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Quiche muffins

Thinking of something light I could make for a friend dropping in for lunch that would also be fine for Nicholas, I remembered coming across a recipe for making mini quiches without pastry. For some strange reason I hadn’t saved it on my Pinterest cooking board, so I had to make it up. Thankfully not that difficult.

Instead of pastry, the muffin ‘cases’ are made with ham. One of those brilliant ideas you wonder why you never thought of it yourself. Even if you buy ready-made pastry you need to cut it out and prebake it just to make sure it cooks through. Not that I’m a lazy cook (well…) but I do love a super quick recipe that requires very little thinking. Also not having pastry means it’s great if you happen to be following the Dukan diet.

I tried using prosciutto for some and slices of peppered cooked ham for others. While the ham was yummy, the prosciutto was nicer because it crisps up, especially around the edges. If you use prosciutto, be careful not to add too much salt to the egg mixture as the prosciutto is salty.

Like traditional quiches you can really add almost anything you want. Fry up some onion and pop it in the bottom before you pour in the egg mixture, do they same with mushrooms or asparagus tips, add a slice of tomato or, my favourite, add a dollop of creme fraiche.

I have yet to master lining the cups so the egg mixture doesn’t run out (you can see in my photo that it looks more like the prosciutto is through the muffin rather than encasing it), but so long as you grease the cups beforehand and then run a knife around the edge after they’re done, it doesn’t really matter.

They’d be great in lunch boxes or to take on a picnic. I can also see them smaller as party finger food. Definitely versatile! I haven’t tried freezing them yet; they’d probably need a bit of time in the oven to crisp up after thawing.

QUICHE MUFFINS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15-18 mins
Makes 6 large muffins

6 slices prosciutto (Parma ham)
6 eggs
2 tbsp milk
20g cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
Oil for greasing muffin tray

Preheat oven to 175C.

Lightly grease a 6-cup muffin tray and line each muffin cup with prosciutto.

Lightly beat the eggs and milk together and season. Pour evenly into each cup (don’t worry if it doesn’t seem enough mixture as it will rise as it cooks). Sprinkle over the grated cheese.

Cook for 15-18 mins until egg mixture has set.

Variations:

  • Add a dollop of creme fraiche to each cup before pouring in the egg mixture.
  • Put lightly fried onion in each cup before pouring in the egg mixture.
  • Add cooked mushroom or asparagus tips, or sliced tomato
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Apricot chicken

When we started weaning Nicholas we tried a combination of baby-lead weaning and the more traditional purees. Looking back I was probably unnecessarily overly concerned about two things: feeding him more vegetables than fruits so he didn’t develop a sweet tooth, and wanting him to easily eat lumpy food as quickly as possible. I wouldn’t be so concerned if I could go back in time.

Breast milk is naturally sweet and formula milk replicates this. Why suddenly shake up your little one’s tastebuds when they’re also dealing with solids for the first time? There are vegetables that are naturally sweet in flavour just as there are fruits which aren’t very sweet. I realise now that gradually introducing a wide range of different fruit and vegetables is the best way to develop your munchkin’s palette.

While not initially pureeing everything to a smooth paste saved me time (I’d mash food up with a fork or finely grate it), I shouldn’t have worried so much about getting Nicholas over that first (for a new mum very high) hurdle of his food journey. He would have got there in his own time. And what’s wrong with smooth food? I hate lumps in my mashed potato and love thick pureed soups. Smooth is just one of the many different textures of food and it’s these different textures that make food interesting.

This recipe works really well as a puree and also in a chunkier form. The original recipe by Belinda Graham is a baby puree. I’ve adapted how it’s cooked to make it a bit quicker for you to make, as well as keep as many nutrients as possible from boiling away.

APRICOT CHICKEN

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes 2 toddler servings
Freezable

1 chicken breast or thigh
1 medium sweet potato
3 soft dried apricots, finely diced
3/4 cup milk
Drizzle of olive oil (optional)
Pinch of salt (optional)

Prick the sweet potato with a knife or skewer in a few places all over. Cook on high in the microwave for 4-5 minutes until it feels soft inside. Leave to cool.

Bring milk almost to the boil in a small saucepan. Turn down heat to low.

Chop chicken into small pieces and add to the milk. Simmer for a few minutes until the chicken is just cooked through. Take out the chicken but keep the milk.

Cut the sweet potato in half and pull of the peel. Mash the flesh in a small bowl. Add apricots, and salt and oil if desired.

Break up the cooked chicken into the bowl. Add 1-2 tbsp of the poaching milk and mix to combine.

Puree the mix for a baby.

Super quick avocado pasta sauce

Another fast pasta sauce you can whip up really quickly for your little one. The creamy texture of avocado lends itself perfectly to coat pasta, and not just for babies. Add some more seasoning and a dash of chilli sauce and it’s a yummy dish for you.

I use a mini food processor to blend the avocado, simply to get a bit more creaminess by making it super smooth. However, whizzing up such a small amount can be a bit annoying (you have to keep scraping down the sides of the bowl to get the mixture back under the blades). You can mash the avocado up by hand and either use a bit of muscle to mash it up to a paste or leave the sauce a bit chunkier. The chunks anyway will be soft enough even for babies to easily munch through.

We incorporated some sensory play into our meal. Long cooked pasta like spaghetti isn’t just yummy, but also so much fun to play with!

SUPER QUICK AVOCADO PASTA SAUCE

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cook time: 0 mins šŸ™‚
Makes 1 toddler serving

1/2 avocado
1 large (or 2 medium) basil leaf, roughly chopped
Squeeze of lime (or lemon)

Scoop the flesh of the avocado into a mini food processor. Add the basil and lime. Blend until smooth.

Spoon over cooked pasta and mix to evenly coat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations:

  • to make it even faster, omit the basil and lime
  • use coriander instead of basil
  • for adults add more seasoning and a dash of chilli sauce

Other uses:

  • spread on toast
  • use as a crepe filling
  • spoon over cooked chicken

 

Dairy-free banana ice cream

I can’t believe Nicholas has spent the afternoon in board shorts. It’s May. It’s the UK. I could get used to this weather!

What’s the perfect thing to eat when it’s hot? Ice cream of course! And I can’t get over how simple this recipe is. You don’t need an ice cream machine and you only need one ingredient. Yes, I said one. It takes very little effort and it tastes great. It’s great for all the family and it’s dairy-free. It couldn’t be more perfect.

I caught a bit of a cooking show recently where two contestants cooked dinner in their homes for a group of strangers who then paid what they thought the dinner was worth. One was serving ice cream for dessert, but I was confused as she hadn’t done any preparation. Where was her ice cream maker and how could she be making it while her guests were eating their mains? She used a food processor but it still wasn’t clear how she made it. Her guests loved it and I started searching online for recipes.

So what I discovered was that frozen berries blended together in a food processor become a wonderful creamy ‘ice cream’. It sounded too easy. Why didn’t I already know about this? Before I got the chance to buy some berries to try it out, I stumbled across a very popular recipe on Pinterest using bananas rather than berries. Even better!

The bananas I used weren’t overly ripe. However, the riper and browner they are, the sweeter your ice cream will be.

DAIRY-FREE BANANA ICE CREAM

Prep time is cutting up the bananas, waiting for them to freeze and then blending them.
2 bananas make about 2 adult servings.

Cut your bananas into slices about 1cm thick and lay them on a tray covered with baking paper. Put in the freezer for a few hours until frozen. If you’re not going to use them immediately, put them in a bag and keep in the freezer.


Put your frozen banana slices into a food processor. For the small amount I made I used my mini food processor.

Blend and blend, scraping down the sides, until it becomes creamy (about 5 mins). Don’t worry if you think it’s not going to get creamy, don’t be tempted to add anything, just keep blending.


That’s it, you’re done. Now all you have to do is grab a spoon and try it, and I’m sure you’re going to be impressed with your effort. Just make sure to leave some for your munchkin to enjoy!

When hubby tried this he kept asking questions even though I’d told him how I’d made it. ‘But does it have any dairy in it?’ ‘No, it’s just banana.’ ‘There’s no sugar?’ ‘NO, it’s just banana!’

It’s definitely creamier if you eat it immediately. Freezing it again makes it icy and colder to eat, although you could blend it another time.

Variations:

  • add tahini paste before blending for a richer flavour
  • add chopped nuts
  • swirl through caramel or Nutella
  • add chocolate chips
  • use berries instead of the bananas

Other uses:

  • sandwich between two biscuits and roll in chopped nuts

Creamy mushroom pasta sauce

Pasta. What child doesn’t love pasta? My Italian husband’s very happy that Nicholas absolutely adores pasta. And the amount of pasta Nicholas can eat in one sitting constantly amazes me. Lunch after his swimming class at the weekend was a chunk of lasagne at Carluccio’s, from their lovely children’s menu. A chunk of lasagne that looked like an adult’s portion. He didn’t eat all of it, but almost all of it!

While this isn’t a pasta sauce you’d make several servings of and freeze, you can whip it up very quickly in the microwave while the pasta is cooking.

CREAMY MUSHROOM PASTA SAUCE

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 5 mins
Makes 1 serving

6 closed cup mushrooms
2 tbsp water
1 large basil leaf, finely chopped
1 tbsp plain yogurt

Chop the mushrooms into cubes about 0.5cm. Put them in a small microwave-safe bowl with the water and cook on medium for 5 mins.

Stir in the basil and yogurt until combined.

Serve over pasta.

Variations:

  • add a small squeeze of lemon juice
  • use fresh parsley instead of basil

Other uses:

  • eat with rice
  • use as a crepe filling for toddlers and adults

Tomato pasta sauce

I have to start my blog with Nicholas’ favourite meal – pasta in a tomato sauce. He eats it a lot for lunch and I think he’d happily eat it day after day after day. It never fails. It’s quick and easy and very versatile. You can use the tomato sauce with rice, cous cous, lentils, add vegetables, add meat. It’s one of the things I most like to have in the freezer because it can turn some mundane ingredients into something much more interesting.

Although I use a little olive oil in Nicholas’ food now that he’s had his first birthday, when he started eating I wanted to feed him as naturally as possible and so avoided oil, salt and sugar. I started using my microwave a lot more to steam vegetables rather than boiling lots of the nutrients away in a saucepan. I worked out an easy way to cook onion in the microwave and I’ve continued using the method because I don’t have to stand over a pot stirring and making sure I don’t burn the pieces (I very rarely manage not to have some degree of ‘caramelisation’ while attempting to soften onions over the stove!).

I chop the onion finely, simply so it cooks quicker in the microwave. You don’t have to worry about chopping the tomatoes and basil very small because the sauce is blended in a food processor after it’s cooked. By blending it you also don’t need to worry about big pieces of tomato skin as they’ll be broken up.

Nicholas

TOMATO PASTA SAUCE

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 – 20 mins
Makes about 400 ml
Freezable

1/4 onion, finely diced or grated
3 tbsp water
6 tomatoes, roughly chopped
Approx. 5 large basil leaves, roughly torn or chopped

Put the finely diced onion and water in a small microwave-safe bowl and cook on medium for 2 mins until the onion is transparent.

Transfer the onion and cooking water to a small saucepan and add the tomatoes (and a pinch of salt if you want).

Cook over a medium-low heat (a light bubbling boil) for approx. 10 mins or until the tomatoes have softened. If it’s looking a bit dry, add more water; if you don’t think the sauce is thick enough, cook it for longer to reduce it.

Turn off the heat, leaving the saucepan on the stove, and add the basil. Leaving it to cool for a few minutes allows the basil to infuse the sauce.

Blend the sauce in a small food processor until the tomato skins and basil have broken up into small pieces. Add to pasta with or without a drizzle of olive oil and with or without some grated cheese.

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Yum! And yes, we were having a bit of a bad hair day!

Variations:

  • use red onion or shallots for a lighter and sweeter oniony flavour
  • use dried oregano or dried basil
  • add some salt for an adult pasta sauce

Other uses:

  • eat with rice or couscous or lentils
  • use as the base of a casserole

How else would you use this sauce?