Wonder Basket: Sustainable Cooking From The Heart Of Africa

Wonder Basket: Sustainable Cooking From The Heart Of Africa


No matter what is going on all around us, we need food. Too often lack of food is what is going on in certain parts of the world, while where there is plenty, we might enjoy a morsel on our own or with our neighbors, family, or friends.

I would like to ask you: what tools do you use to cook? Is it a kerosene or gas stove? Charcoal or electricity? A combination? If there was a way to cook your food using less energy, would you want to know about it? This post is all about that, so you are in the right place!

Bibi Saleha (Sally) Qazi is a Tanzanian woman who came up with a brilliant idea. We call her Bibi, a title of respect that means “grandmother”. Bibi Sally is my mother, which might make one question whether I am biased, but once you read on I believe you will see that it makes good sense.

Bibi Sally
The author’s mother, Bibi Sally

The idea is the Wonder Basket.

So what is it?

The Wonder Basket is a cooking tool that is made with all* recycled materials. Use of the Wonder Basket helps with busy and lazy schedules, as you can use your stove of choice for a short time and turn it off (or use it for other foods). You then transfer your pot to the Wonder Basket to continue cooking without additional energy, using only the heat it has already gathered. The Wonder Basket saves energy, which is good for the planet, people, and the pocket.

Where may one find one of these amazing Baskets, and is the answer Africa? Well, as much as you are welcome to visit Tanzania (as you should) and attend a training session with Mama Sally, you can make a Wonder Basket on your own!

Speaking of bias, I’ll be honest… as her daughter and a woman who has always wanted to be financially independent, the fact that my mom freely shares this information sometimes bothers me Why? Because through this knowledge she could provide for herself, which is something that is needed. However, as a human being I am so thankful, humbled, and proud that she does freely share, and I hope that this universe will continue to provide for her all that she needs and more. My mom rocks as a human, as a woman and as a mom!

How Bibi Sally makes the Wonder Basket

The Wonder Basket is made using ten items:
1) A basket or large wooden box
2) Nylon sheeting large enough for two linings
3) Thin sponge mattress for insulation or enough large wood shavings for lining
4) A piece of sturdy cotton cloth to cover the nylon
5) A nylon bag for a cushion lid
6) Sponge for the lid
7) A pillow slip for cushion lid
8) Some string and big needle
9) A pair of scissors
10) A small square of cardboard to put under the pot in the basket

How to make it

Take a large basket or box (around 50cm x 50cm x 50cm).
Line it with the nylon sheet to insulate it.
Create a base 3–4 cm wide at the bottom.
Apply the second sheet of nylon to cover the base , and fill in the space between two nylon sheets to create a wall inside the basket or box, either with wood shavings or the sponge mattress.
Seal the wall which is 3-4 cm wide by folding the nylon sheet overlap.
Cover with the strong cotton cloth. I used a large pair of skintight pants as the elastic waist band covers the nylon wall perfectly and the legs can be folded into the central well.
The cloth can be arranged to cover the inside of the basket and overlap over the basket walls.
Give it a shape with the scissors or tuck it in and stitch with the string to hold it all together.
The pillow must not be rigid.
Fill the nylon bag with wood shavings or sponge; give it a shape to fit snugly into the well in the basket.
Cover it with the pillow or cushion slip and stitch it shut.

How to use the Wonder Basket

All cereals/grains and most foods cooked in water can be cooked in the basket!

Measure and clean the cereal/grain to be used, soak it until saturated.
Put it in a pot without salt and with enough water to cover it completely with 1 cm of water above it.
Bring it to a boil and stir. Cover and boil for one minute. Then transfer the pot to the insulated basket and cover it immediately with the cushion lid.
Make sure no hot air comes out or cold air goes into the covered basket.
The cooking time is the same as when you use the stove.

Wonder Basket in use
The Wonder Basket in use

A note about rice

One cup of rice absorbs about two cups of water, sometimes a bit more for mature grains. Soak the clean rice for a few minutes. Then heat the necessary amount of water, salt it and bring to boil; you can put in some oil and spices if desired. When it boils, put in the strained rice, and stir. When it starts boiling properly, cover it and move the pan to the basket, and immediately put the cushion lid on.

Meat, potatoes, and cassava can be cut into inch-long pieces and cooked as desired. Then add a little boiling water, put the lidded pot in the basket, and cover instantly.

The basket will cook the food and keep it hot for a long time. You don’t need to watch it for fear that it may get burnt, as there is no flame or live fire. Don’t open the basket to check the food before passing the minimum cooking time has elapsed.

You cannot fry, grill or bake with this method. You can sterilize juice, food, and bottles in the basket. Take it on safari or picnic, or the office or the farm.

Food made in the Wonder Basket
Here is some delicious food, some of which was made in an original Wonder Basket made by Bibi Sally herself

Bibi Sally has been an advocate for nutrition and nutrition education in her community for decades. She has always been passionate about women’s rights, human rights, children in poverty, self-reliance, and having a good hearty laugh! She is also a phenomenal translator, having translated many of the Baha’i Holy Writings from English to Kiswahili, as well as other independent translation assignments.

If you have any questions about the Wonder Basket, please do ask.

*all recycled materials: Sometimes you might have to buy the basket, box, or other materials.

This is an original post for World Moms Network by ThinkSayBe. Photo credit to the author.


I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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USA: Cooking with Kids

USA: Cooking with Kids

cooking with kidsCooking with kids is one of my favorite activities. I have to admit, I don’t do it often enough. Mostly because of the limited space in our kitchen where two is a crowd.

My parents would let us kids into the kitchen as often as they could. We were cooking family dinners at very young ages. I remember having to do all the peeling while my older siblings were taking care of the more complex things around the kitchen. My sister was the baker. As a young girl she was baking elaborate cakes, and to these days, she impresses people with her kitchen skills.

Due to both of my kids being burned in the past (just a little, but enough for them to remember), they are pretty standoffish to the idea of being too close to a hot stove. In this situation, making them help me while I bake is more enjoyable.

Also, our older daughter is very picky and I’m hoping that letting her be involved in the kitchen will help her become more open to foods. She loves sweets, of course, so I love baking with her. By doing it, I hope, being in the kitchen will be associated with something positive for her.

Both of the kids love our family cooking project: “quest for the best cinnamon rolls“. I feel like this project has made them, especially the picky one, very excited about being in the kitchen.

We started it 3 months ago, and so far we’ve tried 3 recipes. In the meantime we have also baked our regular cinnamon rolls several times.

Cooking with kids is fun and messy, and it’s a great opportunity to spend quality time with them.   I’m always trying to sneak a little more of the good stuff into our recipes, and  with baking, it seems like hiding the nutrients into the food is less of a hassle then fighting over eating a piece of a carrot. So, why not?

cooking with kids family project_ewa samples photography-4

Our last recipe wasn’t really a cinnamon rolls recipe, but it was close enough for me to add it to our project. I got it from one of my clients, who saw me doing this project and she shared the link to this “Whole grain cinnamon swirl bread“.


I wanted to try it because of the of possibility of sneaking quinoa into the recipe as well as all kinds of different goodies.

Creating the whole-grain mix was a great thing to learn about, and I actually started using it in all kinds of recipes. My kids don’t even know they eat quinoa anymore. I’m loving it.

cooking with kids family project_ewa samples photography-5

If you struggle with a picky eater, finding things in the kitchen that make them excited about food is really a great way to get around it. It makes them focus on the positive things in food, not the bad things.

cooking with kids family project_ewa samples photography-2

With this project we are doing, I still let them be picky, and I find it interesting to see that our older daughter is less picky with eating what we bake than the younger one, who normally is very open to trying new things, and eating in general. Every time we bake new thing, the kids can express their thoughts about the dish. We talk about what they don’t like in it. And after that we get excited about the next recipe we will try.

cooking with kids family project_ewa samples photography-1

How about you? Do you have any picky eaters in your home? Any interesting family projects going on? Please comment below to share!

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ewa Samples (Mom Photographer).  Ewa can be found sharing her pictures over at Ewa Samples Photography. She is also on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo credits to the author.

Ewa Samples

Ewa was born, and raised in Poland. She graduated University with a master's degree in Mass-Media Education. This daring mom hitchhiked from Berlin, Germany through Switzerland and France to Barcelona, Spain and back again!

She left Poland to become an Au Pair in California and looked after twins of gay parents for almost 2 years. There, she met her future husband through Couch Surfing, an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals.

Today she enjoys her life one picture at a time. She runs a photography business in sunny California and document her daughters life one picture at a time.

You can find this artistic mom on her blog, Ewa Samples Photography, on Twitter @EwaSamples or on Facebook!

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NEW JERSEY, USA: Organic Love

NEW JERSEY, USA: Organic Love


Relationships are like food: sometimes we go through a sweet period, sprinkling yummy “I love you’s” here and there. Other times, something turns sour. A word, a small remark rots a whole day, like a mold-covered strawberry infects an entire packet. But hopefully for the most part, we enjoy a balanced, contenting diet, adapted to our needs.

Everybody’s food diet is different, but there are some basics to stick to: not too much of the junk, limit salt, watch sugar, etc. And coating some bad food with additives and colorants to make it look healthy and attractive, doesn’t do the deed. There’s nothing healthier than making a meal with fresh, basic ingredients.

I don’t have the recipe for ever-lasting love. But just like with food, I feel that there are some basics to stick to. We should definitely keep the lies out, nurture one another, and stay away from the many fake additives that might keep our relationships on the display shelf for longer, but at what cost to their health? In my view, some things scream “Need for attention”. They are:

1. If you can’t tell your partner that he/she is an ill-tempered, annoying brat when he/she’s being one, that’s not right. You should be able to tell it like it is. There might be a fine line between being direct and hurting feelings, but let’s face it, when you’re going out all night drinking with your friends while your wife is home with two sick kids and has not slept in a week, you are it! If you unleash a storm of insults on your husband because he snores too much, you are it! And you deserve to know. So you can take a good look in the mirror. If your partner can’t tell you that you are being unreasonable without you losing the plot, then guess what . . . You are it!

2. If you say, “I am sorry”, immediately followed by, “but”, that’s not an apology. That’s an explanation as to why you’re not apologizing. I know the famous movie line, “Love is to never have to say you’re sorry”, but (there it is!), I believe love to be the exact opposite. If you’re being purposely mean, you need to apologize. If you’re being inconsiderate you need to apologize, if you’re being hurtful, you need to apologize. If you never apologize, could you possibly be all of the above?

3. If you feel the need to express your undying love and eternal faithfulness in the privacy of your Facebook page, that’s not right. I’m not talking about the occasional nice words, here and there. I’m talking about the constant need to post that, you do love him / her. Your “friends might “like” the sugar coated lines you write on your wall everyday. But they will equally “like” the video of you cutting his clothes and hammering his gnome collection. The only persons who need to acknowledge that you love your partner are . . . your partner, and your children.

4. If you think Fifty Shades Of Grey is a romantic story with a little X-rated material, that’s not right. Fifty Shades might be a brilliant piece of work, but I think it’s far from being a fairy tale encounter between prince Charming and young naïve nobody, who get together and live kinkily ever after.

In this book series, I read about a mentally abusive relationship (and possibly physically but what do I know, I don’t have a red room in my house . . . ), I read about a woman who thinks she’s in control when she has surrendered all of it to a guy who owns her, body and soul.

It’s not about mutual love and respect, and the guy is certainly not the man of anyone’s dream – aside from the striking gorgeous looks, the private helicopter / jet / many mansions, and of course, the lady who cooks all his meals. . .

5. If you only address your partner, who is standing an inch away from you, through your kids, that’s not right.

“Tell Dad that his music is driving me crazy and if he doesn’t lower the volume, I’ll make him eat his ipod. . . Please.”

“No, sweetheart, I cannot buy you a doll house, because Mommy spent all our money on some ugly curtains so maybe you can play with that instead.”

That kind of stuff.

I am no relationship counselor, thank the Gods for the good of the humanity!

But I think that sometimes we get caught up in layers of political correctness, attention seeking, and fairy tale illusions. These are the pollutants in our recipe.

I wonder what happened to, “Honey, you are being a prat right now.” “You are right. I’m sorry.” “It’s okay. I love you.”

No messenger to deliver the message. No winding road to go from A to B. No hiding behind the idyllic image we are projecting to the world around us. Just the basic ingredients: two people ready to listen, some love and empathy.

How do you keep a health check on your relationship? How do you teach your children to be open to listening and empathy?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Nadege Nicoll. She was born in France but now lives permanently in New Jersey with her family. Nadege also writes a daily blog for moms who need to smile at everyday life. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook and her website www.nadegenicoll.com.

Photo credit to the author.

Nadege Nicoll

Nadege Nicoll was born in France but now lives permanently in New Jersey with her family. She stopped working in the corporate world to raise her three children and multiple pets, thus secretly gathering material for her books. She writes humorous fictions for kids aged 8 to 12. She published her first chapter book, “Living with Grown-Ups: Raising Parents” in March 2013. Her second volume in the series just came out in October 2013. “Living with Grown-Ups: Duties and Responsibilities” Both books take an amusing look at parents’ inconsistent behaviors, seen from the perspective of kids. Nadege hopes that with her work, children will embrace reading and adults will re-discover the children side of parenthood. Nadege has a few more volumes ready to print, so watch this space…

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SOUTH AFRICA: Black Juice, Blonde Bread & Other Phenomena

SOUTH AFRICA: Black Juice, Blonde Bread & Other Phenomena

Hartenbos parkrun! 005 (1)I’ve always enjoyed eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising on a regular basis.  Taking good care of the one and only body I’ve been entrusted with just feels good, and being able to run around and have fun with my family feels even better. During my first pregnancy, many moms warned me that my kids would never eat the healthy food that I keep in my house.  Viennas, biscuits [cookies] and fish fingers would soon become our new household staples. “It’s all they’ll eat,” they said.  I just shrugged, smiled, and refused to budge.  How on earth have we come to believe that nutritious, delicious foods are somehow inferior to, or less tasty than, overly-processed, unhealthy products?

And since when are kids the dictators?


Karien Potgieter

Karien Potgieter is a full-time working mom of two toddlers. She has a master’s degree in ecology and works in the conservation sector in beautiful South Africa. Her other big passion, apart from her family and caring for the environment, is running. To date she’s participated in races on three continents and in six countries and she dreams of travelling to and running in many, many more. You can follow her and her family’s running adventures on her blog, Running the Race (http://www.runningtherace.co.za).

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JAPAN:  Chow Time!

JAPAN: Chow Time!



I read on the internet a lot about how America is trying to change their school lunch program and make it healthier. And I read a lot about how some people are not happy about this. They complain that kids won’t eat what they don’t like, food gets wasted, etc.

All of that may be true. But I thought I would share what school lunch is like here in Japan.

Children in elementary schools across the country receive a hot lunch every day. The menu is widely varied, with international kid favorites like spaghetti with tomato sauce, the local preference of curry and rice with salad and yogurt, to more traditional foods like fish with miso sauce, vegetable pickles, and wakame seaweed soup. Most days the meals are heavy on vegetables. They include fruit in season occasionally, and maybe once a month or so there is a light desert like jelly (jell-o) or ice cream. Some days they have rice, other days they have bread, still other they have noodles.

And, with a few exceptions, the kids love it!

Why is that?

Part of the reason may be attitude. When my husband was a kid, they didn’t have the facilities to prepare rice and noodles, so he looks at the monthly menu and says “ii na-,” I wish I could have had that! Let’s go back another generation, to my father-in-law. He had bread and milk only every day (ironically enough, he says it was supplied by the occupying US forces,) and he was grateful for it at a time when there may or may not have been dinner waiting for him at home. But- hamburger steak and pickled cabbage with tomatoes? “Ii na!”

In our city, preschoolers, junior high kids, and high school kids have to take their lunch. A bento lunch can be a wonderful thing, but it isn’t hot and doesn’t come with milk.

But perhaps the most important reason is that the kids themselves are involved in food preparation. Each week, half the class is in charge of serving the other half. They carry the pots and trays and multiple little dishes and utensils up to their classrooms, then ladle and scoop and pass the food to each other. When time is up, they clean it up and go have recess.

So if you don’t eat, or you take too long, you make your friends late for recess. That’s quite a motivator there, isn’t it?

Japanese children, in most cases, don’t have the option of taking their lunch if what’s on the menu that day isn’t to their liking. When my son was in first grade, that really bothered me. There were days when he only ate rice, or only ate bread, and I would have been happy to have been able to pack him a sandwich or a banana or something! But after being faced with foods he wouldn’t normally try, day after day, he’s blossomed into quite the adventurous eater. He eats so many different things now. Dinner time is much less of a battle than it used to be, and I think that’s due to the varied and interesting food he gets at school every day.

Do your children have a hot lunch at school? What’s on the menu for chow time?

This is an original post by World Moms Blog contributor, Melanie Oda in Japan, of Hamakko Mommy.

Photo credit to the author.


Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety.

She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother.

You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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