Us and the kids

Us and the kids

About this blog

Mealtimes can be quite a challenge in our house. First up, I have to cater for myself, who could stand to lose a few pounds (or even stone), and Hubby, who is thin as a rake with an annoyingly fast metabolism and is prone to headaches if his blood sugar drops too low. Then there's Dearest Son, aged nearly five, who sees eating as a chore rather than a pleasure, unless of course it's junk food with zero nutritional value. Add to the mix Darling Daughter, who is six months old and getting started with weaning, and you can probably see how hard it can be to cook a meal that the whole family can (and will) eat.

I'm sure there must be other families out there facing a similar challenge, which is why I decided to start blogging a few of my favourite recipes and hacks, in the hope that other mummies (and daddies) may find them useful.

Baby stir-fry

RecipesPosted by Naomi Thu, September 15, 2016 21:39:07
Now that Darling Daughter is 7 months old and is getting confident with picking food up and bringing it to her mouth, I'm starting to deviate a little from her usual chip-shaped finger foods to allow her to experiment with a greater range of tastes and textures. Today I tried her on noodles for the first time, and she had some lovely messy fun holding and slurping them!

They seemed to go down well, as it wasn't long before she was stuffing them into her mouth as fast as she could!
Although this is the first time I've given her noodles, I cook stir-fries pretty frequently as they're so quick and easy to make. Although stir-fry sauces tend to be pretty high in salt and sugar, as well as often containing honey (which is unsuitable for babies under a year old), it's pretty simple to throw a few bits into a smaller pan for Darling Daughter. Here are some of the things I've found to work best:

- Steamed chicken/pork strips (tenderer than stir-fried meat) - add these at the end so they don't get tough
- Carrot batons
- Spring onions
- Thick slices of mushroom
- Pepper strips
- Small broccoli florets, or halved/quartered larger ones
- Courgette batons

Once the veg has fried for a minute or two, I add a few sauce ingredients and let it simmer for a little to further soften the veg. Amoy does a reduced-salt soy sauce, and though I still wouldn't recommend using too much, a couple of drops is sufficient to give it that Chinese-y flavour. A little fruit juice can add some natural sweetness, and garlic, ginger or Chinese five-spice can provide babies with plenty of new flavours to explore.

For today's meal, I used a little bit of smooth, no-added-salt-or-sugar peanut butter to make a satay sauce, and it seemed to go down well. I've experimented with different sauces on different occasions to give her as close as possible to what the rest of us are having.

Satay sauce
1 tsp smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp apple juice
Few drops reduced-salt soy sauce
Pinch of garlic powder

Sweet and sour sauce
1 tbsp pineapple juice
1 tsp tomato puree
Few drops reduced-salt soy sauce
Pinch of garlic powder

Cantonese sauce
2 tsp orange juice
Few drops of reduced-salt soy sauce
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of garlic powder

Of course, the quantities could be increased to make sauces for the whole family's meal, but I confess to liking my own stir-fries a little more strongly-flavoured, and I also have a weakness for honey in this sort of dish. If anyone wants my adult sauce recipes, please let me know! In the meantime, I shall carry on experimenting as Darling Daughter continues her weaning journey, and I'll update the blog with any more recipes that seem to be successful.

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Cheese scones

RecipesPosted by Naomi Thu, September 15, 2016 20:40:24
These are a favourite with the whole family. Dearest Son enjoys helping me to make them, and de to their melt-in-the-mouth texture, Darling Daughter can eat them easily despite having no teeth yet. Any that don't get gobbled within 24 hours get put in a sandwich bag and chucked in the freezer.

Ingredients
(makes around 8)

225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
40g butter or buttery margarine
100g mature cheddar, grated
150ml milk

Method

1) Put a large baking tray/sheet in the oven and preheat to 220 C.
2) Mix together the flour and baking powder, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
3) Stir in around 2/3 of the grated cheese.
4) Make a well in the centre and mix in the milk to make a dough that is soft but not sticky; add a little more flour if necessary.
5) For regularly-shaped scones, roll out the dough on a floured surface to around 1 inch thick and cut out circles. Personally, I prefer to make more 'rustic' and irregular scones as there's less cleaning up afterwards! To do this, roll balls of the mixture between floured hands, then flatten a little and shape into rounds.
6) Take a large pinch of the remaining grated cheese and press onto the top of one of the scones. Repeat with the others.
7) Remove the baking tray from the oven and arrange the scones on it, well spread out; the baking tray should be hot enough that the scones hiss and shrink a little as they come into contact with the surface.
8) Bake at 220 C for around 10 minutes until well risen. Remove from the oven and immediately place on a rack to cool.

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Family-friendly beefburgers

RecipesPosted by Naomi Fri, September 02, 2016 22:26:26
These burgers use good-quality lean mince and have no added salt, getting their flavour instead from the addition of mature cheddar and onions. The added bonus of making your own burgers is that you can make appropriately-sized ones for each family member, including the baby. It's a good introduction to red meat for a baby who doesn't yet have the teeth necessary to tackle a steak - Darling Daughter, at six months old, just devoured hers, which I had made rectangle-shaped so that it cut easily into two fingers. You could even make them to take to a BBQ!

Serves 2 adults and 2 young children.

Ingredients


250g lean mince
100g mature cheddar, grated
1 small onion, very finely chopped/minced
1 beef stock cube (optional)

Method

1) Mix together the mince, cheddar and onion, squishing it together well and kneading it until well combined.
2) Form into balls of the appropriate size for each person, then flatten and mould into burger shapes. If adults or older children want some additional flavour, form the children/toddlers' burgers first, then mix in a crumbled stock cube to the remaining mixture. It's best to make the burgers fairly flat and wide, as they will get smaller and fatter while cooking.
3) Grill the burgers, turning as necessary, until well browned on both sides and cooked through in the middle (15-20 minutes).
4) Serve in buns (I used 50/50 rolls), in pitta pockets or just as they are.

My rating: 8.5/10 (see my ratings post for how I arrived at this score)



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Mini micro omelette

RecipesPosted by Naomi Fri, September 02, 2016 13:59:14
Packed with protein and easy for even a toothless baby to eat, this mini omelette takes next to no time to make. I use a silicone egg poacher to make it in, but a microwave-safe plastic baby bowl would also work - you'll just need to grease it first so that it doesn't stick.

Ingredients

1 egg
Large pinch of grated cheese
Small pinch of dried or fresh herbs (optional)

Method

1) Crack the egg into a jug and lightly beat with a fork.
2) Mix in the grated cheese and herbs.
3) Pour into a silicone egg poacher or greased plastic baby bowl.
4) Microwave on high for 20 seconds until partially cooked - the egg should be still mainly runny but starting to set in places. Mix with a fork, then microwave for a further 20-30 seconds until well set.
5) Turn omelette out onto a plate, cut into fingers and allow to cool before serving to baby.

Older kids like these omelettes too - it makes a great lunch served with toast, or a quick and easy dinner with chips and salad. You can also add extras such as cooked ham or diced tomato to the egg mixture.



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Baby bolognese

RecipesPosted by Naomi Thu, August 25, 2016 20:53:47
Spaghetti bolognese is a staple in our house - it's quick and easy to cook, and everyone likes it. I normally use this recipe, which I have developed over the years by starting with a basic recipe and trying out different things to add to the flavour. The only problem is that it's not the most suitable for Baby Led Weaning: it's lower in salt and sugar than most shop-bought sauces, but still a little high for a baby; plus it would be extremely messy! This baby version combines the flavours of a bolognese with a finger-food format. It does use an extra pan, but takes minimal extra preparation.

Ingredients

Mixture of vegetables cut into fingers (carrots, courgettes, peppers, small broccoli florets, etc - whatever veg you're putting in the rest of the family's meal will probably work)
3 tbsp tomato juice, or 1 tsp tomato puree mixed with 3 tbsp boiling water
1/4 tsp garlic granules
1/4 tsp dried basil or oregano
3-4 pasta shapes (penne or fusilli work well - I use wholemeal)

Method


When boiling the spaghetti for the rest of the family, pop the pasta shapes in the pan along with it and boil until tender.
Meanwhile, put the veg in a small saucepan with the tomato juice (or puree and water), garlic and herbs. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer until tender, stirring occasionally. (The tomato juice should reduce down, but not boil dry - add a tiny bit of extra water if necessary.)
Mix in the cooked pasta shapes, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and allow to cool before serving.

I served this with a couple of fingers of cheese, and it seemed to go down very well with Darling Daughter!





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Review: Lunchbox Cheeses

ReviewsPosted by Naomi Thu, August 18, 2016 22:53:53
Everyone in our family loves cheese, and individually wrapped cheese portions are a staple of Dearest Son's lunchbox, as well as making a regular appearance at snack time, in picnics (for the adults as well as the kids), and on Darling Daughter's highchair tray (and smeared on her clothes, on us, on the floor etc...) There are many brands out there, and we've probably tried most of them, generally going by what's on offer at Tesco's that week. Here's a review of our favourites.

Mini Babybel

Normal price: £1.85 for 6 portions; £2.74 for 12 portions
Salt content per 100g: varies (1.6-1.8g)
Pros: One of Dearest Son's favourites. Available in several varieties (including a low fat version).
Cons: Quite rubbery and artificial tasting. Lots of wrapping, which generally ends up all over the floor. Expensive when they're not on offer.
Verdict: 6/10

Tesco Goodness Mild Cheddar Sticks
Normal price: £1 for 6 portions
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Cheap. Easy shape for baby to hold. Also available in a low fat version.
Cons: A little bland tasting.
Verdict: 8/10

Tesco Goodness Dinosaur Shapes
Normal price: £1 for 5 portions
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Fun shape; popular with Dearest Son's friends when they come for lunch.
Cons: Dearest Son seems to prefer the more conventional shapes; it's also awkward for Darling Daughter to hold.
Verdict: 7/10

Cathedral City Chedds Nibbles
Normal price: £1.50 for 6 bags
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Fun to eat. A bit more flavour than some other cheeses. Often on offer.
Cons: A bit fiddly to eat; no good for Baby-Led Weaning.
Verdict: 7/10

Cathedral City Chedds Towers
Normal price: £1.50 for 9 portions
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Good flavour. Perfect size and shape for Darling Daughter to hold. Good value as you get more portions per pack.
Cons: A bit small.
Verdict: 8/10

Cathedral City Chedds Shapes

Normal price: £1.50 for 5 bags
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Fun. Good flavour.
Cons: Draws lunchtime/snack-time out as kids end up playing with them before eating them. Too fiddly for Baby-Led Weaning.
Verdict: 7/10

Cheestrings
Normal price: £1.50 for 4; £2.75 for 8
Salt content per 100g: 1.9g
Pros: Some of Dearest Son't friends seem to enjoy the novelty value of peeling it and playing with it. Often on offer. Available in different varieties.
Cons: Dearest Son tends to be drawn in by the use of film characters etc on the packaging, and will ask me to buy them, but then doesn't actually like the taste much. They're rubbery and tasteless.
Verdict: 3/10

Our favourite
Cathedral City Mini Mature
Normal price: £1.65 for 6
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Flavoursome and creamy. When cut in half, it makes two perfectly-sized fingers for Darling Daughter to hold. Both adults and kids in our family like it.
Cons: Expensive when not on offer. Some kids might prefer a milder flavour.
Verdict: 9/10

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Spaghetti

Tips and hacksPosted by Naomi Thu, August 18, 2016 21:35:05
As I get to grips with baby-led weaning, I'm finding that some meals are easier than others to share with a baby. For example, the chicken goujons and sweet potato chips in my last recipe are pretty easy to give to Darling Daughter in a way that she can grasp them and self-feed; however, if I were to try this with a plate of spaghetti bolognese, it would likely result in a lot of mess and a frustrated baby.

Often, however, a little creativity is all that's needed to provide Darling Daughter with food that she can manage, that is not too dissimilar from what the rest of us are eating, and that takes little to no extra effort to prepare. For example, penne or fusilli pasta shapes are easy for a six-month-old to hold, soft enough for her to eat with her toothless gums, and can easily be chucked in with the pan of spaghetti to cook at the same time. (I use wholemeal spaghetti and pasta for improved nutritional value.)

Many pasta sauces are quite high in salt and sugar, and even my homemade bolognese sauce contains salty stock cubes and a little sugar - it's what gives us the flavour my family likes, and the quantities of sugar and salt are not excessive for adults and older children, but might be a little high for a just-weaning baby. Plus, can you imagine the mess as a baby tries to self-feed it!

My solution at this early stage of weaning is what I like to call "deconstructed macaroni cheese": a couple of pasta shapes, a couple of pieces of cheddar and a couple of cucumber sticks. Simple, easy to eat and a good mixture of foods for Darling Daughter to try.

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Home-made chicken goujons with sweet potato chips

RecipesPosted by Naomi Thu, August 18, 2016 20:38:27
This recipe is always a favourite in our house. As it contains no artificial nasties or added salt, even Darling Daughter at six months old can have some cut-up bits of goujon, with a couple of the chips and some carrot sticks and broccoli.

Ingredients (serves 2 adults, a 4-year-old and a baby)

6 chicken mini breast fillets
1-2 slices wholemeal or 50/50 bread, depending on thickness
1 egg
1-2 tbsp flour
3 sweet potatoes
A little sunflower oil
1 tbsp butter or buttery margarine
Veg, to serve

Method

1) Preheat the oven to high (200 C).
2) Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into chips approx. 1.5cm thick.
3) Par-boil the chips for 5 minutes or so, until they yield slightly to a fork but are still hard in the middle.
4) Meanwhile, break up the bread into a food processor and whizz it into crumbs. Put the crumbs on a plate or in a wide bowl, and lightly beat the egg in another wide dish.
5) Drain the chips, return to the pan, and shake them for a minute over a high heat to dry them and roughen up the surface (this will help them to crisp up nicely in the oven).
6) Grease a large baking tray with a little oil, and spread the chips on it in a single layer, leaving room for the chicken. (If your tray is too small, grease a second tray for the chicken.)
7) Dust the chicken mini fillets all over with flour - this will help the egg to stick. Then dunk them one at a time in the egg, coating well, then in the breadcrumbs, pressing them onto it all over. (Be prepared for your fingers to end up well coated too!) Place the breaded chicken on the baking tray.
8) Put the butter in a microwaveable jug, bowl or mug, and microwave until melted (20 secs should do it). Drizzle the melted butter all over the chicken and chips.
9) Oven bake for around 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the chips are crisp and slightly browned.
10) When nearly ready, boil or steam some veg of your choice (we used broccoli, carrot batons and runner beans last time we had this).

Our rating: 9.5/10 (see my ratings post for how I arrived at this score). I took half a mark off because it contains a little more fat than many of the meals I cook, although it's still not horrendously fatty!

Tips

Herbs, garlic or lemon zest could all be added to the breadcrumbs for extra flavour.

This recipe also works well with boneless fish fillets (cod, salmon or whatever - we often use river cobbler as a cheaper alternative to cod). You can either bread them whole, or cut into 'fish fingers' for the kids.

Normal potatoes can also be substituted for sweet potatoes, although then it's one less towards five-a-day!



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