the kids in the kitchen any chance you can (little hands love kneading bread!).
- There are no rules – do what works for you. If we’re having a fussy eater day I chop things into bite size bits to keep the peace (and crack out the chickpeas, pomegranate and peas).
Do your kids have a favourite recipe from your cookbook?
The peanut butter cups are by far their beloved special occasion treat (and a great reward for good behaviour). As an every day go-to recipe they love my chia chips. They adore helping mixing, squishing the dough, rolling them out and eating most of them before they’ve had a chance to cool down! It’s a one-bowl mix that can’t go wrong with little ones.
What are your go-to kid-friendly cafes and restaurants in Singapore?
Tanjong Beach Club for easy Sunday mornings with the whole family as the kids love to swim, play on the beach and drink fresh coconuts. Din Tai Fung – I’ll even take all three kids there solo as I know they’ll eat and be happy – who doesn’t love some Xiao Long Bao?
And your favourite places to go food shopping?
I’m all about being super prepared with a fully stocked pantry, so I’m a big fan of home delivery. I source superfoods, nuts and seeds from Foodsterr, lamb and beef from the Meat Club, salmon from The Barbie Girls, fresh veggies from Sabine’s Baskets, and love stopping in to Little Farms to pick up some fab fresh fruit, produce and dairy. FairPrice Finest also has an awesome organic selection. For dinner parties I treat myself with some sustainable Alaskan crab from The Alaska Guys, and my Christmas turkey always comes from Huber’s.
Local dishes your family loves?
Singaporeans are the original foodies! There’s so much to love, but if I had to choose, it’d have to be cereal prawns for the adults and satay and popiah for the kids.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Singapore (with and without the kids)?
We love to take the littles to water play parks, to the beach on Sentosa and to generally just bust outdoors and have fun! After dark Tom and I enjoy entertaining and hosting dinner parties with friends. Singapore has some of the world’s best restaurants, so we regularly sneak in date night. And if there’s a food and wine festival in town you’ll usually find us there.
What’s next for you? What projects are you working on?
I’m very excited to be taking more and more cooking classes! But by far the majority of my time is being spent on finishing my new Carrotsticks and Cravings – Family Favourites cookbook. I’m madly tweaking flavoursome and fun recipes, testing them on my willing family guinea pigs, and shooting the whole process myself. Littleones Photography is on board again snapping family pics, Foodsterr’s supplying the superfoods, the Meat Club’s sponsoring the Australian lamb and beef, and the amazing guys at The Children’s Showcase has supplied gorgeous kids’ tableware. The book’s slated to launch in November, so watch this space…