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Vegetable Korma

I’ve talked before about not being very adventurous with spice in Nicholas’ food, but I’ve been trying to extend his tastebuds by adding different spicy flavours. Last week we went to our local pub for dinner and chose a mild chicken curry off their good children’s menu. When I tasted it I was surprised by the level of spiciness (closer to medium than mild), so was very curious to see Nicholas’ reaction. He loved it! Here’s to more spice then.

You can find some interesting and easy Indian-inspired baby and toddler recipes on the Homemade Baby Food Recipes site. My vegetable korma is a very slight adaptation of one they say you can give babies from 7 or 8 months (please use your discretion and your expert knowledge of your baby to decide when to introduce some aromatic spices to their food, and it’s always best to only introduce one new spice or food at a time).

This has a mild level of spiciness, more warming than hot, so perfect for even young tastebuds. Next time I’ll double the quantities of spice (so 1/4 tsp of each) and add some chopped or crushed garlic at the start for some more oomph.

You can really use any vegetables you have on hand for this korma. Sweet potato, green beans, bell peppers (capsicum), mushrooms and broccoli would all work well. Don’t worry too much about measuring exact quantities; trust your instinct to add more or less of each vegetable. It takes a bit more time, but cutting the vegetables into quite small pieces means they cook quicker and keep more of their nutrients.

Toddlers can eat the korma as is with some rice. For babies, blend the vegetables after it’s cooked or, if your munchkin is fine with some lumps, roughly mash it with a fork or potato masher.

VEGETABLE KORMA

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Makes 3-4 toddler portions
Freezable

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup peas
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 tbsp unsweetened dessicated coconut
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 cup water
1/8 tsp (or a large pinch) ground ginger
1/8 tsp (or a large pinch) cumin
1/8 tsp (or a large pinch) turmeric
1/8 tsp (or a large pinch) ground coriander
Salt to taste (optional)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and the carrot is starting to become softer.

Add the tomato puree and spices. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously.

Add the remaining vegetables, coconut and water (and salt, if using). Stir, turn up the heat to medium-high and bring it to the boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked.

If serving to a baby, either blend the mixture until a smooth puree, or roughly mash with a fork or potato masher for a lumpier puree.

For a toddler, serve with cooked rice.

Variations:

  • Use different vegetables such as sweet potato, broccoli, bell peppers (capsicum), green beans or mushrooms.
  • Add chopped or crushed garlic to the onion and carrot.
  • Add grated fresh ginger to the onion and carrot.
  • Add a spoonful of coconut cream at the end.

Have you introduced spice to your little one’s food? Do they like it?

Apple sauce

I’ve made apple sauce before on many occasions but only as an accompaniment to pork. In fact I think that’s the only way I’d ever eaten apple sauce. Trawling the internet for baby-friendly recipes I kept coming across apple sauce used as a sweetener then discovered its use as a sugar substitute. So I searched for some recipes just to be sure it didn’t have any ‘secret’ ingredients.

I was surprised to discover that the majority of recipes had sugar in them (maybe my searching skills aren’t as good as I think they are!). Hmmm, why put sugar in something you’re using as a sugar substitute? Ok, you’re still reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe and yes, some apples need some sweetening up, but why not just use sweet apples? Armed with some sweet Gala apples I was ready to experiment.

One of the things I dislike most in the kitchen is peeling fruit and vegetables. One of the reasons is that I’m super clumsy and easily distracted so no matter how much I try to concentrate I always manage to either peel some of my finger or slice through a nail. And besides wounding myself, peeling can take up a lot of time.

I decided not to peel the apples and see how the sauce turned out. Not only did it save me loads of time, but there’s lots of goodness in the peel. If, like me, you don’t have one of those wonderful gadgets that cores and chops your apples into wedges in one go, just chop the four sides off each apple, chopping the large pieces in half. I also added some slices of lemon to the pot to stop the apple from browning as it cooked.

Some recipes add ground cinnamon after pureeing. I wanted to keep my apple sauce plain as you can always add cinnamon at the point when you’re adding it to a recipe. Some people also add some butter as well as sugar to the finished sauce. I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

So how did my experiment of leaving the peel on work out? Well the peel does produce a slightly grainy texture to the sauce after pureeing it. If you’re using the sauce in other recipes you’d never know this though. Even if I was feeding the sauce to a baby (either on its own or mixed with other fruit or vegetables) I honestly wouldn’t worry about the texture.

APPLE SAUCE

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes about 1 1/2 cups or about 450ml of sauce
Freezable

6 sweet apples (eg. Gala, Red Delicious or Fuji)
1 cup water
2 slices of lemon

Chop the four sides off each apple and chop the large pieces in half. Put the chopped apple in a medium pot with the water and slices of lemon.

Bring to the boil then drop the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so the apple cooks evenly.

Drain the apple and discard the lemon. Puree in the pot with a hand blender.

Now I’m off to make something with my apple sauce!

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 🙂
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

 

Creamy lentils

Lentils are a great food. Full of protein and fibre, cheap and easy to cook. Puree them for your baby, keep them whole for your toddler, feed them to your whole family. They’re also low in calories so a great meal to fill a mummy up if she’s trying to lose her baby weight.

Red lentils break down more than other types when they cook, so they’re perfect for our little ones. They’re great too if you want to make a thick soup. The following recipe would also work really well as a soup. If after pureeing it’s too thick, add a little stock. And it’s easy to add some chopped vegetables like carrots, leeks, celery, etc.

A little while ago I came across a mummy blogger who freezes cooked lentils. Her favourite thing to do is add the frozen lentils to cooking rice. I haven’t tried this, but it’s a good way to add some extra protein to a meal.

My creamy lentils uses the tomato pasta sauce I often make for Nicholas and always have in the freezer. You could use some chopped tomatoes or some tomato puree instead. Add chopped tomato (chopped as small as you can) after you’ve drained the cooked lentils and cook them over a low heat for a couple of minutes to break the tomatoes down.

CREAMY LENTILS

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes about 4 toddler servings
Freezable

1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 shallot, finely diced
7 tbsp homemade tomato sauce
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Drizzle of olive oil (optional)

Put the lentils in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then drop the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Drain off the excess liquid.

While the lentils are cooking, put the shallot in a small microwave-safe bowl, add 1 tablespoon of water and cook on medium in the microwave for 2 minutes. Drain.

When the lentils are cooked and drained, add the shallot, tomato sauce and oregano and mix well.

If serving to a baby or as soup, puree the mixture until smooth.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top if desired.

Variations:

  • use onion intead of shallot
  • add a little garlic
  • add chopped vegetables to cook with the lentils (such as carrots, leeks, celery)
  • use tomato puree or chopped tomatoes instead of the homemade tomato sauce

Other uses:

  • add to other soups or stews
  • add to cooked rice
  • serve as a side dish to meat or fish

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

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?