Saturday, 13 April 2013

Healthy cookbook cooking for kids

It's been a pretty exciting week, foodwise, in the FW household if you're a baby bear. We've been cooking up a storm. Could be, due to feeling somewhat guilty, after our Easter break and Essie eating chicken, tomato and sweet potato every day and roast squash done 2 ways, plain and with spinach while away. Hard catering for babies when on holiday and if not wanting to feed them any processed food. So our first day in Hervey Bay, we dashed to the supermarket brought some bits and then came home and cooked them for that day and the week ahead. Since we started Essie on solids I've really tried to give her lots of variety. If she's anything like her mummy she won't be keen on eating the same things over and over. Variety's the spice of life hey? Meanwhile mumma and papa bear were Easter feeding on steak, scallops, prawns, fish... but bubba bear did get to try the later too... uncle Tony's freshly caught reef fish. We were all spoilt there and I was excited that Esme's first taste of the sea was caught freshly by Uncle T.

Uncle T prepping the fish and Essie and cousin Jess taking note

So, where was I... oh yes, Essie's food menu this week. Our aim really, I guess, is to work towards baby and adult all eating the same and although I've been known to snack on the odd single baby purée now they're around and in abundance we do like a bit more complexity in our food. So, first shared proper dish I cooked up last Friday was a Hungarian Goulash that went down well for lunch on Saturday. Recipe was from an old cook book, Conrad Gallagher's One Pot Wonders.

One Pot Wonders

This is sooooooooooooo my type of cooking. One pot, you stick everything in and cook with limited washing up. Ingredients: butter, beef topside, onions, paprika,  flour, carrots, potatoes and parsley. It also called for stock which I didn't have apart from the ready made cubes which are heavy on the salt and crappy additives, so omitted this for thyme and bay leaf soaked in hot water. Not quite as nutritious and tasty, but you know, kinda creative I thought. I also left out the seasoning although I have read a small amount of good quality salt might be ok. Recipe also called for tomato purée which I didn't have to hand and so skinned and diced a tomato instead. Not quite as rich, but it worked. This was Es's first taste of paprika and I've been slowly introducing her to different herbs and flavours. So far, so good.

Hungarian goulash

Essie has had chicken done a number of ways now, poached, casseroled and Sunday she had her first family roast. Not only did I want to try another dish we could all eat,but I wanted the carcass as I bravely decided to make my first EVER stock. What's happening to me??? This baby girl just brings out the Nigella in me.

Since Essie was born mumma and papa bear have been quite concious I'd say... mumma maybe a bit more anxious too, about the delving in to solids. We are a family of foodies and I guess the thought of having a fussy eater fills us with nervousness. Am hoping that little bear will see what great piggies her parents are - and join in - and have the love for food we do. So, that's why I've very consciously been trying to, in the foods we give, make them tasty and not just sludgy lumps of blandness. Fresh veges and fruits were steamed at first to retain the lovely flavours and vitamins. Once the single tastes were accepted, we began mixing it up, combining veges and then proteins and then started adding stronger flavours with leeks, onions, herbs such as thyme, sage, parsley and bay leaves, and a little garlic now.

This whole cooking up a storm thing, I might add, does not come easy peasy to me. I'm not a natural cook. I'm not one of these wonder woman/men who can whip up yummy things from nothing. Usually I have to follow a recipe, pretty much to the T. And, I can find it all quite stressful. Simple is so the way to go for me. I am not in to showing off complexity - well, maybe I would be if I could!

Another one of the stresses I think is planning. The big old P. Planning what to make. Planning is sooooooooo boring, as if we don't have enough to do. So, to get lots of fresh ideas I did some research before the looming solids started, and spoke to friends to get some reccos on any good books and Annabel Karmel was suggested to check out. SO, I did some research and found one of her books, New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. It seemed to have lots of great reviews and so we quickly picked one up off Amazon. If you're like me and are just starting out and have no clue, I'd really recommend this book. It's like an idiots guide, not that we're idiots of course. As if! It just spells it all out for you and I found it really supportive.

New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner

The book has some good info and advice on how to begin weaning, first foods to try with menu planners... which I LOVED. Hooray, you don't have to plan yourself. There in the book, you have the first three weeks mapped out which means you just concentrate on the feeding itself. You'll be starting off with one little taste a day in week one. Week two and three, Annabel suggests increasing to two little tastes a day and so on. After getting you through the first stages of weaning, she takes you on the second and then there's a chapter for nine to 12 months and up to toddler. So far, I'm about half way through the book and have used a fair few of her recipes from the super simple single purées to the more interesting combos. For example, braised beef with sweet potato, liver special, lovely lentils, trio of cauliflower, red pepper and sweetcorn etc. There's no great revolution here in recipes, but you've got lots of ideas in one simple book to get you going.

My newest book which I've mentioned before is Jude Blereau's Wholefood for Children.

Wholefood for Children

Have had a bit of a love hate relationship with this book so far. Honestly at first, I just noticed sooooooooooooooooooo many words. In fact a few friends did ask, 'Where are the pictures?' You don't actually even get in to recipes until something like page 84 and that's just starting with how to cook beans. However, after I got over my initial overwhelmedness with info, I'm really starting to love this book. The key is, well for me, to take it slowly and to keep referring back. It's a really great resource, packed with information... the starter tools on how we can feed our bubba's nutritious and delicious foods to help their little bodies develop healthily and happily. It was Jude who inspired me this week to make my first ever stock... chicken. I truly think this was a bloody good effort on my part, but actually when I got down to it and stopped stressing, thinking I don't have the time to be making stock, it was so easy and simple to do. In fact the hardest bit was transferring it in to my Wean Mesister pods to freeze. Note to self, next time don't use such a huge jug to pour.

Anyway I was inspired to make the stock after Jude pointed out that it's one of the most nourishing foods you can offer a child. Ok, that got me! It's easily digestible nutrient dense and a rich source of minerals. Plus, all I had to do was use the chicken carcass I'd made for dinner on Sunday, stick it in a large pan with water, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, sage and peppercorns and leave to simmer all day. I didn't actually do the recipe fully to the T, as I didn't have any apple cider vinegar, but I do now for next time, and I didn't have extra chicken wings as they'd sold out in our local supermarket, nor did I have any chicken feet.

chicken stock

Still, I thought I did a pretty good job. Realistically though I know not everyone is going to have time to be making up stocks so if you are buying ready made ones, there are some on the market that are salt reduced, so look out for those.

So as well as my chicken stock, other recipes I've tried out this week from My Wholefood for Children book is ghee, baby kichari, apple and blueberry rice and pear with vanilla extract. Each one easy to do... which is always a winner for me, as you know, and packed with goodness.

Your ghee is so simple to make and it's great for cooking and adds a lovely flavour to your food, I know this as I tried it out when making the kichari.

The making and filtering of my ghee

Baby kichari was Essie's first taste of quinoa - total superfood, which I soaked as instructed for 6 hours before hand... you don't need to do this, but apparently it releases even more of the good nutrients, cooked with split red lentils, pumpkin, carrot and then a pinch of ground ginger, cumin, coriander and tumeric in my new chicken stock. Recipe though did say vege stock, but sometimes I will go a little off piste when I have to (i.e when I haven't got what's needed!). This was yummy and I made a batch for the oldies as well... great hit with papa bear.

Baby and adult kichari in prep

Mouli'd bubba kichari purée

Apple and Blueberry rice again was another winner and Essie's first taste of rice, which happened to be brown.
Apple & blueberry purée (left) and rice in the making

It really has been a big week of new tries as bubba also got to try her first spagbol, courtesy of daddy, who does a killer bolognese, part beef, part pork, served with buckwheat pasta. Yummo!

Pasta (from right to left), apple & blueberry rice, baby and adult spagbol on the go

We on the other hand haven't probably eaten quite as well as Essie this week. Half and half. I'm not even going to tell you what we had for dinner! x

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