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Category Archives: baby

Baked porridge slice (sugar-free)

I still make Nicholas baby oat cakes now and then for breakfast to avoid always eating the same thing. I love that you can whip them up in no time and can easily vary the flavours by adding different fruit. But I also wanted to try making something ahead of time that could also work well as an afternoon snack. I came up with a baked porridge slice.

The slice is sugar-free and, like the baby oat cakes, very easy to make. Make it ahead of time and heat it up for breakfast or have a slice cold for a snack. It would be a nice next food step for babies who happily eat banana porridge and who are moving on to finger foods.

The pumpkin and sunflower seeds add a nice crunch as well as extra nutrition, but you can easily leave them out.

Baked porridge sliceBAKED PORRIDGE SLICE

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 25-30 mins
Makes 8-10 slices
Keeps for a couple of days in an airtight container

1 cup porridge oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp applesauce / apple puree
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 banana, sliced

Preheat the oven to 175C and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine all the ingredients apart from the banana and mix well.

Pour the porridge mixture into the loaf tin and spread out evenly. Place the banana slices on top of the mixture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the slice is coming away from the edges of the tin.

Cool before cutting into slices.

Roasted carrot soup for the whole family

Happy International Carrot Day! Bet you didn’t know that even though this year marks a decade of celebrating the root vegetable. I certainly didn’t!

After our Easter indulgences, I though it was time to return to my mission of getting as many vegetables into Nicholas as possible (and soup’s the least stressful way). I’m sure the exhausted Easter bunny would also happily relax with a large bowlful.

This is a super simple soup (try to say that quickly as many times as you can!) the whole family can enjoy from weaning babies (omit the seasoning) to adults. It freezes well and can also be used as a pasta sauce for a quick healthy lunch.

roasted carrot soupRoasting the carrots and onion, before adding them to the stock, creates an extra depth of flavour. Ordinary carrot soup becomes something more interesting to the palette. While roasting the vegetables means the cooking time is longer, you can always roast them earlier in the day (if you’re at home) or even the day before.

Like most soups, don’t be too worried about exact measurements; slightly less or slightly more carrots won’t make much difference to the end result. If you don’t have enough carrots, add some other root vegetables like parsnip, turnip or potato.

If you’re not serving this to a baby, you can add some warming spice like coriander (you could sprinkle some ground coriander over the vegetables before roasting).

ROASTED CARROT SOUP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Makes 4 adult servings
Freezable

750g carrots, roughly chopped
1 large onion, quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Lay the chopped carrots and onion in a single layer on a roasting tray. Drizzle over the oil, and season with salt and pepper (if using). Roast for 3o minutes or until the vegetables start to turn golden.

Heat the stock in a medium to large pot until lightly boiling. Turn the heat down to low, add the vegetables and thyme, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat and let it cool a little if you have the time. Purée until smooth. Check if you need to add any more seasoning.

Variations:

  • use a mixture of carrots and parsnips
  • sprinkle the vegetables with ground coriander before roasting (you can also add fresh coriander later)

Other Uses:

  • Mix through some cooked pasta (or rice) for a quick lunch

Courgette (zucchini) soup

Yes, another soup recipe! Since returning to the cold weather of the UK I’ve been making soup at least once a week. It really is (for me anyway) an easy way of getting more vegetables into Nicholas’ diet. We’ve even sometimes been having a small mug of soup for an afternoon snack (often with a straw just for fun!).

Making soup is generally quick, only requiring a bit of chopping, a bit of stirring, usually followed by some blending. Then it’s ready and waiting in the fridge for the next few days. Any leftovers go in the freezer for another day.

As with all cooking, the fresher your ingredients the better the end taste will be. And with soup, although stock made from a stock cube (preferably low-salt if cooking for little ones) is absolutely fine, if you use a better quality stock (either bought or homemade) you will taste the difference.

You don’t need great knife skills when making blended soups. However, the smaller you chop the vegetables (especially the potatoes), the quicker they’ll take to cook.

courgette (zucchini) soup

COURGETTE (ZUCCHINI) SOUP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes 4 adult servings
Freezable

2 large or 3 medium-sized courgettes (zucchini), diced
1 onion, diced
1 medium-sized potato, diced
1 tbsp olive oil (or butter)
500ml hot vegetable or chicken stock
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over a medium heat. Add the courgettes, onion and potato, and sauté for 5 minutes without letting the vegetables brown (turn the heat down if they do start to brown).

Pour in the stock, bring to the boil then turn the heat down to low and simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes if you’ve diced them into small pieces).

Remove from the heat and purée until smooth. Add salt and pepper if needed.

To make it more special, serve with a dollop of yoghurt or cream and a sprinkling of chives.

Sweet potato and lentil soup

Being away from home for a month meant I needed to be much more relaxed about Nicholas’ diet. Predictably he happily ate lots of meat (including kangaroo and a taste of crocodile), but very few vegetables.

Now, at home, we’re back to having a bowl of vegetable soup at the start of dinner before our meat course (I sometimes use the soup as a quick pasta sauce at lunchtime too). And a steaming bowl of thick soup is a great winter warmer for the whole family.

sweet potato and lentil soup

SWEET POTATO AND LENTIL SOUP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes 4 servings

1 tbsp olive oil (or a knob of butter)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (optional)
2 medium sweet potatoes (approx. 900g), peeled and cubed
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
100g red lentils
200ml milk
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil (or butter) in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic, sweet potato and a little salt and pepper, and sauté for about 5 mins.

Add the hot stock, lentils and milk. Bring almost to the boil then drop the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the lentils and sweet potato are cooked.

Puree the soup until smooth and check if you need to add more seasoning.
sweet potato and lentil soup

Variations:

  • substitute one sweet potato with a white potato
  • for some extra spicy warmth, add a teaspoon or two of curry powder when sautéing the vegetables
  • add a dollop of yoghurt to each bowl

Homemade baked beans

Homemade baked beans

Baked beans are a common side dish on children’s menus when eating out, and I’d definitely prefer then over the even more common chips, but they can be very high in salt and sugar, even the low-salt/low-sugar varieties. Making your own isn’t difficult. You’ll know exactly what your little one is eating, and they also freeze well so you can cook up a big batch.

Check your tinned tomatoes for other ingredients as some brands do have added salt and/or sugar. For babies under a year old, omit the golden syrup/honey and the Worcestershire sauce; you could also mash or puree the beans after cooking to make it easier for them to eat.

I added some diced yellow pepper for colour as well as to add another vegetable. You could add other finely chopped vegetables like carrot or celery.

HOMEMADE BAKED BEANS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes 4 – 6 toddler servings
Freezable

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin (about 400g) cannolini beans
1 tin (about 400g) harricot beans
1 tbsp golden syrup or honey
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
a pinch of salt

Heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and pepper, and cook for about 5 mins until the onion and peppers are soft.

Add the tomatoes, beans, golden syrup and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and cook for another 10 mins until the sauce has reduced and thickened a little. Taste and add a pinch of salt if desired.

Homemade baked beans

Variations:

  • for older little ones, add some chopped bacon or pieces of sausage to the onion, garlic and pepper
  • add other vegetables such as carrots or celery

Other uses:

  • have as a baked potato filling
  • puree and use as a sauce over pasta or rice

Leftover chicken soup (family recipe)

Do you ever roast a chicken, then the next day you scratch your head wondering what you can do with the leftovers apart from chicken sandwiches? Well here’s something filling and warming to try, that will feed the whole family. It would also work really well with leftover turkey.

I used onion, carrot, courgette/zucchini and peas in my soup, but you could easily put in other vegetables (it’s actually a great way to use up those last few vegetables that you’re not sure what to do with at the end of the week). And remember, taking a little bit more time to chop the vegetables into smaller pieces, will shorten the cooking time.

leftover chicken soup

If serving to a baby, don’t season after pureeing. You can either serve them just the pureed vegetable soup, or add some chicken and peas to their portion and puree again.

Nicholas likes searching for the chicken and peas in this soup, and I’ll often add some cooked pasta just to his for him to discover. Adding pasta is also a way to make the soup last for a couple of meals.

If you have a toddler who’s fussy about eating vegetables, puree the vegetables they’re less keen on and keep the ones they do like whole. Or you can puree all of it to hide lots of vegetables!

LEFTOVER CHICKEN SOUP

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins
Serves 4 adults
Freezable

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly diced
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large courgette/zucchini, chopped
1 tbsp dried sage
1 litre chicken stock
200g leftover chicken, skin removed and diced
150g frozen peas
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large pot over a med heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 mins until they’re starting to soften.

Add the carrots, courgette, sage and stock. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 10-15 mins until the carrots are cooked.

Remove from the heat and puree the soup until smooth. Season to taste.

Put the soup back on the heat, and add the chicken and peas. Simmer for 5 mins and serve.

Variations:

  • add some cooked pasta to make the soup more filling and to go further
  • use leftover turkey instead of chicken
  • use other vegetables such as potato, leek, butternut squash, frozen corn, etc.

Cantonese-style steamed fish (family recipe)

This is a Ken Hom recipe that’s quick, easy and very tasty. If you have a bamboo steamer it’s even easier, but it’s not that difficult to improvise a steamer using a metal rack over a wok or deep pan.

I like to sit my bamboo steamer on top of a saucepan with the bottom rim of the steamer resting over the top of the saucepan. Whichever steaming method you use, make sure the steamer bottom is above the boiling water. Also check the water while the fish is cooking to make sure it doesn’t boil dry.

I also prefer to use baking paper inside my steamer rather than sitting the fish on a plate, but you do need to make sure you don’t press the baking paper too firmly into the bottom of the steamer (the steam from the boiling water needs some space to come up and do its job).

Tear off a piece of baking paper just slightly bigger than your steamer…

fold it in half & in half again, then bring the right bottom corner up to the top left corner…

and finally fold the right side over again to form a slimmer triangular shape.

Place the folded point in the centre of the steamer to measure where you can tear off any excess paper.

Unfold and lightly press into the steamer.

In the original recipe, Ken Hom salts the fish fillets beforehand to firm up the flesh. Of the many times I’ve made this, I think I’ve only done this once (I either forget about it until there’s no time before dinner to do it, or I just can’t be bothered doing the extra step – yes, call me lazy!). The idea is if you rub the fillets all over with salt, leaving for 30 mins, the salt draws out the excess moisture leaving you with firmer flesh. You then need to rinse off the salt and pat dry with kitchen towel. You can also use this recipe with cleaned whole fish (increase the steaming time to 12-15 mins in total).
If you’re making this to also serve to a baby, leave the seasoning off an end of the fish and don’t sprinkle the ginger over this part. After the fish is cooked, mash the baby’s piece or puree to the desired consistency, double-checking for any bones. Add a tiny drizzle of olive oil before serving if you wish (adding a drop or two of olive oil to cooked baby food is very common in Italy, and is seen as a healthy way to add a little bit of needed fat to a baby’s diet). I’ll leave it to your good judgment if you’re serving the fish to a toddler.

Serve the steamed fish with plain rice or a simple fried rice.

CANTONESE-STYLE STEAMED FISH

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 5-10 mins
Serves 2 adults and 1 toddler or baby

2 large fillets of firm white fish (cod, sole, haddock, etc)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3cm piece of ginger, finely shredded or finely diced
1 spring onion, finely shredded
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
coriander sprigs to serve

Pat the fillets dry with kitchen towel. Season with salt and pepper.

Set up a bamboo steamer, or put a rack into a wok or deep pan, and fill with  about 5cm of water. Bring to the boil.

Place fish on a heatproof plate and scatter the shredded ginger evenly over. Place in the steamer, cover tightly and gently steam until just cooked through (flat fish fillets: 5 mins; thicker fillets 7-10 mins). Keep covered until ready to serve.

Just before serving, heat the groundnut and sesame oils together in a small saucepan over a med-low heat until it just starts to smoke.

To serve the fish, sprinkle over the spring onions and soy sauces, then pour over the hot oil. Garnish with coriander sprigs.